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13 January, 2012
Chapter V: Two Defeats
by Pearson, Edmund Lester
|Although he was still under twenty-five when he left the New York
Assembly, Roosevelt was favorably known throughout the State. He
had been heard of, by those who keep up with politics, all over
the country. In 1884, the year of a Presidential election, he was
one of the four delegates-at-large from New York to the Republican
convention at Chicago. The leader for the Presidential nomination
was James G. Blaine, a brilliant man who had many warm admirers.
Also, there were many in his own party, who distrusted him, who
thought that in the past he had not been strictly honest. Good men
differed on this question and differ still.
Roosevelt favored Senator Edmunds of Vermont, but he had agreed
beforehand, with other young Republican delegates, that they would
support for the election the man named by the convention. Since,
in later years, Roosevelt refused to abide by the decision of a
party convention, and led one of the most extraordinary "bolts" in
the history of American politics, it is important to consider for
a moment the question of political parties and the attitude a man
may take toward them.
Because parties are responsible for a good many small, mean, and
sometimes dishonorable acts, we often hear parties and
partisanship denounced. People express the wish that there might
be an end to "party politics" and to "partisanship," and that "all
good men might get together" for the good of the whole country.
This may happen when there is Heaven on earth, but not before.
Even the good and honest men continue to differ about which is the
wisest way to do things, and so the people who think the same way
about most matters get together in a party. The suggestion, by the
way, that people should give up "partisanship" often comes from
people who do not by any means intend to give up their own
partisanship,--they wish other folk to come over to their own way
of thinking. We are all apt to wish that others would only be
reasonable enough to agree with US.
Nor is it at all sure that everything would be fine if there were
no parties. Countries which have tried to do without parties, have
not made a great success of it. There must be some organized group
to hold responsible if men in office do badly; some people to warn
that the things they are doing are not approved by the majority of
With parties in existence, as they have been for almost all of our
history as a nation, there are in the main, four ways in which a
man may act toward them. He may be a hidebound party man, always
voting the party ticket, and swallowing the party platforms whole.
Such persons often get into the newspapers when they are elderly,
as having voted for every candidate on this or that party ticket
for fifty or sixty or seventy years. It simply means, of course,
that these men are proud of the fact that they let other people do
their thinking for them.
Or, a man may look upon a party as the means through which he may
secure better government. He is proud of its wise and good acts,
and is willing to forgive its mistakes, because he knows that no
large group of men can be perfect. He believes in remaining loyal
to his party as long as possible, but he does not set it above his
country, nor agree to follow it when it goes absolutely wrong, or
falls into the hands of men who hold party welfare above
patriotism. Roosevelt was a party man of this kind
Furthermore, a man may be an Independent, one who will not join
any party for long. Many of these are highly honorable and wise
citizens, who are of great value to the country, although they can
usually be nothing but helpers in any good cause. Their position
nearly always prevents their becoming the chief actors in bringing
about any good and desirable reform.
The fourth class in which a man may find himself in regard to
parties, is that of the so-called independent, who mistakes his
own fussiness for nobility of character. He can find fault with
everybody and every party, but he can be loyal to none. He is
strong on leaving a party for the smallest excuse; never on
staying with it. It is as if a member of a football team, half an
hour before the game, should refuse to play, because some other
member of the team had once cheated in an examination. He
satisfies his own conscience, but he fails in the loyalty he owes
to the team and its friends.
At the convention in 1884 Roosevelt took an important part for so
young a man. He made speeches and worked for Senator Edmunds, but
Mr. Blaine was nominated. This caused a split in the party, and
many of its members joined the Democrats. They were called by
their opponents "Mugwumps," and since they believed they were
acting for the best, they did not mind being called that or any
So many prominent and able Republicans joined the Mugwumps it is
sometimes forgotten that many more equally good and wise
Republicans refused to "bolt," but stayed with the party and voted
for Mr. Blaine. Either they did not at all believe the charges
which had been made against him--and it is as impossible now as it
was then to prove the charges--or else they thought that the
country would be far worse off with the Democratic party in power
than with the Republicans successful.
Mr. Roosevelt was disgusted with the result of the convention, but
did not believe that he was justified in leaving the party. He
therefore stayed in it, and supported Mr. Blaine.
The Democrats nominated the courageous Governor of New York,
Grover Cleveland. Both before and after this, he and Mr. Roosevelt
worked together for measures of good government, and respected
each other, while belonging to different parties. The presidential
election turned out to be close, and in the end several incidents
besides the split in the Republican party worked against Blaine.
He was narrowly defeated. The change of a few hundred votes in the
State of New York would have made Blaine the President. As in
later years large election frauds were discovered to have been
going on in New York, some people contend with good show of
reason, that Blaine and not Cleveland was really the choice of the
Two years after this, in 1886, when Roosevelt was on his Dakota
ranch, the Republicans nominated him for Mayor of New York City.
He was about twenty-eight years old, and it is evident that he had
made a mark in politics. He came East, accepted the nomination,
and made the campaign.
The opponents were, first, Abram S. Hewitt, a respectable
candidate nominated by Tammany Hall in its customary fashion of
offering a good man, now and then, to pull the wool over the eyes
of persons who naturally need some excuse for voting to put New
York into the hands of the political organization whose existence
has always been one of America's greatest disgraces.
The other candidate was Henry George, a man of high character,
nominated by the United Labor Party. Mr. Hewitt was elected, with
Mr. George second and Mr. Roosevelt third.
About a month after the election, Mr. Roosevelt went to England,
where he married Miss Edith Kermit Carow, of New York. She had
been his friend and playmate when he was a boy, and was his
sister's friend. The groomsman was a young Englishman, Mr. Cecil
Spring-Rice. Years later the groom and his "best man" came
together again in Washington, when the American was President
Roosevelt, and the Englishman was Sir Cecil Spring-Rice, the
British Ambassador to the United States.