When Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States there was a national bank failure in one of the large cities of the West. The Deputy Comptroller was Acting Comptroller at the time, as he always appeared to be when any disturbance occurred, and one of the United States Senators representing the State in which the failed bank was located called to see him in regard to the appointment of a receiver. The Senator was advised of the rule of the office governing the selection of receivers and he was told that the privilege of naming a receiver for this bank would be given him if he would recommend a man possessing the necessary qualifications.
The following day the Washington correspondent of a newspaper published in the city where the failed bank was located called upon the Deputy Comptroller at the request of the owner of the newspaper and recommended the appointment of a friend of his as receiver. After inquiring as to the business experience of the party recommended, the Deputy Comptroller informed the correspondent that he could not appoint his employer's friend, as he did not appear to have had the experience necessary to qualify him for receivership work.
It developed later that the newspaper owner was a long-time personal friend of President Roosevelt, and without mentioning that fact to the Deputy Comptroller the correspondent went immediately to Oyster Bay, N. Y., to see the President, who at that time was at that place, and laid the matter before him. The President wrote a note to the Deputy Comptroller in the presence of the correspondent and mailed it to Washington, in which he stated that the newspaper owner was a long-time personal friend of his, that he regarded him very highly and had the utmost confidence in any recommendation he might make, and that it would be very gratifying to him if the Deputy could appoint him receiver of the bank.
The newspaper correspondent called the day following and without intimating that he had been to Oyster Bay to see the President inquired of the Deputy Comptroller whether he had selected a receiver for the bank. He was advised that he had not. He then inquired whether he had not received a letter from President Roosevelt instructing him to appoint the man he had recommended two or three days before. He was informed that he had not. The correspondent seemed very much nonplused, as he had seen the President write a letter the day before, but had not read it, and therefore did not know that the President had not instructed the appointment of his friend, but had only stated that it would be gratifying to him if he could be appointed, which expression under ordinary circumstances would have been equivalent to a command, but the circumstances of the case were not usual, and therefore the Deputy Comptroller was not disposed to act on the President's suggestion until after he had acquainted him with the facts.
The newspaper correspondent then inquired of the Deputy Comptroller what steps he had taken toward the selection of a receiver, and was informed that several days previously he had had a conference with one of the senators from that State and had requested him to recommend a man possessing the qualifications necessary to the proper filling of the position. The newspaper correspondent then left, apparently very much puzzled over the situation.
The Deputy Comptroller then wrote a letter to President Roosevelt, acknowledging the receipt of his letter and stating that before its receipt he had had a conference with the United States senator in regard to the appointment of a receiver and had told him the office rule governing such appointments and had promised him that if he could find a man who would meet these requirements he would appoint him. The Deputy then explained to the President that the sole purpose of the Comptroller's office in the selection of receivers for failed banks was to select men who by their experience could realize the most money from the assets of the bank for the depositors and other creditors, and that it was not believed that the man whom he had suggested for the place had had the experience necessary to enable him to accomplish what the Comptroller's office desired.
The Deputy concluded his letter by saying to the President, "Now, Mr. President, with all the facts before you, I will await a further expression of your pleasure before taking definite action."
The next day's mail brought a letter from the President saying that in view of the statements made by the Deputy Comptroller and the action he had already taken towards securing a competent receiver for the bank, he had no further suggestion to offer.
The man finally selected and recommended by the senator was therefore appointed receiver, and his administration of the affairs of the trust proved to be very satisfactory, but the newspaper correspondent never understood why the President's instructions to appoint his man had not been carried out.
There was another bank failure during President Roosevelt's administration, in one of our large cities. This institution had the reputation of being a political bank, and like all banks of that character, proved to be no exception to the rule, in regard to criminality and rascality of management.
This bank was known to have been in a precarious condition for several months before it was closed, and when the examiner advised the Deputy Comptroller, who at that time was again in charge of the office, that the bank was hopelessly insolvent, he immediately directed him to close its doors, and at the same time instructed one of the officials of the office, who was an expert in receivership work, to go immediately to the bank and take possession of it as receiver, and, when he had done so, to advise the Deputy Comptroller by wire, and he would make public announcement of his appointment in order to forestall any attempt on the part of the political friends of the management of the failed concern to secure the appointment of a receiver of their selection, as it was anticipated they would make a strenuous effort to do.