Source: Harper’s Weekly
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “The Inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt”
Date of publication: 21 September 1901
Volume number: 45
Issue number: 2335
|“The Inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt.” Harper’s Weekly 21 Sept. 1901 v45n2335: p. 957.|
|Theodore Roosevelt (at Adirondacks); Theodore Roosevelt (journey: Adirondacks to Buffalo, NY: 13-14 Sept. 1901); Theodore Roosevelt (inauguration); Theodore Roosevelt (public statements).|
|John Hay; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt; Ansley Wilcox.|
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
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 heritage.
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 chief.
“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.