Source: Harper’s Weekly
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “The News in Washington”
Author(s): Low, A. Maurice
Date of publication: 21 September 1901
Volume number: 45
Issue number: 2335
|Low, A. Maurice. “The News in Washington.” Harper’s Weekly 21 Sept. 1901 v45n2335: p. 946.|
|William McKinley (death: public response); William McKinley (mourning).|
|James A. Garfield; John Hay; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt.|
The News in Washington
IN one of the handsomest private houses in Washington, whose furniture, partly
covered, showed the dwelling to have been unoccupied during the summer, and
which had been opened for an emergency, sat a man, his head bowed in grief,
his face betraying emotion which he did not try to conceal. Thrice within his
life he had seen a President assassinated. With two of them he was on terms
of intimacy so close it was almost as though members of his own family had fallen
victims to the remorseless decree of fate.
John Hay, mourning his dying friend, typified Washington that night. Grief sat in every man’s household. There were thousands of persons on the streets anxious to hear the latest news, but there were greater thousands gravely, almost reverentially, waiting at home talking and thinking of the dying man, recounting his many private and official virtues, speaking of him as of a much-beloved member of a social circle whose place no one may take. Thrice Washington has put on a garb of mourning for its President, but never was mourning so universally worn in the heart as now. When Lincoln died the fires of civil war were still smouldering; when Garfield died passion of party strife was blazing, and neither Lincoln nor Garfield was so intimately and affectionately known by the people of Washington as was William McKinley.
Calmness, not excitement, reigned that night in the White House. Its massive walls, newly decorated in joyous anticipation of the home-coming of its occupant, gleamed in the pale light; telegraph wires chanted their threnody, while clerks moving noiselessly as if in the house of death, repeated to a few higher government officials the mournful tidings of the wires.
People came to the door of the mansion, inquiring of the policeman on duty as to the latest intelligence, then quietly passed on. It was because there was so little expression of emotion that one felt how deep was the sentiment that sought refuge in silence. Men were afraid to betray themselves. It was the same on the streets. In front of the newspaper offices were great crowds who knew there was no hope, yet whose faith was sublime. In silence almost they stood; the silence only broken by the hoarse voice of the men reading out the latest bulletins. Once a shiver went through the gathering when a premature announcement of death was made, followed almost immediately by a faint cheer when the report was declared false.
There was perhaps a chance, and how desperately men snatched at every chance. Midnight passed, and still people stood waiting. An hour, and still another of deepening gloom, and then came the last word. Boys and men went dashing up and down the streets, shouting that ominous “Extra” which told all. The wires in the White House still kept up their chant, and John Hay, with heavy heart, wrote the dispatch that told Theodore Roosevelt that he was now President of the United States. The peaceful slumbering city sprang into life. The raucous cry of newsboys made sleep impossible, and as the eyes of thousands, still heavy, fell on the flaring headlines, black borders, and pictures of the papers, yet moist with ink, the head of more than one man was bowed in mute submission as he uttered the name of William McKinley.