Why the Secret Service Didn’t Stop William McKinley From Being Assassinated

Isn’t that like their whole thing?
Why the Secret Service Didn’t Stop William McKinley From Being Assassinated

Youre likely entering this article with one of two energies. The first is some mixture of pure curiosity and boredom, which means Im doing my job, so good job, me. You want to know why the Secret Service would have possibly allowed the assassination of a president, and if they didnt, why its not a huge historical scandal bordering on conspiracy. The second energy is righteous anger and frustration, fed by thorough knowledge of American history, because you know exactly why this title is a bit of a trick. 

The Secret Service didnt stop William McKinleys assassination because, at the time, that wasnt their job.

In modern times, the number one responsibility of the Secret Service is round-the-clock protection of both sitting and past presidents and important political figures. Imagine the “Secret Service,” and youre probably immediately mentally picturing someone in a suit and earpiece, possibly diving in front of a bullet. When the Secret Service was founded in 1865, however, this wasnt even a footnote in their job description. Their originally stated mission was to pursue counterfeiters, since counterfeiting was a widespread problem at the time, threatening to destabilize national currency. They were effectively a law-enforcement arm of the U.S. Treasury.

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Sir! Thats not allowed!

They did, in 1894, start to serve as protectors to Grover Cleveland, but only occasionally. Presidential bodyguard was still a bit of side work for them, not their full-time job. This changed in 1901, when a man named Leon Czolgosz walked on stage at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo and fired two shots, killing McKinley and putting the U.S. into what could be generously described as a bit of a pickle. Now, in the interest of full accuracy, there were Secret Service agents at the event, along with police and military. Any of the three should really have stopped Czolgosz, given that the event had already raised White House staff hackles who saw it as prime time for an assassin to strike.

In the aftermath of McKinleys death, the third successful assassination of a president in U.S. history, the country followed the guidance of the classic three-strikes rule. They decided that it was high time for a full-time presidential protection detail. In the interest of going through less presidents in the future, the Secret Service was elevated to the modern role of 24/7 presidential bullet-catchers

Sometimes it takes tragedy to realize certain things, like that convertibles probably arent the best transportation for sitting presidents.

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