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Opinion

The version of my letter published in your July 2nd issue contains a typographical error which has gotten me in hot water with my friend and esteemed colleague fellow local historian Joan Kent.

My letter sought to correct the caption on your June 25 first page picture showing 14 top-hatted gentlemen on their way from Port Washington for Theodore Roosevelt's Second Inaugural in January 1905. I pointed out that the picture could not have been taken in January of 1905 since presidential inaugurals took place in March in those days, prior to the enactment of the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution.

The published version of my letter stated that the caption read "January 1904." I received a tactful note from Mrs. Kent suggesting that I read the caption more carefully, conceding that the month, January, was an error, but not the year.

The letter which I sent you clearly questions only the month, not the year, so please "correct the correction" so that peace can be made between Mrs. Kent and myself. We local historians are a sorry enough lot as it is (does anyone really care about our work???) without being reduced to public squabbling due to typographical errors!!!

While we are on the subject, perhaps the term "Theodore Roosevelt's Second Inaugural" is not an accurate one, since TR never had a true "First Inaugural." How can one have a "second" of something if he never had a "first"? Roosevelt was sworn in as 26th president on Sept. 14, 1901, upon the death of William McKinley at the hands of an assassin. As far as I can tell, he never had a formal inaugural ceremony, which is not required by law. Vice Presidents who succeed to the presidency upon the death or resignation of the president simply take the prescribed oath of office, as TR did, but do not have inaugurals.

A more accurate description of what took place on March 4, 1905, would thus be "the inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt to his second term as president" A distinction without a difference? A meaningless exercise in semantics? Perhaps. But it is the stuff in which we amateur historians revel!

Joel Joseph

(Editor's Note:

Joan Kent replies: The caption I wrote for the June 25 front page photo and which, appeared in the Port News said that the men shown were "on their way to Theodore Roosevelt presidential inauguration" (no number). I plead guilty to making it the month of January, forgetting that inaugurals once took place in March, probably because traveling was easier. I was well aware that the occasion was Roosevelt's first inaugural ceremony, just as it was his first term as an elected president. No place in the caption do I refer to a second inaugural. However, I am always grateful to Joel Joseph for his knowledgeable comments. It keeps me on my historical and editorial toes and helps to make the project of writing Port Washington's history more interesting.)




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