The Man McKinley
We had heard of the great drawing-room
ceremony of presentation to the ruler o [sic] England, and, while
knowing that no such formality governed a meeting with the President
of the United States, my companion and I thought that some tedious,
undemocratic rules might have to be obeyed before we could see President
He was then staying in San Francisco
at the temporary executive mansion on Laguna street [sic]; his wife
was ill, all ostentation in his honor had been suspended, and even
as a private citizen he could well command a period of rest and
immunity from the intrusion of callers if he so desired; but it
was known that he received friends, so we went to the house.
The door was opened at our approach
by a dignified footman, who took our cards 
to the President’s secretary. It was as if you were calling on me,
or I on you. We were ushered into a reception hall to await the
President, or his regrets. The secretary came to us presently and
suggested that if we wait we would be able to meet President McKinley—at
that moment he was with his wife. My companion and I waited. Through
the portieres we could catch glimpses of people entering at the
door or leaving. A group of naval officers, scintillating with gold
braid, were ushered into an adjoining apartment. They, too, were
now awaiting the President. Soon after the entry of the officers,
President McKinley came from the sick room to the reception floor,
and passed into the room where sat the sailors. Perhaps ten minutes
had been spent by them in conversation, when we heard them preparing
to depart. The front door was opened and closed, and then the dignified
footman drew back the portiere from over the entrance to the room
we were in. As we rose a bustling man of medium height and rather
abundant waist entered hastily, his arm extended in greeting. It
was President McKinley.
While awaiting the entrance of the
President, a certain nervousness irritated me. It is natural, I
hope, that when about to meet a great man, be he poet or president,
the lesser person should feel anxious and ill at ease. You are thinking
of the work, the epic or the wise ruling of a people and the conduct
of a successful war, not of the human being behind the work.
But with the entrance of McKinley
this uneasiness passed. There was the man, a kind, courteous man,
gentle, unassuming. We saw the gentle man and forgot the executive.
While he talked with us he would look directly into us. His eyes
were remarkable. Deeply set behind heavy eyebrows and lashes they
glowed, fascinating like a woman’s eyes. They were not beautiful—men
who rule do not have beautiful eyes in the aesthetic sense—but they
were eyes of power and strength. Their color is immaterial, perhaps
they were gray, but their deepness, sincerity, bravery was epical.
The conversation was carried on chiefly
between the President and my companion, and was personal—the President
being simply a gentleman, asking about this relative and that friend.
He was entirely unofficial.
This visit was paid after the commencement
exercises of the University. I expressed the universal sentiment
of disappointment felt about college over his inability to attend.
“It was certainly a great disappointment
to me,” he said in substance, “I would rather have foregone any
other celebration arranged for on our trip than to have missed the
University commencement, which President Wheeler and I discussed
when he was in Washington, and to which he had so earnestly invited
The conversation continued. President
McKinley was as affable, as frankly friendly, as natural, as free
from all signs of pomp and power and majesty as the most liberal-minded
man in your circle of friends can be.
As I have before said, you lose sight
of the executive in applause at the manner of the gentle man, and
you catch yourself up when you remember where you are and with whom
you are talking.
In all the dispatches concerning the
actions of the late President’s official family at the period of
his death, great stress is laid on the deep grief that moves the
Cabinet minister and Mr. Roosevelt.
They were as much affected as if a
child of theirs had died; and you are apt to wonder at strong men
shedding tears over the death of another, even if he be a close
friend and intimate associate. But had you met the President while
he was alive, had you talked with him, felt his hand clasp and heard
his “good word,” you would not wonder.