image of Theodore Roosevelt, (c) Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Harvard College Library
Ford Presidential Library and Museum
A New Life and New ChallengesIf Roosevelt went West to find himself and ease the pain of widowhood, he found its romance a poor substitute for a companion. On a return trip to New York in 1885 he caught up with childhood friend Edith Carow. They had had a falling out upon TR’s engagement to Alice, but when they came across each other the old attraction returned and soon a courtship began. By November they were secretly engaged.
Still, politics were never far from Roosevelt. In 1886, prior to the wedding, TR was nominated as Republican candidate for mayor of New York. Knowing Edith could never move out West and that New York was home, he ran but finished third in the race. The fire, however, was back.
Married in London, TR and Edith honeymooned in Europe before returning to New York and a new home in Long Island, Sagamore Hill. Roosevelt renewed his writing (a biography of Thomas Hart Benton and a two volume Winning of the West) and campaigned hard in 1888 for fellow Republican Benjamin Harrison’s presidential race. Harrison won and appointed TR to the U.S. Civil Service Commission. Comprised of three members, TR soon became its spokesman and lightning rod. To take this thankless job, Roosevelt moved his family to Washington, D.C. There he developed a new circle of friends including important men such as Thomas Reed, Henry Cabot Lodge, and John Hay.
TR still longed for New York and his relationship with Edith became strained when she urged him not to run again for mayor. He declined the offer but blamed Edith. “I would literally have given my right arm to have made the race, win or lose. It was the one golden chance, which never returns.” He left for Dakota soon after the decision, leaving Edith to regret having swayed her husband’s choice. “This is a lesson that will last my life – never give it [her opinion] for it is utterly worthless when given, worse than that in this case for it has helped spoil some years of a life which I would have given my own for.”
In 1895, TR was offered the
post of President of the Police Commission of New York by the new mayor.
Not only could he return home, he relished the appointment as one where
he could really make a difference. As with the Civil Service, he took
on the job with gusto, transforming a corrupt, indifferent police force
into one that rewarded merit over politics. He prowled the streets at
night, making sure that police on the beat were doing their job and enforced
the Sunday liquor laws that had been ignored through graft. He put officers
on bicycles, making them more mobile to combat crime.