7/28/2013 6:00:00 AM Days Past: Leaders played politics with Arizona statehood
Photo courtesy of Charles Herner Pictured is Major Alexander O. Brodie, First United States Volunteer Cavalry, otherwise known as the “Rough Riders.”
Days Past is a weekly feature in the Courier, supplied by Sharlot Hall Museum volunteers, chronicling historic events in Prescott.
By CHARLES H. HERNER Special to the Courier
This article is a summary of a presentation Sam Palmer will make at the 10th annual Western History Symposium that will be held at the Hassayampa Inn on Aug. 3. The symposium is co-sponsored by the Prescott Corral of Westerners and the Sharlot Hall Museum and is open to the public free of charge. For more details, visit the Corral's website at www.prescorral.org or call Fred Veil at 443-5580.
By the end of the 19th century, Alexander Oswald Brodie clearly had become one of Prescott's most popular residents. The West Point graduate's involvement with Arizona Territory had begun three decades earlier with three-year tour with the First U.S. Cavalry at Camp Apache. He returned to Arizona in 1888 as a civilian civil engineer and mine owner and became involved in community affairs and Republican Party politics.
The declaration of war with Spain on April 25, 1898, opened up an entirely new opportunity for Brodie when he was appointed senior major in the First United States Volunteer Cavalry or "Rough Riders" under command of Col. Leonard Wood. Brodie was directed to enlist 200 men and report with them to Wood at San Antonio, Texas, as soon as possible. Brodie immediately proved to be invaluable to the regiment in general and particularly to Wood's second in command, Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt, and the two men became close friends.
In Cuba, the Rough Riders first clashed with the Spaniards on June 24 at the battle of Las Guasimas. Deploying his squadron early in the battle, Brodie took a bullet in his right wrist and soon was evacuated from Cuba to Long Island, where the entire regiment gathered on Sept. 13 to be discharged. On Long Island, Brodie, who had been promoted to lieutenant colonel, received a delegation of Arizona reform-minded Republicans who asked him to run for Arizona's delegate to Congress in the fall of 1898 election. After some hesitation, Brodie agreed.
Brodie had good reason to be cautious in accepting the nomination and, as expected, he lost the election to his Democratic opponent. However, Brodie's Arizona political career was not over.
In the presidential election of 1900, Roosevelt was elected vice president on a ticket headed by President William McKinley; but on Sept. 6, 1901, the assassination of McKinley thrust Roosevelt into the White House. On July 1, 1902, President Roosevelt replaced Governor Nathan O. Murphy, a fellow Republican, with Alexander O. Brodie, fully expecting that his friend Brodie would be able to establish a pro-Roosevelt, reform-oriented Republican Party in Arizona.
Brodie knew that his success in building a pro-Roosevelt party in Arizona hinged almost exclusively on his handling of the statehood issue. Brodie had clearly established himself as an uncompromising champion of separate statehood for both Arizona and New Mexico, and in this regard, he had overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans in Arizona. The residents of New Mexico, however, appeared inclined to support joint statehood and, at the national level, the Republican Party remained severely divided on the issue.
In the spring of 1903, at Roosevelt's invitation, Brodie met with the president privately at the Grand Canyon to design a strategy designed to control the Arizona Republican Party. Roosevelt, who still had not yet made his position on statehood known, agreed that he would refrain from committing himself on the statehood issue until after the 1904 election. His only comment in that regard would be that he would let Congress decide the issue without any presidential interference. Brodie, on the other hand, would be left free to push for statehood any way he could without fear that Roosevelt would undercut him.
The 1904 Arizona nominating convention in Tucson revealed how well Brodie and Roosevelt had done their work. Meeting on March 8, the delegates vigorously rejected Frank Murphy's plea to send an uninstructed delegation to Chicago and enthusiastically chose Brodie and five other delegates instructed to vote for the nomination of Roosevelt. Clearly, Brodie had completely won over the Arizona Republican Party.
The following year, in his annual message to Congress, President Roosevelt requested that Arizona and New Mexico be combined to form one new state. Obviously, the people of Arizona felt that they had been betrayed. But Brodie was off the hook; he already had resigned the governorship to accept a position in the United States Army with the rank of major. Yet Brodie never lost his love for Arizona. He planned to take up residence in Prescott upon retiring from the army. But on this point, his wife Mary put her foot down, insisting that the couple retire in New Jersey.
Days Past is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International. This and other Days Past articles are available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit articles for Days Past consideration. Contact Scott Anderson at 445-3122 or email@example.com for information.