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CHAPTER VI The President
It is said that killing a man will not prevent him from going to Chicago, and you may be certain that nothing will prevent an American from getting himself elected President of the United States if he can possibly manage it.

The United States Presidency is believed by the patriotic American to be the very finest position that mortal man could possibly desire to occupy, outshining in glory and honour, if not exactly in importance, all “the effete thrones of Yurrup” rolled into one paroxysm of purple. Tremendous and almighty as the United States Presidency may be, however, its real lustre and attraction for the American imagination lies in the fact that it is within the possible attainment of any and every United States citizen who does not happen to be a nigger. Of course, your United States President has sometimes been a very different affair from the United States Presidency. But that is neither here nor there; because a man who can write “President U.S.” after his name is, on the face of it, clearly[56] entitled to think that he casts a large shadow. And he does.

Though the history books will tell you otherwise, astute people—which phrase includes a fair handful of Americans—are of opinion that the Republic of the United States has had only a matter of three Presidents. The first of them was George Washington, who, let it be said, set the fashion of not relishing the job; the second of them was Abraham Lincoln, rail splitter, lawyer, statesman and martyr; and the third American President—one blushes with pride to name him—is none other than Theodore Roosevelt, now more or less happily reigning.

I am no great hand at either history or biography, so that the reader of these pages will be spared the usual entertaining biographical details. I am not even aware if Mr. Roosevelt arrived at the White House by way of the traditional Log Cabin, or whether he took a pleasanter, less stony and less circuitous route. It is sufficient for me to have reasonable hearsay evidence that he is there, and that he has filled up frantically every hour of his time since he got there.

For the ruler of a great state Mr. Roosevelt is, to say the least, an appealing and exciting figure. He may be[57] said fairly to out-rival anything of the kind that has hitherto been offered us this side of the Atlantic—with one diverting and rhetorical Teutonic exception.

In Mr. Roosevelt you have the following popular and captivating elements:

He is:—

    A Dutchman.
    An American.
    A Diplomat.
    A Soldier.
    A Lawn-Tennis Champion.
    A Cow-boy.
    A Big Game Shooter.
    A Strong Man.
    An Anti-Malthusian.
    A Hand-Shaker-of-All-Comers.
    A Stump Orator.
    A Spelling Reformer.
    An Apostle of the Strenuous Life.
    A Husband.
    A Father.
    A Family Man.
    A Deacon.
    A Humourist.
    A Pugilist.
    A Harriman-hunter.
    A Hardy Horseman.
    A Dog Fancier.
    An Author.
    A Judge of White Mice.
    [58]A San Juan Hero.
    A Nobel Prize Winner.
    A Statesman of the First Order.
    A Hustler;
    and
    President of the United States of America.

Probably it has never been possible to compile such an inventory in favour of any other example of the human species, and when one looks down its massive proportions one is at no loss to understand why the American people consider themselves to be the very finest people on earth and entirely denuded of flies.

In a comparatively short if variegated career President Roosevelt has accomplished so much that is extraordinary that one never knows where he is likely to break out afresh. Before his term of office is out he may conceivably become many other things besides those I have listed. It would not surprise me if he turned Vegetarian or King. Nothing is too high for him, nothing too humble, nothing too exceptional or unconventional, nothing too imperial. And withal there is a rugged and stern and solid dignity about him. He wields the big stick throughout his vast dominions, and spanks down evildoers as a housewife spanks down wasps. At home[59] he stands no nonsense; abroad he wants peace, perfect peace, but equally stands no foolery. People of all nations admire him and wave banners over his head and cheer him to the echo. He is a sort of quick-firer, strong in the arm and lively in the head, and built by heaven to rule over the people of the United States.

In many respects President Roosevelt appears to be a sort of republican replica of no less a personage than Wilhelm II. of Germany. The parallel between the two potentates is interesting and diverting and to some extent disconcerting. That they are friends, that they think together on certain big subjects, that they have exchanged telegrams, that they love each other, and that they have both been a trifle flighty at times cannot be doubted.

The really interesting point about Mr. Roosevelt is that he may be reckoned to stand for the finest expression and exemplar of the American people. A nation that can manufacture such a President must be possessed of national characteristics altogether out of the common. He is the absolute personification of the United States. He is absolutely fearless, he is absolutely honest, he is absolutely magnificent. Someday he may be absolutely absolute.

[60]

You may be sure that President Roosevelt will go down to posterity as the beau ideal of American Presidents. In the eye of the Americans he has made few if any mistakes, and though there is a party in the States that can be very bitter about him and very rude to him, their bark is considerably worse than their bite, and secretly they glory in him. By dint of a good deal of adroitness he has succeeded in keeping his diplomatic end up in Europe and particularly in England, and nobody between Tipperary and the Great Wall of China has hard words for him. The world recognises in him a great genius—unparalleled in modern times.

If ever an American had sound reason to look back with satisfaction on a well-spent life, Mr. Roosevelt is the man. And if ever republic had just cause to thank Providence for its luck in the matter of a President, the United States is that Republic.


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