American Boys' Life of Theodore Roosevelt/Chapter 3
Marries Miss Alice Lee—Travels in Europe—Bold Mountain-climbing—Studying Law in New York—Elected to the Assembly—Personal Encounter with the Enemy
Yet with it all there was just a bit of melancholy in this breaking away from a place that had been as a second home to him for four long years. The students were scattering to the four points of the compass, and he might never see some of them again. But others were there whom he was to meet later, and who were destined to march under him up the bullet-swept slopes of San Juan in far-away Cuba. But at that time there was no thought of war and carnage,
It was a proud and happy day for Theodore Roosevelt when, in the summer of 1880, he was graduated from Harvard. He took scholarly as well as social honors, and came forth a Phi Beta Kappa man. His fellow-students wished him well, and his family greeted him most affectionately.
Theodore Roosevelt at Graduation, 1880.
only good-fellowship, with addresses and orations, music, flying flags, and huge bonfires and fireworks at night. Happy college days were they, never to be forgotten.
While a student at Harvard, Theodore Roosevelt had become intimately acquainted with Miss Alice Lee, of Boston, a beautiful girl who was a member of an aristocratic family of that city. The young college student was a frequent visitor at the home of the Lees, and on September 23, 1880, the two were married.
It had been decided that Theodore Roosevelt should travel in Europe after graduating. His father had left the family well provided for, so there was no rush to get into something whereby a living might be earned. Yet Theodore Roosevelt had long since determined not to be an idler. He would travel and improve his mind, and then settle down to that for which he seemed best fitted.
To Europe then he went, accompanied by his bride, to study a little and to visit the art galleries and museums, the palaces of kings and queens, and the many great cities of that continent. He travelled through Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, and the British Isles, taking note of everything he saw and comparing it with what he had seen in his own country. When in lower Europe, the spirit of adventure seized him, and he climbed those lofty mountains of the Alps, the Jungfrau and the Matterhorn, and for those deeds of daring was made a member of the Alpine Club of London. It may be mentioned here that climbing the mountains mentioned is a very difficult feat, and that more than one traveller has lost his life in such attempts. The peaks are covered with snow and ice; the path from one cliff to the next is narrow and uncertain, and a fall into some dark and fearful hollow usually means death. But the danger only urged Theodore Roosevelt on, and added zest to the undertaking.
He was intensely interested in all he saw, both in Europe proper and in the British Isles, but wrote that he was glad to get back home again, among his own people. To him there was no country like America, the land of Golden Opportunity, as one of our most noted writers has called it. In Europe there was more or less a lack of personal liberty; here a man could try to make what he pleased of himself, be it cobbler or President.
The young college graduate had an uncle in New York, named Robert B. Roosevelt, who was a well-known lawyer. On his return to this country Theodore Roosevelt entered his uncle's office, and likewise took up the study of law at Columbia University, attending the lectures given by Professor Dwight. Here again his search after what he termed "bottom facts" came to light, and he is well remembered as a member of the law class because of the way he frequently asked questions and called for explanations—accepting nothing as a fact until it was perfectly clear in his own mind. The interruptions did not always suit the professor or the other students, yet they were often the means of clearing up a point that was hazy to many others who had not the courage to thrust forth their inquiries as did Theodore Roosevelt.
"He wants to know it all," said one student, in disgust.
"Well, never mind; I wish I knew it all," answered another. "I guess he knows what he is doing." And in this he was right; Theodore Roosevelt knew exactly what he was trying to accomplish.
The young man was now twenty-three years of age, broad-shouldered, and in much better health than ever before. He had not abandoned his athletic training, and would often run out to the old home at Oyster Bay for a tramp into the woods or on a hunting tour.
While still studying law, Theodore Roosevelt entered politics by taking an active part in a Republican primary. He lived in the twenty-third assembly district of the state. The district included a great number of rich and influential citizens, and on that account was called the "Diamond Back District."
"Let us put up young Roosevelt for Assembly," said one of the politicians. "He's a clever fellow."
"That may be," said another. "But I don't know that we can manage him. He seems a fellow who wants his own way."
"Yes, he'll want his own way, but I reckon that way will be the right way," put in a third speaker.
No sooner had Theodore Roosevelt's name been mentioned as a possible candidate than there was a storm of opposition from some politicians who had in the past ruled the district with a rod of iron. It was a Republican district, so that the contest for the place was entirely in the primary.
"If he is nominated and elected, our power will be gone," they told themselves; and set to work without delay to throw the nomination into the hands of somebody else.
Theodore Roosevelt suspected what was going on, but he said nothing to those who opposed him. With his friends he was very frank, and told them that if he was nominated he would do his best to win the election and serve them honestly in the legislature.
His open-heartedness won him many friends, and when the primary was held, those who had opposed him were chagrined to see him win the nomination with votes to spare. Some at once predicted that he would not be elected.
"Those who opposed him at the primary will not vote for him," they said. "They would rather help the Democrats."
But this prediction proved false. At the election Theodore Roosevelt was elected with a good majority. It was his first battle in the political arena, and if he felt proud over it, who can blame him?
The State Capitol of New York is, as my young readers must know, at Albany, on the Upper Hudson, and hither the young assemblyman journeyed. The assemblymen poured in from all over the state, and were made up of all sorts and conditions of men, including bankers, farmers, merchants, contractors, liquor dealers, and even prize-fighters. Many of these men were thoroughly honest, but there were others who were there for gain only, and who cared little for the passing of just laws.
The party to which Theodore Roosevelt belonged was in the minority, so that the young assemblyman found he would have to struggle hard if he expected to be heard at all. But the thoughts of such a struggle only put him on his mettle, and he plunged in with a vigor that astonished his opponents and caused great delight to his friends.
"He is fearless," said one who had voted for him. "He will make things warm for those who don't want to act on the square." And he certainly did make it warm, until a certain class grew to fear and hate him to such a degree that they plotted to do him bodily harm.
"He has got to learn that he must mind his own business," was the way one of these corruptionists reasoned.
"But what can we do?" asked another. "He's as sharp on the floor of the Assembly as a steel trap."
"We'll get Stubby to brush up against him," said a third.
Stubby was a bar-room loafer who had been at one time something of a pugilist. He was a thoroughly unprincipled fellow, and it was known that he would do almost anything for money.
"Sure, I'll fix him," said Stubby. "You just leave him to me and see how I polish him off."
The corruptionists and their tool met at the Delavan House, an old-fashioned hotel at which politicians in and around the capital were wont to congregate, and waited for the young assemblyman. Roosevelt was not long in putting in an appearance and was soon in deep discussion with some friends.
"Watch him, Stubby," said one of the young assemblyman's enemies. "Don't let him get away from you to-night."
"I have me eye on him," answered Stubby.
Roosevelt was on the way to the buffet of the hotel when the crowd, with Stubby in front, pushed against him rudely. The young assemblyman stepped back and viewed those before him fearlessly.
"Say, what do yer mean, running into me that way?" demanded Stubby, insolently.
As he spoke he aimed a savage blow at Theodore Roosevelt. But the young assemblyman had not forgotten how to box, and he dodged with an agility that was astonishing.
"This fellow needs to be taught a lesson," Theodore Roosevelt told himself, and then and there he proceeded to administer the lesson in a manner that Stubby never forgot. He went down flat on his back, and when he got up, he went down again, with a bleeding nose and one eye all but closed. Seeing this, several leaped in to his assistance, but it was an ill-fated move, for Roosevelt turned on them also, and down they went, too; and then the encounter came to an end, with Theodore Roosevelt the victor.
"And that wasn't the end of it," said one, who witnessed the affair. "After it was over young Roosevelt was as smiling as ever. He walked straight over to some of his enemies who had been watching the mix-up from a distance and told them very plainly that he knew how the attack had originated, and he was much obliged to them, for he hadn't enjoyed himself so much for a year. Phew! but weren't those fellows mad! And wasn't Stubby mad when he learned that they had set him against one of the best boxers Harvard ever turned out? But after that you can make sure they treated Roosevelt with respect and gave him a wide berth."