EDITOR OF THE
Whatever other results may flow from the assassination of President
McKinley, let us hope that that object-lesson may be sufficient
to put an end to our national habit of promiscuous handshaking in
public. It is hard to conceive of a spectacle more fatuous and less
edifying than that of a horde of country bumpkins, criminals, cranks,
idlers, and curiosity-mongers standing in line waiting for a chance
to grab and squeeze the hand of the unhappy Chief Executive of this
country. This habit, springing from a primitive desire on the part
of the multitude to touch the person or garment of a sovereign ruler,
and fortified by the commonly held belief that all men, in America
at least, are really equal, is clearly a superfluous anachronism
In our day and age, the clasping of hands, a custom sanctioned by
usage from times immemorial, signifies, among intelligent beings
at least, primarily mutual acquaintance, esteem, and friendship,
Where the parties are absolute strangers to each other, as was the
case at Buffalo, the ceremony is meaningless, obviously dangerous,
and unworthy the high office of President of the United States.
We owe much in this respect to Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson
which it is doubtful if we can ever pay back in this world.
Popular regard for ancient
traditions of "republican simplicity," and a well-grounded
fear that the unprincipled scoundrels of modern journalism might
make capital out of it, have undoubtedly deterred high public officials
from putting an end to this silly and dangerous habit of promiscuous
handshaking in public places. Whether Mr. Roosevelt, who has a reputation
for enjoying personal encounters with bears and mountain lions as
well as with Spaniards, will have the moral courage and appreciation
of his public duty to protect the lives of himself and his successors
by refusing, while holding the office of President, to submit to
close and intimate personal contact with hordes of unvouched-for
strangers, even if presumably friendly, is a matter of vital importance
to all admirers of republican institutions. The psychological moment
for abating a notorious public nuisance has evidently arrived.
E. L. C. M.
CHICAGO, September 19, 1901.