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Theodore Roosevelt An Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt by Theodore Roosevelt

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and management. This change has been made."

When my successor in the Governorship took office, Colonel Partridge
retired, and Elon Hooker, finding that he could no longer act with
entire disregard of politics and with an eye single to the efficiency
of the work, also left. A dozen years later--having in the meantime
made a marked success in a business career--he became the Treasurer of
the National Progressive party.

My action in regard to the canals, and the management of his office,
the most important office under me, by Colonel Partridge, established
my relations with Mr. Platt from the outset on pretty nearly the right
basis. But, besides various small difficulties, we had one or two
serious bits of trouble before my duties as Governor ceased. It must
be remembered that Mr. Platt was to all intents and purposes a large
part of, and sometimes a majority of, the Legislature. There were a
few entirely independent men such as Nathaniel Elsberg, Regis Post,
and Alford Cooley, in each of the two houses; the remainder were under
the control of the Republican and Democratic bosses, but could also be
more or less influenced by an aroused public opinion. The two machines
were apt to make common cause if their vital interests were touched.
It was my business to devise methods by which either the two machines
could be kept apart or else overthrown if they came together.

My desire was to achieve results, and not merely to issue manifestoes
of virtue. It is very easy to be efficient if the efficiency is based
on unscrupulousness, and it is still easier to be virtuous if one is
content with the purely negative virtue which consists in not doing
anything wrong, but being wholly unable to accomplish anything
positive for good. My favorite quotation from Josh Billings again
applies: It is so much easier to be a harmless dove than a wise
serpent. My duty was to combine both idealism and efficiency. At that
time the public conscience was still dormant as regards many species
of political and business misconduct, as to which during the next
decade it became sensitive. I had to work with the tools at hand and
to take into account the feeling of the people, which I have already
described. My aim was persistently to refuse to be put in a position
where what I did would seem to be a mere faction struggle against
Senator Platt. My aim was to make a fight only when I could so manage
it that there could be no question in the minds of honest men that my
prime purpose was not to attack Mr. Platt or any one else except as a
necessary incident to securing clean and efficient government.

In each case I did my best to persuade Mr. Platt not to oppose me. I
endeavored to make it clear to him that I was not trying to wrest the
organization from him; and I always gave him in detail the reasons why
I felt I had to take the position I intended to adopt. It was only
after I had exhausted all the resources of my patience that I would
finally, if he still proved obstinate, tell him that I intended to
make the fight anyhow. As I have said, the Senator was an old and
feeble man in physique, and it was possible for him to go about very
little. Until Friday evening he would be kept at his duties at
Washington, while I was in Albany. If I wished to see him it generally
had to be at his hotel in New York on Saturday, and usually I would go
there to breakfast with him. The one thing I would not permit was
anything in the nature of a secret or clandestine meeting. I always
insisted on going openly. Solemn reformers of the tom-fool variety,
who, according to their custom, paid attention to the name and not the
thing, were much exercised over my "breakfasting with Platt." Whenever
I breakfasted with him they became sure that the fact carried with it
some sinister significance. The worthy creatures never took the
trouble to follow the sequence of facts and events for themselves. If
they had done so they would have seen that any series of breakfasts
with Platt always meant that I was going to do something he did not
like, and that I was trying, courteously and frankly, to reconcile him
to it. My object was to make it as easy as possible for him to come
with me. As long as there was no clash between us there was no object
in my seeing him; it was only when the clash came or was imminent that
I had to see him. A series of breakfasts was always the prelude to
some active warfare.[*] In every instance I substantially carried my
point, although in some cases not in exactly the way in which I had
originally hoped.

[*] To illustrate my meaning I quote from a letter of mine to Senator
Platt of December 13, 1899. He had been trying to get me to
promote a certain Judge X over the head of another Judge Y. I
wrote: "There is a strong feeling among the judges and the leading
members of the bar that Judge Y ought not to have Judge X jumped
over his head, and I do not see my way clear to doing it. I am
inclined to think that the solution I mentioned to you is the
solution I shall have to adopt. Remember the breakfast at Douglas
Robinson's at 8:30."

There were various measures to which he gave a grudging and querulous
assent without any break being threatened. I secured the reenactment
of the Civil Service Law, which under my predecessor had very
foolishly been repealed. I secured a mass of labor legislation,
including the enactment of laws to increase the number of factory
inspectors, to create a Tenement House Commission (whose findings
resulted in further and excellent legislation to improve housing
conditions), to regulate and improve sweatshop labor, to make the
eight-hour and prevailing rate of wages law effective, to secure the
genuine enforcement of the act relating to the hours of railway
workers, to compel railways to equip freight trains with air-brakes,
to regulate the working hours of women and protect both women and
children from dangerous machinery, to enforce good scaffolding
provisions for workmen on buildings, to provide seats for the use of
waitresses in hotels and restaurants, to reduce the hours of labor for
drug-store clerks, to provide for the registration of laborers for
municipal employment. I tried hard but failed to secure an employers'
liability law and the state control of employment offices. There was
hard fighting over some of these bills, and, what was much more
serious, there was effort to get round the law by trickery and by
securing its inefficient enforcement. I was continually helped by men
with whom I had gotten in touch while in the Police Department; men
such as James Bronson Reynolds, through whom I first became interested
in settlement work on the East Side. Once or twice I went suddenly
down to New York City without warning any one and traversed the
tenement-house quarters, visiting various sweat-shops picked at
random. Jake Riis accompanied me; and as a result of our inspection we
got not only an improvement in the law but a still more marked
improvement in its administration. Thanks chiefly to the activity and
good sense of Dr. John H. Pryor, of Buffalo, and by the use of every
pound of pressure which as Governor I could bring to bear in
legitimate fashion--including a special emergency message--we
succeeded in getting through a bill providing for the first State
hospital for incipient tuberculosis. We got valuable laws for the
farmer; laws preventing the adulteration of food products (which laws
were equally valuable to the consumer), and laws helping the dairyman.
In addition to labor legislation I was able to do a good deal for
forest preservation and the protection of our wild life. All that
later I strove for in the Nation in connection with Conservation was
foreshadowed by what I strove to obtain for New York State when I was
Governor; and I was already working in connection with Gifford Pinchot
and Newell. I secured better administration, and some improvement in
the laws themselves. The improvement in administration, and in the
character of the game and forest wardens, was secured partly as the
result of a conference in the executive chamber which I held with
forty of the best guides and woodsmen of the Adirondacks.

As regards most legislation, even that affecting labor and the
forests, I got on fairly well with the machine. But on the two issues
in which "big business" and the kind of politics which is allied to
big business were most involved we clashed hard--and clashing with
Senator Platt meant clashing with the entire Republican organization,
and with the organized majority in each house of the Legislature. One
clash was in connection with the Superintendent of Insurance, a man
whose office made him a factor of immense importance in the big
business circles of New York. The then incumbent of the office was an
efficient man, the boss of an up-State county, a veteran politician
and one of Mr. Platt's right-hand men. Certain investigations which I
made--in the course of the fight--showed that this Superintendent of
Insurance had been engaged in large business operations in New York
City. These operations had thrown him into a peculiarly intimate
business contact of one sort and another with various financiers with
whom I did not deem it expedient that the Superintendent of Insurance,
while such, should have any intimate and secret money-making
relations. Moreover, the gentleman in question represented the
straitest sect of the old-time spoils politicians. I therefore
determined not to reappoint him. Unless I could get his successor
confirmed, however, he would stay in under the law, and the Republican
machine, with the assistance of Tammany, expected to control far more
than a majority of all the Senators.

Mr. Platt issued an ultimatum to me that the incumbent must be
reappointed or else that he would fight, and that if he chose to fight
the man would stay in anyhow because I could not oust him--for under
the New York Constitution the assent of the Senate was necessary not
only to appoint a man to office but to remove him from office. As
always with Mr. Platt, I persistently refused to lose my temper, no
matter what he said--he was much too old and physically feeble for
there to be any point of honor in taking up any of his remarks--and I
merely explained good-humoredly that I had made up my mind and that
the gentleman in question would not be retained. As for not being able
to get his successor confirmed, I pointed out that as soon as the
Legislature adjourned I could and would appoint another man
temporarily. Mr. Platt then said that the incumbent would be put back
as soon as the Legislature reconvened; I admitted that this was
possible, but added cheerfully that I would remove him again just as
soon as that Legislature adjourned, and that even though I had an
uncomfortable time myself, I would guarantee to make my opponents more
uncomfortable still. We parted without any sign of reaching an

There remained some weeks before final action could be taken, and the
Senator was confident that I would have to yield. His most efficient
allies were the pretended reformers, most of them my open or covert
enemies, who loudly insisted that I must make an open fight on the
Senator himself and on the Republican organization. This was what he
wished, for at that time there was no way of upsetting him within the
Republican party; and, as I have said, if I had permitted the contest
to assume the shape of a mere faction fight between the Governor and
the United States Senator, I would have insured the victory of the
machine. So I blandly refused to let the thing become a personal
fight, explaining again and again that I was perfectly willing to
appoint an organization man, and naming two or three whom I was
willing to appoint, but also explaining that I would not retain the
incumbent, and would not appoint any man of his type. Meanwhile
pressure on behalf of the said incumbent began to come from the
business men of New York.

The Superintendent of Insurance was not a man whose ill will the big
life insurance companies cared to incur, and company after company
passed resolutions asking me to reappoint him, although in private
some of the men who signed these resolutions nervously explained that
they did not mean what they had written, and hoped I would remove the
man. A citizen prominent in reform circles, marked by the Cato-like
austerity of his reform professions, had a son who was a counsel for
one of the insurance companies. The father was engaged in writing
letters to the papers demanding in the name of uncompromising virtue
that I should not only get rid of the Superintendent of Insurance, but
in his place should appoint somebody or other personally offensive to
Senator Platt--which last proposition, if adopted, would have meant
that the Superintendent of Insurance would have stayed in, for the
reasons I have already given. Meanwhile the son came to see me on
behalf of the insurance company he represented and told me that the
company was anxious that there should be a change in the
superintendency; that if I really meant to fight, they thought they
had influence with four of the State Senators, Democrats and
Republicans, whom they could get to vote to confirm the man I
nominated, but that they wished to be sure that I would not abandon
the fight, because it would be a very bad thing for them if I started
the fight and then backed down. I told my visitor that he need be
under no apprehensions, that I would certainly see the fight through.
A man who has much to do with that kind of politics which concerns
both New York politicians and New York business men and lawyers is not
easily surprised, and therefore I felt no other emotion than a rather
sardonic amusement when thirty-six hours later I read in the morning
paper an open letter from the officials of the very company who had
been communicating with me in which they enthusiastically advocated
the renomination of the Superintendent. Shortly afterwards my visitor,
the young lawyer, called me up on the telephone and explained that the
officials did not mean what they had said in this letter, that they
had been obliged to write it for fear of the Superintendent, but that
if they got the chance they intended to help me get rid of him. I
thanked him and said I thought I could manage the fight by myself. I
did not hear from him again, though his father continued to write
public demands that I should practice pure virtue, undefiled and

Meanwhile Senator Platt declined to yield. I had picked out a man, a
friend of his, who I believed would make an honest and competent
official, and whose position in the organization was such that I did
not believe the Senate would venture to reject him. However, up to the
day before the appointment was to go to the Senate, Mr. Platt remained
unyielding. I saw him that afternoon and tried to get him to yield,
but he said No, that if I insisted, it would be war to the knife, and
my destruction, and perhaps the destruction of the party. I said I was
very sorry, that I could not yield, and if the war came it would have
to come, and that next morning I should send in the name of the
Superintendent's successor. We parted, and soon afterwards I received
from the man who was at the moment Mr. Platt's right-hand lieutenant a
request to know where he could see me that evening. I appointed the
Union League Club. My visitor went over the old ground, explained that
the Senator would under no circumstances yield, that he was certain to
win in the fight, that my reputation would be destroyed, and that he
wished to save me from such a lamentable smash-up as an ending to my
career. I could only repeat what I had already said, and after half an
hour of futile argument I rose and said that nothing was to be gained
by further talk and that I might as well go. My visitor repeated that
I had this last chance, and that ruin was ahead of me if I refused it;
whereas, if I accepted, everything would be made easy. I shook my head
and answered, "There is nothing to add to what I have already said."
He responded, "You have made up your mind?" and I said, "I have." He
then said, "You know it means your ruin?" and I answered, "Well, we
will see about that," and walked toward the door. He said, "You
understand, the fight will begin to-morrow and will be carried on to
the bitter end." I said, "Yes," and added, as I reached the door,
"Good night." Then, as the door opened, my opponent, or visitor,
whichever one chooses to call him, whose face was as impassive and as
inscrutable as that of Mr. John Hamlin in a poker game, said: "Hold
on! We accept. Send in So-and-so [the man I had named]. The Senator is
very sorry, but he will make no further opposition!" I never saw a
bluff carried more resolutely through to the final limit. My success
in the affair, coupled with the appointment of Messrs. Partridge and
Hooker, secured me against further effort to interfere with my
handling of the executive departments.

It was in connection with the insurance business that I first met Mr.
George W. Perkins. He came to me with a letter of introduction from
the then Speaker of the National House of Representatives, Tom Reed,
which ran: "Mr. Perkins is a personal friend of mine, whose
straightforwardness and intelligence will commend to you whatever he
has to say. If you will give him proper opportunity to explain his
business, I have no doubt that what he will say will be worthy of your
attention." Mr. Perkins wished to see me with reference to a bill that
had just been introduced in the Legislature, which aimed to limit the
aggregate volume of insurance that any New York State company could
assume. There were then three big insurance companies in New York--the
Mutual Life, Equitable, and New York Life. Mr. Perkins was a Vice-
President of the New York Life Insurance Company and Mr. John A.
McCall was its President. I had just finished my fight against the
Superintendent of Insurance, whom I refused to continue in office. Mr.
McCall had written me a very strong letter urging that he be retained,
and had done everything he could to aid Senator Platt in securing his
retention. The Mutual Life and Equitable people had openly followed
the same course, but in private had hedged. They were both backing the
proposed bill. Mr. McCall was opposed to it; he was in California, and
just before starting thither he had been told by the Mutual Life and
Equitable that the Limitation Bill was favored by me and would be put
through if such a thing were possible. Mr. McCall did not know me, and
on leaving for California told Mr. Perkins that from all he could
learn he was sure I was bent on putting this bill through, and that
nothing he could say to me would change my view; in fact, because he
had fought so hard to retain the old Insurance Superintendent, he felt
that I would be particularly opposed to anything he might wish done.

As a matter of fact, I had no such feeling. I had been carefully
studying the question. I had talked with the Mutual Life and Equitable
people about it, but was not committed to any particular course, and
had grave doubts as to whether it was well to draw the line on size
instead of on conduct. I was therefore very glad to see Perkins and
get a new point of view. I went over the matter with a great deal of
care and at considerable length, and after we had thrashed the matter
out pretty fully and Perkins had laid before me in detail the methods
employed by Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and other European
countries to handle their large insurance companies, I took the
position that there undoubtedly were evils in the insurance business,
but that they did not consist in insuring people's lives, for that
certainly was not an evil; and I did not see how the real evils could
be eradicated by limiting or suppressing a company's ability to
protect an additional number of lives with insurance. I therefore
announced that I would not favor a bill that limited volume of
business, and would not sign it if it were passed; but that I favored
legislation that would make it impossible to place, through agents,
policies that were ambiguous and misleading, or to pay exorbitant
prices to agents for business, or to invest policy-holders' money in
improper securities, or to give power to officers to use the company's
funds for their own personal profit. In reaching this determination I
was helped by Mr. Loeb, then merely a stenographer in my office, but
who had already attracted my attention both by his efficiency and by
his loyalty to his former employers, who were for the most part my
political opponents. Mr. Loeb gave me much information about various
improper practices in the insurance business. I began to gather data
on the subject, with the intention of bringing about corrective
legislation, for at that time I expected to continue in office as
Governor. But in a few weeks I was nominated as Vice-President, and my
successor did nothing about the matter.

So far as I remember, this was the first time the question of
correcting evils in a business by limiting the volume of business to
be done was ever presented to me, and my decision in the matter was on
all fours with the position I have always since taken when any similar
principle was involved. At the time when I made my decision about the
Limitation Bill, I was on friendly terms with the Mutual and Equitable
people who were back of it, whereas I did not know Mr. McCall at all,
and Mr. Perkins only from hearing him discuss the bill.

An interesting feature of the matter developed subsequently. Five
years later, after the insurance investigations took place, the Mutual
Life strongly urged the passage of a Limitation Bill, and, because of
the popular feeling developed by the exposure of the improper
practices of the companies, this bill was generally approved. Governor
Hughes adopted the suggestion, such a bill was passed by the
Legislature, and Governor Hughes signed it. This bill caused the three
great New York companies to reduce markedly the volume of business
they were doing; it threw a great many agents out of employment, and
materially curtailed the foreign business of the companies--which
business was bringing annually a considerable sum of money to this
country for investment. In short, the experiment worked so badly that
before Governor Hughes went out of office one of the very last bills
he signed was one that permitted the life insurance companies to
increase their business each year by an amount representing a certain
percentage of the business they had previously done. This in practice,
within a few years, practically annulled the Limitation Bill that had
been previously passed. The experiment of limiting the size of
business, of legislating against it merely because it was big, had
been tried, and had failed so completely that the authors of the bill
had themselves in effect repealed it. My action in refusing to try the
experiment had been completely justified.

As a sequel to this incident I got Mr. Perkins to serve on the
Palisade Park Commission. At the time I was taking active part in the
effort to save the Palisades from vandalism and destruction by getting
the States of New York and New Jersey jointly to include them in a
public park. It is not easy to get a responsible and capable man of
business to undertake such a task, which is unpaid, which calls on his
part for an immense expenditure of time, money, and energy, which
offers no reward of any kind, and which entails the certainty of abuse
and misrepresentation. Mr. Perkins accepted the position, and has
filled it for the last thirteen years, doing as disinterested,
efficient, and useful a bit of public service as any man in the State
has done throughout these thirteen years.

The case of most importance in which I clashed with Senator Platt
related to a matter of fundamental governmental policy, and was the
first step I ever took toward bringing big corporations under
effective governmental control. In this case I had to fight the
Democratic machine as well as the Republican machine, for Senator Hill
and Senator Platt were equally opposed to my action, and the big
corporation men, the big business men back of both of them, took
precisely the same view of these matters without regard to their party
feelings on other points. What I did convulsed people at that time,
and marked the beginning of the effort, at least in the Eastern
states, to make the great corporations really responsible to popular
wish and governmental command. But we have gone so far past the stage
in which we then were that now it seems well-nigh incredible that
there should have been any opposition at all to what I at that time

The substitution of electric power for horse power in the street car
lines of New York offered a fruitful chance for the most noxious type
of dealing between business men and politicians. The franchises
granted by New York were granted without any attempt to secure from
the grantees returns, in the way of taxation or otherwise, for the
value received. The fact that they were thus granted by improper
favoritism, a favoritism which in many cases was unquestionably
secured by downright bribery, led to all kinds of trouble. In return
for the continuance of these improper favors to the corporations the
politicians expected improper favors in the way of excessive campaign
contributions, often contributed by the same corporation at the same
time to two opposing parties. Before I became Governor a bill had been
introduced into the New York Legislature to tax the franchises of
these street railways. It affected a large number of corporations, but
particularly those in New York and Buffalo. It had been suffered to
slumber undisturbed, as none of the people in power dreamed of taking
it seriously, and both the Republican and Democratic machines were
hostile to it. Under the rules of the New York Legislature a bill
could always be taken up out of its turn and passed if the Governor
sent in a special emergency message on its behalf.

After I was elected Governor I had my attention directed to the
franchise tax matter, looked into the subject, and came to the
conclusion that it was a matter of plain decency and honesty that
these companies should pay a tax on their franchises, inasmuch as they
did nothing that could be considered as service rendered the public in
lieu of a tax. This seemed to me so evidently the common-sense and
decent thing to do that I was hardly prepared for the storm of protest
and anger which my proposal aroused. Senator Platt and the other
machine leaders did everything to get me to abandon my intention. As
usual, I saw them, talked the matter all over with them, and did my
best to convert them to my way of thinking. Senator Platt, I believe,
was quite sincere in his opposition. He did not believe in popular
rule, and he did believe that the big business men were entitled to
have things their way. He profoundly distrusted the people--naturally
enough, for the kind of human nature with which a boss comes in
contact is not of an exalted type. He felt that anarchy would come if
there was any interference with a system by which the people in mass
were, under various necessary cloaks, controlled by the leaders in the
political and business worlds. He wrote me a very strong letter of
protest against my attitude, expressed in dignified, friendly, and
temperate language, but using one word in a curious way. This was the
word "altruistic." He stated in his letter that he had not objected to
my being independent in politics, because he had been sure that I had
the good of the party at heart, and meant to act fairly and honorably;
but that he had been warned, before I became a candidate, by a number
of his business friends that I was a dangerous man because I was
"altruistic," and that he now feared that my conduct would justify the
alarm thus expressed. I was interested in this, not only because
Senator Platt was obviously sincere, but because of the way in which
he used "altruistic" as a term of reproach, as if it was Communistic
or Socialistic--the last being a word he did use to me when, as now
and then happened, he thought that my proposals warranted fairly
reckless vituperation.

Senator Platt's letter ran in part as follows:

"When the subject of your nomination was under consideration, there
was one matter that gave me real anxiety. I think you will have no
trouble in appreciating the fact that it was /not/ the matter of
your independence. I think we have got far enough along in our
political acquaintance for you to see that my support in a
convention does not imply subsequent 'demands,' nor any other
relation that may not reasonably exist for the welfare of the
party. . . . The thing that did bother me was this: I had heard
from a good many sources that you were a little loose on the
relations of capital and labor, on trusts and combinations, and,
indeed, on those numerous questions which have recently arisen in
politics affecting the security of earnings and the right of a man
to run his own business in his own way, with due respect of course
to the Ten Commandments and the Penal Code. Or, to get at it even
more clearly, I understood from a number of business men, and
among them many of your own personal friends, that you entertained
various altruistic ideas, all very well in their way, but which
before they could safely be put into law needed very profound
consideration. . . . You have just adjourned a Legislature which
created a good opinion throughout the State. I congratulate you
heartily upon this fact because I sincerely believe, as everybody
else does, that this good impression exists very largely as a
result of your personal influence in the Legislative chambers. But
at the last moment, and to my very great surprise, you did a thing
which has caused the business community of New York to wonder how
far the notions of Populism, as laid down in Kansas and Nebraska,
have taken hold upon the Republican party of the State of New

In my answer I pointed out to the Senator that I had as Governor
unhesitatingly acted, at Buffalo and elsewhere, to put down mobs,
without regard to the fact that the professed leaders of labor
furiously denounced me for so doing; but that I could no more tolerate
wrong committed in the name of property than wrong committed against
property. My letter ran in part as follows:

"I knew that you had just the feelings that you describe; that is,
apart from my 'impulsiveness,' you felt that there was a
justifiable anxiety among men of means, and especially men
representing large corporate interests, lest I might feel too
strongly on what you term the 'altruistic' side in matters of
labor and capital and as regards the relations of the State to
great corporations. . . . I know that when parties divide on such
issues [as Bryanism] the tendency is to force everybody into one
of two camps, and to throw out entirely men like myself, who are
as strongly opposed to Populism in every stage as the greatest
representative of corporate wealth, but who also feel strongly
that many of these representatives of enormous corporate wealth
have themselves been responsible for a portion of the conditions
against which Bryanism is in ignorant revolt. I do not believe
that it is wise or safe for us as a party to take refuge in mere
negation and to say that there are no evils to be corrected. It
seems to me that our attitude should be one of correcting the
evils and thereby showing that, whereas the Populists, Socialists,
and others really do not correct the evils at all, or else only do
so at the expense of producing others in aggravated form; on the
contrary we Republicans hold the just balance and set ourselves as
resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as
against demagogy and mob rule on the other. I understand perfectly
that such an attitude of moderation is apt to be misunderstood
when passions are greatly excited and when victory is apt to rest
with the extremists on one side or the other; yet I think it is in
the long run the only wise attitude. . . . I appreciate absolutely
[what Mr. Platt had said] that any applause I get will be too
evanescent for a moment's consideration. I appreciate absolutely
that the people who now loudly approve of my action in the
franchise tax bill will forget all about it in a fortnight, and
that, on the other hand, the very powerful interests adversely
affected will always remember it. . . . [The leaders] urged upon
me that I personally could not afford to take this action, for
under no circumstances could I ever again be nominated for any
public office, as no corporation would subscribe to a campaign
fund if I was on the ticket, and that they would subscribe most
heavily to beat me; and when I asked if this were true of
Republican corporations, the cynical answer was made that the
corporations that subscribed most heavily to the campaign funds
subscribed impartially to both party organizations. Under all
these circumstances, it seemed to me there was no alternative but
to do what I could to secure the passage of the bill."

These two letters, written in the spring of 1899, express clearly the
views of the two elements of the Republican party, whose hostility
gradually grew until it culminated, thirteen years later. In 1912 the
political and financial forces of which Mr. Platt had once been the
spokesman, usurped the control of the party machinery and drove out of
the party the men who were loyally endeavoring to apply the principles
of the founders of the party to the needs and issues of their own day.

I had made up my mind that if I could get a show in the Legislature
the bill would pass, because the people had become interested and the
representatives would scarcely dare to vote the wrong way.
Accordingly, on April 27, 1899, I sent a special message to the
Assembly, certifying that the emergency demanded the immediate passage
of the bill. The machine leaders were bitterly angry, and the Speaker
actually tore up the message without reading it to the Assembly. That
night they were busy trying to arrange some device for the defeat of
the bill--which was not difficult, as the session was about to close.
At seven the next morning I was informed of what had occurred. At
eight I was in the Capitol at the Executive chamber, and sent in
another special message, which opened as follows: "I learn that the
emergency message which I sent last evening to the Assembly on behalf
of the Franchise Tax Bill has not been read. I therefore send hereby
another message on the subject. I need not impress upon the Assembly
the need of passing this bill at once." I sent this message to the
Assembly, by my secretary, William J. Youngs, afterwards United States
District Attorney of Kings, with an intimation that if this were not
promptly read I should come up in person and read it. Then, as so
often happens, the opposition collapsed and the bill went through both
houses with a rush. I had in the House stanch friends, such as Regis
Post and Alford Cooley, men of character and courage, who would have
fought to a finish had the need arisen.

My troubles were not at an end, however. The bill put the taxation in
the hands of the local county boards, and as the railways sometimes
passed through several different counties, this was inadvisable. It
was the end of the session, and the Legislature adjourned. The
corporations affected, through various counsel, and the different
party leaders of both organizations, urged me not to sign the bill,
laying especial stress on this feature, and asking that I wait until
the following year, when a good measure could be put through with this
obnoxious feature struck out. I had thirty days under the law in which
to sign the bill. If I did not sign it by the end of that time it
would not become a law. I answered my political and corporation
friends by telling them that I agreed with them that this feature was
wrong, but that I would rather have the bill with this feature than
not have it at all; and that I was not willing to trust to what might
be done a year later. Therefore, I explained, I would reconvene the
Legislature in special session, and if the legislators chose to amend
the bill by placing the power of taxation in the State instead of in
the county or municipality, I would be glad; but that if they failed
to amend it, or amended it improperly, I would sign the original bill
and let it become law as it was.

When the representatives of Mr. Platt and of the corporations affected
found they could do no better, they assented to this proposition.
Efforts were tentatively made to outwit me, by inserting amendments
that would nullify the effect of the law, or by withdrawing the law
when the Legislature convened; which would at once have deprived me of
the whip hand. On May 12 I wrote Senator Platt, outlining the
amendments I desired, and said: "Of course it must be understood that
I will sign the present bill if the proposed bill containing the
changes outlined above fails to pass." On May 18 I notified the Senate
leader, John Raines, by telegram: "Legislature has no power to
withdraw the Ford bill. If attempt is made to do so, I will sign the
bill at once." On the same day, by telegram, I wired Mr. Odell
concerning the bill the leaders were preparing: "Some provisions of
bill very objectionable. I am at work on bill to show you to-morrow.
The bill must not contain greater changes than those outlined in my
message." My wishes were heeded, and when I had reconvened the
Legislature it amended the bill as I outlined in my message; and in
its amended form the bill became law.

There promptly followed something which afforded an index of the good
faith of the corporations that had been protesting to me. As soon as
the change for which they had begged was inserted in the law, and the
law was signed, they turned round and refused to pay the taxes; and in
the lawsuit that followed, they claimed that the law was
unconstitutional, because it contained the very clause which they had
so clamorously demanded. Senator David B. Hill had appeared before me
on behalf of the corporations to argue for the change; and he then
appeared before the courts to make the argument on the other side. The
suit was carried through to the Supreme Court of the United States,
which declared the law constitutional during the time that I was

One of the painful duties of the chief executive in States like New
York, as well as in the Nation, is the refusing of pardons. Yet I can
imagine nothing more necessary from the standpoint of good citizenship
than the ability to steel one's heart in this matter of granting
pardons. The pressure is always greatest in two classes of cases:
first, that where capital punishment is inflicted; second, that where
the man is prominent socially and in the business world, and where in
consequence his crime is apt to have been one concerned in some way
with finance.

As regards capital cases, the trouble is that emotional men and women
always see only the individual whose fate is up at the moment, and
neither his victim nor the many millions of unknown individuals who
would in the long run be harmed by what they ask. Moreover, almost any
criminal, however brutal, has usually some person, often a person whom
he has greatly wronged, who will plead for him. If the mother is alive
she will always come, and she cannot help feeling that the case in
which she is so concerned is peculiar, that in this case a pardon
should be granted. It was really heartrending to have to see the
kinsfolk and friends of murderers who were condemned to death, and
among the very rare occasions when anything governmental or official
caused me to lose sleep were the times when I had to listen to some
poor mother making a plea for a criminal so wicked, so utterly brutal
and depraved, that it would have been a crime on my part to remit his

On the other hand, there were certain crimes where requests for
leniency merely made me angry. Such crimes were, for instance, rape,
or the circulation of indecent literature, or anything connected with
what would now be called the "white slave" traffic, or wife murder, or
gross cruelty to women and children, or seduction and abandonment, or
the action of some man in getting a girl whom he had seduced to commit
abortion. I am speaking in each instance of cases that actually came
before me, either while I was Governor or while I was President. In an
astonishing number of these cases men of high standing signed
petitions or wrote letters asking me to show leniency to the criminal.
In two or three of the cases--one where some young roughs had
committed rape on a helpless immigrant girl, and another in which a
physician of wealth and high standing had seduced a girl and then
induced her to commit abortion--I rather lost my temper, and wrote to
the individuals who had asked for the pardon, saying that I extremely
regretted that it was not in my power to increase the sentence. I then
let the facts be made public, for I thought that my petitioners
deserved public censure. Whether they received this public censure or
not I did not know, but that my action made them very angry I do know,
and their anger gave me real satisfaction. The list of these
petitioners was a fairly long one, and included two United States
Senators, a Governor of a State, two judges, an editor, and some
eminent lawyers and business men.

In the class of cases where the offense was one involving the misuse
of large sums of money the reason for the pressure was different.
Cases of this kind more frequently came before me when I was
President, but they also came before me when I was Governor, chiefly
in the cases of county treasurers who had embezzled funds. A big bank
president, a railway magnate, an official connected with some big
corporation, or a Government official in a responsible fiduciary
position, necessarily belongs among the men who have succeeded in
life. This means that his family are living in comfort, and perhaps
luxury and refinement, and that his sons and daughters have been well
educated. In such a case the misdeed of the father comes as a crushing
disaster to the wife and children, and the people of the community,
however bitter originally against the man, grow to feel the most
intense sympathy for the bowed-down women and children who suffer for
the man's fault. It is a dreadful thing in life that so much of
atonement for wrong-doing is vicarious. If it were possible in such a
case to think only of the banker's or county treasurer's wife and
children, any man would pardon the offender at once. Unfortunately, it
is not right to think only of the women and children. The very fact
that in cases of this class there is certain to be pressure from high
sources, pressure sometimes by men who have been beneficially, even
though remotely, interested in the man's criminality, no less than
pressure because of honest sympathy with the wife and children, makes
it necessary that the good public servant shall, no matter how deep
his sympathy and regret, steel his heart and do his duty by refusing
to let the wrong-doer out. My experience of the way in which pardons
are often granted is one of the reasons why I do not believe that life
imprisonment for murder and rape is a proper substitute for the death
penalty. The average term of so-called life imprisonment in this
country is only about fourteen years.

Of course there were cases where I either commuted sentences or
pardoned offenders with very real pleasure. For instance, when
President, I frequently commuted sentences for horse stealing in the
Indian Territory because the penalty for stealing a horse was
disproportionate to the penalty for many other crimes, and the offense
was usually committed by some ignorant young fellow who found a half-
wild horse, and really did not commit anything like as serious an
offense as the penalty indicated. The judges would be obliged to give
the minimum penalty, but would forward me memoranda stating that if
there had been a less penalty they would have inflicted it, and I
would then commute the sentence to the penalty thus indicated.

In one case in New York I pardoned outright a man convicted of murder
in the second degree, and I did this on the recommendation of a
friend, Father Doyle of the Paulist Fathers. I had become intimate
with the Paulist Fathers while I was Police Commissioner, and I had
grown to feel confidence in their judgment, for I had found that they
always told me exactly what the facts were about any man, whether he
belonged to their church or not. In this case the convicted man was a
strongly built, respectable old Irishman employed as a watchman around
some big cattle-killing establishments. The young roughs of the
neighborhood, which was then of a rather lawless type, used to try to
destroy the property of the companies. In a conflict with a watchman a
member of one of the gangs was slain. The watchman was acquitted, but
the neighborhood was much wrought up over the acquittal. Shortly
afterwards, a gang of the same roughs attacked another watchman, the
old Irishman in question, and finally, to save his own life, he was
obliged in self-defense to kill one of his assailants. The feeling in
the community, however, was strongly against him, and some of the men
high up in the corporation became frightened and thought that it would
be better to throw over the watchman. He was convicted. Father Doyle
came to me, told me that he knew the man well, that he was one of the
best members of his church, admirable in every way, that he had simply
been forced to fight for his life while loyally doing his duty, and
that the conviction represented the triumph of the tough element of
the district and the abandonment of this man, by those who should have
stood by him, under the influence of an unworthy fear. I looked into
the case, came to the conclusion that Father Doyle was right, and gave
the man a full pardon before he had served thirty days.

The various clashes between myself and the machine, my triumph in
them, and the fact that the people were getting more and more
interested and aroused, brought on a curious situation in the
Republican National Convention at Philadelphia in June, 1900. Senator
Platt and the New York machine leaders had become very anxious to get
me out of the Governorship, chiefly because of the hostility of the
big corporation men towards me; but they had also become convinced
that there was such popular feeling on my behalf that it would be
difficult to refuse me a renomination if I demanded it. They
accordingly decided to push me for Vice-President, taking advantage of
the fact that there was at that time a good deal of feeling for me in
the country at large. [See Appendix B to this chapter.] I myself did
not appreciate that there was any such feeling, and as I greatly
disliked the office of Vice-President and was much interested in the
Governorship, I announced that I would not accept the Vice-Presidency.
I was one of the delegates to Philadelphia. On reaching there I found
that the situation was complicated. Senator Hanna appeared on the
surface to have control of the Convention. He was anxious that I
should not be nominated as Vice-President. Senator Platt was anxious
that I should be nominated as Vice-President, in order to get me out
of the New York Governorship. Each took a position opposite to that of
the other, but each at that time cordially sympathized with the
other's feelings about me--it was the manifestations and not the
feelings that differed. My supporters in New York State did not wish
me nominated for Vice-President because they wished me to continue as
Governor; but in every other State all the people who admired me were
bound that I should be nominated as Vice-President. These people were
almost all desirous of seeing Mr. McKinley renominated as President,
but they became angry at Senator Hanna's opposition to me as Vice-
President. He in his turn suddenly became aware that if he persisted
he might find that in their anger these men would oppose Mr.
McKinley's renomination, and although they could not have prevented
the nomination, such opposition would have been a serious blow in the
campaign which was to follow. Senator Hanna, therefore, began to

Meanwhile a meeting of the New York delegation was called. Most of the
delegates were under the control of Senator Platt. The Senator
notified me that if I refused to accept the nomination for Vice-
President I would be beaten for the nomination for Governor. I
answered that I would accept the challenge, that we would have a
straight-out fight on the proposition, and that I would begin it at
once by telling the assembled delegates of the threat, and giving fair
warning that I intended to fight for the Governorship nomination, and,
moreover, that I intended to get it. This brought Senator Platt to
terms. The effort to instruct the New York delegation for me was
abandoned, and Lieutenant-Governor Woodruff was presented for
nomination in my place.

I supposed that this closed the incident, and that no further effort
would be made to nominate me for the Vice-Presidency. On the contrary,
the effect was directly the reverse. The upset of the New York machine
increased the feeling of the delegates from other States that it was
necessary to draft me for the nomination. By next day Senator Hanna
himself concluded that this was a necessity, and acquiesced in the
movement. As New York was already committed against me, and as I was
not willing that there should be any chance of supposing that the New
Yorkers had nominated me to get rid of me, the result was that I was
nominated and seconded from outside States. No other candidate was
placed in the field.

By this time the Legislature had adjourned, and most of my work as
Governor of New York was over. One unexpected bit of business arose,
however. It was the year of the Presidential campaign. Tammany, which
had been lukewarm about Bryan in 1896, cordially supported him in
1900; and when Tammany heartily supports a candidate it is well for
the opposing candidate to keep a sharp lookout for election frauds.
The city government was in the hands of Tammany; but I had power to
remove the Mayor, the Sheriff, and the District Attorney for
malfeasance or misfeasance in office. Such power had not been
exercised by any previous Governor, as far as I knew; but it existed,
and if the misfeasance or malfeasance warranted it, and if the
Governor possessed the requisite determination, the power could be,
and ought to be, exercised.

By an Act of the Legislature, a State Bureau of Elections had been
created in New York City, and a Superintendent of Elections appointed
by the Governor. The Chief of the State Bureau of Elections was John
McCullagh, formerly in the Police Department when I was Police
Commissioner. The Chief of Police for the city was William F. Devery,
one of the Tammany leaders, who represented in the Police Department
all that I had warred against while Commissioner. On November 4 Devery
directed his subordinates in the Police Department to disregard the
orders which McCullagh had given to his deputies, orders which were
essential if we were to secure an honest election in the city. I had
just returned from a Western campaign trip, and was at Sagamore Hill.
I had no direct power over Devery; but the Mayor had; and I had power
over the Mayor. Accordingly, I at once wrote to the Mayor of New York,
to the Sheriff of New York, and to the District Attorney of New York
County the following letters:

OYSTER BAY, November 5, 1900.

To the Mayor of the City of New York.

Sir: My attention has been called to the official order issued by
Chief of Police Devery, in which he directs his subordinates to
disregard the Chief of the State Election Bureau, John McCullagh,
and his deputies. Unless you have already taken steps to secure
the recall of this order, it is necessary for me to point out that
I shall be obliged to hold you responsible as the head of the city
government for the action of the Chief of Police, if it should
result in any breach of the peace and intimidation or any crime
whatever against the election laws. The State and city authorities
should work together. I will not fail to call to summary account
either State or city authority in the event of either being guilty
of intimidation or connivance at fraud or of failure to protect
every legal voter in his rights. I therefore hereby notify you
that in the event of any wrong-doing following upon the failure
immediately to recall Chief Devery's order, or upon any action or
inaction on the part of Chief Devery, I must necessarily call you
to account.

Yours, etc.,

OYSTER BAY, November 5, 1900.

To the Sheriff of the County of New York.

Sir: My attention has been called to the official order issued by
Chief of Police Devery in which he directs his subordinates to
disregard the Chief of the State Election Bureau, John McCullagh,
and his deputies.

It is your duty to assist in the orderly enforcement of the law,
and I shall hold you strictly responsible for any breach of the
public peace within your county, or for any failure on your part
to do your full duty in connection with the election to-morrow.

Yours truly,

OYSTER BAY, November 5, 1900.

To the District Attorney of the County of New York.

Sir: My attention has been called to the official order issued by
Chief of Police Devery, in which he directs his subordinates to
disregard the Chief of the State Election Bureau, John McCullagh,
and his deputies.

In view of this order I call your attention to the fact that it is
your duty to assist in the orderly enforcement of the law, and
there must be no failure on your part to do your full duty in the

Yours truly,

These letters had the desired effect. The Mayor promptly required
Chief Devery to rescind the obnoxious order, which was as promptly
done. The Sheriff also took prompt action. The District Attorney
refused to heed my letter, and assumed an attitude of defiance, and I
removed him from office. On election day there was no clash between
the city and State authorities; the election was orderly and honest.



As foreshadowing the course I later, as President, followed in this
matter, I give extracts from one of my letters to the Commission, and
from my second (and last) Annual Message. I spent the first months of
my term in investigations to find out just what the situation was.

On November 28, 1899, I wrote to the Commission as follows:

". . . I have had very many complaints before this as to the
inefficiency of the game wardens and game protectors, the
complaints usually taking the form that the men have been
appointed and are retained without due regard to the duties to be
performed. I do not wish a man to be retained or appointed who is
not thoroughly fit to perform the duties of game protector. The
Adirondacks are entitled to a peculiar share of the Commission's
attention, both from the standpoint of forestry, and from the less
important, but still very important, standpoint of game and fish
protection. The men who do duty as game protectors in the
Adirondacks should, by preference, be appointed from the locality
itself, and should in all cases be thorough woodsmen. The mere
fact that a game protector has to hire a guide to pilot him
through the woods is enough to show his unfitness for the
position. I want as game protectors men of courage, resolution,
and hardihood, who can handle the rifle, ax, and paddle; who can
camp out in summer or winter; who can go on snow-shoes, if
necessary; who can go through the woods by day or by night without
regard to trails.

"I should like full information about all your employees, as to
their capacities, as to the labor they perform, as to their
distribution from and where they do their work."

Many of the men hitherto appointed owed their positions principally to
political preference. The changes I recommended were promptly made,
and much to the good of the public service. In my Annual Message, in
January, 1900, I said:

"Great progress has been made through the fish hatcheries in the
propagation of valuable food and sporting fish. The laws for the
protection of deer have resulted in their increase. Nevertheless,
as railroads tend to encroach on the wilderness, the temptation to
illegal hunting becomes greater, and the danger from forest fires
increases. There is need of great improvement both in our laws and
in their administration. The game wardens have been too few in
number. More should be provided. None save fit men must be
appointed; and their retention in office must depend purely upon
the zeal, ability, and efficiency with which they perform their
duties. The game wardens in the forests must be woodsmen; and they
should have no outside business. In short, there should be a
thorough reorganization of the work of the Commission. A careful
study of the resources and condition of the forests on State land
must be made. It is certainly not too much to expect that the
State forests should be managed as efficiently as the forests on
private lands in the same neighborhoods. And the measure of
difference in efficiency of management must be the measure of
condemnation or praise of the way the public forests have been

"The subject of forest preservation is of the utmost importance to
the State. The Adirondacks and Catskills should be great parks
kept in perpetuity for the benefit and enjoyment of our people.
Much has been done of late years towards their preservation, but
very much remains to be done. The provisions of law in reference
to sawmills and wood-pulp mills are defective and should be
changed so as to prohibit dumping dye-stuff, sawdust, or tan-bark,
in any amount whatsoever, into the streams. Reservoirs should be
made, but not where they will tend to destroy large sections of
the forest, and only after a careful and scientific study of the
water resources of the region. The people of the forest regions
are themselves growing more and more to realize the necessity of
preserving both the trees and the game. A live deer in the woods
will attract to the neighborhood ten times the money that could be
obtained for the deer's dead carcass. Timber theft on the State
lands is, of course, a grave offense against the whole public.

"Hardy outdoor sports, like hunting, are in themselves of no small
value to the National character and should be encouraged in every
way. Men who go into the wilderness, indeed, men who take part in
any field sports with horse or rifle, receive a benefit which can
hardly be given by even the most vigorous athletic games.

"There is a further and more immediate and practical end in view. A
primeval forest is a great sponge which absorbs and distills the
rain water. And when it is destroyed the result is apt to be an
alternation of flood and drought. Forest fires ultimately make the
land a desert, and are a detriment to all that portion of the
State tributary to the streams through the woods where they occur.
Every effort should be made to minimize their destructive
influence. We need to have our system of forestry gradually
developed and conducted along scientific principles. When this has
been done it will be possible to allow marketable lumber to be cut
everywhere without damage to the forests--indeed, with positive
advantage to them. But until lumbering is thus conducted, on
strictly scientific principles no less than upon principles of the
strictest honesty toward the State, we cannot afford to suffer it
at all in the State forests. Unrestrained greed means the ruin of
the great woods and the drying up of the sources of the rivers.

"Ultimately the administration of the State lands must be so
centralized as to enable us definitely to place responsibility in
respect to everything concerning them, and to demand the highest
degree of trained intelligence in their use.

"The State should not permit within its limits factories to make
bird skins or bird feathers into articles of ornament or wearing
apparel. Ordinary birds, and especially song birds, should be
rigidly protected. Game birds should never be shot to a greater
extent than will offset the natural rate of increase. . . . Care
should be taken not to encourage the use of cold storage or other
market systems which are a benefit to no one but the wealthy
epicure who can afford to pay a heavy price for luxuries. These
systems tend to the destruction of the game, which would bear most
severely upon the very men whose rapacity has been appealed to in
order to secure its extermination. . . ."

I reorganized the Commission, putting Austin Wadsworth at its head.



My general scheme of action as Governor was given in a letter I wrote
one of my supporters among the independent district organization
leaders, Norton Goddard, on April 16, 1900. It runs in part as
follows: "Nobody can tell, and least of all the machine itself,
whether the machine intends to renominate me next fall or not. If for
some reason I should be weak, whether on account of faults or virtues,
doubtless the machine will throw me over, and I think I am not
uncharitable when I say they would feel no acute grief at so doing. It
would be very strange if they did feel such grief. If, for instance,
we had strikes which led to riots, I would of course be obliged to
preserve order and stop the riots. Decent citizens would demand that I
should do it, and in any event I should do it wholly without regard to
their demands. But, once it was done, they would forget all about it,
while a great many laboring men, honest but ignorant and prejudiced,
would bear a grudge against me for doing it. This might put me out of
the running as a candidate. Again, the big corporations undoubtedly
want to beat me. They prefer the chance of being blackmailed to the
certainty that they will not be allowed any more than their due. Of
course they will try to beat me on some entirely different issue, and,
as they are very able and very unscrupulous, nobody can tell that they
won't succeed. . . . I have been trying to stay in with the
organization. I did not do it with the idea that they would renominate
me. I did it with the idea of getting things done, and in that I have
been absolutely successful. Whether Senator Platt and Mr. Odell
endeavor to beat me, or do beat me, for the renomination next fall, is
of very small importance compared to the fact that for my two years I
have been able to make a Republican majority in the Legislature do
good and decent work and have prevented any split within the party.
The task was one of great difficulty, because, on the one hand, I had
to keep clearly before me the fact that it was better to have a split
than to permit bad work to be done, and, on the other hand, the fact
that to have that split would absolutely prevent all /good/ work. The
result has been that I have avoided a split and that as a net result
of my two years and the two sessions of the Legislature, there has
been an enormous improvement in the administration of the Government,
and there has also been a great advance in legislation."

To show my reading of the situation at the time I quote from a letter
of mine to Joseph B. Bishop, then editor of the /Commercial
Advertiser/, with whom towards the end of my term I had grown into
very close relations, and who, together with two other old friends,
Albert Shaw, of the /Review of Reviews/, and Silas McBee, now editor
of the /Constructive Quarterly/, knew the inside of every movement, so
far as I knew it myself. The letter, which is dated April 11, 1900,
runs in part as follows: "The dangerous element as far as I am
concerned comes from the corporations. The [naming certain men] crowd
and those like them have been greatly exasperated by the franchise
tax. They would like to get me out of politics for good, but at the
moment they think the best thing to do is to put me into the Vice-
Presidency. Naturally I will not be opposed openly on the ground of
the corporations' grievance; but every kind of false statement will
continually be made, and men like [naming the editors of certain
newspapers] will attack me, not as the enemy of corporations, but as
their tool! There is no question whatever that if the leaders can they
will upset me."

One position which as Governor (and as President) I consistently took,
seems to me to represent what ought to be a fundamental principle in
American legislative work. I steadfastly refused to advocate any law,
no matter how admirable in theory, if there was good reason to believe
that in practice it would not be executed. I have always sympathized
with the view set forth by Pelatiah Webster in 1783--quoted by Hannis
Taylor in his /Genesis of the Supreme Court/--"Laws or ordinances of
any kind (especially of august bodies of high dignity and consequence)
which fail of execution, are much worse than none. They weaken the
government, expose it to contempt, destroy the confidence of all men,
native and foreigners, in it, and expose both aggregate bodies and
individuals who have placed confidence in it to many ruinous
disappointments which they would have escaped had no such law or
ordinance been made." This principle, by the way, not only applies to
an internal law which cannot be executed; it applies even more to
international action, such as a universal arbitration treaty which
cannot and will not be kept; and most of all it applies to proposals
to make such universal arbitration treaties at the very time that we
are not keeping our solemn promise to execute limited arbitration
treaties which we have already made. A general arbitration treaty is
merely a promise; it represents merely a debt of honorable obligation;
and nothing is more discreditable, for a nation or an individual, than
to cover up the repudiation of a debt which can be and ought to be
paid, by recklessly promising to incur a new and insecure debt which
no wise man for one moment supposes ever will be paid.



There are men who love out-of-doors who yet never open a book; and
other men who love books but to whom the great book of nature is a
sealed volume, and the lines written therein blurred and illegible.
Nevertheless among those men whom I have known the love of books and
the love of outdoors, in their highest expressions, have usually gone
hand in hand. It is an affectation for the man who is praising
outdoors to sneer at books. Usually the keenest appreciation of what
is seen in nature is to be found in those who have also profited by
the hoarded and recorded wisdom of their fellow-men. Love of outdoor
life, love of simple and hardy pastimes, can be gratified by men and
women who do not possess large means, and who work hard; and so can
love of good books--not of good bindings and of first editions,
excellent enough in their way but sheer luxuries--I mean love of
reading books, owning them if possible of course, but, if that is not
possible, getting them from a circulating library.

Sagamore Hill takes its name from the old Sagamore Mohannis, who, as
chief of his little tribe, signed away his rights to the land two
centuries and a half ago. The house stands right on the top of the
hill, separated by fields and belts of woodland from all other houses,
and looks out over the bay and the Sound. We see the sun go down
beyond long reaches of land and of water. Many birds dwell in the
trees round the house or in the pastures and the woods near by, and of
course in winter gulls, loons, and wild fowl frequent the waters of
the bay and the Sound. We love all the seasons; the snows and bare
woods of winter; the rush of growing things and the blossom-spray of
spring; the yellow grain, the ripening fruits and tasseled corn, and
the deep, leafy shades that are heralded by "the green dance of
summer"; and the sharp fall winds that tear the brilliant banners with
which the trees greet the dying year.

The Sound is always lovely. In the summer nights we watch it from the
piazza, and see the lights of the tall Fall River boats as they steam
steadily by. Now and then we spend a day on it, the two of us together
in the light rowing skiff, or perhaps with one of the boys to pull an
extra pair of oars; we land for lunch at noon under wind-beaten oaks
on the edge of a low bluff, or among the wild plum bushes on a spit of
white sand, while the sails of the coasting schooners gleam in the
sunlight, and the tolling of the bell-buoy comes landward across the

Long Island is not as rich in flowers as the valley of the Hudson. Yet
there are many. Early in April there is one hillside near us which
glows like a tender flame with the white of the bloodroot. About the
same time we find the shy mayflower, the trailing arbutus; and
although we rarely pick wild flowers, one member of the household
always plucks a little bunch of mayflowers to send to a friend working
in Panama, whose soul hungers for the Northern spring. Then there are
shadblow and delicate anemones, about the time of the cherry blossoms;
the brief glory of the apple orchards follows; and then the thronging
dogwoods fill the forests with their radiance; and so flowers follow
flowers until the springtime splendor closes with the laurel and the
evanescent, honey-sweet locust bloom. The late summer flowers follow,
the flaunting lilies, and cardinal flowers, and marshmallows, and pale
beach rosemary; and the goldenrod and the asters when the afternoons
shorten and we again begin to think of fires in the wide fireplaces.

Most of the birds in our neighborhood are the ordinary home friends of
the house and the barn, the wood lot and the pasture; but now and then
the species make queer shifts. The cheery quail, alas! are rarely
found near us now; and we no longer hear the whip-poor-wills at night.
But some birds visit us now which formerly did not. When I was a boy
neither the black-throated green warbler nor the purple finch nested
around us, nor were bobolinks found in our fields. The black-throated
green warbler is now one of our commonest summer warblers; there are
plenty of purple finches; and, best of all, the bobolinks are far from
infrequent. I had written about these new visitors to John Burroughs,
and once when he came out to see me I was able to show them to him.

When I was President, we owned a little house in western Virginia; a
delightful house, to us at least, although only a shell of rough
boards. We used sometimes to go there in the fall, perhaps at
Thanksgiving, and on these occasions we would have quail and rabbits
of our own shooting, and once in a while a wild turkey. We also went
there in the spring. Of course many of the birds were different from
our Long Island friends. There were mocking-birds, the most attractive
of all birds, and blue grosbeaks, and cardinals and summer redbirds,
instead of scarlet tanagers, and those wonderful singers the Bewick's
wrens, and Carolina wrens. All these I was able to show John Burroughs
when he came to visit us; although, by the way, he did not appreciate
as much as we did one set of inmates of the cottage--the flying
squirrels. We loved having the flying squirrels, father and mother and
half-grown young, in their nest among the rafters; and at night we
slept so soundly that we did not in the least mind the wild gambols of
the little fellows through the rooms, even when, as sometimes
happened, they would swoop down to the bed and scuttle across it.

One April I went to Yellowstone Park, when the snow was still very
deep, and I took John Burroughs with me. I wished to show him the big
game of the Park, the wild creatures that have become so astonishingly
tame and tolerant of human presence. In the Yellowstone the animals
seem always to behave as one wishes them to! It is always possible to
see the sheep and deer and antelope, and also the great herds of elk,
which are shyer than the smaller beasts. In April we found the elk
weak after the short commons and hard living of winter. Once without
much difficulty I regularly rounded up a big band of them, so that
John Burroughs could look at them. I do not think, however, that he
cared to see them as much as I did. The birds interested him more,
especially a tiny owl the size of a robin which we saw perched on the
top of a tree in mid-afternoon entirely uninfluenced by the sun and
making a queer noise like a cork being pulled from a bottle. I was
rather ashamed to find how much better his eyes were than mine in
seeing the birds and grasping their differences.

When wolf-hunting in Texas, and when bear-hunting in Louisiana and
Mississippi, I was not only enthralled by the sport, but also by the
strange new birds and other creatures, and the trees and flowers I had
not known before. By the way, there was one feast at the White House
which stands above all others in my memory--even above the time when I
lured Joel Chandler Harris thither for a night, a deed in which to
triumph, as all who knew that inveterately shy recluse will testify.
This was "the bear-hunters' dinner." I had been treated so kindly by
my friends on these hunts, and they were such fine fellows, men whom I
was so proud to think of as Americans, that I set my heart on having
them at a hunters' dinner at the White House. One December I
succeeded; there were twenty or thirty of them, all told, as good
hunters, as daring riders, as first-class citizens as could be found
anywhere; no finer set of guests ever sat at meat in the White House;
and among other game on the table was a black bear, itself contributed
by one of these same guests.

When I first visited California, it was my good fortune to see the
"big trees," the Sequoias, and then to travel down into the Yosemite,
with John Muir. Of course of all people in the world he was the one
with whom it was best worth while thus to see the Yosemite. He told me
that when Emerson came to California he tried to get him to come out
and camp with him, for that was the only way in which to see at their
best the majesty and charm of the Sierras. But at the time Emerson was
getting old and could not go. John Muir met me with a couple of
packers and two mules to carry our tent, bedding, and food for a three
days' trip. The first night was clear, and we lay down in the
darkening aisles of the great Sequoia grove. The majestic trunks,
beautiful in color and in symmetry, rose round us like the pillars of
a mightier cathedral than ever was conceived even by the fervor of the
Middle Ages. Hermit thrushes sang beautifully in the evening, and
again, with a burst of wonderful music, at dawn. I was interested and
a little surprised to find that, unlike John Burroughs, John Muir
cared little for birds or bird songs, and knew little about them. The
hermit-thrushes meant nothing to him, the trees and the flowers and
the cliffs everything. The only birds he noticed or cared for were
some that were very conspicuous, such as the water-ousels--always
particular favorites of mine too. The second night we camped in a
snow-storm, on the edge of the canyon walls, under the spreading limbs
of a grove of mighty silver fir; and next day we went down into the
wonderland of the valley itself. I shall always be glad that I was in
the Yosemite with John Muir and in the Yellowstone with John

Like most Americans interested in birds and books, I know a good deal
about English birds as they appear in books. I know the lark of
Shakespeare and Shelley and the Ettrick Shepherd; I know the
nightingale of Milton and Keats; I know Wordsworth's cuckoo; I know
mavis and merle singing in the merry green wood of the old ballads; I
know Jenny Wren and Cock Robin of the nursery books. Therefore I had
always much desired to hear the birds in real life; and the
opportunity offered in June, 1910, when I spent two or three weeks in
England. As I could snatch but a few hours from a very exciting round
of pleasures and duties, it was necessary for me to be with some
companion who could identify both song and singer. In Sir Edward Grey,
a keen lover of outdoor life in all its phases, and a delightful
companion, who knows the songs and ways of English birds as very few
do know them, I found the best possible guide.

We left London on the morning of June 9, twenty-four hours before I
sailed from Southampton. Getting off the train at Basingstoke, we
drove to the pretty, smiling valley of the Itchen. Here we tramped for
three or four hours, then again drove, this time to the edge of the
New Forest, where we first took tea at an inn, and then tramped
through the forest to an inn on its other side, at Brockenhurst. At
the conclusion of our walk my companion made a list of the birds we
had seen, putting an asterisk (*) opposite those which we had heard
sing. There were forty-one of the former and twenty-three of the
latter, as follows:

* Thrush, * blackbird, * lark, * yellowhammer, * robin, * wren, *
golden-crested wren, * goldfinch, * chaffinch, * greenfinch, pied
wagtail, sparrow, * dunnock (hedge, accentor), missel thrush,
starling, rook, jackdaw, * blackcap, * garden warbler, * willow
warbler, * chiffchaff, * wood warbler, tree-creeper, * reed bunting, *
sedge warbler, coot, water hen, little grebe (dabchick), tufted duck,
wood pigeon, stock dove, * turtle dove, peewit, tit (? coal-tit), *
cuckoo, * nightjar, * swallow, martin, swift, pheasant, partridge.

The valley of the Itchen is typically the England that we know from
novel and story and essay. It is very beautiful in every way, with a
rich, civilized, fertile beauty--the rapid brook twisting among its
reed beds, the rich green of trees and grass, the stately woods, the
gardens and fields, the exceedingly picturesque cottages, the great
handsome houses standing in their parks. Birds were plentiful; I know
but few places in America where one would see such an abundance of
individuals, and I was struck by seeing such large birds as coots,
water hens, grebes, tufted ducks, pigeons, and peewits. In places in
America as thickly settled as the valley of the Itchen, I should not
expect to see any like number of birds of this size; but I hope that
the efforts of the Audubon societies and kindred organizations will
gradually make themselves felt until it becomes a point of honor not
only with the American man, but with the American small boy, to shield
and protect all forms of harmless wild life. True sportsmen should
take the lead in such a movement, for if there is to be any shooting
there must be something to shoot; the prime necessity is to keep, and
not kill out, even the birds which in legitimate numbers may be shot.

The New Forest is a wild, uninhabited stretch of heath and woodland,
many of the trees gnarled and aged, and its very wildness, the lack of
cultivation, the ruggedness, made it strongly attractive in my eyes,
and suggested my own country. The birds of course were much less
plentiful than beside the Itchen.

The bird that most impressed me on my walk was the blackbird. I had
already heard nightingales in abundance near Lake Como, and had also
listened to larks, but I had never heard either the blackbird, the
song thrush, or the blackcap warbler; and while I knew that all three
were good singers, I did not know what really beautiful singers they
were. Blackbirds were very abundant, and they played a prominent part
in the chorus which we heard throughout the day on every hand, though
perhaps loudest the following morning at dawn. In its habits and
manners the blackbird strikingly resembles our American robin, and
indeed looks exactly like a robin, with a yellow bill and coal-black
plumage. It hops everywhere over the lawns, just as our robin does,
and it lives and nests in the gardens in the same fashion. Its song
has a general resemblance to that of our robin, but many of the notes
are far more musical, more like those of our wood thrush. Indeed,
there were individuals among those we heard certain of whose notes
seemed to me almost to equal in point of melody the chimes of the wood
thrush; and the highest possible praise for any song-bird is to liken
its song to that of the wood thrush or hermit thrush. I certainly do
not think that the blackbird has received full justice in the books. I
knew that he was a singer, but I really had no idea how fine a singer
he was. I suppose one of his troubles has been his name, just as with
our own catbird. When he appears in the ballads as the merle,
bracketed with his cousin the mavis, the song thrush, it is far easier
to recognize him as the master singer that he is. It is a fine thing
for England to have such an asset of the countryside, a bird so
common, so much in evidence, so fearless, and such a really beautiful

The thrush is a fine singer too, a better singer than our American
robin, but to my mind not at the best quite as good as the blackbird
at his best; although often I found difficulty in telling the song of
one from the song of the other, especially if I only heard two or
three notes.

The larks were, of course, exceedingly attractive. It was fascinating
to see them spring from the grass, circle upwards, steadily singing
and soaring for several minutes, and then return to the point whence
they had started. As my companion pointed out, they exactly fulfilled
Wordsworth's description; they soared but did not roam. It is quite
impossible wholly to differentiate a bird's voice from its habits and
surroundings. Although in the lark's song there are occasional musical
notes, the song as a whole is not very musical; but it is so joyous,
buoyant and unbroken, and uttered under such conditions as fully to
entitle the bird to the place he occupies with both poet and prose

The most musical singer we heard was the blackcap warbler. To my ear
its song seemed more musical than that of the nightingale. It was
astonishingly powerful for so small a bird; in volume and continuity
it does not come up to the songs of the thrushes and of certain other
birds, but in quality, as an isolated bit of melody, it can hardly be

Among the minor singers the robin was noticeable. We all know this
pretty little bird from the books, and I was prepared to find him as
friendly and attractive as he proved to be, but I had not realized how
well he sang. It is not a loud song, but very musical and attractive,
and the bird is said to sing practically all through the year. The
song of the wren interested me much, because it was not in the least
like that of our house wren, but, on the contrary, like that of our
winter wren. The theme is the same as the winter wren's, but the song
did not seem to me to be as brilliantly musical as that of the tiny
singer of the North Woods. The sedge warbler sang in the thick reeds a
mocking ventriloquial lay, which reminded me at times of the less
pronounced parts of our yellow-breasted chat's song. The cuckoo's cry
was singularly attractive and musical, far more so than the rolling,
many times repeated, note of our rain-crow.

We did not reach the inn at Brockenhurst until about nine o'clock,
just at nightfall, and a few minutes before that we heard a nightjar.
It did not sound in the least like either our whip-poor-will or our
night-hawk, uttering a long-continued call of one or two syllables,
repeated over and over. The chaffinch was very much in evidence,
continually chaunting its unimportant little ditty. I was pleased to
see the bold, masterful missel thrush, the stormcock as it is often
called; but this bird breeds and sings in the early spring, when the
weather is still tempestuous, and had long been silent when we saw it.
The starlings, rooks, and jackdaws did not sing, and their calls were
attractive merely as the calls of our grackles are attractive; and the
other birds that we heard sing, though they played their part in the
general chorus, were performers of no especial note, like our tree-
creepers, pine warblers, and chipping sparrows. The great spring
chorus had already begun to subside, but the woods and fields were
still vocal with beautiful bird music, the country was very lovely,
the inn as comfortable as possible, and the bath and supper very
enjoyable after our tramp; and altogether I passed no pleasanter
twenty-four hours during my entire European trip.

Ten days later, at Sagamore Hill, I was among my own birds, and was
much interested as I listened to and looked at them in remembering the
notes and actions of the birds I had seen in England. On the evening
of the first day I sat in my rocking-chair on the broad veranda,
looking across the Sound towards the glory of the sunset. The thickly
grassed hillside sloped down in front of me to a belt of forest from
which rose the golden, leisurely chiming of the wood thrushes,
chanting their vespers; through the still air came the warble of vireo
and tanager; and after nightfall we heard the flight song of an
ovenbird from the same belt of timber. Overhead an oriole sang in the
weeping elm, now and then breaking his song to scold like an overgrown
wren. Song-sparrows and catbirds sang in the shrubbery; one robin had
built its nest over the front and one over the back door, and there
was a chippy's nest in the wistaria vine by the stoop. During the next
twenty-four hours I saw and heard, either right around the house or
while walking down to bathe, through the woods, the following forty-
two birds:

Little green heron, night heron, red-tailed hawk, yellow-billed
cuckoo, kingfisher, flicker, humming-bird, swift, meadow-lark, red-
winged blackbird, sharp-tailed finch, song sparrow, chipping sparrow,
bush sparrow, purple finch, Baltimore oriole, cowbunting, robin, wood
thrush, thrasher, catbird, scarlet tanager, red-eyed vireo, yellow
warbler, black-throated green warbler, kingbird, wood peewee, crow,
blue jay, cedar-bird, Maryland yellowthroat, chickadee, black and
white creeper, barn swallow, white-breasted swallow, ovenbird,
thistlefinch, vesperfinch, indigo bunting, towhee, grasshopper-
sparrow, and screech owl.

The birds were still in full song, for on Long Island there is little
abatement in the chorus until about the second week of July, when the
blossoming of the chestnut trees patches the woodland with frothy

[*] Alas! the blight has now destroyed the chestnut trees, and robbed
our woods of one of their distinctive beauties.

Our most beautiful singers are the wood thrushes; they sing not only
in the early morning but throughout the long hot June afternoons.
Sometimes they sing in the trees immediately around the house, and if
the air is still we can always hear them from among the tall trees at
the foot of the hill. The thrashers sing in the hedgerows beyond the
garden, the catbirds everywhere. The catbirds have such an attractive
song that it is extremely irritating to know that at any moment they
may interrupt it to mew and squeal. The bold, cheery music of the
robins always seems typical of the bold, cheery birds themselves. The
Baltimore orioles nest in the young elms around the house, and the
orchard orioles in the apple trees near the garden and outbuildings.
Among the earliest sounds of spring is the cheerful, simple, homely
song of the song-sparrow; and in March we also hear the piercing
cadence of the meadow-lark--to us one of the most attractive of all
bird calls. Of late years now and then we hear the rollicking,
bubbling melody of the bobolink in the pastures back of the barn; and
when the full chorus of these and of many other of the singers of
spring is dying down, there are some true hot-weather songsters, such
as the brightly hued indigo buntings and thistlefinches. Among the
finches one of the most musical and plaintive songs is that of the
bush-sparrow--I do not know why the books call it field-sparrow, for
it does not dwell in the open fields like the vesperfinch, the
savannah-sparrow, and grasshopper-sparrow, but among the cedars and
bayberry bushes and young locusts in the same places where the prairie
warbler is found. Nor is it only the true songs that delight us. We
love to hear the flickers call, and we readily pardon any one of their
number which, as occasionally happens, is bold enough to wake us in
the early morning by drumming on the shingles of the roof. In our ears
the red-winged blackbirds have a very attractive note. We love the
screaming of the red-tailed hawks as they soar high overhead, and even
the calls of the night heron that nest in the tall water maples by one
of the wood ponds on our place, and the little green herons that nest
beside the salt marsh. It is hard to tell just how much of the
attraction in any bird-note lies in the music itself and how much in
the associations. This is what makes it so useless to try to compare
the bird songs of one country with those of another. A man who is
worth anything can no more be entirely impartial in speaking of the
bird songs with which from his earliest childhood he has been familiar
than he can be entirely impartial in speaking of his own family.

At Sagamore Hill we love a great many things--birds and trees and
books, and all things beautiful, and horses and rifles and children
and hard work and the joy of life. We have great fireplaces, and in
them the logs roar and crackle during the long winter evenings. The
big piazza is for the hot, still afternoons of summer. As in every
house, there are things that appeal to the householder because of
their associations, but which would not mean much to others.
Naturally, any man who has been President, and filled other positions,
accumulates such things, with scant regard to his own personal merits.
Perhaps our most cherished possessions are a Remington bronze, "The
Bronco Buster," given me by my men when the regiment was mustered out,
and a big Tiffany silver vase given to Mrs. Roosevelt by the enlisted
men of the battleship Louisiana after we returned from a cruise on her
to Panama. It was a real surprise gift, presented to her in the White
House, on behalf of the whole crew, by four as strapping man-of-war's-
men as ever swung a turret or pointed a twelve-inch gun. The enlisted
men of the army I already knew well--of course I knew well the
officers of both army and navy. But the enlisted men of the navy I
only grew to know well when I was President. On the Louisiana Mrs.
Roosevelt and I once dined at the chief petty officers' mess, and on
another battleship, the Missouri (when I was in company with Admiral
Evans and Captain Cowles), and again on the Sylph and on the
Mayflower, we also dined as guests of the crew. When we finished our
trip on the Louisiana I made a short speech to the assembled crew, and
at its close one of the petty officers, the very picture of what a
man-of-war's-man should look like, proposed three cheers for me in
terms that struck me as curiously illustrative of America at her best;
he said, "Now then, men, three cheers for Theodore Roosevelt, the
typical American citizen!" That was the way in which they thought of
the American President--and a very good way, too. It was an expression
that would have come naturally only to men in whom the American
principles of government and life were ingrained, just as they were
ingrained in the men of my regiment. I need scarcely add, but I will
add for the benefit of those who do not know, that this attitude of
self-respecting identification of interest and purpose is not only
compatible with but can only exist when there is fine and real
discipline, as thorough and genuine as the discipline that has always
obtained in the most formidable fighting fleets and armies. The
discipline and the mutual respect are complementary, not antagonistic.
During the Presidency all of us, but especially the children, became
close friends with many of the sailor men. The four bearers of the
vase to Mrs. Roosevelt were promptly hailed as delightful big brothers
by our two smallest boys, who at once took them to see the sights of
Washington in the landau--"the President's land-ho!" as, with
seafaring humor, our guests immediately styled it. Once, after we were
in private life again, Mrs. Roosevelt was in a railway station and had
some difficulty with her ticket. A fine-looking, quiet man stepped up
and asked if he could be of help; he remarked that he had been one of
the Mayflower's crew, and knew us well; and in answer to a question
explained that he had left the navy in order to study dentistry, and
added--a delicious touch--that while thus preparing himself to be a
dentist he was earning the necessary money to go on with his studies
by practicing the profession of a prize-fighter, being a good man in
the ring.

There are various bronzes in the house: Saint-Gaudens's "Puritan," a
token from my staff officers when I was Governor; Proctor's cougar,
the gift of the Tennis Cabinet--who also gave us a beautiful silver
bowl, which is always lovingly pronounced to rhyme with "owl" because
that was the pronunciation used at the time of the giving by the
valued friend who acted as spokesman for his fellow-members, and who
was himself the only non-American member of the said Cabinet. There is
a horseman by Macmonnies, and a big bronze vase by Kemys, an
adaptation or development of the pottery vases of the Southwestern
Indians. Mixed with all of these are gifts from varied sources,
ranging from a brazen Buddha sent me by the Dalai Lama and a wonderful
psalter from the Emperor Menelik to a priceless ancient Samurai sword,
coming from Japan in remembrance of the peace of Portsmouth, and a
beautifully inlaid miniature suit of Japanese armor, given me by a
favorite hero of mine, Admiral Togo, when he visited Sagamore Hill.
There are things from European friends; a mosaic picture of Pope Leo
XIII in his garden; a huge, very handsome edition of the
Nibelungenlied; a striking miniature of John Hampden from Windsor
Castle; editions of Dante, and the campaigns of "Eugenio von Savoy"
(another of my heroes, a dead hero this time); a Viking cup; the state
sword of a Uganda king; the gold box in which the "freedom of the city
of London" was given me; a beautiful head of Abraham Lincoln given me
by the French authorities after my speech at the Sorbonne; and many
other things from sources as diverse as the Sultan of Turkey and the
Dowager Empress of China. Then there are things from home friends: a
Polar bear skin from Peary; a Sioux buffalo robe with, on it, painted
by some long-dead Sioux artist, the picture story of Custer's fight; a
bronze portrait plaque of Joel Chandler Harris; the candlestick used
in sealing the Treaty of Portsmouth, sent me by Captain Cameron
Winslow; a shoe worn by Dan Patch when he paced a mile in 1:59, sent
me by his owner. There is a picture of a bull moose by Carl Rungius,
which seems to me as spirited an animal painting as I have ever seen.
In the north room, with its tables and mantelpiece and desks and
chests made of woods sent from the Philippines by army friends, or by
other friends for other reasons; with its bison and wapiti heads;
there are three paintings by Marcus Symonds--"Where Light and Shadow
Meet," "The Porcelain Towers," and "The Seats of the Mighty"; he is
dead now, and he had scant recognition while he lived, yet surely he
was a great imaginative artist, a wonderful colorist, and a man with a
vision more wonderful still. There is one of Lungren's pictures of the
Western plains; and a picture of the Grand Canyon; and one by a
Scandinavian artist who could see the fierce picturesqueness of
workaday Pittsburgh; and sketches of the White House by Sargent and by
Hopkinson Smith.

The books are everywhere. There are as many in the north room and in
the parlor--is drawing-room a more appropriate name than parlor?--as
in the library; the gun-room at the top of the house, which
incidentally has the loveliest view of all, contains more books than
any of the other rooms; and they are particularly delightful books to
browse among, just because they have not much relevance to one
another, this being one of the reasons why they are relegated to their
present abode. But the books have overflowed into all the other rooms

I could not name any principle upon which the books have been
gathered. Books are almost as individual as friends. There is no
earthly use in laying down general laws about them. Some meet the
needs of one person, and some of another; and each person should
beware of the booklover's besetting sin, of what Mr. Edgar Allan Poe
calls "the mad pride of intellectuality," taking the shape of arrogant
pity for the man who does not like the same kind of books. Of course
there are books which a man or woman uses as instruments of a
profession--law books, medical books, cookery books, and the like. I
am not speaking of these, for they are not properly "books" at all;
they come in the category of time-tables, telephone directories, and
other useful agencies of civilized life. I am speaking of books that
are meant to be read. Personally, granted that these books are decent
and healthy, the one test to which I demand that they all submit is
that of being interesting. If the book is not interesting to the
reader, then in all but an infinitesimal number of cases it gives
scant benefit to the reader. Of course any reader ought to cultivate
his or her taste so that good books will appeal to it, and that trash
won't. But after this point has once been reached, the needs of each
reader must be met in a fashion that will appeal to those needs.
Personally the books by which I have profited infinitely more than by
any others have been those in which profit was a by-product of the
pleasure; that is, I read them because I enjoyed them, because I liked
reading them, and the profit came in as part of the enjoyment.

Of course each individual is apt to have some special tastes in which
he cannot expect that any but a few friends will share. Now, I am very
proud of my big-game library. I suppose there must be many big-game
libraries in Continental Europe, and possibly in England, more
extensive than mine, but I have not happened to come across any such
library in this country. Some of the originals go back to the
sixteenth century, and there are copies or reproductions of the two or
three most famous hunting books of the Middle Ages, such as the Duke
of York's translation of Gaston Phoebus, and the queer book of the
Emperor Maximilian. It is only very occasionally that I meet any one
who cares for any of these books. On the other hand, I expect to find
many friends who will turn naturally to some of the old or the new
books of poetry or romance or history to which we of the household
habitually turn. Let me add that ours is in no sense a collector's
library. Each book was procured because some one of the family wished
to read it. We could never afford to take overmuch thought for the
outsides of books; we were too much interested in their insides.

Now and then I am asked as to "what books a statesman should read,"
and my answer is, poetry and novels--including short stories under the
head of novels. I don't mean that he should read only novels and
modern poetry. If he cannot also enjoy the Hebrew prophets and the
Greek dramatists, he should be sorry. He ought to read interesting
books on history and government, and books of science and philosophy;
and really good books on these subjects are as enthralling as any
fiction ever written in prose or verse. Gibbon and Macaulay,
Herodotus, Thucydides and Tacitus, the Heimskringla, Froissart,
Joinville and Villehardouin, Parkman and Mahan, Mommsen and Ranke--
why! there are scores and scores of solid histories, the best in the
world, which are as absorbing as the best of all the novels, and of as
permanent value. The same thing is true of Darwin and Huxley and
Carlyle and Emerson, and parts of Kant, and of volumes like
Sutherland's "Growth of the Moral Instinct," or Acton's Essays and
Lounsbury's studies--here again I am not trying to class books
together, or measure one by another, or enumerate one in a thousand of
those worth reading, but just to indicate that any man or woman of
some intelligence and some cultivation can in some line or other of
serious thought, scientific or historical or philosophical or economic
or governmental, find any number of books which are charming to read,
and which in addition give that for which his or her soul hungers. I
do not for a minute mean that the statesman ought not to read a great
many different books of this character, just as every one else should
read them. But, in the final event, the statesman, and the publicist,
and the reformer, and the agitator for new things, and the upholder of
what is good in old things, all need more than anything else to know
human nature, to know the needs of the human soul; and they will find
this nature and these needs set forth as nowhere else by the great
imaginative writers, whether of prose or of poetry.

The room for choice is so limitless that to my mind it seems absurd to
try to make catalogues which shall be supposed to appeal to all the
best thinkers. This is why I have no sympathy whatever with writing
lists of the One Hundred Best Books, or the Five-Foot Library. It is
all right for a man to amuse himself by composing a list of a hundred
very good books; and if he is to go off for a year or so where he
cannot get many books, it is an excellent thing to choose a five-foot
library of particular books which in that particular year and on that
particular trip he would like to read. But there is no such thing as a
hundred books that are best for all men, or for the majority of men,
or for one man at all times; and there is no such thing as a five-foot
library which will satisfy the needs of even one particular man on
different occasions extending over a number of years. Milton is best
for one mood and Pope for another. Because a man likes Whitman or
Browning or Lowell he should not feel himself debarred from Tennyson
or Kipling or Korner or Heine or the Bard of the Dimbovitza. Tolstoy's
novels are good at one time and those of Sienkiewicz at another; and
he is fortunate who can relish "Salammbo" and "Tom Brown" and the "Two
Admirals" and "Quentin Durward" and "Artemus Ward" and the "Ingoldsby
Legends" and "Pickwick" and "Vanity Fair." Why, there are hundreds of
books like these, each one of which, if really read, really
assimilated, by the person to whom it happens to appeal, will enable
that person quite unconsciously to furnish himself with much
ammunition which he will find of use in the battle of life.

A book must be interesting to the particular reader at that particular
time. But there are tens of thousands of interesting books, and some
of them are sealed to some men and some are sealed to others; and some
stir the soul at some given point of a man's life and yet convey no
message at other times. The reader, the booklover, must meet his own
needs without paying too much attention to what his neighbors say
those needs should be. He must not hypocritically pretend to like what
he does not like. Yet at the same time he must avoid that most
unpleasant of all the indications of puffed-up vanity which consists
in treating mere individual, and perhaps unfortunate, idiosyncrasy as
a matter of pride. I happen to be devoted to Macbeth, whereas I very
seldom read Hamlet (though I like parts of it). Now I am humbly and
sincerely conscious that this is a demerit in me and not in Hamlet;
and yet it would not do me any good to pretend that I like Hamlet as
much as Macbeth when, as a matter of fact, I don't. I am very fond of
simple epics and of ballad poetry, from the Nibelungenlied and the
Roland song through "Chevy Chase" and "Patrick Spens" and "Twa
Corbies" to Scott's poems and Longfellow's "Saga of King Olaf" and
"Othere." On the other hand, I don't care to read dramas as a rule; I
cannot read them with enjoyment unless they appeal to me very
strongly. They must almost be AEschylus or Euripides, Goethe or
Moliere, in order that I may not feel after finishing them a sense of
virtuous pride in having achieved a task. Now I would be the first to
deny that even the most delightful old English ballad should be put on
a par with any one of scores of dramatic works by authors whom I have
not mentioned; I know that each of these dramatists has written what
is of more worth than the ballad; only, I enjoy the ballad, and I
don't enjoy the drama; and therefore the ballad is better for me, and
this fact is not altered by the other fact that my own shortcomings
are to blame in the matter. I still read a number of Scott's novels
over and over again, whereas if I finish anything by Miss Austen I
have a feeling that duty performed is a rainbow to the soul. But other
booklovers who are very close kin to me, and whose taste I know to be
better than mine, read Miss Austen all the time--and, moreover, they
are very kind, and never pity me in too offensive a manner for not
reading her myself.

Aside from the masters of literature, there are all kinds of books
which one person will find delightful, and which he certainly ought
not to surrender just because nobody else is able to find as much in
the beloved volume. There is on our book-shelves a little pre-
Victorian novel or tale called "The Semi-Attached Couple." It is told
with much humor; it is a story of gentlefolk who are really
gentlefolk; and to me it is altogether delightful. But outside the
members of my own family I have never met a human being who had even
heard of it, and I don't suppose I ever shall meet one. I often enjoy
a story by some living author so much that I write to tell him so--or
to tell her so; and at least half the time I regret my action, because
it encourages the writer to believe that the public shares my views,
and he then finds that the public doesn't.

Books are all very well in their way, and we love them at Sagamore
Hill; but children are better than books. Sagamore Hill is one of
three neighboring houses in which small cousins spent very happy years
of childhood. In the three houses there were at one time sixteen of
these small cousins, all told, and once we ranged them in order of
size and took their photograph. There are many kinds of success in
life worth having. It is exceedingly interesting and attractive to be
a successful business man, or railroad man, or farmer, or a successful
lawyer or doctor; or a writer, or a President, or a ranchman, or the
colonel of a fighting regiment, or to kill grizzly bears and lions.
But for unflagging interest and enjoyment, a household of children, if
things go reasonably well, certainly makes all other forms of success
and achievement lose their importance by comparison. It may be true
that he travels farthest who travels alone; but the goal thus reached
is not worth reaching. And as for a life deliberately devoted to
pleasure as an end--why, the greatest happiness is the happiness that
comes as a by-product of striving to do what must be done, even though
sorrow is met in the doing. There is a bit of homely philosophy,
quoted by Squire Bill Widener, of Widener's Valley, Virginia, which
sums up one's duty in life: "Do what you can, with what you've got,
where you are."

The country is the place for children, and if not the country, a city
small enough so that one can get out into the country. When our own
children were little, we were for several winters in Washington, and
each Sunday afternoon the whole family spent in Rock Creek Park, which
was then very real country indeed. I would drag one of the children's
wagons; and when the very smallest pairs of feet grew tired of
trudging bravely after us, or of racing on rapturous side trips after
flowers and other treasures, the owners would clamber into the wagon.
One of these wagons, by the way, a gorgeous red one, had "Express"
painted on it in gilt letters, and was known to the younger children
as the "'spress" wagon. They evidently associated the color with the
term. Once while we were at Sagamore something happened to the
cherished "'spress" wagon to the distress of the children, and
especially of the child who owned it. Their mother and I were just
starting for a drive in the buggy, and we promised the bereaved owner
that we would visit a store we knew in East Norwich, a village a few
miles away, and bring back another "'spress" wagon. When we reached
the store, we found to our dismay that the wagon which we had seen had
been sold. We could not bear to return without the promised gift, for
we knew that the brains of small persons are much puzzled when their
elders seem to break promises. Fortunately, we saw in the store a
delightful little bright-red chair and bright-red table, and these we
brought home and handed solemnly over to the expectant recipient,
explaining that as there unfortunately was not a "'spress" wagon we
had brought him back a "'spress" chair and "'spress" table. It worked
beautifully! The "'spress" chair and table were received with such
rapture that we had to get duplicates for the other small member of
the family who was the particular crony of the proprietor of the new

When their mother and I returned from a row, we would often see the
children waiting for us, running like sand-spiders along the beach.
They always liked to swim in company with a grown-up of buoyant
temperament and inventive mind, and the float offered limitless
opportunities for enjoyment while bathing. All dutiful parents know
the game of "stage-coach"; each child is given a name, such as the
whip, the nigh leader, the off wheeler, the old lady passenger, and,
under penalty of paying a forfeit, must get up and turn round when the
grown-up, who is improvising a thrilling story, mentions that
particular object; and when the word "stage-coach" is mentioned,
everybody has to get up and turn round. Well, we used to play stage-
coach on the float while in swimming, and instead of tamely getting up
and turning round, the child whose turn it was had to plunge
overboard. When I mentioned "stage-coach," the water fairly foamed
with vigorously kicking little legs; and then there was always a
moment of interest while I counted, so as to be sure that the number
of heads that came up corresponded with the number of children who had
gone down.

No man or woman will ever forget the time when some child lies sick of
a disease that threatens its life. Moreover, much less serious
sickness is unpleasant enough at the time. Looking back, however,
there are elements of comedy in certain of the less serious cases. I
well remember one such instance which occurred when we were living in
Washington, in a small house, with barely enough room for everybody
when all the chinks were filled. Measles descended on the household.
In the effort to keep the children that were well and those that were
sick apart, their mother and I had to camp out in improvised fashion.
When the eldest small boy was getting well, and had recovered his
spirits, I slept on a sofa beside his bed--the sofa being so short
that my feet projected over anyhow. One afternoon the small boy was
given a toy organ by a sympathetic friend. Next morning early I was
waked to find the small boy very vivacious and requesting a story.
Having drowsily told the story, I said, "Now, father's told you a
story, so you amuse yourself and let father go to sleep"; to which the
small boy responded most virtuously, "Yes, father will go to sleep and
I'll play the organ," which he did, at a distance of two feet from my
head. Later his sister, who had just come down with the measles, was
put into the same room. The small boy was convalescing, and was
engaged in playing on the floor with some tin ships, together with two
or three pasteboard monitors and rams of my own manufacture. He was
giving a vivid rendering of Farragut at Mobile Bay, from memories of
how I had told the story. My pasteboard rams and monitors were
fascinating--if a naval architect may be allowed to praise his own
work--and as property they were equally divided between the little
girl and the small boy. The little girl looked on with alert suspicion
from the bed, for she was not yet convalescent enough to be allowed
down on the floor. The small boy was busily reciting the phases of the
fight, which now approached its climax, and the little girl evidently
suspected that her monitor was destined to play the part of victim.

Little boy. "And then they steamed bang into the monitor."

Little girl. "Brother, don't you sink my monitor!"

Little boy (without heeding, and hurrying toward the climax). "And the
torpedo went at the monitor!"

Little girl. "My monitor is not to sink!"

Little boy, dramatically: "And bang the monitor sank!"

Little girl. "It didn't do any such thing. My monitor always goes to
bed at seven, and it's now quarter past. My monitor was in bed and
couldn't sink!"

When I was Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Leonard Wood and I used
often to combine forces and take both families of children out to
walk, and occasionally some of their playmates. Leonard Wood's son, I
found, attributed the paternity of all of those not of his own family
to me. Once we were taking the children across Rock Creek on a fallen
tree. I was standing on the middle of the log trying to prevent any of
the children from falling off, and while making a clutch at one
peculiarly active and heedless child I fell off myself. As I emerged
from the water I heard the little Wood boy calling frantically to the
General: "Oh! oh! The father of all the children fell into the creek!"
--which made me feel like an uncommonly moist patriarch. Of course the
children took much interest in the trophies I occasionally brought
back from my hunts. When I started for my regiment, in '98, the stress
of leaving home, which was naturally not pleasant, was somewhat
lightened by the next to the youngest boy, whose ideas of what was
about to happen were hazy, clasping me round the legs with a beaming
smile and saying, "And is my father going to the war? And will he
bring me back a bear?" When, some five months later, I returned, of
course in my uniform, this little boy was much puzzled as to my
identity, although he greeted me affably with "Good afternoon,
Colonel." Half an hour later somebody asked him, "Where's father?" to
which he responded, "I don't know; but the Colonel is taking a bath."

Of course the children anthropomorphized--if that is the proper term--
their friends of the animal world. Among these friends at one period
was the baker's horse, and on a very rainy day I heard the little
girl, who was looking out of the window, say, with a melancholy shake
of her head, "Oh! there's poor Kraft's horse, all soppin' wet!"

While I was in the White House the youngest boy became an /habitue/ of
a small and rather noisome animal shop, and the good-natured owner
would occasionally let him take pets home to play with. On one
occasion I was holding a conversation with one of the leaders in
Congress, Uncle Pete Hepburn, about the Railroad Rate Bill. The
children were strictly trained not to interrupt business, but on this
particular occasion the little boy's feelings overcame him. He had
been loaned a king-snake, which, as all nature-lovers know, is not
only a useful but a beautiful snake, very friendly to human beings;
and he came rushing home to show the treasure. He was holding it
inside his coat, and it contrived to wiggle partly down the sleeve.
Uncle Pete Hepburn naturally did not understand the full import of
what the little boy was saying to me as he endeavored to wriggle out
of his jacket, and kindly started to help him--and then jumped back
with alacrity as the small boy and the snake both popped out of the

There could be no healthier and pleasanter place in which to bring up
children than in that nook of old-time America around Sagamore Hill.
Certainly I never knew small people to have a better time or a better
training for their work in after life than the three families of
cousins at Sagamore Hill. It was real country, and--speaking from the
somewhat detached point of view of the masculine parent--I should say
there was just the proper mixture of freedom and control in the
management of the children. They were never allowed to be disobedient
or to shirk lessons or work; and they were encouraged to have all the
fun possible. They often went barefoot, especially during the many
hours passed in various enthralling pursuits along and in the waters
of the bay. They swam, they tramped, they boated, they coasted and
skated in winter, they were intimate friends with the cows, chickens,
pigs, and other live stock. They had in succession two ponies, General
Grant and, when the General's legs became such that he lay down too
often and too unexpectedly in the road, a calico pony named Algonquin,
who is still living a life of honorable leisure in the stable and in
the pasture--where he has to be picketed, because otherwise he chases
the cows. Sedate pony Grant used to draw the cart in which the
children went driving when they were very small, the driver being
their old nurse Mame, who had held their mother in her arms when she
was born, and who was knit to them by a tie as close as any tie of
blood. I doubt whether I ever saw Mame really offended with them
except once when, out of pure but misunderstood affection, they named
a pig after her. They loved pony Grant. Once I saw the then little boy
of three hugging pony Grant's fore legs. As he leaned over, his broad
straw hat tilted on end, and pony Grant meditatively munched the brim;
whereupon the small boy looked up with a wail of anguish, evidently
thinking the pony had decided to treat him like a radish.

The children had pets of their own, too, of course. Among them guinea
pigs were the stand-bys--their highly unemotional nature fits them for
companionship with adoring but over-enthusiastic young masters and
mistresses. Then there were flying squirrels, and kangaroo rats,
gentle and trustful, and a badger whose temper was short but whose
nature was fundamentally friendly. The badger's name was Josiah; the
particular little boy whose property he was used to carry him about,
clasped firmly around what would have been his waist if he had had
any. Inasmuch as when on the ground the badger would play energetic
games of tag with the little boy and nip his bare legs, I suggested
that it would be uncommonly disagreeable if he took advantage of being
held in the little boy's arms to bite his face; but this suggestion
was repelled with scorn as an unworthy assault on the character of
Josiah. "He bites legs sometimes, but he never bites faces," said the
little boy. We also had a young black bear whom the children
christened Jonathan Edwards, partly out of compliment to their mother,
who was descended from that great Puritan divine, and partly because
the bear possessed a temper in which gloom and strength were combined
in what the children regarded as Calvinistic proportions. As for the
dogs, of course there were many, and during their lives they were
intimate and valued family friends, and their deaths were household
tragedies. One of them, a large yellow animal of several good breeds
and valuable rather because of psychical than physical traits, was
named "Susan" by his small owners, in commemoration of another
retainer, a white cow; the fact that the cow and the dog were not of
the same sex being treated with indifference. Much the most individual
of the dogs and the one with the strongest character was Sailor Boy, a
Chesapeake Bay dog. He had a masterful temper and a strong sense of
both dignity and duty. He would never let the other dogs fight, and he
himself never fought unless circumstances imperatively demanded it;
but he was a murderous animal when he did fight. He was not only
exceedingly fond of the water, as was to be expected, but passionately
devoted to gunpowder in every form, for he loved firearms and fairly
reveled in the Fourth of July celebrations--the latter being rather
hazardous occasions, as the children strongly objected to any "safe
and sane" element being injected into them, and had the normal number
of close shaves with rockets, Roman candles, and firecrackers.

One of the stand-bys for enjoyment, especially in rainy weather, was
the old barn. This had been built nearly a century previously, and was
as delightful as only the pleasantest kind of old barn can be. It
stood at the meeting-spot of three fences. A favorite amusement used
to be an obstacle race when the barn was full of hay. The contestants
were timed and were started successively from outside the door. They
rushed inside, clambered over or burrowed through the hay, as suited
them best, dropped out of a place where a loose board had come off,
got over, through, or under the three fences, and raced back to the
starting-point. When they were little, their respective fathers were
expected also to take part in the obstacle race, and when with the
advance of years the fathers finally refused to be contestants, there
was a general feeling of pained regret among the children at such a
decline in the sporting spirit.

Another famous place for handicap races was Cooper's Bluff, a gigantic
sand-bank rising from the edge of the bay, a mile from the house. If
the tide was high there was an added thrill, for some of the
contestants were sure to run into the water.

As soon as the little boys learned to swim they were allowed to go off
by themselves in rowboats and camp out for the night along the Sound.
Sometimes I would go along so as to take the smaller children. Once a
schooner was wrecked on a point half a dozen miles away. She held
together well for a season or two after having been cleared of
everything down to the timbers, and this gave us the chance to make

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