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THE pleasantest days in the lives of American political leaders are those which succeed some decisive victory at the polls. Public opinion takes off its hat and bows to success. It likes to crown a victor with laurels and strew his path with roses. For the time being the press and the public are far more interested in good-naturedly hailing the conqueror than they are in calling up memories of past conflicts or in anticipating future troubles. The months succeeding Mr. McKinley's election were no exception to this rule. The business of the country had been relieved of an oppressive nightmare and a really dangerous threat, and public opinion had nothing but kind wishes for the men who had accomplished its deliverance. Mark Hanna shared with Mr. McKinley this warm bath of popular approval and interest. The whole country began to recognize how unprecedented it was that a citizen occupying no official position and without any personal hold on public opinion should have been able to contribute substantially to the nomination and election of a President.
The way in which Mr. Hanna was regarded at this moment by an able and sympathetic fellow-Republican is very well expressed in the following extract from a letter written by Mr. John Hay to a friend in Paris. “What a glorious record Mark Hanna has made this year ! I never knew him intimately until we went into this fight together, but my esteem and admiration for him have grown every hour. He is a born general in politics, perfectly square, honest and courageous, with a coup d'aoil for the battle-field and a knowledge of the enemy's weak points which is very remarkable. I do not know whether he will take a share in the government, but I hope he will.” Many other people besides Mr. Hay were wondering what would be the future of this man, who could decide to make a President and see his will prevail. The expectation was that he would enter the new Cabinet, and as a Cabinet officer would continue to act as his friend's political adviser and manager. It was the obvious way of recognizing his past services and securing them for the future.
So, at all events, thought the new President himself. On Nov. 12, just a week after his election was assured, he wrote to Mr. Hanna: —
“MY DEAR MR. HANNA: —
“We are through with the election, and before turning to the future I want to express to you my great debt of gratitude for your generous life-long and devoted services to me. Was there ever such unselfish devotion before? Your unfaltering and increasing friendship through more than twenty years has been to me an encouragement and a source of strength which I am sure you have never realized, but which I have constantly felt and for which I thank you from the bottom of my heart. The recollection of all those years of uninterrupted loyalty and affection, of mutual confidences and growing regard fill me with emotions too deep for pen to portray. I want you to know, but I cannot find the right words to tell you, how much I appreciate your friendship and faith. God bless and prosper you and yours is my constant prayer.
“Now to the future. I turn to you irresistibly. I want you as one of my chief associates in the conduct of the government. From what you have so frequently and generously said to me in the past, I know that you prefer not to accept any such position, but still I feel that you ought to consider it a patriotic duty to accept one of the Cabinet offices, which I want to fill with men of the highest character and qualifications. I want you to take this tender under the most serious consideration and to permit no previous expressed convictions to deter you from the performance of a great public duty.
“May I not expect to see you here very soon? Please give to Mrs. Hanna and the family the sincere personal regards of Mrs. McKinley and myself.
The Cabinet position which Mr. McKinley had in mind when he wrote this letter was that of Postmaster-General. Mr. Hanna refused it. During the next few months the two friends were constantly consulting about the make-up of the new administration and the selections for the higher offices within the gift of the President. There is evidence that at least for a while Mr. McKinley continued to urge Mr. Hanna to accept a position in his Cabinet. On Feb. 18, 1897, when the work of Cabinetmaking was coming to an end, the President-elect wrote to Mr. Hanna: “It has been my dearest wish ever since I was elected to the presidency to have you accept a place in my Cabinet. This you have known for months and are already in receipt of a letter from me, urging you to accept a position in the administration, written a few days after the election. You then stated to me that you could under no circumstances accept a Cabinet place, and have many times declined both publicly and personally to have your name considered in that connection. As from time to time I have determined upon various distinguished gentlemen for the several departments, I have hoped and so stated to you at every convenient opportunity that you would yet conclude to accept the Postmaster-Generalship. You have as often declined, and since our conversation on Tuesday last, I have reluctantly concluded that I cannot induce you to take this or any other Cabinet position. You know how deeply I regret this determination and how highly I appreciate your life-long devotion to me. You have said that if you could not enter the Senate, you would not enter public life at all. No one, I am sure, is more desirous of your success than myself, and no one appreciates more deeply how helpful and influential you could be in that position.” There follows a statement of Mr. McKinley's decision to appoint James A. Gary of Baltimore to the Postmaster-Generalship.
The reasons for Mark Hanna's persistent refusal of a Cabinet position are sufficiently obvious. If he did so, he would apparently be accepting compensation for his services in contributing to his friend's nomination and election. He was willing to compensate all the other leading contributors to that result, but he refused to compromise his independence by accepting a reward for his services from the man he had served. A Cabinet office would constitute a recognition of the past, but it would open up only a restricted vista of future accomplishment. If he was going to become anything more than a political manager, he must seek and obtain an elective office of some dignity and distinction. Only by express popular approval could his prominence in American public life become authentic. There resulted from this sound and proper decision one interesting consequence. His peculiar abilities and his life-long training adapted him above all to an administrative position. He was one of the most capable organizers and executives in American public life. He possessed in unusual measure the gift, so rare in public officers, of infusing the energy and momentum of his own will and plans unto his subordinates. Yet he never occupied an important executive office in the American government. His peculiar gifts and training were exercised for the benefit of his friends and his party, but they were never exercised directly in the interests of efficient public administration. The reason undoubtedly was that he was not the man to take orders from anybody else. As an executive he could not be a subordinate, and probably he would never have accepted a Cabinet position even from a President, to whose election he had not himself essentially contributed. But, as is intimated in Mr. McKinley's letter, there was an office, within the gift not of the President but of the General Assembly of his own state, which he undoubtedly wanted very much, – the position of Senator. That was the one Federal office which carried with it enough political and social prestige and gave him enough official leverage to authenticate his peculiar unofficial personal influence. Neither was his desire to be Senator the result merely of his recent success. For years a Senatorship seemed to him, as it has seemed to many of his fellow-countrymen, the prize in American politics best worth having, the Presidency of course, excepted. There is some interesting testimony as to Mr. Hanna's attitude towards a seat in the Senate. In January, 1892, Mr. James H. Dempsey, of the firm of Squire, Sanders and Dempsey, who had long been Mr. Hanna's attorneys, chanced to be in Columbus during the thick of the fight, which Mr. Hanna was
conducting for the purpose of reëlecting Mr. Sherman to the Senate. On the Sunday preceding the nominating caucus, the politicians had for the most part gone home, and the day was comparatively quiet. Mr. Dempsey spent most of it in Mr. Hanna's room at the hotel. They talked confidentially about many things, such as Sherman's lively and persistent ambition to be President and of his career in the Senate. During their conversation Mr. Hanna said, “Jim, there is one thing I should like to have, but it is the thing I can never get.” When asked what it was, he replied, “I would rather be Senator in Congress than have any other office on earth.” He said this with great feeling, adding that he had never betrayed his ambition to any other person. Mr. Dempsey inquired why, if he felt that way, he did not seek an election. Sherman was an old man, and could not well be a candidate again. With his position in the Republican party in Ohio, he would have as good a chance as any one else of taking Mr. Sherman's place. Mr. Hanna replied, “Jim, I could no more be elected Senator than I could fly.” Mr. Hanna's reluctance to offer himself as candidate for Senator in 1892 may be easily explained. The Senatorship was a peculiarly important and responsible office. He had done nothing to qualify himself for such a distinction. If he tried to get it, he might have been obliged to use methods, similar to those which other business men had used, to secure the necessary legislative votes. His strength in politics consisted in the fact that he was working hard, not for himself, but for friends who had a valid claim upon public recognition; and he still sincerely believed that his best chance of shining in public life was by means of reflected light. Yet when President-elect McKinley offered him the job of becoming one of the official reflectors of the light radiated by the highest office in the land, he refused, and hankered after the position which, five years before, had seemed beyond his reach. A Senatorship need no longer be considered an impossibility, and he might not unreasonably believe that his services to his party and his country had given him a sufficiently valid claim even upon so important an office. But how was he to become Senator? His old political friend and associate, Mr. Sherman, occupied one of Ohio's seats in the