Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin: Madness, Vengeance, and the Campaign of 1912
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John Flammang Schrank—a lonely Manhattan saloonkeeper—was obsessed with the 1912 presidential election and Theodore Roosevelt. The ex-president’s extremism and third-term campaign were downright un-American. Convinced that TR would ignite civil war and leave the nation open to foreign invasion, Schrank answered what he believed to be a divine summons, buying a gun and stalking Roosevelt across seven Southern and Midwestern states, blending into throngs of supporters. In Chattanooga and Chicago, he failed to act. In Milwaukee, on October 14, Schrank crossed TR’s path again—BANG!
Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin is the dynamic unfolding account of the audacious attempt on Roosevelt’s life by a lone and fanatical assailant. Based on original sources including police interrogations, eyewitness testimony, and newspaper reports, the book is above all a fast-paced, suspenseful narrative. Drawing from Schrank’s own statements and writings, it also provides a chilling glimpse into the mind of a political assassin. Rich with local color and period detail, it transports the reader to the American heartland during a pivotal moment in our history, when the forces of progressivism and conservatism were battling for the nation’s soul—and the most revered man in America traveled across the country campaigning relentlessly against Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Socialist Eugene V. Debs in what historians agree was the first modern American presidential contest.
writings reproduced in Remey). 167. The statue of the man petting the dog is still in place; it depicts Henry Bergh, founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 168. TR’s decision to go to the Hotel Gilpatrick: Davis, Oscar King 1925, pp. 371–73; Remey, pp. 133–34. 168. Exchange between TR and Davidson: Remey, p. 135. 169. TR quotation “I want to be a good Indian, O. K.”: Davis, Oscar King 1925, p. 371. 169. Davidson’s visit to police headquarters: Remey, p.
executive through the death of his successor had ever been elected to another term. Roosevelt relished power, and he determined to break that precedent and prove that his administration was no accident. So fierce was his determination that his friend the writer Henry Adams said, “Theodore thinks of nothing, talks of nothing, and lives for nothing but his political interests. If you remark to him that God is Great, he naively asks how that will affect his election.” He needn’t have worried. In
his diminutive stature. Then, regretfully, the Colonel excused himself and left for the Bartlett Hotel, where he had an appointment with a businessman from Chicago. Harry O. Sooy was an employee of the Victor Talking Machine Company. Though he’d arrived on the train at one-thirty that morning, he’d gotten up early to make sure that everything would be ready. When the Colonel entered, Sooy thought he looked tired despite the day of rest. As the entourage blustered into the hotel room, Roosevelt
was called upon to do a duty, and I have done it. The commission has sworn away my life. Each member went upon the stand and said I was incurably insane. They can bury me alive if they see fit. I don’t care what happens now.” Meanwhile, Theodore Roosevelt had drawn his own opinion on Schrank’s sanity. The would-be assassin “was not a madman at all,” the Colonel wrote a friend. “I very gravely question if he has a more unsound brain than Senator La Follette or Eugene Debs. He simply represents a
at the citizen Roosevelt, not a shot at an ex-President, not a shot at the candidate of a so-called Progressive party, not a shot to influence the pending election, not a shot to gain for me notoriety. No, it was simply to once and forever establish the fact that any man who hereafter aspires to a third presidential term, will do so at the risk of his life. If I cannot defend tradition I cannot defend the country in case of war. You may as well send every patriot to prison. . . . “I hope that