A Vigorous Champion in the Presidential Chair
ON the 6th of September, 1901, a lamentable act took
place, one of those tragic occurrences that are apt to arise from
the mad ferment of modern life. President McKinley, while shaking
hands in friendly spirit with his fellow-citizens in the great hall
of the Buffalo Exposition, was foully shot down by a half-insane
Anarchist, whose hand the victim had just cordially grasped.
For a week the suffering martyr lay
between life and death, for a time showing such signs of recovery
that hope overspread the country, then rapidly sinking until death
came to him in the early morning of the 14th. His sad passing away
left Theodore Roosevelt President, a consummation no one had dreamed
of when, against his will, he was induced to become a candidate
for the Vice-Presidency.
The death of McKinley was followed
by an event of dramatic interest. For a time the recovery of the
stricken President seemed so assured that Roosevelt felt secure
in making a hunting excursion in the Adirondacks, for which he had
When, on Friday, September 13th, word
reached the Tahawas Club House, where the Vice-President had his
headquarters, that the exalted victim was fast sinking, Roosevelt
was not to be found. He had set out early that morning for a tramp
in the mountains, and no one knew just where he was. Before starting
he had received a despatch from Buffalo saying that the President
was in splendid condition and not in the slightest danger. Under
these circumstances he had felt it safe to venture upon his mountain
The fresh and startling news caused
guides and runners to be sent out in all directions, with orders
to sound a general alarm and find the Vice-President as quickly
as possible. Yet hours passed away and the afternoon was verging
into early evening before the signals of the searchers were heard
and answered and it became evident that the Roosevelt party was
near at hand. 
When Colonel Roosevelt was reached
and the news of the critical condition of the President told him
he could scarcely credit it. Startled and alarmed, he hurried back
to the Tahawas Club House, feeling that he must hasten to Buffalo
with the utmost despatch. But the nearest railroad station was thirty-five
miles distant, and this distance had to be covered by stage, over
a road rendered heavy by a recent thunderstorm.
When he reached there the Adirondack
Stage Line had a coach in readiness and had provided relays of horses
covering the whole distance. All night long the stage coach, bearing
its distinguished passenger rolled along through the woods, the
latter part of the journey being through heavy forest timber, which
rendered it one of actual peril.
President McKinley had already passed
away, though this news was not received until he reached the station
at North Creek at 5.22 on the following morning. A special train
awaited him and dashed away the moment it received the awaited passenger.
The trip that followed was a record-breaking one, the speed in many
instances exceeding a mile a minute. It was 1.40 p. m. when it pulled
into the station at Buffalo, the President, as Roosevelt now was,
going to the house where his deceased predecessor lay.
That afternoon he took the oath of
office as President of the United States, the oath being administered
by Judge Hazel, in the presence of Secretaries Root, Long, Hitchcock
and Wilson, Attorney-General Knox and other distinguished persons.
The oath taken and the document signed, all the preliminaries were
finished, and Theodore Roosevelt became the legally authorized President
of the United States.
Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest
man in the history of the country to become President of the United
States; he had not yet completed his forty-third year. The youngest
before him being President Grant, who was forty-seven at the date
of his first inauguration. The oldest was President Harrison, who
took office at the age of sixty-eight. It was a heavy responsibility
to fall on so young a man. How he would act in his new office was
the anxious query asked by those who remembered the records of Presidents
Tyler, Filmore and Johnson, who like him had begun as Vice-Presidents.
President  McKinley stood for
certain principles, certain promises to the people made in the platform
of the year before. Could an impulsive man like Theodore Roosevelt,
a man full of ideas and views of his own, be expected to carry out
his predecessor’s policy? There was a distinct feeling of relief
in the community when he came out with a declaration that this was
what he proposed to do.
Yet McKinley’s policy did not cover
the whole range of legislation, and the remembrance of Roosevelt’s
radical reform administration in New York was not altogether agreeable
to the hide-bound conservatives or the class of shady politicians
who had axes to grind. They felt that a man like this in the Presidential
chair might prove like the proverbial bull in the china shop.