Presidential Tensions and Tribulations: The Shapell Manuscript Foundation

Very often, Presidents and Vice Presidents have tension between them.  They have been brought together for political purposes, not because of a strong friendship or a desire to work together. Furthermore, while the President is busy with vital decisions, the Vice President is often relegated to the sidelines and to the courtesy work.

Gaining insight into the relationship between a President and a Vice President can be priceless for historians. For this reason, the documents at the Shapell Manuscript Foundation as part of their “Between the Lines” program help to shed light on the relationship between President McKinley and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt.

Bored and unchallenged by his post, Vice President Roosevelt was about to address the annual meeting of the Vermont Fish and Game League on September 6, 1901, when he was informed that the President had been shot.

Springing into action and determined to be beside his President, Roosevelt wrote on the back of a railroad timetable the message that is in the possession of the Shapell Manuscript Foundation.  It said,

“Director of Hospital or House at which President lies Buffalo NY.; Wire me at once full particulars to Van Ness House Burlington Vermont. THEODORE ROOSEVELT, Vice President”

On the backside of the document was recorded Roosevelt’s words when he first heard about the situation.  It says, I am so inexpressibly shocked & horrified that I cannot say anything” Furthermore, the Shapell Manuscript Foundation has a second document which Roosevelt penned three days later and which shows his relief.

In it he wrote, “Everything is going on most satisfactorily with the President. I feel assured not only that he will recover, but that his recovery will be so speedy that in a very short time he will be able to resume his duties.”

Little did Roosevelt know at the time that his boring days as Vice President were about to end – and that he would soon be the 26th President of the United States of America.