Source: Roosevelt: The Happy Warrior
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “A Reluctant Vice-President” [chapter 11]
Author(s): Gilman, Bradley
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
Place of publication: Boston, Massachusetts
Year of publication: 1921
Pagination: 182-200 (excerpt below includes only pages 198-200)
|Gilman, Bradley. “A Reluctant Vice-President” [chapter 11]. Roosevelt: The Happy Warrior. Boston: Little, Brown, 1921: pp. 182-200.|
|excerpt of chapter|
|Roosevelt vice-presidency; Edward D. White; McKinley assassination; Theodore Roosevelt (assumption of presidency).|
|George B. Cortelyou; Leon Czolgosz; William Loeb; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt; Edward D. White.|
|From title page: With Illustrations from Photographs.|
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 of.
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.