You and I might never have known very much about Theodore Roosevelt if Garret Augustus Hobart hadn’t died.
Roosevelt wouldn’t have changed Republican politics in the early 1900’s nor would have political puppeteer Mark Hanna angrily called him “that damned cowboy” if Garret Augustus Hobart had lived a little longer.
So, who was Garret Augustus Hobart?
Hobart was Vice-President of the United States when William McKinley was elected President in 1896.
Hobart did such a good job as Vice-President that he would have been re-elected with McKinley in 1900.
Unfortunately, he died of a heart condition the year before the election took place.
McKinley needed a Vice-Presidential replacement, and that replacement was Theodore Roosevelt.
Then, two years later, the unthinkable took place:
William McKinley was assassinated. Theodore Roosevelt became President of the United States.
If Hobart had not died, he would have become President when McKinley was assassinated and we might not have the Grand Canyon National Park that Roosevelt championed, nor would Roosevelt have written many of his books, including
“Through The Brazilian Wilderness,” his near death struggle in the jungle, which we have recorded as an audiobook (preview and download;)
Equal pay for equal work for women topped the Republican platform of 1896. The Republicans also wanted to place some restrictions on immigration, institute a national board to settle labor disputes, maintain the Dollar backed by gold, acquire Hawaii, and build a canal across Panama.
The use of gold to establish the value of US currency was a major issue at that time, opposed by the Democratic candidate for President, William Jennings Bryan, a strong supporter of the silver standard.
The idea behind the silver standard was that since silver was worth less than gold, it would buy a greater number of dollars and give struggling Americans more dollars in their pockets.
William Jennings Bryan made a speech about it- the most famous speech he ever made, which ended…
“Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”
To which Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Garret Augustus Hobart replied:
“An honest dollar, worth one hundred cents everywhere, cannot be coined out of fifty-three cents of silver, plus legislative fiat.”
Garret Augustus Hobart had all the right credentials for his time. He was from the sturdy Eastern Establishment, one of a long line of descendants of the Dutch, who had settled in New Amsterdam, and contributed to the growth of the city of New York.
From the very beginning, it was understood that Hobart would be an active Vice-President He was a charming, hospitable, jovial man, who easily made friends and who could work with people.
It is said that no Vice-President visited the White House more than Hobart. President William McKinley returned the favor by visiting Hobart’s rented house at 21 Lafayette Square, which became known as the “little cream White House.”
Even their wives, Ida McKinley and Jennie Hobart, became close, in a relationship that served the country well. Ida McKinley suffered from epilepsy and could not mingle with the political elite. Jennie Hobart took her place as the White House hostess, “Not because I was second Lady, “ wrote Mrs. Hobart in her memoirs, “but because I was their good friend.”
Garret Augustus Hobart advised President McKinley of an uprising in Congress, pressing for a war against Spain in Cuba.
It was this war that brought Theodore Roosevelt national attention. On July 1, 1898, Roosevelt led his group of “Rough Riders” up San Juan Hill near Santiago, Cuba, and to victory over Spanish General Arsenio Linares. Roosevelt became a national hero.
Meanwhile, Hobart was a perfect Vice-President, deeply involved with the Administration, active in carrying out Presidential policy and prepared to become President if anything happened to McKinley.
But it was not to be. During the summer of 1899, a year before the next Presidential election, Hobart developed heart problems. The once active outgoing man suddenly became physically weak and faint.
Hobart left Washington DC and returned to his home in Patterson, New Jersey to rest. He never got better and died on November 21, 1899. He was only 56 years old.
It is fascinating how fate plays a part in both the life of people and of countries. Had Garret Augustus Hobart not died in office, he would have been re-elected with McKinley. After the assassination of McKinley, Hobart would have become the 26th President of the United States. But fate decided otherwise.
Years later, after President Theodore Roosevelt completed his Presidential service, he embarked on a dangerous journey down what was called “The River of Doubt” in Brazil. The adventure almost cost Roosevelt his life. He wrote a personal memoir about the adventure, “Through the Brazilian Wilderness.”
I recorded and published his fascinating memoir, written in the first person, as if we are listening to Roosevelt telling the story. You can preview or download the audiobook at this link: http://listen2read.com/through-the-brazilian-wilderness/
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