Archimedes is quoted as having said: "Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world." The Office of Assistant Secretary of the Navy provided Theodore Roosevelt with just the fulcrum he needed to "move the world," to the chagrin of his boss, the Secretary.
Secretary of the Navy John Davis Long epitomized 19th-century courtliness and reserve. Reasoned, patient consideration characterized his decisions. Affecting an air of frailty, he appeared to be a much older man. Hence, it came as no surprise that on the morning of 25 February 1898, after only a few hours of work, he left the State-War-Navy Building to rest at home.
On returning the following morning, he was shocked to discover his assistant had done nothing less than shift the basic mission of the U.S. Navy from homeland defense to power projection. In a flurry of activity over a brief five hours, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Acting-Secretary in Long's absence) ordered warships in the Atlantic and Pacific to forward positions, directed the purchase of additional stores of coal and ammunition, moved state-of-the-art guns from the Washington Navy Yard to battleships based in New York, and placed docked ships on alert for immediate movement. 1 By these actions, the U.S. Navy committed its government unilaterally to a Great Power role in world affairs, consigning the reticent doctrines of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams to the historical refuse heap. Stunned by the magnitude of his subordinate's actions, Long remarked in his diary, "the very devil seemed to possess him yesterday afternoon." 2
If Theodore Roosevelt was possessed, it was a life-long affliction. By 1898, he claimed the titles of author, New York State Assemblyman, rancher, New York City Police, and United States Civil Service Commissioner, all with credibility. In each role, his efforts bordered on fanaticism. A contemporary, Henry Adams, grandson and great-grandson of presidents, described Roosevelt as a being of "pure act." 3 But T. R. had never moved so boldly or independently. Many of his detractors cite this day as an example of his recklessness, but the historical record suggests otherwise. Roosevelt's actions, though executed rashly, represented a culmination of months of careful thought and preparation.