Remarks at the Reception for General Wright in Memphis, Tennessee

November 19, 1902

Mr. Chairman, and you, my fellow Americans:

I am glad indeed to have the honor of coming today to your beautiful city in your beautiful State to greet, on behalf of the whole country, a Tennessean who has rendered high and honorable service to the whole country—a Tennessean of whom it can be said, as it has been said of the Greek hero:

"Much has he seen and known, cities of men, And manners, climates, councils, governments, Himself not least, but honored of them all; Has drunk delight of battle with his peers, Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy."

We are one people absolutely. The memories of the Civil War are now heritages of honor alike for those whose fathers wore the blue and for those whose fathers wore the gray. There is one curious and not inappropriate coincidence today—my mother's brother served under Mrs. Wright's father in the Confederate Navy. I am proud of his valor; and I can say this freely, for if I had been old enough I would myself have surely worn the blue uniform.

I come here today to greet General Wright because it has been given to him to render a peculiar service to the whole country. A man can render service of the very highest character at home, but owing to the very nature of our system of government, he must, in-his election at least, represent particularly a given party. I say in his election at least, for after election, if he is worth anything, he must be a representative of the whole country. But there are certain branches of the public service in which if we are wise and far-seeing we will never allow partisan politics to enter. There must be no partisan politics in the army or the navy of the United States. All that concerns us to know about any general or admiral, about a mighty captain by sea or by land, is whether he is a thoroughly fit commander of men and loyal to the country as a whole. In the same way if we are wise, if we care for our reputation abroad, if we are sensitive of our honor at home, we will allow no question of partisan politics ever to enter into the administration of the great islands which came under our flag as a result of the war with Spain.

Hence I say that General Wright, like Governor Taft and his associates, has rendered a peculiar service to every man jealous of the honor of the American name in what he has done in administering the Philippine Islands. For fourteen months it has been part of my business to see how the work there was done. I am not speaking exaggeratedly, I am speaking literally, telling the naked truth, when I say that never during that time has a question of party politics entered into even the smallest action of those in control of the Philippine Islands.

My fellow Americans, we cannot afford to have the honor of the Nation in any way smirched in connection with our dependencies. We cannot afford to have it smirched anywhere; but if we wrong ourselves here at home we are to blame and we pay the penalty, while if we allow wrong in connection with the islands, not only the islands suffer, but an indelible stigma of shame comes to the American name. I am earnestly desirous that the administration of the Philippine Islands shall be put and kept upon such a plane of patriotic efficiency that no change will be made in it owing to any change of party here at home. Party feeling should, of course, stop at the water-line. The inestimable service rendered by Governor Wright in the Philippine Islands has been because he has so conducted the government of those islands as to make it not only of signal benefit to them, but of signal honor to every citizen of our country; that he has so handled the administration of affairs as to make us feel a justifiable confidence that hereafter the storms of party politics in the United States shall never touch the government of the Philippine Islands, and that whatever changes of administration there are here in the Union, there shall not be a ripple of change in the course of conduct of the Philippines marked out by Governor Wright and his associates. The man of whom that can be truthfully said is a man entitled to honor from his fellow-countrymen; and it can be truthfully said of Governor Wright.

Theodore Roosevelt, Remarks at the Reception for General Wright in Memphis, Tennessee Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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