Friday, May 13, 2011

Secretary Dickinson Resigns; New York Progressive Stimson to Replace Him

Official Washington is stunned at the news of the sudden resignation of Secretary of War Jacob McGavock Dickinson.  According to the Washington Herald, Dickinson submitted his resignation on April 28 and it was approved by President Taft on May 8.  According to the published resignation letter, Dickinson resigned in order to deal with personal business matters in Tennessee.  Taft has chosen as his successor the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Henry Lewis Stimson.  Stimson ran unsuccessfully for governor of New York last fall.  It is not surprising that the President would pick Stimson as he tries to shore up the Progressive wing of the Republican Party in the run up to the 1912 campaign.

According to the Herald's front page article, Dickinson is resigning to deal with a coal company in Tennessee which he, his brother-in-law, and several other members of his family are heavily invested. The company is now in receivership and it is likely that he wants to return to his home state to prevent the company from falling into ruin.

While the White House insists Dickinson's resignation has nothing to do with the current Mexican situation, that has stopped speculation to the contrary, particularly in the Times, which has never been a friendly newspaper for the president.  The Times points out disagreements between the Secretary Dickinson and Army Chief of Staff Leonard Wood during the run-up to the decision to send troops to the border in March.  When disagreements on this policy did crop up in their discussions with the president, Taft sided with the military expert - Wood.  The Times also points out that when Taft and Dickinson were in Atlanta in mid-March, Dickinson addressed the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the commercial congress and announced that "on the honor of the S.A.E. that the troops were sent to the border on maneuvers only."  At the same time as Dickinson's speech, Taft released a statement to the press confirming newspaper reports that the mobilization was in response to the revolution in Mexico and that the maneuver report was a cover story.  Friends of the secretary speculate that his resignation may have something to do with the anger he felt at the situation the President put him in.  The President and Secretary Dickinson had a hurried conference at the time that Dickinson's friends insist was not as friendly as it could have been.

Stimson's appointment does not come as a surprise as his position within the Republican Party, particularly the progressive wing of the party has been solidly established.  Dickinson is a Free Trade Democrat and not likely to provide the President with much political support in the coming election.  Stimson on the other hand could shore up the President's support in New York State, particularly among the Progressives while Vice President Sherman can deal with the Old Guards.

Stimson is expected to arrive with Taft in Washington on Monday at which point Dickinson's resignation will take affect and he will return to Tennessee.

Link: War Secretary Resigns; Stimson Named Successor [The Washington Herald]
Link: Gossip Trails War Chief from Office [The Washington Times]

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