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The Short List

August 31, 2017

President Theodore Roosevelt signed the dismissal order on Monday, published it on Tuesday, and left for Panama on Thursday November 8, 1906.  On November 21 the Secretary of War finally reached him with a cable.

NEW YORK REPUBLICAN CLUB AND MANY OTHERS APPEALING FOR A SUSPENSION OF THE ORDER DISCHARGING COLORED TROOPS UNTIL YOUR RETURN… MUCH AGITATION ON THE SUBJECT AND IT MAY BE WELL TO CONVINCE PEOPLE OF FAIRNESS OF HEARING BY REHEARING.

Roosevelt replied:

DISCHARGE IS NOT TO BE SUSPENDED UNLESS THERE ARE NEW FACTS OF SUCH IMPORTANCE AS TO WARRANT YOUR CABLING ME.  I CARE NOTHING WHATEVER FOR THE YELLING OF EITHER THE POLITICIANS OR THE SENTIMENTALISTS.

The President was instinctively inclusive.  He treated people as individuals and not as members of a group.  The President was a quick learner.  He was able to digest large amounts of information in a short time.  The President was also very stubborn.  When he was criticized by his white friends for appointing blacks to Federal office, he told them they were wrong.  He wasn’t going to remove competent individuals for political reasons.  Similarly, when he dismissed three companies of black soldiers, he was not going to reverse himself for political reasons.

By the time he realized his error the Senate had already begun its own investigation.  Leading the inquiry was Senator Joseph B. Foraker of Ohio.  Foraker was a Civil War veteran, and the sacrifice which Private Foraker made for emancipation was the seed that grew into Senator Foraker’s passion for civil rights.  He and Roosevelt were both Republicans, but the Senator had often sided with big business against the President.  Roosevelt saw him not as a champion of civil rights but as a political foe who was positioning himself to become Roosevelt’s successor.  The President wanted to pick his own successor, and it just so happened the Secretary of War was on the short list.

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