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ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE NAVY.
REBUILDS THE AMERICAN NAVY-INTRODUCES TARGET PRACTICE
WITH POWDER AND BALL-ACTIVE IN PREPARATION FOR WAR
WITH SPAIN -ADVISES ORDERING COMMODORE DEWEY TO THE
CHINA STATION-RESIGNS FOR ACTIVE DUTY IN THE FIELD.
President McKinley was first inaugurated March 4, 1897. He immediately announced his cabinet selections, and as quickly thereafter as Hon. John D. Long, Secretary of the Navy, could effect a reorganization of his department, Theodore Roosevelt was made First Assistant Secretary, and really the executive officer- the controlling and directing force-of that very important arm of the nation's power. The appointment was most fitting, as his “Naval History of the War of 1812” had proved him as completely master of the subject as any man not trained to a naval life could possibly be.
Years before a sentiment of hostility against Spain had grown up in the minds of the American people. It was never officially recognized,
and the Madrid government had always been treated as a friendly power by each successive administration at Washington. It would scarcely be exact to state that the antipathy mentioned went even in the most aggressive minds to the extent of a desire for the conquest or the humiliation of Spain, beyond one single consideration. It was felt that the Spaniard should be driven from Cuba. The surface sentiment was that Cuba should be free. Beneath that, doubtless, rested the hope, in many minds, that the island, with all its riches and its possibilities, should be added to American territory. The terms of that accession had never been crystallized into anything like a national sentiment. Probably they had never been formulated in the mind of any adventurer who made essay for the liberation of the Cuban. But the student, the observer of great affairs, the man capable of estimating international causes and effects, knew that whenever collision came—and its coming was certain–Cuba would not only be wrested from the Spanish crown, but would become a part of the territory of the United States, and that the century-old habit of hermitage would be broken by the people of the growing American Republic. Unnumbered filibustering expeditions had been directed by adventurers in America against Spanish rule in the island, and in spite of repressive efforts from Washington, the whole nation was permeated with the feeling that America's relations with Cuba should be changed. It is possible there was a commercial element in the make-up of that conclusion: the island annually exported $100,000,000 in produce, ninety-three per cent. of which came to the United States. It may be the sentiment of self-defense operated as a cause: the peril of the plague, hurrying from Havana to American cities, was a continually impending fate. But running through all other considerations was the one of humane feeling. The people of Cuba were grievously used by the Spaniards, and had been for three centuries. In the year 1896 it happened that a singularly savage policy of repression had been inaugurated by Spain toward the people of the island, and the whole civilized world was shocked at the atrocities practiced. It is idle to pause now and recapitulate the enormity of those offenses against justice. All mankind knows there was warrant for compelling the Spaniard to halt.
It should also be remembered that the spirit of Americans had been roused by the conditions obtaining in the island, and that common justice approved the policy of intervention—no matter what the national courtesy of the Government may have been. There was Narciso Lopez, who more than forty years before had led an expedition for the freeing of Cuba. There was the landing of Captain Fry and his adventurers at Santiago, their capture by the Spaniards—and the execution of sixty men, mostly American citizens. There had been other adventures in the interim, and the national conventions of both great parties had declared time and again for the freedom of the island people. Extremists knew the status quo could not long be maintained. But there were few even of the wisest men who understood the full import of that sentiment existing throughout America, and not on the Atlantic coast alone; nor did they even speculate on the means of directing the Sentiment to a realization in fact.
Mr. Roosevelt had been for years an advocate of a broader policy for the nation. It was as clear to him that Spain must leave the Western continent as it should have been to Massasoit that the Indians would have to leave New England. In that departure from traditional policy which must be expressed by interference in Cuba, he knew there would be a breaking up and a general readjustment of relations in every quarter of the world, and that the United States, being now fully prepared, was in a day to become a world-nation. Nothing could have been more fortunate than his selection for the chief executive office in the navy department. It was the one arm that could be made to reach around the world. And it was fortunate that so well-equipped a man came to the station. Mr. Roosevelt had studied the navy of the United States. He had compared it critically with the navies of the world, both of the present and in the more remote past. He was the friend and confidant of Captain Mahan, an authority on naval matters. He visited the Army and Navy Club, and became familiar with the details of life in his chosen branch of the service, with the record of the officers, and with the nature of the rank and file. He knew precisely how well-equipped for battle each ship was, if battle should suddenly arise. He went on a tour of inspection, and woke the officers