Previous Index Next


330   My Brother Theodore Roosevelt

Mr. Balfour, M. Viviani, and General Joffre were receiving the acclamation and the plaudits of the American people. At several of the great ovations given to them, Theodore Roosevelt was also on the platform, and it was frequently brought to my notice by others that the tribute to him when he entered or left the assemblage was equal in its enthusiasm to that for the distinguished guests. On the afternoon to which I have referred, the French ambassador came for a quiet cup of tea with me and my brother, and to his old friend and his sister the Colonel was willing to unbosom his heart. He spoke poignantly of his desire to lead his division into France. Over and over again he repeated: "The President need not fear me politically. No one need fear me politically. If I am allowed to go, I could not last; I am too old to last long under such circumstances. I should crack [he repeated frequently: "I should crack"] but [with a vivid gleam of his white teeth] I could arouse the belief that America was coming. I could show the Allies what was on the way, and then if I did crack, the President could use me to come back and arouse more enthusiasm here and take some more men over. That is what I am good for now, and what difference would it make if I cracked or not!"

The amendment was passed that made it possible for volunteers to go to France, but the beloved wish of his heart was denied by those in authority to that most eager of volunteers, Colonel Theodore Roosevelt.

In July my brother wrote an open letter of farewell, disbanding the division for which there had been tentatively so many volunteers. After a correspondence with the: secretary of war, a correspondence which Theodore Roosevelt himself has given to the world, the definite decision was made that he would not be allowed to "give his body for his soul's desire," and shortly after that decision I sent him the following poem, which had been shown to me by one of his devoted admirers, the poet Marion Couthouy Smith. It ran as follows.

FAREWELLS "In old Fraunces Tavern, Once I was told

Of Washington's farewell to his generals, Generals crowned with victory, And tears filled my eyes.

"But when I read

Roosevelt's letter disbanding his volunteers,

Volunteers despised and rejected,

Tears filled my heart!"

In acknowledging the poem on July 3, 1917, from Sagamore Hill, my brother writes:

"I loved your letter; and as for the little poem, I prize it more than anything that has been written about me; I shall keep it as the epitaph of the division and of me. We have just heard that Ted and Archie have landed in France. Lord Northcliffe wired me this morning that Lord Derby offered Kermit a position on the staff of the British army in Mesopotamia. [After hard fighting in Mesopotamia, Kermit was later transferred to the American forces in France.] I do not know when he will sail. Quentin has passed his examinations for the flying corps. He hopes to sail this month. Dick [Richard Derby, his sonin-law] is so anxious to go down to Camp Oglethorpe that Ethel is almost as anxious to have him go. Eleanor [young Theodore's wife] sails for France on Saturday to do Y. M. C. A. work. I remain, as a slacker `malgre lui !' Give my love to Corinne and Joe and Helen and Teddy. I am immensely pleased about Dorothy's baby. [Dorothy, my son Monroe's wife.] Edith asked Fanny to come out on Friday with our delightful friend, Beebe the naturalist. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Beebe is a great friend of mine."

The "slacker malgre lui" accepted the gravest disappointment of his life as he did any other disappointment-eyes for-





Previous Index Next