Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt to Senator William Eaton Chandler (New Hampshire)


September 29, 1897

Hon. William E Chandler

Waterloo, N.H.

My dear Senator Chandler:

     As soon as the Secretary returned I handed him your letter He asked me what I thought about it and I told him exactly what I had written you, that as long as you wanted the commodore1 to run a squadron I should certainly honor it, but that I should very strongly be against putting him in command of a squadron when there was any possibility that he might have to try to take Manila or Havana, or interfere to protect Hawaii. (I was glad of the chance to say this) By the way, is not Commodore Dewy a friend of yours? I have been trying to get him the Asiatic squadron.

     I have thought out what I think ought to be done about our Navy, and how we ought to go on building it, the proportions of the various ships, etc. If you like I will be only too glad to writ you a memorandum of my views and my reasons.

Faithfully yours,      

Theodore Roosevelt

I care very little where the dry docks are only so long as they are built2

Source Note: CyS, DLC-MSS, PTR.

Footnote 1: Roosevelt is referring to is Comm. John A. Howell. Chandler wrote a letter to Secretary of the Navy John D. Long in favor of Howell receiving a command to Secretary Long. Roosevelt intercepted the letter and responded to Chandler to discourage him from further advocating Howell for command of the Asiatic Station. In a letter to Chandler dated 27 September 1897, Roosevelt wrote of Howell:

“He is an honorable man, and a man of great inventive capacity, but I have rarely met one who strikes me as less fit for a responsible position. To take a definite case I hardly know of a man of high rank in the Navy whom I should be more reluctant to see entrusted with a squadron or fleet under peculiar circumstances, such as actual or possible hostilities with Spain. He is irresolute; and he is extremely afraid of responsibility. In this armor plate business I have been entirely unable to get from him original statements of what he thinks can or cannot be done; and he went to work with extreme slowness and complete lack of appreciation of what the actual needs of the moment were. . . I shall of course give your letter to the Secretary at once upon his return; but you and I feel alike, not only on foreign policy, but on the kind of man who should carry out the foreign policy, and it, which I scarcely dare hope for, we do take vigorous action we must have it taken by men under whom there is not chance of failure.” Roosevelt to Chandler, September 27, 1897, Elting E. Morrison, ed., The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1951), 691.

Roosevelt convinced Commo. George Dewey to ask Senator Redfield Proctor of Vermont to campaign in his favor. Proctor spoke with both Secretary Long and President William McKinley on Dewey’s behalf. This politicking gained Dewey the position, but earned him the ire of Secretary Long and Commo. Arent S. Crowninshield, Chief at the Bureau of Navigation. Dewey claimed that Long denied him the rank of Acting Rear-Admiral when he received command of the Asiatic Station because of the methods of his ascension. When Dewey protested, Long informed him, “You are in error, commodore… no influence has been brought to bear on behalf of anyone else.” Hours later Roosevelt finally handed over Chandler’s letter supporting Howell. Long wrote Dewey an apology, but Dewey remained a commodore until after the Battle of Manila Bay. See: Redfield Proctor to Dewey, October 16, 1897; and George Dewey, Autobiography of George Dewey: Admiral of the Navy (New York: Charles Scribner’s and Sons, 1913), 167-169.

Footnote 2: Hand written at the bottom of the letter.

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