What Was Done at the War and State Departments.
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.
AT THE WHITE HOUSE.
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.”
PUBLIC MEN CALLED.
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.
MR. ADEE’S ACTION.
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
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
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
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.
FOR THE FUTURE.
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
“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.
HOPE FOR THE BEST.
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.
DEWEY PLUNGED IN GRIEF.
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
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.
“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.”