How does the ruler of the
greatest nation on earth manage to get through the enormous amount of
work which falls upon his shoulders as he takes the oath of office?
How is President McKinley able to receive the scores of daily callers
at the White House, talk over the affairs of government with members
of the Cabinet and Congress, answer the mass of important letters daily
addressed to him, look over the sign documents of state, prepare his
messages and proclamations, and keep clearly in mind and give just decisions
on questions ranging from a country postoffice to a war with Spain?
In other words, what are the President's methods of doing the work of
ten men? What are his working habits, and the secret of his power of
To obtain answers to these
interesting questions, I called upon Secretary-to-the-President Porter,
at the White House. He received me cordially, and finally consented
to give the readers of Our Day and account of the daily life of the
President. Mr. Porter was formerly editor and proprietor of the "Hartford
Courant." His training and experience make him admirably fitted
to be the companion and confidant of the President, and to render effective
assistance in lightening the burdens of official duty. The Secretary
and his family occupy apartments in the Executive Mansion, and accompany
President and Mrs. McKinley on their summer vacations and extended journeys.
"What is the programme
of a typical working day of the President?" I first asked the Secretary.
"He breakfasts at 9.
After breakfast, he reads the papers. Reaches his desk by 9:45 or 1
o'clock, and does not leave it until luncheon at 1:30. The first two
or three hours of the morning are devoted to receiving Senators, Cabinet
officers, Ambassadors of foreign nations, Congressmen, and all persons
entitled to his presence through official position.
"An hour is then given
to the reception of the general public. Sometimes, however, the stress
of public duties is so great that this hour is omitted.
"After luncheon, the
President enjoys a chat with Mrs. McKinley. Between 2:15 and 2:30 o'clock,
p.m., he is again in his office, and until 4:30 goes through substantially
the same process as in the morning. Then, if the weather be pleasant,
he takes a carriage drive of an hour through the streets of the city,
accompanied by Mrs. McKinley. Sometimes he rides several miles on horseback,
frequently he walks. His favorite pedestrian resort are Pennsylvania
avenue, Massachusetts avenue, or a circuit of the White House lot. In
his journeys afoot he usually has a companion a Cabinet official, Judge
Day, some intimate friend or myself.
"On his return, he
opens the telegrams that may have arrived during his absence and glances
over the evening papers. Dinner is at 7 o'clock. The President follows
his old-established custom of never appearing at a dinner table without
being attired in a dress suit. Dinner lasts about an hour. The President
then engages in social intercourse with intimate friends, members of
the Cabinet and their wives and daughters, and old Ohio acquaintances,
who may call. At 9:00 or 9:30, he leaves the party, comes to the office,
and engages for two or three hours in the hardest work of the day. It
is at this time that he writes his message, examines important bills
of Congress, passes upon questions submitted to him for decision, etc.
It is often after midnight before he retires.
"The Cabinet meets
from 11 to 1 o'clock on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each member has a special
seat and discusses the affairs of his department, the President opening
and ending each informal debate.
"On Sunday, the President
does no work whatever. In the morning he attends the Metropolitan Methodist
Church. In the afternoon he frequently takes Mrs. McKinley out for a
drive, and the evening is spent in listening to sacred music in the
parlors of the White House. No public lunches or dinners of any kind
are served on Sunday.
"What, in your opinion,
Mr. Porter, is the secret of the extraordinary amount of work the President
"I believe it is due
to his perfect training, acquired by a quarter of a century of continuous
public service. All the great questions of the day are as familiar to
him as the A B C's. He knows the exact standing of all the men that
call upon him or correspond with him. He possesses in a remarkable manner
the faculty of quick analysis and decision. He renders a verdict in
two minutes, where most men would require fifteen."
I may add that the President's
speed in work is due in no small degree to the effective assistance
of Secretary Porter. Every important letter addressed to the President
is boiled down to six lines by the secretary, before it is seen by Mr.
McKinley. This become no mean item, when it is known that an average
of 1,000 letters daily are received at the White House.
One of the most remarkable
characteristics of the present administration is the multitude of daily
visitors at the Executive Mansion. They outnumber those of any previous
period more than two to one. This is due, in large measure, to the unsurpassed
acquaintance of the President with men and women of every rank and calling.
The statement is made on the best authority that Mr. McKinley has spoken
to more American people than any president or other citizen of this
country that ever lived!
When the President leaves
Washington for a few days, work accumulated with amazing rapidity, so
that on his return he is compelled to forego, for some days, his social
hours with friends int he evening, and his reception hour at noon. Mr.
McKinley is fond of reading, but has little or no time for general literature.
When, however, opportunity offers on a trip or otherwise, he frequently
reads a book at one sitting.