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Walter LaFeber : "Vice Presidential Nominee: Theodore Roosevelt"
When McKinley was considering who his running mate would be in 1900, his earlier Vice President had died, he had several friends in the Senate that he would like to have run with him as Vice Presidential candidates. They wouldn't run and so what McKinley did was to say that he would leave the convention open. And I think when McKinley did this, he knew at that point what was going to happen. All of his political advisors were telling him that Theodore Roosevelt was an immensely popular governor in New York and that many of the political bosses in New York, indeed, wanted to get him out of New York because he was so popular. He was also very popular in the West. As Roosevelt once put it, "They see me as a fellow barbarian and they love me much." And so McKinley knew that Roosevelt was going to be an immensely appealing person in part because of his connections between East and West and in part because he was "the" symbol of American imperialism -- the Rough Rider of the War of the 1898, the person who had written more about the glories of American expansionism than probably any other person at that time. So when McKinley said he would leave the convention open, I think it's pretty clear that he knew that they would nominate Roosevelt as the Vice President. And McKinley thought this was all right, that McKinley believed that he would have to run on his foreign policy record, that Roosevelt could make the case for that record probably better than anyone else other than McKinley himself, and that he did not worry about Theodore Roosevelt getting out of hand. Many of the New York bosses worried they could not control Roosevelt. As far as we know, McKinley never worried about controlling Roosevelt. He thought that he could always keep Roosevelt under control and consequently he was very willing to have him as a Vice Presidential nominee to make the case that McKinley wanted to make as long as he didn't go any farther than McKinley wanted him to go. And Roosevelt never did.

McKinley allowed Theodore Roosevelt to be nominated as Vice President, I think knowing very clearly that Roosevelt was the best possible spokesman that he could have found, that McKinley could have found to make the imperialist case in 1900. Of all Americans, Roosevelt was the personification of American imperialism. And Roosevelt did not disappoint McKinley. Roosevelt was willing to make imperialism the issue even after Bryan tried to drop it as an issue. Roosevelt went across the United States talking about the glories of American expansion and how people who oppose this were, as he said, "the old men of a bygone age," that these people existed in an age of the early to middle 19th century, not in this new 20th century. Roosevelt believed that the 20th century, as he said, would be the Pacific Century. It would be the century of the Pacific Ocean peoples. One of Roosevelt's close friends, Senator Albert Beverage of Indiana, said that the Pacific should be, quote, "our ocean", unquote. And Roosevelt agreed with this and he believed that what Bryan was doing was essentially backing out of the destiny that the United States was now just about to achieve as a result of annexing the Philippines and becoming involved on the mainland of Asia. So Roosevelt made this case. Roosevelt believed that what the United States was doing was in the great American tradition, that there was nothing all that revolutionary about it, that we were going to make the Pacific Ocean ours simply by extending Jeffersonian expansionism. The father of the Democratic Party, of Bryan's party, Thomas Jefferson had talked about the Pacific and about expanding to the Pacific coast and moving into the Pacific and about the glories -- as Jefferson said, "the glories of India". And what Roosevelt did was throw this back at Bryan and said that now the Democrats were anti-expansionist, that they had gone back on the legacy of Thomas Jefferson. So Roosevelt essentially had it both ways. On the one hand, he said, "We're in the great American tradition of expansion across the continent and across the Pacific. We are still moving westward." On the other hand, he could say that "We are in the vanguard, though, of modernism. If the 20th century is going to be the Pacific Century, then we have to be involved and we have to be sure that it is," as Beverage said "our ocean."

The Democrats had attacked the Republicans McKinley and Roosevelt on the grounds that they were using force to impose American society on non-Anglo-Saxon peoples in the Philippines and in China. Roosevelt thought this was absurd. Roosevelt pointed out that the United States had been doing this for generations. This is exactly what we had done with the Indians and he hadn't known too many Democrats and Republicans who really objected to this. And, as he said at one point, "If we are going to return the Philippines back to the Filipinos, then we should turn Arizona back to the Apaches." As far as the Democrats in the South raising issue with the Republicans about racial policy, again, Roosevelt thought this was absurd because it was precisely in the South where the Democrats were taking the franchise systematically away from the African Americans. So that African Americans who were voting in the 1880s were not voting in the 1900 election, and Roosevelt pointed this out to the Democrats and said, "You have no business telling us how to treat the Filipinos or the Chinese, given what you are doing to our fellow African Americans in the South." So he took these racial issues and turned them around and he used them very effectively essentially to neutralize the whole Bryan attack on McKinley's foreign policies.

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