Charles Evans Hughes.

Address of Honorable Charles E. Hughes at the memorial service in honor of Theodore Roosevelt online

. (page 1 of 3)
Online LibraryCharles Evans HughesAddress of Honorable Charles E. Hughes at the memorial service in honor of Theodore Roosevelt → online text (page 1 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook







• ••

••% <?^

•• /%




. •j^^vXNi*.*- O



*• .^"-v.

• 'U ^^ -*^


4^^ ^








Memorial Service


THEODORE Roosevelt








MAR 7 1946
•wtal R«Mrt MvUtai

Address of Honorable Charles E. Hughes at the Memorial Service

in Honor of Theodore Roosevelt, at the Republican Club of

The City of New York on Sunday, February pth, ipip.

The heroes of democracy are the springs of its life; its
sources of vigor and confidence. We increasingly realize in
the midst of our abounding activities, that it is the man and
not the mechanism that counts, and that the hosts of the
industrious, the efficient, and the just must depend for their
triumphs on the worth and strength of leadership. We are
not paying tribute to the distinction conferred by office, even
the highest office ; nor are we commemorating mere achieve-
ments although extraordinary and varied. Our tribute is of
unstinted admiration and deep affection for one who was
great in office, but even greater out of office, whose unfailing
faith, courage and energy caused personality to echpse achieve-
ment ; whose constant industry and self -discipline, whose
sound democratic instinct, elemental virtues and wholesome
living, whose restless, alert and indomitable spirit, impatient
at all obstacles, made him more than any other the represen-
tative of free America, — the typical American not only of the
nineteenth century, but of the twentieth, — the embodiment of
patriotic ardor, of lofty ideals, of practical sense and invin-
cible determination. Deeply conscious of the irreparable loss
of his immediate leadership, we turn to consider the fructify-
ing influence of a life which has no parallel in our annals.
"He is great," says Emerson, "who is what he is from nature,
and who never reminds us of others."

The life of Theodore Roosevelt presents strange contrasts
in its constant escape from the limitations of environment.
He was city bred, but he became a naturalist of eminence and
a hunter of no mean prowess. He was reared in the most ex-
clusive circles of the East, but he breathed the free spirit of
the Western plains. He was educated in private schools, and
his early training was amid cultural surroundings tending
to separate him from the masses, but he was closer to the
thought of the plain people than any leader in America. As
a boy, he was of delicate physique, but by the careful disci-
pline of years he made himself an athlete. He spent about


two-thirds of his life in pubHc office, but never was any one
less official or less mastered by routine. He was engrossed
with the grave practical concerns of his time, but he was
one of its most prolific authors. He was in politics from the
beginning- of his career, but he was a master and not a servant
of the political order. In every activity, the spirit of Theodore
Roosevelt escaped the limitations of all associations and tra-
ditions and emerged dominating, triumphant, and he thus
represents to us neither locality nor vocation, — not the author,
or the traveller, or the naturalist, not the political leader or
the officer, not even the statesman or the President, but the
man — who in his human worth and virile personality tran-
scended all distinctions of place and circumstance, whose de-
fects were only the shadows which made his virtues stand out
the more impressively, and whose memory will ever remain
an abiding inspiration.

Theodore Roosevelt was born in the City of New York
on October 27, 1858, — the descendant of the Roosevelt who
came to New Amsterdam in the year 1644. From that year,
as Colonel Roosevelt has told us, for the next seven genera-
tions, from father to son, each of his line was born on Man-
hattan Island. While he thus represented the best Knicker-
bocker tradition, his grandmother's ancestors were of those
who had settled in Pennsylvania with William Penn and his
mother's family were of Georgia and mainly of Scotch de-
scent. He was a scion of the sturdiest and of the canniest
stock, whose Americanism began with the making of America
itself. While his father's family went back to the early days
of the Dutch settlement of New York, his mother's great-
grandfather was the revolutionary "president" of Georgia.

As a boy, Theodore Roosevelt had unusual advantages.
Well born, of a family in comfortable circumstances, every
educational opportunity was open to him. He was taken on a
trip to Europe when ten years old. On a second trip, at the
age of fourteen, he visited Egypt, the Holy Land, Greece and
Constantinople, and spent a Summer in Dresden. After study-
ing in one of the best schools of the day, he entered Harvard
College in 1876, and graduated with good, but not exceptional,
rank, in 1880. There were thousands of young men of
similar advantages in the seventies and eighties, but there was
but one Theodore Roosevelt- Ingersoll said that the col-


lege, as he knew it, was a place where pebbles were polished
and diamonds were dimmed. Nothing could dim this diamond ;
and in the record of subsequent achievement it is not the
training of school or university, or the advantage of family
or fortune, that yields the secret of success, but these are
almost forgotten in the amazing performance which was the
result of individual avidity, insatiable curiosity, inexhaustible
vigor and remorseless self-discipline. Where others would
have been subdued to form, and sterilized by convention, he
was individual, — a daily conqueror in some new realm self-

He remarks that as a little boy he started on his career
as a zoologist at a market on Broadway, where he saw a dead
seal, which filled him "with every possible feeling of romance
and adventure." Such was the message of a dead seal to this
live Roosevelt. His boyhood summers in the country were
excursions in natural history, and what he called the "Roose-
velt Museum of Natural History," which started with the
seal's skull, was later enriched by the ornithological specimens
gathered by the boy naturalist. In college, his interests were
chiefly scientific, and he had then no thought of going into
public life. On leaving college, he undertook to study law,
but he had little inclination in that direction. In a little over
a year he was elected to the Legislature of New York and
took his seat as its youngest member. And this affords a
ready illustration of the way in which opportunity greeted
this young American as he looked out on life eager to know
and to serve.

It is true that he had one exceptional advantage in that it
was not necessary for him to devote himself to money-making.
With a modest competency, he could choose his work, not
under the pressure of the necessity of earning his support,
but with the desire to make the best use of his talents. The
benefit of this position of independence he freely gave to his
country. He never thought of using it for selfish protection ;
he consumed no part of his extraordinary energies in frivolous
or unworthy pursuits ; he courted neither ease nor luxury ; and
he despised dilettantism. He needed no spur of necessity; his
freedom gave rein to the noblest ambition.

His course, with respect to politics, was characteristic.
Nothing to him was remote or alien ; whatever he did he must


do with all his might. We commonly think of his spontaneity,
his impulsiveness. The quick play of his critical instinct, and
his readiness to deal with new situations, have appealed to
the public imagination. We are apt to think less of his delib-
eration, his careful choice of method, and the steady purpose
of years with which he pursued his aim. Thus, as a boy,
chagrined at his lack of physical strength as compared with
that of his associates, he began a careful training in boxing,
and though for years he made scarcely any progress, being,
as he says, "a slow and awkward pupil," he kept at it until he
attained proficiency. He mastered the equestrian art with
equal deliberateness and with equal difficulty. With all his
impulsiveness and his charm of spontaneity he was nothing if
not methodical and painstaking.

He approached politics in the deliberate and reso-
lute manner in which he developed his body and improved
his mind. Anxious to do his full duty as a citizen, and
belonging by virtue of his antecedents and convictions to the
Republican Party, he at once planned to be an efficient mem-
ber of that party. This he did not undertake to do by sitting
in Fifth Avenue clubs during his leisure hours, and complain-
mg of machine methods, of which at that time unhappily
there was much to complain, or bewailing the little oppor-
tunity in Manhattan for a well-to-do young Harvard grad-
uate of polite breeding. On the contrary, he inquired as to
the whereabouts of the local Republican Association and the
means of joining. His elders, men of business and social
standing, scoffed at the young enthusiast. Those in active
politics, he was advised, were not of his sort. But he had
the Roosevelt idea. He was going to find out; he would take
his part in the "rough and tumble." He proposed to be an
American, not only in privilege but in complete performance
of duty, and as a citizen in democracy he intended, as he put it,
to be one of the "governing class." And, so, to the young
Roosevelt, eager to do his part, opportunity came at once
with outstretched hand.

His career in the legislature lasted three years. It was
a career of distinction and gave rich promise. In the first
year, he rose to leadership ; in the second year, when the
Republicans were in the minority, he was minority candi-
date for speaker of the Assembly ; in the third year, with the


Republicans in control, he sought the speakership, and al-
though he was defeated, the fight strengthened him. He
was Chairman of a committee investigating conditions in the
City of New York. And thus at the age of twenty-five he
had won a notable place. The way in which he won it was
more significant than the success itself. He brought to the
stale atmosphere of politics the invigorating breeze of a
worth-while idealism. He owed his success neither to artifice
nor to demagogical appeal. At that time he was not even an
eft"ective speaker. He had then neither grace of manner nor
skill in elocution. His was the appeal of courage, of social
sympathy, of an honest desire to secure practicable measures
of improvement. In every session, he had championed good
causes and fought every sinister design. To young men he
incarnated the hope of a better day.

It was in those early and impressionable years that he
formed the basic principles of his political philosophy. He
found that there were corrupt men in the legislature, but
that there were far more who were honest, and he concluded
that "if it were possible to get an issue of right and wrong
vividly and unmistakably before them in a way that would
arrest the attention of their constituents, we could count on
the triumph of the right." It was to present his issue of
right and wrong, as he saw it, vividly and unmistakably that
was his life work. He also at once appreciated the worth of
character and its indispensability as a condition of public
service. It was obvious to him, in his own words, "that no
man can lead a public career really worth leading, no man can
act with rugged independence in serious crisis, or strike at
great abuses, or aflford to make powerful and unscrupulous
foes, if he is himself vulnerable in his private character."
But this essential character was to him not an end, but a
means, a qualification for the battle in which he delighted.
He demanded initiative as well as character. He bitterly
scorned parlor reformers, the apostles of class, and all critics
who lacked the "sinewy power to do." He left the legislature
without illusions, without disdain, and without any relaxa-
tion of purpose. He was convinced that it was his business
to combine "decency and efficiency," to be "a thoroughly prac-
tical man of high ideals and to do his best to reduce his ideals
to actual practice."


It was at the very beginning of ^ ic career that

Theodore Roosevelt showed his deep interest in social better-
ment — in the improvement of conditions of living. He was
never interested in the mere routine of government. His in-
terest was in society, in human effort, in the opportunities of
men — the workers — and in the thwarting of the pernicious
practices and evil influences which made a mockery of the
democratic hope. He was on a committee to investigate con-
ditions in the tenement houses, and thus he became intimate-
ly acquainted with them. It was natural that with this
knowledge he should have earnestly pressed the bill to pro-
hibit the making of cigars in tenement houses. It is a keen
pleasure to dwell on the picture of the youthful Roosevelt as
he appeared before Governor Grover Cleveland, acting as he
says "as spokesman for the battered, undersized foreigners
who represented the Union and the workers," and urging the
Governor to sign this bill. The bill was signed, and in the
subsequent fate of this measure — representing one of his
earliest efforts at social improvement — we find an explanation
of his attitude with respect to the function of the courts. He
felt deeply that he knezv the conditions which he sought to
have remedied and that the Court of Appeals, in its decision
declaring this act of the legislature invalid (in the Jacobs
case), proceeded without proper knowledge of these con-
ditions. We may be profoundly convinced that in later years
he mistook the remedy in advocating what he described as
the recall of judicial decisions, without denying the justice of
his criticism of the particular decision. Perhaps he never
fully realized how few decisions of this sort there really were
and how numerous were those sustaining legislative action
within the broad field of legislative discretion relating to
health, safety, morals and the common welfare. The error
lay not in the principle, but in the particular application.
The principle was the right of constitutional protection
against arbitrary interference with personal liberty, — a prin-
ciple still of vital importance, but calling for the most careful
application lest ignorance of the facts of life should wrongly
impute the arbitrary quality to legislation. It was this ignor-
ance of facts which drew his scornful and bitter criticism.
Fortunately, the remedy is being found in a wider knowledge,
a more careful presentation of cases, and a more discriminat-


ing regard foi. nider our system, is the legislative as

distinguished from the judicial function. But there is no
doubt of the lasting influence of the Tenement Cigar case on
the opinions of Theodore Roosevelt. It rose as a monument
of error and so close was it to his own early experience that
it stood in the way of that comprehensive survey which was
necessary to a correct appraisement of the work of the courts.

In 1884, despite his youth, his political reputation was
recognized by his appointment as one of the delegates-at-
large from New York to the Republican National Convention,
where he fought for the nomination of George F. Edmunds.
"Why," said George William Curtis, "he is just out of school
almost, yet he is a force to be reckoned with in New York.
Later, the Nation will be criticizing or praising him." Twen-
ty-five years later at his last Cabinet dinner, I had the pleas-
ure of hearing him review in an intimate way some of the
chief events in his political career, and it was evident that
the contest in the convention of 1884 was one of the out-
standing facts in his memory. He was then put to a decisive
test. He was beaten, but he believed in party and declined
to oppose the party choice. He regarded the nomination of
Mr. Blaine as won in a fair and above-board fashion, because
the rank and file of the party stood back of him. To the in-
tense disappointment of many of his intimates, he publicly
announced his loyalty to the ticket. "A man," said he, "cannot
act both without and within the party; he can do either,
but he can not possibly do both. * * * It is impossible to
combine the functions of a guerilla chief with those of a
colonel in the regular army. One has greater independence
of action, the other is able to make whatever action he does
take vastly more effective * * * I am by inheritance and by
education a Republican ; whatever good I have been able to
accomplish in public life has been accomplished through the
Republican Party ; I have acted with it in the past and wish
to act wath it in the future."

Two years later, he was the Republican candidate for
Mayor of the City of New York. It was a forlorn hope, in
a triangular contest, against Henry George and Abram S.
Hewitt, but I well remember the enthusiastic support he
received from young Republicans, who looked upon him not
only as a leader of rare capacity but as a party liberator.


With his defeat, he seemed to vanish from public life; but
he was only in training for larger service. He had already
(three years before) taken two ranches on the Little Missouri,
and with the toil and hardship of the prairie, in com-
pany with the "hardy and self-reliant" who "with bronzed
set faces and keen eyes that look all the world straight in the
face without tiinching," there was developed the Roosevelt
that we knew in later years, of physical strength apparently
inexhaustible, the hero of adventure, the idol of the cowboy,
the man who knew most intimately our America in the mak-
ing, the historian of the "Winning of the West," — who car-
ried with him through life the friendship of those who de-
spised all the superficialities and pretenses of the polite world
and to whom the courage and boldness of the frontier formed
the essential password to esteem — the man who in the most
crowded hours of official life, with its inordinate activity,
never lost the sense of the "immensity and mystery of the
wilderness" and of the "silences that brood in its still depths."

The rough life on the plains, with its emphasis on phy-
sical demands, instead of relaxing, quickened his intellectual
efforts. His literary ambition was apparent even in college
days, and before these were over he had written one or two
chapters of his book on the "Naval War of 1812." This book,
still an authority, was published in 1882. It was followed, in
1886, by "Hunting Trips of a Ranchman"; in 1887, by the
"Life of Thomas Hart Benton"; in 1888, by the "Life of
Gouverneur Morris" and "Ranch Life and Hunting Trails,"
and "Essays on Practical Politics." These were the contri-
butions of Roosevelt, the ranchman, to history and literature.

It was with this record that he was appointed Civil
Service Commissioner by President Harrison in 1889, and it
would have been difficult to select a place better suited for
the interment of political ambition. The work was in the last
degree unpopular with those who were supposed to make
and unmake political fortunes. Theodore Roosevelt did not
shrink from it. He did not try to curry favor; he did not
emasculate the new department in order to win his way to
political preferment.

He was not a mere administrator, but a fighter for proper
standards of administration. In his fight for Civil Service
Reform, he was the object of ridicule and bitter attack, but


he, on his part, gave no quarter. He was not averse, though
holding "a minor and rather non-descript office," to taking a
"Cabinet officer by the neck and exposing him to the amused
contempt of all honest Americans." When it w^as said that
his penmanship would disqualify him at his own examinations
for competitive positions, he replied that he might not be
eligible for a clerkship, but he thought he was a good Com-
missioner, and that under the old system he might have
secured the clerkship for which he was manifestly unfitted.
He rejoiced in his ability to do justice, and, amid the difficul-
ties of a subordinate position, he stood for the square deal.
This was his platform : "We propose that no incumbent shall
be dismissed from the service unless he proves untrustworthy
or incompetent and that none not specially qualified for the
duties of the position shall be appointed. These two state-
ments we consider eminently practical and American in prin-
ciple." Answering an attack from a Southern Congressman
as to the appointment of negroes, he said : "As to this, I have
to say that so long as the present Commissioners continue
their official existence they will not make, and so far as in
their power lies, will refuse to allow others to make any
discrimination whatsoever for or against any man because
of his color, any more than because of his politics or religion."

What was of greater value to the country than his spe-
cific efforts in this important field, was the intimate knowl-
edge the future leader obtained of all the departments of
government. He knew the government as well as he knew
the prairie. And this long training is largely the explanation
of his later rapidity of decision in all matters relating to
departmental work. In the midst of the militant efforts of
this Civil Service reformer, which lasted six years, and along
with the numerous volumes of official reports, he continued
to maintain his literary productivity. Between 1888 and 1895
(inclusive) he published six books, of which four related to
hunting, another was a history of New York City and the
remaining one was "Hero Tales from American History," of
which Henry Cabot Lodge was a joint author. It was in
this period, in the main, that he wrote the "Winning of the
West," an important work of exceptional value, which ap-
peared in the year 1896.

It was in the Spring of 1895, that he was called to a task

even less promising than his civil service commissionership
• — that of President of the New York Police Board. The
Lexow Committee had caused a spasm of municipal reform
and Mayor Strong's administration was the result. The dis-
closure of police corruption and blackmail created a demand
for the most vigorous treatment and the Mayor turned to
Roosevelt, buried in his Washington department. Nine years
had passed since his defeat for the mayoralty, and Roosevelt
had apparently failed to fulfill the promise of the early As-
sembly days. To New York, swift to forget, his return
seemed like a resurrection. Roosevelt had been offered by
Mayor Strong the Street Cleaning Department, but he de-
clined, as he thought he had no special fitness for that sort
of cleansing work. To him, the Police Department seemed a
simple task. It merely called, as he viewed it, for adminis-
tration "with entire disregard of partisan politics and only
from the standpoint of a good citizen interested in promoting
the welfare of all good citizens." He came to recognize,
however, that the then government of the Police Depart-
ment — a bi-partisan board of four Commissioners — was so
devised as to render it difficult to accomplish anything good,
while "the field for intrigue and conspiracy was limitless."
To his efforts there was every sort of opposition ; his enemies
were legion. You doubtless remember that period when
street vendors hawked about the caricatures of the Roosevelt
visage, — when as he said "every discredited politician, every
sensational newspaper, every timid fool who could be scared
by clamor, was against us." But the improvement in the
force was plain. Blackmail was rooted out; crime was
checked; the law respected; what was even more, the
force achieved its own self-respect. "The improvement in
its efficiency went hand in hand with the improvement in its
honesty." His work on the Health Board — of which he was
a member by virtue of his police office — was no less impor-
tant. Night after night he walked the tenement house dis-
tricts seeking to relieve distress, and his passion for social
helpfulness was exhibited in countless ways. The threats and
machinations of his enemies had no terrors for him. He

1 3

Online LibraryCharles Evans HughesAddress of Honorable Charles E. Hughes at the memorial service in honor of Theodore Roosevelt → online text (page 1 of 3)