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Mr. Roosevelt, on behalf of the members of the Cabinet, to take the prescribed oath. There were tears in the eyes of all when Mr. Roosevelt, standing in the pretty bay window, with its stained glass and heavy hangings forming a soft background, lifted his hand to take the sublime obligation. He was pale, and his eyes were dim with tears, but the uplifted hand was as steady as though carved in marble. Then in low, but firm tones, he repeated after Judge Hazel the constitutional oath of office:
“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
With the final words the hand of the speaker dropped to his side and for an instant his head was bowed as if for the Divine blessing. The impressive silence was broken by Judge Hazel:
“Mr. President, please attach your signature.” Turning to a small table he wrote “Theodore Roosevelt” at the bottom of the prepared parchment. Then standing erect, the solemn dignity of the great office upon him, he said slowly:
“In this hour of deep and terrible 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.”
The President then invited the members of the Cabinet present to remain in office, urging upon them the necessity of their doing so that he might the more fully carry out his pledge. He said he had been assured that the absent members of the Cabinet would retain their portfolios. After a moment's consultation among themselves the Secretaries informed the President that they had decided to forego the usual custom of presenting their resignations and would remain as he had requested.
Thus President Roosevelt, at the very outset, paid the highest possible tribute to the late President McKinley's genius and worth by adopting his policy and expressing his intention of carrying out all his plans of a public nature that he had outlined in any way.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE NATION.
PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT TAKES THE HELM OF GOVERNMENT IN WASHINGTON – FIRST OFFICIAL ACT — AIMS TO BREAK UP SOLID SOUTH BY NEW METHODS–SUMMONS BOOKER T. WASHINGTON TO A CONFERENCE–APPOINTS REFORM DEMOCRATS TO OFFICE— Friend or LABor.
President Roosevelt brought to the duties of his high office a personality with which the politicians of his party found at once they had to deal, whether or not they wished to do so. All the character-building of his life since, when a delicate boy, he had been inspired to virtue by the glorious writings of that sage, Plutarch, through the years of struggle and adventure faintly chronicled in the previous chapters of this book, up to this most important epoch in his remarkable career, now resulted in a poise that marked him at once as a wise man of lofty vision and patriotic motives; a man to whom the word duty meant more than all else in life: duty to God,
duty to country, duty to man, duty to home. His
initial acts when he had taken in his hands the helm of government answered to his nature, growth and development as the overture of a grand opera answers to the theme that has gone to its creation. “I am going to be President of the United States and not of any section," was his first declaration to the politicians. “I don't care the snap of my fingers for sections or sectional lines." To a group of Southern members of Congress he said: “When I was Governor of New York I was told I could make four appointments in the army. When I sent in the names three of the four men were from the South and the other was from New York. They were brave men, who deserved recognition for services in the Spanish War, and it did not matter to me what States they were from.”
The first official act of importance performed by President Roosevelt following the initial Cabinet meeting, was signing the papers appointing Mr. William Barrett Ridgley, of Springfield, Illinois, Comptroller of the Currency. The office had been previously held by Charles Gates Dawes, of Chicago, who had resigned to enter the race for United States Senator President MCKinley had already announced his intention of