By The Jefferson Allegiance and his daughter. A document brokered by Jefferson and Hamilton against the future threat of a president run amok. That’s the core idea of the book. Most of it is a thriller set present day to track down the Allegiance, but there are flashbacks to when just the threat of it stopped presidents. Here is the third:
4 March 1905
President Theodore Roosevelt listened to the sounds of revelry from the ballroom with deep satisfaction. He had the people’s mandate now. Even though he’d been President for three years, ever since McKinley was struck-down by an assassin in Buffalo in 1901, he’d felt a degree of lame-duck status. He’d held power because of a single bullet, not the will of the people. At least that’s what some had whispered. Not swearing his oath of office on a Bible after McKinley expired had also caused great controversy, an oversight he had not repeated earlier today.
Roosevelt’s shoulders slumped as he heard the familiar voice. He didn’t bother to turn. “Yes, Baby Lee?”
“I come bearing greetings,” Alice Roosevelt said.
Roosevelt finally turned and faced his daughter. She was his first born, but he had spent little time with her over her twenty years of life. He supposed that had contributed to her independent spirit, to the point where many considered her out of control. Sometimes he regretted abandoning her to relatives after her mother, his wife Alice, died two days after her birth. But on the same day, his own mother had died, and the dual blows had been too much to take. He’d headed west, losing himself on the frontier for several years with his grief.
“From whom?” Roosevelt asked. Sometimes he missed those days, riding with Sheriff Bullock of Deadwood, hunting, ranching and just being out in nature. Almost as much as he missed his first wife. He never used her name and thus he never used his daughter’s given name, something he knew irritated her, but he could not bear the pain.
Alice was draped in a silk dress, risqué to say the least. Roosevelt knew better than to say anything to her about it. He’d been asked once by a visitor, after Alice interrupted a meeting in the Oval Office for the third time, whether he could control her. He’d answered truthfully: ‘I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both.’
“From the American Philosophical Society.”
Roosevelt stiffened, focusing on his daughter. “What do those old fools want?”
Alice almost twirled, the silk catching the light. She’d bought enough of it on the recent junket to Japan and China to make a thousand dresses. He did have to admit, though, that she had done well diplomatically, enchanting the Emperor of Japan and the Empress Dowager of China. Of course, she’d also jumped into the ocean liner’s swimming pool fully clothed along with some fool congressman. Wherever she went, scandal followed.
“They are not all old fools,” Alice said.
“Just tell me what they want so I can get back to the celebrations,” Roosevelt said, looking past her to the door leading to the election party.
“Ah, father,” Alice said, coming close and looking up at him with soulful eyes. She had inherited her mother’s beauty, and sometimes he wondered if that’s why he kept his distance from her—the memory was too sharp, the pain too deep. He averted his gaze.
“I know this is your party, Father,” she said. “But really, you’d want to be the bride at every wedding, the corpse at every funeral, and the baby at every christening. You like the attention.”
“The old Philosophers,” he prodded, trying to get her back on task. Her tongue was as sharp as her wit, and he bore many a scar from both.
“As I said, and you did not hear, being occupied with your own thoughts as always, they are all not so old anymore. In fact, one is quite young. The youngest ever elected Chair.”
“What fool did they pick?”
“And not just the youngest,” Alice said, with a smile that lit up the room, “but also the first woman.”
Roosevelt felt an icy feeling grow in his gut, much as he had felt in Yellowstone the first time he faced a grizzly. “They didn’t.”
Roosevelt closed his eyes and sighed. This was the last thing he would have expected. Which is why, he knew, the guardians of the Allegiance had done it. “What do they—you– want?” he demanded through gritted teeth.
Alice hopped up and sat on the lid of a grand piano, her legs dangling, exposing too much ankle. “We know you inherited the Spanish-American War after McKinley’s untimely departure from this mortal coil. We were not pleased with the ‘causus belli’ for that war. ‘Remember the Maine,’ indeed.” She peered at her father. “You were under-secretary of the Navy at the time. Perhaps you know something about that event you have not shared with your own daughter?”
“It was a Spanish mine,” Roosevelt snapped. “There is nothing more to it.”
“A most convenient mine,” Alice said. “We sense the long reach of the Cincinnatians.” She waved a hand, dismissing that topic. “The Allegiance has only been invoked once and even then, didn’t have to be used. Another President was warned. We see a dangerous trend, though. Jefferson, Polk and Lincoln all superseded their authority. Johnson did too, but he got impeached, simpleton that he was. The Cincinnatians have pushed this country into illegal and unjust war more than once in their desire for an American Empire. Much like the Romans did so long ago.”
Alice continued. “But you have to allow those three earlier Presidents their motives. Both Jefferson and Polk saw a threat to our country’s commerce: Jefferson not wanting to lose access to New Orleans, and ending up with much more than he could have ever dreamed of in territory; Polk wanting access to San Francisco, and also ending up with much than he too could have ever dreamed of. Lincoln’s motivation was to preserve the Union at any cost, although one might see an inherent paradox from the Founding Fathers in that. The Confederacy was, after all, exercising its states’ rights to separate from the Union. Something Jefferson would most likely have applauded.”
Roosevelt knew this was revenge. For all those years he’d shuttled her from relative to relative. He’d once tried to send her to a very proper school for girls in New York City, and she had sent back a letter promising: ‘If you send me, I will humiliate you. I will do something that that will shame you. I tell you I will.’
And now she had done something far, far worse.
“You’ve won four more years, Father,” Alice said. “Congratulations. But we know what you have done and what you want to do. The Philippines. Colombia. Honduras. The Dominican Republic. Cuba. The Canal you want to have built.” She laughed, a most pleasant sound, contrasting the words that came from her mouth. “’Speak softly and carry a big stick. You will go far’?”
“What do you want?” Roosevelt finally gave in, facing her directly.
“Jefferson wrote ‘Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government.’ You seem to take the opposite point of view, Father.”
“What do you want?”
“We know you are popular. We know confronting you with the Allegiance would be dangerous for the country. So we offer a compromise. You get four more years. But we want you to publicly promise tonight, this very evening, that you will not run for re-election in nineteen-oh-eight.”
Roosevelt took a step back, as if he’d been hit by a bullet. “You joke.”
“I’m afraid not, Father. We will confront you if you don’t make the promise. It will be a bloody mess, for both you and the country, if the military has to act after you are confronted. You can spend the next four years enjoying your Presidency or defending it.”
“A lot can happen in four years,” Roosevelt said.
Alice nodded and hopped off the piano. “I know, Father. But I also know you. I told the other Philosophers that if you gave your word, you would keep your word.”
A muscle rippled along the side of Roosevelt’s jaw.
Alice hooked her arm through his and propelled him toward the door. “Come. Let’s have you make the announcement, then join the party.” She paused just before the door and looked up at him. “After all, Father, four more years; certainly enough time for you to enjoy the Presidency. And then you can go back to civilian life and enjoy your family. Correct?”
With those last bitter words she shoved open the doors to the waiting crowd, that cheered upon seeing the newly elected President.