Familiarity That Breeds Danger
THE late President McKinley is reported to have said shortly before
his assassination that there could be no safeguard, in this country,
with our institutions, against such happenings as that of the sixth
of September. What the President clearly had in mind was the unavoidable
danger to which the American institution of hand-shaking as administered
to the Administration exposes the Chief Executive.
It has long been notorious that the
ordeal inflicted upon the President at every public function is
not only fatiguing in the extreme but even physically painful. What,
then, must be the mental attitude of the victim toward his tormentors?
Can it be one of good-fellowship? And how must those who have pulled
and battered him like the schoolboy captain of a winning team be
affected? Do they carry away with them the awe of a great presence
and a sense of the majesty of an august office?
Spectators of the Philadelphia National
Convention who saw the treatment received by the then Vice-Presidential
candidate at the hands of Republican stalwarts cannot think so.
He was hustled, bunted, bruised, trod upon and beaten between the
shoulders much more like a captured pickpocket than the chosen candidate
for the second highest honors in the gift of the Nation. The expression
of his face was a curious commingling of resistance, anger, deprecation
and disgust. The police rushed in and the incident was closed, but
thoughtful persons went home wondering what the people had really
assembled for—to choose candidates for our highest offices or to
play a rough game.
Though the intention in all this is
undoubtedly good, the effect is none the less bad.
Criticism is part of our Government.
It can never be suppressed and it may only be abated with much caution.
But horse-play and scurrility undoubtedly pave the way to a cheapening
of respect from which dangerous abuses of freedom may grow.