Theodore Roosevelt and His Time Shown in His Own Letters - Vol. 1

By Joseph Bucklin Bishop | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
LEGISLATURE--FIRST TERM

THEODORE ROOSEVELT's public career began in January, 1882, when at the age of 23 he entered the New York Legislature as a member of its lower house. He had been graduated from Harvard in 1880 and had spent the following year in the study of law. His inclination toward the legal profession was not strengthened by his studies for it seemed to him that some of the teachings of the law books and of the class-room were against rather than in favor of the attainment of justice. Then, too, the standards set by many successful lawyers who were in the service of great corporations, were incompatible with the idealism which he, in common with other high-minded men, entertained. It was a period, not yet closed, in which many of the ablest and most eminent members of the bar devoted their talents, not so much to the strict observance of the law, as to finding ways by which their clients could violate the spirit if not the letter of the law and escape its penalties. The effect of studies under these conditions made an impression upon young Roosevelt's mind which was never wholly effaced, but which deepened and strengthened as time went on and found expression later in his action as President in the direction of regulating and controlling the conduct of great corporations.

While studying law he began to take an active interest in politics and his comfortable financial condition enabled him to give time and attention to political matters which he would otherwise have been obliged to concentrate upon earning a livelihood. He had been left by his father sufficient means to permit him to make the earning of additional money a secondary matter. He said in after life that

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