Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XI

PREPARATIONS FOR AFRICAN TRIP-REFLECTIONS

AFTER TAFT'S ELECTION

His African trip, which he was to enter upon after retiring from the Presidency, was much in Roosevelt's mind during the last year of his term and many references to it appear in his letters. To Lord Curzon, in England, who had asked him to deliver the Romanes lecture, at Oxford, he wrote on August 18, 1908:

I can think of few things which I would rather do than deliver the Romanes lecture. I accept with pleasure, and if Oxford desires to give me a degree I shall be much pleased to receive it. Indeed, your letter relieves me from rather a quandary. Next March, immediately after leaving the Presidency, I shall go to Africa, starting in at Mombasa, working to and fro in British, and perhaps in German, East Africa, and coming out via the Nyanza and the Nile at Cairo about the first of April following. Now there are many friends whom I have in England whom I should really like to see; but I have rather a horror of ex-Presidents traveling around with no real business, and thereby putting unfortunate potentates who think they ought to show courtesy to the United States in a position where they feel obliged to entertain the said ex-Presidents, no matter how great a hero any one of them may be. If I could make the sovereigns and leading men of each country understand that I did not expect any attention and would be only too glad to be left to my own resources, and be permitted to call upon the people I already knew and a very few others whom I would like to know, why, that would be all right; but to make a kind of mock triumphal procession would offer about as unattractive an outing to me as could be imagined.”.

[ocr errors]

On the same date he wrote to Senator Lodge:

“Curzon, who is Chancellor of Oxford, has just asked me to go there to get a degree and to deliver the Romanes lecture in the spring of 1910 on my way back from Africa. This I am really glad to do. The lecture has been delivered in the past by men like Gladstone, Huxley, John Morley, and Bryce, and I regard it as an honor to be asked and moreover, as something right in my line. Then it gives me a legitimate reason for visiting England. I felt I would really like, when I left Africa, to spend a couple of months in Italy, France, Holland, and to end with a couple of weeks in England; but I rather hated to go there without a genuine object, because, if I finally came to the conclusion that I would have to be presented to the King and call on various public men, it would look as if I were simply traveling about for that purpose. Now this puts the matter right.

To Frederic Remington, for whom he cherished a warm friendship, he wrote on October 28, 1908, in reply to a letter of sympathy on his retirement:

“It was good of you to write us and I appreciate it. You are one of the men whose friendship I value. Do you know I am rather ashamed to say that I can not accept your condolence? I am still looking forward, and not back. I do not know any man who has had as happy a fifty years as I have had. I have had about as good a run for my money as any human being possibly could have; and whatever happens now I am ahead of the game. Besides, I hope still to be able to do some good work now and then; and I am looking forward to my African trip with just as much eagerness as if I were a boy; and when I come back there are lots of things in our social, industrial and political life in which I shall take an absorbed interest. I have never sympathized in the least with the kind of man who feels that because he has been fortunate enough to hold a big position he can not be expected to enjoy himself afterward in a less prominent position. In fact, I do not in the least care for

[ocr errors]

a position because of its title, so to speak--I want to try to do good work wherever I am and I am far more concerned with that than with the question of what position it is in which I am to do the good work. Cushing, who sunk the Albemarle, was only a lieutenant, but there are mighty few admirals with whom, if I had been in his shoes, I should have thought it worth while to change positions."

When later proposals were made to him.to have newspaper correspondents accompany him on his African trip, he declined them peremptorily, setting forth his reasons in a letter to Melville E. Stone, General Manager of the Associated Press, on December 2, 1908:

“When I start on this African trip I shall have ceased to be President, and shall be simply a private citizen, like any other private citizen. Not only do I myself believe, but I am firmly convinced that the great mass of the American people believe, that when the President leaves public office he should become exactly like any other man in private life. He is entitled to no privileges, but, on the other hand, he is also entitled to be treated no worse than any one else. Now, it will be an indefensible wrong, a gross impropriety from every standpoint, for any newspaper to endeavor to have its representatives accompany me on this trip, or to fail to give me the complete privacy to which every citizen who acts decently and behaves himself is entitled."

Roosevelt's gratification at the great victory achieved for Taft and the Republican party in the election found expression in his letters written immediately afterwards. One to E. S. Martin, of Life, on November 6, 1908, is a fair sample of many others:

“Naturally I am greatly pleased at the election. I have finished my career in public life; I have enjoyed it to the full; I have achieved a large proportion of what I set out to achieve; and I am almost ashamed to say that I do not mind in the least retiring to private life. No President has ever enjoyed himself as much as I have enjoyed myself, and for the matter of that I do not know any man of my age who has had as good a time. Of course if I had felt that I could conscientiously keep on in the Presidency I should have dearly liked to have tried again; and I shall miss a very little having my hands on the levers of the great machine; but I am really almost uneasy to find that I do not mind the least bit in the world getting out.”

On November 6, 1908, the President wrote a letter to Sir George Otto Trevelyan which is a worthy supplement to the one that he wrote to him on June 19, 1908, quoted in a previous chapter. A noteworthy passage in the later letter is that in which Roosevelt expresses the absolute faith that he then had in Taft's ability and determination to carry forward the causes and policies which had been the chief features of the Roosevelt administration-a faith which he was to learn later with sadness was misplaced :

“Well, the election is over, and to say that I am pleased with the result is to express it mildly. I can hardly express my satisfaction. If the result of my “renunciation' had been either the nomination of a reactionary in the place of Taft, or the turning over of the government to Bryan, I should have felt a very uncomfortable apprehension as to whether I did not deserve a place beside Dante's pope who was guilty of il gran rifiuto. Renunciation is so often the act of a weak nature, or the term by which a weak nature seeks to cover up its lack of strength, that I suppose that every man who feels that he ought to renounce something also tends to feel a little uncomfortable as to whether he is really acting in accordance with the dictates of a sound morality or from weakness. Yet feeling as I do about this people and about the proper standard for its chosen leaders, I would not have acted otherwise than as I did; and naturally the relief is very great to have the event justify

me.

“Taft will carry on the work substantially as I have carried it on. His policies, principles, purposes and ideals are the same as mine and he is a strong, forceful, efficient man, absolutely upright, absolutely disinterested and fearless. In leaving, I have the profound satisfaction of knowing that he will do all in his power to further every one of the great causes for which I have fought and that he will persevere in every one of the great governmental policies in which I most firmly believe. Therefore nothing whatever is lost by my having refused to run for a third term, and much is gained.

“Washington and Lincoln set the standard of conduct for the public servants of this people. They showed how men of the strongest type could also possess all the disinterested, all the unselfish, devotion to duty and to the interests of their fellow countrymen that we have a right to expect, but can only hope to see in the very highest type of public servant. At however great a distance, I have been anxious to follow in their footsteps, and anxious that, however great the difference in degree, my service to the Nation should be approximately the same in kind as theirs."

To his friend, Mr. Strachey of the London Spectator, he wrote on November 28, 1908, giving his views on the use of ex-Presidents:

"When people have spoken to me as to what America should do with its ex-Presidents, I have always answered that there was one ex-President as to whom they need not concern themselves in the least, because I would do for myself. It would be to me personally an unpleasant thing to be pensioned and given some honorary position. I emphatically do not desire to clutch at the fringe of departing greatness. Indeed, to me there is something rather attractive, something in the way of living up to a proper democratic ideal, in having a President go out of office just as I shall go, and become absolutely and without reservation a private man, and do any honorable work which he finds to do. My first. work will be to go to Africa for the National Museum.

“I am fifty, I have led a very sedentary life for ten years,

[ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »