The meeting was with Russell Benjamin Harrison, son of Benjamin Harrison, TR’s political mentorThis letter remained in the family of Russell Harrison until we recently obtained it directly from a descendant. It is apparently unpublished and has never before been offered for saleIn the 1888 election, Roosevelt campaigned extensively for Harrison, and when Harrison was elected, TR sought a Federal appointment. Roosevelt already had friends in high places (like Henry Cabot Lodge) who urged the new President to make use of his talents. On May 7, 1889, TR, then out of office and with no constituency or power base, took the train from New York to Washington, and there met with President Harrison at the White House. Harrison was impressed with him, and offered to appoint him as U.S. Civil Service Commissioner. TR accepted, and in that post he undertook the task of reform with the same honesty that he showed for all of his endeavors, and the full force of his energy and aggressiveness was put to the task of building up the Federal civil service system. He was reappointed to the post in 1892 by incoming President Grover Cleveland, thus continuing his fight for enforcement of civil service laws and against the spoils system until he left in 1895. Roosevelt’s years on the Commission were remarkably significant ones, as there he gained valuable administrative experience, matured politically, learned how to spar with the politically powerful, and found out how to survive attacks against him and his reforms.Between 1895 and 1901 just six years passed. But those six years saw TR become a Rough Rider in the Spanish-American War, gain national fame, become Governor of New York, and then, on March 4, 1901, take office as Vice President of the United States. On September 6, 1901, President William McKinley was shot, and on the 14th he died. That put Theodore Roosevelt in the White House, a remarkable and almost unprecedented climb. Russell Benjamin Harrison was the son of Benjamin Harrison and campaigned vigorously for TR in Indiana. Moreover, he was a source of intelligence for the new President in a key state. Of biggest concern to Russell was the first appointment of a Judge in Indiana, a plum position and, in Russell’s opinion, key to his re-election in 1904 in that state. In November of 1901, TR wrote to Russell, “That judgeship has given me a great deal of trouble. All the talk as to what I demand amounts to simply this: that I want a thoroughly fit and capable judge. I should prefer him to be young. What I most want, however, is that he should be fit. I shall not appoint the judge this month, acting on your suggestion. As you say, what I desire is the best equipped and experienced judge. I considered with great weight the advice of your father's old Attorney General, Mr. Miller. I shall look forward to seeing you and going over the matter before the end of this month.”Russell acknowledged the President’s letter in November, outlining his position again and making plans to come to Washington in early December. TR in the meantime wanted Russell to speak directly to his own Attorney General, Philander Knox, but did not want that information being made public.Autograph letter signed, December 4, 1901, to Attorney General Philander Knox. “Dear Mr. Knox, Please treat what Mr. Harrison says as absolutely confidential.” We are not aware of any other letters of TR to Attorney General Knox having reached the market.Knox must have handed the letter to Russell, as this piece remained in the family of Russell Harrison until we recently obtained it directly from a descendant. It is apparently unpublished, as we cannot find reference to it, and has never before been offered for sale. (Inventory #: 10947)
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