Wednesday, May 02, 2007

May 1, 1898:

The Battle of Manila Bay

The astonishingly swift victory of the fleet commanded by Commodore George Dewey over the Spanish on May 1, 1898, at Manila Bay made Dewey an admiral and a household name. It also made people talk of him as a presidential candidate in 1900 as a Democrat. But it was not to be.

"Millions were on hand in New York harbor to greet Dewey upon his triumphant return to the States," noted the PBS series America 1900. "Congress bestowed upon him the special rank of admiral of the navy. Other honors followed, including the naming of a chewing gum, Dewey's Chewies, after him. He also enjoyed the dubious distinction of providing the inspiration for a laxative: The Salt of Salts.

"Such adulation prompted Dewey to consider politics. Though he lacked any party affiliation and had never himself voted, in March 1900 Dewey let it be known that he was making himself available to the American people as a presidential candidate. 'If the American people want me for this high office, I shall be only too willing to serve them,' he declared. He went on to point out that 'since studying this subject I am convinced that the office of the President is not such a very difficult one to fill...' The Admiral's lack of command of the issues of the day caused few to take him seriously... Failing to secure any serious backing for his presidential bid, Dewey served out his days as the head of the General Board of the Navy Department."

Quite a few generals have risen to the presidency -- Washington, Jackson, Polk, Grant and Eisenhower, among others -- but no admirals. Lower-ranking Navy men have been well represented in the Oval Office, however, including every president from Kennedy to Carter and the elder George Bush as well.

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