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fists is this: I regard war as a very
terrible thing, to be avoided by every
decent means, but I do not regard it as
the worst conceivable thing in the world.
I think some things are even more to
be avoided than war; and these people
who say I want war are right to this
extent: Let them rape just one Ameri-
can woman in Mexico — and they have
raped many — and I should have action
inside six hours. There was never any
question as to whether the American
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THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

people would back me or not when I
was president. They would always
back me to assert American rights and
defend American honor. They are the
same people to-day, but they are dulled,
momentarily, by a five years' debauch
of professional pacifism.

"Every man has a soft and easy side
to him. I speak now out of the abun-
dance of my own heart. I 'm a domes-
tic man. I have always wanted to be
with Mrs. Roosevelt and my children,
and now with my grandchildren. I 'm
not a brawler. I detest war. But if
war came I 'd have to go, and my four
boys would go, too, because we have
ideals in this family. I Ve had a good
deal from hfe, and I am not afraid to
die, but any man who is a father ought
to know whether I want to see my four
33



THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

boys go off to fight. This feehng is so
strong in me that when I have read in
the papers that the President has sent
still another note to Germany, fending
off trouble for a while, I have to com-
bat a feeling of relief by thinking of
what our duty is and of how dreadful it
would have been for me if men in the
days of Washington and Lincoln had
been *too proud to fight.'

"The average man does not want to
be disturbed. He doesn't want to be
called upon to leave his business and
his family, and do a distinctly unpleas-
ant duty. That is natural enough.
Nevertheless, you can appeal to either
of the two soul sides of that man. If
you appeal to his deepest sense of duty,
to all that he has of strength and of
courage and of high-mindedness, you
can make him shake off his sloth, his
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self-indulgence, his short-sightedness,
or his timidity, and stand up and do,
and dare, and die at need, just as the
men of Bunker Hill and Trenton and
Yorktown and Gettysburg and Shiloh
did and dared and died.

"But if, upon the other hand, with ^;
great rhetorical ingenuity and skill, \
you furnish that man with high-sound-
ing names to cloak ignoble action, or
ignoble failure to act, then it is so natu-
ral as to be pardonable in the average
man to accept the excuse thrust upon
him and to do the ignoble thing which
the man who ought to be his leader
counsels him to do.

"It is with the people of a nation
much as with a regiment. There is an
old saying that there are few bad regi-
ments but plenty of bad colonels. No
matter how good a regiment may be, if,
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in the stress of a great fight, its colonel
advises each man as a matter of duty
to do whatever is best for his own com-
fort and safety, and if the colonel, still
uttering lofty abstract sentiments, then
marches to the rear, it may be taken for
granted that the regiment will follow."

The anti-Roosevelt reader, wishing
to take exception to everything having
to do with Colonel Roosevelt, may per-
haps take exception to the title of this
volume. To this reader I wish to say
that my title is not only temperate
(mark you, I refrained from making it
either "The Most Interesting Man in
the World" or "The Greatest Amer-
ican") but that I can prove it true. All
one need do to prove Roosevelt the
most interesting American, is to ask the
question; "Well, if he isn't, who is?"
36



THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

In reply to this the anti-Roosevelt man
will make a half-hearted effort to play
Edison as a trump card and will there-
after give up.

Yet I believe that even those who are
wilhng to concede to Colonel Roosevelt
everything in the way of being interest-
ing, or even everything in the way of
greatness, do not generally grasp, all
at one time, the completeness of his ver-
satility.

In the course of casual reading I
have lately happened upon three Roose-
velt items from curiously assorted
sources. In the "Century Magazine"
I read of the visit of an American au-
thoress to the home of Mistral, the
Provencal poet, and learned that "a
heavily inscribed photograph of Theo-
dore Roosevelt hangs in the hall in full
view of the bust of Lamartine."
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THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

In a New York newspaper I read an
interview with M. Jules Bois, the
French journahst, author, and poet.
Said M. Bois: "Theodore Roosevelt is
perhaps the greatest man in the world.
To the European he typifies all that is
essentially American. Abroad he is
considered the greatest American."

A day or two later I read that Champ
Clark had been talking about Roose-
velt. *'He knows a little more about
more things than any man in the coun-
try," declared the Speaker; and at the
risk of seeming, perhaps, to digress, I
cannot refrain from adding that Mr.
Clark, though a Democrat, declared
further that "Roosevelt is not mealy-
mouthed."

But let me point in another way the
versatility of Roosevelt. Has it ever
struck you that he combines within



THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

himself qualities and attainments which
actually are not combined in the entire
population of any city in the United
States?

The city which would have in the
sum of all its people a Roosevelt must
possess, among its inhabitants, the fol-
lowing :

1. A Physical Culture Expert:
Roosevelt built himself up from a sickly
child to a man upon whose vigor it is
needless to comment.

2. A Historian: Roosevelt began to
write his "History of the Naval War
of 1812" while yet a Harvard student.

3. A Biographer: See his "Oliver
Cromwell," his own Autobiography,
and others.



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4. An Essayist: He has written
more books than many authors whose
fame rests upon their writings alone.
His essays, in particular, are the key
to his actions.

5l [d Natural Scientist: As in au-
thorship, his achievements in this field
alone are enough to make him a man
of note. Several leading natural sci-
entists have said so.

6. A Big-Game Hunter: His shoot-
ing, like his vast reading, has been done
in spite of exceeding nearsightedness.
He is the most farsighted nearsighted
man the country has produced.

7. An Explorer and Discoverer:
Africa; South America; the River of
Doubt.

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THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

8. A Critic: Just listen at any time!

9. A Former Cowboy: For two
years he was a rancliman.

10. Ten or a dozen LL.D/s: He has
them from Harvard, Yale, Columbia,
etc.

11. An Editor: It used to be the
"Outlook." Now he writes signed edi-
torials for the "Metropolitan Maga-
zine."

12. A Former Member of the State
Legislature: In his early twenties he
was minority leader at Albany.

13. A Practical Reformer: No liv-
ing man has brought about so many
real reforms.

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14^. A Veteran Colonel of Cavalry:
He says his "one great day" was that
of San Juan Hill.

15. A Former Assistant Secretary
of the Navy: He said then, and long
before, all the things most of us are just
finding out about preparedness.

16. ^ Former Governor: He was
Governor of New York, Assistant Sec-
retary of the Navy, and Colonel of the
Rough Riders all in less than one year.

17. A Nobel Peace Prize Winner:
For the Russo-Japanese peace. But
people call him ''dangerous."

18. ^ Former Vice-President: They
did it to get rid of him, but —



THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

19. ^ Former President: The
youngest of all presidents. The presi-
dent who sent the battle fleet around
the world, who said "Perdicaris alive or
Raisuli dead," who concluded the peace
of Portsmouth, and who started the
Panama Canal.

New Haven, Connecticut, comes
nearest, perhaps, to having all these
things among its citizens, for it con-
tains Ex-President Taft, Ex-Gover-
nor Baldwin, President Hadley and the
Yale faculty, Harry Whitney, hunter
and explorer, and the redoubtable
"Mosey" King. But on other points
New Haven fails. The only thing it
has which Roosevelt hasn't is Savin
Rock — and there are those who think
there is even a touch of Savin Rock
about the Colonel.



THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

Nor must it be forgotten that there
are important Roosevelt items not in-
cluded in my list. As a creator of pop-
ular and telling phrases, he surpasses
George Ade and Oliver Herford com-
bined. He has not only the gift for
characterizing in a few words, but for
coining new expressions and revivify-
ing old ones.

Some one asks him how he is feel-
ing. "I 'm feeling as fine as a bull
moose!" replies the Colonel — and a po-
litical party has its name. "The big
stick," "the square deal," "parlor So-
cialists," "rosewater reformers," "out-
patients of Bedlam," "race suicide,"
"nature faker," "muckraker," "molly-
coddle," "Armageddon," "malefactor
of great wealth," "the strenuous life,"
"undesirable citizens," and, more lately,
"hyphenated Americans": these expres-



THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

sions which I happen to remember, and
many more which you will think of,
were either minted or put in general
circulation by the Colonel. He goes
hunting and the "Teddy Bear" comes
into being; he becomes a soldier and
both the term and type "Rough Rider"
is made known to us. Everything he
touches, everything he mentions, is
made vital through him as through con-
tact with a dynamo. A friend of mine
who has known the Colonel a long time
gives me the following items from
among things that he has heard him say.
Once when Roosevelt wished to explain
the extreme utterances of certain re-
formers he said: "Every reform has
a lunatic fringe." Again, in speaking
of certain very minor European mon-
archs he termed them "the bush-league
czars." One man he pronounced "As
45



THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

clean as a hound's tooth," while an-
other, a certain so-called statesman,
was "An elderly fuddy-duddy with
sweetbread brains." Somebody once
asked him about European kings whom
he had met. Whereupon the Colonel

answered: ''X [mentioning a

monarch] would be president of some
little peace society if he lived over here,
but the kaiser would swing his ward."
At another time when some people,
failing to appreciate the democracy of
Roosevelt's instincts, the enormous
Americanism of the man, said that he
wished to be a king, he declared to my
friend: "The people who say that
haven't seen as many kings as I
have. Kings are a kind of cross be-
tween Vice-President and a permanent
leader of the four hundred." Which
reminds me, by the way, that of all
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THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

Roosevelt's positions there is just one
with which we know he was born; and
that one, social position in New York,
is a thing for which, considered by it-
self, he has nothing but contempt.

Colonel Roosevelt's sense of humor
is highly individualized. It seems to
me that his vast experience of life in its
larger aspects has caused his sense of
humor to develop into Gargantuan
proportions, so that the ordinary httle
joke-for-a-joke's-sake makes no great
appeal to him. I believe that he ex-
pects a joke, as he expects a man, to do
something, and that he is somewhat in-
clined to be impatient of what is merely
amusing, just as he is impatient of
mere eloquence in speeches and of the
interruption of his own speeches by ap-
plause. In speaking, as in writing, he
does not try for eloquence, but merely
47



THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

to be clear and vigorous. He writes
slowly and with difficulty, using a pad
and pencil and making many correc-
tions.

His appreciation of situations which
are grotesque or comic is very rich.
Time and again, while in the White
House, he took boyish enjoyment in the
weirdly assorted gatherings at his
luncheon table. He has been known to
entertain, at once, the British ambas-
sador and the wildest kind of cowboys.
I doubt that anything ever afforded
him more amusement than furnishing
a prize-fighter friend of his (John L.
Sullivan, I think) with a letter of in-
troduction to the dignified and sedate
Governor Hughes of New York, now
justice of the Supreme Court. Having
a fine appreciation of both these men.
Colonel Roosevelt was fascinated with
48



THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

his mental picture of their meeting and
their conversation, though it is perhaps
needless to say he gave the letter only
for good reasons.

It was characteristic of him that he
knew them both well, for his taste in
men, like his taste for affairs, is widely
assorted. Once I asked him which of
his various activities he had most en-
joyed, and he was unable to say. So
it is with men. He likes prize fighters,
painters, cowboys, poets, diplomatists,
hunters, sculptors, soldiers, naturalists,
football players, novelists, men who can
tell him about Irish or Norwegian
sagas, about ancient Greek coins, or
about almost anything else. It was the
great sculptor, Saint-Gaudens, who
spoke to him one day of the beauty of
the old Greek coins, and it was charac-
teristic of Roosevelt that he immedi-
49



THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

ately caused new coins — the most beau-
tiful since those of ancient Greece — to
be designed and minted. So also, when
he set his mind to architecture and
landscape gardening, a fine arts council
composed of noted men, serving with-
out pay, came into being, and the new
pubUc buildings in Washington began
to be harmoniously designed and
placed. This fine arts council was,
however, instinctively resented by the
pork-barrel senators and congressmen,
and it was disbanded by Mr. Taft
shortly after he became president. At
one hour of the day Roosevelt would be
talking army reforms with an officer,
at another jujutsu with a Japanese, or
he would be writing to some poet whose
work he had seen and liked.

And sometimes, when there was need,
he would provide a government posi-
50



THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

tion for a man whose work was good
but not remunerative. Along with the
rest of him there is something of the
artist, and that is a tribute which can
be paid with honesty to but few Ameri-
can presidents.

Naturally those of us who admire
him like to call Roosevelt a "typical
American," because it pleases us to
think that an exceptional American is
typical. In so far as he is a type pro-
duced by the United States he is typi-
cal ; in so far as that type is common, he
is not. He has always been the excep-
tion. A jack-of -all-trades, he is mas-
ter of many. He rushes in where
angels fear to tread, but he is no fool.
He has been called a "man of destiny,"
but destiny has not done all the work,
any more than God has done all the
51



THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

work for the kaiser. Destiny has not
helped to make Roosevelt, as much as
Roosevelt has helped to make destiny —
or perhaps I should say to make destiny
make Roosevelt. For Roosevelt is not
a living proof of what a man may do
with gifts; he is a living proof of what
a man may do despite the lack of them.
Out of a weak child he made a powerful
man; out of half -blindness he made a
boxer, an omnivorous reader, a good
shot; out of a liking for authorship,
rather than a talent for it, he made a
distinguished author; out of natural
force and a feeling for the charm of
things he made a style not only clear
and forceful but, at times, charming.
Out of a voice and a manner never
meant for oratory he made a speaker.
Out of a sense of duty he made a
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THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

soldier, out of a soldier a governor, out
of a governor a vice-president, and —
wonder of wonders — out of a vice-presi-
dent a president !

I asked him once if he thought he had
genius.

"Most certainly I have not," he de-
clared with unhesitating conviction.
"I 'm no orator, and in writing I 'm
afraid I 'm not gifted at all, except per-
haps that I have a good instinct and a
liking for simplicity and directness. If
I have anything at all resembling
genius, it is in the gift for leadership.
For instance, if we have war, you '11 see
that young fighting officers of the army
want to be in my command." Then,
with a smile and in a manner the frank-
ness of which was indescribably pleas-
ing, he declared: "To tell the truth, I
53



THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

like to believe that, by what I have ac-
complished without great gifts, I may
be a source of encouragement to Ameri-
can boys."

No one knows better than Colonel
Roosevelt the opinion in which he is
held by various groups of his fellow
countrymen. An interesting example
of this knowledge occurs in his Auto-
biography, where he tells how his
successful conclusion of the Russo-
Japanese peace at Portsmouth made
him personally unpopular with the peo-
ple of both Russia and Japan be-
cause each nation thought that terms
more favorable to itself might have
been exacted. He writes:

*'0f course what I had done in con-
nection with the Portsmouth peace was
misunderstood by some good and sin-
cere people. Just as after the settle-
54



THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN



ment of the coal strike there were per-
sons who thereupon thought that it was
in my power, and was my duty, to settle
all other strikes, so after the peace of
Portsmouth there were other persons —
not only Americans, by the way — who
thought it my duty forthwith to make
myself a kind of international Meddle-
some Matty and interfere for peace
and justice promiscuously over the
world. Others, with a delightful non
sequitur, jumped to the conclusion that
inasmuch as I had helped to bring
about a beneficent and necessary peace
I must necessarily have changed my
mind about war being ever necessary.
A couple of days after peace was con-
cluded I wrote to a friend: *Don't you
be misled by the fact that just at the
moment men are speaking well of me.
They will speak ill soon enough. As
55



THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

Loeb remarked to me to-day, some time
soon I shall have to spank some little
international brigand, and then all the
well-meaning idiots will turn and shriek
that this is inconsistent with what I did
at the peace conference, whereas in
reality it will be exactly in line with
it.' "

Those who would have the key to
"My Policies," as the saying used to go
when Roosevelt was in the White
House, those who would have the key
to Roosevelt himself, should read his
Autobiography. It is rich reading.
Those who would have a bunch of keys
should also read his "Presidential Ad-
dresses and State Papers" and the es-
says published under the title "Ameri-
can Ideals." The last-mentioned col-
lection holds peculiar interest because,
56



THE INIOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

though written about twenty years ago,
when he was- president of the pohce
board of New York, it is Hterally
packed with statements which, with the
change of a word here and there, may
be directly and heljDfuUy applied to the
grave conditions which the nation faces
now. To read these early writings
without acknowledging the author's
prophetic understanding is to be an in-
tellectual contortionist or else wilfully
to withhold from him the "square deal."
I do not say that the reader of Roose-
velt's works must inevitably become a
Roosevelt man, but I do say that he
must become a fairer, more intelligent,
Roosevelt critic. Indeed, I might go
farther and declare — despite the well-
known American prerogative to express
loose opmions on all subjects — that the
opinion of Roosevelt, good or bad, ex-
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THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

pressed by a man who has failed to re-
view Roosevelt's political life as a
whole, is not worth listening to. I base
this contention on two facts: First,
that before I read the Roosevelt works
my own opinions upon Roosevelt were
loose and unintelligent. Second, the
fact that his activities in the last thirty-
seven years have been so numerous and
so diversified that the casual citizen for-
gets the larger part of them.

In short, I believe that we are still
too close to Mr. Roosevelt to appreciate
him fully. Americans lack perspective
on him, though I believe that Euro-
peans, regarding him from afar, have
a better appreciation of the rugged out-
lines of his character, precisely as those
who look at a mountain twenty-five or
fifty miles away can see it clearly, while
those who live upon its slopes are con-
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THE MOST INTERESTING AMERICAN

scious only of the little tract immedi-
ately about them.

Then there is the other side of Roose-
velt, the side so many men have seen
and adored. When he was president
he never had what is termed "front."
He never posed like a white marble
statue of a statesman in the entabla-
ture of a white marble temple. He
was, and is, one of us. We call him
*'T. R.," and he is perhaps the only
man in the country who is known to us
all by his initials. We call him
"Teddy," but we do not call a marble
statue "Woody."

Our "Teddy" does not suggest statu-
ary. He is, perhaps, more like the
movies — like a moving picture of our-
selves as we should like to be. He is
brave, hardy, and adventurous. We
59



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should like to be brave, hardy, and ad-
venturous, too, and we should be if it
were n't for all kinds of things that in-
terfered. He knows what he thinks.
Well, don't we know what we think,
sometimes? Certainly! He says what
he thinks. So do we — except when we
think it might get us into trouble.
When some one is a liar he calls him one.
How like us he is ! We 've often
wanted to do that, too. Yes, Teddy is
a "regular fellow" — just like us. Of
course we admire that side of him!

But then there 's another side. Cer-
tainly Teddy is all right in his way.
Yes. He 's all right so long as he 's
like us. But the trouble with him is
that he is n't conservative, as we are.
He is n't quite safe. He 's got a little
too much — too much this-and-that about
him. It 's too bad ! We could tell him
60



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what to do, but the trouble is, he 's head-
strong. He won't hsten. He just
goes roaring on hke a steam engine in
pantaloons.



61



ROOSEVELT AS A PROPHET



ROOSEVELT AS A PROPHET

THIRTY-TWO YEARS AGO

From "History of the Naval War of 181^'
{written in 1883)

A miserly economy in preparation may in
the end involve a lavish outlay of men and
money which after all comes too late to more
than partially offset the evils. It was crim-
inal folly of Jefferson and Madison not to
give us a force of regulars during the twelve
years before the struggle. The necessity for
an eflScient navy is now so evident that only
our almost incredible shortsightedness pre-
vents our preparing one.

TWENTY YEARS AGO

From "The War Between England and the United

States" {written in 1895)

In America in one crisis at least the Peace
at any Price men had cost the nation more in
blood and wealth than the political leaders
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most indifferent to war have ever cost it.
There never was a better example of the ulti-
mate evil caused by a timid effort to secure
peace through the sacrifice of honor and the
refusal to make preparations for war than
that afforded by the War of 181^. Nothing
can atone for the loss of the virile fighting
virtues. Though war is an evil, an inglori-
ous or unjustifiable peace is a worse evil.
Peace is worth nothing unless it comes with
sword girt on thigh. . . . The people as a
whole deserved just the administrative weak-
ness with which they were cursed by their
rulers. Instead of keeping quiet and making
preparations, they made no preparations
and indulged in vainglorious boasting. Con-
tempt is the emotion of all others which a
nation should be least willing to arouse ; and
contempt was aroused by the attitude of
those Americans who refused to provide an
adequate navy and declined to put the coun-
try into shape for self-defense. . . . The vie- I
tory in any contest will go to the nation that /
has earned it by thorough preparation. /



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NINETEEN YEARS AGO

From ''The Bachelor of Art," March, 1896
It is strange, indeed . - . there should
exist men who actually oppose the build-
ing of a navy by the United States, nay, even
more, actually oppose so much as the
strengthening of the coast defenses, on the


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