Publication information
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Source: Nation
Source type: magazine
Document type: letter to the editor
Document title: “Presidential Handshaking”
Author(s): M., E. L. C.
Date of publication: 26 September 1901
Volume number: 73
Issue number: 1891
Pagination: 245

M., E. L. C. “Presidential Handshaking.” Nation 26 Sept. 1901 v73n1891: p. 245.
full text
presidents (handshaking in public).
Named persons
Andrew Jackson; Thomas Jefferson; E. L. C. M.; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt.


Presidential Handshaking


     SIR: Whatever other results may flow from the assassination of President McKinley, let us hope that that object-lesson may be sufficient to put an end to our national habit of promiscuous handshaking in public. It is hard to conceive of a spectacle more fatuous and less edifying than that of a horde of country bumpkins, criminals, cranks, idlers, and curiosity-mongers standing in line waiting for a chance to grab and squeeze the hand of the unhappy Chief Executive of this country. This habit, springing from a primitive desire on the part of the multitude to touch the person or garment of a sovereign ruler, and fortified by the commonly held belief that all men, in America at least, are really equal, is clearly a superfluous anachronism in our day and age. The clasping of hands, a custom sanctioned by usage from times immemorial, signifies, among intelligent beings at least, primarily mutual acquaintance, esteem, and friendship. Where the parties are absolute strangers to each other, as was the case at Buffalo, the ceremony is meaningless, obviously dangerous, and unworthy the high office of President of the United States. We owe much in this respect to Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson which it is doubtful if we can ever pay back in this world.
     Popular regard for ancient traditions of “republican simplicity,” and a well-grounded fear that the unprincipled scoundrels of modern journalism might make capital out of it, have undoubtedly deterred high public officials from putting an end to this silly and dangerous habit of promiscuous handshaking in public places. Whether Mr. Roosevelt, who has a reputation for enjoying personal encounters with bears and mountain lions as well as with Spaniards, will have the moral courage and appreciation of his public duty to protect the lives of himself and his successors by refusing, while holding the office of President, to submit to close and intimate personal contact with hordes of unvouched-for strangers, even if presumably friendly, is a matter of vital importance to all admirers of republican institutions. The psychological moment for abating a notorious public nuisance has evidently arrived.

E. L. C. M.

     CHICAGO, September 19, 1901.



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