There are two kinds
who seek a Presidency. One aims at eminence, the other hungers for
fame. With one the White House is an object; with the other a method.
The first, if made President, sits calmly down; he has had his victory
and the White House is his. With him of the fame-hunger, it is the
other way about. Given the White House his great work begins. He
does not think to write his name with the immortals by simply signing
himself “President.” He can only achieve the purpose that has called
him to the field, by labors of lasting good to the whole people.
Of our entire line of Presidents no more than six were of the latter.
Six there were who sought and found their wreaths. The others will
live in history whenever and wherever Presidents are enumerated;
not one by his record, however, bequeathed himself to fame.
It shone out as a best hope of the
hour that Mr. Roosevelt was heart and soul a fame-hunter. The nobility
of one’s action is determined by the nobility of one’s aspirations.
Mr. Roosevelt did not rest content with being merely a President.
He must go down the aisles of coming time a great President, or
in his own conscience he would fail. To that end, he set before
himself the examples of those mighty ones of time past. The Washingtons,
the Jeffersons, the Jacksons, the Lincolns and the Grants were his
exemplars. With such to be as guides to him—and because he was true
and bold and wise, and no man owned him—it was not strange if he
conquered entrance to Valhalla. Moreover, it is good for the public
to know and say these things.
If there be any worth-while thing
in mere experience, if reading and travel and the study of men be
of good avail, Mr. Roosevelt had the making of a great President.
Before he went to the White House he was taught how State laws were
made as a member of the assembly at Albany, and subsequently took
lessons in executing those laws as Governor. He was shown the inner
workings of a great city as a Commissioner of Police. As Chief of
Civil Service, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Soldier in the field,
and Vice-President it was given him to look into every nook and
corner of national government. Even as a Deputy Sheriff in the utter
West it may safely be assumed that he was learning. Also his travels
had been wide, and he knew from practical touch and observation
not only Europe, but every phase of American existence. He had wandered
East and West and North and South, and ate and drank and talked
and slept with the peoples of those regions. He knew what they felt
and thought and desired; he could gauge their needs, anticipate
their drift of sentiment. [6636C][6636D]
Mr. Roosevelt intended the Panama
Canal to be the great work of his regime. With all the power in
his hands—and no one has measured the power of a President—he pushed
the Panama business to its conclusion. By this or that, he meant
to split the Isthmus with that Canal. American ships should translate
themselves from one ocean to the other without troubling Cape Horn;
upon that marine miracle he stood resolved. And it was likewise
current that, as demanded by a long-ago Secretary of State, now
dead and under the grass-roots, he was determined that both banks
of the Canal should be part of the coast line of this country. Such
decision was native to and in keeping with the Roosevelt character,
which is American; and its carrying out by no means inconsistent
with Roosevelt tastes, which never fail to favor boldness.
The propriety of the Canal, no one
American—save the trans-Continental railways—was ever heard to deny.
But to the last crowned head of them, every European ruler, and
even the elected one of France had been opposed. They believed with
Sir Walter Raleigh that he who held the Isthmus of Darien held the
keys to the world, and were solicitous that no such lockopener should
hang at the girdle of America.
It was well for the world while Mr.
Roosevelt abode in Washington. He was not duped abroad or deluded
at home. The government was neither a plutocracy nor a mobocracy,
but a democracy, while he prevailed. He was the friend of Capital,
the friend of Labor, the fool and tool of neither. It was he who
said that during his stay the door of the White House should yield
as easily to the touch of Labor as to the touch of Capital, but
During those years of on-coming towards
a Presidency, Mr. Roosevelt was not morally or mentally going backward
or standing still. He ripened and rounded, and grew in wisdom as
he grew in politics. With experience his prudence increased, while
his courage was not diminished. Over all and beyond all, towered
his indomitable honesty. He is a big man—big for the country, big
for mankind. Whole peoples respect him, kings are jealous of his
fame. To-day, to that Fate which waits ever at the elbow of time,
the nation may say:
“Bring on the Hour; here stands the