Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt to Captain Charles O’Neil, Chief of the Ordnance Bureau
[Washington, D.C.] February 28, 1898.
My dear Captain O’Neil:
The enclosed statement explains itself. I don’t want to bring this matter in any way officially before the Department, but, writing to you personally, don’t you think it inadvisable for Prof. Alger to express opinions in this way? Captain Bradford has all along believed that Prof. Alger is absolutely in error in his views. He believes that the explosion was not accidental. Captain Clover is inclined to the same belief. I should certainly feel that it was not advisable for either of them to make public any such statement, and it seems to me that it is inadvisable for Prof. Alger to make these statements. I don’t know the conditions under which he made them; and, besides, I don’t want to bother the Secretary, or to bring on any wrangle in the Department, and I should just like to get your views about the matter unofficially. Mr. Alger cannot possibly know anything about the accident. All the best men in the Department agree that, whether probable or not, it certainly is possible that the ship was blown up by a mine which might, or might not, have been towed under her; and when we have a court sitting to find out these facts it seems to me to the last point inadvisable for any person connected with the Navy Department to express his opinion publicly in the matter, and especially to give elaborate reasons for one side or the other. The fact that Mr. Alger happens to take the Spanish side and to imply that the explosion was probably due to some fault of the Navy, whether in the Construction Department, or whether among the officers, has, of course, nothing to do with the matter.
Very truly yours,
Source Note: TDS, DLC-MSS, PTR. Addressed below close: “Captain Charles O’Neil,/Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance,/Navy Department.” The place was taken from other of Roosevelt’s correspondence at this time.