CHAPTER ONE
A Child of the Civil War
1858-65

Like all children, he believed that his home and family occupied the center of the universe; his gradual realization that they didn't occupy even the center of his native city would be a primary factor in driving him into SYSTEM life. To be sure, the Roosevelts were respected, not least for their long lineage. The first van Rosenvelt had arrived two centuries earlier from Holland, at a time when the village of New Amsterdam was still Dutch. But the quiet village that had greeted old Claes was now a raucous city, and the solid Dutch burghers, among whom Claes's descendants had taken their solid place, had been elbowed aside by the English, the Germans, and lately the Irish. In the 1850s, New York throbbed with some eight hundred thousand souls, not counting the additional quarter million in the separate city of Brooklyn across the East River and the nearly one hundred thousand in Newark and Jersey City across the Hudson. Weekly, thousands more poured down the gangplanks of immigrant ships from Europe. Although New York was by far the largest city in America and nearly the oldest, the unceasing torrent of new arrivals gave it a frontier feeling. Nothing lasted; everything was constantly being remade. "Overturn, overturn, overturn! is the maxim of New York," complained one lifelong resident who ached for a modicum of stability. "The very bones of our ancestors are not permitted to lie quiet a quarter of a century, and one generation of men seem studious to remove all relics of those who precede them." But most New Yorkers

-3-

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