American Boys' Life of Theodore Roosevelt/Chapter 21
The Convention at Philadelphia—Theodore Roosevelt seconds the Nomination of President McKinley—Becomes Candidate for the Vice-Presidency—Remarkable Tours through Many States
As the time came on to nominate parties for the office of President and Vice-President of the United States, in 1900, there was considerable speculation in the Republican party regarding who should be chosen for the second name on the ticket.
It was felt by everybody that President McKinley had honestly earned a second term, not alone by his management of the war with Spain, but also because of his stand touching the rebellion in the Philippines, and on other matters of equal importance.
About the Vice-Presidency the political managers were not so sure, and they mentioned several names. But in the hearts of the people there was but one name, and that was Theodore Roosevelt.
"We must have him," was heard upon every side. "He will be just the right man in the right place. He will give to the office an importance never before attached to it, and an importance which it deserves."
Personally, Governor Roosevelt did not wish this added honor. As the Executive of the greatest State in our Union, he had started great reforms, and he wanted to finish them.
"My work is here," he said to many. "Let me do what I have been called to do, and then I will again be at the service of the whole nation once more."
The National Republican Convention met in Philadelphia, June 19, in Exposition Hall, beautifully decorated with flags and banners. Senator Mark Hanna, President McKinley's warmest personal friend, was chairman, and the delegates, numbering over seven hundred, came, as usual at such conventions, from every State in the Union. Governor Roosevelt himself was a delegate, and sat near the middle aisle, five or six seats from the front. He was recognized by everybody, and it is safe to say that he was the most conspicuous figure at the convention.
Up to the last minute many of the political leaders were, in a measure, afraid of Theodore Roosevelt. They understood his immense popularity, and were afraid that the convention might be "stampeded" in his favor.
"If they once start to yell for Roosevelt, it will be good-by to everybody else," said one old politician. "They are just crazy after the leader of the Rough Riders."
But this man did not understand the stern moral honesty of the man under consideration. Roosevelt believed in upholding William McKinley, and had said so, and it was no more possible for him to seek the Presidential nomination by an underhanded trick than it was for President McKinley to do an equally base thing when he was asked to allow his name to be mentioned at the time he had pledged himself to support John Sherman. Both men were of equal loyalty, and the word of each was as good as his bond.
It was Senator Foraker who put up President McKinley for nomination, and the vigorous cheering at that time will never be forgotten. Fifteen thousand throats yelled themselves hoarse, and then broke into the ringing words and music of "The Union Forever!" in a manner that made the very convention hall tremble. Then came cries for Roosevelt, "For our own Teddy of the Rough Riders!" and, written speech in hand, he arose amid that vast multitude to second the candidacy of William McKinley. Not once did he look at the paper he held in his hand, but with a force that could not be misunderstood he addressed the assemblage.
"I rise to second the nomination of William McKinley, because with him as a leader this people has trod the path of national greatness and prosperity with the strides of a giant," said he, "and because under him we can and will succeed in the election. Exactly as in the past we have remedied the evils which we undertook to remedy, so now when we say that a wrong shall be righted, it most assuredly will be righted.
"We stand on the threshold of a new century, a century big with the fate of the great nations of the earth. It rests with us to decide now whether in the opening years of that century we shall march forward to fresh triumphs, or whether at the outset we shall deliberately cripple ourselves for the contest."
His speech was the signal for another burst of applause, and when finally Theodore Roosevelt was named as the candidate for Vice-President, the crowd yelled until it could yell no longer, while many sang "Yankee Doodle" and other more or less patriotic airs, keeping time with canes and flag-sticks. When the vote was cast, only one delegate failed to vote for Theodore Roosevelt, and that was Theodore Roosevelt himself.
The platform of the party was largely a repetition of the platform of four years before. Again the cry was for "sound money," and for the continuance of President McKinley's policy in the Philippines.
The campaign which followed was truly a strenuous one—to use a favorite word of the candidate. President McKinley decided not to make many speeches, and thus the hard work previous to election day fell upon Theodore Roosevelt.
He did not shirk the task. As with everything he inidertook, he entered into the campaign with vigor, resolved to deserve success even if he did not win it.
"I will do my best in the interests of our party, and for the benefit of the people at large," said Theodore Roosevelt. "No man can do more than that."
In the few short months between the time when he was nominated and when the election was held, Governor Roosevelt travelled over 20,000 miles by rail, visiting nearly 600 towns, and addressing, on a rough estimate, fully 3,000,000 of people! In that time he delivered 673 speeches, some of them half an hour and some an hour in length.
In his thousands of miles of travel the candidate for the Vice-Presidency visited many States, particularly those lying between New York and Colorado. At nearly every town he was greeted by an immense crowd, all anxious to do the leader of the Rough Riders honor. In the large cities great banquets were held, and he was shown much respect and consideration. In many places those who had fought under him came to see and listen to him, and these meetings were of especial pleasure. Often he would see an old Rough Rider hanging back in the crowd, and would call him to the front or do his best to reach the ex-soldier and shake him by the hand.
One occurrence is worthy of special mention. The Democratic party had nominated William Jennings Bryan as their candidate for President. There was a great labor picnic and demonstration at Chicago, and both Governor Roosevelt and Mr. Bryan were invited to speak.
"You had better not accept, governor," said some friends to Theodore Roosevelt. "There may be trouble."
"I am not afraid," answered the former leader of the Rough Riders.
"But Mr. Bryan and yourself are to be there at practically the same time."
"That does not matter," said the governor. And he went to Chicago on September 3, to attend the Labor Day celebrations. The picnic was held at Electric Park, and in the presence of fifteen thousand people Governor Roosevelt and Mr. Bryan "buried the hatchet" for the time being, and spoke to those surrounding them on the dignity of labor and the duties of the laboring man to better himself and his social conditions. In that motley collection of people there were frequent cries of "Hurrah for Teddy!" and "What's the matter with Bryan? He's all right!" but there was no disturbance, and each speaker was listened to with respectful attention from start to finish. It was without a doubt a meeting to show true American liberty and free speech at its best.
But all of the stops on his tours were not so pleasant to Governor Roosevelt. In every community there are those who are low-bred and bound to make an exhibition of their baseness. At Waverly, New York, a stone was flung at him through the car window, breaking the glass but missing the candidate for whom it was intended. At once there was excitement.
"Are you hurt, Governor?" was the question asked.
"No," returned Theodore Roosevelt. And then he added, with a faint smile, "It's only a bouquet, but I wish, after this, they wouldn't make them quite so hard."
There was also a demonstration against the candidate at Haverstraw, New York, which threatened for a while to break up an intended meeting. But the worst rowdyism was encountered at Victor, a small town in Colorado, near the well-known mining centre of Cripple Creek. Victor was full of miners who wanted not "sound money," but "free silver," for free silver, so styled, meant a great booming of silver mining.
"We don't want him here," said these miners. "We have heard enough about him and his gold standard. He had better keep away, or he'll regret it."
When Theodore Roosevelt was told he might have trouble in the mining camps, he merely shrugged his shoulders.
"I know these men," he said. "The most of them are as honest and respectable as the citizens of New York. I am not afraid of the vicious element. The better class are bound to see fair play."
The governor spoke at a place called Armory Hall, and the auditorium was packed. He had just begun his speech when there was a wild yelling and cat-calling, all calculated to drown him out. He waited for a minute, and then, as the noise subsided, tried to go on once more, when a voice cried out:—
"What about rotten beef?" referring to the beef furnished during; the Santiago campaign, which had, of course, come through a Republican Commissary Department.
"I ate that beef," answered the governor, quickly. And then he added to the fellow who had thus questioned him: "You will never get near enough to be hit with a bullet, or within five miles of it." At this many burst into applause, and the man, who was a coward at heart, sneaked from the hall in a hurry. He was no soldier and had never suffered the hardships of any campaign, and many hooted him as he deserved.
But the trouble was not yet over. Theodore Roosevelt finished his address, and then started to leave the hall in company with a number of his friends. On the way to the train a crowd of rowdies followed the candidate's party, and threw all sorts of things at them. One man made a personal attack on the governor and hit him on the chest with a stick. He tried to leap away, but was knocked down by a personal friend of Theodore Roosevelt.
"Down with the gold bugs!" was the cry, and the violence of the mob increased. The friends of Governor Roosevelt rallied to his support, and blows were given and taken freely. But with it all the candidate reached his train in safety, and in a few minutes more had left the town far behind. He was not much disturbed, and the very next day went on with his speech-making as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. The better classes of citizens of Victor were much disturbed over the happening, and they sent many regrets to Governor Roosevelt, assuring him that such a demonstration would never again be permitted to occur.
- See "American Boys' Life of William McKinley," p. 191.