Publication information

Leslie’s Weekly
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “How the President Is Guarded”
Author(s): Fawcett, Waldon
Date of publication: 21 September 1901
Volume number: 93
Issue number: 2402
Pagination: 260

Fawcett, Waldon. “How the President Is Guarded.” Leslie’s Weekly 21 Sept. 1901 v93n2402: p. 260.
full text
presidents (protection); William McKinley (protection); Grover Cleveland (protection); White House; Secret Service (protecting McKinley); George F. Foster.
Named persons
Grover Cleveland; George F. Foster; James A. Garfield; Thomas Hendricks; Abraham Lincoln; Ida McKinley; William McKinley; Richard Sylvester.
The article (below) is accompanied on the same page with an anonymous photograph, captioned as follows: “The President Guarded by His Detectives at the Exposition.”

How the President Is Guarded

     THE precautions taken to protect the person of the chief magistrate from bodily injury have in the case of no chief executive been anything like as elaborate as the safeguards which surround the most democratic European sovereign, and in the case of President McKinley the means adopted for precautionary purposes have, by his own express wish, been modified as much as possible. It may be safely said that no previous President has so exposed himself to possible harm. During the five years of his tenancy of the White House President McKinley has gone driving almost every day, and very frequently he and Mrs. McKinley have gone unattended, for long rides in the country near Washington. Finally, the President’s love for walking has proven a great and constant source of uneasiness to many of his friends and to the Secret Service officials who consider themselves responsible for his welfare. At wholly unexpected times he has gone out alone for long strolls in the White House grounds and the adjacent streets, and, worse still, he has persistently indulged in an early-morning promenade at an hour when few pedestrians are stirring.
     Only two Presidents—Lincoln and Cleveland—exercised unusual precautions to prevent assassination. In the case of Lincoln the great civil strife raging during his incumbency made it entirely natural that soldiers should be stationed as guards at the White House, but for all that he several times placed his life in jeopardy by seemingly rash acts. President Cleveland admittedly feared assassination, and apparently there was some ground for his uneasiness, since on one occasion during his administration a man suspected of intending to harm the chief executive actually gained admission to the White House.
     When Cleveland was in office there was existent no regulation providing for the succession of a member of the Cabinet in the event of the death of both the President and Vice-President, and after the demise of Vice-President Hendricks, President Cleveland redoubled his efforts for self-protection, even abandoning several projected trips to various parts of the country. During his residence at the White House, President Cleveland never went driving that his carriage was not closely followed by a vehicle containing several detectives, and very frequently a guard on horseback rode beside the President’s carriage. When he went on a duck-shooting excursion down the Potomac he journeyed on a lighthouse tender manned by half a hundred marines, and a year or so before he retired from office he had a sentry-box erected on the front lawn, but this President McKinley ordered removed soon after his inauguration.
     Profiting by the lesson taught by the assassination of President Garfield, the officials arrange for the careful patrol of the railroad station from which the President is to depart, and this same precaution is taken at every station where the train stops and at every terminal where the Presidential party debark during a tour, the railroad officials co-operating with the Secret Service men in the undertaking. A watchfulness equally complete is maintained while the train bearing the President is speeding from place to place. Track-walkers and section gangs inspect every bridge and tunnel at the latest possible moment before the passage of the train, and a locomotive precedes the Presidential train on a running schedule only a few minutes in advance of that of the “special”—so brief an interval, in fact, that it would be literally impossible for any persons to loosen a rail or place obstructions on the track during the few minutes intervening before the passage of the Presidential train.
     A brief outline of the precautions taken prior to the journeys of President McKinley to the Pacific coast and to Buffalo will indicate how intricate is the protective system called into action. Major Sylvester, the chief of police of Washington, and also president of the Police Association of the United States and Canada, wrote in advance to the chief of police of every city to be visited, apprising him of the time of arrival of the chief executive, and giving advice as to the best manner in which to deploy officers and detectives to protect the President. Simultaneously the Secret Service men in every large city to be visited were instructed to place themselves in readiness to co-operate with the Secret Service men accompanying the Presidential party, and, finally, local detectives in each city are on such an occasion detailed to aid the Secret Service men in placing all suspicious characters under surveillance.
     As a rule, there has never been more than one Secret Service man with President McKinley when he was making a journey, although, as explained, this man has been joined by one or two other members of the same organization in each large city. The reason for limiting the guard to a single operative upon ordinary occasions was found in President McKinley’s well-known dislike for obtrusive protective measures. President McKinley frequently recognized the Secret Service men who remained persistently at his side, but he has made no objection to their presence, as he was well aware that were these men removed others would be speedily detailed in their places.
     President McKinley’s closest attendant among the Secret Service men is George Foster, an experienced operative connected with the Secret Service Bureau at Washington, who was with the President when he was attacked at Buffalo. Foster has virtually served as the bodyguard of the chief executive for several years past. He accompanied President McKinley on his California tour, and was stationed at Canton during the chief magistrate’s vacation interval at his old home at Canton. Whenever the President went through a crowd, or held a reception, he was right at his elbow all the time.
     Another feature of a revised form of procedure now in process of formulation is to always place the President above the masses on public occasions—out of reach of any assailant, as it were. In parades it is planned to invariably provide plenty of room between the President’s carriage and the mass of the people. Finally, in the case of public receptions, in the future there will be provided a sufficient number of detectives and Secret Service men to form a long lane, through which each person who wishes to greet the President must pass, and it is believed that with such an inspection it will be impossible for any intending assassin to employ a ruse, such as concealing a revolver in a handkerchief, as was done at Buffalo.