Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][merged small][graphic]

23rd, he moved in with his personal belongings, and the ordinary routine was re-established. He broke off work at the noon hour and took lunch with his two brothers-in-law, Commander Cowles and Douglas Robinson, and Private Secretary Loeb. This first official meal in the White House was extremely informal, and the time was largely taken up with the discussion of official matters.

In the evening President Roosevelt dined with Commander and Mrs. Cowles, Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, and Secretary Cortelyou. This dinner was a family affair, and except for the complete changes in the personages, was much a dinner as the President and Mrs. McKinley had been having day after day for years.

This was a trying night for President Roosevelt, because he spent it alone in the White House, save for the attendants, and his taking possession of the Executive Mansion could not fail to awaken memories which were extremely painful to all the attaches. Colonel Roosevelt himself was deeply affected at dinner time.

Mrs. Roosevelt arrived two days later.

“Among the conversations of President Roosevelt in the White House, in the first days of his official presence, three Southern Senators called at once and Senator Pritchard said, speaking for the Southern men: 'The Democratic newspapers are predicting good for you and of you, and the feeling of all the people for you, irrespective of party, is most kindly.'

“I am going to be President of the United States, and not any section,' replied the President. 'I don't care for sections or sectional lines. 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 were from the South, and the other from New York. They were brave men, who deserved recognition for services in the Spanish War, and it did not matter what states they were from.'”

The President talked in the same vein with Senator Money, of Mississippi, when the latter called, reminding the Mississippi Senator that his mother was a Southern woman.

“I am half Southern,” said he, "and I have lived in the West, so that I think I can represent the whole country.”

The less talk there is about shop at the President's luncheon, the stated time for which is half after one o'clock, the more he enjoys it, but he is by no means in a remote and inaccessible mood. He speaks with great freedom on whatever theme his guests are pleased to prefer. He is always interesting and sometimes enthusiastic. On the day of reading of his first message to the Congress, the President had with him ten friends, composed of Rough Rangers, Plainsmen, Cowboys, and Mighty Hunters from the mountains, two War Correspondents, a Confederate General and ex-Governor. Perhaps it is not as often as it should be that the President enjoys himself quite as much as he did that day. If the luncheon party had been a legislative body, a quorum could have been formed of the men who fought with the Spaniards in the first of the combats near Santiago. The conversation, naturally, took a warlike turn. Appropriately, the Spanish name of the spot where the fighting occurred, signifies a "place of thorns." The Rough Riders seemed to have especially in mind the Mauser rifles of the Spaniards, and spoke very respectfully of them, accounting for the feeling of regard, saying that the way a Spaniard could fire the cartridges in the Mauser "clip" was such a marvel of rapidity, it was well their fire was not distinguished by accuracy.

There was much said of the lessons of war taught in our Spanish experience, and that of the English in South Africa. The President's information regarding the army seemed to be as complete as that of the Navy. It is of the same practical sort in respect to both arms. The Navy was studied by the Assistant Secretary of that Department, in an office. His army education was in the camp and on the field of battle. In each case he did the essential thing. He does not magnify himself. There are witnesses, however, who speak from the evidence of their senses. They do, as witnesses in courts are instructed, tell of their own knowledge, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Though the luncheon was so interesting, an old reporter knows enough to know when private conversation is exceedingly entertaining with information, the maxim of the ancients, that strength of statement means moderation in stating, is the better guide for publicists. There were little peculiarities about the President's luncheon. The "chile takin' notes" did so in his mind only. The President sympathized in private conversation, as President, as theretofore in public proclamation or formal address, with all that was tender, brave, truthful and generous; and opposed all that was pompous and mean. He left the impression deeper than ever, that in his exalted office, he will find the way to the front in the bold works of peace, as in heroic deeds of war, seize the vitalities of the situation and do the essentials, following his own precedents in the Legislature of his State, the National Conventions of his party, the Presidency of the New York Police Commission, the Civil Service Commission, the pulling the stroke oar in the Navy, thrusting himself and regiment as the head of the spear that penetrated the Spanish fortified lines, and employ the National energy to solve the problems before the great office. He has the will to do, and his head and hand and heart are strong and true.

The rigorous division of his time is an indispensable business method, and gives room for systematic pursuits in order. His out-door exercise is vigorous, whether he rides or walks. He is often seen walking with two of his sons at a gait that causes the boys to move at a slashing trot. In this the three are plainly of one mind.

Luncheon over, a ride is the regular order. If there is a demand for something else for the President, that is conceded. “The horse knows his rider," and the rider knows the horse. Before taking his seat at the luncheon table, he gives orders for the afternoon, horses, carriages and all movements, whatever is to be, and the minutes are in the time table, so that everything is plain as to the occupation of time until the evening dinner.

There is to notice in the organization of the White House, that the President sees all that is going on. There is a map of everything in his head. Each day is a campaign. There is no negligence or disorder. The machinery moves smoothly. Mrs. Roosevelt is an active lady, whose housekeeping is in sympathy with the divisions of the President's time and duties. That Mrs. Roosevelt is a housekeeper, the House testifies.

It was notable at the luncheon, on the day of the message, that was being read at the time the President's hospitality was enjoyed, that not a word was said of the stirring document then listened to in Congress with a degree of attention hardly ever shown by the two Houses, and going by wires beyond the seas, to be applauded by the civilization of Christendom. The President was not at all preoccupied with the splendid public paper he had delivered, but intent only on recollections, revived by his comrades, and the duties to come.

There were many times of trial for President Roosevelt between the dismal moment when he met the messenger who announced the death of President McKinley, and the reception of the people, as custom commanded, on New Year's day. The first was the long, lonely ride to Buffalo, spent in deep thoughtfulness, that prepared him for action. He knew when he looked upon the face of his murdered predecessor what his policy was to be, and so anticipated the anxious conclusions reached by his friends, some of whom telegraphed him good advice with good wishes and learned that his action had preceded their thoughtfulness. The solemnity of the oath of office was in order of events that deeply impressed. Then followed the funeral train to Washington, and the tomb at Canton; then the White House where he had a silent supper and a night alone.

All the time he was troubled with alarms of those who thought he should be surrounded with guards. His first day in the White House as President, he walked unattended to lunch with the Secretary of State; and then came wife and children, who made the chill house a home, and their voices were welcomed to dispel the gloom that burdened the air.

The little folks were made happy on Christmas, but there was no Christmas tree or festivity but that of the charm of the infantile adoration of Santa Claus.

air.

Mr. and Mrs. McKinley remembered always, bereft of their children, the glad young faces that came, and gave them some consolation in their sadness.

Before the New Year's reception, the President had made it understood that he must not be snapped at with batteries of cameras; that his walk was too rapid to encourage conversation; that his best recreation was on horseback, and that he preferred a lively horse; that he kept days and hours, gained time to do an enormous amount of work, but was a man of minutes, losing none of them; that he made luncheon a function, and kept his time table, not with ostentation, but with a habit of activity at once peremptory and polite.

A Cornell student says that nearly twenty years ago, the President being then twenty-three years old, in a lecture room President Andrew D. White, Minister to Germany, in a lecture on Modern European Society, said: “Young gentlemen, some of you will enter public life. I call your attention to Theodore Roosevelt, now in our Legislature. He is on the right road to success. It is dangerous to predict a future for a young man, but let me say that if any man of his age was ever pointed straight for Presidency that man is Theodore Roosevelt.”

The verification of the prediction is remarkable because so specific, but it is to be said if Roosevelt had been in special training for the Presidency since he was a small boy, he could not have put in his time to better advantage. The indications are, he was much less an aspirant for the great office than the average citizen, for he is amazed to find himself where he is. He presumed that his freedom of speech and horror of the diplomacy of public life that touches upon prevarication, must cause his speech to stir enmities, and array the organizers of popular forces against him.

The attractiveness of the personalities of the President and Mrs. Roosevelt were manifested on New Year's day by the multitude that paid their respects. There was much curiosity to meet the President and his wife, and as to the reception that would be given General Miles and Admiral Dewey. This, in part, grew out of a misunderstanding of the President's position respecting the Santiago controversy; and the interview he had with General Miles, following one the General had with a reporter on the attitude of Admiral Dewey touching Admiral Schley. For a long time the General had a theory that he was "not less a citizen because a soldier,” a fine phrase but not approved by high military authority, when there is Department politics in controversy. The President was positive in disapproval of words of General Miles about a “co-ordinate branch of the Government,” and Miles seemed to have considered that his coincidence with Dewey gave him correct alignment with the Navy; and also was of that opinion that he was limiting language of objection

« PreviousContinue »