Chapter 28 - American Boy's Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Edward Stratemeyer

New Offices at the White House—Sends a Wireless Message to King Edward of England—End of the Trouble in Venezuela—The Canadian Boundary Dispute—Beginning of a Trip to the West—In Yellowstone Park

The end of the year found President Roosevelt in the best of health, despite the accident some weeks previous. The improvements at the White House were now complete, and the family of the Chief Magistrate took possession. A separate set of offices for the President and his Cabinet had been built at the western end of the executive mansion, and the rooms formerly used for this purpose were turned into living apartments. The changes made have been approved by many who have seen them, and they have wondered why the alterations were not made a long time ago.

On December 1, Congress assembled for a new session, and on the day following the President's message was read. It was a masterly state paper, dealing with the trust question, our relations with the new government of Cuba (for the island was now free, just as we had meant it to be when the war with Spain started), the creation of a new department of Commerce and Labor, needs of the army and navy, and the all-important matter of how the Philippines should be governed. It may be added here that not long after this a Department of Commerce and Labor was created by Congress, and Mr. George B. Cortelyou, the secretary to the President, became its first official head. When Mr. Cortelyou left his post as secretary, Mr. William Loeb, Jr., who had been the President's private secretary for some time, became the regular first secretary to the Chief Magistrate, a place he occupies to-day.

Just about this time there was considerable trouble in Indianola, Mississippi. A colored young lady had been appointed postmistress, and the people in that vicinity refused to recognize her. The Post-Office Department did what it could in the matter, and then referred the case to the President.

"As she has been regularly appointed, the people will have to accept her," said Mr. Roosevelt. And when there was more trouble, he sent forward an order that the post-office be shut up entirely. This was done, and for a long time the people of that vicinity had to get their mail elsewhere, a great inconvenience to them.

On January 1, 1903, the new cable to the Hawaiian Islands was completed, and President Roosevelt received a message from Governor Dole, and sent a reply to the same. About two weeks later the President sent a wireless, or rather cableless, message to King Edward of England. This helped to mark the beginning of a new era in message-sending which may cause great changes in the transmission of messages in the future.

For some time past there had been a small-sized war going on in Venezuela, South America, between that nation on one hand and England, Germany, and Italy on the other. This war had caused much disturbance to American trade. Pressure was brought to bear upon the several nations through President Roosevelt, and at last it was agreed to leave matters to be settled by arbitration at The Hague. The agreements to this end were signed at Washington, much to the President's satisfaction. All trouble then ceased, and American commerce was resumed as before.

For many years there had been a dispute between the United States and Canada, regarding a certain boundary line. This country claimed a long strip of territory next to the sea, near the seaports of Dyea and Skagway, and Canada claimed that this strip, about thirty miles in width, belonged to her domain.

There had been endless disputes about the claim, and considerable local trouble, especially during the rush to the Klondike after gold.

Many Americans contended that we had absolute right to the territory, and when arbitration was spoken of, said we had nothing to arbitrate. This was, in the main, President Roosevelt's view of the matter, yet, as things grew more disturbed, he realized, as a good business man, that something must be done. We did not wish to fight Canada and England for the strip of land, and neither did they wish to fight, so at last a Board of Arbitration was agreed upon, and the claims of both parties were carefully investigated. In the end nearly every point claimed by the United States was granted to us. It was a great satisfaction to have this long-standing dispute settled; and how much better it was to do it by arbitration than by going to war.

The regular session of Congress came to an end on March 4, 1903, but President Roosevelt had already called an extra session, to consider a bill for reciprocity in our dealing with the new government of Cuba and to ratify a treaty with Colombia concerning the Panama Canal.

There was a great deal of debating at this session of Congress. The bill concerning Cuba caused but little trouble, but many wanted the canal placed in Nicaragua instead of Panama, and did not wish to pay the forty millions of dollars asked for the work already accomplished by the old French Canal Company. But in the end the bill passed the United States Senate by a vote of seventy-three to five, with the proviso that should we fail to make a satisfactory arrangement about the Panama Canal, then the government should build the canal through Nicaragua. President Roosevelt was enthusiastic over a canal at the isthmus, and lost no time in arranging to push the work further.

The people of the far West were very anxious to meet the chief ruler of our nation, and early in the year it was arranged that President Roosevelt should leave Washington on April 1 for a tour to last until June. In that time he was to visit more than twenty States, and make over one hundred stops. The people in the West awaited his coming with much pleasure.

The President was justly entitled to this outing, for the nation was now at peace with the entire world, and never had business been so prosperous. More than this, our affairs with other nations had been so handled that throughout the entire civilized world no ruler was more popular than was Theodore Roosevelt. In England he was spoken of with the highest praise, and the regards of the Germans had already been shown in the visit of Prince Henry to this country. He was known to be vigorous to the last degree, but it was likewise realized that he was thoroughly honest and straight-forward.

The first stop of the President in his trip West was made at Chicago, where during the day he laid the corner-stone of the new law building of the University of Chicago, which university conferred upon him the degree of LL.D. (Doctor of Laws). In the evening he addressed an unusually large crowd at the Auditorium building, speaking upon the Monroe Doctrine.

From Chicago the President journeyed to Milwaukee, and then to St. Paul and Minneapolis. At the first-named city he made a forceful address on the trusts, giving his hearers a clear idea of how the great corporations of to-day were brought into existence, and what may be done to control them, and in the last-named city he spoke on the ever-important question of tariff.

It was an eventful week, and when Sunday came the Chief Magistrate was glad enough to take a day of rest at Sioux Falls, South Dakota. From there he journeyed to Gardiner, Montana, one of the entrances to that greatest of all American wonderlands, Yellowstone Park.

It was understood that President Roosevelt wished to visit the Park without a great following of the general public, and this wish was carried out to the letter. Mr. Roosevelt had with him the well-known naturalist, Mr. John Burroughs, and for about two weeks he enjoyed himself to his heart's content, visiting many of the spots of interest and taking it easy whenever he felt so disposed. It was not a hunting trip, although big game is plentiful enough in the Park. It was just getting "near to nature's heart," and Mr. Roosevelt afterward declared it to be one of the best outings he had ever experienced.