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Source: Illustrious Career and Heroic Deeds of Colonel Roosevelt, “The Intellectual Giant”
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “Suddenly Called to Be President” [chapter 11]
Author(s): Mowbray, Jay Henry
Publisher: none given
Place of publication: none given
Year of publication: 1910
Pagination: 165-70

Mowbray, Jay Henry. “Suddenly Called to Be President” [chapter 11]. Illustrious Career and Heroic Deeds of Colonel Roosevelt, “The Intellectual Giant. [n.p.]: [n.p.], 1910: pp. 165-70.
full text of chapter; excerpt of book
Theodore Roosevelt (assumption of presidency); Theodore Roosevelt (inauguration); Theodore Roosevelt (swearing in); Theodore Roosevelt (first official proclamation: full text).
Named persons
Chauncey M. Depew; Lyman J. Gage; John Hay; John R. Hazel; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt; Elihu Root; Ansley Wilcox.
Despite what the descriptive summary statements (below, preceding the text proper) declare about the contents of this chapter, not all of the stated subject matter is actually contained in this chapter.

From title page: Illustrious Career and Heroic Deeds of Colonel Roosevelt, “The Intellectual Giant”: Containing a Full Account of His Marvelous Career, His Early Life, Adventures on a Western Ranch Among the Cowboys; Famous Leader of the Rough Riders; President of Our Great Country; His Wise Statesmanship, Manly Courage, Patriotsm, [sic] Etc., Etc.; Including His Famous Adventures in the Wilds of Africa in Search of Lions, Rhinoceri, Elephants and Other Ferocious Beasts of the Jungle and Plain; Journeys in Unknown Lands and Marvelous Discoveries, Together with His Triumphal Journey and Receptions by the Crowned Heads of Europe.

From title page: Embellished with a Great Number of Superb Phototype Engravings.

From title page: By Jay Henry Mowbray, Ph. D., LL. D., the Well-Known Historian and Traveler.


Suddenly Called to Be President



THE appalling tragedy that ended the life of President McKinley, at the very summit of his fame and usefulness, summoned Mr. Roosevelt to the Presidency of the United States. It was a dark day for our country when the fatal shot was fired that struck down a President who was universally admired and beloved, and who, it was fondly thought, had not an enemy on earth.
     Instantly the nation turned to his successor with a feeling both of relief and apprehension. The vast responsibility and the call for the wisest statesmanship suddenly thrust upon him, and the fact that he was now to guide the destinies of the republic, caused grave fears in the minds of thoughtful people, and an anxiety which, under the circumstances, was but natural and inevitable. At the same time, his public record was such as to go far toward creating the utmost confidence in his ability to cope with the sudden and extraordinary crisis. No one doubted the purity of his intentions, the honesty of his convictions, or his conscientious purpose to make good the loss sustained by the country, and to carry forward the policies advocated by his predecessor.
     Although some vague doubts were expressed, and men questioned one another as to whether Mr. Roosevelt would prove equal to the emergency, there were no signs of panic in the world of [165][166] finance, or slowing up of the wheels of industry. With a self-confidence which has often been ridiculed as Yankee boasting, it was believed the country could take care of itself, and its new chief executive would superbly meet every demand. Public opinion was soon enlisted in his support, the timid ones were reassured, and the overwhelming sorrow and sense of bereavement that followed the assassination of one President gradually gave way to a feeling of thankfulness that another so competent and trustworthy was now at the head of our national affairs.


     The mournful event that placed Mr. Roosevelt in the White House was as unexpected by him as it was by the nation at large. The crack of the assassin’s pistol rang through the whole world with startling effect. No one was prepared for the thrilling tragedy. As is well known, hopes were entertained for President McKinley’s recovery. For a whole week his condition was reported by the attending physicians as perfectly satisfactory, and there was every indication that his wound would not prove fatal. The bulletins expressed a hope that amounted almost to a certainty, and stated only a short time before his death, that all danger was past. The bullet had not been extracted, but the illustrious patient’s symptoms and general condition gave every promise of complete recovery.
     Then came the sudden change for the worse. The ghastly reaper who strikes down rulers and peasants alike, with unpitying celerity made sure of his victim. Hope went out in darkness and delusive promises were mercilessly broken. The civilized world felt the shock. It was a time for awe and silence.
     Hon. Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as President of the United States at 3.36 o’clock on the afternoon of Saturday, September 14th. Standing in a low-ceiled, narrow room in the quaint old mansion occupied by Ansley Wilcox, in the fashionable part of Delaware Avenue, the aristocratic thoroughfare of Buffalo, Mr. Roosevelt swore to administer the laws of the Government of which he is now the head. He stood erect, holding his right [166][167] hand high above his head. His massive shoulders were thrown well back, as, with his head inclined a little forward, he repeated the form of the oath of office in clear, distinct tones, that fell impressively upon the ears of the forty-three persons grouped about the room.
     His face was a study in earnestness and determination, as he uttered the words which made him President of the United States. His face was much paler than it was wont to be, and his eyes, though bright and steady, gleamed mistily through his big-bowed gold spectacles. His attire was sombre and modest. A well-fitting worsted frock coat draped his athletic figure almost to the knees. His trousers were dark gray, with pinstripes. A thin skein of golden chain looped from the two lower pockets of his waistcoat. While he was waiting for the ceremony he toyed with this chain with his right hand.


     The place selected for the ceremony of taking 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 the President took his position.
     Judge Hazel stood near the President in the bay window, and the latter showed his 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.
     At precisely 3.32 o’clock Secretary Root ceased his conversation with the President, 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 broke, and for fully two minutes the tears came down his face and his lips quiv- [167][168] ered, 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 office of President of the United States.”
     Judge Hazel had stepped to the rear of the President, and Mr. Roosevelt, coming closer to Secretary Root, said, in a voice that at first wavered, but finally came deep and strong, while, as if to control his nervousness, he held firmly to the lapel of his coat with his right hand:


     “I shall take the oath at once in accordance with your request, and in this hour of deep and terrible national 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 President stepped farther into the bay window, and Judge Hazel, taking up the constitutional oath of office, which had been prepared on parchment, asked the President 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 the President, in a strong voice and without a tremor, and with his raised hand as steady as if carved from marble, repeated it after him.
     “And thus I swear,” he ended it. The hand dropped by his 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 was offering silent prayer for help and guidance.
     Judge Hazel broke the silence, saying: “Mr. President, please attach your signature.” And the President, turning to a [168][169] small table near-by, wrote “Theodore Roosevelt” at the bottom of the document in a firm hand.
     “I should like to see the members of the Cabinet a few moments after the others retire,” said the President, and this was the signal for the score of the people, who had been favored by witnessing the ceremony, to retire.
     As they turned to go the President said: “I will shake hands with you people, gladly,” and, with something of his old smile returning, he first shook hands with the members of the Cabinet present, then Senator Depew and finally with a few guests and newspaper men.


     At a meeting of the Cabinet in the afternoon, President Roosevelt requested that the members retain their positions, at least for the present, and they promised that they would do so. He also received assurances that Secretaries Hay and Gage, who were absent, would remain for the time being. The first official act of President Roosevelt was the issuing of the following proclamation, the appropriateness and felicitous expression of which could not be improved.
     “By the President of the United States of America, a proclamation:
     “A terrible bereavement has befallen our people. The President of the United States has been struck down; a crime committed not only against the Chief Magistrate, but against every law-abiding and liberty-loving citizen.
     “President McKinley crowned a life of largest love for his fellowmen, of most earnest endeavor for their welfare, by a death of Christian fortitude; and both the way in which he lived his life and the way in which, in the supreme hour of trial, he met his death, will remain forever a precious heritage of our people.
     “It is meet that we, as a nation, express our abiding love and reverence for his life, our deep sorrow for his untimely death.
     “Now, therefore, I, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do appoint Thursday next, September [169][170] 19, the day in which the body of the dead President will be laid in its last earthly resting place, as a day of mourning and prayer throughout the United States. I earnestly recommend all the people to assemble in their respective places of divine worship, there to bow down in submission to the will of Almighty God, and to pay out of full hearts their homage of love and reverence to the great and good President, whose death has smitten the nation with bitter grief.
     “In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
     “Done at the city of Washington, the 14th day of September, A. D., one thousand nine hundred and one, and of the Independence of the United States the one hundred and twenty-sixth.


                  “By the President,
                          “JOHN HAY, Secretary of State.”



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