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26 June, 2013
Theodore Roosevelt
Chapter XII: Europe and America
by Pearson, Edmund Lester


At Khartoum Mr. Roosevelt and his son were joined by other members of his family. They all crossed to Europe, for he had been invited by the rulers and learned bodies of a number of countries to pay them a visit. He went to Italy, Austria, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Holland, France, Denmark, Belgium and England, receiving the highest compliments from their rulers, honorary degrees from the universities, and a welcome from the people everywhere which had been given with such heartiness to no other American since General Grant traveled round the world after the Civil War.

In Norway he spoke to the Nobel Committee in thanks for the Peace Prize which they had awarded him after the Russo-Japanese War. In Germany, the Kaiser ordered a review of troops for him; and he was received by the University of Berlin. In Paris, he addressed the famous institution of learning, the Sorbonne. The English universities received him, and gave him their honorary degrees. London made him a "freeman." His speeches before the learned men of Europe might not have been extraordinary for a university teacher, but when we think that his life had alternated between the hustle of politics, the career of a ranchman, of a soldier, and of a hunter of big game, it is evident that we shall have to search long and far among our public men before we can find any to match him in the variety of his interests and achievements.

In England, King Edward VII had just died, and Mr. Roosevelt was appointed by President Taft as the American representative at the funeral. There was a gathering in London of thirteen reigning monarchs, and many curious stories are told about the occasion. Of course the Kaiser was there, strutting about and trying to patronize everybody. Mr. Roosevelt had been politely received by the Kaiser and believed, as did every one, that beneath his arrogant manners, there was a great deal of ability. But he did not allow himself to be treated by the "All Highest" with magnificent condescension.

A story is repeated, of which one version is that the Kaiser suddenly called out, at some reception:

"Oh, Colonel Roosevelt, I wish to see you before I leave London, and can give you just thirty minutes, to-morrow afternoon at two."

"That's very good of Your Majesty," replied Mr. Roosevelt, "and I'll be there. But unfortunately I have an engagement, so that I'll only be able to give you twenty minutes."

Another story concerns a little boy,--the Crown Prince of one of the countries where royal folk have simpler and better manners than in Germany. He and his parents and other persons of royal rank were at the palace where Mr. Roosevelt was staying. As any man would know, boys are interested in much the same things whether they are princes or not, and this one was greatly taken by Mr. Roosevelt's stories of hunting, and by being taught some of the games which the American father and his boys had played in the White House, not many years before. So it happened that as a group of the visitors, including two or three kings and queens, stepped out of one of the rooms of the palace into a corridor one evening, they were astonished to see a gentleman down on his hands and knees on a rug, playing "bear" with a little boy. The gentleman was the Ex-President of the United States, and the boy was the future King of one of the countries of Europe.

Roosevelt's return to New York was the signal for a tremendous reception. New York outdid itself in salutes, parades, and wildly cheering crowds. Nothing like it had been seen before. Even after the excitement of the first day of his return, he could not go out without being surrounded by cheering crowds. He knew that it could not last, and said to his sister: "Soon they will be throwing rotten apples at me."

He was right. A period was about to begin when he was to be defeated in every campaign in which he engaged. All the enemies he had made in his long fight for better government--and they were many and bitter enemies--were to join hands with all the people who opposed him just because they disliked him. He was to part company from some of his nearest friends, and persistently to be reviled, misunderstood and attacked. Yet he was to rally around him a body of devoted friends, and make these the greatest years of his life.

It is partly comic and partly sad, to look back and consider the things for which Roosevelt had fought in his public life, and to recall that a fight had to be made for things like these; that the man advocating them had to stand unlimited abuse. He had been abused for trying to stop the sale of liquor to children, and opposed in his efforts to prevent the making of cigars in filthy bed-rooms. He had been violently attacked for enforcing the liquor laws of New York. Lawyers and public men had grown red with anger as they denounced him as a tyrant, and an enemy to the Constitution, because he wished to stop a dishonest system of rebates by the railroads. A man looks back and wonders if he were living among sane people, or in a mad-house, when he recalls that Roosevelt was viciously attacked because he proposed that the meat-packers of this country should not be allowed to sell to their countrymen rotten and diseased products which foreign countries refused even to admit. Sneers greeted his attempts to prevent poisons being sold as medicine, and laudanum being peddled to little children as soothing-syrup. His fight to prevent greedy folk from destroying the forests, wasting the minerals, and spoiling the water supplies of America had to be made in the face of every sort of legal trickery and the meanest of personal abuse.

The Republican Party had been founded during one of the greatest efforts for human freedom ever made in our history. In its long years in power, and in the amazing increase in prosperity and wealth in America, if had become the defender of wealth. Many of its highest and most powerful men could see no farther than the cash drawer. Human rights and wrongs, human suffering, or any attempt to prevent such sufferings, simply did not interest them. They were not cruel men personally, but they had heard repeated for so many years that this or the other thing could not be done "because it would hurt business," that they had come to worship "business" as a savage bows his head before an idol. Many of them could give money for an orphan asylum or a children's hospital, and yet on the same day, vote to kill a bill aimed to prevent child-labor. To pass such a bill as that would "hurt business."

The Democratic Party was no better. It was simply weaker, and usually less intelligent. Wherever it was powerful, it, too, was apt to be the servant of corruption. The politicians of both parties loved to keep up a continual fight about the tariff, to distract public attention from other important subjects.

There had been disagreements in the Republican Party for a number of years. These had gone on during the Roosevelt administration. In the main, these struggles can be described by saying that President Roosevelt and those who agreed with him were looking out for the advantage of the many, and for the welfare and health of great masses of the people. His opponents were more interested to see that nothing checked the activities of great corporations, railroads, and manufacturing interests. They sincerely believed that this was the first concern of all true patriots. Roosevelt wished every man to have a square deal, an equal chance, so far as possible, to earn as good a living as he could. His opponents thought that if the great business interests could only go on, as they liked, without being annoyed by the government, they would be able to give employment to almost everybody, and to all the unfortunates, who were crushed in the struggle, they would give charity.

Between these two groups there was a ceaseless fight all the years Roosevelt was in the White House. He had been strongly approved at the polls; many of the measures he advocated had been made laws by Congress. So he thought, and the larger part of the Republican Party thought, when Mr. Taft became President, that the measures which they had approved were going to be advanced still further.

It soon appeared that they were in for a disappointment. Mr. Taft proved friendly to the older politicians; the younger and progressive men were not in favor. He made his associates, and chose as his advisers, the men who called Mr. Roosevelt "rash," "a socialist," "an anarchist." Many of the men who surrounded President Taft were honest and patriotic. But there were also a number of stick-in-the-mud statesmen,--old gentlemen who had been saying the same thing, thinking the same things, doing the same things, for forty years. To change, to be up with the times, to progress, to alter methods to meet new conditions, struck them as simply indecent. Their idea of a happy national life was great "prosperity" for a fortunate few, a lesser degree of success for some others who could cling to the chariot wheels of the rich, and,--charity for the rest. That was always their answer to the old, hard problem of wealth and poverty. Like quack doctors they would try to cure the symptoms, rather than like wise physicians seek to find the causes. They were like the Tories in our Revolution who were for King George against George Washington, because King George was the legal King of the American colonies, or like the Northern pro-slavery men, who defended slavery because it was permitted by the Constitution and the slaves were legal "property." The Constitution was, for them, an instrument to be used to block all change, whether good or bad.

Other men, near to President Taft, were neither patriotic nor innocent. They were shrewd, powerful Bosses,--men of the type of Platt. Only, Mr. Taft did not stand on the alert with them, as Roosevelt had done as Governor, working with them when he could, and fighting them when they went wrong. He allowed them to influence his administration, and, at last, accepted a nomination engineered by them for their own selfish purposes.

The Republicans who followed President Taft, the "stand-patters," believed in property rights first, and human rights second. If any of them did not actually believe this, they joined people who did thoroughly believe it, and so their action counted toward putting that belief into practice. The others, the "Insurgents" or Progressive Republicans, (later called the Bull Moose) believed in human rights first. That is as near as the thing can be stated, remembering that it was a disputed point, with good men on both sides. The stand-patters said the Progressives were cranks,-- visionary and impractical; the Progressives replied that it was better to be both of these things than to be quite so near to the earth and selfish as Mr. Taft's followers or managers. The events of later years have not borne out the contention that Roosevelt was "rash" and "dangerous"; while the charge that Mr. Taft made a President more pleasing to the Bosses than to the people was amply proved, in the campaign of 1912.

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