The Inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt
NOT the least dramatic episode in connection with the Buffalo tragedy
was the quest for and hurried trip to Buffalo of Theodore Roosevelt
when it became known that President McKinley could not possibly
survive. Confident, as all were, of the President’s recovery Mr.
Roosevelt had left Buffalo early on Wednesday, September 11 to join
his family in the Adirondack Mountains, where, with his sons and
a few friends, he contemplated a short period of rest and recreation.
On Friday, however, the President’s symptoms becoming alarming,
every effort to reach the Vice-President by wire and by messenger
was made. The Tahawus Club—his headquarters—was easily reached,
but the Vice-President had departed for a long tramp through the
woods. To find him was no easy task, since no word had been left
with those at the club as to the exact objective-point of the party,
and never was a more tangled wood than that into whose dark recesses
the distinguished group had disappeared. Nevertheless, the urgency
of the situation required that the utmost endeavors to locate the
Vice-President should be made, and search parties were dispatched
in all directions for the purpose of finding him, each bearing in
mind that for the moment there should be no such word as fail. The
hunt was begun at an early hour, and drew the various groups through
many a ravine, over many a stream, and up and down many a minor
mountain peak. At intervals shots were fired, and all manner of
vocal salutes were uttered in the hope of attracting the attention
of the lost Vice-Presidential party, but until nearly six o’clock
the enveloping wilderness gave no answering sign. Meanwhile a succession
of despatches was being rapidly received at the Tahawus Club from
each of which it became increasingly evident that the President’s
case was becoming every moment more desperate, and the need therefore
for the Vice-President’s presence more urgent.
Finally, on the top of Mount Marcy,
a dozen miles away, the Vice-President was found, shortly after
six o’clock, and there, surrounded by all the impressive grandeur
of the mountain woodland, the man who was soon to become President
of the United States was acquainted with the dread approach of his
The Vice-President immediately returned
to the Tahawus Club, silent in the hour of his own and his country’s
grief; his muscular frame in no wise affected apparently by the
strenuous effort of his day’s outing; his face a shade more bronzed;
his mind centred only upon that bed of suffering and that house
of affliction so many miles away. An hour had not passed when, after
a hasty meal and a hurried change of garments, the Vice-President
was on his way over the dark forest roads in an ordinary buckboard
to the railway station at North Creek, thirty-five miles distant.
Three relays of horses were required
to cover the distance from club to railway station, and the road
was lit here and there by ready and willing torch-bearers, to assist
the man for whom 80,000,000 of people were anxiously waiting, on
his journey to Buffalo. At 1.15 A.M. Saturday he passed the lower
club-house, ten miles distant from the main building of the Tahawus
Club, and about five o’clock reached the station, having been practically
twenty-four hours without sleep or other rest.
A special train awaited him here,
and here he received the official notification from Secretary Hay
that the President had passed away, and that by virtue of his position
he had himself succeeded to the most exalted office in the land.
At eight o’clock Albany was reached, and at 8.03 Mr. Roosevelt was
once more speeding on to his destination. The only mishap of the
journey was the wreck of a hand-car which happened to be in the
way of the special shortly before Albany was reached, and which
was not seen by the engineer because of the pall of fog which hung
over all. But the delay was short, and, fortunately, no damage was
done, the two occupants of the hand-car escaping with their lives.
At 8:45 A.M. the train, going at the rate of a mile a minute, with
a clear track ahead, Amsterdam was passed. At 10.36 the train having
covered 148 miles in 153 minutes, passed through Syracuse, and at
1.34 P.M. Mr. Roosevelt arrived in Buffalo. He had covered nearly
five hundred miles—by foot, horse, and train—in nineteen hours.
Before three o’clock, as a private
citizen, he had paid a visit of respect to the house of death, and
of condolence to the afflicted widow, and at half-past three, in
the presence of a number of the officers of the cabinet and personal
friends in the house of Mr. Ansley Wilcox, with brimming eyes, he
took the oath of office.
And this man, tired and worn both
in body, in mind, and in spirit never faltered in the face of the
duty of the hour, and sent forth to the sorrowing nation not alone
an example of human strength and fortitude, but the inspiring message
that his future policy would be in accord with that of his murdered
“I shall take the oath at once
in response to your request; and in this hour of deep and terrible
national 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 of our beloved country.”
This was the inauguration and the
inaugural address of the twenty-sixth President of the United States.
Even in the hour of deep affliction it must prove an inspiration
to the American people.