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the War Department brought severe criticism upon the conduct of the army, but rather that the few men available for service were able to accomplish so much in so short a time. It is unfortunate that the minds of the people were led to seek scapegoats in the persons of the Secretary of War and various other officials, instead of being made to realize that the fundamental cause of all the trouble was their own lack of foresight. It would not have meant militarism in America to provide an army of moderate size, with ample arrangements for the raising, equipment, and training of a sufficient reserve to meet ordinary emergencies. There is a middle ground between militarism on the one hand and heedless or misguided unpreparedness on the other. There is no danger that the American people will ever permit the former, but the Spanish War demonstrated the very imminent danger of the latter
and this was its greatest lesson.
In his message of December, 1898, the President recommended a permanent increase of efficiency in both the army and navy, and Congress promptly passed laws reorganizing and increasing the personnel of both branches of the service. Again, in his message of December, 1900, he referred to the subject and the strength of the army was increased by Congress to a maximum of 100,000 men.
Through all the public clamor against General Alger, the President, though his patience was sorely tried by the Secretary himself, stood loyally back of his appointee. Besides his realization that much of the criticism was unjust, he had a warm feeling of friendship for Alger, who was a man of unusually lovable nature and many excellent qualities. Yet the growing necessity of a thorough reorganization of the War Department, and the many new problems which the war had introduced, made the retirement of the Secretary inevitable. A political incident, in the spring of 1899, intervened to release the President from the demands of personal loyalty. General Alger became a candidate for the United States Senatorship and as such enlisted the active support of Governor Pingree, of Michigan, who had been a critic of the Administration. It was evident that such an alliance could not be made by one so intimately associated with the entire policy of the President as a Cabinet officer must be, without impairing the mutual feelings of confidence so essential to harmony. To Vice-President Hobart fell the duty of requesting the Secretary of War to resign.
In Mr. Cortelyou's diary of July 13, 1899, occurs this paragraph:
“Secretary Alger continues the topic of the hour. The President treats him with every courtesy
and the evidently strained relations are made as bearable as the situation can warrant. Each evening I show the President what the papers are saying, and to-night I called attention to the effect that it was unanimous; the great papers of the country joining in the demand for a change."
The unpleasant business reached a conclusion on July 19. The diary of that date reads:
“This morning I reached the office a little after nine o'clock and had occasion to see the President. He said: 'Get your hat and we will take a walk in the grounds.' As soon as we got out of the house he said: 'Well, he was over and left it with me'; meaning Secretary Alger and his resignation. The interview was brief and devoid of any embarrassing features. It is to take effect at my pleasure.' I said: 'Mr. President, it will be a great relief to you and to the country. It was bound to come.' The President said he had had several rather trying interviews with the Secretary before he went to Long Branch. The President appeared much relieved, but was, as always, gentle and charitable in his talk.'
The formality of the resignation and the President's reply afford a striking contrast with the informal correspondence between Secretary Hay and the President on a similar subject, to which previous reference has been made:
July 19, 1899. SIR:
I beg to tender to you my resignation of the office of Secretary of War to take effect at such time in the near future as you may decide the affairs of this Department will permit. In terminating my official connection with your Administration I wish for you continued health and the highest measure of success in carrying on the great work entrusted to you. I have the honor to be
R. A. ALGER. THE PRESIDENT.
July 19, 1899. HON. R. A. ALGER,
Secy. of War. DEAR SIR:
Your resignation of the office of Secretary of War this day received, is accepted to take effect on the first of August, 1899. In thus severing the official relation which has continued for more than two years I desire to thank you for the faithful service you have rendered the country at a most exacting period and to wish you a long and happy life. With assurances of high regard and esteem, I am,
On the ist of August, General Alger was succeeded as Secretary of War by Elihu Root, of New York. The President's way of inducing Mr. Root to accept the appointment was characteristic. The offer was made over the telephone and Mr. Root replied that he knew nothing about war nor about the army, and therefore was not qualified to serve. The President answered:“I don't want a man who knows about war and the army. I want a lawyer to handle the problems of the new islands and you are the lawyer I want."
Through the able assistance of "the lawyer he wanted,” the President succeeded in creating a new army, a modern organization with a new spirit of efficiency. Reforms never before considered possible were placed upon the statute books, Mr. Root appearing before the congressional committees with convincing arguments in favor of the changes desired. Examinations for promotions were made effective and a complete system of military education was developed. Much was done in the direction of coördinating the regulars, the volunteers, and the National Guardsmen. Under this reorganization, with an interchangeable line and staff, the old antagonism between the commanding general and the Secretary of War, which had created so much confusion during the Spanish War, was obviated.