A Reluctant Vice-President [excerpt]
Soon after he took up his Vice-presidential duties,
he called upon Mr. Justice, later Chief Justice White and asked
his advice about the propriety of his attending law lectures in
Washington, with a view to being admitted to the bar after his term
as Vice-president had ended.
Chief Justice White had a delightful
sense of humor, as keen as Roosevelt’s; and I know that he must
have smiled—at least inwardly—when Roosevelt, earnest, unconventional,
and threatened with boredom, asked his advice on this point. But
the Chief Justice reciprocated, in spirit if not in letter; and
generously offered to supply Roosevelt with books and to give him
a “quiz” every Saturday evening.
However, this plan did not mature.
The tragedy element which looms behind all our lives here broke
through, in the lives of President McKinley, Vice-president Roosevelt,
and indeed the life of the 
nation as well. The bullet of the assassin Czolgosz changed all,
even altered the course of the world’s history.
I once sat in an audience at a theater
where two plays made up the evening’s program. The curtain rang
down at the end of the first play. And we sat awaiting the announced
second play. But unusual noise and clatter behind the scenes puzzled
us. After unexpected minutes of delay the curtain rose, and we saw
the stage set for an entirely different play from the one announced.
Later we learned that the illness of one of the principal actors
had necessitated the change and the scenes had been shifted in haste
and excitement. As I look back upon that brief period between September
sixth and September fourteenth, 1901, the fancy strikes me that
a similar emergency and a similar transformation, though vaster
in significance, took place. The Vice-president was summoned from
Isle La Motte, Vermont, where he had just made an address. He sped
to Buffalo, where his stricken chief lay helpless. The nation, by
bulletins, followed the thrilling events. The physicians, two days
later, gave most encouraging reports. Roosevelt went to Mt. Marcy,
in the Adirondacks. Favorable reports from Buffalo came to him daily.
Then, on the thirteenth, came the unexpected message from Secretary
Cortelyou,  “The President’s
condition has changed for the worse.” Roosevelt was thirty-five
miles from the nearest railroad station. But he secured a buckboard
and, with a driver as daring as himself, traveled through the darkness
of night, with fog enveloping, over rough roads, dangerous even
in full daylight, traveled with speed, changed horses several times,
and reached the railroad at dawn. There he learned from his own
secretary, Mr. Loeb, that the worst had come. President McKinley
had died. Then by train he sped across the State to Buffalo. And
with but little delay, by the expressed desire of the Cabinet, he
took the oath of office as President.
Thus the scenes were shifted. Thus
the stage of the great drama was reset in a fashion not dreamed
The “Power not ourselves” was “making
for righteousness”, but in an unexpected way. The various prophecies,
dimly outlined by admiring friends, came to pass. Theodore Roosevelt
was now President of the United States.