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Source: Marcus Alonzo Hanna: His Life and Work
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “The Panama Canal” [chapter 24]
Author(s): Croly, Herbert
Publisher: Macmillan Company
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: 1912
Pagination: 369-85 (excerpt below includes only pages 369-72)

Croly, Herbert. “The Panama Canal” [chapter 24]. Marcus Alonzo Hanna: His Life and Work. New York: Macmillan, 1912: pp. 369-85.
excerpt of chapter
Marcus Hanna; Marcus Hanna (impact of assassination); Raymond Patterson (public addresses); Theodore Roosevelt (relations with Marcus Hanna).
Named persons
Homer Davenport; Marcus Hanna; William McKinley; Raymond Patterson; Theodore Roosevelt.


The Panama Canal [excerpt]

     IN view of the intimate association between the political careers of William McKinley and Mark Hanna, the former’s death might have been expected to injure the political power and prestige of his friend. Nothing of the kind occurred. If anything the assassination of President McKinley strengthened the position of Mr. Hanna and made the sources of his power flow more abundantly. The interval of two years and some months between Mr. McKinley’s assassination and Mr. Hanna’s death constituted the culminating period of the latter’s political career—the period in which his influence was most effective, his activities most varied and wholesome, his personal merits most widely understood and appreciated and his prospects most flattering.
     The mere fact of Mr. McKinley’s assassination reacted in Mr. Hanna’s favor. There was a general feeling that the rancorous abuse of which the dead President had been the victim had at least indirectly contributed to the tragedy. The public knew that Mr. Hanna had been even more malignantly and systematically abused than had his friend, and they knew better than ever how little he had deserved it. His hold on popular confidence was increased by the grief and indignation caused by Mr. McKinley’s assassination and by the belief that the martyred President’s mantle had descended on his shoulders. The conservative public opinion of the country came more than ever to consider Mr. Hanna as its leader and representative, and to have faith that his leadership would be both politically and economically successful.
     One of the clearest expressions of the change in public sentiment towards Mr. Hanna which had been gradually taking place, was given in an address made at a dinner which Mr. Hanna offered to the Gridiron Club of Washington in March, [369][370] 1902. The Gridiron Club is composed of the Washington correspondents of newspapers, scattered all over the country, and their usual attitude toward the public men who dine with them is far from being reverent or even respectful. Mr. Hanna had, however, made himself popular with the newspaper correspondents, as he did with every one else who came into actual contact with him, and they were glad to bear witness to his increasing personal prestige. The following address was made by Mr. Raymond Patterson:—

     “It is generally understood that the man who gives a dinner is safe from the assaults of his guests. Even an Indian or an Ohio Democrat would refrain from tomahawking his host, at least until they had finished the pie. But as you know, the Gridiron Club is not bound by ordinary rules, and we claim the right to kill our mountain lions wherever we find them. It becomes my painful duty, therefore, as the representative of this club, to impeach you of high crimes and misdemeanors. You, sir, have proven yourself the most despicable hypocrite of the century. You have betrayed our confidence most shamefully and you have failed to live up to your reputation in a way which should cause the blush of shame to crimson your brazen checks.
     “We cherished in our bosoms a most precious scoundrel and here you have developed into a most tawdry saint. You arrived in our midst indorsed [sic] by popular clamor and by Homer Davenport as a plutocrat and a dollar-mark, the vicious tool of wicked trusts, and the embodiment of financial arrogance. How have you lived up to this reputation? Dare you deny that you have failed to justify the confidence reposed in you? You have outraged all decency, let me tell you, by your shameless backslidings toward virtue. Instead of an illiterate parvenu we have been forced to associate with a polished gentleman, and the ignorant politician has degenerated into the shrewd statesman.
     “Where is our brutal political leader, our grasping money grabber, our stock-jobbing boodler? What have you done with him? Are you prepared either to produce the body or confess the crime? How comes it that the mere buyer of legislatures, who was supposed to be as voiceless in public as the tomb, made his début before this club with a ready wit and a merry humor which have become historic? How comes it that the enemy of the working man is now the chosen instrument for the settlement of disputes between capital and labor? Which is Jekyll and which is Hyde?
     “I was delegated to present to the real Mark Hanna a souvenir of [370][371] the feelings of the Gridiron Club, but I scarcely know whether to make a presentation to the memory of the reprobate the people were told you were or to the real Hanna of to-day, the statesman, the broad-gauged man of affairs, the good fellow and our friend. There are in this club sixty men, and as slight testimonial of the fact that all of them join in this expression of sentiment, the face of every one of them has been photographed indelibly on the indestructible copper of this sacred gridiron. It is unique, as you will see, but the sentiment behind it is far from singular.
     “These sixty faces may recall to you the fact that you have achieved a triumph such as comes to but few men. You have destroyed a popular myth, and now to-day across the length and breadth of the country, Mark Hanna the boodler, Mark Hanna the bullying political boss, Mark Hanna the trickster and the parvenu, has absolutely disappeared from the public press. The purity of your life, the exquisite good-fellowship which we learned so rapidly to recognize, the steadfastness of your purposes, the honesty of your methods and above all the fidelity to the dead McKinley more tender even than to the living President, all these qualities have dissipated the black clouds of envy, of malice and of partisan venom, and have won for you a peculiar place in the hearts of the people.
     “So, sir, it becomes my duty to present to you this emblazoned gridiron, bearing on its polished bars the individual portraits of our membership, which shall be at once a monument to the dead and gone Hanna the people tried so hard to hate, and also it shall be the final testimonial of the living Uncle Mark we have so learned to love.”

     Another cause contributed to the enhancement of Mr. Hanna’s political prestige. The death of Mr. McKinley had not apparently done anything to diminish his influence at the White House. He entered at once into very intimate and confidential relations with the new President. When two men occupying responsible positions and forced by those positions into constant association work together smoothly and efficiently, the result looks so natural and inevitable that few people stop to consider how much easier and more natural a disagreement might have been. In the case of Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Hanna a disagreement might have been plausibly predicted. In the past they had never been closely associated, and each was aware that he had been more or less criticised by the other. Each was aware of certain fundamental differences of opinion and political outlook. [371][372] But both were also aware how necessary it was for Republican success that the new President and the old organization should not fall into a suspicious and hostile attitude one to the other.
     When the new President, the day after his predecessor’s death, gave his wise and reassuring pledge that he would not depart from the policy of the McKinley administration, the way was open for a working agreement. Mr. Hanna immediately entered the opening. He was always willing to meet another man more than halfway, and after Mr. Roosevelt’s pledge he was not only ready but eager to offer his services to the new President. They both had the good sense and the good feeling to recognize what the situation demanded and both proved capable of acting up to its needs. Each of them came to understand that he was dealing with a man who was dealing fairly and considerately with him. They became, consequently, not only efficient co-workers, but good friends. As they knew each other better, they liked each other the more. The President was loyal to his promise that during the remainder of the term he would consider himself as in a sense his predecessor’s deputy. Mr. Hanna was equally true to his promise that the administration should have his loyal support and his best advice. With Mr. Roosevelt, as with Mr. McKinley, his influence, whatever it amounted to, was not due to friendship or favor. He was powerful with both men, because he was disinterested and because he was really useful, and apparently he was almost as frequently consulted by one as by the other. The private secretary of both the old President and the new states that Mr. Hanna’s counsel was as influential in the White House in 1902 as it had been early in 1901.



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