Remarks in Roswell, Georgia

October 20, 1905

Senator, and you, my friends, whom it is hard for me not to call my neighbors, for I feel as if you were:

You can have no idea of how much it means to me to come back to Roswell, to the home of my mother and my mother's people, and to see the spot which I already know so well from what my mother and my aunts told me. It has been exactly as if I were revisiting some old place of my childhood. It has meant very much to me to be introduced by Senator Clay. Senator Clay has been altogether too kind in what he said about me. Now, I am going to say nothing whatever but the bare facts about Senator Clay, and these facts amount to this: If the average man I had to deal with in public life possessed Senator Clay's firm devotion to what he deems right, my task would be so easy that it would not be worth mentioning. I have gone to Senator Clay for advice and counsel and help ever since I have been in Washington, just as I went to Senator Cockrell, of Missouri, while he was in the Senate, with the certainty that all I had to do was to convince him that what I wanted done was right—I could not always convince him—but if I did convince him that was the end of it—he went that way.

Oh, my friends, I hardly like to say how deeply my heart is moved by coming back here among you. Among the earliest recollections I have as a child is hearing from my mother and my aunt—Miss Annie Bulloch, as she was then—about Roswell; of how the Pratts and Kings and Dunwoodys and Bullochs came here first to settle; about the old homestead, the house on the hill; about the Chattahoochee; about all kinds and sorts of incidents that would not interest you, but interested me a great deal when I was a child. I wish I could spend hours here to look all through and see the different places about which I have heard all kinds of incidents. All those anecdotes, looking back now, I can see, taught me an enormous amount, perhaps all the more because they were not intended to teach anything. I think, perhaps, we are very apt to learn most when neither we nor the people talking to us in tend to teach us anything. If anybody starts in to teach us something, we are a little apt to resent it and assume a rather repellent attitude. All those stories of the life of those days taught me what a real home life, a real neighbor life was and should be. Looking back now at what I learned through the stories of the childhood of my mother, my aunts, my uncles, I can understand why the boys and girls of Roswell of that time grew up to be men and women who were good servants of the community, who were good husbands, good fathers, good wives and mothers; how it was that they learned to do their duty aright in peace and in war also.

It has been my very great good fortune to have the right to claim that my blood is half Southern and half Northern, and I would deny the right of any man here to feel a greater pride in the deeds of every Southerner than I feel. Of the children, the brothers and sisters of my mother, who were born and brought up in that house on the hill there, my two uncles afterward entered the Confederate service, and served in the Confederate navy. One, the younger man, served on the Alabama as the youngest officer aboard her. He was captain of one of her broadside thirty-two-pounders in her final fight, and when at the very end the Alabama was sinking and the Kearsarge passed under her stern and came up along the side that had not been engaged hitherto, my uncle, Irving Bulloch, shifted his gun from one side to the other, and fired the two last shots fired from the Alabama.

James Dunwoody Bulloch was an admiral in the Confederate service. Of all the people whom I have ever met, he was the one that came nearest to that beautiful creation of Thackeray—Colonel Newcome.

Men and women, don't you think that I have the ancestral right to claim a proud kinship with those who showed their devotion to duty as they saw the duty, whether they wore the gray or whether they wore the blue? All Americans who are worthy of the name feel an equal pride in the valor of those who fought on one side or the other, provided only that each did with all his might and soul and mind his duty as it was given him to see his duty.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks in Roswell, Georgia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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