Inside the White House in War Times: Memoirs and Reports of Lincoln's Secretary

By William O. Stoddard; Michael Burlingame | Go to book overview
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The Capitol and the Future

There is a wearisome degree of sameness in White House days, although no two of them are alike, any more than are the men who come. Just such a descriptive rule applies to the press reporters. There is a limited list who privilege themselves to come here whenever they see fit. They come when news is scarce, with a hope of having some found or invented for them. They come when news is plentiful, for they intensely represent the excited and hungry public mind, and they are anxious to assure themselves that they have learned all there is to be learned. The President himself likes to have them come, and meets them cordially. Among them are a number of remarkable men, young or old. Probably they have no idea how much they tell him, or how through them, as if through so many human magnetic wires, he receives message after message from the current thought and purpose of the popular masses whom he understands so much better than they do.

That wiry, sallow, silent-stepping gentleman, who has just come over here after a visit to the President's rooms, is Mr. Gobright, the agent and representative of the Associated Press, the censor of all war rumors, and the condenser of all unofficial news dispatches. He knows a great deal, and he looks as if he knew everything and wished only to ascertain whether or not your own knowledge and understanding are accurate. That is all he came for, and he may have found the President fairly well advised of the condition of things. If not, he has set him right, as a duty, but he will rarely tell you or any other mere private citizen of any news-error he may find you falling into. He will hear what you have to say, however, with extreme courtesy. His entire face is critical, but confidential and trustworthy and secret-keeping, and he is an epitome of the entire reporting science and art. When you have conversed with him analytically, you have no need to study any of the other reporters, except as interesting individual characters. As for that, the widening system of press correspondence is drawing into its service a remark

-75-

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