Security at the White House was casual, and for the most part had always been so. In all of the Executive Mansion, there was only one guard on duty at night, and he retired early. One of the doorkeepers, Thomas Pendel, was an older man who had served at the White House for over thirty-five years. He had the curious distinction of having seen President Lincoln off to his carriage the night Lincoln left for Ford's Theater and had been working in the White House when President Garfield was assassinated. Pendel would serve for the remainder of McKinley's time.
A few years back, Senator Mark Hanna, the president's closest advisor, became alarmed when anarchists murdered the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, the president of France, and the premier of Spain and were said to be plotting to assassinate every head of state of a Western country. Hanna had added several Secret Service guards to the White House staff, but that winter the anarchists were quiet and the extra guards were gone. Over the course of the coming year, the president's security would again become a concern, and not without reason.
But if the president worried about security matters he certainly didn't show it. He would continue to take his daily constitutional alone or with a friend. In a New Year's homily, McKinley's pastor had spoken of the promise and splendor of the future. "The radiant angel of Hope," he said, "points to a prospect as glorious as any that greeted the eyes of Moses when he looked upon Canaan, or any that filled St. John with holy rapture as he dreamed of the City of God."
January 1, 1900, Americans were optimistic and so was the president.
Copyright © 1998 Judy Crichton.
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