Publication information
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Source: Harper’s Weekly
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “The News in Washington”
Author(s): Low, A. Maurice
Date of publication: 14 September 1901
Volume number: 45
Issue number: 2334
Pagination: 913

Low, A. Maurice. “The News in Washington.” Harper’s Weekly 14 Sept. 1901 v45n2334: p. 913.
full text
McKinley assassination (public response: Washington, DC).
Named persons
James A. Garfield; William McKinley.


The News in Washington

NOT since that day, twenty years ago, when Garfield fell at the hand of an assassin, has Washington been so profoundly agitated as it was by the news that President McKinley had been shot. So startling and incredible did the rumor seem at first that it was disbelieved, and it was only when extra editions of the newspapers appeared on the streets that that doubt was dissipated and the people of Washington knew that the information was all too true. In no other city in the country was the announcement received with more emotion than in Washington. To the people of all other cities the President is the office first, and the man afterwards; to the people of Washington he is the man more than the President. There are few persons at the capital who do not know the President, at least by sight, who have not seen him driving or walking about the city, who have not shaken his hand at receptions, watched him the centre of great functions, or heard him deliver orations, welcome a social or scientific association, or give friendly and fatherly advice to a graduation class. If in Washington there is somewhat less of the awe for the President than is to be found elsewhere, it is replaced by a feeling of affection and pride; the feeling which in other cities attached to the man to whom by common consent is conceded the title of “Citizen,” whose advice is always sought, and whose opinions are always listened to with profound respect. These are the reasons why the announcement of the shooting of the President was received with intense sorrow, and to men and women alike it was as a blow fallen on a member of their own family. There was little excitement shown. The shock at first dazed. When that feeling had worn off the note was that of sorrowful vehemence and intense pity; of deep grief that a crime so unnecessary had been committed, of heartfelt sympathy for the victim and the wife to whom he has always been so passionately devoted, and whose devotion and love are no less beautiful. The people of Washington heard little of the fool or villain who had committed the crime; they asked whether he had been apprehended, and were satisfied when they were told that he was in the hands of the law, knowing full well that the law would award him his just deserts, but what they saw was the picture of the man for whom they have such affectionate admiration stricken down at the hands of an assassin, and of the woman whose feebleness and gentleness have been the theme of so many a household talk, weeping at the side of the man who is all to her. It had a chastening effect. Men thought little of vengeance, but a great deal of divine mercy. Men were not ashamed to show their emotion too, fervently thanking God when bulletins were issued shedding a gleam of hope. There were great crowds in front of the newspaper and telegraph offices, as great as on election night, but the temper of the crowd was different. There was no loud talking; no laughing; no attempt, even, to be cheerful. It was like a family awaiting, longing, dreading for the physician to come from the room above and pronounce the words which should tell of life or death. Men talked, but they talked in low tones, and with set faces. Levity would have seemed as out of place as a jest in the house of death. There were in the crowds negroes with wide, staring eyes, whose vivid imaginations could picture that tragedy in all its horror. To the older ones it brought back in all its intensity that night when their beloved Liberator had been stricken down. They shuddered at the memory. It was a night such as Washington has known perhaps only once before in its history—a night such as few cities could know, for seldom does an entire city have that love for a man which Washington has for William McKinley.



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