Source: The Diary of a Journalist
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “Chapter XVIII”
Author(s): Lucy, Henry
Publisher: John Murray
Place of publication: London, England
Year of publication: 1922
Pagination: 231-47 (excerpt below includes only pages 236-37)
|Lucy, Henry. “Chapter XVIII.” The Diary of a Journalist. London: John Murray, 1922: pp. 231-47.|
|excerpt of chapter|
|White House; McKinley assassination; presidents (handshaking in public); Theodore Roosevelt.|
|William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt.|
The excerpt (below) constitutes a portion of a 21 November 1908 diary entry.
From title page: Later Entries.
From title page: By Sir Henry Lucy.
Chapter XVIII [excerpt]
I was much struck during a visit to the White
House, paid this very month four years ago, by the simplicity of the presidential
surroundings. White House is a charming residence, commanding a far-reaching
view of tree-bowered Washington, with the Potomac gleaming in the distance,
and beyond, the green banks of Maryland. No military pomp attends the ruler
of one of the greatest nations in the world. By the front entrance a solitary
policeman yawned at our approach. He did not think it his duty to enquire by
what authority a couple of strangers proposed to mount the steps of the private
residence of the President. My wife and I chanced to be invited guests. That
was a mere accident. Any citizen in the free-born country on the other side
of the Atlantic has the right to cross the President’s threshold and insist
on shaking hands with him. Thus, elsewhere, on a memorable day, came the murderer
of President McKinley, with his treacherous right hand bound in a make-believe
bandage. Falling in with the crowd that filed past the beaming, welcoming President,
he extended his left hand. As his victim held it in friendly grip, he, throwing
off the bandage from his right hand, disclosed a pistol, with which he killed
his unsuspecting host.
I talked with Mr. Roosevelt about this practice of handshaking. He told me his colleagues in the Ministry had urged him to discontinue the practice. At one of his levees he consented to the innovation. But the experience was unendurable.
“This is the first and last time,” he whispered to the attendant Ministers, as the affronted crowd stood at  gaze. “It is much more trouble to explain why I don’t shake hands than to shake.”
Roosevelt laughingly assured me that he regarded the exercise from the point of view of beneficial muscular exertion.
“When I was a young man,” he said, “I mostly lived out-of-doors, always on my legs or on horseback. Now I am pretty well tied to the house. But you go and stand in my place on an autumn afternoon and have your hand shaken by from five hundred to a thousand sturdy citizens, and if, when it’s all over, you don’t feel as if you’d been felling a tree or two, you are made of harder grit than came my way.”