The New Administration
With the last rites over his grave
performed, President McKinley passes into history; and public attention
properly turns to the administration of his successor.
What this administration will probably
be, President Roosevelt has indicated in a general way. He has given
notice that it will not be distinctively his administration, but
will be essentially a continuation of Mr. McKinley’s. His words,
uttered upon taking the oath of office, were these:
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 and honor of our beloved country.
President Roosevelt has confirmed
that declaration by requesting Mr. McKinley’s cabinet advisers to
remain in office and be his advisers—not merely for “two months,”
as at first reported, nor for a “few months,” according to subsequent
reports, but for the remainder of Mr. McKinley’s term, which, as
vice president, he is filling out.
In thus making the spirit and policy
of the old administration the spirit and policy of the new, Mr.
Roosevelt is clearly justified. It is not in his own right, with
a commission from the people to formulate a new policy even though
he might personally prefer to do so, that Mr. Roosevelt comes into
the presidential office; but in the right of and as a substitute
for his predecessor. In reality it is Mr. McKinley’s official term,
not Mr. Roosevelt’s, which the latter has been called upon to serve.
This may not be the law of the matter.
The constitution, in providing for the contingency of a vice presidential
succession, imposes upon the vice president no obligation to carry
out the policy of his predecessor. Quite the contrary; it distinctly
declares (art. ii., sec. i., par. 6) that—
In case of the removal of the
president from office, or of his death, resignation or inability
to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same
shall devolve on the vice president.
It is the powers and duties of the office, consequently, and not
the policy of the dead or disabled president, that devolve upon
the vice president.
Yet there is room for plausible argument,
even as a question of constitutional law, that a vice president
merely represents the disabled president whose place he takes. The
constitution does not declare that he shall be president. It only
provides that as vice president he shall perform presidential duties.
Mr. Roosevelt, therefore, is not president—so the argument might
run; he is vice president acting as president. Upon this hypothesis
it could be urged that he has no right to fundamentally alter the
policy of the president for whom he acts. “Would it not be revolutionary,”
might be asked, “for him to do so if the president were disabled
only temporarily?” And if revolutionary in those circumstances,
why not revolutionary if the disability of the president happens
to be permanent—even  if
it is occasioned by his death? But that argument could appeal only
to the conscience of the individual. No court could interfere.
And whatever view might be taken of
the law of the matter, only one view is possible with reference
to its politics. The American people have shown that they regard
the vice president, when acting as president, as the representative,
with reference to political policies, of the dead president whose
term of office he serves. This is an instance in which the dead
hand rules. Four times in the history of our country has the question
been brought to a test, and each time it has been decided against
the innovating vice president. John Tyler reversed the Harrison
policy, and his name gave a new word of unpleasant significance
to the language. To “tylerize” is suggestive of political bad faith.
Millard Fillmore adopted, and Chester A. Arthur was identified with,
policies hostile to those of the presidents they represented; and
at the ensuing presidential elections, respectively, each was abandoned
by his party. Between these two administrations there was the most
impressive example of all. Andrew Johnson, who departed from the
policy of Lincoln, was turned upon by his party, which not only
overwhelmed him politically, but impeached and almost succeeded
in degrading him officially.
Mr. Roosevelt needs no further political
justification for his adoption of President McKinley’s policies
and his retention of President McKinley’s cabinet, than the experience
of his predecessors as acting president—Tyler, Fillmore, Johnson
Since Mr. Roosevelt has frankly
announced his policy, there need be no doubt as to the attitude
of the public mind toward his administration, in so far as that
policy is to give it character.
People who believe in a protective
tariff, those who believe in fostering trusts, those who believe
in foreign conquest, those who believe in the maintenance of foreign
sovereignty modeled upon the crown colony system of Great Britain,
those who believe in a strong central government—all these will
cordially and properly support the new administration with vigor.
But men who regard those policies as destructive of equal rights
under the law and subversive of the best ideals of our republic,
will just as cordially and just as properly oppose the new administration
in so far as it promotes policies of that kind. It would indeed
be a dark hour for our country if theories of public policy were
sanctified by personal affections, if they were made to depend upon
men instead of principles, if the bullet of an assassin which kills
a president were allowed to destroy liberty of thought and freedom
of discussion. No American with the instincts of a patriot, whatever
theories of public policy he may hold, will tolerate strangulation
But it is not certain that President
Roosevelt will invite this opposition along the whole line of the
McKinley policies. Just before his tragic death, President McKinley
indicated in a carefully prepared speech that his policy contemplated
a departure from protectionism in the direction of greater freedom
of trade. Should President Roosevelt so interpret this speech, and
endeavor to give that tendency to tariff legislation, good sense
will suggest to all who believe protectionism to be wrong that they
shall strengthen his arm.
He himself has intimated that the
aggressions of predatory wealth must be checked. Should he turn
Mr. McKinley’s policy in the direction of doing this, by means not
worse than the evil complained of, he should be and doubtless will
be, encouraged. A people driven to the verge of despair by the system
of class privileges that have grown up since the civil war cannot
be indifferent to any honest effort to emancipate them.
So far, then, as tariffs and trusts
are concerned it is possible that Mr. McKinley’s successor may draw
support from hitherto hostile quarters, though J. Pierpont Morgan’s
reported expressions of satisfaction with the assurance of Mr. Roosevelt
are not prophetic of that possibility. But there is little hope
in any event of his modifying the colonial policy. It is too much
in harmony with his own strenuous nature. With reference, therefore,
to the question of imperialism, changes in the alignments of public
sentiment are not probable, except as advocates of this innovation
may be won over. No American who is imbued with the spirit of the
angel’s song of the Nativity, which, echoing from the hills of Judea,
found political expression centuries afterward in our own declaration
of independence, that spirit which makes for peace on earth, good
will to men, and equal rights for all, regardless of race or nationality
or creed or condition—no such American can cease to write and speak
and vote against colonial policies so long as a vestige of republican
government remains. Whoever opposes, and from what source soever
he draws his inspiration, our great wrong against a weaker people
must be righted and our departure from high national ideals must
Still, it is not certain that Mr.
Roosevelt will cling tenaciously to any of his present purposes.
Time and new conditions work wondrous changes in political policies.
He pledges himself now to carry out the policies of his murdered
and lamented chief, and in token of his sincerity he retains the
cabinet which he finds already in office. No token was necessary.
The sincerity of his word no one doubted. Nor is any doubt implied
by the supposition that he may yet part with some of the advisers
he now retains and deflect from the policies he now adopts. John
Tyler, says the eminent American historian, Alexander Johnston,
“retained President Harrison’s cabinet, and promised to carry out
his policy.” John Tyler, too, was doubtless sincere. But as time
went by and new conditions confronted him he changed his mind.
With reference, therefore, to the
policies of the new administration, all is as yet but speculative,
notwithstanding Mr. Roosevelt’s declarations and his unquestioned
sincerity. But one thing is not speculative. Mr. Roosevelt has begun
his career in the presidential office with a marked and encouraging
reversion to some of the ideals of republican simplicity which once
outwardly distinguished our honored and trusted public servants
from feared and hated foreign rulers.
The inaugural ceremony was se- 
verely simple. This could hardly have been otherwise, owing to the
solemnity of the circumstances. It was, moreover, in accord with
precedent. But the very circumstances which would have made an inaugural
display indecent were calculated to favor a display of military
force; and this display Mr. Roosevelt peremptorily forbade. He refused
at the outset to allow his person to be surrounded, monarch fashion,
by detectives and soldiers. The incident is happily told in the
press reports. It occurred before his inauguration, when he was
leaving the house of his friend in Buffalo to go to the house where
President McKinley’s body lay:
As he ran lightly down the steps
leading from the lawn to the sidewalk he noticed a movement
among the squadrons in the street. A trumpet blared out a command,
which the soldierly training of the president had taught him
to understand. He stopped and turning a frowning face upon Mr.
Wilcox spoke a few sharp words to his host. Mr. Wilcox hastened
into the street, where men in yellow striped uniforms were mounting
horses. He spoke to the captain of the mounted infantry and
the sergeant of police.
“The vice president absolutely
declines to be followed by an escort of this character. He has
not asked for it, and he does not want it,” Mr. Wilcox was heard
“But the vice president should
have the protection of the properly constituted authorities,”
protested the captain of mounted infantry. “The vice president
requires no protection from any military or semimilitary body
in the streets of an American city,” exclaimed Mr. Roosevelt,
who had come up in time to hear the protest of the captain.
“But we have orders to act as
your escort, sir,” said the captain.
“Then say to your commanding officer
that I revoked your orders. You must not follow this carriage.”
Even since that time, despite all protests, Mr. Roosevelt has
insisted upon maintaining this republican simplicity. He refuses
a body guard [sic].
This is an inspiring thing. Raised
to a conspicuous place by a lawless act which has evoked universal
execration, driving press, pulpit, and mob into paroxysms of futile
anger and bewildered fear, circumstances which might well excuse
senseless precautions for his own protection, Mr. Roosevelt’s determination
is most reassuring. In these trying circumstances, his appeal to
the imaginations of the people, not with pompous displays of military
force, but with the spectacle of the foremost citizen of the land,
the foremost servant of the republic, freely and trustfully mingling
with his fellow citizens, is suggestive of a revival of at least
some of the best American ideals.
And this manner of life is in fact
his greatest security. It was the life adopted by the late President
Harrison, who tolerated no personal guards. He believed that such
precautions cannot possibly save the president from a maniac’s blow.
Surround him with an army, yet the cunning of the madman will find
a way to take his life. As to the rest, Mr. Harrison held that there
was no danger. And there is none, except as fits of emotional insanity
may be awakened in weak minds by presenting the president to popular
imagination in the role of a “ruler,” like the oppressive rulers
of Europe. Let the president appear to the world simply as a public
servant, simply as one of the people, simply as a man among men,
and his life will be safer than detectives and soldiers or restrictive
laws upon press and speech can make it. Even then he may be assassinated.
But the danger of his assassination is much reduced, and the danger
of assassinating free institutions is infinitely less.
Though Mr. Roosevelt should do nothing
more to deserve commendation, in this one respect he has done much.
But this determination to appear before the public not as a ruler
panoplied with power, but as a man, as a citizen, as a public servant,
attending to the people’s business in obedience to their will, is
in itself significant of even better things.