Story of Theodore Roosevelt - J. W. McSpadden

Roosevelt's Last Campaign

Roosevelt's hat was in the ring; the fight was on in earnest. It was a three-cornered fight with antagonists worthy of his steel. The Democrats nominated Woodrow Wilson, the reform Governor of New Jersey, many of whose principles were Roosevelt's own.

The Colonel plunged into the campaign with all his old-time vigor. It meant little to him that he had spent months in arduous travel already. He would not spare himself for the new cause. He planned two speaking trips to cover the country from East to West, but could carry out only a part of the program.

In the middle of October, only three weeks from election, he reached Milwaukee, where he was scheduled to speak. While in an open automobile on the way to the auditorium, a man suddenly stepped out of the crowd and at a distance of ten feet fired a revolver point-blank at him. Roosevelt felt a stinging sensation in his right breast and sank back on the seat of the car.

The crowd surged in around the would-be assassin, and Roosevelt saw that the fellow was in danger.

"Don't hurt him!" he cried, ignoring his own wound. "Bring him to me!"

The man was brought face to face with the one he had sought to kill. He proved to be a weak-minded fellow whose brain had become inflamed by statements of partisan newspapers to the effect that Roosevelt was seeking to make himself a dictator and set aside the constitution.

Just then the police appeared, and the man was turned over to them.

"Now to the hospital!" cried Roosevelt's friends; but he would have none of it.

"No!" he protested. "I am going to make this speech."

"You are risking your life!" they argued.

"So much the more reason I should go on. This may be the last speech I shall ever make."



And deliver the speech he did. When he appeared before the audience a few minutes later, the entire assemblage rose to its feet as a tribute to his courage. He grasped a chair for support and then reached inside his breast pocket for his manuscript. As he drew it forth he faltered a little and his voice shook during the opening sentences.

The manuscript was perforated with two bullet holes, as it had been once folded. Only these fifty or hundred pages had stood between him and death.

Not until after his speech, which lasted well over an hour, would he submit to a surgeon's examination. Then it was found that the paper had deflected the course of the bullet so that it had missed perforating his right lung by only half an inch. When protested with for going on, he only said:

"I tell you with absolute truthfulness that I am not thinking of my own life, I am not thinking of my own success. I am thinking only of the success of this great cause."

As soon as Governor Wilson heard of Colonel Roosevelt's injury he offered on his own account to refrain from any further public campaigning. It was a sportsmanlike offer, but Roosevelt would not hear of it.

"The welfare of any one man in this fight is wholly immaterial," he replied. "This is not a contest about any man. It is a contest concerning principles."

Two weeks later, thanks to his robust constitution, he was recovered sufficiently to address a final rally in Madison Square Garden, New York. Speaking with quiet restraint to the vast, cheering throng, he said:

"I am glad beyond measure that I am one of the many who in this fight have stood ready to spend and be spent, pledged to fight, while life lasts, the great fight of righteousness and for brotherhood and for the welfare of mankind."

Five days later when the election took place it was found that this new party, only a few weeks old, had outstripped the old and run second. The final vote stood: Wilson, 6,286,214; Roosevelt, 4,126,020; and Taft, 3,483,922.

Thereupon, Roosevelt's many political critics charged him with Republican defeat. They said that he had "split his party because he couldn't run it." The winds of controversy howled about his head.

He, however, retired to private life undisturbed. It had been a good fight.