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criticised the President severely, but to this he paid no attention, satisfied that he had done his duty as his conscience dictated.
President Roosevelt's first message to Congress was awaited with considerable interest. It was remembered that he was the youngest Executive our White House had ever known, and many were curious to know what he would say and what he proposed to do.
The Fifty-seventh Congress of the United States assembled at Washington, December 2, 1901, and on the day following, President Roosevelt's first annual message was read in both Senate and House of Representatives.
It proved to be a surprisingly long and strong state paper, and by many was considered one of the best messages sent to Congress in many years. It touched upon general conditions in our country, spoke for improvements in the army and the navy, called for closer attention to civil service reform, for a correction of the faults in the post-office system, and for a clean administration in the Philippines, Hawaii, and Porto Rico. It spoke of several great needs of the government, and added that the Gold
Standard Act had been found timely and judicious.
“ President Roosevelt is all right,” was the general comment, after the message
had been printed in the various papers of our country. “He is looking ahead, and he knows exactly what this country wants and needs. We are prosperous now, and if we want to continue so, we must keep our hands on the plough, and not look backward.”
The first break in the old Cabinet occurred on December 17, when Postmaster General Charles E. Smith resigned. His place was immediately filled by the appointment of Henry C. Payne, of Wisconsin. Soon after this Secretary Gage of the Treasury resigned, and his place was filled by former governor Leslie M. Shaw, of Iowa.
For a long time there had been before the American people various suggestions to build a canal across Central America, to join the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, so that the ships wanting to go from one body of water to the other would not have to take the long and expensive trip around Cape Horn. In
years gone by the French had also
contemplated such a canal, and had even gone to work at the Isthmus of Panama, making an elaborate survey and doing not a little digging. But the work was beyond them, and the French Canal Company soon ran out of funds and went into the hands of a receiver.
“We ought to take hold and dig a canal,” was heard on all sides in the United States. But where to dig the canal was a question. Some said the Isthmus of Panama was the best place, while others preferred a route through Nicaragua. The discussion waxed very warm, and at last a Commission was appointed to go over both routes and find out which would be the more satisfactory from every point of view.
The Commission was not very long in reaching a decision. The Panama Canal Company was willing to sell out all its interest in the work already done for forty millions of dollars, and it was recommended that the United States accept this offer. President Roosevelt received the report, and lost no time in submitting it to Congress.
At the beginning of the new year, 1902, there was a grand ball at the White House,
attended by a large gathering of people, including many of the foreign representatives accredited to Washington. The occasion was the introduction into society of Miss Alice Roosevelt, and the affair was a most pleasing one from beginning to end.
One of the President's sons, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., had been sent to a boarding school at Groton, Massachusetts. Early in February he was taken down with a cold that developed into pneumonia. It looked as if the youth might die, and both Mrs. Roosevelt and the President lost no time in leaving Washington and going to his bedside. The sympathy of the whole country was with the anxious parents, and when it was announced that the crisis had been passed in safety there was much relief in all quarters.
Before this illness occurred there came to the Roosevelts an invitation which pleased them, and especially Miss Alice, not a little. The German Emperor William was having a yacht built in this country, at Shooter's Island. He sent his brother, Prince Henry of Prussia, over to attend the launching, and requested Miss Roosevelt to christen