Chapter 29 - American Boy's Life of Theodore Roosevelt by Edward Stratemeyer

Dedication of the Fair Buildings at St. Louis—Continuation of the Trip To San Francisco—Up in the Far North-West—Back in Washington—The Post-office Scandals—The New Republic of Panama—A Canal at Last—Proclamation regarding the War between Japan and Russia—Opening of the Great Fair

After the refreshing tour of Yellowstone Park, President Roosevelt journeyed across Nebraska to Omaha, then across Iowa to Keokuk, and from the latter city to St. Louis.

As before, he delivered a number of addresses, and wherever he spoke great crowds came to see and to hear him. In these crowds were people of all political tendencies, but it made no difference if they were Republicans, Democrats, or Populists, all were equally glad to greet the President of the United States and the hero of San Juan Hill.

On this trip he frequently met some of the Rough Riders, and they invariably did all in their power to make him feel at home. On the other hand he showed that he had not forgotten them.

"By George, I am glad to see you!" he would exclaim, catching an old comrade by the hand. And his tone of voice would show that he meant just what he said.

For a long time the people of St. Louis had been preparing for a grand fair, to be known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, to commemorate the purchasing from France of all that vast territory of the United States which lies between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains and the Gulf of Mexico and British America. The purchase was made in 1803 for fifteen millions of dollars, and it was hoped to hold the exposition on the one hundredth anniversary, in 1903, but matters were delayed, and so the fair was postponed until 1904.

The dedication of the fair buildings at the Exposition Grounds was held on April 30, 1903, and was made a gala occasion by those interested. President Roosevelt was invited to speak, and also Ex-President Cleveland, and both made addresses of remarkable interest. Following the dedication exercises a grand banquet was given at which the scene of good-fellowship was one not readily forgotten. The President wished the exposition well, and promised to do all in his power to make it a success.

Although the President had already travelled many miles, the greater part of his western trip still lay before him.

From St. Louis he went to Kansas City and to Topeka, where the citizens were as anxious to meet him as anywhere. He stopped at Sharon Springs over Sunday, and then went to Denver, and to various towns in Colorado and in New Mexico. While in New Mexico he became interested in the systems of irrigation there, and told the people what they might do if their systems of watering the ground were increased.

Having passed through the Grand Cañon, the second week in May found him in southern California. He visited Los Angeles, reviewing the annual floral parade, and many other points, and at Claremont addressed a great gathering of school children in a beautiful park filled with shrubs and flowers. The children were decidedly enthusiastic over the meeting, and when Mr. Roosevelt went away, some pelted him with flowers, which bombardment he took in good part.

President Roosevelt's visit to Leland Stanford Jr. University in California came next, and here the students cheered him with vigor. He visited many of the more important buildings, and was entertained by members of the faculty.

His face was now set toward the Golden Gate, and San Francisco was all alive to give him an ovation. It was his first official visit to the Pacific coast, and all whom he met vied with each other to do him honor, while they listened with great attention to what he had to say.

Three days were spent in San Francisco and vicinity, and three days more in a tour of the Yosemite Valley. President Roosevelt was particularly anxious to see some of the big trees of the State, and was driven to several that are well known.

The steps of the Chief Magistrate were now turned northward, to Oregon, and a week was spent at Portland, and in the towns and cities of the Puget Sound territory, and beyond. Here he saw much that was new and novel in the lumber trade and in the salmon industry, and was received with a warmth that could not be mistaken.

"He is a President for the whole country, no mistake about that," said more than one.

"He makes you feel he is your friend the minute you lay eyes on him," would put in another. To many in this far corner of our country, this visit of the President will ever remain as a pleasant memory. They could never hope to get to Washington, more than three thousand miles away, and to have him come out to see them was worth remembering.

The journey eastward was made through Montana to Salt Lake City and then to Cheyenne, where additional addresses were delivered. From the latter point a fast train bore him homeward, and by the next Sunday he was back in the White House once more, as fresh and hearty as ever, and well prepared to undertake whatever important work might come to hand.

And work was there in plenty. Among the first things taken up by the President was a scandal in the Post-Office Department. Without loss of time President Roosevelt ordered Postmaster General Payne to make a thorough investigation, with the result that many contracts which were harmful to our post-office system were annulled, and some wrong-doers were brought to justice.

Toward the end of July there was considerable disturbance in the Government Printing Office at Washington because a certain assistant foreman, who had been discharged, was reinstated. All of the bookbinders were on the point of striking because they did not want the man returned, as he did not belong to their union. But President Roosevelt was firm in the matter; and in the end the man went back, and there was no strike. This affair caused an almost endless discussion in labor circles, some claiming that the union should have been upheld, while others thought differently.

During the summer, as was his usual habit, President Roosevelt, with his family, spent part of his time at his country home at Oyster Bay. This time the visit to the old homestead was of unusual interest, for, on August 17, the North Atlantic Fleet of the navy visited that vicinity, for review and inspection by the President.

It was a gala occasion, and the fleet presented a handsome appearance as it filed past and thundered out a Presidential salute. Many distinguished guests were present, and all without exception spoke of the steady improvement in our navy as a whole. President Roosevelt was equally enthusiastic, and well he might be, for he had used every means in his power to make our navy all it should be.

Late in September President Roosevelt returned to Washington, and on October 15 delivered the principal address at the unveiling of a statue of that grand military hero, General Sherman. Here once more he was listened to with tremendous interest, delivering a speech that was patriotic to the core and full of inspiration.

For some time past matters in Colombia had been in a very mixed-up condition. The United States were willing to take hold of the Panama Canal, as already mentioned, but although a treaty had been made to that effect, the Colombian government would not ratify the agreement.

On November 3, the trouble in Colombia reached its culminating point. On that day the State of Panama declared itself free and independent. The people of that State wanted the canal built by the United States, and were very angry when the rest of the Colombian States would not agree to the treaty which had been made.

At once there were strong rumors of war, and a few slight attacks were really made. The United States forbade the transportation of soldiers on the Panama railroad, and a few days later recognized Panama as an independent republic. The new republic was likewise recognized by France, and, later still, by England. On November 9, Panama appointed a commission to negotiate a canal treaty with our country, and this treaty was signed and sealed at Washington by Secretary of State Hay, acting for the United States, and M. Bunau-Varilla, acting for Panama.

The President's next message to Congress went at great length into the question of the Panama Canal, and in defence of the recognition of the new republic. It also told of what the new Department of Commerce and Labor had accomplished, especially the branch devoted to corporations.

"We need not be over-sensitive about the welfare of corporations which shrink from the light," wrote Mr. Roosevelt. And in this statement every one who had the best interests of our nation at heart agreed. To accomplish great works great corporations are often necessary, but they must conduct business in such a fashion that they are not ashamed to show their methods to the public at large.

At the opening of the year 1904 there were strong rumors of a war between Japan and Russia, over the occupation of Korea, and this war started early in February by a battle on the sea, wherein the Russian fleet lost several war-ships. This contest was followed by others of more or less importance, and it looked as if, sooner or later, other nations might become involved in the struggle.

"We must keep our hands off," said President Roosevelt, and at once issued a proclamation, calling on all good citizens to remain strictly neutral, and warning those who might take part that they could hope for no aid from the United States should they get into trouble personally or have any property confiscated. This proclamation was followed by some excellent work of our State Department, whereby it was agreed among the leading nations that the zone of fighting should be a limited one,—that is, that neither Japan nor Russia should be allowed to carry it beyond a certain defined territory.

For many weeks Congress had debated the Panama Canal treaty and the action of President Roosevelt regarding the new republic of Panama. On February 23, 1904, a vote was taken in the Senate, and the Panama Canal treaty was ratified in all particulars. Without delay some United States troops were despatched to Panama, to guard the strip of land ten miles wide through which the canal is to run, and preparations were made to push the work on the waterway without further delay.

On Saturday, April 30, the great World's Fair at St. Louis was formally opened to the public. It had cost over fifty millions of dollars and was designed to eclipse any fair held in the past. The opening was attended by two hundred thousand visitors, all of whom were more than pleased with everything to be seen.

It had been arranged that President Roosevelt should formally open the Exposition by means of telegraphic communications from the White House to the fair grounds. A key of ivory and gold was used for the purpose, and as soon as it was touched a salute of twenty-one guns roared forth in the Exposition's honor. Around the President were assembled the members of his Cabinet and representatives of many foreign nations. Before touching the key which was to set the machinery of the wonderful fair in motion, President Roosevelt spoke as follows:—

"I have received from the Exposition grounds the statement that the management of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition awaits the pressing of the button which is to transmit the electric energy which is to unfurl the flag and start the machinery of the Exposition.

"I wish now to greet all present, and especially the representatives of the foreign nations here represented, in the name of the American people, and to thank these representatives for the parts their several countries have taken in being represented in this centennial anniversary of the greatest step in the movement which transformed the American Republic from a small confederacy of States lying along the Atlantic seaboard into a continental nation.

"This Exposition is one primarily intended to show the progress in the industry, the science, and the art, not only of the American nation, but of all other nations, in the great and wonderful century which has just closed. Every department of human activity will be represented there, and perhaps I may be allowed, as honorary president of the athletic association which, under European management, started to revive the memory of the Olympic games, to say that I am glad that, in addition to paying proper heed to the progress of industry, of science, of art, we have also paid proper heed to the development of the athletic pastimes which are useful in themselves as showing that it is wise for nations to be able to relax.

"I greet you all. I appreciate your having come here on this occasion, and in the presence of you, representing the American government and the governments of the foreign nations, I here open the Louisiana Exposition."