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- Theodore Roosevelt - 4/19 -
glory from the encounter, and after the nonplussed countryman had taken his seat, he stalked solemnly over to the desk of the elated Judge, looked at him majestically for a moment, and said, "You'll excuse my mentioning, sorr, that the gintleman who has just sat down knows more law in a wake than you do in a month; and more than that, Mike Shaunnessy, phwat do you mane by quotin' Latin on the flure of this House, WHEN YOU DON'T KNOW THE ALPHA AND OMAYGA OF THE LANGUAGE!" and back he walked, leaving the Judge in humiliated submission behind him. [Footnote: "American Ideals," p. 93.]
Another story also relates to the "Colonel." He was presiding at a committee meeting, in an extremely dignified and severe state of mind. He usually came to the meetings in this mood, as a result of having visited the bar, and taken a number of rye whiskies. The meeting was addressed by "a great, burly man ... who bellowed as if he had been a bull of Bashan."
The Colonel, by this time pretty far gone, eyed him malevolently, swaying to and fro in his chair. However, the first effect of the fellow's oratory was soothing rather than otherwise, and produced the unexpected result of sending the chairman fast asleep bolt upright. But in a minute or two, as the man warmed up to his work, he gave a peculiar resonant howl which waked the Colonel up. The latter came to himself with a jerk, looked fixedly at the audience, caught sight of the speaker, remembered having seen him before, forgot that he had been asleep, and concluded that it must have been on some previous day. Hammer, hammer, hammer, went the gavel, and--
"I've seen you before, sir!"
"You have not," said the man.
"Don't tell me I lie, sir!" responded the Colonel, with sudden ferocity. "You've addressed this committee on a previous day!"
"I've never--" began the man; but the Colonel broke in again:
"Sit down, sir! The dignity of the chair must be preserved! No man shall speak to this committee twice. The committee stands adjourned." And with that he stalked majestically out of the room, leaving the committee and the delegation to gaze sheepishly into each other's faces. [Footnote: "American Ideals," p. 96.]
There was in the Assembly a man whom Mr. Roosevelt calls "Brogan."
He looked like a serious elderly frog. I never heard him speak more than once. It was before the Legislature was organized, or had adopted any rules; and each day the only business was for the clerk to call the roll. One day Brogan suddenly rose, and the following dialogue occurred:
Brogan. Misther Clu-r-r-k!
The Clerk. The gentleman from New York.
Brogan. I rise to a point of ordher under the rules!
The Clerk. There are no rules.
Brogan. Thin I object to them.
The Clerk. There are no rules to object to.
Brogan. Oh! (nonplussed; but immediately recovering himself.) Thin I move that they be amended until there ar-r-re! [Footnote: "Autobiography," p 99.]
Roosevelt was three times elected to the Assembly. He took an interest in laws to reform the Primaries and the Civil Service, and he demanded that a certain corrupt judge be removed. This astonished the Assembly, for the judge had powerful and rich friends. His own party advised the twenty-three years old Assemblyman to sit down and shut his mouth. The judge might be corrupt, as it was charged, but it was "wiser" to keep still about it. Roosevelt, they said, was "rash" and "hot-headed" to make trouble. And they refused to hear him.
But he got up next day, and the next, and the next after that, and demanded that the dishonest judge be investigated. And on the eighth day, his motion was carried by a vote of 104 to 6. The politicians saw to it that the judge escaped, but it was shown that Roosevelt's charges were true ones. And New York State found that she had an Assemblyman with a back-bone.
Roosevelt carried some bills for the cause of better government through the Assembly and they were signed by a courageous and honest Governor, named Grover Cleveland. Thomas Nast, America's great cartoonist of those days, drew a cartoon of the two men together. Cleveland was forty-four and Roosevelt was twenty-three.
One of the most important events while he was in the Assembly arose from a bill to regulate the manufacture of cigars in New York City. He had found that cigars were often made under the most unhealthy surroundings in the single living room of a family in a tenement. In one house which he investigated himself, there were two families, and a boarder, all living in one room, while one or more of the men carried on the manufacture of cigars in the same room. Everything about the place was filthy, and both for the health of the families and of the possible users of the cigars, it was necessary to have this state of affairs ended.
He advocated a bill which passed, and was signed by Governor Cleveland, forbidding such manufacture. So far, so good; but there were persons who found that the law was against their interests. They succeeded in getting the Court of Appeals to set the law aside, and in their decision the judges said the law was an assault upon the "hallowed associations" of the home!
This made Roosevelt wake to the fact that courts were not always the best judges of the living conditions of classes of people with whom they had no contact They knew the law; they did not know life. The decision blocked tenement house reform in New York for twenty years, and was one more item in Roosevelt's political education.
"RANCH LIFE AND THE HUNTING TRAIL"
At the end of Mr. Roosevelt's membership in the New York Assembly, he began his life on a ranch in North Dakota. In this way he not only learned much about the Western people, but came to know the ranchman's life, and to have his first chance to shoot big game.
He had married Miss Lee in 1880, the autumn of the year he left college. Less than four years afterwards his wife died, following the birth of a daughter. His mother died on the next day, and Roosevelt under the sorrow of these two losses, left New York, and spent almost all his time on his ranch, the Elkhorn, at Medora.
The people in Dakota looked on this Eastern tenderfoot with a little amusement, and, at first, probably with some contempt. He was, to their minds, a "college dude" from the East, and moreover he wore eyeglasses. To some of the people whom he met, this fact, he says, was enough to cause distrust. Eyeglasses were under suspicion.
But, with two men who had been his guides in Maine, Bill Sewall and Wilmot Dow, he began his life as a ranchman and a cow-puncher, and went through all the hard work and all the fun. He took long rides after cattle, rounded them up and helped in the branding. He followed the herd when it stampeded in a thunderstorm. He hunted all the game that there was in the county, and also acted as Deputy Sheriff and helped clear the place of horse-thieves and "bad men."
In one of his adventures Roosevelt showed that he had taken to heart the celebrated advice which, in Hamlet, Polonius gives to his son:
Beware Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Mulvaney, in one of Kipling's stories, proved that he knew something about Shakespeare, for he put this advice into his own language so as to express the meaning perfectly:
"Don't fight wid ivry scutt for the pure joy av fightin', but if you do, knock the nose av him first an' frequint."
Roosevelt tried to keep out of the fight,--but this is the way it happened. He was out after lost horses, and had to put up at a little hotel where there were no rooms downstairs, but a bar, a dining-room and a kitchen. It was late at night, and there was trouble on, for he heard one or two shots in the bar as he came up. He disliked the idea of going in, but it was cold outside and there was nowhere else to go. Inside the bar, a cheap "bad man" was walking up and down with a cocked revolver in each hand. He had been shooting at the clock, and making every one unhappy and uncomfortable.
When Roosevelt came in, he called him "Four eyes," because he wore spectacles, and announced "Four eyes is going to set up the drinks." Roosevelt tried to pass it off by laughing, and sat down behind the stove to escape notice, and keep away from trouble. But the "bad man" came and stood over him, a gun in each hand, using foul language, and insisting that "Four eyes" should get up and treat.
"Well," Roosevelt reluctantly remarked, "if I've got to, I've got to!" As he said this, he rose quickly, and hit the gun-man with his right fist on the point of the jaw, then with his left, and again with his right. The guns went off in the air, as the "bad man" went over like a nine-pin, striking his head on the corner of the bar as he fell. Roosevelt was ready to drop on him if he moved, for he still clutched the revolvers. But he was senseless.
The other people in the bar recovered their nerve, once the man was down. They hustled him out into the shed, and there was no more trouble from him.
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