Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “President Roosevelt”
Date of publication: 21 September 1901
Volume number: 69
Issue number: 3
|“President Roosevelt.” Outlook 21 Sept. 1901 v69n3: pp. 158-59.|
|William McKinley (personal character); Theodore Roosevelt (personal character); Theodore Roosevelt (political character); Theodore Roosevelt (fitness for office); Theodore Roosevelt (personal history).|
|Abraham Lincoln; Benjamin B. Odell, Jr.; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt; George Washington.|
Mr. Roosevelt is now President of the United
States. In this grave crisis there was not a moment’s hesitation, a moment’s
uncertainty, or a moment’s suspense. All men knew, even in the first shock and
consternation of an awful crime, that, while a President had fallen, not only
was the Government undisturbed, but that the administration of its laws would
go on without break or change. This is the noble heritage of political character
gained by a thousand years of living under free institutions, and by the example
and leadership of hosts of statesmen who, like President McKinley, have held
their own wills subordinate to the will of the Nation, and the will of the Nation
subordinate to the will of God.
There is a deeper and more vital continuity than that of policy; it is the continuity of character. No more impressive illustration of faith, sincerity, and beauty of character has been seen in modern times than that which was witnessed by those who stood about the death-bed of President McKinley. Stainless amid all the temptations of public life, without blot under the fierce light which has beat upon him in these recent years, with a devotion to his wife as dignified and touching as anything in the annals of chivalry, President McKinley, in the first place of the Nation, stood for the noblest qualities of the men of the English-speaking race. He had the purity of Washington and the sweetness of Lincoln; and in the supreme hour his dignity and strength sustained at the highest levels the tradition of personal character which has never departed from the White House.
That tradition will be continued unbroken by Mr. Roosevelt. There will be no change in the character of the President of the United States. Of a different stock from that which flowered in the industry, the integrity, and the indomitable patience of Mr. McKinley, Mr. Roosevelt is as genuine an American. Eight generations of honorable men, prominent again and again in the affairs of the city and the State of New York, link him with the earliest colonial times. His family history has been an unbroken tradition of integrity and public usefulness; and whatever impetus and impulse come from the legacy of an honorable ancestry have borne their fruit in Mr. Roosevelt. No one has ever questioned either his integrity or his courage. Entering upon a public life at one of the most depressing and discouraging periods in the history of the country, he has stood from the first for integrity of private character and for independence and competency in public action. But one principle has governed him: a passionate desire to do the work of the State without fear and in the best possible way. In the Legislature of the State, in the Civil Service Commission at Washington, as Police Commissioner in the city of New York, as Assistant Secretary of the Navy on the eve of the war with Spain, and as Governor of New York, his course has been marked, not by passive honesty, but by resolute and aggressive integrity. Whether the work to be done was outside of or within the public gaze, whether it was apparently of small or of great moment, it has been done with an enthusiasm for righteousness in public action which has been an inspiration to the younger men of the country. A gentleman in the best sense of a much-abused word; a man of honor upon whose reputation, in spite of the bitterest criticism, not a shadow rests; a man of proven courage, Mr. Roosevelt will continue in the Presidency the very highest traditions of integrity and independence which are associated with the place.
Although the youngest man who has ever become President, Mr. Roosevelt has had an unusual preparation for the position. He was fortunate, to begin with, in having the opportunities of a thorough training. He has supplemented university education by a life of study no less than by a life of action. When he entered college his health was very uncertain; but, instead of yielding to the limitations of his condition, he made a resolute and intelligent attempt to overcome them, with the result that he has become a man of exceptional strength and endurance. This achievement is typical of his spirit and his career. His whole life has been an energetic and persistent  effort to increase his power as an instrument for public service. He had been out of college but a single year when he entered the Assembly at Albany and at once awakened the interest and the antagonism of ring and routine politicians by his straightforwardness and his determination to make public office a public trust. At Albany he learned the ways of the politician and the methods of legislative action; in Washington, as a member of the United States Civil Service Commission, he rapidly mastered one of the most difficult and perplexing problems presented to the General Government and became familiar with the whole administrative field; as Police Commissioner in this city he studied the municipal problem at first hand, and formed the acquaintance of all classes of people; as Assistant Secretary of the Navy he not only foresaw what most men failed to foresee, the approaching war with Spain, but he set about preparing for it with resolution and energy and a quick eye for the weak points and for essential developments which went a long way towards placing the navy in the state of efficiency which astonished the world at the breaking out of the war.
The story of his courage, his coolness, his humanity, and his efficiency in the field need not be recalled. As Governor he was not only intrepid and frank, but he was also cautious and conservative, dealing with the largest matters affecting the interests of the State with clearness of judgment as well as with independence of view. The difficulties of his position were very great, but in the face of them he rendered services to the State so conspicuous that the machine politicians were bent upon forcing him to accept the nomination for the Vice-Presidency, in order to get him out of the way. Never in the history of politics has there been a more signal and disastrous reversal of the plans of small men; for the attempt to remove Mr. Roosevelt from the direction of affairs in New York has made him President; while his successor, Governor Odell, has developed, not only capacity of a high order, but the ability to rise above the aims and standards of machine politics. Mr. Roosevelt, therefore, carries to the White House a great fund of experience. He has, fortunately, the energy, the courage, and the faith of a young man; but he has had twenty years of public service; he has been in contact with public affairs from different points of approach; he has studied public problems close at hand from different points of view, and he goes into the White House with a very unusual practical training for the work awaiting him there. Mr. Roosevelt is not only a man of courage and a man of action, he is also a man of great sensitiveness and generosity of nature. The circumstances under which he has been called to the Presidency must weigh upon him with almost crushing force. He enters upon a great place and upon the most arduous duties without any of the enthusiasm of a recent popular election behind him, and without the elation of personal triumph. A tragic event has laid an imperative duty upon him; no one who knows him can doubt for a moment the spirit with which he will discharge that duty. He ought to be made to feel in peculiar measure, in view of these extraordinary circumstances, the confidence and affection of the people which is already finding widespread and warm-hearted expression. He will continue unbroken the tradition of character which comes to him from Mr. McKinley, without spot or blemish; he will also continue beyond doubt the policy which Mr. McKinley lived long enough to define, to incorporate into action, or to foreshadow with great distinctness. That he will carry that policy to its logical conclusions we do not for a moment doubt; and in that confidence the country ought to give him not only solid but sympathetic support.