Wednesday, November 21, 2007

November 21, 1899:

Garret Hobart Dies

Garret Augustus Hobart of New Jersey was the sixth of the seven vice presidents to die in office, passing away in late 1899, presumably from heart disease. He was only 55, and thus the vice president with the third-shortest life span. Only John C. Breckinridge (died at 54) and Daniel D. Thompkins (died at 50) had shorter lives.

Hobart served under President McKinley during his first term, and curiously his opponent for the vice presidency, Arthur Sewall of Maine, also did not survive until the end of what would have been his term, had he and WIlliam Jennings Bryan prevailed in the 1896 election. Sewall died on September 5, 1900.

Sometimes presidents and vice presidents dislike each other, but that wasn't the case with McKinley and his first veep. Hobart's US Senate biography has this to say about this now-obscure figure: "For a running mate, McKinley had preferred Speaker Thomas B. Reed, with whom he had worked for many years in the House, but Reed would accept only the top spot on the ticket. Although McKinley and Hobart were strangers by comparison, the president had no difficulty warming up to Gus Hobart. The wealthy Hobarts leased a house at 21 Lafayette Square, which became known as the 'Little Cream White House.' ... The Hobarts used it to entertain lavishly—particularly because President McKinley's wife was an invalid who could not shoulder the traditional social burdens of the White House. The president frequently attended Hobart's dinners and afternoon smokers, where he could meet informally with party leaders from Capitol Hill.

"No previous vice president had visited the White House as often as Gus Hobart, due in part to the warm friendship that developed between Ida McKinley and Jennie Hobart. Mrs. McKinley suffered from epilepsy, which left her a recluse in the White House. President McKinley doted on his wife and grew to depend on Jennie Hobart, who visited Ida daily. 'The President constantly turned to me to help her wherever I could,' Mrs. Hobart wrote in her memoirs, '—not because I was Second Lady, but because I was their good friend.' Whenever McKinley had to be away from his wife in the evenings, he would entrust her to Jennie Hobart's care. He also invited Mrs. Hobart to White House social functions because her presence 'gave him confidence.' In addition to seeing each other in Washington, the McKinleys and Hobarts vacationed together at Bluff Point on Lake Champlain.

"McKinley looked on Hobart as a trusted adviser. Although the vice president was not invited to join meetings of the cabinet, the president and cabinet members consulted with him freely. The mutual regard between the two men made them, in the words of one acquaintance, 'coadjustors in the fixing of the policies of the Administration to an extent never before known.' Arthur Wallace Dunn, a newspaper correspondent who covered presidents from Benjamin Harrison to Warren Harding, marveled that 'for the first time in my recollection, and the last for that matter, the Vice President was recognized as somebody, as a part of the Administration, and as a part of the body over which he presided.' "

1 comment:

Geoff Elliott said...

Thank you for providing information about McKinley's first vice-president. I live in McKinley's hometown and burial place, Canton, Ohio. I'd never before knew anything about Hobart.

I find your blog to be very informative. Although I'm a Lincoln specialist, I've always been fascinated by the lives and deaths of the other presidents as well. I'm adding your blog to my blogroll.

Geoff Elliott

The Abraham Lincoln Blog