Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Journal of Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

Washington, D.C., Saturday, February 26th, 1898

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     I had a splendid night last night, and return to the office, both because I feel so much better, and because during my short absence I find that Roosevelt1 in his precipitate way, has come very near causing more of an explosion than what happened to the Maine. His wife is very ill his little boy is just recovering from a long and dangerous illness,2 so that his natural nervousness is so much accentuated that I really think he is hardly fit to be entrusted with the responsibility of the Department at this critical time. He is full of suggestions; many of which are of great value to me, and his spirited and forceful habit is a good tonic for one who is disposed to be as conservative and careful as I am. He means to be thoroughly loyal, but the very devil seemed to possess him yesterday afternoon. Having the authority for that time of Acting Secretary, he immediately began to launch peremptory orders, distributing ships,3 ordering ammunition, which there is no means to have move, to places where there is no means to store it; sending for Captain Barker4 to come on about the guns of the Vesuvius, which is a matter that might have been perfectly arranged by correspondence; sending messages to Congress for immediate legislation, authorizing the enlistment of an unlimited number of seamen, and order guns from the Navy Yard at Washington to New York, with a view to arming auxiliary cruisers which are now in peaceful commercial pursuit. The only effect of this last order would be to take guns which are now carefully stored, ready for shipment any moment, and which could be shipped before they could possibly be tomorrow to be put on any vessel, and to dump them in the open weather in the New York Navy Yard, where they would be only in the way and under no proper care. He has gone at things like a bull in a china shop, and with the best purposes in the world, has really taken what, if he could have thought, he would not have for a moment have taken, and that is the one course which is most discourteous to me, because it suggest that there had been a lack of attention which he was supplying. which It should show the best fellow in the world and with splendid capacities is worse that of no use if he lack a cool head and careful discretion.

     This afternoon go to the mechanical massage, and call on the President.5 Stroll about the streets and, after call with Agnes to inquire for Mrs. Roosevelt, and leave some letters and invitations to the Members of Congress from Massachusetts for an afternoon tea which Agnes6 is going to give on Monday to Charley Allen and his wife who are here from Lowell, and who served with me in Congress.

Source Note: Transcript, MHi, Papers of John D. Long, vol. 78.

Footnote 1: Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt.  

Footnote 2: Both Theodore Roosevelt, III and Edith Roosevelt suffered from ill health during the winter of 1897-1898. The younger Theodore suffered from chronic exhaustion and Edith was bedridden with fever, the result of a hip abscess; both recovered. Edmund Morris, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1979), 594, 604.     

Footnote 3: One of the orders Roosevelt issued was for Commo. George Dewey to keep Olympia at the Asiatic Station, to consolidate his fleet, and prepare an attack on the Philippines. See: Roosevelt to Dewey, 25 February 1898.

Footnote 4: Capt. Albert S. Barker

Footnote 5: President William McKinley

Footnote 6: Agnes Long, the wife of the Secretary of the Navy.

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