122 My Brother Theodore Roosevelt
Citizens, what about Patriotism? " The audience rose to its feet; even "The 19th Century Club" could not but acknowledge that patriotism was a valuable attribute for American citizens to possess. That was the first time that Theodore Roosevelt, in public, asked of his fellow countrymen, "What about Patriotism?" but all his life long, from that time on, it was the question forever on his lips, the question which his own life most adequately answered.
In April of that same year, Theodore, an assemblyman not yet twenty-four, had already made himself so conspicuous a figure that mention of him and his attitudes was constantly in the New York press. In an envelope, put away long ago, I find an excerpt from the New York Times, April 5, 1882. It is yellow with age and brittle, but there was something ineffaceable and prophetic in the faded words; I quote:
"He called from the table his resolution directing an investigation by the Standing Judiciary Committee of the acts of Judge Westbrook and Ex-Attorney General Ward in connection with the gigantic stock jobbing scheme of the Manhattan Railroad Co. (Elevated). Ex-Governor Alvord tried to prevent resolution, but it was carried 48-22. As Mr. Roosevelt rose to speak, the House, for almost the only time during the Session, grew silent and listened to every word that he uttered."
In the midst of a body of men somewhat inclined to a certain kind of careless irreverence, it is of marked interest that "as Mr. Roosevelt rose to speak, the House, for almost the only time during the Session, grew silent and listened to every word that he uttered." To how few young men of twenty-three would "the House" accord such respect ! As I say, the attitude was prophetic, for the following forty years, no matter how fiercely he was criticised, no matter what fury of invective was launched against him, no matter how jealously and vindictively he was occasionally opposed, there was never a place where Theodore Roosevelt rose to speak that he was not listened to with great attention.