The Attempt To Kill Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States. Known for his bold personality, Roosevelt was a myriad of contradictions. While Roosevelt was a Republican, he was also a Progressive Reformer who took on special interests and dissolved giant corporations whom he believed yielded too much power in America. While an avid hunter, Roosevelt was also a conservationist who set aside millions of acres of public lands. While known for his cowboy style and military heroics, Roosevelt was also an academic who read vigorously and wrote 35 books including works on outdoor life, the American Frontier and political history.
Roosevelt Takes Office
After the Spanish American War, of which Roosevelt was a hero as part of the “Rough Riders” and the taking of San Juan Hill, Roosevelt returned to America a popular man. He was overwhelmingly elected Governor of New York upon his return. However, Roosevelt was not popular among the power structure in the Republican Party whom feared Roosevelt could not be controlled if he ever obtained real power. In order to silence Roosevelt, he was nominated to run as William McKinley’s Vice President.
In 1901, William McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz at the World’s Fair in Buffalo, New York. Roosevelt was sworn in as President at the age of 42, the youngest in History. One of the first acts Roosevelt pursued was providing protection for the President. The Protection Detail of the President came from the Treasury Department in what today is known as the United States Secret Service.
The Attempt To Kill Roosevelt
Roosevelt won re-election in his own right in 1904 and vowed not to run for a third term as President as was the tradition. However, after Roosevelt left office, he became unhappy with the policies and direction of his successor, William Howard Taft. Once good friends, Roosevelt began denouncing Taft publicly and ran in the Republican Primary against Taft in 1908. While winning many primaries, Republican Party officials who still do not care for Roosevelt supported Taft, and Roosevelt and his followers left the Convention.
But, as was his style, Roosevelt did not quit and instead ran for President as a member of the Bull Moose Party. On October 14, 1912, while Roosevelt was campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a saloon owner named John Schrank shot Roosevelt in the chest. Schrank had reportedly followed Roosevelt around the country waiting for the right time to shoot him. Schrank, who suffered from psychotic episodes, stated that he was motivated to kill Roosevelt after having a dream. Schrank stated, “I saw President McKinley sit up in his coffin pointing at a man in monk's attire in whom I recognized Theodore Roosevelt. The dead president said, "This is my murderer, avenge my death."
When Schrank saw Roosevelt in Milwaukee, he saw his chance to kill him. He pointed the gun at Roosevelt’s head, but a bystander saw what was happening and hit Schrank’s arm just as he fired the bullet. The bullet lodged in Roosevelt’s chest but after going through his eyeglass case and his speech which was 50 pages long. Reports claim that Roosevelt did not even notice that he was hit until someone mentioned that there was a hole in his overcoat. Roosevelt reached in and found blood on his fingers.
Roosevelt, who was an experienced hunter, looked at his wound and concluded that since he was not coughing up blood the wound was not fatal or even that serious. So instead of going to the hospital, Roosevelt finished his campaign schedule and gave a ninety minute speech. Roosevelt remarked, “"Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose."
After Roosevelt gave his speech he did end up going to the hospital. X-rays showed that the bullet traversed three inches of tissue and was lodged in his chest. The doctors decided that it would be more dangerous to remove the bullet than leave it. Roosevelt carried the bullet in his chest the rest of his life.
Because of the assassination attempt, Roosevelt ceased campaigning two weeks before the election. However, it didn’t really make a difference. Taft and Roosevelt were splitting the Republican vote which made a victory for the Democratic nominee, Woodrow Wilson, inevitable. Roosevelt finished second in both the popular vote and electoral college to Wilson.
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