Source: Recollections of Full Years
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “Governor Taft” [chapter 10]
Author(s): Taft, Helen Herron
Publisher: Dodd, Mead and Company
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: 1914
Pagination: 206-32 (excerpt below includes only pages 223-25)
|Taft, Helen Herron. “Governor Taft” [chapter 10]. Recollections of Full Years. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1914: pp. 206-32.|
|excerpt of chapter|
|McKinley assassination (personal response); McKinley assassination (international response: Americans outside the U.S.); William Howard Taft; William McKinley (death: impact on Philippines).|
|William Jennings Bryan; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt; Elihu Root; William Howard Taft.|
From title page: By Mrs. William Howard Taft.
From title page: With Numerous Illustrations.
Governor Taft [excerpt]
It was just after they [Governor
Taft and Commission members] returned from this trip; just when things were
at their brightest; when everything seemed to be developing so rapidly and our
hopes were running high, that we were shaken by the appalling news of the attack
on President McKinley. We had kept luncheon waiting for Mr. Taft until it seemed
useless to wait any longer and we were at table when he came in. He looked so
white and stunned and helpless that I was frightened before he could speak.
Then he said, “The President has been shot.”
I suppose that throughout the United States the emotions of horror and grief were beyond expression, but I cannot help thinking that to the Americans in the Philippines the  shock came with more overwhelming force than to any one else. Mr. McKinley was our chief in a very special sense. He was the director of our endeavours and the father of our destinies. It was he who had sent the civil officials out there and it was on the strength of his never failing support that we had relied in all our troubles. It might, indeed, have been Mr. Root in whose mind the great schemes for the development of the islands and their peoples had been conceived, but Mr. Root exercised his authority through the wise endorsement of the President and it was to the President that we looked for sanction or criticism of every move that was made. Then, too, the extraordinary sweetness of his nature inspired in every one with whom he came in close contact a strong personal affection, and we had reason to feel this more than most people. Truly, it was as if the foundations of our world had crumbled under us.
But he was not dead; and on the fact that he was strong and clean we began to build hopes. Yet the hush which fell upon the community on the day that he was shot was not broken until a couple of days before he died when we received word that he was recovering. We were so far away that we could not believe anybody would send us such a cable unless it were founded on a practical certainty, and our “Thank God!” was sufficiently fervent to dispel all the gloom that had enveloped us. Then came the cable announcing his death. I need not dwell on that.
Mr. Taft and Mr. Roosevelt knew each other very well. They had been in Washington together years before, Mr. Taft as Solicitor General, Mr. Roosevelt as Civil Service Commissioner, and they had corresponded with some frequency since we had been in Manila. So, in so far as the work in the Philippines was concerned, my husband knew where the new President’s sympathies were and he had no fears on that score. At the same time he was most anxious to have Mr. Root continued as Secretary of War in order  that there might not be any delay or radical change in carrying out the plans which had been adopted and put in operation under his direction. All activities suffered a sort of paralysis from the crushing blow of the President’s assassination, but the press of routine work continued. We were very much interested in learning that a great many Filipinos, clever politicians as they are, thought that after Mr. McKinley’s death Mr. Bryan would become President, and that, after all, they would get immediate independence.