Presidents and Political Leaders

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Inspects the fleet with Frederic Remington
Roosevelt, Theodore
Keeps the Secretary of the Navy in the dark

Theodore Roosevelt, signed letter, 2 pages on small stationary as Assistant Secretary of the Navy August 18, 1897. TR writes to Captain Henry Lyon of the USS Dolphin arranging a three day tour of a battle ship squadron returning to Hampden Roads. TR was appointed Assistant Secretary in April and wasted little time in working independently of and even undermining his boss Secretary John Long.

In this early letter arranging an early tour of the squadron Roosevelt makes clear he wants to keep his request modest enough so as not to involve his boss. “I write to you and not to the Secretary because the Secretary is so kind that I fear if I wrote to him he might put himself to some trouble or inconvenience in arranging to have the DOLPHIN ready for me.” He then offers to take a smaller ship or whatever would be easiest for Lyon to accommodate “so that there isn’t the slightest need of bothering the Secretary about it.” In political language the letter reads: keep our boss in the dark but understand that he would order you to provide whatever I want.

This is a wonderful example of TR becoming an expert on the navy and his new position. By knowing everything and making sure department operations ran smoothly he built confidence and trust with Secretary Long. That confidence was strong enough he soon was able to end-run and act almost independent of his aging boss, essentially setting Naval policy that was to be instrumental in the upcoming Spanish-American War.

Copies of four other letters related to the tour indicate that TR was joined on the tour by some reporters and the artist Frederic Remington.

The letter and signature are in excellent condition. A nice revealing letter of how TR operated in his formative role as Assistant Secretary. [#4324]