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Two Pictures from the 1910 State Senate Campaign

Although the odds, according to District Attorney Mack, were one chance in five, Roosevelt exuded confidence in victory from the first day of the campaign:

“I accept this nomination with ABSOLUTE INDEPENDENDCE”, FDR told the Democratic caucuses in Poughkeepsie on Oct. 6.” I AM PLEDGED TO NO MAN; I AM INFLUENCED BY NO SPECIAL INTEREST.”10

At an October rally in Hudson, he spoke of the PART-TIME CULTURE THAT EXISTED IN ALBANY AND STATED:

“…I WANT TO REPRESENT YOU, THE PEOPLE OF THESE COUNTIES AND NO ONE ELSE…..I WANT TO STAY ON THE JOB REPRESENTING YOU TWELVE MONTHS A YEAR.”11

Roosevelt indentified himself with good government and blasted away at the “rotten “corruption of the New York legislature and extravagant mismanagement of the State administration.12

During the election, then Republican Governor Charles Evans Hughes was in a bitter struggle with the old line Republicans and Democrats who wanted to keep the practice of the State legislators appointing the U.S. Senator to Washington from New York. Hughes sought to introduce direct popular elections. Roosevelt’s opponent, State Senator John F. Schlosser, had voted against the reform election bill. Roosevelt immediately lashed out at Schlosser and the political bosses in both parties, and when asked at a farm rally whether he supported Governor Hughes’s policies, replied:

“You bet I do. I think he is one of the best governors the State has ever had.”13

Initially the Republicans paid no attention to FDR, but as the campaign drew to a close, panic set in. He was attacked by Hamilton Fish, who represented Duchess in the Congress, as carpetbagger who lived in Manhattan and Schlosser joined the fray with a vituperative attack on FDR’s patrician origins and dandified appearance.14 Tammanyites ridiculed Roosevelt as a “toplofty snob.”15 And Dan O’Connell, the political boss, called him a “bigot and a patronizing son of a bitch.”16

Interestingly, while Roosevelt was prosperous and “old money” by 1910, his family originally descended from a modest farmer from Holland named Claes Van (or Von) Rosenvelt. He was the common ancestor of Franklin and Theodor Roosevelt, “Our very common ancestor” as Teddy Roosevelt phrased it. The family eventually dropped “Von” and changed the spelling of their name.17

Franklin Roosevelt’s family descended from Claes to Jacobus Roosevelt, who changed the family name. After Jacobus, the most noteworthy ancestor was “Isaac the Patriot,” who voted for independence at the provincial assembly in 1776. He was one of the authors of the Constitution of New York and a Federalist ally of Alexander Hamilton.

There was a widespread theory…that the Roosevelt was originally Jewish. In a famous letter in 1935, Franklin D. Roosevelt responded to a written question on this point from a Jewish scholar that it was of no interest to him what the religion of his Dutch ancestors might have been whether Jew, Catholic or Protestant, he only hoped that they were people of ” good character and believed in God.”18

No matter whether Roosevelt was called a patrician, snob or other name, the fact is that he was a natural with people, and the voters loved him in these rural counties. On November 8, 1910, Roosevelt became a New York State Senator, defeating Schlooser 15,708 to 14,568.

The pros were worried. “Big Tim Sullivan, a Tammany wheelhorse who represented the Bowery in the State Senate told friends:

“If we caught a Roosevelt, we better take him down and drop him off the dock…”19

New York Legislators earned $1,500 a year for their PART-TIME job, and since Hyde Park was only 65 miles from Albany, FDR might have easily commuted, but he CHOOSE TO CONVERT HIS ELECTION VICTORY INTO A FULL-TIME CAREER AS A STATE SENATOR.. As he had told voters in Hudson, he intended to stay on the job” twelve months a year.”