Crashing the Party
To outward appearances, Roosevelt was the soul of respectability during his first year after college. Devoted husband, sober student of the law, serious scholar, patriotic writer--he was all of these, and a fully vested member of the New York gentry to boot. He might dress rough while hunting on the prairies, but in his native habitat of midtown Manhattan or on the grand tour of Europe he was unmistakably of the finest stratum of the upper crust.
Yet this dignified exterior concealed a dark secret. By day and most evenings he adhered to the rules and expectations of his class, but one night a month, later more frequently, he consorted with characters of dubious morals and indubitably shady reputations. He led a double life; in short, he entered politics.
The portal to this nether realm was Morton Hall, a grimy, smelly clubhouse above a saloon on Fifty-ninth Street. The hall was a short walk from his home, but it might just as well have been a world away. The men--women weren't welcome and didn't come--who crowded into Morton Hall, filling its air with cigar smoke, its floor with ashes, and its spittoons (alternatively, the floor) with tobacco juice, were of a kind Roosevelt hadn't consorted with to date. They were professionals and businessmen, but of a distinctive caste. Their profession was people and their business was winning public office. Their work was keenly competitive: Those with the gift succeeded and prospered; those without fell by the side.
Joseph Murray had the gift. Irish by birth, Murray had fled his hun-