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.
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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.
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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. 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.
He seems a fellow who wants his own way. 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.
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. 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.
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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.
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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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.
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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. The career of an assemblyman is not generally an interesting one, but Mr. Roosevelt managed to extract not a little pleasure and also some profit from it. The experience was just what he needed to fit himself for the larger positions he was, later on, to occupy. One happening is of peculiar interest to note.
While Theodore Roosevelt was a member of the Assembly, Grover Cleveland became governor of the state. Cleveland was a Democrat, while Mr. Roosevelt was a Republican, yet the two future Presidents of the United States became warm friends,—a friendship that has endured to the present day.
It is said that the friendship started in rather a peculiar manner. There was at the time a measure before the Assembly to reduce the fare of the elevated roads in New York City from ten cents to five cents.
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After a great deal of talking, the bill passed the Assembly and then the Senate, and went to the governor for his signature. Much to the surprise of the general public Governor Cleveland vetoed the bill, stating that when the capitalists had built the elevated roads they had understood that the fare was to be ten cents, and that it was not right to deprive them of their profits. At once those who wanted the measure to become a law decided to pass it over the governor's head. When this attempt was made, Theodore Roosevelt got up boldly and said he could not again vote for the bill—that he was satisfied that Governor Cleveland's view of the matter was correct.
It was not in itself right that the fare should be ten cents, and it has long since been reduced to five cents, but it shows that Theodore Roosevelt was bound to do what was right and just, according to the dictates of his own conscience, and this won for him many friends, even among those who had opposed him politically.
In a work of this kind, intended mainly for the use of young people, it is not necessary to do more than glance at the work which Theodore Roosevelt accomplished while a member of the New York Assembly. He made a close study of the various political offices of New York County and discovered that many office-holders were drawing large sums of money in the shape of fees for which they were doing hardly any work.
This he considered unfair, and by dint of hard labor helped to pass a law placing such offices on the salary list, making a saving to the county of probably half a million dollars a year. One of the best things done by Theodore Roosevelt at that time was the support given by him to a civil service law for the state. Up to that time office-holding was largely in the hands of the party which happened to be in power.
This system has since been extended to other states and also to office-holding under the national government. Another important measure pushed through the Assembly by Theodore Roosevelt was what was known as the Edson Charter for New York City, giving to the mayor certain rights which in the past had rested in the board of aldermen.
This measure was defeated during Roosevelt's second term of office, but in he pressed it with such force that it overcame all opposition and became a law.
Many have considered this victory his very best work. By those who knew him at this time he is described as having almost a boyish figure, frank face, clear, penetrating eyes, and a smile of good-natured friendship and dry humor. When he talked it was with an earnestness that could not be mistaken.barnahasginet.gq
By those who were especially bitter against him he was sometimes called a dude and a silk stocking, but to these insinuations he paid no attention, and after the encounter at the Delavan House his opponents were decidedly more careful as to how they addressed him. He would stand a good deal, but there were some things he wouldn't take, and they knew it.
One thing is certain, after he was in the Assembly for a few months everybody knew perfectly that to come to him with any bill that was the least bit shady was a waste of time and effort. Roosevelt wouldn't stand for it a minute. In those days Theodore Roosevelt did not give up his habits of athletic exercise, and nearly every day he could be seen taking long walks in the country around Albany.
In the meantime his "Naval War of " was well under way, but he could spare only a few hours occasionally to complete his manuscript. His married life had thus far been a happy one, and its joy was greatly increased by the birth of his daughter Alice. As will be seen later, Mr.
Roosevelt is what is called a family man, and he took great comfort in this new addition to his little household. But his happiness was short-lived, for in , when the daughter was but a baby, the beloved wife died, and the little one had to be given over to the care of the grandparents in Boston. Not many months later Mr. Roosevelt's mother died also, heaping additional sorrow upon his head. With the conclusion of his third term in the Assembly Theodore Roosevelt's work as a member of that body came to an end.
If he had made some enemies, he had made more friends, and he was known as an ardent supporter of reform in all branches of politics. In recognition of his ability he was chosen as a delegate-at-large to the Republican convention brought together to nominate a candidate to succeed President Arthur. At that time James G. Blaine from Maine had served many years in the United States Senate, and it was thought that he would surely be both nominated and elected. But many were opposed to Blaine, thinking he would not support such reform measures as they wished to see advanced, and among this number was Theodore Roosevelt.
Edmunds," said the young delegate-at-large, and did his best for the gentleman in question. The convention met at Exposition Hall in Chicago, and Mr. Roosevelt was placed on the Committee on Resolutions. It was a stormy convention, and ballot after ballot had to be taken before a nomination could be secured.