Previous Index Next


120   My Brother Theodore Roosevelt

neither then nor later always in accord with the ideals and meth ods of Theodore Roosevelt!), invited the young assemblyman to make an address before its members. He accepted the invitation, feeling, as he always did, that it was well to give the type of message that he wished to give to the type of citizens of which that club was composed. Following my invariable custom whenever it was possible for me to do so, I accompanied him to the meeting. The method of procedure in "The 19th Century Club" was as follows: The speaker of the evening was allowed to choose his own subject, announced, of course, several weeks in advance, and he was given a half-hour in which to develop his idea. A second speaker was invited to rebut the first speaker. The speaker of the evening was then allowed ten minutes to rebut the rebutter. It is, I think, of special interest to remember that the young assemblyman, twenty-three years of age, chose for his subject the same theme on which the man of sixty, who was about to die, wrote his last message to his countrymen.

Theodore Roosevelt announced that he would speak to "The 19th Century Club" on "Americanism." A brilliant editor of an able newspaper was asked to make the speech in answer to the address of "the Young Reformer." As I say, I went with my brother to the meeting and sat directly under him in a front seat. It was the first time I had ever heard him speak in public and I confess to having been extremely nervous. He was never an orator, although later his speeches were delivered with great charm of manner and diction, but at this early stage of his career he had not the graces of an older and more finished speaker. I can see him now as he came forward on the platform and began with eager ardor his plea for Americanism. Every fibre of my being responded to him and to his theme, but I seemed to be alone in my response, for the somewhat chilly audience, full of that same armchair criticism of which I have spoken, gave but little response to the desire of the heart of Theodore Roosevelt, and when he had finished his half-hour's presentation of his plea, there was very little applause, and he sat down looking

The Young Reformer   121

somewhat nervous and disappointed. Then the brilliant man,

twice the age of Theodore Roosevelt, who had been chosen to reply to him, rose, and with deft oratorical manipulation rang the changes on every "ism" he could think of, using as his fundamental argument the fact that all "isms" were fads. He spoke of the superstition of spiritualism, the extravagance of fanaticism, the hypocrisy of hypnotism, the plausibility of socialism-and the highbrow members of "The 19th Century Club" were with the brilliant orator from start to finish, and as he closed his subtile argument, which left Americanism high and dry on the shores of faddism, the audience felt that "the Young Reformer" had had his lesson, and gave genuine applause to his opponent.

Half-way through that opponent's address, I confess, on my own part, to having experienced a great feeling of discouragement; not because I agreed with what he said, but because of the effect produced upon the listeners; but suddenly I saw my brother smile the same smile which used to cross his face in later years when some heckler would try to embarrass him from the back of a great hall, and he took a pencil and wrote something on his cuff. The smile was transitory but it gave me fresh hope, and I knew quite well that the audience would hear something worth while, if not to their liking, in the last ten minutes of the evening, when, as I said before, the speaker of the evening was allowed to rebut the rebutter. The clever editor sat down amidst interested applause, and "the Young Reformer" stepped once more forward to the edge of the platform. He leaned far over from the platform, so earnest, so eager was he, and this is what he said: "I believe that I am allowed ten minutes in which to refute the arguments of my opponent. I do not need ten minutes-I do not need five minutes-I hardly need one minute-I shall ask you one question, and as you answer that question, you will decide who has won this argument-myself or the gentleman on the other side of this platform. My question is as follows: If it is true that all isms are fads, I would ask you, Fellow

Previous Index Next