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Theodore Roosevelt An Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt by Theodore Roosevelt

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up a few weeks later, his face wreathed in smiles, to say that his
candidates had passed and that everything was evidently all straight.
During my two years as President of the Commission I think I appointed
a dozen or fifteen members of that little Methodist congregation, and
certainly twice that number of men from the temperance lyceum of the
Catholic church in question. They were all men of the very type I most
wished to see on the force--men of strong physique and resolute
temper, sober, self-respecting, self-reliant, with a strong wish to
improve themselves.

Occasionally I would myself pick out a man and tell him to take the
examination. Thus one evening I went down to speak in the Bowery at
the Young Men's Institute, a branch of the Young Men's Christian
Association, at the request of Mr. Cleveland H. Dodge. While there he
told me he wished to show me a young Jew who had recently, by an
exhibition of marked pluck and bodily prowess, saved some women and
children from a burning building. The young Jew, whose name was Otto
Raphael, was brought up to see me; a powerful fellow, with a good-
humored, intelligent face. I asked him about his education, and told
him to try the examination. He did, passed, was appointed, and made an
admirable officer; and he and all his family, wherever they may dwell,
have been close friends of mine ever since. Otto Raphael was a genuine
East Sider. He and I were both "straight New York," to use the
vernacular of our native city. To show our community of feeling and
our grasp of the facts of life, I may mention that we were almost the
only men in the Police Department who picked Fitzsimmons as a winner
against Corbett. Otto's parents had come over from Russia, and not
only in social standing but in pay a policeman's position meant
everything to him. It enabled Otto to educate his little brothers and
sisters who had been born in this country, and to bring over from
Russia two or three kinsfolk who had perforce been left behind.

Rather curiously, it was by no means as easy to keep politics and
corruption out of the promotions as out of the entrance examinations.
This was because I could take complete charge of the entrance
examinations myself; and, moreover, they were largely automatic. In
promotions, on the other hand, the prime element was the record and
capacity of the officer, and for this we had largely to rely upon the
judgment of the man's immediate superiors. This doubtless meant that
in certain cases that judgment was given for improper reasons.

However, there were cases where I could act on personal knowledge. One
thing that we did was to endeavor to recognize gallantry. We did not
have to work a revolution in the force as to courage in the way that
we had to work a revolution in honesty. They had always been brave in
dealing with riotous and violent criminals. But they had gradually
become very corrupt. Our great work, therefore, was the stamping out
of dishonesty, and this work we did thoroughly, so far as the
ridiculous bi-partisan law under which the Department was administered
would permit. But we were anxious that, while stamping out what was
evil in the force, we should keep and improve what was good. While
warring on dishonesty, we made every effort to increase efficiency. It
has unfortunately been shown by sad experience that at times a police
organization which is free from the taint of corruption may yet show
itself weak in some great crisis or unable to deal with the more
dangerous kinds of criminals. This we were determined to prevent.

Our efforts were crowned with entire success. The improvement in the
efficiency of the force went hand in hand with the improvement in its
honesty. The men in uniform and the men in plain clothes--the
detectives--did better work than ever before. The aggregate of crimes
where punishment followed the commission of the crime increased, while
the aggregate of crimes where the criminal escaped punishment
decreased. Every discredited politician, every sensational newspaper,
and every timid fool who could be scared by clamor was against us. All
three classes strove by every means in their power to show that in
making the force honest we had impaired its efficiency; and by their
utterances they tended to bring about the very condition of things
against which they professed to protest. But we went steadily along
the path we had marked out. The fight was hard, and there was plenty
of worry and anxiety, but we won. I was appointed in May, 1895. In
February, 1897, three months before I resigned to become Assistant
Secretary of the Navy, the Judge who charged the Grand Jury of New
York County was able to congratulate them on the phenomenal decrease
in crime, especially of the violent sort. This decrease was steady
during the two years. The police, after the reform policy was
thoroughly tried, proved more successful than ever before in
protecting life and property and in putting down crime and criminal

The part played by the recognition and reward of actual personal
prowess among the members of the police force in producing this state
of affairs was appreciable, though there were many other factors that
combined to bring about the betterment. The immense improvement in
discipline by punishing all offenders without mercy, no matter how
great their political or personal influence; the resolute warfare
against every kind of criminal who had hitherto been able corruptly to
purchase protection; the prompt recognition of ability even where it
was entirely unconnected with personal prowess--all these were
elements which had enormous weight in producing the change. Mere
courage and daring, and the rewarding of courage and daring, cannot
supply the lack of discipline, of ability, of honesty. But they are of
vital consequence, nevertheless. No police force is worth anything if
its members are not intelligent and honest; but neither is it worth
anything unless its members are brave, hardy, and well disciplined.

We showed recognition of daring and of personal prowess in two ways:
first, by awarding a medal or a certificate in remembrance of the
deed; and, second, by giving it weight in making any promotion,
especially to the lower grades. In the higher grades--in all
promotions above that of sergeant, for instance--resolute and daring
courage cannot normally be considered as a factor of determining
weight in making promotions; rather is it a quality the lack of which
unfits a man for promotion. For in the higher places we must assume
the existence of such a quality in any fit candidate, and must make
the promotion with a view to the man's energy, executive capacity, and
power of command. In the lower grades, however, marked gallantry
should always be taken into account in deciding among different
candidates for any given place.

During our two years' service we found it necessary over a hundred
times to single out men for special mention because of some feat of
heroism. The heroism usually took one of four forms: saving somebody
from drowning, saving somebody from a burning building, stopping a
runaway team, or arresting some violent lawbreaker under exceptional
circumstances. To illustrate our method of action, I will take two of
the first promotions made after I became Commissioner. One case was
that of an old fellow, a veteran of the Civil War, who was at the time
a roundsman. I happened to notice one day that he had saved a woman
from drowning, and had him summoned so that I might look into the
matter. The old fellow brought up his record before me, and showed not
a little nervousness and agitation; for it appeared that he had grown
gray in the service, had performed feat after feat of heroism, but had
no political backing of any account. No heed had ever been paid him.
He was one of the quiet men who attend solely to duty, and although a
Grand Army man, he had never sought to use influence of any kind. Now,
at last, he thought there was a chance for him. He had been twenty-two
years on the force, and during that time had saved some twenty-five
persons from death by drowning, varying the performance two or three
times by saving persons from burning buildings. Twice Congress had
passed laws especially to empower the then Secretary of the Treasury,
John Sherman, to give him a medal for distinguished gallantry in
saving life. The Life-Saving Society had also given him its medal, and
so had the Police Department. There was not a complaint in all his
record against him for any infraction of duty, and he was sober and
trustworthy. He was entitled to his promotion; and he got it, there
and then. It may be worth mentioning that he kept on saving life after
he was given his sergeantcy. On October 21, 1896, he again rescued a
man from drowning. It was at night, nobody else was in the
neighborhood, and the dock from which he jumped was in absolute
darkness, and he was ten minutes in the water, which was very cold. He
was fifty-five years old when he saved this man. It was the twenty-
ninth person whose life he had saved during his twenty-three years'
service in the Department.

The other man was a patrolman whom we promoted to roundsman for
activity in catching a burglar under rather peculiar circumstances. I
happened to note his getting a burglar one week. Apparently he had
fallen into the habit, for he got another next week. In the latter
case the burglar escaped from the house soon after midnight, and ran
away toward Park Avenue, with the policeman in hot chase. The New York
Central Railroad runs under Park Avenue, and there is a succession of
openings in the top of the tunnel. Finding that the policeman was
gaining on him, the burglar took a desperate chance and leaped down
one of these openings, at the risk of breaking his neck. Now the
burglar was running for his liberty, and it was the part of wisdom for
him to imperil life or limb; but the policeman was merely doing his
duty, and nobody could have blamed him for not taking the jump.
However, he jumped; and in this particular case the hand of the Lord
was heavy upon the unrighteous. The burglar had the breath knocked out
of him, and the "cop" didn't. When his victim could walk, the officer
trotted him around to the station-house; and a week after I had the
officer up and promoted him, for he was sober, trustworthy, and
strictly attentive to duty.

Now I think that any decent man of reasonable intelligence will agree
that we were quite right in promoting men in cases like these, and
quite right in excluding politics from promotions. Yet it was because
of our consistently acting in this manner, resolutely warring on
dishonesty and on that peculiar form of baseness which masquerades as
"practical" politics, and steadily refusing to pay heed to any
consideration except the good of the service and the city, and the
merits of the men themselves, that we drew down upon our heads the
bitter and malignant animosity of the bread-and-butter spoils
politicians. They secured the repeal of the Civil Service Law by the
State Legislature. They attempted and almost succeeded in the effort
to legislate us out of office. They joined with the baser portion of
the sensational press in every species of foul, indecent falsehood and
slander as to what we were doing. They attempted to seduce or frighten
us by every species of intrigue and cajolery, of promise of political
reward and threat of political punishment. They failed in their
purpose. I believe in political organizations, and I believe in
practical politics. If a man is not practical, he is of no use
anywhere. But when politicians treat practical politics as foul
politics, and when they turn what ought to be a necessary and useful
political organization into a machine run by professional spoilsmen of
low morality in their own interest, then it is time to drive the
politician from public life, and either to mend or destroy the
machine, according as the necessity may determine.

We promoted to roundsman a patrolman, with an already excellent
record, for gallantry shown in a fray which resulted in the death of
his antagonist. He was after a gang of toughs who had just waylaid,
robbed, and beaten a man. They scattered and he pursued the
ringleader. Running hard, he gained on his man, whereupon the latter
suddenly turned and fired full in his face. The officer already had
his revolver drawn, and the two shots rang out almost together. The
policeman was within a fraction of death, for the bullet from his
opponent's pistol went through his helmet and just broke the skin of
his head. His own aim was truer, and the man he was after fell dead,
shot through the heart. I may explain that I have not the slightest
sympathy with any policy which tends to put the policeman at the mercy
of a tough, or which deprives him of efficient weapons. While Police
Commissioner we punished any brutality by the police with such
immediate severity that all cases of brutality practically came to an
end. No decent citizen had anything to fear from the police during the
two years of my service. But we consistently encouraged the police to
prove that the violent criminal who endeavored to molest them or to
resist arrest, or to interfere with them in the discharge of their
duty, was himself in grave jeopardy; and we had every "gang" broken up
and the members punished with whatever severity was necessary. Of
course where possible the officer merely crippled the criminal who was

One of the things that we did while in office was to train the men in
the use of the pistol. A school of pistol practice was established,
and the marksmanship of the force was wonderfully improved. The man in
charge of the school was a roundsman, Petty, whom we promoted to
sergeant. He was one of the champion revolver shots of the country,
and could hit just about where he aimed. Twice he was forced to fire
at criminals who resisted arrest, and in each case he hit his man in
the arm or leg, simply stopping him without danger to his life.

In May, 1896, a number of burglaries occurred far uptown, in the
neighborhood of One Hundred and Fifty-sixth Street and Union Avenue.
Two officers were sent out each night to patrol the streets in plain
clothes. About two o'clock on the morning of May 8 they caught a
glimpse of two men loitering about a large corner house, and
determined to make them explain their actions. In order to cut off
their escape, one officer went down one street and one the other. The
first officer, whose name was Ryan, found the two men at the gateway
of the side entrance of the house, and hailed to know what they were
doing. Without answering, they turned and ran toward Prospect Avenue,
with Ryan in close pursuit. After running about one hundred feet, one
of them turned and fired three shots at Ryan, but failed to hit him.
The two then separated, and the man who had done the shooting escaped.
The other man, whose name proved to be O'Connor, again took to his
heels, with Ryan still after him; they turned the corner and met the
other officer, whose name was Reid, running as hard as he could toward
the shooting. When O'Connor saw himself cut off by Reid, he fired at
his new foe, the bullet cutting Reid's overcoat on the left shoulder.
Reid promptly fired in return, his bullet going into O'Connor's neck
and causing him to turn a complete somersault. The two officers then
cared for their prisoner until the ambulance arrived, when he was
taken to the hospital and pronounced mortally wounded. His companion
was afterward caught, and they turned out to be the very burglars for
whom Reid and Ryan had been on the lookout.

In December, 1896, one of our officers was shot. A row occurred in a
restaurant, which ended in two young toughs drawing their revolvers
and literally running amuck, shooting two or three men. A policeman,
attracted by the noise, ran up and seized one of them, whereupon the
other shot him in the mouth, wounding him badly. Nevertheless, the
officer kept his prisoner and carried him to the station-house. The
tough who had done the shooting ran out and was seized by another
officer. The tough fired at him, the bullet passing through the
officer's overcoat, but he was promptly knocked down, disarmed, and
brought to the station-house. In this case neither policeman used his
revolver, and each brought in his man, although the latter was armed
and resisted arrest, one of the officers taking in his prisoner after
having been himself severely wounded. A lamentable feature of the case
was that this same officer was a man who, though capable of great
gallantry, was also given to shirking his work, and we were finally
obliged to dismiss him from the force, after passing over two or three
glaring misdeeds in view of his record for courage.

We promoted another man on account of finding out accidentally that he
had performed a notable feat, which he had forborne even to mention,
so that his name never came on the roll of honor. Late at night, while
patrolling a lonely part of his post, he came upon three young toughs
who had turned highwaymen and were robbing a peddler. He ran in at
once with his night-stick, whereupon the toughs showed fight, and one
of them struck at him with a bludgeon, breaking his left hand. The
officer, however, made such good use of his night-stick that he
knocked down two of his assailants, whereupon the third ran away, and
he brought both of his prisoners to the station-house. Then he went
round to the hospital, had his broken hand set in plaster, and
actually reported for duty at the next tour, without losing one hour.
He was a quiet fellow, with a record free from complaints, and we made
him roundsman.

The mounted squad have, of course, many opportunities to distinguish
themselves in stopping runaways. In May, 1895, a mounted policeman
named Heyer succeeded in stopping a runaway at Kingsbridge under
rather noteworthy circumstances. Two men were driving in a buggy, when
the horse stumbled, and in recovering himself broke the head-stall, so
that the bridle fell off. The horse was a spirited trotter, and at
once ran away at full speed. Heyer saw the occurrence, and followed at
a run. When he got alongside the runaway he seized him by the
forelock, guided him dexterously over the bridge, preventing him from
running into the numerous wagons that were on the road, and finally
forced him up a hill and into a wagon-shed. Three months later this
same officer saved a man from drowning.

The members of the bicycle squad, which was established shortly after
we took office, soon grew to show not only extraordinary proficiency
on the wheel, but extraordinary daring. They frequently stopped
runaways, wheeling alongside of them, and grasping the horses while
going at full speed; and, what was even more remarkable, they managed
not only to overtake but to jump into the vehicle and capture, on two
or three different occasions, men who were guilty of reckless driving,
and who fought violently in resisting arrest. They were picked men,
being young and active, and any feat of daring which could be
accomplished on the wheel they were certain to accomplish.

Three of the best riders of the bicycle squad, whose names and records
happen to occur to me, were men of the three ethnic strains most
strongly represented in the New York police force, being respectively
of native American, German, and Irish parentage.

The German was a man of enormous power, and he was able to stop each
of the many runaways he tackled without losing his wheel. Choosing his
time, he would get alongside the horse and seize the bit in his left
hand, keeping his right on the crossbar of the wheel. By degrees he
then got the animal under control. He never failed to stop it, and he
never lost his wheel. He also never failed to overtake any "scorcher,"
although many of these were professional riders who deliberately
violated the law to see if they could not get away from him; for the
wheelmen soon get to know the officers whose beats they cross.

The Yankee, though a tall, powerful man and a very good rider,
scarcely came up to the German in either respect; he possessed
exceptional ability, however, as well as exceptional nerve and
coolness, and he also won his promotion. He stopped about as many
runaways; but when the horse was really panic-stricken he usually had
to turn his wheel loose, getting a firm grip on the horse's reins and
then kicking his wheel so that it would fall out of the way of injury
from the wagon. On one occasion he had a fight with a drunken and
reckless driver who was urging to top speed a spirited horse. He first
got hold of the horse, whereupon the driver lashed both him and the
beast, and the animal, already mad with terror, could not be stopped.
The officer had of course kicked away his wheel at the beginning, and
after being dragged along for some distance he let go the beast and
made a grab at the wagon. The driver hit him with his whip, but he
managed to get in, and after a vigorous tussle overcame his man, and
disposed of him by getting him down and sitting on him. This left his
hands free for the reins. By degrees he got the horse under control,
and drove the wagon round to the station-house, still sitting on his
victim. "I jounced up and down on him to keep him quiet when he turned
ugly," he remarked to me parenthetically. Having disposed of the
wagon, he took the man round to the court, and on the way the prisoner
suddenly sprang on him and tried to throttle him. Convinced at last
that patience had ceased to be a virtue, he quieted his assailant with
a smash on the head that took all the fight out of him until he was
brought before the judge and fined. Like the other "bicycle cops,"
this officer made a number of arrests of criminals, such as thieves,
highwaymen, and the like, in addition to his natural prey--scorchers,
runaways, and reckless drivers.

The third member of the trio, a tall, sinewy man with flaming red
hair, which rather added to the terror he inspired in evil-doers, was
usually stationed in a tough part of the city, where there was a
tendency to crimes of violence, and incidentally an occasional desire
to harass wheelmen. The officer was as good off his wheel as on it,
and he speedily established perfect order on his beat, being always
willing to "take chances" in getting his man. He was no respecter of
persons, and when it became his duty to arrest a wealthy man for
persistently refusing to have his carriage lamps lighted after
nightfall, he brought him in with the same indifference that he
displayed in arresting a street-corner tough who had thrown a brick at
a wheelman.

Occasionally a policeman would perform work which ordinarily comes
within the domain of the fireman. In November, 1896, an officer who
had previously saved a man from death by drowning added to his record
by saving five persons from burning. He was at the time asleep, when
he was aroused by a fire in a house a few doors away. Running over the
roofs of the adjoining houses until he reached the burning building,
he found that on the fourth floor the flames had cut off all exit from
an apartment in which there were four women, two of them over fifty,
and one of the others with a six-months-old baby. The officer ran down
to the adjoining house, broke open the door of the apartment on the
same floor--the fourth--and crept out on the coping, less than three
inches wide, that ran from one house to the other. Being a large and
very powerful and active man, he managed to keep hold of the casing of
the window with one hand, and with the other to reach to the window of
the apartment where the women and child were. The firemen appeared,
and stretched a net underneath. The crowd that was looking on suddenly
became motionless and silent. Then, one by one, he drew the women out
of their window, and, holding them tight against the wall, passed them
into the other window. The exertion in such an attitude was great, and
he strained himself badly; but he possessed a practical mind, and as
soon as the women were saved he began a prompt investigation of the
cause of the fire, and arrested two men whose carelessness, as was
afterward proved, caused it.

Now and then a man, though a brave man, proved to be slack or stupid
or vicious, and we could make nothing out of him; but hardihood and
courage were qualities upon which we insisted and which we rewarded.
Whenever I see the police force attacked and vilified, I always
remember my association with it. The cases I have given above are
merely instances chosen almost at random among hundreds of others. Men
such as those I have mentioned have the right stuff in them! If they
go wrong, the trouble is with the system, and therefore with us, the
citizens, for permitting the system to go unchanged. The conditions of
New York life are such as to make the police problem therein more
difficult than in any other of the world's great capitals. I am often
asked if policemen are honest. I believe that the great majority of
them want to be honest and will be honest whenever they are given the
chance. The New York police force is a body thoroughly representative
of the great city itself. As I have said above, the predominant ethnic
strains in it are, first, the men of Irish birth or parentage, and,
following these, the native Americans, usually from the country
districts, and the men of German birth or parentage. There are also
Jews, Scandinavians, Italians, Slavs, and men of other nationalities.
All soon become welded into one body. They are physically a fine lot.
Moreover, their instincts are right; they are game, they are alert and
self-reliant, they prefer to act squarely if they are allowed so to
act. All that they need is to be given the chance to prove themselves
honest, brave, and self-respecting.

The law at present is much better than in our day, so far as governing
the force is concerned. There is now a single Commissioner, and the
Mayor has complete power over him. The Mayor, through his
Commissioner, now has power to keep the police force on a good level
of conduct if with resolution and common sense he insists on absolute
honesty within the force and at the same time heartily supports it
against the criminal classes. To weaken the force in its dealings with
gangs and toughs and criminals generally is as damaging as to permit
dishonesty, and, moreover, works towards dishonesty. But while under
the present law very much improvement can be worked, there is need of
change of the law which will make the Police Commissioner a permanent,
non-partisan official, holding office so long as he proves thoroughly
fit for the job, completely independent of the politicians and
privileged interests, and with complete power over the force. This
means that there must be the right law, and the right public opinion
back of the law.

The many-sided ethnic character of the force now and then gives rise
to, or affords opportunity for, queer happenings. Occasionally it
enables one to meet emergencies in the best possible fashion. While I
was Police Commissioner an anti-Semitic preacher from Berlin, Rector
Ahlwardt, came over to New York to preach a crusade against the Jews.
Many of the New York Jews were much excited and asked me to prevent
him from speaking and not to give him police protection. This, I told
them, was impossible; and if possible would have been undesirable
because it would have made him a martyr. The proper thing to do was to
make him ridiculous. Accordingly I detailed for his protection a Jew
sergeant and a score or two of Jew policemen. He made his harangue
against the Jews under the active protection of some forty policemen,
every one of them a Jew! It was the most effective possible answer;
and incidentally it was an object-lesson to our people, whose greatest
need it is to learn that there must be no division by class hatred,
whether this hatred be that of creed against creed, nationality
against nationality, section against section, or men of one social or
industrial condition against men of another social and industrial
condition. We must ever judge each individual on his own conduct and
merits, and not on his membership in any class, whether that class be
based on theological, social, or industrial considerations.

Among my political opponents when I was Police Commissioner was the
head of a very influential local Democratic organization. He was a
State Senator usually known as Big Tim Sullivan. Big Tim represented
the morals of another era; that is, his principles and actions were
very much those of a Norman noble in the years immediately succeeding
the Battle of Hastings. (This will seem flattery only to those who are
not acquainted with the real histories and antecedents of the Norman
nobles of the epoch in question.) His application of these eleventh-
century theories to our nineteenth-century municipal democratic
conditions brought him into sharp contact with me, and with one of my
right-hand men in the Department, Inspector John McCullough. Under the
old dispensation this would have meant that his friends and kinsfolk
were under the ban.

Now it happened that in the Department at that time there was a nephew
or cousin of his, Jerry D. Sullivan. I found that Jerry was an
uncommonly good man, a conscientious, capable officer, and I promoted
him. I do not know whether Jerry or Jerry's cousin (Senator Sullivan)
was more astonished. The Senator called upon me to express what I am
sure was a very genuine feeling of appreciation. Poor Jerry died, I
think of consumption, a year or two after I left the Department. He
was promoted again after I left, and he then showed that he possessed
the very rare quality of gratitude, for he sent me a telegram dated
January 15, 1898, running as follows: "Was made sergeant to-day. I
thank you for all in my first advancement." And in a letter written to
me he said: "In the future, as in the past, I will endeavor at all
times to perform my duty honestly and fearlessly, and never cause you
to feel that you were mistaken in me, so that you will be justly proud
of my record." The Senator, though politically opposed to me, always
kept a feeling of friendship for me after this incident. He served in
Congress while I was President.

The police can be used to help all kinds of good purposes. When I was
Police Commissioner much difficulty had been encountered in locating
illegal and fraudulent practitioners of medicine. Dr. Maurice Lewi
called on me, with a letter from James Russell Parsons, the Secretary
of the Board of Regents at Albany, and asked me if I could not help.
After questioning him I found that the local authorities were eager to
prosecute these men, but could not locate them; and I made up my mind
I would try my hand at it. Accordingly, a sealed order was sent to the
commanding officer of each police precinct in New York, not to be
opened until just before the morning roll call, previous to the police
squad going on duty. This order required that, immediately upon
reaching post, each patrolman should go over his beat and enter upon a
sheet of paper, provided for that purpose, the full name and address
of every doctor sign there appearing. Immediately upon securing this
information, the patrolman was instructed to return the sheet to the
officer in charge of the precinct. The latter in turn was instructed
to collect and place in one large envelope and to return to Police
Headquarters all the data thus received. As a result of this
procedure, within two hours the prosecuting officials of the city of
New York were in possession of the name and address of every person in
New York who announced himself as a physician; and scores of pretended
physicians were brought to book or driven from the city.

One of the perennially serious and difficult problems, and one of the
chief reasons for police blackmail and corruption, is to be found in
the excise situation in New York. When I was Police Commissioner, New
York was a city with twelve or fifteen thousand saloons, with a State
law which said they should be closed on Sundays, and with a local
sentiment which put a premium on violating the law by making Sunday
the most profitable day in the week to the saloon-keeper who was
willing to take chances. It was this willingness to take chances that
furnished to the corrupt politician and the corrupt police officer
their opportunities.

There was in New York City a strong sentiment in favor of honesty in
politics; there was also a strong sentiment in favor of opening the
saloons on Sundays; and, finally, there was a strong sentiment in
favor of keeping the saloons closed on Sunday. Unfortunately, many of
the men who favored honest government nevertheless preferred keeping
the saloons open to having honest government; and many others among
the men who favored honest government put it second to keeping the
saloons closed. Moreover, among the people who wished the law obeyed
and the saloons closed there were plenty who objected strongly to
every step necessary to accomplish the result, although they also
insisted that the result should be accomplished.

Meanwhile the politicians found an incredible profit in using the law
as a club to keep the saloons in line; all except the biggest, the
owners of which, or the owners of the breweries back of which, sat in
the inner councils of Tammany, or controlled Tammany's allies in the
Republican organization. The police used the partial and spasmodic
enforcement of the law as a means of collecting blackmail. The result
was that the officers of the law, the politicians, and the saloon-
keepers became inextricably tangled in a network of crime and
connivance at crime. The most powerful saloon-keepers controlled the
politicians and the police, while the latter in turn terrorized and
blackmailed all the other saloon-keepers. It was not a case of non-
enforcement of the law. The law was very actively enforced, but it was
enforced with corrupt discrimination.

It is difficult for men who have not been brought into contact with
that side of political life which deals with the underworld to
understand the brazen openness with which this blackmailing of
lawbreakers was carried out. A further very dark fact was that many of
the men responsible for putting the law on the statute-books in order
to please one element of their constituents, also connived at or even
profited by the corrupt and partial non-enforcement of the law in
order to please another set of their constituents, or to secure profit
for themselves. The organ of the liquor-sellers at that time was the
Wine and Spirit Gazette. The editor of this paper believed in selling
liquor on Sunday, and felt that it was an outrage to forbid it. But he
also felt that corruption and blackmail made too big a price to pay
for the partial non-enforcement of the law. He made in his paper a
statement, the correctness of which was never questioned, which offers
a startling commentary on New York politics of that period. In this
statement he recited the fact that the system of blackmail had been
brought to such a state of perfection, and had become so oppressive to
the liquor dealers themselves, that they communicated at length on the
subject with Governor Hill (the State Democratic boss) and then with
Mr. Croker (the city Democratic boss). Finally the matter was formally
taken up by a committee of the Central Association of Liquor Dealers
in an interview they held with Mr. Martin, my Tammany predecessor as
President of the police force. In matter-of-course way the editor's
statement continues: "An agreement was made between the leaders of
Tammany Hall and the liquor dealers according to which the monthly
blackmail paid to the force should be discontinued in return for
political support." Not only did the big bosses, State and local,
treat this agreement, and the corruption to which it was due, as
normal and proper, but they never even took the trouble to deny what
had been done when it was made public. Tammany and the police,
however, did not fully live up to the agreement; and much
discrimination of a very corrupt kind, and of a very exasperating kind
to liquor-sellers who wished to be honest, continued in connection
with the enforcing of the law.

In short, the agreement was kept only with those who had "pull." These
men with "pull" were benefited when their rivals were bullied and
blackmailed by the police. The police, meanwhile, who had bought
appointment or promotion, and the politicians back of them, extended
the blackmailing to include about everything from the pushcart peddler
and the big or small merchant who wished to use the sidewalk illegally
for his goods, up to the keepers of the brothel, the gambling-house,
and the policy-shop. The total blackmail ran into millions of dollars.
New York was a wide-open town. The big bosses rolled in wealth, and
the corrupt policemen who ran the force lost all sense of decency and
justice. Nevertheless, I wish to insist on the fact that the honest
men on the patrol posts, "the men with the night-sticks," remained
desirous to see honesty obtain, although they were losing courage and

This was the situation that confronted me when I came to Mulberry
Street. The saloon was the chief source of mischief. It was with the
saloon that I had to deal, and there was only one way to deal with it.
That was to enforce the law. The howl that rose was deafening. The
professional politicians raved. The yellow press surpassed themselves
in clamor and mendacity. A favorite assertion was that I was enforcing
a "blue" law, an obsolete law that had never before been enforced. As
a matter of fact, I was only enforcing honestly a law that had
hitherto been enforced dishonestly. There was very little increase in
the number of arrests made for violating the Sunday law. Indeed, there
were weeks when the number of arrests went down. The only difference
was that there was no protected class. Everybody was arrested alike,
and I took especial pains to see that there was no discrimination, and
that the big men and the men with political influence were treated
like every one else. The immediate effect was wholly good. I had been
told that it was not possible to close the saloons on Sunday and that
I could not succeed. However, I did succeed. The warden of Bellevue
Hospital reported, two or three weeks after we had begun, that for the
first time in its existence there had not been a case due to a drunken
brawl in the hospital all Monday. The police courts gave the same
testimony, while savings banks recorded increased deposits and
pawnshops hard times. The most touching of all things was the fact
that we received letters, literally by the hundred, from mothers in
tenement-houses who had never been allowed to take their children to
the country in the wide-open days, and who now found their husbands
willing to take them and their families for an outing on Sunday. Jake
Riis and I spent one Sunday from morning till night in the tenement
districts, seeing for ourselves what had happened.

During the two years that we were in office things never slipped back
to anything like what they had been before. But we did not succeed in
keeping them quite as highly keyed as during these first weeks. As
regards the Sunday-closing law, this was partly because public
sentiment was not really with us. The people who had demanded honesty,
but who did not like to pay for it by the loss of illegal pleasure,
joined the openly dishonest in attacking us. Moreover, all kinds of
ways of evading the law were tried, and some of them were successful.
The statute, for instance, permitted any man to take liquor with
meals. After two or three months a magistrate was found who decided
judicially that seventeen beers and one pretzel made a meal--after
which decision joy again became unconfined in at least some of the
saloons, and the yellow press gleefully announced that my "tyranny"
had been curbed. But my prime object, that of stopping blackmail, was
largely attained.

All kinds of incidents occurred in connection with this crusade. One
of them introduced me to a friend who remains a friend yet. His name
was Edward J. Bourke. He was one of the men who entered the police
force through our examinations shortly after I took office. I had
summoned twenty or thirty of the successful applicants to let me look
over them; and as I walked into the hall, one of them, a well-set-up
man, called out sharply to the others, "Gangway," making them move to
one side. I found he had served in the United States navy. The
incident was sufficient to make me keep him in mind. A month later I
was notified by a police reporter, a very good fellow, that Bourke was
in difficulties, and that he thought I had better look into the matter
myself, as Bourke was being accused by certain very influential men of
grave misconduct in an arrest he had made the night before.
Accordingly, I took the matter up personally. I found that on the new
patrolman's beat the preceding night--a new beat--there was a big
saloon run by a man of great influence in political circles known as
"King" Calahan. After midnight the saloon was still running in full
blast, and Bourke, stepping inside, told Calahan to close up. It was
at the time filled with "friends of personal liberty," as Governor
Hill used at that time, in moments of pathos, to term everybody who
regarded as tyranny any restriction on the sale of liquor. Calahan's
saloon had never before in its history been closed, and to have a
green cop tell him to close it seemed to him so incredible that he
regarded it merely as a bad jest. On his next round Bourke stepped in
and repeated the order. Calahan felt that the jest had gone too far,
and by way of protest knocked Bourke down. This was an error of
judgment on his part, for when Bourke arose he knocked down Calahan.
The two then grappled and fell on the floor, while the "friends of
personal liberty" danced around the fight and endeavored to stamp on
everything they thought wasn't Calahan. However, Bourke, though pretty
roughly handled, got his man and shut the saloon. When he appeared
against the lawbreaker in court next day, he found the court-room
crowded with influential Tammany Hall politicians, backed by one or
two Republican leaders of the same type; for Calahan was a baron of
the underworld, and both his feudal superiors and his feudal inferiors
gathered to the rescue. His backers in court included a Congressman
and a State Senator, and so deep-rooted was the police belief in
"pull" that his own superiors had turned against Bourke and were
preparing to sacrifice him. Just at this time I acted on the
information given me by my newspaper friend by starting in person for
the court. The knowledge that I knew what was going on, that I meant
what I said, and that I intended to make the affair personal, was all
that was necessary. Before I reached the court all effort to defend
Calahan had promptly ceased, and Bourke had come forth triumphant. I
immediately promoted him to roundsman. He is a captain now. He has
been on the force ever since, save that when the Spanish War came he
obtained a holiday without pay for six months and reentered the navy,
serving as gun captain in one of the gunboats, and doing his work, as
was to be expected, in first-rate fashion, especially when under fire.

Let me again say that when men tell me that the police are
irredeemably bad I remember scores and hundreds of cases like this of
Bourke, like the case I have already mentioned of Raphael, like the
other cases I have given above.

It is useless to tell me that these men are bad. They are naturally
first-rate men. There are no better men anywhere than the men of the
New York police force; and when they go bad it is because the system
is wrong, and because they are not given the chance to do the good
work they can do and would rather do. I never coddled these men. I
punished them severely whenever I thought their conduct required it.
All I did was to try to be just; to reward them when they did well; in
short, to act squarely by them. I believe that, as a whole, they liked
me. When, in 1912, I ran for President on the Progressive ticket, I
received a number of unsigned letters inclosing sums of money for the
campaign. One of these inclosed twenty dollars. The writer, who did
not give his name, said that he was a policeman, that I had once had
him before me on charges, and had fined him twenty dollars; that, as a
matter of fact, he had not committed the offense for which I fined
him, but that the evidence was such that he did not wonder that I had
been misled, and never blamed me for it, because I had acted squarely
and had given honest and decent men a chance in the Police Department;
and that now he inclosed a twenty-dollar bill, the amount of the fine
inflicted on him so many years before. I have always wished I knew who
the man was.

The disciplinary courts were very interesting. But it was
extraordinarily difficult to get at the facts in the more complicated
cases--as must always be true under similar circumstances; for
ordinarily it is necessary to back up the superior officer who makes
the charge, and yet it is always possible that this superior officer
is consciously or unconsciously biased against his subordinate.

In the courts the charges were sometimes brought by police officers
and sometimes by private citizens. In the latter case we would get
queer insights into twilight phases of New York life. It was necessary
to be always on our guard. Often an accusation would be brought
against the policeman because he had been guilty of misconduct. Much
more often the accusation merely meant that the officer had incurred
animosity by doing his duty. I remember one amusing case where the
officer was wholly to blame but had acted in entire good faith.

One of the favorite and most demoralizing forms of gambling in New
York was policy-playing. The policy slips consisted of papers with
three rows of figures written on them. The officer in question was a
huge pithecoid lout of a creature, with a wooden face and a receding
forehead, and his accuser whom he had arrested the preceding evening
was a little grig of a red-headed man, obviously respectable, and
almost incoherent with rage. The anger of the little red-headed man
was but natural, for he had just come out from a night in the station-
house. He had been arrested late in the evening on suspicion that he
was a policy-player, because of the rows of figures on a piece of
paper which he had held in his hand, and because at the time of his
arrest he had just stepped into the entrance of the hall of a
tenement-house in order to read by lamplight. The paper was produced
in evidence. There were the three rows of figures all right, but, as
the accused explained, hopping up and down with rage and excitement,
they were all of them the numbers of hymns. He was the superintendent
of a small Sunday-school. He had written down the hymns for several
future services, one under the other, and on the way home was stopping
to look at them, under convenient lamp-posts, and finally by the light
of the lamp in a tenement-house hallway; and it was this conduct which
struck the sagacious man in uniform as "suspicious."

One of the saddest features of police work is dealing with the social
evil, with prostitutes and houses of ill fame. In so far as the law
gave me power, I always treated the men taken in any raid on these
houses precisely as the women were treated. My experience brought me
to the very strong conviction that there ought not to be any
toleration by law of the vice. I do not know of any method which will
put a complete stop to the evil, but I do know certain things that
ought to be done to minimize it. One of these is treating men and
women on an exact equality for the same act. Another is the
establishment of night courts and of special commissions to deal with
this special class of cases. Another is that suggested by the Rev.
Charles Stelzle, of the Labor Temple--to publish conspicuously the
name of the owner of any property used for immoral purposes, after
said owner had been notified of the use and has failed to prevent it.
Another is to prosecute the keepers and backers of brothels, men and
women, as relentlessly and punish them as severely as pickpockets and
common thieves. They should never be fined; they should be imprisoned.
As for the girls, the very young ones and first offenders should be
put in the charge of probation officers or sent to reformatories, and
the large percentage of feeble-minded girls and of incorrigible girls
and women should be sent to institutions created for them. We would
thus remove from this hideous commerce the articles of commerce.
Moreover, the Federal Government must in ever-increasing measure
proceed against the degraded promoters of this commercialism, for
their activities are inter-State and the Nation can often deal with
them more effectively than the States; although, as public sentiment
becomes aroused, Nation, State, and municipality will all cooperate
towards the same end of rooting out the traffic. But the prime need is
to raise the level of individual morality; and, moreover, to encourage
early marriages, the single standard of sex-morality, and a strict
sense of reciprocal conjugal obligation. The women who preach late
marriages are by just so much making it difficult to better the
standard of chastity.

As regards the white slave traffic, the men engaged in it, and the
women too, are far worse criminals than any ordinary murderers can be.
For them there is need of such a law as that recently adopted in
England through the efforts of Arthur Lee, M.P., a law which includes
whipping for the male offenders. There are brutes so low, so infamous,
so degraded and bestial in their cruelty and brutality, that the only
way to get at them is through their skins. Sentimentality on behalf of
such men is really almost as unhealthy and wicked as the criminality
of the men themselves. My experience is that there should be no
toleration of any "tenderloin" or "red light" district, and that,
above all, there should be the most relentless war on commercialized
vice. The men who profit and make their living by the depravity and
the awful misery of other human beings stand far below any ordinary
criminals, and no measures taken against them can be too severe.

As for the wretched girls who follow the dreadful trade in question, a
good deal can be done by a change in economic conditions. This ought
to be done. When girls are paid wages inadequate to keep them from
starvation, or to permit them to live decently, a certain proportion
are forced by their economic misery into lives of vice. The employers
and all others responsible for these conditions stand on a moral level
not far above the white slavers themselves. But it is a mistake to
suppose that either the correction of these economic conditions or the
abolition of the white slave trade will wholly correct the evil or
will even reach the major part of it. The economic factor is very far
from being the chief factor in inducing girls to go into this dreadful
life. As with so many other problems, while there must be governmental
action, there must also be strengthening of the average individual
character in order to achieve the desired end. Even where economic
conditions are bad, girls who are both strong and pure will remain
unaffected by temptations to which girls of weak character or lax
standards readily yield. Any man who knows the wide variation in the
proportions of the different races and nationalities engaged in
prostitution must come to the conclusion that it is out of the
question to treat economic conditions as the sole conditions or even
as the chief conditions that determine this question. There are
certain races--the Irish are honorably conspicuous among them--which,
no matter what the economic pressure, furnish relatively few inmates
of houses of ill fame. I do not believe that the differences are due
to permanent race characteristics; this is shown by the fact that the
best settlement houses find that practically all their "long-term
graduates," so to speak, all the girls that come for a long period
under their influence, no matter what their race or national origin,
remain pure. In every race there are some naturally vicious
individuals and some weak individuals who readily succumb under
economic pressure. A girl who is lazy and hates hard work, a girl
whose mind is rather feeble, and who is of "subnormal intelligence,"
as the phrase now goes, or a girl who craves cheap finery and vapid
pleasure, is always in danger. A high ideal of personal purity is
essential. Where the same pressure under the same economic conditions
has tenfold the effect on one set of people that it has on another, it
is evident that the question of moral standards is even more important
than the question of economic standards, very important though this
question is. It is important for us to remember that the girl ought to
have the chance, not only for the necessaries of life, but for
innocent pleasure; and that even more than the man she must not be
broken by overwork, by excessive toil. Moreover, public opinion and
the law should combine to hunt down the "flagrant man swine" who
himself hunts down poor or silly or unprotected girls. But we must
not, in foolish sentimentality, excuse the girl from her duty to keep
herself pure. Our duty to achieve the same moral level for the two
sexes must be performed by raising the level for the man, not by
lowering it for the woman; and the fact that society must recognize
its duty in no shape or way relieves, not even to the smallest degree,
the individual from doing his or her duty. Sentimentality which grows
maudlin on behalf of the willful prostitute is a curse; to confound
her with the entrapped or coerced girl, the real white slave, is both
foolish and wicked. There are evil women just as there are evil men,
naturally depraved girls just as there are naturally depraved young
men; and the right and wise thing, the just thing, to them, and the
generous thing to innocent girls and decent men, is to wage stern war
against the evil creatures of both sexes.

In company with Jacob Riis, I did much work that was not connected
with the actual discipline of the force or indeed with the actual work
of the force. There was one thing which he and I abolished--police
lodging-houses, which were simply tramp lodging-houses, and a fruitful
encouragement to vagrancy. Those who read Mr. Riis's story of his own
life will remember the incidents that gave him from actual personal
experience his horror of these tramp lodging-houses. As member of the
Health Board I was brought into very close relations with the
conditions of life in the tenement-house districts. Here again I used
to visit the different tenement-house regions, usually in company with
Riis, to see for myself what the conditions were. It was largely this
personal experience that enabled me while on the Health Board to
struggle not only zealously, but with reasonable efficiency and
success, to improve conditions. We did our share in making forward
strides in the matter of housing the working people of the city with
some regard to decency and comfort.

The midnight trips that Riis and I took enabled me to see what the
Police Department was doing, and also gave me personal insight into
some of the problems of city life. It is one thing to listen in
perfunctory fashion to tales of overcrowded tenements, and it is quite
another actually to see what that overcrowding means, some hot summer
night, by even a single inspection during the hours of darkness. There
was a very hot spell one midsummer while I was Police Commissioner,
and most of each night I spent walking through the tenement-house
districts and visiting police stations to see what was being done. It
was a tragic week. We did everything possible to alleviate the
suffering. Much of it was heartbreaking, especially the gasping misery
of the little children and of the worn-out mothers. Every resource of
the Health Department, of the Police Department, and even the Fire
Department (which flooded the hot streets) was taxed in the effort to
render service. The heat killed such multitudes of horses that the
means at our disposal for removing the poor dead beasts proved quite
inadequate, although every nerve was strained to the limit. In
consequence we received scores of complaints from persons before whose
doors dead horses had remained, festering in the heat, for two or
three days. One irascible man sent us furious denunciations, until we
were at last able to send a big dray to drag away the horse that lay
dead before his shop door. The huge dray already contained eleven
other dead horses, and when it reached this particular door it broke
down, and it was hours before it could be moved. The unfortunate man
who had thus been cursed with a granted wish closed his doors in
despair and wrote us a final pathetic letter in which he requested us
to remove either the horses or his shop, he didn't care which.

I have spoken before of my experience with the tenement-house cigar
factory law which the highest court of New York State declared
unconstitutional. My experience in the Police Department taught me
that not a few of the worst tenement-houses were owned by wealthy
individuals, who hired the best and most expensive lawyers to persuade
the courts that it was "unconstitutional" to insist on the betterment
of conditions. These business men and lawyers were very adroit in
using a word with fine and noble associations to cloak their
opposition to vitally necessary movements for industrial fair play and
decency. They made it evident that they valued the Constitution, not
as a help to righteousness, but as a means for thwarting movements
against unrighteousness. After my experience with them I became more
set than ever in my distrust of those men, whether business men or
lawyers, judges, legislators, or executive officers, who seek to make
of the Constitution a fetich for the prevention of the work of social
reform, for the prevention of work in the interest of those men,
women, and children on whose behalf we should be at liberty to employ
freely every governmental agency.

Occasionally during the two years we had to put a stop to riotous
violence, and now and then on these occasions some of the labor union
leaders protested against the actions of the police. By this time I
was becoming a strong believer in labor unions, a strong believer in
the rights of labor. For that very reason I was all the more bound to
see that lawlessness and disorder were put down, and that no rioter
was permitted to masquerade under the guise of being a friend of labor
or a sympathizer with labor. I was scrupulous to see that the labor
men had fair play; that, for instance, they were allowed to picket
just so far as under the law picketing could be permitted, so that the
strikers had ample opportunity peacefully to persuade other labor men
not to take their places. But I made it clearly and definitely
understood that under no circumstances would I permit violence or fail
to insist upon the keeping of order. If there were wrongs, I would
join with a full heart in striving to have them corrected. But where
there was violence all other questions had to drop until order was
restored. This is a democracy, and the people have the power, if they
choose to exercise it, to make conditions as they ought to be made,
and to do this strictly within the law; and therefore the first duty
of the true democrat, of the man really loyal to the principles of
popular government, is to see that law is enforced and order upheld.
It was a peculiar gratification to me that so many of the labor
leaders with whom I was thrown in contact grew cordially to accept
this view. When I left the Department, several called upon me to say
how sorry they were that I was not to continue in office. One, the
Secretary of the Journeyman Bakers' and Confectioners' International
Union, Henry Weismann, wrote me expressing his regret that I was
going, and his appreciation as a citizen of what I had done as Police
Commissioner; he added: "I am particularly grateful for your liberal
attitude toward organized labor, your cordial championship of those
speaking in behalf of the toilers, and your evident desire to do the
right thing as you saw it at whatever cost."

Some of the letters I received on leaving the Department were from
unexpected sources. Mr. E. L. Godkin, an editor who in international
matters was not a patriotic man, wrote protesting against my taking
the Assistant-Secretaryship of the Navy, and adding: "I have a
concern, as the Quakers say, to put on record my earnest belief that
in New York you are doing the greatest work of which any American
to-day is capable, and exhibiting to the young men of the country the
spectacle of a very important office administered by a man of high
character in the most efficient way amid a thousand difficulties. As a
lesson in politics I cannot think of anything more instructive."

About the same time I had a letter from Mr. (afterwards Ambassador)
James Bryce, also expressing regret that I was leaving the Police
Department, but naturally with much more appreciation of the work that
was to be done in the Navy Department. This letter I quote, with his
permission, because it conveys a lesson to those who are inclined
always to think that the conditions of the present time are very bad.
It was written July 7, 1897. Mr. Bryce spoke of the possibility of
coming to America in a month or so, and continued: "I hope I may have
a chance of seeing you if I do get over, and of drawing some comfort
from you as regards your political phenomena, which, so far as I can
gather from those of your countrymen I have lately seen, furnish some
good opportunities for a persistent optimist like myself to show that
he is not to be lightly discouraged. Don't suppose that things are
specially 'nice,' as a lady would say, in Europe either. They are
not." Mr. Bryce was a very friendly and extraordinary competent
observer of things American; and there was this distinct note of
discouragement about our future in the intimate letter he was thus
sending. Yet this was at the very time when the United States was
entering on a dozen years during which our people accomplished more
good, and came nearer realizing the possibilities of a great, free,
and conscientious democracy, than during any other dozen years in our
history, save only the years of Lincoln's Presidency and the period
during which the Nation was founded.



I suppose the United States will always be unready for war, and in
consequence will always be exposed to great expense, and to the
possibility of the gravest calamity, when the Nation goes to war. This
is no new thing. Americans learn only from catastrophes and not from

There would have been no war in 1812 if, in the previous decade,
America, instead of announcing that "peace was her passion," instead
of acting on the theory that unpreparedness averts war, had been
willing to go to the expense of providing a fleet of a score of ships
of the line. However, in that case, doubtless the very men who in the
actual event deplored the loss of life and waste of capital which
their own supineness had brought about would have loudly inveighed
against the "excessive and improper cost of armaments"; so it all came
to about the same thing in the end.

There is no more thoroughgoing international Mrs. Gummidge, and no
more utterly useless and often utterly mischievous citizen, than the
peace-at-any-price, universal-arbitration type of being, who is always
complaining either about war or else about the cost of the armaments
which act as the insurance against war. There is every reason why we
should try to limit the cost of armaments, as these tend to grow
excessive, but there is also every reason to remember that in the
present stage of civilization a proper armament is the surest
guarantee of peace--and is the only guarantee that war, if it does
come, will not mean irreparable and overwhelming disaster.

In the spring of 1897 President McKinley appointed me Assistant
Secretary of the Navy. I owed the appointment chiefly to the efforts
of Senator H. C. Lodge of Massachusetts, who doubtless was actuated
mainly by his long and close friendship for me, but also--I like to
believe--by his keen interest in the navy. The first book I had ever
published, fifteen years previously, was "The History of the Naval War
of 1812"; and I have always taken the interest in the navy which every
good American ought to take. At the time I wrote the book, in the
early eighties, the navy had reached its nadir, and we were then
utterly incompetent to fight Spain or any other power that had a navy
at all. Shortly afterwards we began timidly and hesitatingly to build
up a fleet. It is amusing to recall the roundabout steps we took to
accomplish our purpose. In the reaction after the colossal struggle of
the Civil War our strongest and most capable men had thrown their
whole energy into business, into money-making, into the development,
and above all the exploitation and exhaustion at the most rapid rate
possible, of our natural resources--mines, forests, soil, and rivers.
These men were not weak men, but they permitted themselves to grow
shortsighted and selfish; and while many of them down at the bottom
possessed the fundamental virtues, including the fighting virtues,
others were purely of the glorified huckster or glorified pawnbroker
type--which when developed to the exclusion of everything else makes
about as poor a national type as the world has seen. This
unadulterated huckster or pawnbroker type is rarely keenly sympathetic
in matters of social and industrial justice, and is usually physically
timid and likes to cover an unworthy fear of the most just war under
high-sounding names.

It was reinforced by the large mollycoddle vote--the people who are
soft physically and morally, or who have a twist in them which makes
them acidly cantankerous and unpleasant as long as they can be so with
safety to their bodies. In addition there are the good people with no
imagination and no foresight, who think war will not come, but that if
it does come armies and navies can be improvised--a very large
element, typified by a Senator I knew personally who, in a public
speech, in answer to a question as to what we would do if America were
suddenly assailed by a first-class military power, answered that "we
would build a battle-ship in every creek." Then, among the wise and
high-minded people who in self-respecting and genuine fashion strive
earnestly for peace, there are the foolish fanatics always to be found
in such a movement and always discrediting it--the men who form the
lunatic fringe in all reform movements.

All these elements taken together made a body of public opinion so
important during the decades immediately succeeding the Civil War as
to put a stop to any serious effort to keep the Nation in a condition
of reasonable military preparedness. The representatives of this
opinion then voted just as they now do when they vote against battle-
ships or against fortifying the Panama Canal. It would have been bad
enough if we had been content to be weak, and, in view of our
weakness, not to bluster. But we were not content with such a policy.
We wished to enjoy the incompatible luxuries of an unbridled tongue
and an unready hand. There was a very large element which was ignorant
of our military weakness, or, naturally enough, unable to understand
it; and another large element which liked to please its own vanity by
listening to offensive talk about foreign nations. Accordingly, too
many of our politicians, especially in Congress, found that the cheap
and easy thing to do was to please the foolish peace people by keeping
us weak, and to please the foolish violent people by passing
denunciatory resolutions about international matters--resolutions
which would have been improper even if we had been strong. Their idea
was to please both the mollycoddle vote and the vote of the
international tail-twisters by upholding, with pretended ardor and
mean intelligence, a National policy of peace with insult.

I abhor unjust war. I abhor injustice and bullying by the strong at
the expense of the weak, whether among nations or individuals. I abhor
violence and bloodshed. I believe that war should never be resorted to
when, or so long as, it is honorably possible to avoid it. I respect
all men and women who from high motives and with sanity and self-
respect do all they can to avert war. I advocate preparation for war
in order to avert war; and I should never advocate war unless it were
the only alternative to dishonor. I describe the folly of which so
many of our people were formerly guilty, in order that we may in our
own day be on our guard against similar folly.

We did not at the time of which I write take our foreign duties
seriously, and as we combined bluster in speech with refusal to make
any preparation whatsoever for action, we were not taken seriously in
return. Gradually a slight change for the better occurred, the
writings of Captain Mahan playing no small part therein. We built some
modern cruisers to start with; the people who felt that battle-ships
were wicked compromising with their misguided consciences by saying
that the cruisers could be used "to protect our commerce"--which they
could not be, unless they had battle-ships to back them. Then we
attempted to build more powerful fighting vessels, and as there was a
section of the public which regarded battle-ships as possessing a name
immorally suggestive of violence, we compromised by calling the new
ships armored cruisers, and making them combine with exquisite nicety
all the defects and none of the virtues of both types. Then we got to
the point of building battle-ships. But there still remained a public
opinion, as old as the time of Jefferson, which thought that in the
event of war all our problem ought to be one of coast defense, that we
should do nothing except repel attack; an attitude about as sensible
as that of a prize-fighter who expected to win by merely parrying
instead of hitting. To meet the susceptibilities of this large class
of well-meaning people, we provided for the battle-ships under the
name of "coast defense battle-ships"; meaning thereby that we did not
make them quite as seaworthy as they ought to have been, or with quite
as much coal capacity as they ought to have had. Then we decided to
build real battle-ships. But there still remained a lingering remnant
of public opinion that clung to the coast defense theory, and we met
this in beautiful fashion by providing for "sea-going coast defense
battle-ships"--the fact that the name was a contradiction in terms
being of very small consequence compared to the fact that we did
thereby get real battle-ships.

Our men had to be trained to handle the ships singly and in fleet
formation, and they had to be trained to use the new weapons of
precision with which the ships were armed. Not a few of the older
officers, kept in the service under our foolish rule of pure seniority
promotion, were not competent for the task; but a proportion of the
older officers were excellent, and this was true of almost all the
younger officers. They were naturally first-class men, trained in the
admirable naval school at Annapolis. They were overjoyed that at last
they were given proper instruments to work with, and they speedily
grew to handle these ships individually in the best fashion. They were
fast learning to handle them in squadron and fleet formation; but when
the war with Spain broke out, they had as yet hardly grasped the
principles of modern scientific naval gunnery.

Soon after I began work as Assistant Secretary of the Navy I became
convinced that the war would come. The revolt in Cuba had dragged its
weary length until conditions in the island had become so dreadful as
to be a standing disgrace to us for permitting them to exist. There is
much that I sincerely admire about the Spanish character; and there
are few men for whom I have felt greater respect than for certain
gentlemen of Spain whom I have known. But Spain attempted to govern
her colonies on archaic principles which rendered her control of them
incompatible with the advance of humanity and intolerable to the
conscience of mankind. In 1898 the so-called war in Cuba had dragged
along for years with unspeakable horror, degradation, and misery. It
was not "war" at all, but murderous oppression. Cuba was devastated.

During those years, while we continued at "peace," several hundred
times as many lives were lost, lives of men, women, and children, as
were lost during the three months' "war" which put an end to this
slaughter and opened a career of peaceful progress to the Cubans. Yet
there were misguided professional philanthropists who cared so much
more for names than for facts that they preferred a "peace" of
continuous murder to a "war" which stopped the murder and brought real
peace. Spain's humiliation was certain, anyhow; indeed, it was more
certain without war than with it, for she could not permanently keep
the island, and she minded yielding to the Cubans more than yielding
to us. Our own direct interests were great, because of the Cuban
tobacco and sugar, and especially because of Cuba's relation to the
projected Isthmian Canal. But even greater were our interests from the
standpoint of humanity. Cuba was at our very doors. It was a dreadful
thing for us to sit supinely and watch her death agony. It was our
duty, even more from the standpoint of National honor than from the
standpoint of National interest, to stop the devastation and
destruction. Because of these considerations I favored war; and
to-day, when in retrospect it is easier to see things clearly, there
are few humane and honorable men who do not believe that the war was
both just and necessary.

The big financiers and the men generally who were susceptible to touch
on the money nerve, and who cared nothing for National honor if it
conflicted even temporarily with business prosperity, were against the
war. The more fatuous type of philanthropist agreed with them. The
newspapers controlled by, or run in the interests of, these two
classes deprecated war, and did everything in their power to prevent
any preparation for war. As a whole the people in Congress were at
that time (and are now) a shortsighted set as regards international
matters. There were a few men, Senators Cushman K. Davis,[*] for
instance, and John Morgan, who did look ahead; and Senator H. C.
Lodge, who throughout his quarter of a century of service in the
Senate and House has ever stood foremost among those who uphold with
farsighted fearlessness and strict justice to others our national
honor and interest; but most of the Congressmen were content to follow
the worst of all possible courses, that is, to pass resolutions which
made war more likely, and yet to decline to take measures which would
enable us to meet the war if it did come.

[*] In a letter written me just before I became Assistant Secretary,
Senator Davis unburdened his mind about one of the foolish "peace"
proposals of that period; his letter running in part: "I left the
Senate Chamber about three o'clock this afternoon when there was
going on a deal of mowing and chattering over the treaty by which
the United States is to be bound to arbitrate its sovereign
functions--for policies are matters of sovereignty. . . . The
aberrations of the social movement are neither progress nor
retrogression. They represent merely a local and temporary sagging
of the line of the great orbit. Tennyson knew this when he wrote
that fine and noble 'Maud.' I often read it, for to do so does me
good." After quoting one of Poe's stories the letter continues:
"The world will come out all right. Let him who believes in the
decline of the military spirit observe the boys of a common school
during the recess or the noon hour. Of course when American
patriotism speaks out from its rank and file and demands action or
expression, and when, thereupon, the 'business man,' so called,
places his hand on his stack of reds as if he feared a policeman
were about to disturb the game, and protests until American
patriotism ceases to continue to speak as it had started to do--
why, you and I get mad, and I swear. I hope you will be with us
here after March 4. We can then pass judgment together on the
things we don't like, and together indulge in hopes that I believe
are prophetic."

However, in the Navy Department we were able to do a good deal, thanks
to the energy and ability of some of the bureau chiefs, and to the
general good tone of the service. I soon found my natural friends and
allies in such men as Evans, Taylor, Sampson, Wainwright, Brownson,
Schroeder, Bradford, Cowles, Cameron, Winslow, O'Neil, and others like
them. I used all the power there was in my office to aid these men in
getting the material ready. I also tried to gather from every source
information as to who the best men were to occupy the fighting

Sound naval opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of Dewey to command
one squadron. I was already watching him, for I had been struck by an
incident in his past career. It was at a time when there was threat of
trouble with Chile. Dewey was off the Argentine, and was told to get
ready to move to the other coast of South America. If the move became
necessary, he would have to have coal, and yet if he did not make the
move, the coal would not be needed. In such a case a man afraid of
responsibility always acts rigidly by the regulations and communicates
with the Department at home to get authority for everything he does;
and therefore he usually accomplishes nothing whatever, but is able to
satisfy all individuals with red-tape minds by triumphantly pointing
out his compliance with the regulations. In a crisis, the man worth
his salt is the man who meets the needs of the situation in whatever
way is necessary. Dewey purchased the coal and was ready to move at
once if need arose. The affair blew over; the need to move did not
occur; and for some time there seemed to be a chance that Dewey would
get into trouble over having purchased the coal, for our people are
like almost all other peoples in requiring responsible officers under
such conditions to decide at their own personal peril, no matter which
course they follow. However, the people higher up ultimately stood by

The incident made me feel that here was a man who could be relied upon
to prepare in advance, and to act promptly, fearlessly, and on his own
responsibility when the emergency arose. Accordingly I did my best to
get him put in command of the Asiatic fleet, the fleet where it was
most essential to have a man who would act without referring things
back to the home authorities. An officer senior to him, of the
respectable commonplace type, was being pushed by certain politicians
who I knew had influence with the Navy Department and with the
President. I would have preferred to see Dewey get the appointment
without appealing to any politician at all. But while this was my
preference, the essential thing was to get him the appointment. For a
naval officer to bring pressure to get himself a soft and easy place
is unpardonable; but a large leniency should be observed toward the
man who uses influence only to get himself a place in the picture near
the flashing of the guns. There was a Senator, Proctor of Vermont, who
I knew was close to McKinley, and who was very ardent for the war, and
desirous to have it fought in the most efficient fashion. I suggested
to Dewey that he should enlist the services of Senator Proctor, which
was accordingly done. In a fortunate hour for the Nation, Dewey was
given command of the Asiatic squadron.

When the Maine was blown up in Havana Harbor, war became inevitable. A
number of the peace-at-any-price men of course promptly assumed the
position that she had blown herself up; but investigation showed that
the explosion was from outside. And, in any event, it would have been
impossible to prevent war. The enlisted men of the navy, who often
grew bored to the point of desertion in peace, became keyed up to a
high pitch of efficiency, and crowds of fine young fellows, from the
interior as well as from the seacoast, thronged to enlist. The navy
officers showed alert ability and unwearied industry in getting things
ready. There was one deficiency, however, which there was no time to
remedy, and of the very existence of which, strange to say, most of
our best men were ignorant. Our navy had no idea how low our standard
of marksmanship was. We had not realized that the modern battle-ship
had become such a complicated piece of mechanism that the old methods
of training in marksmanship were as obsolete as the old muzzle-loading
broadside guns themselves. Almost the only man in the navy who fully
realized this was our naval attache at Paris, Lieutenant Sims. He
wrote letter after letter pointing out how frightfully backward we
were in marksmanship. I was much impressed by his letters; but
Wainwright was about the only other man who was. And as Sims proved to
be mistaken in his belief that the French had taught the Spaniards how
to shoot, and as the Spaniards proved to be much worse even than we
were, in the service generally Sims was treated as an alarmist. But
although I at first partly acquiesced in this view, I grew uneasy when
I studied the small proportion of hits to shots made by our vessels in
battle. When I was President I took up the matter, and speedily became
convinced that we needed to revolutionize our whole training in
marksmanship. Sims was given the lead in organizing and introducing
the new system; and to him more than to any other one man was due the
astonishing progress made by our fleet in this respect, a progress
which made the fleet, gun for gun, at least three times as effective,
in point of fighting efficiency, in 1908, as it was in 1902. The shots
that hit are the shots that count!

Like the people, the Government was for a long time unwilling to
prepare for war, because so many honest but misguided men believed
that the preparation itself tended to bring on the war. I did not in
the least share this feeling, and whenever I was left as Acting
Secretary I did everything in my power to put us in readiness. I knew
that in the event of war Dewey could be slipped like a wolf-hound from
a leash; I was sure that if he were given half a chance he would
strike instantly and with telling effect; and I made up my mind that
all I could do to give him that half-chance should be done. I was in
the closest touch with Senator Lodge throughout this period, and
either consulted him about or notified him of all the moves I was
taking. By the end of February I felt it was vital to send Dewey (as
well as each of our other commanders who were not in home waters)
instructions that would enable him to be in readiness for immediate
action. On the afternoon of Saturday, February 25, when I was Acting
Secretary, Lodge called on me just as I was preparing the order, which
(as it was addressed to a man of the right stamp) was of much
importance to the subsequent operations. Admiral Dewey speaks of the
incident as follows, in his autobiography:

"The first real step [as regards active naval preparations] was
taken on February 25, when telegraphic instructions were sent to
the Asiatic, European, and South Atlantic squadrons to rendezvous
at certain convenient points where, should war break out, they
would be most available.

"The message to the Asiatic squadron bore the signature of that
Assistant Secretary who had seized the opportunity while Acting
Secretary to hasten preparations for a conflict which was
inevitable. As Mr. Roosevelt reasoned, precautions for readiness
would cost little in time of peace, and yet would be invaluable in
case of war. His cablegram was as follows:

"'Washington, February 25, '98.

"'/Dewey, Hong Kong/:

"'Order the squadron, except the Monocacy, to Hong Kong. Keep full
of coal. In the event of declaration of war Spain, your duty will
be to see that the Spanish squadron does not leave the Asiatic
coast, and then offensive operations in Philippine Islands. Keep
Olympia until further orders.


"(The reference to keeping the Olympia until further orders was due
to the fact that I had been notified that she would soon be
recalled to the United States.)"

All that was needed with Dewey was to give him the chance to get
ready, and then to strike, without being hampered by orders from those
not on the ground. Success in war depends very largely upon choosing a
man fit to exercise such powers, and then giving him the powers.

It would be instructive to remember, if only we were willing to do so,
the fairly comic panic which swept in waves over our seacoast, first
when it became evident that war was about to be declared, and then
when it was declared. The public waked up to the sufficiently obvious
fact that the Government was in its usual state--perennial unreadiness
for war. Thereupon the people of the seaboard district passed at one
bound from unreasoning confidence that war never could come to
unreasoning fear as to what might happen now that it had come. That
acute philosopher Mr. Dooley proclaimed that in the Spanish War we
were in a dream, but that the Spaniards were in a trance. This just
about summed up the facts. Our people had for decades scoffed at the
thought of making ready for possible war. Now, when it was too late,
they not only backed every measure, wise and unwise, that offered a
chance of supplying a need that ought to have been met before, but
they also fell into a condition of panic apprehension as to what the
foe might do.

For years we had been saying, just as any number of our people now
say, that no nation would venture to attack us. Then when we did go to
war with an exceedingly feeble nation, we, for the time being, rushed
to the other extreme of feeling, and attributed to this feeble nation
plans of offensive warfare which it never dreamed of making, and
which, if made, it would have been wholly unable to execute. Some of
my readers doubtless remember the sinister intentions and unlimited
potentialities for destruction with which the fertile imagination of
the yellow press endowed the armored cruiser Viscaya when she appeared
in American waters just before war was declared. The state of
nervousness along much of the seacoast was funny in view of the lack
of foundation for it; but it offered food for serious thought as to
what would happen if we ever became engaged with a serious foe.

The Governor of one State actually announced that he would not permit
the National Guard of that State to leave its borders, the idea being
to retain it against a possible Spanish invasion. So many of the
business men of the city of Boston took their securities inland to
Worcester that the safe deposit companies of Worcester proved unable
to take care of them. In my own neighborhood on Long Island clauses
were gravely put into leases to the effect that if the property were
destroyed by the Spaniards the lease should lapse. As Assistant
Secretary of the Navy I had every conceivable impossible request made
to me. Members of Congress who had actively opposed building any navy
came clamorously around to ask each for a ship for some special
purpose of protection connected with his district. It seems
incredible, but it is true, that not only these Congressmen but the
Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade of different coast cities all
lost their heads for the time being, and raised a deafening clamor and
brought every species of pressure to bear on the Administration to get
it to adopt the one most fatal course--that is, to distribute the
navy, ship by ship, at all kinds of points and in all kinds of ports
with the idea of protecting everything everywhere, and thereby
rendering it absolutely certain that even the Spanish fleet, poor
though it was, would be able to pick up our own navy ship by ship in
detail. One Congressman besought me for a ship to protect Jekyll
Island, off the coast of Georgia, an island which derived its sole
consequence because it contained the winter homes of certain
millionaires. A lady whose husband occupied a very influential
position, and who was normally a most admirable and sensible woman,
came to insist that a ship should be anchored off a huge seaside hotel
because she had a house in the neighborhood.

There were many such instances. One stood out above the others. A
certain seaboard State contained in its Congressional delegation one
of the most influential men in the Senate, and one of the most
influential men in the lower house. These two men had been worse than
lukewarm about building up the navy, and had scoffed at the idea of
there ever being any danger from any foreign power. With the advent of
war the feelings of their constituents, and therefore their own
feelings, suffered an immediate change, and they demanded that a ship
be anchored in the harbor of their city as a protection. Getting no
comfort from me, they went "higher up," and became a kind of permanent
committee in attendance upon the President. They were very influential
men in the Houses, with whom it was important for the Administration
to keep on good terms; and, moreover, they possessed a pertinacity as
great as the widow who won her case from the unjust judge. Finally the
President gave in and notified me to see that a ship was sent to the
city in question. I was bound that, as long as a ship had to be sent,
it should not be a ship worth anything. Accordingly a Civil War
Monitor, with one smooth-bore gun, managed by a crew of about twenty-
one naval militia, was sent to the city in question, under convoy of a
tug. It was a hazardous trip for the unfortunate naval militiamen, but
it was safely accomplished; and joy and peace descended upon the
Senator and the Congressman, and upon the President whom they had
jointly harassed. Incidentally, the fact that the protecting war-
vessel would not have been a formidable foe to any antagonists of much
more modern construction than the galleys of Alcibiades seemed to
disturb nobody.

This was one side of the picture. The other side was that the crisis
at once brought to the front any amount of latent fighting strength.
There were plenty of Congressmen who showed cool-headed wisdom and
resolution. The plain people, the men and women back of the persons
who lost their heads, set seriously to work to see that we did
whatever was necessary, and made the job a thorough one. The young men
swarmed to enlist. In time of peace it had been difficult to fill the
scanty regular army and navy, and there were innumerable desertions;
now the ships and regiments were over-enlisted, and so many deserters
returned in order to fight that it became difficult to decide what to
do with them. England, and to a less degree Japan, were friendly. The
great powers of Continental Europe were all unfriendly. They jeered at
our ships and men, and with fatuous partisanship insisted that the
Spaniards would prove too much for our "mercenaries" because we were a
commercial people of low ideals who could not fight, while the men
whom we attempted to hire for that purpose were certain to run on the
day of battle.

Among my friends was the then Army Surgeon Leonard Wood. He was a
surgeon. Not having an income, he had to earn his own living. He had
gone through the Harvard Medical School, and had then joined the army
in the Southwest as a contract doctor. He had every physical, moral,
and mental quality which fitted him for a soldier's life and for the
exercise of command. In the inconceivably wearing and harassing
campaigns against the Apaches he had served nominally as a surgeon,
really in command of troops, on more than one expedition. He was as
anxious as I was that if there were war we should both have our part
in it. I had always felt that if there were a serious war I wished to
be in a position to explain to my children why I did take part in it,
and not why I did not take part in it. Moreover, I had very deeply
felt that it was our duty to free Cuba, and I had publicly expressed
this feeling; and when a man takes such a position, he ought to be
willing to make his words good by his deeds unless there is some very
strong reason to the contrary. He should pay with his body.

As soon as war was upon us, Wood and I began to try for a chance to go
to the front. Congress had authorized the raising of three National
Volunteer Cavalry regiments, wholly apart from the State contingents.
Secretary Alger of the War Department was fond of me personally, and
Wood was his family doctor. Alger had been a gallant soldier in the
Civil War, and was almost the only member of the Administration who
felt all along that we would have to go to war with Spain over Cuba.
He liked my attitude in the matter, and because of his remembrance of
his own experiences he sympathized with my desire to go to the front.
Accordingly he offered me the command of one of the regiments. I told
him that after six weeks' service in the field I would feel competent
to handle the regiment, but that I would not know how to equip it or
how to get it into the first action; but that Wood was entirely
competent at once to take command, and that if he would make Wood
colonel I would accept the lieutenant-colonelcy. General Alger thought
this an act of foolish self-abnegation on my part--instead of its
being, what it was, the wisest act I could have performed. He told me
to accept the colonelcy, and that he would make Wood lieutenant-
colonel, and that Wood would do the work anyway; but I answered that I
did not wish to rise on any man's shoulders; that I hoped to be given
every chance that my deeds and abilities warranted; but that I did not
wish what I did not earn, and that above all I did not wish to hold
any position where any one else did the work. He laughed at me a
little and said I was foolish, but I do not think he really minded,
and he promised to do as I wished. True to his word, he secured the
appointment of Wood as colonel and of myself as lieutenant-colonel of
the First United States Volunteer Cavalry. This was soon nicknamed,
both by the public and by the rest of the army, the Rough Riders,
doubtless because the bulk of the men were from the Southwestern ranch
country and were skilled in the wild horsemanship of the great plains.

Wood instantly began the work of raising the regiment. He first
assembled several old non-commissioned officers of experience, put
them in office, and gave them blanks for requisitions for the full
equipment of a cavalry regiment. He selected San Antonio as the
gathering-place, as it was in a good horse country, near the Gulf from
some port on which we would have to embark, and near an old arsenal
and an old army post from which we got a good deal of stuff--some of
it practically condemned, but which we found serviceable at a pinch,
and much better than nothing. He organized a horse board in Texas, and
began purchasing all horses that were not too big and were sound. A
day or two after he was commissioned he wrote out in the office of the
Secretary of War, under his authority, telegrams to the Governors of
Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Indian Territory, in substance as

The President desires to raise --- volunteers in your Territory to
form part of a regiment of mounted riflemen to be commanded by
Leonard Wood, Colonel; Theodore Roosevelt, Lieutenant-Colonel. He
desires that the men selected should be young, sound, good shots
and good riders, and that you expedite by all means in your power
the enrollment of these men.

(Signed) R. A. ALGER, Secretary of War.

As soon as he had attended to a few more odds and ends he left
Washington, and the day after his arrival in San Antonio the troops
began to arrive.

For several weeks before I joined the regiment, to which Wood went
ahead of me, I continued as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, trying to
get some coherence of plan between the War Department and the Navy
Department; and also being used by Wood to finish getting the
equipment for the regiment. As regards finding out what the plans of
the War Department were, the task was simple. They had no plans. Even
during the final months before the outbreak of hostilities very little
was done in the way of efficient preparation. On one occasion, when
every one knew that the declaration of war was sure to come in a few
days, I went on military business to the office of one of the highest
line generals of the army, a man who at that moment ought to have been
working eighteen hours out of the twenty-four on the vital problems
ahead of him. What he was actually doing was trying on a new type of
smart-looking uniform on certain enlisted men; and he called me in to
ask my advice as to the position of the pockets in the blouse, with a
view to making it look attractive. An aide of this general--funnily
enough a good fighting man in actual service--when I consulted him as
to what my uniform for the campaign should be, laid special stress
upon my purchasing a pair of black top boots for full dress,
explaining that they were very effective on hotel piazzas and in
parlors. I did not intend to be in any hotel if it could possibly be
avoided; and as things turned out, I had no full-dress uniform,
nothing but my service uniform, during my brief experience in the

I suppose that war always does bring out what is highest and lowest in
human nature. The contractors who furnish poor materials to the army
or the navy in time of war stand on a level of infamy only one degree
above that of the participants in the white slave traffic themselves.
But there is conduct far short of this which yet seems inexplicable to
any man who has in him any spirit of disinterested patriotism combined
with any power of imagination. Respectable men, who I suppose lack the
imagination thoroughly to realize what they are doing, try to make
money out of the Nation's necessities in war at the very time that
other men are making every sacrifice, financial and personal, for the
cause. In the closing weeks of my service as Assistant Secretary of
the Navy we were collecting ships for auxiliary purposes. Some men, at
cost to their own purses, helped us freely and with efficiency; others
treated the affair as an ordinary business transaction; and yet others
endeavored, at some given crisis when our need was great, to sell us
inferior vessels at exorbitant prices, and used every pressure,
through Senators and Congressmen, to accomplish their ends. In one or
two cases they did accomplish them too, until we got a really first-
class board established to superintend such purchases. A more curious
experience was in connection with the point chosen for the starting of
the expedition against Cuba. I had not supposed that any human being
could consider this matter save from the standpoint of military need.
But one morning a very wealthy and influential man, a respectable and
upright man according to his own lights, called on me to protest
against our choice of Tampa, and to put in a plea for a certain other
port, on the ground that his railroad was entitled to its share of the
profit for hauling the army and equipment! I happened to know that at
this time this very man had kinsfolk with the army, who served
gallantly, and the circumstances of his coming to me were such as to
show that he was not acting secretly, and had no idea that there was
anything out of the way in his proposal. I think the facts were merely
that he had been trained to regard business as the sole object in
life, and that he lacked the imagination to enable him to understand
the real nature of the request that he was making; and, moreover, he
had good reason to believe that one of his business competitors had
been unduly favored.

The War Department was in far worse shape than the Navy Department.
The young officers turned out from West Point are precisely as good as
the young officers turned out from Annapolis, and this always has been
true. But at that time (something has been done to remedy the worst
conditions since), and ever since the close of the Civil War, the
conditions were such that after a few years the army officer stagnated
so far as his profession was concerned. When the Spanish War broke out
the navy really was largely on a war footing, as any navy which is
even respectably cared for in time of peace must be. The admirals,
captains, and lieutenants were continually practicing their profession
in almost precisely the way that it has to be practiced in time of
war. Except actually shooting at a foe, most of the men on board ship
went through in time of peace practically all that they would have to
go through in time of war. The heads of bureaus in the Navy Department
were for the most part men who had seen sea service, who expected to
return to sea service, and who were preparing for needs which they
themselves knew by experience. Moreover, the civilian head of the navy
had to provide for keeping the ships in a state of reasonable
efficiency, and Congress could not hopelessly misbehave itself about
the navy without the fact at once becoming evident.

All this was changed so far as the army was concerned. Not only was it
possible to decrease the efficiency of the army without being called
to account for it, but the only way in which the Secretary of War
could gain credit for himself or the Administration was by economy,
and the easiest way to economize was in connection with something that
would not be felt unless war should arise. The people took no interest
whatever in the army; demagogues clamored against it, and, inadequate
though it was in size, insisted that it should be still further
reduced. Popular orators always appealed to the volunteers; the
regulars had no votes and there was no point in politicians thinking
of them. The chief activity shown by Congressmen about the army was in
getting special army posts built in places where there was no need for
them. Even the work of the army in its campaigns against the Indians
was of such a character that it was generally performed by small
bodies of fifty or a hundred men. Until a man ceased being a
lieutenant he usually had plenty of professional work to attend to and
was employed in the field, and, in short, had the same kind of
practice that his brother in the navy had, and he did his work as
well. But once past this stage he had almost no opportunity to perform
any work corresponding to his rank, and but little opportunity to do
any military work whatsoever. The very best men, men like Lawton,
Young, Chaffee, Hawkins, and Sumner, to mention only men under or
beside whom I served, remained good soldiers, soldiers of the best
stamp, in spite of the disheartening conditions. But it was not to be
expected that the average man could continue to grow when every
influence was against him. Accordingly, when the Spanish War suddenly
burst upon us, a number of inert elderly captains and field officers
were, much against their own wishes, suddenly pitchforked into the
command of regiments, brigades, and even divisions and army corps.
Often these men failed painfully. This was not their fault; it was the
fault of the Nation, that is, the fault of all of us, of you, my
reader, and of myself, and of those like us, because we had permitted
conditions to be such as to render these men unfit for command. Take a
stout captain of an out-of-the-way two-company post, where nothing in
the world ever occurred even resembling military action, and where the
only military problem that really convulsed the post to its
foundations was the quarrel between the captain and the quartermaster
as to how high a mule's tail ought to be shaved (I am speaking of an
actual incident). What could be expected of such a man, even though
thirty-five years before he had been a gallant second lieutenant in
the Civil War, if, after this intervening do-nothing period, he was
suddenly put in command of raw troops in a midsummer campaign in the

The bureau chiefs were for the most part elderly incompetents, whose
idea was to do their routine duties in such way as to escape the
censure of routine bureaucratic superiors and to avoid a Congressional
investigation. They had not the slightest conception of preparing the
army for war. It was impossible that they could have any such
conception. The people and the Congress did not wish the army prepared
for war; and those editors and philanthropists and peace advocates who
felt vaguely that if the army were incompetent their principles were
safe, always inveighed against any proposal to make it efficient, on
the ground that this showed a natural bloodthirstiness in the
proposer. When such were the conditions, it was absolutely impossible
that either the War Department or the army could do well in the event
of war. Secretary Alger happened to be Secretary when war broke out,
and all the responsibility for the shortcomings of the Department were
visited upon his devoted head. He was made the scapegoat for our
National shortcomings. The fault was not his; the fault and
responsibility lay with us, the people, who for thirty-three years had
permitted our representatives in Congress and in National executive
office to bear themselves so that it was absolutely impossible to
avoid the great bulk of all the trouble that occurred, and of all the
shortcomings of which our people complained, during the Spanish War.
The chief immediate cause was the conditions of red-tape bureaucracy
which existed in the War Department at Washington, which had prevented
any good organization or the preparation of any good plan of operation
for using our men and supplies. The recurrence of these conditions,
even though in somewhat less aggravated form, in any future emergency
is as certain as sunrise unless we bring about the principle of a four
years' detail in the staff corps--a principle which Congress has now
for years stubbornly refused to grant.

There are nations who only need to have peaceful ideals inculcated,
and to whom militarism is a curse and a misfortune. There are other
nations, like our own, so happily situated that the thought of war is
never present to their minds. They are wholly free from any tendency
improperly to exalt or to practice militarism. These nations should
never forget that there must be military ideals no less than peaceful
ideals. The exaltation of Nogi's career, set forth so strikingly in
Stanley Washburn's little volume on the great Japanese warrior,
contains much that is especially needed for us of America, prone as we
are to regard the exigencies of a purely commercial and industrial
civilization as excusing us from the need of admiring and practicing
the heroic and warlike virtues.

Our people are not military. We need normally only a small standing
army; but there should be behind it a reserve of instructed men big
enough to fill it up to full war strength, which is over twice the
peace strength. Moreover, the young men of the country should realize
that it is the duty of every one of them to prepare himself so that in
time of need he may speedily become an efficient soldier--a duty now
generally forgotten, but which should be recognized as one of the
vitally essential parts of every man's training.

In endeavoring to get the "Rough Riders" equipped I met with some
experiences which were both odd and instructive. There were not enough
arms and other necessaries to go round, and there was keen rivalry
among the intelligent and zealous commanders of the volunteer
organizations as to who should get first choice. Wood's experience was
what enabled us to equip ourselves in short order. There was another
cavalry organization whose commander was at the War Department about
this time, and we had been eyeing him with much alertness as a rival.
One day I asked him what his plans were about arming and drilling his
troops, who were of precisely the type of our own men. He answered
that he expected "to give each of the boys two revolvers and a lariat,
and then just turn them loose." I reported the conversation to Wood,
with the remark that we might feel ourselves safe from rivalry in that
quarter; and safe we were.

In trying to get the equipment I met with checks and rebuffs, and in
return was the cause of worry and concern to various bureau chiefs who
were unquestionably estimable men in their private and domestic
relations, and who doubtless had been good officers thirty years
before, but who were as unfit for modern war as if they were so many
smooth-bores. One fine old fellow did his best to persuade us to take
black powder rifles, explaining with paternal indulgence that no one
yet really knew just what smokeless powder might do, and that there
was a good deal to be said in favor of having smoke to conceal us from
the enemy. I saw this pleasing theory actually worked out in practice
later on, for the National Guard regiments with us at Santiago had
black powder muskets, and the regular artillery black powder guns, and
they really might almost as well have replaced these weapons by
crossbows and mangonels. We succeeded, thanks to Wood, in getting the
same cavalry carbines that were used by the regulars. We were
determined to do this, not only because the weapons were good, but
because this would in all probability mean that we were brigaded with
the regular cavalry, which it was certain would be sent immediately to
the front for the fighting.

There was one worthy bureau chief who was continually refusing
applications of mine as irregular. In each case I would appeal to
Secretary Alger--who helped me in every way--and get an order from him
countenancing the irregularity. For instance, I found out that as we
were nearer the July date than the January date for the issuance of
clothing, and as it had long been customary to issue the winter
clothing in July, so as to give ample leisure for getting it to all
the various posts, it was therefore solemnly proposed to issue this
same winter clothing to us who were about to start for a summer
campaign in the tropics. This would seem incredible to those who have
never dealt with an inert officialdom, a red-tape bureaucracy, but
such is the fact. I rectified this and got an order for khaki
clothing. We were then told we would have to advertise thirty days for
horses. This meant that we would have missed the Santiago expedition.
So I made another successful appeal to the Secretary. Other
difficulties came up about wagons, and various articles, and in each
case the same result followed. On the last occasion, when I came up in
triumph with the needed order, the worried office head, who bore me no
animosity, but who did feel that fate had been very unkind, threw
himself back in his chair and exclaimed with a sigh: "Oh, dear! I had
this office running in such good shape--and then along came the war
and upset everything!" His feeling was that war was an illegitimate
interruption to the work of the War Department.

There were of course department heads and bureau chiefs and assistants
who, in spite of the worthlessness of the system, and of the
paralyzing conditions that had prevailed, remained first-class men. An
example of these was Commissary-General Weston. His energy, activity,
administrative efficiency, and common sense were supplemented by an
eager desire to help everybody do the best that could be done. Both in
Washington and again down at Santiago we owed him very much. When I
was President, it was my good fortune to repay him in part our debt,
which means the debt of the people of the country, by making him a

The regiment assembled at San Antonio. When I reached there, the men,
rifles, and horses, which were the essentials, were coming in fast,
and the saddles, blankets, and the like were also accumulating. Thanks
to Wood's exertions, when we reached Tampa we were rather better
equipped than most of the regular regiments. We adhered strictly to
field equipment, allowing no luxuries or anything else unnecessary,
and so we were able to move off the field when ordered, with our own
transportation, leaving nothing behind.

I suppose every man tends to brag about his regiment; but it does seem
to me that there never was a regiment better worth bragging about than
ours. Wood was an exceptional commander, of great power, with a
remarkable gift for organization. The rank and file were as fine
natural fighting men as ever carried a rifle or rode a horse in any
country or any age. We had a number of first-class young fellows from
the East, most of them from colleges like Harvard, Yale, and
Princeton; but the great majority of the men were Southwesterners,
from the then territories of Oklahoma, Indian Territory, Arizona, and
New Mexico. They were accustomed to the use of firearms, accustomed to
taking care of themselves in the open; they were intelligent and self-
reliant; they possessed hardihood and endurance and physical prowess;
and, above all, they had the fighting edge, the cool and resolute
fighting temper. They went into the war with full knowledge, having
deliberately counted the cost. In the great majority of cases each man
was chiefly anxious to find out what he should do to make the regiment
a success. They bought, first and last, about 800 copies of the
cavalry drill regulations and studied them industriously. Such men
were practically soldiers to start with, in all the essentials. It is
small wonder that with them as material to work upon the regiment was
raised, armed, equipped, drilled, sent on trains to Tampa, embarked,
disembarked, and put through two victorious offensive--not defensive--
fights in which a third of the officers and one-fifth of the men were
killed or wounded, all within sixty days. It is a good record, and it
speaks well for the men of the regiment; and it speaks well for

[*] To counterbalance the newspapers which ignorantly and
indiscriminately praised all the volunteers there were others
whose blame was of the same intelligent quality. The New York
/Evening Post/, on June 18, gave expression to the following
gloomy foreboding: "Competent observers have remarked that nothing
more extraordinary has been done than the sending to Cuba of the
First United States Volunteer Cavalry, known as the 'rough
riders.' Organized but four weeks, barely given their full
complement of officers, and only a week of regular drill, these
men have been sent to the front before they have learned the first
elements of soldiering and discipline, or have even become
acquainted with their officers. In addition to all this, like the
regular cavalry, they have been sent with only their carbines and
revolvers to meet an enemy armed with long-range rifles. There
have been few cases of such military cruelty in our military
annals." A week or so after this not wholly happy prophecy was
promulgated, the "cruelty" was consummated, first at Las Guasimas
and then in the San Juan fighting.

Wood was so busy getting the regiment ready that when I reached San
Antonio he turned most of the drilling of it over to me. This was a
piece of great good fortune for me, and I drilled the men
industriously, mounted and unmounted. I had plenty to learn, and the
men and the officers even more; but we went at our work with the
heartiest good will. We speedily made it evident that there was no
room and no mercy for any man who shirked any duty, and we
accomplished good results. The fact is that the essentials of drill
and work for a cavalry or an infantry regiment are easy to learn,
which of course is not true for the artillery or the engineers or for
the navy. The reason why it takes so long to turn the average
civilized man into a good infantryman or cavalryman is because it
takes a long while to teach the average untrained man how to shoot, to
ride, to march, to take care of himself in the open, to be alert,
resourceful, cool, daring, and resolute, to obey quickly, as well as
to be willing, and to fit himself, to act on his own responsibility.
If he already possesses these qualities, there is very little
difficulty in making him a soldier; all the drill that is necessary to
enable him to march and to fight is of a simple character. Parade
ground and barrack square maneuvers are of no earthly consequence in
real war. When men can readily change from line to column, and column
to line, can form front in any direction, and assemble and scatter,
and can do these things with speed and precision, they have a fairly
good grasp of the essentials. When our regiment reached Tampa it could
already be handled creditably at fast gaits, and both in mass and
extended formations, mounted and dismounted.

I had served three years in the New York National Guard, finally
becoming a captain. This experience was invaluable to me. It enabled
me at once to train the men in the simple drill without which they
would have been a mob; for although the drill requirements are simple,
they are also absolutely indispensable. But if I had believed that my
experience in the National Guard had taught me all that there was to
teach about a soldier's career, it would have been better for me not
to have been in it at all. There were in the regiment a number of men
who had served in the National Guard, and a number of others who had
served in the Regular Army. Some of these latter had served in the
field in the West under campaign conditions, and were accustomed to
long marches, privation, risk, and unexpected emergencies. These men
were of the utmost benefit to the regiment. They already knew their
profession, and could teach and help the others. But if the man had
merely served in a National Guard regiment, or in the Regular Army at
some post in a civilized country where he learned nothing except what
could be picked up on the parade ground, in the barracks, and in
practice marches of a few miles along good roads, then it depended
purely upon his own good sense whether he had been helped or hurt by
the experience. If he realized that he had learned only five per cent
of his profession, that there remained ninety-five per cent to
accomplish before he would be a good soldier, why, he had profited

To start with five per cent handicap was a very great advantage; and
if the man was really a good man, he could not be overtaken. But if
the man thought that he had learned all about the profession of a
soldier because he had been in the National Guard or in the Regular
Army under the conditions I have described, then he was actually of
less use than if he had never had any military experience at all. Such
a man was apt to think that nicety of alignment, precision in
wheeling, and correctness in the manual of arms were the ends of
training and the guarantees of good soldiership, and that from guard
mounting to sentry duty everything in war was to be done in accordance
with what he had learned in peace. As a matter of fact, most of what
he had learned was never used at all, and some of it had to be
unlearned. The one thing, for instance, that a sentry ought never to
do in an actual campaign is to walk up and down a line where he will
be conspicuous. His business is to lie down somewhere off a ridge
crest where he can see any one approaching, but where a man
approaching cannot see him. As for the ceremonies, during the really
hard part of a campaign only the barest essentials are kept.

Almost all of the junior regular officers, and many of the senior
regular officers, were fine men. But, through no fault of their own,
had been forced to lead lives that fairly paralyzed their efficiency
when the strain of modern war came on them. The routine elderly
regular officer who knew nothing whatever of modern war was in most
respects nearly as worthless as a raw recruit. The positions and
commands prescribed in the text-books were made into fetishes by some
of these men, and treated as if they were the ends, instead of the not
always important means by which the ends were to be achieved. In the
Cuban fighting, for instance, it would have been folly for me to have
taken my place in the rear of the regiment, the canonical text-book
position. My business was to be where I could keep most command over
the regiment, and, in a rough-and-tumble, scrambling fight in thick
jungle, this had to depend upon the course of events, and usually
meant that I had to be at the front. I saw in that fighting more than
one elderly regimental commander who unwittingly rendered the only
service he could render to his regiment by taking up his proper
position several hundred yards in the rear when the fighting began;
for then the regiment disappeared in the jungle, and for its good
fortune the commanding officer never saw it again until long after the
fight was over.

After one Cuban fight a lieutenant-colonel of the regulars, in command
of a regiment, who had met with just such an experience and had
rejoined us at the front several hours after the close of the
fighting, asked me what my men were doing when the fight began. I
answered that they were following in trace in column of twos, and that
the instant the shooting began I deployed them as skirmishers on both
sides of the trail. He answered triumphantly, "You can't deploy men as
skirmishers from column formation"; to which I responded, "Well, I
did, and, what is more, if any captain had made any difficulty about
it, I would have sent him to the rear." My critic was quite correct
from the parade ground standpoint. The prescribed orders at that time
were to deploy the column first into a line of squads at correct
intervals, and then to give an order which, if my memory serves
correctly, ran: "As skirmishers, by the right and left flanks, at six
yards, take intervals, march." The order I really gave ran more like
this: "Scatter out to the right there, quick, you! scatter to the
left! look alive, look alive!" And they looked alive, and they
scattered, and each took advantage of cover, and forward went the

Now I do not wish what I have said to be misunderstood. If ever we
have a great war, the bulk of our soldiers will not be men who have
had any opportunity to train soul and mind and body so as to meet the
iron needs of an actual campaign. Long continued and faithful drill
will alone put these men in shape to begin to do their duty, and
failure to recognize this on the part of the average man will mean
laziness and folly and not the possession of efficiency. Moreover, if
men have been trained to believe, for instance, that they can
"arbitrate questions of vital interest and national honor," if they
have been brought up with flabbiness of moral fiber as well as
flabbiness of physique, then there will be need of long and laborious
and faithful work to give the needed tone to mind and body. But if the
men have in them the right stuff, it is not so very difficult.

At San Antonio we entrained for Tampa. In various sociological books
by authors of Continental Europe, there are jeremiads as to the way in
which service in the great European armies, with their minute and
machine-like efficiency and regularity, tends to dwarf the capacity
for individual initiative among the officers and men. There is no such
danger for any officer or man of a volunteer organization in America
when our country, with playful light-heartedness, has pranced into war
without making any preparation for it. I know no larger or finer field
for the display of an advanced individualism than that which opened
before us as we went from San Antonio to Tampa, camped there, and
embarked on a transport for Cuba. Nobody ever had any definite
information to give us, and whatever information we unearthed on our
own account was usually wrong. Each of us had to show an alert and not
overscrupulous self-reliance in order to obtain food for his men,
provender for his horses, or transportation of any kind for any
object. One lesson early impressed on me was that if I wanted anything
to eat it was wise to carry it with me; and if any new war should
arise, I would earnestly advise the men of every volunteer
organization always to proceed upon the belief that their supplies
will not turn up, and to take every opportunity of getting food for

Tampa was a scene of the wildest confusion. There were miles of tracks
loaded with cars of the contents of which nobody seemed to have any
definite knowledge. General Miles, who was supposed to have
supervision over everything, and General Shafter, who had charge of

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