Publication information

Theodore Roosevelt, Twenty-Sixth President of the United States
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “Succeeds to the Presidency” [chapter 19]
Author(s): Banks, Charles Eugene; Armstrong, Le Roy
Publisher: S. Stone
Place of publication: Chicago, Illinois
Year of publication: 1901
Pagination: 369-78

Banks, Charles Eugene, and Le Roy Armstrong. “Succeeds to the Presidency” [chapter 19]. Theodore Roosevelt, Twenty-Sixth President of the United States. Chicago: S. Stone, 1901: pp. 369-78.
full text of chapter; excerpt of book
Theodore Roosevelt; Theodore Roosevelt (journey: Adirondacks to Buffalo, NY: 13-14 Sept. 1901); Theodore Roosevelt (assumption of presidency); Theodore Roosevelt (inauguration); Theodore Roosevelt (swearing in: persons present in Wilcox residence); Theodore Roosevelt (swearing in); Theodore Roosevelt (public statements); McKinley cabinet (retention by Roosevelt).
Named persons
Chester A. Arthur; Charles Cary [misspelled below]; Evelyn Rumsey Cary [misspelled below]; George B. Cortelyou; James A. Garfield; Albert Haight; John Hay; John R. Hazel; Ethan A. Hitchcock; William Martin Jeffers; William Loeb; John D. Long; Matthew D. Mann; William McKinley; John G. Milburn; Mary Milburn; Roswell Park; Theodore Roosevelt; Elihu Root; George P. Sawyer; J. D. Sawyer; John N. Scatcherd; Robert Scatcherd; Charles Emory Smith; Alice Brayley Sprague; Carleton Sprague; Charles G. Stockton; Ansley Wilcox; Mary Rumsey Wilcox; George L. Williams.
The Miss Wilcox named below (p. 376) cannot be identified.

This chapter includes an illustration and a photograph, captioned as follows (respectively):
  • The Mountain Guide Finds Mr. Roosevelt in the Adirondacks, and Summons Him to the Dying President’s Bedside [facing p. 372]
  • Library of Mr. Ansley Wilcox at Buffalo, Where President Roosevelt Took the Oath of Office [facing p. 376]
From title page: Theodore Roosevelt, Twenty-Sixth President of the United States: A Typical American.

From title page: By Charles Eugene Banks and Leroy Armstrong; Introductory Chapters by Gen. Joseph Wheeler and Opie Read.

Succeeds to the Presidency



     Theodore Roosevelt became President of the United States on Saturday, September 14, 1901. The oath of office was administered by Judge John R. Hazel, of the United States District Court, at 3:32 P.M., in Buffalo, New York, in the residence of Mr. Ansley Wilcox, a personal friend of the Vice-President, who had been his host earlier in the week when the physicians thought President McKinley would recover from the wounds inflicted by the assassin.
     When the President was shot Colonel Roosevelt was at Isle La Motte, near Burlington, Vermont. He had just finished an address when he was informed of the dreadful tragedy. He hastened at once to the side of his wounded chief, where he remained until the physicians, deceived [369][370] as to the deadly nature of the wounds, gave him assurance that the President would live. Then, worn by the terrible strain of the situation, he retired to the solitude of the mountains, praying that the prediction might be fulfilled.
     To no one of all the hosts of President McKinley’s warmest admirers was the shock of the nation’s tragedy so severe as to him who was nearest in honor and counsel. During all his later years of public life Mr. Roosevelt had been in the confidence of President McKinley. During the preceding campaign they had been drawn closer and closer together and a friendship had grown up between them that was closer than any that ever existed between two men similarly situated. The President found in this strong, energetic man a comrade he could trust in every particular. He admired his fearless espousal of practical reforms and seconded his efforts in that direction on every possible occasion. On the other hand, Mr. Roosevelt saw in President McKinley what many of his closest friends failed to recognize: the expansive mind that led the people onward toward the heights of civil government, but in such a gentle way and with such marked deference to their wishes that [370][371] they often believed they themselves were leading him. Colonel Roosevelt recognized the true greatness of William McKinley almost from their first introduction, and loved him always as a younger brother might have done. The attempt upon the life of the President unnerved him as nothing else had ever done. When he was told of it he turned white, and, strong man as he is, would have fallen had he not been supported. When urged to speak he said: “I am so inexpressibly grieved and shocked, and horrified, that I can say nothing.”
     How great was the strain on the minds of every one during those first hours immediately following the shooting is beyond description. Some who had never looked upon the wounded President lost their reason under the stress of it. Then came the assurance of the physicians that the President would live and the pendulum swung the other way. There was praise and thanksgiving everywhere.
     In full confidence that the President would recover, Vice-President Roosevelt retired into the solitude of the forests to add his supplications to those that were being offered up to the Author of All from every pulpit, as well as from every fire- [371][372] side in the land, for the President’s recovery. Nature is his cathedral, and in her solitudes he felt himself nearer to Him who holds the fate of all nations and all peoples in the hollow of His hand.
     When the relapse came and the physicians were forced reluctantly to inform the world that the President could live but a few hours, a message was sent to inform the Vice-President. He was in the Adirondacks, the nearest telegraph station being North Creek, New York. As soon as the message arrived at the station a number of guides were secured, and, having been given copies of the dispatch, were hurried away in search of the Vice-President. One of them found him a little before sundown at the top of Mount Marcy and delivered the sorrowful summons. The Vice-President immediately started for the Tahawas Club, some miles distant. From the club-house to North Creek station it is thirty-five miles. He reached there at 5:21 the following morning and went at once aboard a special train that was being held in readiness for him. At seven o’clock the party was in Albany, where Vice-President Roosevelt was officially informed by Secretary of State Hay of the death of President McKinley. [372][373]
     The journey from Albany was continued over the New York Central Railroad. The special train was rushed across the State, arriving in Buffalo at 1:35 P.M. Instead of alighting at the Union station, where there was sure to be a crowd assembled, Mr. Roosevelt left the train at the Terrace station, where he was met by Mr. Ansley Wilcox and Mr. George Williams, with Mr. Williams’ carriage, together with a detachment of the Fourth Signal Corps and a squad of twenty mounted police. With the police and the military moving at a rapid trot in front of the carriage and behind it, Mr. Roosevelt drove swiftly up Delaware avenue to the house No. 641, which has now become one of the historic mansions of the country.
     It is a brick house, painted white, with a row of six stately pillars in front of a deep veranda, in the old-fashioned style of a hundred years ago. It is in one of the most beautiful parts of beautiful Delaware avenue, and is surrounded by tall, overbranching trees, which throw a deep shade upon the handsome lawn all the way down to the terrace, five or six feet high, which rises from the sidewalk, and upon which elevation above the street the house stands. [373][374]
     Away back in the early part of last century the house was used by the United States officers in command of the military post at Buffalo, and stood in a large park or square that was a part of the military reservation.
     The people who gathered about the house as the cavalcade came clattering up stood by in silence as the Vice-President left the carriage, walked rapidly up the terrace steps and entered the house. The people of Buffalo had stood silent for so many days, as if listening for the heart-beats in that wounded body of the martyred President lying in the Milburn house, that the least word seemed an intrusion on the prayerful silence. There was none spoken now as the man on whose shoulders had suddenly fallen all the burdens of State passed among them. Only the uncovered heads, bowed low, paid tribute to the dignity of his great office.
     Vice-President Roosevelt remained in the house but a few moments. His first thought was of the woman whose ever-loving and gentle helpmate had been suddenly taken away, and he started at once to pay his respects to her, and offer what consolation lay in his power. As he returned to the carriage his eye lighted on the [374][375] military and police escort still drawn up in the street.
     “Send them away,” he said quickly, “I do not like the idea of a guard.”
     As he turned to enter the carriage the Vice-President saw that his wishes in reference to the escort were being disregarded. The military was lining up behind the carriage.
     “Halt,” he said. He spoke low and quietly, but there was a military ring in the voice that commanded obedience. “I will not have a military guard,” he said. “These two policemen may go with us if you think best. No more.” The orders were obeyed this time, and the carriage moved away with no other escort than the two policemen, one riding on either side.
     Nearly all the Cabinet ministers were at the Milburn house when Vice-President Roosevelt arrived, but he met them only as a private citizen mourning the loss of a very dear friend. The hour was too full of grief for words and the Vice-President, after a few moments, returned to the Wilcox residence. He was followed soon after by the members of the Cabinet, and at their request took the oath of office which made him President of the United States. [375][376]
     The new President assumed the duties of the first magistrate of the land in the library of the Wilcox home. The room was rather small, but picturesque, with heavy oak trimmings, and massive bookcases lining the walls. Those present when Mr. Roosevelt took the oath were: Elihu Root, Secretary of War; Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Secretary of the Interior; John D. Long, Secretary of the Navy; Charles Emory Smith, Postmaster-General; Judge of the Court of Appeals Haight; Mr. John N. Scatcherd; Mr. and Mrs. Ansley Wilcox; Miss Wilcox; Mr. George P. Sawyer; Doctors Mann, Park and Stockton; Mr. and Mrs. Carleton Sprague; Mr. and Mrs. John G. Milburn; Secretary to the President, Mr. William Loeb, Jr.; Secretary to the deceased President, Mr. George B. Cortelyou; Mr. and Mrs. Chas. Carey; Mr. R. C. Scatcherd; Mr. J. D. Sawyer, and Mr. William Jeffers, official telegrapher, in addition to Judge John R. Hazel, of the United States District Court, who administered the oath.
     The scene was a most affecting one. Secretary Root, who, twenty years before, had been present at a similar scene, when Vice-President Arthur took the oath after the death of President Garfield, almost broke down when he requested [376][377] Mr. Roosevelt, on behalf of the members of the Cabinet, to take the prescribed oath. There were tears in the eyes of all when Mr. Roosevelt, standing in the pretty bay window, with its stained glass and heavy hangings forming a soft background, lifted his hand to take the sublime obligation. He was pale, and his eyes were dim with tears, but the uplifted hand was as steady as though carved in marble. Then in low, but firm tones, he repeated after Judge Hazel the constitutional oath of office:
     “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
     With the final words the hand of the speaker dropped to his side and for an instant his head was bowed as if for the Divine blessing. The impressive silence was broken by Judge Hazel:
     “Mr. President, please attach your signature.” Turning to a small table he wrote “Theodore Roosevelt” at the bottom of the prepared parchment. Then standing erect, the solemn dignity of the great office upon him, he said slowly: [377][378]
     “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 President then invited the members of the Cabinet present to remain in office, urging upon them the necessity of their doing so that he might the more fully carry out his pledge. He said he had been assured that the absent members of the Cabinet would retain their portfolios. After a moment’s consultation among themselves the Secretaries informed the President that they had decided to forego the usual custom of presenting their resignations and would remain as he had requested.
     Thus President Roosevelt, at the very outset, paid the highest possible tribute to the late President McKinley’s genius and worth by adopting his policy and expressing his intention of carrying out all his plans of a public nature that he had outlined in any way.