Chapter 20 - American Boy's Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Edward Stratemeyer

Great Reception to Admiral Dewey—Governor Roosevelt's Increased Popularity—Last Annual Message as Governor—Visit to Chicago—Remarkable Speech on the Strenuous Life

Although the war with Spain was over, the people of the United States had not forgotten the wonderful work accomplished by Admiral Dewey and his men at Manila, and when the dauntless naval fighter returned to this country, people everywhere arose to do him honor.

"He well deserves it," said Governor Roosevelt. And he appointed September 29 and 30, 1899, as public holidays, to be observed throughout the entire State as days of general thanksgiving. These days were commonly called "Dewey Days."

The reception to the Admiral and to the other naval heroes was to take place in New York and vicinity, and for many days the citizens were busy decorating their homes and places of business with flags and bunting and pictures, and immense signs of "Welcome," some in letters several feet long. At the junction of Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and Twenty-Third Street, an immense triumphal arch was erected, and reviewing stands stretched along the line of parade for many miles.

On the day before the grand reception, Governor Roosevelt, with some members of his staff, called upon Admiral Dewey on board of the Olympia, and offered the State's greeting. A pleasant time was had by all, and the governor assured the sea hero that the people of New York and vicinity were more than anxious to do him honor.

It had been arranged that a naval parade should be held on the first day of the reception, and a land parade on the day following. The course of the naval parade was up the Hudson River past Grant's Tomb, and the grand procession on the water included the Olympia, the Admiral's flag-ship, and the New York, Indiana, Massachusetts, Texas, Brooklyn, and a large number of other war-ships of lesser importance, besides an immense number of private steam-yachts and other craft.

The day dawned clear and bright, and the banks of the Hudson were lined from end to end with people. When the procession of war-ships swept up the stream, loud was the applause, while flags waved everywhere, and whistles blew constantly. When passing Grant's Tomb every war-ship fired a salute, and the mass of sound echoing across the water was positively deafening.

As the Olympia swept up the river, fired her salute, and then came to anchor a short distance below the last resting-place of General Grant, Admiral Dewey stood on the bridge of his flag-ship, a small, trim figure, with a smile and a wave of the hand for everybody. The surging people could see him but indistinctly, yet there was much hand clapping, and throats grew sore with cheering.

But there was another figure in that naval parade, the person of one also dear to the hearts of the people. It was the figure of Theodore Roosevelt, dressed, not as a Rough Rider, but as a civilian, standing at the rail of a steamer used by the New York State officials. When the people saw and recognized that figure, the cheering was as wild as ever.

"It is Roosevelt!" ran from mouth to mouth. "The hero of San Juan Hill!"

"Hurrah for the Rough Riders and their gallant leader!" came from others. And the cheering was renewed.

In the evening there was a grand display of fireworks and illuminated floats. The immense span of the Brooklyn Bridge was a mass of lights, and contained the words "Welcome, Dewey" in lettering which covered several hundred feet. All of the war-ships had their search-lights in operation, and it can truthfully be said that for once the metropolis was as light as day.

But all of this was as nothing compared with the land parade which followed. Never before had the streets of New York been so jammed with people. At many points it was impossible to move, yet the crowds were good-natured and patriotic to the core. The parade started at Grant's Tomb and ended at Washington Square, and was between five and six hours in passing. Admiral Dewey rode in a carriage with Mayor Van Wyck, and received another ovation. At the Triumphal Arch the Admiral reviewed the parade, and here he was accorded additional honors.

In this parade Governor Roosevelt rode on horseback, in civilian dress. As he came down the street, the immense crowds recognized him from afar, and the hand clapping and cheering was tremendous, and lasted long after he was out of sight.

"It's our own Teddy Roosevelt!" cried the more enthusiastic.

"Hurrah for the governor! Hurrah for the colonel of the Rough Riders!"

"Hurrah for the coming President!" said another. And he spoke better than he knew.

This demonstration came straight from the people's heart, and it could not help but affect Theodore Roosevelt. Sitting astride of his dark-colored horse like a veteran, he bowed right and left. Next to Dewey, he was easily the greatest figure in the parade.

On January 3, 1900, Governor Roosevelt sent his last annual message to the State legislature. It was an able document, and as it was now recognized everywhere that he was a truly national figure, it was given careful attention. It treated of the corruption in canal management, of the franchise tax, of taxation in general, and a large portion was devoted to the trusts. At that time the trusts were receiving great attention everywhere, and it was felt that what the governor had to say about them, that they were largely over-capitalized, that they misrepresented the condition of their affairs, that they promoted unfair competition, and that they wielded increased power over the wage-earner, was strictly true.

In Chicago there is a wealthy organization known as the Hamilton Club, and the members were very anxious to have Governor Roosevelt as their guest on Appomattox Day, April 10, 1899. A delegation went to New York to invite the governor, and he accepted the invitation with pleasure.

"The middle West is very dear to me," said he. "It will be a pleasure to meet my many friends there."

Of course he was expected to speak, and said the subject of his address would be "The Strenuous Life,"—certainly a subject close to his own heart, considering the life he himself had led.

When Mr. Roosevelt reached the metropolis of the Great Lakes, he found a large crowd waiting at the railroad station to receive him. The reception committee was on hand, with the necessary coaches, and people were crowded everywhere, anxious to catch a sight of the man who had made himself famous by the advance up San Juan Hill.

But for the moment Governor Roosevelt did not see the reception committee, nor did he see the great mass of people. In a far corner of the platform he caught sight of six men, dressed in the faded and tattered uniform of the Rough Riders. They were not men of wealth or position, but they were men of his old command, and he had not forgotten them.

"Glad to see you, boys, glad to see you!" he shouted, as he elbowed his way toward them. "Come up here and shake hands."

"Glad to see you, Colonel," was the ready answer, and the faces of the men broke into broad smiles. They shook hands readily, and willingly answered all of the questions the governor put to them. He asked how each of them was doing, calling them by their names, and concluded by requesting them to come up to the Auditorium later, "for an all-round chat."

"It was a great meeting," said one who was there. "Before the train came in, those old Rough Riders were nervous and showed it. They knew that Roosevelt had become a great man, and they were just a little afraid he would pass them by. When the meeting was over, they went off as happy as a lot of children, and one of them said, 'Say, fellows, Teddy's just all right yet, ain't he?' And another answered: 'Told you he would be. He's a white man through and through, none whiter anywhere.'"

The banquet was held in the Auditorium Theatre building, and was said to be the largest ever given in Chicago. Many distinguished guests were present, both from the North and the South, and the place was a mass of flowers and brilliantly illuminated, while a fine orchestra discoursed music during the meal. When Theodore Roosevelt arose to speak, there was cheering that lasted fully a quarter of an hour.

The speech made upon this occasion is one not likely to be forgotten. Previous to that time the word "strenuous" had been heard but seldom, but ever since it has stood for something definite, and is much in use. In part Mr. Roosevelt spoke as follows:—

"I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life; the life of toil and effort; of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shirk from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph."

Another paragraph is equally interesting and elevating:—

"We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend; but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life. It is hard to fail; but it is worse never to have tried to succeed."

And to this he adds:—

"As it is with the individual so it is with the nation. It is a base untruth to say that happy is the nation that has no history. Thrice happy is the nation that has a glorious history. Far better is it to dare mighty things to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."