페이지 이미지

the big battles in which we beat the slum. I am not going to rehearse them, for I am trying to tell my own story, and now I am soon done with it. I carried a gun as a volunteer in that war, and that was all; not even in the ranks at that. I was ever an irregular, given to sniping on my own hook. Roosevelt, indeed, wanted me to have a seat among Mayor Strong's official advisers; but we had it out over that when he told me of it, and the compact we made that he should never ask that service of me he has kept. So he spared the Mayor much embarrassment; for, as I said, I am not good in the ranks, more is the pity; and me he saved for such use as I could be of, which was well. For shortly it all centered in Mulberry Street, where he was.

We were not strangers. It could not have been long after I wrote "How the Other Half Lives" that he came to the "Evening Sun " office one day looking for me. I was out, and he left his card, merely writing on the back of it that he had read my book and had "come to help." That was all, and it tells the whole story of the man. I loved him from the day I first saw him; nor ever in all the years that have passed has he failed of the promise made then. No one ever helped as he did. For two years we were brothers in Mulberry Street. When he left I had seen its golden age. I knew too well the evil day that was coming back to have any heart in it after that.

Not that we were carried heavenward "on flowery beds of ease" while it lasted. There is very little ease where Theodore Roosevelt leads, as we all of us found out. The lawbreaker found it out who predicted scornfully that he would "knuckle down to politics the way they all did," and lived to respect him, though he swore at him, as the one of them all who was stronger than pull. The peace-loving citizen who hastened to Police Headquarters with anxious entreaties to " use discretion" in the enforcement of unpopular laws found it out and went away with a new and breathless notion welling up in him of an official's sworn duty. That was it; that was what made the age golden, that for the first time a moral purpose came into the street. In the light of it everything was transformed.

Not all at once. It took us weary months to understand that the shouting

about the "enforcement of the dead Excise Law " was lying treachery or rank ignorance, one as bad as the other. The Excise Law was not dead. It was never so much alive as under Tammany, but it was enforced only against those saloon-keepers who needed discipline. It was a Tammany club, used to drive them into camp with; and it was used so vigorously that no less than eight thousand arrests were made under it in the year before Roosevelt made them all close up. Pretty lively corpse, that I But we understood at last, most of us; understood that the tap-root of the police blackmail was there, and that it had to be pulled up if we were ever to get further. We understood that we were the victims of our own shamming, and we grew to be better citizens for it. The police force became an army of heroes— for a season. All the good in it came out; and there is a lot of it in the worst of times. Roosevelt had the true philosopher's stone that turns dross to gold, in his own sturdy faith in his fellow-man. Men became good because he thought them so.

By which I am not to be understood as meaning that he just voted them good—the police, for instance—and sat by waiting to see the wings grow. No, but he helped them sprout. It is long since I have enjoyed anything so much as I did those patrol trips of ours on the "last tour" between midnight and sunrise, which earned for him the name of Haroun al Roosevelt. I had at last found one who was willing to get up when other people slept, including, too often, the police, and see what the town looked like then. He was more than willing. I laid out the route, covering ten or a dozen patrolposts, and we met at 2 A.m. on the steps of the Union League (Hub. objects of suspicion on the part of two or three attendants and a watchman who shadowed us as night-prowlers till we were out of their bailiwick. I shall never forget that first morning when we traveled for three hours along First and Second and Third Avenues, from Forty-second Street to Bellevue, and found of ten patrolmen just one doing his work faithfully. Two or three were chatting on saloon comers, and guyed the President of the Board when he asked them if that was what they were there for. One was sitting asleep on a

[graphic][merged small]
[graphic][merged small]

butter-tub in the middle of the sidewalk, snoring so that you could hear him across the street, and was inclined to be " sassy" when aroused and told to go about his duty. Mr. Roosevelt was a most energetic roundsman, and a fair one to boot. It was that quality which speedily won him the affection of the force. He hunted high and low before he gave up his man, giving him every chance. We had been over one man's beat three times, searching every7 nook and cranny of it, and were reluctantly compelled to own that he was not there, when the " boss " of an all-night restaurant on Third Avenue came out with a club as we passed and gave the regulation signal raps on the sidewalk. There was some trouble in his place. Three times he repeated the signal calling for the patrolman on the beat before he turned to Roosevelt, who stood by, with the angry exclamation:

"Where in thunder does that copper sleep? He orter'd tole me when he giv' up the barber-shop, so's a feller could find him."

We didn't find him then, but he found the President of the Board later on when summoned to Police Headquarters to explain why he had changed his sleeping quarters. The whole force woke up as a result of that night's work, and it kept awake those two years, for, as it learned by experience, Mr. Roosevelt's spectacles might come gleaming around the corner at any hour. He had not been gone a year

before the Chief found it necessary to transfer half the force in an uptown precinct to keep it awake. The firemen complained that fires at night gained too much headway while the police slept. There was no Roosevelt to wake them up.

Looking after his patrolmen was not the only errand that took him abroad at night. As Police President, Mr. Roosevelt was a member of the Health Board, and sometimes it was the tenements we went inspecting when the tenants slept. He was after facts, and learned speedily to get them as he could. When, as Governor, he wanted to know just how the Factory Law was being executed, he came down from Albany7 and spent a whole day with me personally investigating tenements in which sweating was carried on. I had not found a Governor before, or a Police President either, who would do it; but so he learned exactly what he wanted to know, and what he ought to do, and did it.

I never saw Theodore Roosevelt to better advantage than when he confronted the labor men at their meeting-place. Clarendon Hall. The police were all the time having trouble with strikers and their "pickets." Roosevelt saw that it was because neither party understood fully the position of the other, and, with his usual directness, sent word to the labor organizations that he would like to talk it over with them. At his request I went with him to the meeting. It developed almost immediately that the labor men had taken a wrong measure of tile man. They met him as a politician playing for points, and hinted at trouble unless their demands were met. Mr. Roosevelt broke them off short:

"Gentlemen!" he said, with that snap of the jaws that always made people listen, "I asked to meet you, hoping that we might come to understand one another. Remember, please, before we go further, that the worst injury any one of you can do to the cause of labor is to counsel violence. It will also be worse for himself. Understand distinctly that order will be kept. The police will keep it. Now we can proceed."

I was never so proud and pleased as when they applauded him to the echo. He reddened with pleasure, for he saw that the best in them had come out on top, as he expected it would.

It was of this incident that a handle was first made by Mr. Roosevelt's enemies in and out of the Police Board —and he had many—to attack him. It happened that there was a music hall in the building in which the labor men met. The jellow newspapers circulated the lie that he went there on purpose to see the show, and the ridiculous story was repeated until actually the liars persuaded themselves that it was so. They would not have been able to understand the kind of man they had to do with, had they tried. Accordingly they fell into their own trap. It is a tradition of Mulberry Street that the notorious Seeley dinner raid was planned by his enemies in the department of which he was the head, in the belief that they would catch Mr.

Roosevelt there. The diners were supposed to be his " set."

Some time after that I was in his office one day when a police official of superior rank came in and requested private audience with him. They stepped aside and


GOTHAM COCKT Destroyed as a hopeless slum.

the policeman spoke in an undertone, urging something strongly. Mr. Roosevelt listened. Suddenly I saw him straighten up as a man recoils from something unclean and dismiss the other with a sharp: "No, sir! I don't fight that way." The policeman went out crestfallen. Roosevelt took two or three turns about the floor, struggling evidently with strong disgust. He told me afterward that the man had come to him with what he said was certain knowledge that his enemy could that night be found in a known evil house uptown, which it was his alleged habit to visit. His proposition was to raid it then and so "get square." To the policeman it must have seemed like throwing a good chance away. But it was not Roosevelt's way; he struck no blow below the belt. In the Governor's chair afterward he gave the politicians whom he fought, and who fought him, the same terms. They tried their best to upset him, for they had nothing to expect from him. But they knew and owned that he fought fair. Their backs were secure. He never tricked them to gain an advantage. A promise given by him was always kept to the letter.

Failing to trap him only added to the malignity of his enemies. Mr. Roosevelt was warned that he was " shadowed " night and day. but he laughed their scheming to scorn. It is an article of faith with him that an honest man has nothing to fear from plotters, and he walked unharmed among their snares. The whole country remembers the year-long fight in the Police Board and Mayor Strong's vain attempt to remove the obstructionist who, under an ill-conceived law, was able to hold up the scheme of reform. Most of the time I was compelled to stand idly by, unable to help. Once I eased my feelings by telling Commissioner Parker in his own office what I thought of him. I went in and shut the door, and then told it all to him. Nor did I mince matters: I might not get so good a chance again. Mr. Parker sat quite still, poking the fire. When I ceased at last, angry and exasperated, he looked up and said calmly:

"Well, Mr. Rtis, what you tell me has at least the merit of frankness."

You see how it was. I should never have been able to help in the Board. Out of it, my chance came at last when it was deemed necessary to give the adversary "a character." Mr. Roosevelt had

been speaking to the Methodist ministers, and as usual had carried all before him. The community was getting up a temper that would shortly put an end to the deadlock in the Police Board and set the wheels of reform moving again. Then one day we heard that Commissioner Parker had been invited by the Christian Endeavorers of an uptown church to address them on "Christian Citizenship." That was not consecrated common sense. I went to the convention of Endeavorers the next week and told them so. And I made them send a despatch to Governor Black then and there indorsing Roosevelt and Mayor Strong, and urging him to end the deadlock that made public scandal by removing Commissioner Parker. I regret to say that I felt compelled to take a like course with the Methodist ministers, for so I grieved a most good-natured gentleman, Colonel Grant, who was Mr. Parker's ally in the Board. Grant was what was described as "a great Methodist." But I feel sure that Brother Simmons would have approved of me. 1 was following the course he laid down. The one loyal friend Mr. Roosevelt had in the Board was Avery I). Andrews, a strong, sensible, and clean young man, who stood by his chief to the last, and left with him a good mark on the force.

The yellow newspapers fomented most industriously the trouble in the Board, never failing to take the wrong side of any question. One of them set about doling out free soup that winter, when work was slack, as a means, of course, of advertising its own "charity." Of all forms of indiscriminate almsgiving, that is the most offensive and most worthless, and they knew it, or they would not have sent me a wheedling invitation to come and inspect their "relief work," offering to have a carriage take me around. I sent word back that I should certainly look into the soup, but that I should go on foot to it. Roosevelt and I made the inspection together. We questioned the tramps in line, and learned from their own lips that they had come from out of town to take it easy in a city where a man did not have to work to live. We followed the pails that were carried away from the " relief station " by children, their contents sometimes to figure afterwards as "free lunch " in the saloon where they had

« 이전계속 »