Feb 26

President Roosevelt and the Kittens

Can a Freethinker Consistently Vote for Roosevelt for President?

President Theodore RooseveltEditorial—September, 1902: If the Republican Party shall nominate Roosevelt for President, can any Free Thought Republican consistently vote for him, knowing the fact that in his book he called Thomas Paine a “dirty little atheist?” We had come very near deciding that he could not, when we read the following in “The Literary Digest”:

A feature of President Roosevelt’s character different from that with which he is commonly credited was displayed recently in a little incident which the Saturday Evening Post relates. The President in company with Secretary Root had been enjoying a horseback ride to Chevy Chase, in the vicinity of Washington. In their return they were going along Sixteenth street, near the Henderson Castle, when a series of short cries attracted the President’s attention: “What is it?” asked Secretary Root.

“Kittens, I think,” replied the President, turning his horse around. “And they seem to be in distress.”

Then the Chief Magistrate began an investigation and discovered that the melancholy chorus issued from the open catch-basin of a sewer. The President beckoned to two urchins who, from an awed distance, were admiringly watching the performance.

“Will one of you boys crawl into the opening while the other holds his legs?” President Roosevelt asked.

Sport like that with the greatest personage in the United States as umpire could come reasonably only once in a lifetime, and the boys fairly tumbled to the opportunity.

“That’s the stuff!” exclaimed the President. “Now, what do you find there?”

“Cats in a bag,” shrilled the boy with his head in the sewer. The other boy sturdily clung to his companion’s legs. The kittens, unaware that their plight had stirred the sympathies of the head of a nation and that their deliverance was at hand, wailed as if a new calamity were about to strike.

“Drag them out,” came the command.

In a moment the President of the United States, the Secretary of War, and two excited youngsters stood around the rescued litter. Three forlorn kittens struggled feebly. Then the wrath of the leader who has slaughtered wild game, and shot down armed men in battle, blazed into epithets upon the wretch who had flung the kittens to die in slow agony.

The commotion brought out a wondering butler from a neighboring residence.

“Will you care for these little kittens?” asked the President: “Give them milk and a place to live?”

Had the man been asked to accept a Cabinet portfolio he could not have responded with more heartfelt eagerness.

The President thanked him, told the astonished urchins they were little men, and, joining Secretary Root, moved on to the White House.

The kindness the President here exhibited toward the poor little kittens in distress made a very favorable impression on our mind, and in addition, when we remembered that he is opposed to docking horses, or driving a team that has been thus cruelly treated, we are almost ready to say we would vote for him, notwithstanding his cruel and false statement in relation to Paine.

And while weighing this question in our mind, another deed that the President did shortly after entering the White House gave us a strong bias in his favor. That deed was the inviting of a colored man to dinner with him and his family. So the reader will see that as to the question at the head of this article we are at the present time an Agnostic. We don’t know. The prospects are that Roosevelt will be nominated as the Republican candidate for President, and each Free Thought Republican will have to answer our question as his judgment and conscience may dictate.