Publication information
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Source: Indianapolis Journal
Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “Official Action”
Author(s): anonymous
City of publication: Indianapolis, Indiana
Date of publication: 7 September 1901
Volume number: 51
Issue number: 250
Pagination: 2

“Official Action.” Indianapolis Journal 7 Sept. 1901 v51n250: p. 2.
full text
McKinley assassination (news coverage); McKinley assassination (public response: Washington, DC); White House; William McKinley; McKinley assassination (government response); McKinley assassination (personal response); Alvey A. Adee; Frank Warren Hackett; George L. Gillespie; William McKinley (incapacity); Theodore Roosevelt; presidential succession; William McKinley (protection); George Dewey; Wu Ting-Fang; McKinley assassination (international response); Tomás Herrán; Havana, Cuba (telegrams).
Named persons
Alvey A. Adee; Milton E. Ailes; Henry W. Blair; John Rutter Brooke; George B. Cortelyou; William S. Cowles [misspelled below]; W. H. Crook [misspelled below]; Leon Czolgosz [identified as Nieman below]; Charles G. Dawes; George Dewey; Lyman J. Gage; James A. Garfield; George L. Gillespie; Frank Warren Hackett; Marcus Hanna; John Hay; Tomás Herrán [misspelled below]; Ethan A. Hitchcock; Henry Leonard; John D. Long; Judson W. Lyons; Ida McKinley; William McKinley [misspelled once below]; John G. Milburn; Benjamin F. Montgomery; O. L. Pruden; Matthew S. Quay; Presley M. Rixey; Theodore Roosevelt; Elihu Root; William C. Sanger; Nicholas Senn; Jeremiah Smith; Oliver L. Spaulding; Thomas W. Symons [identified as Simonds below]; A. C. Tonner [identified as Towner below]; William K. Van Reypen; Wu Ting-Fang.


Official Action


What Was Done at the War and State Departments.

Associated Press Dispatch.

     WASHINGTON, Sept. 6.—The news of the shooting of President McKiney which reached Washington first through the medium of the Associated Press caused a tremendous sensation. So frequent have been rumors of this sort, often put afloat in recent years for stock jobbing purposes, that the general disposition at first was to withhold full acceptance of the story of the news, but when it was confirmed a feeling of deep gloom and profound sorrow spread over the city, for Mr. McKinley’s delightful personality had endeared him to the citizens of Washington, apart from the official class, in a degree that rarely has been equaled. It was some time before the full force of the blow was appreciated; the people were stunned, and the [sic] could not at once and fully comprehend the extent of the great disaster that had fallen upon the country and themselves. Then the newspapers began to appear, the carriers rushed madly through the streets and crowds of people began to gather from all quarters of the city around the newspaper bulletin boards. The telephone system of the city was simply paralyzed for a time, and many were the calls upon the news offices and upon the officials who might be supposed to have knowledge of the details of the shooting that the operators were overwhelmed.


     A reporter for the Associated Press carried to the White House the first bulletin announcing the shooting of the President. The executive mansion was reached about 4:25, and at that time all its few inmates were in total ignorance of the tragedy in which their chief had just played so serious a part. A policeman paced up and down under the portico as usual, but his serene countenance indicated that he was totally ignorant of the affair. Inside there were few to receive the news, the most prominent personage there being a telegraph operator, Assistant Secretary Pruden, who has been in charge of the White House, having left his office for the day, as had his subordinate. The telegraph operator, two watchmen at the doors, the policeman on guard outside and the faithful colored servant, “Uncle Jerry,” were the only persons about the mansion. They recalled with great satisfaction the fact that when the President left Washington he was in most robust health and spirits excellent, and that he bade all an affectionate farewell: [sic] It was recalled also that Mrs. McKinley said this circumstance had much to do with the President’s own condition later on. When he left here he was accompanied by Mrs. McKinley, Secretary Cortelyou, Dr. Rixey and Mrs. McKinley’s nurses.
     Major Pruden, assistant secretary to the President, and Colonel Crooks, disbursing officer, both veterans of the White House force, arrived together shortly after 5 o’clock and assumed charge of the executive mansion. Major Pruden had passed through a similar experience when President Garfield was shot and Colonel Crook’s service went back beyond the Lincoln assassination. He was in tears when he said: “Yes, it is the third affair of this kind since I came into the White House.”


     Such public men as were in the city called during the evening. They included Assistant Secretary Spaulding, of the Treasury Department; Assistant Secretary Hackett, of the Navy Department; former United States Senator H. W. Blair, of New Hampshire; Controller Dawes and Register Lyons, of the treasury; Capt. Towner, Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and the private secretaries of Secretary Hitchcock and Senators Hanna and Quay. There were also calls from representatives of several foreign legations.
     No official confirmation of the shooting came to the White House for three hours after its occurrence, when Col. Montgomery, the chief operator at the White House, was informed at 7:20 o’clock by Secretary Cortelyou at Buffalo, that a surgical operation upon the President was in progress, and that “so far everything is favorable.” Later, he gave information of the completion of the operation and followed that statement with other messages giving private information as to the President’s condition and his removal to Mr. Milburn’s residence.
     The force at the White House since the President’s departure has been in constant communication with him, and while he has conducted most of the business of his office at his home in Canton, the majority of the papers with which he has had to deal have been prepared in Washington and forwarded through the White House clerical force. All reports received from him by officials here were cheerful and high-spirited.


     The work of the official day was done when the news of the great calamity arrived here and the great executive departments had generally emptied. Mr. Adee, the acting head of the State Department was caught at the station as he was leaving for his country home near Laurel, Md., and returned at once to the State Department. He waited for official confirmation of the news, and it was not until he received a copy of the bulletin issued by the physicians through Secretary Cortelyou, that he undertook to acquaint officially the governments of all the world with the facts of the shooting. He then drew up a message which will be sent to every United States embassy, legation and consulate throughout the civilized world, directing them to acquaint the governments to which they are accredited of the facts. These he embodied in a condensation of the physician’s [sic] bulletin with Mr. Cortelyou’s statement.
     In the Navy Department Mr. Hackett, the acting secretary, who had also quitted the building, was speedily recalled by Captain Cowes, the acting head of the Navigation Bureau, and he immediately put himself in readiness to take any official action that might be necessary to meet emergency. At Buffalo in the exposition grounds the navy has a splendid representation in the shape of the marine battalion under Captain Leonard, and this force will be made immediately available if it is decided by the persons about the President that a guard is necessary near his person.
     At the War Department General Gillespie, chief of engineers of the army, was acting secretary in the absence of Secretary Root, who is ill at his summer home in Southampton, L. I., and Assistant Secretary Sanger, who is away on leave. He also had quitted the building, but he had not been gone half an hour before word reached him and he hastily returned to his desk. He immediately sent messages to the secretary of war and to General Brooke, commanding the Department of the East, giving such unofficial information as was available in order to apprise them of the main facts if they were known to him through the press dispatches, as official dispatches were slow in reaching those offices in Washington. He also telegraphed to Major Simonds, the engineer officer stationed at Buffalo, asking him to report the facts at the earliest possible moment.


     Conferences were held between Acting Secretary Hackett and General Gillespie in reference to any joint steps which the army and navy might be called upon to take. Both of these officials—General Gillespie and Mr. Hackett—were completely overwhelmed by the sad news, but they maintained their composure and were fully prepared to meet any call upon them. They dispatched immediately messages of inquiry to Buffalo, and each as a matter of form sent their respective secretaries word of the shooting of the President in order that they might have the benefit of any suggestions either Secretary Root or Secretary Long was prepared to offer.
     In addition to the marines representing the navy the United States army is well represented at Buffalo and at near-by Fort Niagara, and with the troops thus at his disposal General Gillespie says he is fully prepared to meet any call that may be made upon him.
     General Gillespie finally got into communication with Secretary Root and Assistant Secretary Sanger and as a result of the telephonic talk, he preceeded [sic] to use some of the forces at his disposal. He telegraphed an order to Fort Foster, N. Y., to have an officer, a physician and squad of men proceed immediately to the hospital where the President is lying to act as guard.


     Steps were next taken to provide for the future of the executive branch of the government. It was realized that even under the most favorable condition the President’s injuries are of such a character as to make it almost certain that he cannot undertake for a long time to discharge the duties of chief executive, even in the most formal way. Every member of the Cabinet able to travel is expected to speed at once to Buffalo, and there a Cabinent [sic] council will be held to decide upon the course to be followed by the executive branch. Vice President Roosevelt is understood to be in Vermont, this being the information furnished by his relatives here, and of course will hold himself in readiness to do whatever is necessary and to meet the obligations imposed upon the Vice President by the Constitution of the United States. These are considered in Paragraph 6, Section 1, Article 2, in the following words:
     “In case of the removal of the President from office, or of his death, resignation or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President,” etc.
     Under the terms of this article, as soon as Mr. Roosevelt is assured by proper authority—probably, in this case, by the senior member of the Cabinet, Secretary Hay, who will doubtless be in Buffalo by to-morrow evening—he will undertake at once in a provisional way to discharge such duties as may devolve on him. Much will depend upon the report of the physicians upon the character of the President’s injuries as to the extent to which Mr. Roosevelt will discharge the presidential duties, if he undertakes them at all, and it is almost certain that in the absence of great emergency in public affairs, even if called to assume these obligations, the Vice President will confine himself in the exercise of his powers to the discharge of the most routine and indispensable functions. Under the law an extra session of Congress must be called.


     For the present the thought of a fatal termination of the President’s condition is referred to with awe-like apprehension, and there is a hopeful anticipation that there may be no need for meeting those grave emergencies which would follow a fatal termination of the tragic event. Should the worst come, however, it is realized that important changes in the public affairs of the country would soon be brought about. All this has been thought of here only in the vaguest manner, and confidence is almost universal, based on the President’s magnificent constitution, his present excellent physical condition and the tremendous strides that have been made since Garfield’s time, in surgery, that there will be no occasion to resort to the constitutional provisions made to meet the demise of a President in office.
     During the early evening a conference was held at the War Department of such of the prominent army officers as could be gathered at short notice by General Gillespie. He informed them that he had communicated with General Brooke, at Governor’s island [sic], and that the general had replied he would start immediately for Buffalo, where he expected in the early morning to take personal charge of all arrangements made for the guarding of the presidential household. Meanwhile he had directed that the troops which had been placed on guard around the hospital in the exposition grounds be transferred to the Milburn home, where the President lies, to serve as guard and keep back the public and preserve quiet. Surgeon General Van Reypen, of the navy, who called at General Gillespie’s office and discussed the case from a medical point of view, took occasion to mention Dr. Nicholas Senn, of Chicago, as an expert of high grade in such cases of injury, and the suggestion was promptly telegraphed to Buffalo that his services be secured.
     Asssistant [sic] Secretary Ailes, of the Treasury Department, received a message from Secretary Gage, at Chicago, stating that he was about to leave at once for Buffalo, where he will arrive to-morrow morning.


     Admiral Dewey, when the news reached him by telephone, at once sought all the particulars that were available and placed himself in readiness for any service that might be required of him. The admiral said he was plunged in grief too deep for utterance at this time. He said he could not now express an opinion as to the effect the calamity might have on the Schley court of inquiry.
     Owing to the absence of many of the diplomatic corps at Buffalo and of many others at the various summer resorts, there were only two representatives of this body of rank in Washington to-day. Minister Wu was one of these, and when seen to-night he was a picture of distress. He realized keenly the tremendous indebtedness of China to President McKinley’s kindly impulses in her great trials in the past year, and was shocked at the great calamity that had befallen him. He said he could not conceive of any sort of motive for such an inexcusable deed as that of Nieman’s, and he was severe in his denunciation of Anarchists. He asked why they were permitted to hatch such plots as this in a republic where the people could readily change their President if they were in the slightest degree dissatisfied with his official conduct or his private personality. In conclusion, almost with tears, he expressed the hope that the President would speedily recover from his terrible injury.
     The other diplomatic representative in Washington was Senor Herron, representing the government of the United States of Colombia. He also was greatly disturbed and he affirmed that his whole country would sympathize with the President in this moment of pain. He also could not understand, he said, why such a benevolent character as President McKinley should be thus assaulted by one of the people, and he declared it is time that the Anarchists should be suppressed.
     It was somewht [sic] gratifying to the officials here that the very first expression of official sympathy should come from the Island of Cuba in the shape of the following telegram from Havana, received at the War Department at 7:45 p. m.:
     “Mayor and City Council of Havana have cabled expressing sorrow and solicitude for the President, and desire that his family be advised of these expressions.”



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