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James G. Blaine’s Body Guard

From the autobiographical notes of Captain Charles Albertson regarding his career in the New York City Police Department and his travels and adventures during retirement beginning in January 1905.


Late in October [1884], the year Mr. Blaine was candidate for the Presidency, I accompanied Captain Williams with a squad of men from the 30th Street Station down to the Fifth Avenue Hotel to control the crowd as Mr. Blaine was to return from h is western trip and finish the campaign in the City before going home to vote. It was late in the evening and I was stationed at the 23rd Street entrance. While waiting a cab drove up and Ben Butler, who was also a candidate for the Presidency, got out and entered the hotel having room [number] one which was next to the entrance. He was evidently expected as there was a waiter in charge and the door remained open the few minutes he was there. The first order was a bottle of champagne which was hurriedly brought, but after the cork was drawn the waiter in his haste broke the glass and while he was gone for another, Mr. Butler placed the bottle to his lips and did not let go until it was empty. It was a very warm night.

Mr. Blaine with his party soon arrived and upon our return to the station, Captain Williams ordered me to go home and report at 8 A.M. in citizens’ dress to be Mr. Blaine’s body guard while he remained. His rooms were 81 and 83, two flights up in the Fifth Avenue Hotel. The rooms were on the 23rd Street and 5th Avenue corner. I remained here for several days and the word “busy” only half expresses or describes my job. No one could see Mr. Blaine without being looked over by his son Walker, Mrs. Blaine and myself, and if there was anything suspicious, I felt of their pockets from the outside to find out whether they had any weapons. I never knew there were so many cranks on so many subjects on earth. An old lady from Brooklyn caused me more trouble than any other. I was compelled to escort her out more than a dozen times. the hotel detective informed me that she had been a nuisance for years.  When a President or Presidential Candidate appeared she got busy. She was very wealthy and was able to get by all the guards.

One morning about ten, Mr. Blaine informed me that he had an appointment with a delegation of ministers who were to meet in the main parlor and if they were there, to escort them up as he was ready. When I arrived at the parlor there were far too many present to be received in Mr. Blaine’s rooms and I so reported. It was finally decided the Mr. Blaine should go down to where they were on the floor below. Walker on one side of his father and I on the other. The crowd was so great that Mr. Blaine did not get below the fourth or fifth step from the bottom of the broad stairway and from this place the speaking was done – the ministers standing one or two steps lower than Mr. Blaine. It was there that Minister Burchard made his fatal remark, “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion,” which it is alleged caused Mr. Blaine’s defeat. This may have been one of the many contributing causes, the most of which he supplied himself. He was naturally lacking in diplomacy. Apparently he could not help it. No magnetism whatever. A dignity that was repelling and he was a disappointment to many. Mrs. Blaine was the better man of the two although she was very autocratical instead of diplomatic. One forenoon among the many calling, a man about forty years of age gave me his card stating that he had an appointment. I gave his card to Mr. Blaine and he said very abruptly, “Show him in. I want to see that gentleman.” They were not in conversation two minutes before both were angry and the visitor left very much vexed. Soon after, Walker came in and I called his attention to the matter as I felt that a mistake had been made and so there had, for Mr. Blaine had mistaken him for another. Even so, it was not a good time to settle differences. The man was the leader of a labor organization in a large piano factory on Long Island in Senator Alf Dagget’s district. He was sent for in haste but they were evidently unable to heal the wound as Mr. Blaine’s vote in that district was very light. This alone helped to make one thousand votes that were lacking.

Joe Manley the Postmaster of Augusta, Maine was with us several days and a charming man. I believe he was Mr. Blaine’s political creator. I also met many of the political highlights of the Republican party at that time and I was some what disappointed for when placed where I could observe them closely, found they were only common mortals and very human.

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