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"At twenty-one minutes after 5 o'clock Mr. Roosevelt leaped out on the station steps at North Creek. Half way up he received from a representative of the Herald the first notification that President McKinley was dead.
"So began, so ended, that unique ride."
RELATIONS OF McKINLEY AND ROOSEVELT.
The Twenty-Fifth President and His Predecessor's Policy-The Vice-President Succeeds to the Presidency-Roosevelt's Tributes to McKinley-The Message to Congress an Example of Fitness.
HERE was the statesmanship of manliness and kindness, of high courage and good will, in the first utterance of Theodore Roosevelt, after he had taken the oath of office, according to the Constitution as the President of the United States. What he said was in few words, spoken with emotion-quiet and strong, simple and sufficient-that he would maintain "absolutely unbroken" the policy of President McKinley; and this was followed by commanding the continuation of the Cabinet for the time being, the qualification applying rather to members who had thought of retirement before the hand of embodied ignorance, malice and anarchy wrought the great and utterly unexpected change. It was, under the circumstances, precisely as positive a duty on the part of the Cabinet officers to remain as it was the clear policy of the President to convey the invitation to stay, in such terms and manner that refusal was not possible. It had been the form substantially followed for the Cabinet officers to offer resignations; but as President Roosevelt put it, there was immediate recognition that what he had done was with exactness the right thing; and the first words of the President soothed the agitated with reassurance, with remembrance of the words of Garfield, spoken on the granite steps in New York, where the august figure of Washington stands on the spot where the first President took the oath of office; and the words of Garfield, the young giant of the West, of splendid stature, imposing presence, a far-reaching, ringing voice, were, when Abraham Lincoln, the first martyred, murdered President, that morning died in the National Capital, and the incredible misfortune was faced by the people: "God reigns, and the Government at Washington still lives." The want of the country was a firm attitude of certainty, when Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley died.
Theodore Roosevelt is a man accustomed to responsibility, and though the youngest of twenty-five Presidents, not lacking in arduous experiences, educated in many schools, with exceptionally broad knowledge of our whole
country and all the problems of its public life. He stood before this Nation and all the Nations of the earth, when McKinley died, calm in rectitude, steadfast in bravery, armed with integrity, equipped with convictions and solemnized by the tragic news and the voices of mourning millions in bereavement, and with the brevity of defined purpose in that which he said and did, made known that his steps were guided aright.
He appeared in Buffalo, as duty called him, as soon as possible after the President had been stricken by the assassin, and waited, effacing himself as far as he might, until the surgeons in charge of the illustrious patient, after promptly and boldly doing all that science taught them to relieve the sufferer and grasp the chances possible for life, reported confidently the President was on the road to recovery. Then the Vice-President, hopeful and persuaded that all would be well, sought the heart of the Adirondacks to join his family there for the health of the children, and enjoy with his eldest son a few hours' shooting in the midst of the mountains, as his happy, familiar hunting grounds were too far away, on the Little Missouri, to be available; and he was in the loneliness of a mountain retreat when President McKinley complained of increasing fatigue, the dreaded signs of heart-weakness appeared, and the buoyant belief that he would be delivered from sudden death, gave way to the gravest apprehensions; and speedily came the heavy tidings that the battle for the President's life was lost, and the pathetic incidents of his dying hours touched all Christendom, and, indeed, the whole world, with their tenderness, and lofty but subdued and forgiving spirit. His immortal phrases of perfect faith, hope and forgiveness, made the deathbed a source of light and strength, a vision of the beautiful, so that the angels of mercy seemed present as the bearers of good tidings, that through the thick darkness there was the "kindly light" leading to reveal that the way was not ours, but God's; and the words last on the lips so often eloquent, was taken up and softly sung, with sobbing voices, the world around, "Nearer, My God, to Thee."
When it was evident the President was in extreme danger, though hope was not abandoned, the Vice-President was anxiously called for, and some hours passed before he was located, and other hours occupied in reaching him with the tidings that the President had a relapse. The Vice-President's vacation was over. The message he received was urgent, apprehensive; and on a buck-board, with a pair of spirited horses and driver who knew the road, he set out to reach, forty miles away, through the night, at the highest speed, the nearest point touched by railroad and wire. There a special train was waiting.
Vice-President Roosevelt, on arrival at Buffalo, in the afternoon of September 14th, drove at once to the Milburn house, where President McKinley died, and was lying dead, and met a little later the Cabinet at the Wilcox