Building Valuable Friendships
LATE ON A BLUSTERY March afternoon, Theodore Roosevelt rushed the few blocks from old City Hall to the Baltimore and Potomac railroad station at Sixth and B Streets.1 Ten years before, on a steamy July 2, 1881, President James A. Garfield passed through this same station on his way to a summer's vacation. As Garfield, who took office only four months before, walked through the waiting room, a deranged attorney named Charles Guiteau leapt from a crowd of bystanders and fired two bullets into the president's body, one in the arm and one, fatally, in the back. For weeks before, Guiteau had beseeched the White House for a spoils appointment as consul to Paris, but both Garfield and Secretary of State James Blaine spurned the office seeker.2 An outraged American public blamed the assassination on the spoils system, and the resulting public outcry forced Congress to pass permanent civil service legislation in 1883 and, ultimately, create Roosevelt's job at the commission.
It is unlikely, however, that Roosevelt dwelled on the irony of the tragic events that had taken place in that train station a decade before, for he brooded over a more immediate problem. He boarded the first train headed north and, six hours later, arrived in Jersey City, where he caught the steam ferry across the Hudson River to Manhattan. As he stepped onto the city's streets that evening, gusts of wind and shivery rain slapped him in the face. A storm had moved in from the south and now sat off the East Coast, brewing a late-winter northeaster. Undaunted by the weather, Theodore hurried to his destination, a meeting of the New York Civil Service Reform Association. Roosevelt burst into