Sunday, October 13, 2013

Oct in D.C.: Shutting Down, Building Up

Illustration shows Theodore Roosevelt as a burlesque dancer labeled "Rosie", clutching money, and standing with a man labeled "Perkins" who is reaching into his pocket; in the background is a poster labeled "Bull Moose Burlesque". From Puck Magazine and LOC.gov

In 2013, mid October means government shutdown. In prior years, it was a time for building up, at least at the White House.

The first cornerstone was laid on what would come to be known as the White House on Oct 12, 1792. Over a century later, on Oct 13 1902, Teddy Roosevelt's West Wing addition was completed.

On Oct 14, 1912, colonel Roosevelt insisted on not shutting down, even after he had been shot. You would be forgiven if you've never heard of this assassination attempt. At the time, Roosevelt wasn't quite aware of it either.

Recall in June of that year, Roosevelt led a revolt against the Republican establishment and formed the Progressive Party. The Progressive platform included securing "legitimate and honest business, fostered by equal justice," and named a prominent banker, George Walbridge Perkins, as his executive secretary (pictured with Roosevelt above).

As his party's candidate, Roosevelt ran the most successful third-party campaign in our history, receiving more votes than his incumbent Republican rival W. H. Taft. Nonetheless, the Democrat Woodrow Wilson, won the day with 42% of the vote.

The assassination attempt occurred on a campaign stop in Milwaukee, WI. The would-be assassin was a poet named John Schrank, a "poorly attired man" who claimed he tried to kill Roosevelt because he believed no President should have three terms.

"Don't hurt him, I'm all right," the Washington Herald reported Roosevelt said as his guards tried to subdue the assassin-poet. Roosevelt's private physician, Dr. Terrill, spoke next.

"Colonel Roosevelt, I believe you are hurt."

"No not at all," returned Roosevelt with a smile. "I feel fine."

"I want to see if the bullet hit you," insisted Dr. Terrill. 

"Don't bother yourself," protested Roosevelt unperturbed. "If it hurt any, I would tell you. There are people waiting in the auditorium to see me."

"You can't go in there until I've seen if that bullet took effect," remarked Terrill. 

"My dear doctor, that is impossible," declared Roosevelt firmly. "I'm going to make that speech if it is the last one." 

Seeing it was useless to interfere, the colonel's bodyguard escorted him to the platform. As Roosevelt walked firmly to the stage as though nothing in the world were the matter, the gigantic crowd burst into the wildest cheer he has heard on the campaign trip. 

The former President had in his pocket a carefully prepared speech which he had dictated on the train on the way to Milwaukee. Without any formality, except to greet the crowd as "fellow citizens of Wisconsin," the colonel pulled the manuscript of his speech from his breast pocket. As he drew it out, he found for the first time, that the bullet had penetrated it.

October 13 is the birthday of singer-songwriter Paul Simon!  Was Simon thinking of Roosevelt's split from the Republicans when he wrote 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover?

For those you interested in learning more about Roosevelt's Progressive Party Platform of 1912, visit PBS.org.
Post a Comment

Flannery O'Connor

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.