Source: Complete Life of William McKinley and Story of His Assassination
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “President Roosevelt Takes the Oath of Office” [chapter 28]
Author(s): Everett, Marshall
Edition: Memorial Edition
Publisher: none given
Place of publication: none given
Year of publication: 1901
Pagination: 304-18 (excerpt below includes only pages 304-06)
|Everett, Marshall. “President Roosevelt Takes the Oath of Office” [chapter 28]. Complete Life of William McKinley and Story of His Assassination. Memorial ed. [n.p.]: [n.p.], 1901: pp. 304-18.|
|excerpt of chapter|
|Theodore Roosevelt; Theodore Roosevelt (inauguration); Theodore Roosevelt (swearing in); Theodore Roosevelt (assumption of presidency); McKinley cabinet (retention by Roosevelt).|
|Lyman J. Gage; John Hay; John R. Hazel; Ida McKinley; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt; Elihu Root; Ansley Wilcox.|
From title page: Complete Life of William McKinley and Story of His Assassination: An Authentic and Official Memorial Edition, Containing Every Incident in the Career of the Immortal Statesman, Soldier, Orator and Patriot; Profusely Illustrated with Full-Page Photographs of the Assassination Scene, Portraits of President McKinley, His Cabinet, Famous Men of His Administration and Vivid Life-Like Pictures of Eventful Scenes in His Great and Grand Career.
From title page: By Marshall Everett, the Great Descriptive Writer and Friend of the Martyr President.
President Roosevelt Takes the Oath of Office [excerpt]
PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT TAKES THE OATH OF OFFICE.
Theodore Roosevelt became President of the United
States at 3:32 o’clock Saturday afternoon, September 14, 1901. The oath of office
was administered by Judge John R. Hazel, of the United States District Court,
in the library of the residence of Mr. Ansley Wilcox, at Buffalo. Mr. Wilcox
was an old friend of the Vice-President, and the latter had made Mr. Wilcox’s
house his home during his stay in Buffalo, after the shooting of the President.
The delay in taking the oath after the death of the President was the result of the sanguine feeling among the people that President McKinley would recover from his wounds. No one shared this feeling in a higher degree than the Vice-president When the news that the President had been shot became public Vice-president Roosevelt was in the East. He started immediately for Buffalo, and was at the President’s bedside as soon as possible. He remained in Buffalo until the physicians announced that there was no fear of the President’s death, and then left for the Adirondacks.
When the President began to sink Thursday night messages were sent to the Vice-president and those members of the Cabinet who, like himself, had left Buffalo, deluded into the belief that the President would soon be able to return to the Capital. The Vice-president, with his usual promptitude, started on the return trip to Buffalo, greatly saddened by the news which made such a step necessary. He made a hard night ride from the North Woods to Albany, and by the use of a special train reached Buffalo at 1:35 o’clock Saturday afternoon.
To avoid the crowd which had gathered at the Union Station to see him the Vice-president alighted at the Terrace Station of the New York Central, where a police and military escort awaited him. He insisted first of all on visiting Mrs. McKinley and offering condolences to her in her hour of anguish. This step he desired to take simply as a private citizen, and when it was accomplished the Vice-president announced himself as ready to take the oath as President. A strong escort of military and police had assembled at the Milburn house to escort him to Mr. Wilcox’s, but its presence annoyed the Vice-president, and he halted the guards with a quick, imperative military command, saying he would have only two policemen to go along with him. Later  he announced that he did not want to establish the precedent of going about guarded.
The place selected for the administration of the oath was the library of Mr. Wilcox’s house, a rather small room, but picturesque, the heavy oak trimmings and the massive bookcases giving it somewhat the appearance of a legal den. A pretty bay window with stained glass and heavy hangings formed a background, and against this Colonel Roosevelt took his position.
Judge Hazel stood near him in the bay window, and Colonel Roosevelt showed his almost extreme nervousness by plucking at the lapel of his long frock coat and nervously tapping the hardwood floor with his heel.
He stepped over once to Secretary Root and for about five minutes they conversed earnestly. The question at issue was whether the President should first sign an oath of office and then swear in or whether he should swear in first and sign the document in the case after.
Secretary Root ceased his conversation with Colonel Roosevelt, and, stepping back, while an absolute hush fell upon every one in the room, said, in an almost inaudible voice:
“Mr. Vice-president, I——” Then his voice faltered, and for fully two minutes the tears came down his face and his lips quivered so that he could not continue his utterances. There were sympathetic tears from those about him, and two great drops ran down either cheek of the successor of William McKinley.
Mr. Root’s chin was on his breast. Suddenly throwing back his head as if with an effort, he continued in broken voice:
“I have been requested, on behalf of the Cabinet of the late President, at least those who are present in Buffalo, all except two, to request that for reasons of weight affecting the affairs of government, you should proceed to take the constitutional oath of President of the United States.”
Colonel Roosevelt stepped farther into the bay window, and Judge Hazel, taking up the constitutional oath of office, which had been prepared on parchment, asked him to raise his right hand and repeat it after him. There was a hush like death in the room as the Judge read a few words at a time, and Colonel Roosevelt, in a strong voice and without a tremor, and with his raised hand steady, repeated it after him.
“And thus I swear,” he ended it. The hand dropped by the side, the chin for an instant rested on the breast, and the silence remained unbroken for a couple of minutes as though the new President of the United States were offering silent prayer. Judge Hazel broke it, saying: 
“Mr. President, please attach your signature,” and the President, turning to a small table near by, wrote “Theodore Roosevelt” at the bottom of the document in a firm hand.
The new President was visibly shaken, but he controlled himself admirably, and with the deep solemnity of the occasion full upon him, he announced to those present that his aim would be to be William McKinley’s successor in deed as well as in name. Deliberately he proclaimed it in these words:
“In this hour of deep and terrible bereavement, I wish to state that it shall be my aim to continue absolutely unbroken the policy of President McKinley for the peace and prosperity and honor of our beloved country.”
The great, far-reaching significance of this pledge to continue the policy of the dead President, announced at the very threshold of a new governmental regime, profoundly impressed his hearers, and President Roosevelt’s first step after taking the oath was in line with its redemption. His first act was to ask the members of the Cabinet to retain their portfolios in order to aid him to conduct the government on lines laid down by him whose policy he had declared he would uphold. Such an appeal was not to be resisted, and every member of the Cabinet, including Secretary of State Hay and Secretary of the Treasury Gage, who were communicated with in Washington, have agreed for the present, at least, to retain their several portfolios.
President Roosevelt remained in Buffalo until the funeral cortege started for Washington, when he accompanied it.