Teddy Roosevelt’s Speech Saves His Life
Teddy Roosevelt originally became president under the republican party when president William McKinley was shot on September 6th, 1901 and died 8 days later. He ran for president and won in 1904 giving Roosevelt a 2nd term. After his term was up he decided not to run again in 1908 and instead persuaded the republican party to nominate his friend, William Howard Taft for the next presidential race. Roosevelt retired in Oyster Bank, New York. He also took that time to travel on a safari to Africa, funded by the famous steel industrialist, Andrew Carnegie to collect specimens for the Smithsonian.
After enough animals were collected, Roosevelt decided to run again for president in 1912, which was legal considering the 22nd amendment had not yet been created, limiting the amount of times someone can be president to two terms. Before this amendment, sticking to two terms was simply a tradition started by George Washington. He failed to obtain the republican nomination. Two weeks later, he formed The Progressive Party, which became known as The Bull Moose Party when someone asked him if he was fit to run for president. He responded, “I am as fit as a bull moose.” Eventually, the party dissolved in 1916 but for the moment, the party was the backing for Teddy Roosevelt.
On October 14, 1912, Teddy Roosevelt stopped off at the Hotel Gilpatrick in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during his campaign. After dining with local dignitaries, he left to go to the Milwaukee Auditorium to deliver his speech he had planned. While getting in his car, he was shot in the right side of his chest by John Schrank, a 36 year old unemployed, Bavarian immigrant who used to be a saloonkeeper. Roosevelt’s aides, not understanding the bad-ass-ness that is Teddy Roosevelt, advised him to go to a hospital and seek medical help. Teddy refused and instead they continued on to the auditorium where Roosevelt would deliver an hour and a half speech.
Now Roosevelt was not invincible, nor was he stupid. He was simply extremely lucky to have written such a humongous speech and need glasses. Before going into Roosevelt’s chest, Schrank’s bullet first went through Teddy’s eyeglass case and then through his 50 page speech. Roosevelt correctly deducted that since he was not coughing up blood the bullet most likely did not hit any vital organs.
Of course, Roosevelt improvised a bit of his speech:
“Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet – there is where the bullet went through – and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.”
After the speech, Teddy was rushed to the hospital. An x-ray showed the bullet was lodged in his chest wall but doctors later decided not to remove it as it seemed to be doing no harm and removing the bullet could cause further damage. The bullet stayed with him the rest of his life. Both republican candidate, William Taft and democrat candidate, Woodrow Wilson halted their campaigns for the week that Roosevelt was in the hospital. In the end, Roosevelt ended up splitting the vote among republicans and democrat, Woodrow Wilson won the election. Roosevelt came in 2nd while Taft came in third, making William Taft the only incumbent president running for re-election to come in third place.
As for the shooter, it seems John Schrank was staunchly opposed to any president running for a third term and saw Roosevelt as power hungry. Schrank believed that if Theodore Roosevelt won, he could possibly become an American Caesar and if he lost, he would say the election was rigged and the parties corrupt and it would plunge the country into another civil war.
Of course, there was also this passage found among Schrank’s writings:
“In a dream I saw President McKinley sit up in his coffin, pointing at a man in a monk’s attire in whom I recognized Theo. Roosevelt. The dead president said ‘This is my murderer, avenge my death.'”
So apparently, Schrank thought Roosevelt had President McKinley killed so Teddy, then Vice President could take his place. Maybe he was right and TR had McKinley assassinated. Maybe Schrank wrote that letter to more easily make the insanity plea in court. Maybe Schrank really was downright crazy.