« PreviousContinue »
Scott was devoted to the Prince of Wales of his day, and wrote a huge life of Napoleon, to complete his downfall, but was neither statesman nor historian; and the greatest poet of England just now is the terror of those who "loaf around the throne," to borrow the language of another poet who was radical once, but has mellowed and is broader and kindlier, and the foremost of our diplomats because he had rare cultivation and training and the capability. Bryant, Lowell and Whittier were our poets and fiery politicians, but never sailed on "Oh ship of state!"
The literary centre of the country has, under the leadership of General Wallace, followed the flag and centre of population into the State of Indiana, but only Roosevelt could have cast a charm with his pen upon the Bad Lands of the Missouri, so that over the sources of the American Nile, the spell of enchantment lingers.
HIS RISE IN LEADERSHIP.
Led to and from Cuba—Paints Enchanting Picture of the Island—From Santiago to Albany—Vice-Presidential Notification of Nomination—Rough Rider Games at Oklahoma—Picnic with Bryan at Chicago.
ASSISTANT Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, was in favor of war with Spain, that she might no more have a colonial system to abuse in the American continent; but he was not to be classed with the war whoopers in Congress, who believed the Key West Cuban dispatches, and had Gomez thundering forever at the gates of Havana, when he was five hundred miles away.
Spain was the type of a poor but proud country, and Cuba was her place for favorites; and the Philippines were in the same service, but second choice, and so far off we were not interfered with by the wars of insurrection there; and yet, the thousand islands- between the South Pacific and the Sea of China, were of the ocean into which our Western progress had carried us. We had already Alaska and the Aleutian Archipelago, and were soon to complete our title to the Hawaiian group—the Paradise of the Pacific. One of the plagues affecting us through the misgovernment of Cuba, was the yellow fever, the direct result of unsanitary conditions and incompetent, greedy rulers. There had been four hundred years of Captain Generals, with but little variation. Spain had lost all her American continental possessions, but their independence was slow to develop capacity for self-government. The logic of history, the drift of the current of progress, the Westward march of the Empires that are imperial because great and free—the "manifest destiny" that was written in the land and reflected on the seas, told that presently the islands still held by Spain would remove, or have removed, the Spanish yoke.
There were politicians having association with our affairs, who were in a fury to lead in war cries, that they might be a conspicuity in the war party. The President of the United States was a soldier and a peace man, and had no ambition to be a war President. He believed there was danger of war, and hoped, until the massacre of the Maine, to keep peace. Then it was his first duty to restrain those who were hasty and headlong to come to blows with
Spain. European opinion was that the Spanish navy equaled our own, and possibly was superior to it; but we had become a naval power in the war of the sixties, to maintain a blockade of the Southern ports and aid in military operations. Great glory was won, and good will for the Navy gained. A series of Secretaries of the Navy had pride in our fleets, and we took up the manufacture of modern artillery at a time when the skilled labor and the art of armament was perfected in our shops. We had, like the jingoes in England, the men and ships and "guns and money, too," and though Spain did not know her decline or our advance, she was not in our class.
The Assistant Secretary of the Navy took upon himself the task of putting our fleets on the Atlantic Coast and Asiatic Station in condition for active and effective service. Others might have done as well, but he was the man who had the chance and improved it in well doing. A few words state the case— coal and powder to burn, and bolts and shells to fit the guns and guns with gunners behind them. When Dewey in the Manila battle got the report that the five-inch shells were almost all gone, it was not true. There was coal—the best that could be got—and powder and shot for target practice and for the battle ten thousand miles from Washington. We had power for the ships and for the guns. Our gunners had been educated to shoot by shooting. That is the royal road to marksmanship, and there is no other. The "hits" our men behind the guns made were what counted. When we fired, it was noticed that there was but little splashing in the water. The shots entered the ships that were the targets, and our ships of war were ships to fight with. Roosevelt knew when he had done what he could for the Navy. The President and Secretary of the Navy desired he should stay in the Navy office. He had, however, provided for the victories that swiftly came to pass. He was not a book-keeper or a theorist as to the distribution of parcels or one who waged war on a high stool. He passed from the Navy to the Army. As he had seen to the supplies for burning powder and coal to some purpose, he prepared to get into the Army with the war material he discovered and understood when "Winning the West." He appealed to the stalwarts of the States of the plains, and the mountains, from Texas to Montana, and as by magic enlisted and organized a regiment of war material such as is possessed by no other people —characteristic Cossacks, and more effective fighters. He might have claimed to have discovered a standing army that did not require an act of Congress. The modern requirements of soldiers ready to go anywhere and do all that can be done, are mobility, hardihood, marksmanship, shifty in doing the best that is possible with slender stores, in taking care of supplies, and of themselves. Lives of hardship harden strong men. The Rough Riders had all the qualifications for warriors, and though they lost their specialty when dismounted, they were brave, quick, keen and self-reliant. They have, in the