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White House - Secret Service And Military Aides

( Originally Published 1908 )

WHILE foreign rulers are surrounded at all times by bodyguards, our own Presidents are attended on all public occasions, and on even many private occasions, by detectives in plain clothes who are known as Secret Service men members of the Bureau of Secret Service detailed for the purpose. In addition, the White House itself has its guards in the form of policemen from the regular Washington Police Force, and several of these have been on duty at the President's Mansion for a number of years.

The actual number of Secret Service guards in attendance upon the President is never made public. But certain it is that at all receptions a number of such guards are on duty within the house, while several more are stationed outside. The President never steps outside the White House, never travels even the shortest distance, without being followed by one or more officers of the Secret Service. Sometimes the Secret Service men attend also the family members of President Roosevelt, one of the guards often taking the younger Roosevelts to school in the morning and bringing them home in the evening.

Within the last two years the Secret Service men have exercised more than usual care in guarding the President. That Mr. Roosevelt receives many threatening letters is admitted by friends of the family, and the constant fear that her husband will be assassinated is said to be one of the reasons, if not the principal reason, that Mrs. Roosevelt pleaded successfully with Mr. Roosevelt not to accept a third term.

Before the visitor enters the entrance hall or reception room at the White House, he is quietly but carefully scrutinized by not only the doorkeeper, but some of the Secret Service men who are continually on duty. He may not be aware of the inspection, but it is made in every case.

Each President has had his own ideas regarding the attendance of Secret Service men. Mr. Arthur, for example, was not afraid of assassination, though perhaps he had more reason to be afraid of it than any other President because 0f the killing of Garfield. Mr. Hayes walked about Washington without fear, and General Grant was a very familiar figure on F' Street during the two Grant administrations.

Guards at the New Year's Reception

At the great public reception held at the White House on the first day of each new year, the number of guards, in the persons of policemen and Secret Service men, is more than quadrupled. Every step of the way of each caller, while he is in the mansion, is guarded, though the caller may not be aware that he is being watched.

One requirement is that each and every one in the great throng that surges through the building shall keep both hands always in sight. Each caller must keep his hands out of his pockets, he may carry no bundle nor package, nor is he permitted to cover his hand with a handkerchief or by any other means on pretext of a wound or anything of that sort. This requirement has been most rigidly enforced ever since the assassination of President McKinley, because on that occasion the assassin carried a pistol concealed under a handkerchief.

A most enlightening description of the ways and means of the Secret Service men at the New Year's Reception is given in Pearson's Magazine, thus :

"From beginning to end of the reception, the police are always with you. Outside, the mounted policemen keep the carriages in line. A squad stand in front of the gates less the crowd might climb over the ten-foot pickets. Two muscular ones swing the turnstile door at the entrance to the colonnade. Along the corridor they form living portraits between the paintings of the Presidents' wives. At the head and foot of the stairs are two or three extra strong men to prevent from being trampled upon any one who might fall.

"All the way from the head of the stairs around to the East Room they are as `thick as hops', as the old farmer would say human guide posts, who speak only to tell you to keep off the carpet in the centre of the rooms and to stay in line. About the most important personage at the reception is the lieutenant of police. In his gorgeous uniform he stands at the head of the stairway, and keeps the human current flowing in the right direction. The fifty or seventy-five officers in and around the White House are sent to keep order, just as they would be sent to quell a mob. The men inside, of course, are hatless and clubless; but ther hands are covered with the white service gloves, and, standing like statues, they look as if `lined up' for morning inspection by the chief.

"Keep the hands in view. It is the rigid rule of the White House. If one happens to be in the pocket or under the coat-tails, you may get a whispered hint to take it out. Looking up, you see a keen-eyed, smooth-faced man at your side. Darting in and out among the crowd are a dozen Secret Service men. Instinctively, they scan the faces with the stare of the detective.

"But it is just as well that every one who comes in is carefully looked over perhaps two or three times before he or she reaches the President. Congressmen have a habit of giving cards of admission to Tom, Dick and Harry, and it would not be a difficult matter for some fanatic to get one of these, and, donning the full-dress garb, mingle with the throng for the purpose of making trouble. As each one comes within a foot of the President when he reaches the receiving line, a weapon which might be concealed in the palm of the hand could do execution. No one knows this better than the Secret Service men."

How Harrison and Cleveland Were "Secret Serviced"

In Mr. Cleveland's first administration he received comparatively few threatening letters and hence he did not increase the White House force of guards. During his second. administration, however, he received so many letters of a threatening character that Mrs. Cleveland became alarmed for her husband's safety and prevailed upon him to augment the force of Secret Service men.

The result was that in 1895 the corps of guards at the White House was increased to twenty-seven where before there had been only three or four. Of policemen alone there were twenty-five patrolmen and two sergeants, and sentry boxes were seen in many places on the White House grounds. Four or five policemen were stationed at the portico, or main entrance of the building, and others were stationed within as long as any strangers were present. The newspapers of the time said :

"Mr. Cleveland not only keeps off the sidewalks, but seldom goes driving, and when he is seen abroad in one of the White House carriages, he is under the protection of two detectives, who follow him in another vehicle.

"Mr. Harrison, on the other hand, was a devoted pedestrian and he was a very familiar figure on the streets of Washington. Sometimes he walked in the afternoon accompanied by his stenographer, Mr. Tibbott. Sometimes he took a stroll at night in the company of his private secretary, Mr. Halford. Occasionally he went out accompanied only by his little grandson. He was a frequent visitor to the White Lot, or park, just in front of the Executive Mansion. On all of these excursions Mr. Harrison was entirely without protection. He was not afraid of being assassinated, and he showed this very plainly when he came downstairs one night and helped to bind a drunken man who had broken into the White House. Mr. Harrison was guarded, as all of the Presidents have been, at the public receptions at the White House. But he asked no special protection when he walked the streets."

The White House Military Aides

In attendance upon the President, at all receptions and on all State occasions are five military and naval aides—four from the army and one from the navy. To be detailed to the post of aide to the President is indeed one of the pleasantest duties that young army or navy officers are required to undertake. Their duties are purely social, yet owing to the great number of visitors at the White House and the many functions that take place there, the young aides find busy times when they discover that their posts are no sinecures.

In commenting upon the presence of aides at receptions at the White House—aides always resplendent in the full dress of their branch of service, a visitor at the White House, who was also a magazine writer, says :

"The President is pretty well hemmed in, for at his left stands a gold-braided West Pointer (an aide), while opposite is a row of officers (more aides), whose principal duty is to stand at dress parade, eyes front, and receive the awe and admiration of the people. But their duty is to stay here and face the ladies of the Cabinet. Perhaps they may get tired of looking straight into their faces or at the wall behind, but they are the military side and form part of the living picture which the public goes to see."

Among the young officers who have acted as aides to President Roosevelt are many whose names are familiar ones in the history of our country. Only a year or two ago four of the military aides at the White House were either sons or grandsons of men whom history honors.

There was General Grant's grandson, Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant; and Captain Guy V. Henry, whose work in the Spanish-American War made him famous ; and Captain Fitzhugh Lee, a son of General Fitzhugh Lee and a great-grandson of "Light horse" Harry Lee ; and Lieutenant Philip H. Sheridan, son of the late Civil War hero, General Sheridan.

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