Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Journal of Secretary of the Navy John D. Long

Washington, D.C., Friday, May 20, 1898.

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     Captain Barker,1 to whom I have become very much attached, partly because he is a Massachusetts man, and partly because he is such a quiet and efficient officer, leaves the War Board to command the Newark.

     I attend Cabinet meetings, but there is nothing to do. I am satisfied that a Cabinet Officer, as a first requisite, should not be too old, and should have great physical vigor. The President took four quibblers cripples into his Cabinet, and made a mistake: Mr. Sherman,2 the Secretary of State; Mr. Alger,3 the Secretary of War; Mr. Gary,4 Postmaster General and myself, Secretary of the Navy. Two have left, the third is hardly able to meet the requirements of his position and if I have succeeded at all, it is because I have improved in physical health.5 I am satisfied, too, that it is not necessary that a Cabinet officer should be specially familiar with the scope of his Department before assuming his its duties. He is really representative of his Department in the councils of the Administration, and does not so much represent the Department before the people as he represents the people in the Department. The great need in every Department is thorough organization, so that the next requirement in a Cabinet officer is the faculty of system and organization. I have a notion, perhaps because I do it myself, it that he should be a man who clears his table every night and lets nothing accumulate; that while he has the final decision and must keep a level head, it is his business to give his Bureau Officers great power, and hold them to very strict responsibility. For my first year here I was trying to make, and was making, a record for economy. When the war was first probable, I called in such Bureau Officers as the Chief of Ordnance;6 Equipment;7 Medicine & Surgery,8 etc., and asked them what funds they needed, and then told them that they might have anything within that bound, and that they would be held to strict personal responsibility; that, so farvas their Bureau was concerned, the Navy must be in the most efficient condition. The result was admirable. Whether we succeed or fail, everything has been done that can be done with the means at our disposal to render the Navy efficient.

     Very hot today; the thermometer in the 90’s. Drive with Helen and Peirce, and then for half an hour with Agnes.9 Sultry evening; at home; and gasping for coolness on the steps of the Hotel Portland.

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

Footnote 1: Capt. Albert S. Barker.

Footnote 2: Secretary of State John Sherman.

Footnote 3: Secretary of War Russell A. Alger.

Footnote 4: Postmaster General James A. Gary.

Footnote 5: The two men forced to resign out of ill health were Postmaster General Gary and Secretary of State John Sherman. Gary suffered from poor health and resigned on 21 April, Sherman suffered from memory loss bordering on dementia and President William McKinley asked for his resignation shortly after hostilities broke out. He was replaced by Assistant Secretary William R. Day on 27 April, Long also thought that Secretary of War Russell Alger was not “able to meet the requirements of the position.” As quoted in: Margaret Leech, In the Days of McKinley (Harper & Brothers, 1959), 191.

Footnote 6: Chief of Ordnance Commo. Charles O’Neil.

Footnote 7: Chief of Equipment Commo. Royal B. Bradford.

Footnote 8: Surgeon-General William K. Van Reypen.

Footnote 9: Agnes S. Long, Helen Long, and Pierce Long were Secretary Long’s wife, daughter, and son.  

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