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President McKinley, I deemed it best not to make an announcement as to my action in the matter of appointing his successor, until the vacancy actually existed. However, the interest of the people and their anxiety to know what will be done has become so evident that it now seems proper to make the definite statement of my intentions. I therefore wish to communicate to you my conclusion to appoint you as the successor of Senator Sherman, when his resignation shall have been received. This information I have understood will have been in accordance with your desire, it having been stated to me that you wish to make certain arrangements in your private affairs.
"I wish you all success in your office and many years of health and happiness. I am
"Very sincerely yours,
The reasons stated by the Governor for his delay were disingenuous. He considered seriously the possibility of a number of alternative appointments. It is stated on good authority that he sounded several prominent Republicans in the effort to secure a man for the office, whose public services constituted a title to the distinction. But in the end he did not dare. Mr. Hanna's friends, including as they now did practically all the influential business men in the state and the majority of the important political leaders, exerted an irresistible pressure upon him. He was a candidate for a second term as Governor, and he was presumably given to understand that in case he refused Mr. Hanna the appointment, he would have no chance of renomination. Nevertheless, strong as his cards were, Mr. Hanna doubted up to the last moment whether he would get his Senatorship. Even after the announcement was published, the issue of the commission was delayed. Governor Bushnell did not actually place it into Mr. Hanna's hands until the morning after McKinley's inauguration, March 5, 1897. The delivery was made in person in the parlor of the Arlington Hotel, only a few persons being present. The commission was handed over with a great deal of formality, and, according to an eyewitness, with a total lack of cordiality on the part of the donor and of the recipient. The new Senator left immediately for the Capitol in order to be sworn in. Various reasons have been suggested for the Governor's delay in issuing the commission, of which, perhaps, the most plausible is that Mr. Hanna's colleague wished to be technically the senior Senator from Ohio.
Thus the beginning of Mr. Hanna's official career was practically coincident with the beginning of Mr. McKinley's presidential term. Mr. Hanna had obtained the particular status which he had coveted for so long, and which was the one office which offered to him a larger opportunity than ever for the exercise of his abilities as a partisan executive, as an organizer of public opinion and as a personal political force. The remainder of this book will be filled with the story of the way in which he embraced these larger opportunities and the way in which he fulfilled the responsibilities imposed upon him by his peculiar endowment of official, extra-official and personal power.
SENATOR BY ELECTION
Before beginning an account of Mr. Hanna's official career, it will be convenient to anticipate the actual sequence of events and tell the story of his first election to the Senate. That election did not take place until over a year after his appointment, but inasmuch as the extraordinary incidents surrounding it were the culmination of his early extra-official career in Ohio politics, they can best be related in the present sequence.
When Mr. Hanna was appointed Senator, he had made no definite decision to seek election as his own successor; but after he had once occupied a senatorial seat his political future and prestige came to depend more than ever upon his presence in the Senate. To have occupied such a position by virtue of the Governor's selection and then to have shirked a submission of his title to the people and the Legislature of his state, would have been an act of weakness and cowardice, of which he was incapable and which would have reacted injuriously upon his personal prestige. Once having been named Senator, he was compelled to seek the confirmation of an election; and once having announced his candidacy his success became a matter of keen personal feeling. For the first time in his life he threw himself ardently into a campaign whose object was the fulfilment of a specific personal ambition.
His candidacy, which was announced in the most public manner, met in the beginning with practically no open hostility within his own party. The opposing faction had been temporarily silenced by the popularity and prestige which Mr. Hanna had obtained as a result of the successful presidential campaign. The State Convention assembled in Toledo on June 23, 1897. Mr. Hanna was in complete control. The Convention of 1895 had established a precedent in Ohio politics by nominating James B. Foraker for Senator. The Convention of 1897 followed the precedent and submitted Mr. Hanna's name to the voters of Ohio as the Republican candidate both for Mr. Sherman's unexpired term and for the new term beginning March 4, 1899. No objection was made to this action. On the contrary, the utmost harmony and enthusiasm prevailed. The opposing faction was placated by the renomination of Asa Bushnell for Governor; but Charles L. Kurtz was retired as chairman of the State Committee and one of Mr. Hanna's friends, Mr. George K. Nash, was substituted for him. Mr. Kurtz resented his enforced retirement, and for this and other reasons cherished a lively personal animosity against Mr. Hanna which was later to bear fruit.
Mark Hanna, unlike so many other business men, did not attempt to enter the Senate by the back door. His candidacy was submitted to the voters of Ohio just as decisively as if the "Oregon System" of direct partisan primaries had prevailed in that state. He was, of course, nominated without a state-wide primary, but every voter in Ohio, in casting his ballot for a member of the General Assembly, knew or thought he knew or ought to have known whether he was voting for or against Mr. Hanna. The campaign was managed with his customary thorough attention to detail. The issue was deliberately and explicitly raised all over the state. The County Conventions which succeeded or followed the State Convention indorsed his candidacy. In this way the Republicans in eighty-four out of the eighty-eight counties testified to their approval of his election. The Republican nominees for the Legislature were obliged to declare publicly whether they would or would not vote for him. His candidacy dominated the campaign and either overawed or included all other issues.
The situation compelled Mr. Hanna to go upon the stump and meet the voters of his native state face to face. He was obliged to risk practically his whole political future upon the impression which his person and his words would make upon the electorate, and he was obliged to risk this attempt without any previous training or experience in public speaking. His skill as a political manager might help to decide the result. His great personal influence with the leading members of his party might rally to his aid the most effective available assistance. Nevertheless he stood before the public practically alone and in a new role. Heretofore he had organized the expression of public opinion and exerted his influence upon it indirectly through other men. In his new role he must try to shape it directly by the weight of his own words and by the contagious force of his own convictions. He must conquer popular confidence in himself as a man and as a political leader, or else he must be content to become a sort of glorified senatorial "boss" and stage manager, who, no matter how powerful and useful he were behind the scenes, never dared to make a public appearance except as a lay-figure or as a prompter.
The development that ensued constituted, perhaps, the most striking single incident in a career full of dramatic surprises. Nothing in Mr. Hanna's previous career had made his friends anticipate that he would make a success or obtain any influence as a public speaker. Mr. James H. Dempsey, indeed, states that many years before he had been surprised at the vigorous, concise and logical argument which Mr. Hanna had made before the old Board of Improvements in Cleveland on behalf of certain requests which had been submitted to the Board by the street railway company; but Mr. Hanna's experience of even this class of speaking had been slight. Such arguments were almost always turned over to counsel. Until the fall of 1897 his appearances as a public speaker had been limited to the few words he had said in response to the ovation tendered to him at the St. Louis Convention, to the little addresses which he had made to his neighbors and friends after his return from St. Louis, and to one speech of less than ten minutes delivered in Chicago during the campaign of 1896. How, then, was a man in his sixtieth year to break through the habits of a lifetime and learn the new trick of talking fluently and convincingly in public? It would not be easy to read or to memorize a carefully prepared speech, but on the stump speeches cannot or should not be prepared. Success on the stump depends far more on a man's ability to adapt himself sympathetically to a particular audience or situation than it does upon careful preparation or even upon his general ability and eloquence as a partisan orator.
It was really fortunate for Mr. Hanna that such was the case.