Joseph B. Foraker

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Joseph B. Foraker : biography

July 5, 1846 – May 10, 1917

Foraker had known that with McKinley in the Executive Mansion (as the White House was still formally known) and Sherman expected to be senior senator, he could expect only limited patronage appointments for his supporters. With McKinley’s close friend Hanna instead in the Senate, Foraker was allowed to recommend appointees to the President, but McKinley allowed Hanna to exercise a veto over Foraker’s candidates.

Foraker was not visibly involved in the unsuccessful efforts to deny Hanna re-election in 1898, but several of his allies, including Bushnell and Kurtz, were part of the opposition. Foraker nominated McKinley again at the 1900 convention; his florid praise of the president pleased the delegates. As McKinley’s original vice president, Garret Hobart, had died in 1899, he required a new running mate for the 1900 campaign, and the convention chose the popular Spanish-American War hero, New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt. Foraker had maintained friendly relations with Roosevelt since the two men met at the 1884 convention, but Hanna bitterly opposed the choice. Foraker spoke widely during McKinley’s successful re-election campaign.

After President McKinley was assassinated in September 1901, Foraker attended the funeral services and addressed a large memorial meeting at the Cincinnati Music Hall. When politics resumed after the mourning, Foraker spoke in defense of President Roosevelt’s inviting Booker T. Washington, an African American, to the White House. This helped ensure support from the black community in Foraker’s successful re-election bid in January 1902, which was not opposed by the Hanna faction.

Both Hanna and Foraker had been spoken of as possible Republican presidential candidates in 1904; with President Roosevelt now likely to be the nominee, both men’s presidential ambitions were pushed back four years. Hanna in particular was reluctant to publicly put aside his presidential candidacy, believing that keeping it alive would help assure his re-election by the legislature in 1904. In 1903, Foraker saw an opportunity to embarrass Hanna and boost his own chances for 1908 by getting the Republican state convention to pass a resolution endorsing Roosevelt for re-election. If Hanna supported the resolution, he made it clear he would not be a candidate; if he opposed it, he risked Roosevelt’s wrath. Hanna sent Roosevelt a telegram that he would oppose the resolution; Roosevelt replied that he expected his administration’s supporters to vote for such a resolution, and Hanna gave in.

In February 1904, Hanna died of typhoid fever, and his Senate seat and factional leadership were won by Charles Dick, a four-term congressman who had received favorable publicity due to his Spanish-American War service. Dick was able to work out an accommodation with Foraker’s faction and was thereafter considered the leader of Ohio’s Republican "stand-patters", who saw no immediate need for social change.

War and territorial gain

In the year between his swearing-in and the 1898 Spanish-American War, Foraker was an enthusiastic supporter of Cuban independence from Spain. A special session of Congress, called at the request of President McKinley, met beginning in March 1897 to consider new tariff legislation; hawkish senators, including Foraker (who was made a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee), took the opportunity to press resolutions in support of the Cuban insurgents. Foraker was impatient with McKinley’s policy towards Spain, decrying the President’s State of the Union communication to Congress in December 1897 and his so-called "war message", which some deemed insufficiently bellicose, in April 1898. The senator stated to a reporter of the latter, "I have no patience with the message and you may say so. I have heard nothing but condemnation of the message on all hands."

Foraker had introduced a resolution calling for Spain to withdraw from Cuba, and for the recognition of the rebels as the legitimate government of an independent Cuba. The resolution that passed Congress in April called for all those things except recognition (deleted at the request of the administration) and authorized the President to use force to achieve those aims. McKinley’s signature on the joint resolution caused Spain to break off diplomatic relations and war was quickly declared. Foraker followed the war closely—his elder son was fighting in it—and was an early proponent of the US keeping Spanish colonies it had captured, such as the Philippines and Puerto Rico.