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Letters to His Children


LETTERS TO HIS CHILDREN
THEODORE ROOSEVELT*
These early letters are marked by the same quality that distinguishes
all his letters to his children. From the youngest to the eldest, he
wrot e to them always as his equals. As they advanced in life the
mental level of intercourse was raised as they grew in intelligence
and knowledge, but it was always as equals that he addressed them. He
was always their playmate and boon companion, whether they were
toddling infants taking their ?rst faltering steps, or growing
schoolboys, or youths standing at the threshold of life. Their games
were his games, their joys those of his own heart. He was ready to
romp with them in the old barn at Sagamore Hill, play ”tickley” at
bedtime, join in their pillow ?ghts, or play hide-and-seek with them,
either at Sagamore Hill or in the White House. He was the same chosen
and joyous companion always and everywhere. Occasionally he was
disturbed for a moment about possible injury to his Presidential
dignity. Describing a romp in the old barn at Sagamore Hill in the
summer of 1903, he said in one of his letters that under the
insistence of the children he had joined in it because: ”I had not the
heart to refuse, but really it seems, to put it mildly, rather odd for
a stout, elderly President to be bouncing over hayricks in a wild
e?ort to get to goal before an active midget of a competitor, aged
nine years. However, it was really great fun.”
It was because he at heart regarded it as ”great fun” and was in
complete accord with the children that they delighted in him as a
playmate. In the same spirit, in January, 1905, he took a squad of
nine boys, including three of his own, on what they called a
”scramble” through Rock Creek Park, in Washington, which meant
traversing the most di?cult places in it. The boys had permission to
make the trip alone, but they insisted upon his company. ”I am really
touched,” he wrote afterward to the parents of two of the visiting
boys, ”at the way in which your children as well as my own treat me as
a friend and playmate. It has its comic side. They were all bent upon
having me take them; they obviously felt that my presence was needed
to give zest to the entertainment. I do not think that one of them saw
anything incongruous in the President’s getting as bedaubed with mud
as they got, or in my wiggling and clambering around jutting rocks,
through cracks, and up what were really small cli? faces, just like
the rest of them; and whenever any one of them beat me at any point,
he felt and ex pressed simple and whole -heart ed delight, exactly as if
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it had been a triumph over a rival of his own age.”
When the time came that he was no longer the children’s chosen
playmate, he recognized the fact with a twinge of sadness. Writing in
January, 1905, to his daughter Ethel, who was at Sagamore Hill at the
time, he said of a party of boys that Quentin had at the White House:
”They played hard, and it made me realize how old I had grown and how
very busy I had been the last few years to ?nd that they had grown so
that I was not needed in the play. Do you recollect how we all of us
used to play hide and go seek in the White House, and have obstacle
races down the hall when you brought in your friends?”
Deep and abiding love of children, of family and home, that was the
dominating passion of his life. With that went love for friends and
fellow men, and for all living things, birds, animals, trees, ?owers,
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