Source: Mr. Cleveland: A Personal Impression
Source type: book
Document type: essay
Document title: “Mr. Cleveland: A Personal Impression”
Author(s): Williams, Jesse Lynch
Publisher: Dodd, Mead and Company
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: 1909
Pagination: 1-75 (excerpt below includes only pages 10-15)
|Williams, Jesse Lynch. “Mr. Cleveland: A Personal Impression.” Mr. Cleveland: A Personal Impression. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1909: pp. 1-75.|
|excerpt of essay|
|Grover Cleveland; Grover Cleveland (informed about assassination); McKinley assassination (personal response); McKinley assassination (news coverage); Grover Cleveland (public statements).|
|Grover Cleveland; James A. Garfield; William McKinley.|
|The essay (excerpted below) constitutes the entirety of the book’s contents.|
Mr. Cleveland: A Personal Impression [excerpt]
His grave quietness, however, was 
not of the heavy, crushing kind which renders conversation painful or impossible;
it was thoughtful, suggestive, often stimulating. He had a real “gift” of silence.
It expressed comment, approbation, reproof, applause.
As an illustration of this striking trait and of how the public often misunderstood him, the following incident of an historic day will serve. On the afternoon that President McKinley was shot at Buffalo, he was fishing with a friend in a small lake in the Berkshires. At about sunset a man was seen rowing rapidly out towards the ex-President’s boat. “Mr. Cleveland, Mr. Cleveland,” he shouted as he drew within call, “President McKinley has been assassinated!”
The ex-President did not start; he simply looked at the stranger, too much  amazed by this bolt out of the blue to say anything. The man came nearer. “I tell you,” he repeated, panting from his rapid rowing, “President McKinley has been shot—killed!”
Mr. Cleveland scrutinized the stranger a moment in grave silence, betraying nothing of what he thought or felt. Then making a sign to show that he had heard and appreciated what the man wished to say, his gaze dropped to his line again, though of course he was not thinking of fishing now. The bearer of bad tidings looked at the apparently stolid figure of the silent fisherman. “You don’t seem to be much excited about it,” he muttered, and putting about rowed slowly to shore.
Mr. Cleveland waited a little while still in profound silence, then thoughtfully reeling in his line, he merely said  to his friend, “Well, I guess we may as well go.” On the way to shore he disjointed his rod in his careful, deliberate manner, put it in the case, still saying nothing. At the landing he was met by the nearest local correspondent for a New York newspaper, also quite excited and not a little embarrassed by his unwelcome assignment. “I’m sorry to trouble you, sir,” he said, “but my paper wants me to get two hundred words from you on the assassination of the President.”
Mr. Cleveland at first shook his head. “Say this,” he finally answered, “that in common with all decent, patriotic American citizens I am so horrified by this report that I am unable to say anything.” Then turning hastily away he drove off with his friend, and for some time said nothing even to  him, as the carriage jolted over the hilly roads and the sunset faded. Then suddenly as if they had been talking all the time, he said aloud, “Well, it may not be true.” Presently he added, “It may be true that he has been shot; it may not be true that he has been killed” (which proved to be the case). After that there was still a longer silence until finally just before the end of the drive—it was now quite dark—he began to talk (and note the extraordinary prescience of the conclusion he reached as a result of his slow, silent brooding upon the momentous tidings): First of all, he said, if the report were true the thing could hardly have been done by a disappointed office-seeker as in the case of “poor Garfield;” the circumstances at the time were not such as to make that  probable. Nor, he explained, was it likely that labor troubles could have been the immediate cause; there were no strikes of importance on at the time. Other possible causes and agencies were passed in review and cast aside as possible, but hardly probable. “So,” he added quietly, but with the divination of a seer of old, “if McKinley has been shot, there is no other explanation than that it has been by the hand of some foreign anarchist.” And within a few hours he was reliably informed that this precisely was the case!
Later, when Mr. McKinley died, the whole world, including, no doubt, the stranger in the rowboat, was surprised and touched at the depth of feeling shown by this rugged old statesman in his public utterance concerning the Nation’s great calamity.