Story of Theodore Roosevelt - J. W. McSpadden




The Guest of Europe

Once in touch with civilization again, after a year's absence, Roosevelt expected to be treated as a private citizen and after a quiet visit in Europe return home. But his first reception at Khartoum, where the British officials accorded him the highest dignities and the cheering crowds followed him everywhere, soon convinced him to the contrary. He was a world figure even more commanding than when he laid down the reins of office.

"I guess we are in for it!" he remarked to Mrs. Roosevelt; and cabled to New York to send him a private secretary by the earliest boat.

The journey down the Nile was like a triumphal progress of one of the Pharaohs; but it was marred by one incident toward its close. Egypt was then a protectorate under Great Britain, and a Nationalist party was striving for power. The Premier, Boutras, had lately been assassinated by agents of this party, who now went so far as to warn Roosevelt that if he made any public criticism of this deed his own life would be in danger.

They utterly mistook their man, as we know, for at a speech in Cairo, Roosevelt denounced the deed in plain terms and told the Nationalists that they would be denied self-government until they showed themselves fit for it. There was a great outcry, and extra guards were placed around the speaker, but no attack followed.

In Italy, his next stopping-point, he was unfortunately the center of another controversy. After being entertained by the King and Queen, he expressed a desire through the American Ambassador for an audience with the Pope. The latter acquiesced, but laid down as a condition that Colonel Roosevelt should kindly refrain from visiting the Methodist Mission in Rome. The Colonel refused to accept this restriction, and gave the facts to the newspapers. This threatened to start a bitter religious debate on both sides of the Atlantic, but Roosevelt at once added that it was only a private and personal matter, and he appealed to his good friends, both Catholic and Protestant, to view it in that light.

His progress northward through Europe was like a royal pilgrimage. Had he been an emperor he could not have received higher honors. It was enough to turn the head of any man, but Roosevelt received it all with quiet dignity as if accorded to his country rather than himself.

At the Austrian frontier he was greeted by a personal representative of the aged Emperor, Francis Joseph, and conducted to Vienna as the Emperor's personal guest.

At Paris the scenes of popular enthusiasm were repeated. Down the Champs Elysees through wildly cheering crowds his carriage was driven to the Sorbonne, where he delivered an address on "Citizenship in a Republic," a ringing message on the plain, everyday duties of every citizen, to make his country ideally great. He described no Utopia, but a nation whose guiding principles were the Ten Commandments.

In Germany, the Kaiser had planned a series of pageants and entertainments for him, but the program was greatly simplified by the news of the death of King Edward VII of England. The fete-weary Roosevelt was not sorry to be spared the entertaining; but he had a fine visit with the Kaiser, who had become his genuine admirer and friend, despite the Venezuelan incident a few years earlier.

In his guest's honor, the Kaiser arranged a review of the Prussian army at Potsdam; and for half a day the two men sat on horseback side by side and watched that marvelous military machine wheel in glittering precision across the plains. At the end of the review, the Emperor said:

"Friend Roosevelt, I am glad to welcome you as the foremost American citizen to this review. You are the first private citizen to have reviewed the troops of Germany."

The University of Berlin, where he spoke, made him a Doctor of Philosophy. Thence he went as the special representative of the United States to attend the funeral of King Edward. London just then swarmed with royalty, practically every reigning house of Europe being represented. None of them stood on ceremony where Roosevelt was concerned, but sent their cards to the Dorchester House, where he was stationed, at all hours of the day and night. Perhaps history has never seen, or never will see again, so many crowned heads seeking out a private citizen.

It is said, though we cannot vouch for the truth of this story, that one afternoon of a particularly busy day when Roosevelt was struggling with some correspondence, the footman entered bearing a tray with some royal card. The Colonel glanced at it and exclaimed:

"Hang these kings! I wish they'd give a fellow a chance to finish his work!"

The Kaiser also was in London, and frankly glad to see his "friend Roosevelt" again. He appropriated him unblushingly at every opportunity. One evening at Buckingham Palace while the Colonel stood chatting with Czar Ferdinand of Bulgaria, Wilhelm came stalking across the room and clapped Roosevelt on he shoulder.

"Friend Roosevelt, come over here!" he ordered. "Here's a king you will be really  glad to meet!"

What the snubbed Ferdinand thought about it we do not know, but a moment later Roosevelt found himself looking up at a tall young man who was beaming down cordially at him. It was Alfonso XIII of Spain, the man who had lost Cuba twelve years before. In the friendly handclasp and conversation which followed, Spain and America went far toward renewing ties of friendship.

While on the subject of the German Emperor two other stories widely circulated demand retelling.

One day in going over his engagements the Kaiser said: "I must have some further talk with you, friend Roosevelt. Come to-morrow afternoon, can't you? I can see you at two, but can give you only three-quarters of an hour."

To which Roosevelt quickly replied: "It will give me great pleasure to call upon you at two, but I can allow myself only half an hour."

The other incident occurred some years later when the World War had broken out. The United States was still neutral, and the Kaiser was anxious to keep on good terms with us as long as possible. Roosevelt, the private citizen at Oyster Bay, had made one or two statements about "hyphenated Americans," which might be detrimental to German interests. So the Kaiser sent a confidential agent to see him.

"His Imperial majesty," the agent said smoothly, "is relying upon your good and friendly offices in this country. He desires to recall to you the many evidences of his friendship and the courtesies extended to you while abroad."

"Yes," replied Roosevelt, "I remember with pleasure the courtesies received from the German Emperor. I remember also, with equal pleasure, the many courtesies extended to me by the King of the Belgians."

The closing incident of Roosevelt's trip through Europe was even more sensational than the opening one, in Egypt. He had been given the official freedom of the City of London, and invited to make a speech at the Guild-hall. Here the diplomats and parliamentarians, used to smooth, evasive language, were amazed to hear him discussing the African question in plain terms.

He began by praising British rule in East Africa, Uganda, and the Soudan—speaking from his personal observation. Conditions in Egypt, however, did not please him, and he was no less frank in saying so. He said the British policy in Egypt was weak-kneed, and led to such outbreaks as the recent murder of the Premier. Looking the British lawmakers straight in the face he concluded:

"Either you have the right to be in Egypt, or you have not; either it is or it is not your duty to establish and keep order. If you feel you have not the right to be in Egypt, if you do not wish to establish and to keep order there, why, then, by all means get out of Egypt!"

Then there was a buzzing of official hornets! Staid, conservative old England was first amazed then downright angry at the presumption of this outsider who dared tell her what to do! It threatened to be more than a tempest in a teapot, until Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, calmly announced that he had seen a draft of the speech before it was delivered, and had approved of it. And on sober second thought, England admitted that he was right. But it was a new brand of diplomacy.