Theodore Roosevelt (18581919). An Autobiography. 1913.
VI THE NEW YORK POLICE
IN the spring of 1895 I was appointed by Mayor Strong Police Commissioner, and I served as President of the Police Commission of New York for the two following years. Mayor Strong had been elected Mayor the preceding fall, when the general anti-Democratic wave of that year coincided with one of the city's occasional insurrections of virtue and consequent turning out of Tammany from municipal control. He had been elected on a non-partisan ticketusually (although not always) the right kind of ticket in municipal affairs, provided it represents not a bargain among factions but genuine non-partisanship with the genuine purpose to get the right men in control of the city government on a platform which deals with the needs of the average men and women, the men and women who work hard and who too often live hard. I was appointed with the distinct understanding that I was to administer the Police Department with entire disregard of partisan politics, and only from the standpoint of a good citizen interested in promoting the welfare of all good citizens. My task, therefore, was really simple. Mayor Strong had already offered me the Street-Cleaning Department. For this work I did not feel that I had any especial fitness. I resolutely refused to accept the position, and the Mayor ultimately got a far better man for his purpose in Colonel George F. Waring. The work of the Police Department, however, was in my line, and I was glad to undertake it.
The man who was closest to me throughout my two years in the Police Department was Jacob Riis. By this time, as I have said, I was getting our social, industrial, and political needs into pretty fair perspective. I was still ignorant of the extent to which big men of great wealth played a mischievous part in our industrial and social life, but I was well awake to the need of making ours in good faith both an economic and an industrial as well as a political democracy. I already knew Jake Riis, because his book "How the Other Half Lives" had been to me both an enlightenment and an inspiration for which I felt I could never be too grateful. Soon after it was written I had called at his office to tell him how deeply impressed I was by the book, and that I wished to help him in any practical way to try to make things a little better. I have always had a horror of words that are not translated into deeds, of speech that does not result in actionin other words, I believe in realizable ideals and in realizing them, in preaching what can be practiced and then in practicing it. Jacob Riis had drawn an indictment of the things that were wrong, pitifully and dreadfully wrong, with the tenement homes and the tenement lives of our wage-workers. In his book he had pointed out how the city government, and especially those connected with the departments of police and health, could aid in remedying some of the wrongs.
As President of the Police Board I was also a member of the Health Board. In both positions I felt that with Jacob Riis's guidance I would be able to put a goodly number of his principles into actual effect. He and I looked at life and its problems from substantially the same standpoint. Our ideals and principles and purposes, and our beliefs as to the methods necessary to realize them, were alike. After the election in 1894 I had written him a letter which ran in part as follows:
It is very important to the city to have a business man's Mayor, but it is more important to have a workingman's Mayor; and I want Mr. Strong to be that also.... It is an excellent thing to have rapid transit, but it is a good deal more important, if you look at matters with a proper perspective, to have ample playgrounds in the poorer quarters of the city, and to take the children off the streets so as to prevent them growing up toughs. In the same way it is an admirable thing to have clean streets; indeed, it is an essential thing to have them; but it would be a better thing to have our schools large enough to give ample accommodation to all who should be pupils and to provide them with proper playgrounds.
And I added, while expressing my regret that I had not been able to accept the street-cleaning commissionership, that "I would have been delighted to smash up the corrupt contractors and put the street-cleaning force absolutely out of the domain of politics."
This was nineteen years ago, but it makes a pretty good platform in municipal politics even to-daysmash corruption, take the municipal service out of the domain of politics, insist upon having a Mayor who shall be a workingman's Mayor even more than a business man's Mayor, and devote all attention possible to the welfare of the children.
Therefore, as I viewed it, there were two sides to the work: first, the actual handling of the Police Department; second, using my position to help in making the city a better place in which to live and work for those to whom the conditions of life and labor were hardest. The two problems were closely connected; for one thing never to be forgotten in striving to better the conditions of the New York police force is the connection between the standard of morals and behavior in that force and the general standard of morals and behavior in the city at large. The form of government of the Police Department at that time was such as to make it a matter of extreme difficulty to get good results. It represented that device of old-school American political thought, the desire to establish checks and balances so elaborate that no man shall have power enough to do anything very bad. In practice this always means that no man has power enough to do anything good, and that what is bad is done anyhow.
In most positions the "division of powers" theory works unmitigated mischief. The only way to get good service is to give somebody power to render it, facing the fact that power which will enable a man to do a job well will also necessarily enable him to do it ill if he is the wrong kind of man. What is normally needed is the concentration in the hands of one man, or of a very small body of men, of ample power to enable him or them to do the work that is necessary; and then the devising of means to hold these men fully responsible for the exercise of that power by the people. This of course means that, if the people are willing to see power misused, it will be misused. But it also means that if, as we hold, the people are fit for self-governmentif, in other words, our talk and our institutions are not shamswe will get good government. I do not contend that my theory will automatically bring good government. I do contend that it will enable us to get as good government as we deserve, and that the other way will not.
The then government of the Police Department was so devised as to render it most difficult to accomplish anything good, while the field for intrigue and conspiracy was limitless. There were four Commissioners, two supposed to belong to one party and two to the other, although, as a matter of fact, they never divided on party lines. There was a Chief, appointed by the Commissioners, but whom they could not remove without a regular trial subject to review by the courts of law. This Chief and any one Commissioner had power to hold up most of the acts of the other three Commissioners. It was made easy for the four Commissioners to come to a deadlock among themselves; and if this danger was avoided, it was easy for one Commissioner, by intriguing with the Chief, to bring the other three to a standstill. The Commissioners were appointed by the Mayor, but he could not remove them without the assent of the Governor, who was usually politically opposed to him. In the same way the Commissioners could appoint the patrolmen, but they could not remove them, save after a trial which went up for review to the courts.
As was inevitable under our system of law procedure, this meant that the action of the court was apt to be determined by legal technicalities. It was possible to dismiss a man from the service for quite insufficient reasons, and to provide against the reversal of the sentence, if the technicalities of procedure were observed. But the worst criminals were apt to be adroit men, against whom it was impossible to get legal evidence which a court could properly consider in a criminal trial (and the mood of the court might be to treat the case as if it were a criminal trial), although it was easy to get evidence which would render it not merely justifiable but necessary for a man to remove them from his private employand surely the public should be as well treated as a private employer. Accordingly, most of the worst men put out were reinstated by the courts; and when the Mayor attempted to remove one of my colleagues who made it his business to try to nullify the work done by the rest of us, the Governor sided with the recalcitrant Commissioner and refused to permit his removal.
Nevertheless, an astounding quantity of work was done in reforming the force. We had a good deal of power, anyhow; we exercised it to the full; and we accomplished some things by assuming the appearance of a power which we did not really possess.
The first fight I made was to keep politics absolutely out of the force; and not only politics, but every kind of improper favoritism. Doubtless in making thousands of appointments and hundreds of promotions there were men who contrived to use influence of which I was ignorant. But these cases must have been few and far between. As far as was humanly possible, the appointments and promotions were made without regard to any question except the fitness of the man and the needs of the service. As Civil Service Commissioner I had been instructing heads of departments and bureaus how to get men appointed without regard to politics, and assuring them that by following our methods they would obtain first-class results. As Police Commissioner I was able practically to apply my own teachings.
The appointments to the police force were made as I have described in the last chapter. We paid not the slightest attention to a man's politics or creed, or where he was born, so long as he was an American citizen; and on an average we obtained far and away the best men that had ever come into the Police Department. It was of course very difficult at first to convince both the politicians and the people that we really meant what we said, and that every one really would have a fair trial. There had been in previous years the most widespread and gross corruption in connection with every activity in the Police Department, and there had been a regular tariff for appointments and promotions. Many powerful politicians and many corrupt outsiders believed that in some way or other it would still be possible to secure appointments by corrupt and improper methods, and many good citizens felt the same conviction. I endeavored to remove the impression from the minds of both sets of people by giving the widest publicity to what we were doing and how we were doing it, by making the whole process open and aboveboard, and by making it evident that we would probe to the bottom every charge of corruption.
For instance, I received visits at one time from a Catholic priest, and at another time from a Methodist clergyman, who had parishioners who wished to enter the police force, but who did not believe they could get in save by the payment of money or through political pressure. The priest was running a temperance lyceum in connection with his church, and he wished to know if there would be a chance for some of the young men who belonged to that lyceum. The Methodist clergyman came from a little patch of old native America which by a recent extension had been taken within the limits of the huge, polyglot, pleasure-loving city. His was a small church, most of the members being shipwrights, mechanics, and sailormen from the local coasters. In each case I assured my visitor that we wanted on the force men of the exact type which he said he could furnish. I also told him that I was as anxious as he was to find out if there was any improper work being done in connection with the examinations, and that I would like him to get four or five of his men to take the examinations without letting me know their names. Then, whether the men failed or succeeded, he and I would take their papers and follow them through every stage so that we could tell at once whether they had been either improperly favored or improperly discriminated against. This was accordingly done, and in each case my visitor turned up a few weeks later, his face wreathed in smiles, to say that his candidates had passed and that everything was evidently all straight. During my two years as President of the Commission I think I appointed a dozen or fifteen members of that little Methodist congregation, and certainly twice that number of men from the temperance lyceum of the Catholic church in question. They were all men of the very type I most wished to see on the forcemen of strong physique and resolute temper, sober, self-respecting, self-reliant, with a strong wish to improve themselves.
Occasionally I would myself pick out a man and tell him to take the examination. Thus one evening I went down to speak in the Bowery at the Young Men's Institute, a branch of the Young Men's Christian Association, at the request of Mr. Cleveland H. Dodge. While there he told me he wished to show me a young Jew who had recently, by an exhibition of marked pluck and bodily prowess, saved some women and children from a burning building. The young Jew, whose name was Otto Raphael, was brought up to see me; a powerful fellow, with good-humored, intelligent face. I asked him about his education, and told him to try the examination. He did, passed, was appointed, and made an admirable officer; and he and all his family, wherever they may dwell, have been close friends of mine ever since. Otto Raphael was a genuine East Sider. He and I were both "straight New York," to use the vernacular of our native city. To show our community of feeling and our grasp of the facts of life, I may mention that we were almost the only men in the Police Department who picked Fitzsimmons as a winner against Corbett. Otto's parents had come over from Russia, and not only in social standing but in pay a policeman's position meant everything to him. It enabled Otto to educate his little brothers and sisters who had been born in this country, and to bring over from Russia two or three kinsfolk who had perforce been left behind.
Rather curiously, it was by no means as easy to keep politics and corruption out of the promotions as out of the entrance examinations. This was because I could take complete charge of the entrance examinations myself; and, moreover, they were largely automatic. In promotions, on the other hand, the prime element was the record and capacity of the officer, and for this we had largely to rely upon the judgment of the man's immediate superiors. This doubtless meant that in certain cases that judgment was given for improper reasons.
However, there were cases where I could act on personal knowledge. One thing that we did was to endeavor to recognize gallantry. We did not have to work a revolution in the force as to courage in the way that we had to work a revolution in honesty. They had always been brave in dealing with riotous and violent criminals. But they had gradually become very corrupt. Our great work, therefore, was the stamping out of dishonesty, and this work we did thoroughly, so far as the ridiculous bi-partisan law under which the Department was administered would permit. But we were anxious that, while stamping out what was evil in the force, we should keep and improve what was good. While warring on dishonesty, we made every effort to increase efficiency. It has unfortunately been shown by sad experience that at times a police organization which is free from the taint of corruption may yet show itself weak in some great crisis or unable to deal with the more dangerous kinds of criminals. This we were determined to prevent.
Our efforts were crowned with entire success. The improvement in the efficiency of the force went hand in hand with the improvement in its honesty. The men in uniform and the men in plain clothesthe detectivesdid better work than ever before. The aggregate of crimes where punishment followed the commission of the crime increased, while the aggregate of crimes where the criminal escaped punishment decreased. Every discredited politician, every sensational newspaper, and every timid fool who could be scared by clamor was against us. All three classes strove by every means in their power to show that in making the force honest we had impaired its efficiency; and by their utterances they tended to bring about the very condition of things against which they professed to protest. But we went steadily along the path we had marked out. The fight was hard, and there was plenty of worry and anxiety, but we won. I was appointed in May, 1895. In February, 1897, three months before I resigned to become Assistant Secretary of the Navy, the Judge who charged the Grand Jury of New York County was able to congratulate them on the phenomenal decrease in crime, especially of the violent sort. This decrease was steady during the two years. The police, after the reform policy was thoroughly tried, proved more successful than ever before in protecting life and property and in putting down crime and criminal vice.
The part played by the recognition and reward of actual personal prowess among the members of the police force in producing this state of affairs was appreciable, though there were many other factors that combined to bring about the betterment. The immense improvement in discipline by punishing all offenders without mercy, no matter how great their political or personal influence; the resolute warfare against every kind of criminal who had hitherto been able corruptly to purchase protection; the prompt recognition of ability even where it was entirely unconnected with personal prowessall these were elements which had enormous weight in producing the change. Mere courage and daring, and the rewarding of courage and daring, cannot supply the lack of discipline, of ability, of honesty. But they are of vital consequence, nevertheless. No police force is worth anything if its members are not intelligent and honest; but neither is it worth anything unless its members are brave, hardy, and well disciplined.
We showed recognition of daring and of personal prowess in two ways: first, by awarding a medal or a certificate in remembrance of the deed; and, second, by giving it weight in making any promotion, especially to the lower grades. In the higher gradesin all promotions above that of sergeant, for instanceresolute and daring courage cannot normally be considered as a factor of determining weight in making promotions; rather is it a quality the lack of which unfits a man for promotion. For in the higher places we must assume the existence of such a quality in any fit candidate, and must make the promotion with a view to the man's energy, executive capacity, and power of command. In the lower grades, however, marked gallantry should always be taken into account in deciding among different candidates for any given place.
During our two years' service we found it necessary over a hundred times to single out men for special mention because of some feat of heroism. The heroism usually took one of four forms: saving somebody from drowning, saving somebody from a burning building, stopping a runaway team, or arresting some violent lawbreaker under exceptional circumstances. To illustrate our method of action, I will take two of the first promotions made after I became Commissioner. One case was that of an old fellow, a veteran of the Civil War, who was at the time a roundsman. I happened to notice one day that he had saved a woman from drowning, and had him summoned so that I might look into the matter. The old fellow brought up his record before me, and showed not a little nervousness and agitation; for it appeared that he had grown gray in the service, had performed feat after feat of heroism, but had no political backing of any account. No heed had ever been paid him. He was one of the quiet men who attend solely to duty, and although a Grand Army man, he had never sought to use influence of any kind. Now, at last, he thought there was a chance for him. He had been twenty-two years on the force, and during that time had saved some twenty-five persons from death by drowning, varying the performance two or three times by saving persons from burning buildings. Twice Congress had passed laws especially to empower the then Secretary of the Treasury, John Sherman, to give him a medal for distinguished gallantry in saving life. The Life-Saving Society had also given him its medal, and so had the Police Department. There was not a complaint in all his record against him for any infraction of duty, and he was sober and trustworthy. He was entitled to his promotion; and he got it, there and then. It may be worth mentioning that he kept on saving life after he was given his sergeantcy. On October 21, 1896, he again rescued a man from drowning. It was at night, nobody else was in the neighborhood, and the dock from which he jumped was in absolute darkness, and he was ten minutes in the water, which was very cold. He was fifty-five years old when he saved this man. It was the twenty-ninth person whose life he had saved during his twenty-three years' service in the Department.
The other man was a patrolman whom we promoted to roundsman for activity in catching a burglar under rather peculiar circumstances. I happened to note his getting a burglar one week. Apparently he had fallen into the habit, for he got another next week. In the latter case the burglar escaped from the house soon after midnight, and ran away toward Park Avenue, with the policeman in hot chase. The New York Central Railroad runs under Park Avenue, and there is a succession of openings in the top of the tunnel. Finding that the policeman was gaining on him, the burglar took a desperate chance and leaped down one of these openings, at the risk of breaking his neck. Now the burglar was running for his liberty, and it was the part of wisdom for him to imperil life or limb; but the policeman was merely doing his duty, and nobody could have blamed him for not taking the jump. However, he jumped; and in this particular case the hand of the Lord was heavy upon the unrighteous. The burglar had the breath knocked out of him, and the "cop" didn't. When his victim could walk, the officer trotted him around to the station-house; and a week after I had the officer up and promoted him, for he was sober, trustworthy, and strictly attentive to duty.
Now I think that any decent man of reasonable intelligence will agree that we were quite right in promoting men in cases like these, and quite right in excluding politics from promotions. Yet it was because of our consistently acting in this manner, resolutely warring on dishonesty and on that peculiar form of baseness which masquerades as "practical" politics, and steadily refusing to pay heed to any consideration except the good of the service and the city, and the merits of the men themselves, that we drew down upon our heads the bitter and malignant animosity of the bread-and-butter spoils politicians. They secured the repeal of the Civil Service Law by the State Legislature. They attempted and almost succeeded in the effort to legislate us out of office. They joined with the baser portion of the sensational press in every species of foul, indecent falsehood and slander as to what we were doing. They attempted to seduce or frighten us by every species of intrigue and cajolery, of promise of political reward and threat of political punishment. They failed in their purpose. I believe in political organizations, and I believe in practical politics. If a man is not practical, he is of no use anywhere. But when politicians treat practical politics as foul politics, and when they turn what ought to be a necessary and useful political organization into a machine run by professional spoilsmen of low morality in their own interest, then it is time to drive the politician from public life, and either to mend or destroy the machine, according as the necessity may determine.
We promoted to roundsman a patrolman, with an already excellent record, for gallantry shown in a fray which resulted in the death of his antagonist. He was after a gang of toughs who had just waylaid, robbed, and beaten a man. They scattered and he pursued the ringleader. Running hard, he gained on his man, whereupon the latter suddenly turned and fired full in his face. The officer already had his revolver drawn, and the two shots rang out almost together. The policeman was within a fraction of death, for the bullet from his opponent's pistol went through his helmet and just broke the skin of his head. His own aim was truer, and the man he was after fell dead, shot through the heart. I may explain that I have not the slightest sympathy with any policy which tends to put the policeman at the mercy of a tough, or which deprives him of efficient weapons. While Police Commissioner we punished any brutality by the police with such immediate severity that all cases of brutality practically came to an end. No decent citizen had anything to fear from the police during the two years of my service. But we consistently encouraged the police to prove that the violent criminal who endeavored to molest them or to resist arrest, or to interfere with them in the discharge of their duty, was himself in grave jeopardy; and we had every "gang" broken up and the members punished with whatever severity was necessary. Of course where possible the officer merely crippled the criminal who was violent.
One of the things that we did while in office was to train the men in the use of the pistol. A school of pistol practice was established, and the marksmanship of the force was wonderfully improved. The man in charge of the school was a roundsman, Petty, whom we promoted to sergeant. He was one of the champion revolver shots of the country, and could hit just about where he aimed. Twice he was forced to fire at criminals who resisted arrest, and in each case he hit his man in the arm or leg, simply stopping him without danger to his life.
In May, 1896, a number of burglaries occurred far uptown, in the neighborhood of One Hundred and Fifty-sixth Street and Union Avenue. Two officers were sent out each night to patrol the streets in plain clothes. About two o'clock on the morning of May 8 they caught a glimpse of two men loitering about a large corner house, and determined to make them explain their actions. In order to cut off their escape, one officer went down one street and one the other. The first officer, whose name was Ryan, found the two men at the gateway of the side entrance of the house, and hailed to know what they were doing. Without answering, they turned and ran toward Prospect Avenue, with Ryan in close pursuit. After running about one hundred feet, one of them turned and fired three shots at Ryan, but failed to hit him. The two then separated, and the man who had done the shooting escaped. The other man, whose name proved to be O'Connor, again took to his heels, with Ryan still after him; they turned the corner and met the other officer, whose name was Reid, running as hard as he could toward the shooting. When O'Connor saw himself cut off by Reid, he fired at his new foe, the bullet cutting Reid's overcoat on the left shoulder. Reid promptly fired in return, his bullet going into O'Connor's neck and causing him to turn a complete somersault. The two officers then cared for their prisoner until the ambulance arrived, when he was taken to the hospital and pronounced mortally wounded. His companion was afterward caught, and they turned out to be the very burglars for whom Reid and Ryan had been on the lookout.
In December, 1896, one of our officers was shot. A row occurred in a restaurant, which ended in two young toughs drawing their revolvers and literally running amuck, shooting two or three men. A policeman, attracted by the noise, ran up and seized one of them, whereupon the other shot him in the mouth, wounding him badly. Nevertheless, the officer kept his prisoner and carried him to the station-house. The tough who had done the shooting ran out and was seized by another officer. The tough fired at him, the bullet passing through the officer's overcoat, but he was promptly knocked down, disarmed, and brought to the station-house. In this case neither policeman used his revolver, and each brought in his man, although the latter was armed and resisted arrest, one of the officers taking in his prisoner after having been himself severely wounded. A lamentable feature of the case was that this same officer was a man who, though capable of great gallantry, was also given to shirking his work, and we were finally obliged to dismiss him from the force, after passing over two or three glaring misdeeds in view of his record for courage.
We promoted another man on account of finding out accidentally that he had performed a notable feat, which he had forborne even to mention, so that his name never came on the roll of honor. Late at night, while patrolling a lonely part of his post, he came upon three young toughs who had turned highwaymen and were robbing a peddler. He ran in at once with his night-stick, whereupon the toughs showed fight, and one of them struck at him with a bludgeon, breaking his left hand. The officer, however, made such good use of his night-stick that he knocked down two of his assailants, whereupon the third ran away, and he brought both of his prisoners to the station-house. Then he went round to the hospital, had his broken hand set in plaster, and actually reported for duty at the next tour, without losing one hour. He was a quiet fellow, with a record free from complaints, and we made him roundsman.
The mounted squad have, of course, many opportunities to distinguish themselves in stopping runaways. In May, 1895, a mounted policeman named Heyer succeeded in stopping a runaway at Kingsbridge under rather noteworthy circumstances. Two men were driving in a buggy, when the horse stumbled, and in recovering himself broke the head-stall, so that the bridle fell off. The horse was a spirited trotter, and at once ran away at full speed. Heyer saw the occurrence, and followed at a run. When he got alongside the runaway he seized him by the forelock, guided him dexterously over the bridge, preventing him from running into the numerous wagons that were on the road, and finally forced him up a hill and into a wagon-shed. Three months later this same officer saved a man from drowning.
The members of the bicycle squad, which was established shortly after we took office, soon grew to show not only extraordinary proficiency on the wheel, but extraordinary daring. They frequently stopped runaways, wheeling alongside of them, and grasping the horses while going at full speed; and, what was even more remarkable, they managed not only to overtake but to jump into the vehicle and capture, on two or three different occasions, men who were guilty of reckless driving, and who fought violently in resisting arrest. They were picked men, being young and active, and any feat of daring which could be accomplished on the wheel they were certain to accomplish.
Three of the best riders of the bicycle squad, whose names and records happen to occur to me, were men of the three ethnic strains most strongly represented in the New York police force, being respectively of native American, German, and Irish parentage.
The German was a man of enormous power, and he was able to stop each of the many runaways he tackled without losing his wheel. Choosing his time, he would get alongside the horse and seize the bit in his left hand, keeping his right on the crossbar of the wheel. By degrees he then got the animal under control. He never failed to stop it, and he never lost his wheel. He also never failed to overtake any "scorcher," although many of these were professional riders who deliberately violated the law to see if they could not get away from him; for the wheelmen soon get to know the officers whose beats they cross.
The Yankee, though a tall, powerful man and a very good rider, scarcely came up to the German in either respect; he possessed exceptional ability, however, as well as exceptional nerve and coolness, and he also won his promotion. He stopped about as many runaways; but when the horse was really panic-stricken he usually had to turn his wheel loose, getting a firm grip on the horse's reins and then kicking his wheel so that it would fall out of the way of injury from the wagon. On one occasion he had a fight with a drunken and reckless driver who was urging to top speed a spirited horse. He first got hold of the horse, whereupon the driver lashed both him and the beast, and the animal, already mad with terror, could not be stopped. The officer had of course kicked away his wheel at the beginning, and after being dragged along for some distance he let go the beast and made a grab at the wagon. The driver hit him with his whip, but he managed to get in, and after a vigorous tussle overcame his man, and disposed of him by getting him down and sitting on him. This left his hands free for the reins. By degrees he got the horse under control, and drove the wagon round to the station-house, still sitting on his victim. "I jounced up and down on him to keep him quiet when he turned ugly," he remarked to me parenthetically. Having disposed of the wagon, he took the man round to the court, and on the way the prisoner suddenly sprang on him and tried to throttle him. Convinced at last that patience had ceased to be a virtue, he quieted his assailant with a smash on the head that took all the fight out of him until he was brought before the judge and fined. Like the other "bicycle cops," this officer made a number of arrests of criminals, such as thieves, highwaymen, and the like, in addition to his natural preyscorchers, runaways, and reckless drivers.
The third member of the trio, a tall, sinewy man with flaming red hair, which rather added to the terror he inspired in evil-doers, was usually stationed in a tough part of the city, where there was a tendency to crimes of violence, and incidentally an occasional desire to harass wheelmen. The officer was as good off his wheel as on it, and he speedily established perfect order on his beat, being always willing to "take chances" in getting his man. He was no respecter of persons, and when it became his duty to arrest a wealthy man for persistently refusing to have his carriage lamps lighted after nightfall, he brought him in with the same indifference that he displayed in arresting a street-corner tough who had thrown a brick at a wheelman.
Occasionally a policeman would perform work which ordinarily comes within the domain of the fireman. In November, 1896, an officer who had previously saved a man from death by drowning added to his record by saving five persons from burning. He was at the time asleep, when he was aroused by a fire in a house a few doors away. Running over the roofs of the adjoining houses until he reached the burning building, he found that on the fourth floor the flames had cut off all exit from an apartment in which there were four women, two of them over fifty, and one of the others with a six-months-old baby. The officer ran down to the adjoining house, broke open the door of the apartment on the same floorthe fourthand crept out on the coping, less than three inches wide, that ran from one house to the other. Being a large and very powerful and active man, he managed to keep hold of the casing of the window with one hand, and with the other to reach to the window of the apartment where the women and child were. The firemen appeared, and stretched a net underneath. The crowd that was looking on suddenly became motionless and silent. Then, one by one, he drew the women out of their window, and, holding them tight against the wall, passed them into the other window. The exertion in such an attitude was great, and he strained himself badly; but he possessed a practical mind, and as soon as the women were saved he began a prompt investigation of the cause of the fire, and arrested two men whose carelessness, as was afterward proved, caused it.
Now and then a man, though a brave man, proved to be slack or stupid or vicious, and we could make nothing out of him; but hardihood and courage were qualities upon which we insisted and which we rewarded. Whenever I see the police force attacked and vilified, I always remember my association with it. The cases I have given above are merely instances chosen almost at random among hundreds of others. Men such as those I have mentioned have the right stuff in them! If they go wrong, the trouble is with the system, and therefore with us, the citizens, for permitting the system to go unchanged. The conditions of New York life are such as to make the police problem therein more difficult than in any other of the world's great capitals. I am often asked if policemen are honest. I believe that the great majority of them want to be honest and will be honest whenever they are given the chance. The New York police force is a body thoroughly representative of the great city itself. As I have said above, the predominant ethnic strains in it are, first, the men of Irish birth or parentage, and, following these, the native Americans, usually from the country districts, and the men of German birth or parentage. There are also Jews, Scandinavians, Italians, Slavs, and men of other nationalities. All soon become welded into one body. They are physically a fine lot. Moreover, their instincts are right; they are game, they are alert and self-reliant, they prefer to act squarely if they are allowed so to act. All that they need is to be given the chance to prove themselves honest, brave, and self-respecting.
The law at present is much better than in our day, so far as governing the force is concerned. There is now a single Commissioner, and the Mayor has complete power over him. The Mayor, through his Commissioner, now has power to keep the police force on a good level of conduct if with resolution and common sense he insists on absolute honesty within the force and at the same time heartily supports it against the criminal classes. To weaken the force in its dealings with gangs and toughs and criminals generally is as damaging as to permit dishonesty, and, moreover, works towards dishonesty. But while under the present law very much improvement can be worked, there is need of change of the law which will make the Police Commissioner a permanent, non-partisan official, holding office so long as he proves thoroughly fit for the job, completely independent of the politicians and privileged interests, and with complete power over the force. This means that there must be the right law, and the right public opinion back of the law.
The many-sided ethnic character of the force now and then gives rise to, or affords opportunity for, queer happenings. Occasionally it enables one to meet emergencies in the best possible fashion. While I was Police Commissioner an anti-Semitic preacher from Berlin, Rector Ahlwardt, came over to New York to preach a crusade against the Jews. Many of the New York Jews were much excited and asked me to prevent him from speaking and not to give him police protection. This, I told them, was impossible; and if possible would have been undesirable because it would have made him a martyr. The proper thing to do was to make him ridiculous. Accordingly I detailed for his protection a Jew sergeant and a score or two of Jew policemen. He made his harangue against the Jews under the active protection of some forty policemen, every one of them a Jew! It was the most effective possible answer; and incidentally it was an object-lesson to our people, whose greatest need it is to learn that there must be no division by class hatred, whether this hatred be that of creed against creed, nationality against nationality, section against section, or men of one social or industrial condition against men of another social and industrial condition. We must ever judge each individual on his own conduct and merits, and not on his membership in any class, whether that class be based on theological, social, or industrial considerations.
Among my political opponents when I was Police Commissioner was the head of a very influential local Democratic organization. He was a State Senator usually known as Big Tim Sullivan. Big Tim represented the morals of another era; that is, his principles and actions were very much those of a Norman noble in the years immediately succeeding the Battle of Hastings. (This will seem flattery only to those who are not acquainted with the real histories and antecedents of the Norman nobles of the epoch in question.) His application of these eleventh-century theories to our nineteenth-century municipal democratic conditions brought him into sharp contact with me, and with one of my right-hand men in the Department, Inspector John McCullough. Under the old dispensation this would have meant that his friends and kinsfolk were under the ban.
Now it happened that in the Department at that time there was a nephew or cousin of his, Jerry D. Sullivan. I found that Jerry was an uncommonly good man, a conscientious, capable officer, and I promoted him. I do not know whether Jerry or Jerry's cousin (Senator Sullivan) was more astonished. The Senator called upon me to express what I am sure was a very genuine feeling of appreciation. Poor Jerry died, I think of consumption, a year or two after I left the Department. He was promoted again after I left, and he then showed that he possessed the very rare quality of gratitude, for he sent me a telegram dated January 15, 1898, running as follows: "Was made sergeant to-day. I thank you for all in my first advancement." And in a letter written to me he said: "In the future, as in the past, I will endeavor at all times to perform my duty honestly and fearlessly, and never cause you to feel that you were mistaken in me, so that you will be justly proud of my record." The Senator, though politically opposed to me, always kept a feeling of friendship for me after this incident. He served in Congress while I was President.
The police can be used to help all kinds of good purposes. When I was Police Commissioner much difficulty had been encountered in locating illegal and fraudulent practitioners of medicine. Dr. Maurice Lewi called on me, with a letter from James Russell Parsons, the Secretary of the Board of Regents at Albany, and asked me if I could not help. After questioning him I found that the local authorities were eager to prosecute these men, but could not locate them; and I made up my mind I would try my hand at it. Accordingly, a sealed order was sent to the commanding officer of each police precinct in New York, not to be opened until just before the morning roll call, previous to the police squad going on duty. This order required that, immediately upon reaching post, each patrolman should go over his beat and enter upon a sheet of paper, provided for that purpose, the full name and address of every doctor sign there appearing. Immediately upon securing this information, the patrolman was instructed to return the sheet to the officer in charge of the precinct. The latter in turn was instructed to collect and place in one large envelope and to return to Police Headquarters all the data thus received. As a result of this procedure, within two hours the prosecuting officials of the city of New York were in possession of the name and address of every person in New York who announced himself as a physician; and scores of pretended physicians were brought to book or driven from the city.
One of the perennially serious and difficult problems, and one of the chief reasons for police blackmail and corruption, is to be found in the excise situation in New York. When I was Police Commissioner, New York was a city with twelve or fifteen thousand saloons, with a State law which said they should be closed on Sundays, and with a local sentiment which put a premium on violating the law by making Sunday the most profitable day in the week to the saloon-keeper who was willing to take chances. It was this willingness to take chances that furnished to the corrupt politician and the corrupt police officer their opportunities.
There was in New York City a strong sentiment in favor of honesty in politics; there was also a strong sentiment in favor of opening the saloons on Sundays; and, finally, there was a strong sentiment in favor of keeping the saloons closed on Sunday. Unfortunately, many of the men who favored honest government nevertheless preferred keeping the saloons open to having honest government; and many others among the men who favored honest government put it second to keeping the saloons closed. Moreover, among the people who wished the law obeyed and the saloons closed there were plenty who objected strongly to every step necessary to accomplish the result, although they also insisted that the result should be accomplished.
Meanwhile the politicians found an incredible profit in using the law as a club to keep the saloons in line; all except the biggest, the owners of which, or the owners of the breweries back of which, sat in the inner councils of Tammany, or controlled Tammany's allies in the Republican organization. The police used the partial and spasmodic enforcement of the law as a means of collecting blackmail. The result was that the officers of the law, the politicians, and the saloon-keepers became inextricably tangled in a network of crime and connivance at crime. The most powerful saloon-keepers controlled the politicians and the police, while the latter in turn terrorized and blackmailed all the other saloon-keepers. It was not a case of non-enforcement of the law. The law was very actively enforced, but it was enforced with corrupt discrimination.
It is difficult for men who have not been brought into contact with that side of political life which deals with the underworld to understand the brazen openness with which this blackmailing of lawbreakers was carried out. A further very dark fact was that many of the men responsible for putting the law on the statute-books in order to please one element of their constituents, also connived at or even profited by the corrupt and partial non-enforcement of the law in order to please another set of their constituents, or to secure profit for themselves. The organ of the liquor-sellers at that time was the Wine and Spirit Gazette. The editor of this paper believed in selling liquor on Sunday, and felt that it was an outrage to forbid it. But he also felt that corruption and blackmail made too big a price to pay for the partial non-enforcement of the law. He made in his paper a statement, the correctness of which was never questioned, which offers a startling commentary on New York politics of that period. In this statement he recited the fact that the system of blackmail had been brought to such a state of perfection, and had become so oppressive to the liquor dealers themselves, that they communicated at length on the subject with Governor Hill (the State Democratic boss) and then with Mr. Croker (the city Democratic boss). Finally the matter was formally taken up by a committee of the Central Association of Liquor Dealers in an interview they held with Mr. Martin, my Tammany predecessor as President of the police force. In matter-of-course way the editor's statement continues: "An agreement was made between the leaders of Tammany Hall and the liquor dealers according to which the monthly blackmail paid to the force should be discontinued in return for political support." Not only did the big bosses, State and local, treat this agreement, and the corruption to which it was due, as normal and proper, but they never even took the trouble to deny what had been done when it was made public. Tammany and the police, however, did not fully live up to the agreement; and much discrimination of a very corrupt kind, and of a very exasperating kind to liquor-sellers who wished to be honest, continued in connection with the enforcing of the law.
In short, the agreement was kept only with those who had "pull." These men with "pull" were benefited when their rivals were bullied and blackmailed by the police. The police, meanwhile, who had bought appointment or promotion, and the politicians back of them, extended the blackmailing to include about everything from the pushcart peddler and the big or small merchant who wished to use the sidewalk illegally for his goods, up to the keepers of the brothel, the gambling-house, and the policy-shop. The total blackmail ran into millions of dollars. New York was a wide-open town. The big bosses rolled in wealth, and the corrupt policemen who ran the force lost all sense of decency and justice. Nevertheless, I wish to insist on the fact that the honest men on the patrol posts, "the men with the night-sticks," remained desirous to see honesty obtain, although they were losing courage and hope.
This was the situation that confronted me when I came to Mulberry Street. The saloon was the chief source of mischief. It was with the saloon that I had to deal, and there was only one way to deal with it. That was to enforce the law. The howl that rose was deafening. The professional politicians raved. The yellow press surpassed themselves in clamor and mendacity. A favorite assertion was that I was enforcing a "blue" law, an obsolete law that had never before been enforced. As a matter of fact, I was only enforcing honestly a law that had hitherto been enforced dishonestly. There was very little increase in the number of arrests made for violating the Sunday law. Indeed, there were weeks when the number of arrests went down. The only difference was that there was no protected class. Everybody was arrested alike, and I took especial pains to see that there was no discrimination, and that the big men and the men with political influence were treated like every one else. The immediate effect was wholly good. I had been told that it was not possible to close the saloons on Sunday and that I could not succeed. However, I did succeed. The warden of Bellevue Hospital reported, two or three weeks after we had begun, that for the first time in its existence there had not been a case due to a drunken brawl in the hospital all Monday. The police courts gave the same testimony, while savings banks recorded increased deposits and pawnshops hard times. The most touching of all things was the fact that we received letters, literally by the hundred, from mothers in tenement-houses who had never been allowed to take their children to the country in the wide-open days, and who now found their husbands willing to take them and their families for an outing on Sunday. Jake Riis and I spent one Sunday from morning till night in the tenement districts, seeing for ourselves what had happened.
During the two years that we were in office things never slipped back to anything like what they had been before. But we did not succeed in keeping them quite as highly keyed as during these first weeks. As regards the Sunday-closing law, this was partly because public sentiment was not really with us. The people who had demanded honesty, but who did not like to pay for it by the loss of illegal pleasure, joined the openly dishonest in attacking us. Moreover, all kinds of ways of evading the law were tried, and some of them were successful. The statute, for instance, permitted any man to take liquor with meals. After two or three months a magistrate was found who decided judicially that seventeen beers and one pretzel made a mealafter which decision joy again became unconfined in at least some of the saloons, and the yellow press gleefully announced that my "tyranny" had been curbed. But my prime object, that of stopping blackmail, was largely attained.
All kinds of incidents occurred in connection with this crusade. One of them introduced me to a friend who remains a friend yet. His name was Edward J. Bourke. He was one of the men who entered the police force through our examinations shortly after I took office. I had summoned twenty or thirty of the successful applicants to let me look over them; and as I walked into the hall, one of them, a well-set-up man, called out sharply to the others, "Gangway," making them move to one side. I found he had served in the United States navy. The incident was sufficient to make me keep him in mind. A month later I was notified by a police reporter, a very good fellow, that Bourke was in difficulties, and that he thought I had better look into the matter myself, as Bourke was being accused by certain very influential men of grave misconduct in an arrest he had made the night before. Accordingly, I took the matter up personally. I found that on the new patrolman's beat the preceding nighta new beatthere was a big saloon run by a man of great influence in political circles known as "King" Calahan. After midnight the saloon was still running in full blast, and Bourke, stepping inside, told Calahan to close up. It was at the time filled with "friends of personal liberty," as Governor Hill used at that time, in moments of pathos, to term everybody who regarded as tyranny any restriction on the sale of liquor. Calahan's saloon had never before in its history been closed, and to have a green cop tell him to close it seemed to him so incredible that he regarded it merely as a bad jest. On his next round Bourke stepped in and repeated the order. Calahan felt that the jest had gone too far, and by way of protest knocked Bourke down. This was an error of judgment on his part, for when Bourke arose he knocked down Calahan. The two then grappled and fell on the floor, while the "friends of personal liberty" danced around the fight and endeavored to stamp on everything they thought wasn't Calahan. However, Bourke, though pretty roughly handled, got his man and shut the saloon. When he appeared against the lawbreaker in court next day, he found the court-room crowded with influential Tammany Hall politicians, backed by one or two Republican leaders of the same type; for Calahan was a baron of the underworld, and both his feudal superiors and his feudal inferiors gathered to the rescue. His backers in court included a Congressman and a State Senator, and so deep-rooted was the police belief in "pull" that his own superiors had turned against Bourke and were preparing to sacrifice him. Just at this time I acted on the information given me by my newspaper friend by starting in person for the court. The knowledge that I knew what was going on, that I meant what I said, and that I intended to make the affair personal, was all that was necessary. Before I reached the court all effort to defend Calahan had promptly ceased, and Bourke had come forth triumphant. I immediately promoted him to roundsman. He is a captain now. He has been on the force ever since, save that when the Spanish War came he obtained a holiday without pay for six months and reëntered the navy, serving as gun captain in one of the gunboats, and doing his work, as was to be expected, in first-rate fashion, especially when under fire.
Let me again say that when men tell me that the police are irredeemably bad I remember scores and hundreds of cases like this of Bourke, like the case I have already mentioned of Raphael, like the other cases I have given above. It is useless to tell me that these men are bad. They are naturally first-rate men. There are no better men anywhere than the men of the New York police force; and when they go bad it is because the system is wrong, and because they are not given the chance to do the good work they can do and would rather do. I never coddled these men. I punished them severely whenever I thought their conduct required it. All I did was to try to be just; to reward them when they did well; in short, to act squarely by them. I believe that, as a whole, they liked me. When, in 1912, I ran for President on the Progressive ticket, I received a number of unsigned letters inclosing sums of money for the campaign. One of these inclosed twenty dollars. The writer, who did not give his name, said that he was a policeman, that I had once had him before me on charges, and had fined him twenty dollars; that, as a matter of fact, he had not committed the offense for which I fined him, but that the evidence was such that he did not wonder that I had been misled, and never blamed me for it, because I had acted squarely and had given honest and decent men a chance in the Police Department; and that now he inclosed a twenty-dollar bill, the amount of the fine inflicted on him so many years before. I have always wished I knew who the man was.
The disciplinary courts were very interesting. But it was extraordinarily difficult to get at the facts in the more complicated casesas must always be true under similar circumstances; for ordinarily it is necessary to back up the superior officer who makes the charge, and yet it is always possible that this superior officer is consciously or unconsciously biased against his subordinate.
In the courts the charges were sometimes brought by police officers and sometimes by private citizens. In the latter case we would get queer insights into twilight phases of New York life. It was necessary to be always on our guard. Often an accusation would be brought against the policeman because he had been guilty of misconduct. Much more often the accusation merely meant that the officer had incurred animosity by doing his duty. I remember one amusing case where the officer was wholly to blame but had acted in entire good faith.
One of the favorite and most demoralizing forms of gambling in New York was policy-playing. The policy slips consisted of papers with three rows of figures written on them. The officer in question was a huge pithecoid lout of a creature, with a wooden face and a receding forehead, and his accuser whom he had arrested the preceding evening was a little grig of a red-headed man, obviously respectable, and almost incoherent with rage. The anger of the little red-headed man was but natural, for he had just come out from a night in the station-house. He had been arrested late in the evening on suspicion that he was a policy-player, because of the rows of figures on a piece of paper which he had held in his hand, and because at the time of his arrest he had just stepped into the entrance of the hall of a tenement-house in order to read by lamplight. The paper was produced in evidence. There were the three rows of figures all right, but, as the accused explained, hopping up and down with rage and excitement, they were all of them the numbers of hymns. He was the superintendent of a small Sunday-school. He had written down the hymns for several future services, one under the other, and on the way home was stopping to look at them, under convenient lamp-posts, and finally by the light of the lamp in a tenement-house hallway; and it was this conduct which struck the sagacious man in uniform as "suspicious."
One of the saddest features of police work is dealing with the social evil, with prostitutes and houses of ill fame. In so far as the law gave me power, I always treated the men taken in any raid on these houses precisely as the women were treated. My experience brought me to the very strong conviction that there ought not to be any toleration by law of the vice. I do not know of any method which will put a complete stop to the evil, but I do know certain things that ought to be done to minimize it. One of these is treating men and women on an exact equality for the same act. Another is the establishment of night courts and of special commissions to deal with this special class of cases. Another is that suggested by the Rev. Charles Stelzle, of the Labor Templeto publish conspicuously the name of the owner of any property used for immoral purposes, after said owner had been notified of the use and has failed to prevent it. Another is to prosecute the keepers and backers of brothels, men and women, as relentlessly and punish them as severely as pickpockets and common thieves. They should never be fined; they should be imprisoned. As for the girls, the very young ones and first offenders should be put in the charge of probation officers or sent to reformatories, and the large percentage of feeble-minded girls and of incorrigible girls and women should be sent to institutions created for them. We would thus remove from this hideous commerce the articles of commerce. Moreover, the Federal Government must in ever-increasing measure proceed against the degraded promoters of this commercialism, for their activities are inter-State and the Nation can often deal with them more effectively than the States; although, as public sentiment becomes aroused, Nation, State, and municipality will all coöperate towards the same end of rooting out the traffic. But the prime need is to raise the level of individual morality; and, moreover, to encourage early marriages, the single standard of sex-morality, and a strict sense of reciprocal conjugal obligation. The women who preach late marriages are by just so much making it difficult to better the standard of chastity.
As regards the white slave traffic, the men engaged in it, and the women too, are far worse criminals than any ordinary murderers can be. For them there is need of such a law as that recently adopted in England through the efforts of Arthur Lee, M.P., a law which includes whipping for the male offenders. There are brutes so low, so infamous, so degraded and bestial in their cruelty and brutality, that the only way to get at them is through their skins. Sentimentality on behalf of such men is really almost as unhealthy and wicked as the criminality of the men themselves. My experience is that there should be no toleration of any "tenderloin" or "red light" district, and that, above all, there should be the most relentless war on commercialized vice. The men who profit and make their living by the depravity and the awful misery of other human beings stand far below any ordinary criminals, and no measures taken against them can be too severe.
As for the wretched girls who follow the dreadful trade in question, a good deal can be done by a change in economic conditions. This ought to be done. When girls are paid wages inadequate to keep them from starvation, or to permit them to live decently, a certain proportion are forced by their economic misery into lives of vice. The employers and all others responsible for these conditions stand on a moral level not far above the white slavers themselves. But it is a mistake to suppose that either the correction of these economic conditions or the abolition of the white slave trade will wholly correct the evil or will even reach the major part of it. The economic factor is very far from being the chief factor in inducing girls to go into this dreadful life. As with so many other problems, while there must be governmental action, there must also be strengthening of the average individual character in order to achieve the desired end. Even where economic conditions are bad, girls who are both strong and pure will remain unaffected by temptations to which girls of weak character or lax standards readily yield. Any man who knows the wide variation in the proportions of the different races and nationalities engaged in prostitution must come to the conclusion that it is out of the question to treat economic conditions as the sole conditions or even as the chief conditions that determine this question. There are certain racesthe Irish are honorably conspicuous among themwhich, no matter what the economic pressure, furnish relatively few inmates of houses of ill fame. I do not believe that the differences are due to permanent race characteristics; this is shown by the fact that the best settlement houses find that practically all their "long-term graduates," so to speak, all the girls that come for a long period under their influence, no matter what their race or national origin, remain pure. In every race there are some naturally vicious individuals and some weak individuals who readily succumb under economic pressure. A girl who is lazy and hates hard work, a girl whose mind is rather feeble, and who is of "subnormal intelligence," as the phrase now goes, or a girl who craves cheap finery and vapid pleasure, is always in danger. A high ideal of personal purity is essential. Where the same pressure under the same economic conditions has tenfold the effect on one set of people that it has on another, it is evident that the question of moral standards is even more important than the question of economic standards, very important though this question is. It is important for us to remember that the girl ought to have the chance, not only for the necessaries of life, but for innocent pleasure; and that even more than the man she must not be broken by overwork, by excessive toil. Moreover, public opinion and the law should combine to hunt down the "flagrant man swine" who himself hunts down poor or silly or unprotected girls. But we must not, in foolish sentimentality, excuse the girl from her duty to keep herself pure. Our duty to achieve the same moral level for the two sexes must be performed by raising the level for the man, not by lowering it for the woman; and the fact that society must recognize its duty in no shape or way relieves, not even to the smallest degree, the individual from doing his or her duty. Sentimentality which grows maudlin on behalf of the willful prostitute is a curse; to confound her with the entrapped or coerced girl, the real white slave, is both foolish and wicked. There are evil women just as there are evil men, naturally depraved girls just as there are naturally depraved young men; and the right and wise thing, the just thing, to them, and the generous thing to innocent girls and decent men, is to wage stern war against the evil creatures of both sexes.
In company with Jacob Riis, I did much work that was not connected with the actual discipline of the force or indeed with the actual work of the force. There was one thing which he and I abolishedpolice lodging-houses, which were simply tramp lodging-houses, and a fruitful encouragement to vagrancy. Those who read Mr. Riis's story of his own life will remember the incidents that gave him from actual personal experience his horror of these tramp lodging-houses. As member of the Health Board I was brought into very close relations with the conditions of life in the tenement-house districts. Here again I used to visit the different tenement-house regions, usually in company with Riis, to see for myself what the conditions were. It was largely this personal experience that enabled me while on the Health Board to struggle not only zealously, but with reasonable efficiency and success, to improve conditions. We did our share in making forward strides in the matter of housing the working people of the city with some regard to decency and comfort.
The midnight trips that Riis and I took enabled me to see what the Police Department was doing, and also gave me personal insight into some of the problems of city life. It is one thing to listen in perfunctory fashion to tales of overcrowded tenements, and it is quite another actually to see what that overcrowding means, some hot summer night, by even a single inspection during the hours of darkness. There was a very hot spell one midsummer while I was Police Commissioner, and most of each night I spent walking through the tenement-house districts and visiting police stations to see what was being done. It was a tragic week. We did everything possible to alleviate the suffering. Much of it was heartbreaking, especially the gasping misery of the little children and of the worn-out mothers. Every resource of the Health Department, of the Police Department, and even the Fire Department (which flooded the hot streets) was taxed in the effort to render service. The heat killed such multitudes of horses that the means at our disposal for removing the poor dead beasts proved quite inadequate, although every nerve was strained to the limit. In consequence we received scores of complaints from persons before whose doors dead horses had remained, festering in the heat, for two or three days. One irascible man sent us furious denunciations, until we were at last able to send a big dray to drag away the horse that lay dead before his shop door. The huge dray already contained eleven other dead horses, and when it reached this particular door it broke down, and it was hours before it could be moved. The unfortunate man who had thus been cursed with a granted wish closed his doors in despair and wrote us a final pathetic letter in which he requested us to remove either the horses or his shop, he didn't care which.
I have spoken before of my experience with the tenement-house cigar factory law which the highest court of New York State declared unconstitutional. My experience in the Police Department taught me that not a few of the worst tenement-houses were owned by wealthy individuals, who hired the best and most expensive lawyers to persuade the courts that it was "unconstitutional" to insist on the betterment of conditions. These business men and lawyers were very adroit in using a word with fine and noble associations to cloak their opposition to vitally necessary movements for industrial fair play and decency. They made it evident that they valued the Constitution, not as a help to righteousness, but as a means for thwarting movements against unrighteousness. After my experience with them I became more set than ever in my distrust of those men, whether business men or lawyers, judges, legislators, or executive officers, who seek to make of the Constitution a fetich for the prevention of the work of social reform, for the prevention of work in the interest of those men, women, and children on whose behalf we should be at liberty to employ freely every governmental agency.
Occasionally during the two years we had to put a stop to riotous violence, and now and then on these occasions some of the labor union leaders protested against the actions of the police. By this time I was becoming a strong believer in labor unions, a strong believer in the rights of labor. For that very reason I was all the more bound to see that lawlessness and disorder were put down, and that no rioter was permitted to masquerade under the guise of being a friend of labor or a sympathizer with labor. I was scrupulous to see that the labor men had fair play; that, for instance, they were allowed to picket just so far as under the law picketing could be permitted, so that the strikers had ample opportunity peacefully to persuade other labor men not to take their places. But I made it clearly and definitely understood that under no circumstances would I permit violence or fail to insist upon the keeping of order. If there were wrongs, I would join with a full heart in striving to have them corrected. But where there was violence all other questions had to drop until order was restored. This is a democracy, and the people have the power, if they choose to exercise it, to make conditions as they ought to be made, and to do this strictly within the law; and therefore the first duty of the true democrat, of the man really loyal to the principles of popular government, is to see that law is enforced and order upheld. It was a peculiar gratification to me that so many of the labor leaders with whom I was thrown in contact grew cordially to accept this view. When I left the Department, several called upon me to say how sorry they were that I was not to continue in office. One, the Secretary of the Journeyman Bakers' and Confectioners' International Union, Henry Weismann, wrote me expressing his regret that I was going, and his appreciation as a citizen of what I had done as Police Commissioner; he added: "I am particularly grateful for your liberal attitude toward organized labor, your cordial championship of those speaking in behalf of the toilers, and your evident desire to do the right thing as you saw it at whatever cost."
Some of the letters I received on leaving the Department were from unexpected sources. Mr. E. L. Godkin, an editor who in international matters was not a patriotic man, wrote protesting against my taking the Assistant-Secretaryship of the Navy, and adding: "I have a concern, as the Quakers say, to put on record my earnest belief that in New York you are doing the greatest work of which any American to-day is capable, and exhibiting to the young men of the country the spectacle of a very important office administered by a man of high character in the most efficient way amid a thousand difficulties. As a lesson in politics I cannot think of anything more instructive."
About the same time I had a letter from Mr. (afterwards Ambassador) James Bryce, also expressing regret that I was leaving the Police Department, but naturally with much more appreciation of the work that was to be done in the Navy Department. This letter I quote, with his permission, because it conveys a lesson to those who are inclined always to think that the conditions of the present time are very bad. It was written July 7, 1897. Mr. Bryce spoke of the possibility of coming to America in a month or so, and continued: "I hope I may have a chance of seeing you if I do get over, and of drawing some comfort from you as regards your political phenomena, which, so far as I can gather from those of your countrymen I have lately seen, furnish some good opportunities for a persistent optimist like myself to show that he is not to be lightly discouraged. Don't suppose that things are specially 'nice,' as a lady would say, in Europe either. They are not." Mr. Bryce was a very friendly and extraordinary competent observer of things American; and there was this distinct note of discouragement about our future in the intimate letter he was thus sending. Yet this was at the very time when the United States was entering on a dozen years during which our people accomplished more good, and came nearer realizing the possibilities of a great, free, and conscientious democracy, than during any other dozen years in our history, save only the years of Lincoln's Presidency and the period during which the Nation was founded.