Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “The Man McKinley”
Date of publication: 20 September 1901
Volume number: 41
Issue number: 6
|P. “The Man McKinley.” Occident 20 Sept. 1901 v41n6: pp. 147-48.|
|William McKinley (at San Francisco, CA); William McKinley (personal character); William McKinley (death: personal response).|
|William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt; Benjamin Ide Wheeler.|
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 McKinley.
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 me.”
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.