President Never Feared Attack on His Person
Secretary Walter B. Stevens of the Louisiana Purchase
Exposition Company Says
Mr. McKinley Always Felt Safe in the Midst of His Fellow Citizens—
Attended by One Clever Secret Service Man.
Walter B. Stevens,
Secretary of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company, is a personal
friend of President McKinley and made several trips to different
parts of the United States with him.
“I do not recollect,” said Mr. Stevens,
“that there was ever a previous attempt upon the life of Mr. McKinley.
In fact, to my knowledge, there was never even the rumor of a conspiracy
to assassinate him. From what I knew of the President, the thought
of danger of this kind never entered his mind. He has been from
the first very approachable. Nearly any one who wanted to speak
to him or shake hands with him could easily do so.
“During his first administration the
police about the White House were reduced in numbers, and the little
sentry boxes in the grounds were removed. On three days of every
week he would take his stand in the white parlor, to receive hundreds
of visitors who desired to shake hands with him. On these occasions
no officers were seen around, and two or three ushers in citizens’
clothes were his only guards.
ONE SECRET SERVICE
MAN ALWAYS WITH HIM.
“While traveling about
the country the President did not take any formidable bodyguard.
He was attended, however, by a secret-service man, Foster. This
man is the most proficient of the kind I have ever known. He is
heavy built and muscular, with broad shoulders, and of a perfectly
gentlemanly appearance. He never wore a uniform, and few knew that
he was attending the President and watching closely every one who
approached him. In crowds, for instance, he walked in front of Mr.
McKinley, and in a quiet way elbowed a passage for him, just as
any other stalwart citizen might have done.
“This officer denominates all cranks,
anarchists and crazy men as ‘bugs.’ He has a remarkably quick eye
for detecting these ‘bugs,’ and, while they may be perfectly harmless,
he never loses sight of them while they are near the President’s
person. It is the greatest surprise to me that Nieman was able to
fire the shots before he was caught by this officer. It is probable
that some one for the moment blocked his way. In large crowds, where
some overenthusiastic individual tried to become familiar with the
President, this man was always at hand to quietly remove him, and
he did so in such a clever and skillful manner that no one in the
vicinity had any idea that it was not the work of a private citizen.
“As an example of his
method of working: I once attended church at Canton where Mr. McKinley
worships. Before the service I was standing in front of the door
waiting to see the President enter. Presently along sauntered the
secret service man just like an ordinary citizen taking his morning
walk. He stopped in the crowd which had gathered, and about three
minutes afterward the President’s carriage drove up, and Mr. McKinley
and his wife passed into the church. The man watched until he had
gone inside, then walked leisurely away. Just as the service ended
he was again in the front row of the crowd, and waited until the
President had driven away. With my exception, there was probably
no one there who had the remotest idea that the quiet-looking man
was the President’s bodyguard.
“The nearest to a conspiracy against
Mr. McKinley of which I have any knowledge was just before war was
declared with Spain. There was great excitement in Washington at
the time, and every one was eager to ascertain what was going to
be done. About that time I received a telegram from a gentleman
of my acquaintance which stated that the President was in great
danger from a member of his household. From the tone of the message
I felt confident that my informant had received his information
from a medium. I knew, also, that he was a believer in Spiritualism.
In spite of this I took the telegram to the Secretary of State and
told him that the man who sent it believed what he had written.
The Secretary said nothing one way or the other.
“Queer to relate, two days later a
scheme to corrupt two servants in the White House was discovered.
The conspirators tried to learn some inside information relative
to the President’s ultimatum. The servants reported the affair and
the parties were arrested.”