Source: Gunton’s Magazine
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Theodore Roosevelt, President”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 21
Issue number: 4
|“Theodore Roosevelt, President.” Gunton’s Magazine Oct. 1901 v21n4: pp. 315-19.|
|Theodore Roosevelt (assumption of presidency); Theodore Roosevelt; Theodore Roosevelt (political character).|
|Frank S. Black; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt.|
Theodore Roosevelt, President
By the assassin’s hand Mr. Roosevelt’s
path to the presidency of the United States has been shortened. Yet he was heading
for the white house, impelled by all the natural forces which induce political
promotion. It is an unspeakable misfortune to him as well as to the whole nation
that his promotion should have come through such revolting methods, and yet
it is fortunate for the nation that under the circumstances Mr. Roosevelt was
next in line.
He is thoroughly in the nation’s confidence; he is probably the most popular man with the American people in the country. His promotion in political life has been exceptionally rapid and his experience exceptionally full. Unlike any other man who has reached the white house in half a century, his popularity is all his own. That is to say, it is with the people that he is popular. It was the spontaneous demand of the citizens throughout the country that forced his rapid political progress. He has the two qualities which the American people most admire and are ever ready to stand by—integrity and courage. It seldom occurs that a really popular man becomes president of the United States. The candidates for that high office are not chosen by the popular voice, but are selected through the machinery of party organization, and that, in the last analysis, usually depends upon the decision of a comparatively small number. After they are selected, they individually become party heroes by virtue of such selection. Good men, and perhaps the best men, may be and often are selected that way, but Mr. Roosevelt never enjoyed the advantage of having the aid of these forces to secure his promotion. Indeed, he has more often had them against him. His exceptional progress in public  life has always come from his personal popularity with the unorganized and unmanageable public, and this popularity was not due to his good looks, the suavity of his manners or the eloquence of his speech, but to his sterling qualities, which the people admire. He is not a man of political theories, but preeminently a man of action. He always does things and that is what the people like. And, moreover, his doing is always characterized by progressive public spirit and unquestionable integrity. Whether president of the civil service commission, or president of the police commissioners of New York city, or colonel of the rough riders in the war, it was all the same. He was active, energetic, trustworthy and always the soul of honor. When he became candidate for governor of New York state, it was by the sheer force of personal popularity. The organization was a unit against him and there were abundant reasons why Mr. Black should have had a second term. He had earned it; there seemed to be no particular reasons why Roosevelt should be substituted for Black on that occasion. Indeed, all the traditional reasons were against it, but his popularity with the people over-topped all ordinary calculations and his nomination was an irrepressible stampede. He carried his qualities into the governorship, and nothing could have prevented his election for a second term but the greater demands for his promotion to the vice-presidency.
The demand for his nomination in this instance was unique in the history of American politics. It came from every state in the union. It is true that those who would make presidents and governors their personal servants instead of public representatives in his own state, favored his nomination to the vice-presidency in the hope that it would retire him to the dust-box of politics or at least take him out of the line of  political promotion. But the people, who indulged in no such short-range, unpatriotic notions, demanded his nomination to the second highest place in the gift of the nation, and the sad event which is now depressing the country only too clearly shows how much wiser were the people than the politicians.
Thus he carries with him to the presidency that confidence and enthusiastic support of the people that have been the lot of few presidents on their first entrance to the white house. In the midst of the national mourning, which is veritable sorrow throughout the land, there comes from every responsible avenue of life expressions of buoyant confidence in Mr. Roosevelt as president. The chambers of commerce, the great business houses and financial institutions, and in fact from every walk of life the voice has broken through the generally depressed feeling, to express hope and confidence in his administration.
It is a peculiar characteristic of Mr. Roosevelt that while he is emphatic and sometimes apparently impulsive, he is eminently practical and truly conservative. He is not too conceited or vain to change when he is in error or apologize for a mistake. He has shown, moreover, that extraordinary capacity to rise to the occasion. He broadens with the duty and strengthens with the responsibility. In assuming office, with that good sense that never fails him, he promptly declares that his “aim shall be to continue absolutely unbroken the policy of President McKinley for the peace, prosperity and honor” of the country. This declaration everybody knew was not a mere collection of words but an expressed determination. It was not an oration, but a promise which every American took in good faith.
In assuming the presidency under these dreadfully depressing conditions, Mr. Roosevelt has a double burden. He is called to assume the duties of president  wholly unexpectedly and to some extent unpreparedly, and he follows Mr. McKinley, who died in the very zenith of his popularity, which is doubly intensified by the revolting method of his death. All this will tend to make everybody more critical and some perhaps hypercritical of Mr. Roosevelt’s doings. He is not beloved of the politicians and may expect only the most ordinary support from them. The people, the honest citizens throughout the country, who are truly patriotic and love the republic and who believe that its institutions, from the smallest office to the most responsible position in the nation, should be kept clean and above reproach, the people who believe democratic institutions should be undefiled and above suspicion, will give President Roosevelt their unqualified support. It is the part of patriotism now to hold up the new president’s hands, to sustain him unqualifiedly, to look not for the defects of inexperience, but shower forth upon him their unqualified confidence that he may know afresh that the people believe in him, and their very belief in him is proof that they expect much from him,—and they will not be disappointed.
In declaring his intention to follow the policy of his martyred predecessor, Mr. Roosevelt showed wisdom as well as discretion. President McKinley’s administration has been preeminently characterized by a policy of sound finance and industrial prosperity, a continuance of which will make any nation great. Under that policy the national wealth and name and fame have grown as never before. Wholesome and intelligently applied protection to domestic industry, and a sound, stable financial system are the two great things to be jealous of in the future. Surrender or compromise either of these and disaster may easily be brought upon the nation. Mr. Roosevelt may be trusted implicitly to adhere to this policy because it was not  peculiarly the policy of Mr. McKinley, but is preeminently the policy of the party his administration represented and also of the nation. So that all the conservative and wholesome forces of the party in the country will naturally and logically support Mr. Roosevelt in maintaining this policy, and the people who are enjoying the benefits in unparalleled prosperity will enthusiastically do so.
Besides continuing unbroken the public policy of President McKinley, Mr. Roosevelt brings a strong, clean, wholesome personality into the official politics of the nation. So far as he is called upon to act, the nation may know, know without asking, that appointments will be made on capacity and honor; that no position will be filled as the reward for questionable party service or by questionable persons for mere partisan influence or political purpose. He has too much good sense to introduce disrupting innovations into the official machinery of government, but the American people may be assured that any prostitution of office for party purposes, or corruption of the electorate, or coercion of office-holders to control primaries and conventions, will not knowingly be permitted by President Roosevelt. His hands are clean, his heart is honest, his nerves are strong, and the American people may be assured that all will unite in sustaining that purity in official life, with no less determination and efficiency than the continuance of the policy of President McKinley for the peace, prosperity, honor and glory of the nation.