People & Events|
Admiral George Dewey
In 1900 much of America was caught up in what might be termed Dewey Delirium. For the first time since the Civil War, Americans had set their sights upon a war hero whose allegiance was to the entire nation, not just the North or South. George Dewey, a commodore at the time, slipped into Manila Bay in the Philippines on the night of April 30, 1898 and quietly plotted to destroy the once-formidable Spanish Pacific fleet. Just 4 days earlier, the US had declared war on Spain in response to events in Cuba. Caught unawares, the Spanish fleet in Manila was destroyed a mere two hours after Dewey issued his famous order, "You may fire when ready, Gridley." Millions were on hand in New York harbor to greet Dewey upon his triumphant return to the States. Congress bestowed upon him the special rank of admiral of the navy. Other honors followed, including the naming of a chewing gum, Dewey's Chewies, after him. He also enjoyed the dubious distinction of providing the inspiration for a laxative: The Salt of Salts.
Such adulation prompted Dewey to consider politics. Though he lacked any party affiliation and had never himself voted, in March 1900 Dewey let it be known that he was making himself available to the American people as a presidential candidate. "If the American people want me for this high office, I shall be only too willing to serve them," he declared. He went on to point out that "since studying this subject I am convinced that the office of the President is not such a very difficult one to fill..." The Admiral's lack of command of the issues of the day caused few to take him seriously. One reporter wrote, "A great sailor should have a better chart in a strange sea." Failing to secure any serious backing for his presidential bid, Dewey served out his days as the head of the General Board of the Navy Department.