Those responsible for providing security a the Executive Mansion have always had to strike a balance between functional needs and the preservation of
the White House's image as an enduring symbol of democracy Most Presidents have embraced President Jefferson's first principle that the Executive Mansion should be open and easily accessible. Such an atmosphere is difficult to achieve with guards and locked gates. Nevertheless, President Jefferson himself ordered the construction of a high stone wall to replace the temporary rail fence around the perimeter of the White House grounds. At least some of this wall was erected, including a section on the North border of the grounds that completely blocked the view of the Mansion from the city commons, known as Lafayette Park. President Monroe, who wanted Americans to look freely upon the "President's house," replaced the stone wall with a curving iron fence. Monroe's democratic impulses did not, however, prevent him from installing gates equipped with heavy locks. Eventually, the 8-foot-high section of stone wall that stood along the south border of the
grounds was also replaced with an iron fence, and fences were constructed on the east and west sides as well.
Along with a number of guardhouses, the iron fence surrounding the grounds remained the White House's only visible structural concession to security needs for most of its history. Nevertheless, more recent Presidents have also been forced to address the often competing concerns of architectural integrity, public access, and physical security. In the days immediately
following the attack on Pearl Harbor, for example, the Secret Service presented President Roosevelt with a lengthy set of recommendations to enhance security at the White House Complex. The Secret Service proposed covering the skylights with sand and tin, camouflaging the structure, painting the colonnade windows black, and setting up machine-gun emplacements on the roof. The President rejected most. of the suggestions "with not a little annoyance" but agreed to a number of less obtrusive ones.  (Goodwin, p. 299).
A visitor to the White House Complex today cannot help but notice several visible measures that have been installed since World War II to enhance the physical security of the White House. For example, following the terrorist assault on the Marine barracks and the American Embassy in Beruit, Lebanon, reinforced bollards were installed at the Complex's perimeter. In addition, perimeter fencing and gates were reinforced. Other guardhouses have been erected at various points on the grounds, and both East and West Executive Avenues have been closed to vehicular and, at times, pedestrian traffic. Secret
[12 In light of President Roosevelt's position, then Secret Service Chief Frank J. Wilson arranged for a regular Army unit to install and operate anti-aircraft guns on top of the Main Treasury Building "so as to be in a position to intercept enemy airplanes attempting to bomb or strafe the White House." (Wilson, p. 145). These troops, who had been detailed from Fort Myers, also were responsible for establishing a security perimeter in the are immediately outside the White House fence.]
Service Uniformed Division officers are near at hand, as are Park Police officers and other security personnel. As has always been the case, these precautions have been taken to ensure that the President enjoys the highest level of security that is consistent with democratic principles.
PROTECTION OF THE
WHITE HOUSE COMPLEX
AND THE PRESIDENT
IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
Just as a "Presidential palace" with restricted public access was considered anti-democratic, at one time the idea of stationing guards in and around the White House Complex was considered wholly inappropriate to the nation's character. During the nineteenth century, only wartime Presidents would dare risk doing so, and then only if the District of Columbia itself were threatened. A childrenís primer that was popular during the Civil War illustrated the then-widely accepted distinction between the security that is provided for a monarch and the security given to a President:
How are emperors and kings protected?
By great troops of guards; so that it is difficult to approach them.
How is the president guarded?
He needs no guards at all; he may be visited by any persons like a private citizen. (Mitchell, p. 14).
For a century after President John Adams first moved into the Executive Mansion, the protection of the mansion and its residents remained a relatively minor concern, except during wartime. Various combinations of policemen, guards, and soldiers furnished security for the President's home. here was no sign, however, of the extensive and organized security arrangements that would develop in the twentieth century.
Perhaps the earlier indication of concern for the security of the Executive Mansion was contained in Thomas Jefferson's plans for the grounds. These plans, drawn in 1803 or 1804, included a series of gate lodges for guards. It is unclear whether they actually were built.
The circumstances of the War of 1812 forced President James Madison to mobilize the first serious
effort to protect the Executive Mansion. On hearing that 4,000 British regulars were marching toward Washington, President Madison stationed troops on the White House ground. A company of 100 volunteers camped on the North Lawn of the Mansion and positioned a cannon at the North Gate. These volunteer soldiers retreated before the British entered Washington, however. The British thus faced no resistance as they set fire to the Executive Mansion and reduced it to a smoldering shell.
Although James Monroe did not confront invading armies during his Presidency, he was apparently concerned about assassins and other troublemakers, for he employed guards at the Executive Mansion. These guards were civilians in civilian dress, recruited for Monroe by the marshal of the District of Columbia. During special days when the public was invited to the White House, the number of guards increased. In addition, a doorkeeper was always on duty in the entrance hall. The doorkeeper kept firearms close at hand in a room off the hall. He had the authority to admit or refuse nearly anyone who appeared.
Although the doorkeeper was a permanent fixture, the guards were not. Monroe's successor, John Quincy Adams, did not hire guards, and Andrew Jackson did not favor the practice, either. Nevertheless, after a man named Richard Lawrence tried to shoot Jackson at the Capitol in 835 ∑(the attempt failed because both of Lawrenceís pistols misfired), a wooden "watch box" for a sentry was built on the south grounds, ar the gate to the President's garden. During Martin Van Burenís administration, the federal government paid the salaries of both a day guard, who often occupied the watch box, and 1 night watchman. When he hosted public receptions at the Executive Mansion, Van Buren stationed policemen at all the gates to keep out visitors from the lower classes.
During John Tyler's politically tumultuous Presidency, an enraged mob burned Tyler in effigy outside the White House gates, and an intoxicated painter threw rocks at him while he waked on the south grounds. Tyler, concerned for his safety, decided to establish a permanent company of guards for the Executive Mansion. In 1842, he presented Congress with a bill establishing a "police force for the protection of pubic and private properly in the city of Washington." Senator John Crittenden of Kentucky objected to the fact that the bill gave the President the power to appoint these police. According to the record of the Senate debates:
To address these concerns, the Senate amended Tyler's security bill to vest the appointment power in the Mayor of Washington instead of the President. The amended bill passed, and Tyler signed it into law. The act created a new entity called the "auxiliry guard." It consisted of a captain and fifteen other men. Its official fudction was "the protection of public and Private property aginst incendiaries, and . . . the enforcement of the police regulations of the city of Washington." The auxiliary guard was made subject
. . it seemed to [Crittenden] that, by subjecting this matter to the control of the President of the United States, it might be metamorphosed into a political guard for the Executive . . . . [Crittenden] thought that it would not be entirely safe to organize such a corps. It was a little sort of standing guard, which might eventually become formidable army. The seeds sown by this bill would soon germinate, and their full development might overshadow the liberties of the people. (Congressional Globe 27th Cong., 2d sess., 854 (1842.))
to rules and regulations prescribed by a board consisting of the Mayor of Washington, D.C., the Corporation Counsel of Washington, D.C., and the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, with the approbation of the President of the United States." (5 Stat. 511 (August 23, 1842)).
Four men from this newly created force - the captain and three guards - were assigned to the Executive Mansion. In The President 's House, William Seale describes their role at the Mansion.
Franklin Pierce, the President from 1853 to 1857, raised security to a new level when he became the first chief executive to retain a full-time bodyguard. Whereas the doormen remained on the White House grounds, the bodyguard (also a federal employee) ccompmied Pierce wherever he went. Each time the President left the Executive Manlsion, the bodyguard was by his
From the start the "Doormen," as they were called to avoid the militaristic tone of "guard" or "sentry" or "patrol" became integral to the functioning of the President's House, taking on extra duties that helped make the mansion run more smoothly. They carried confidential messges and met official and household guests at the stage line or train; they received all callers in the entrance hall and often announced them to the President or his wife. With the responsibilities - which were varied and not really spelled out - went certain privileges of investigation and arrest nor shared by other law enforcement officers. At the receptions they and temporary deputies mingled with the crowds, never hesitating to remove a man or woman who seemed suspicious. 'Their toughness and apparent aggressiveness often sparked complaint, but never reprimand. (See, Vol. I, p. 24).
side. When the President was in the Mansion, the bodyguard remained within calling distance. Pierce thus introduced the two-level security arrangement that characterizes Presidential protection today. An outer perimeter of police type guards secured the Executive Mansion itself, while an inner perimeter - the bodyguard - protected the person of rhe President.
By 1860, the bitter atmosphere arising from the discord between the northern and southern states had greatly increased the danger of political violence. As soon as Abraham Lincoln was chosen to be the Republican candidate for President that year, he began to receive numerous death threats. During the campaign, he was constantly surrounded by a phalanx of bodyguards. In at least one instance, one of these bodyguards was Alan Pinkerton, the founder of the celebrated detective agency.
Lincolnís security detail grew after he assumed the Presidency. He chafed under this protection and worried that it made him appear unmanly, but he ultimately conceded its necessity. Numerous Metropolitan Police were detailed to the Executive Mansion to serve as guards. Because Lincoln did not want the Executive Mansion to take on the characteristics of an armed camp, the guards inside the Mansion (the doormen) dressed in civilian clothes and
concealed their firearms. Uniformed, armed sentries were posted at the gates to the grounds and at the doors to the Executive Mansion itself.
During the Civil War, the military helped protect the Mansion. When the conflict started, soldiers actually camped inside the Executive Mansion until Washington was adequately fortified. Even after the city was deemed secure, military units were often assigned to serve as guards there.
Troops also frequently accompanied Lincoln during his travels. Indeed, throughout the Civil War, no member of Lincoln's family left the White House grounds unescorted. Thus, they were the first White House occupants to receive extensive personal protection. During the Civil War, an armed, plainclothes member of the Metropolitan Police regularly accompanied Mrs. Lincoln on her outings. Moreover, the White House doormen never lost sight of the Lincolnís son Td, who was considered a target for kidnappers. By 1864, four Metropolitan policemen were assigned to serve as President Lincoln's personal bodyguards. One of these men, responsible for protecting Lincoln at Ford Theater on the evening of April 14, 1865, was having a drink It a nearby saloon when John Wilkes Booth fatally wounded the President with a shot to the head.
Despite the Lincoln assassination, Presidential security was diminished in the years after the war. The four-man detail drawn from the Metropolitan Police was reduced to three men and restricted to providing protection at the Executive Mansion. These guards, still referred to as doormen, received no special training. Unlike Lincoln, the post-war Presidents were often left entirely unprotected outside the Mansion. In 1881, Charles Guiteau exploited this vulnerability by fatally shooting James Garfield as he waked, unguarded, through the Baltimore and Potomac River Station in Washington.
Even the second assassination of a President within sixteen years did not lead to an immediate escalation in security. When Garfield's successors stepped outside the gates of the then-lightly guarded Executive Mansion, they usually had no protection at all. Occasionally, private detectives were retained to serve as Presidential bodyguards, but Congress enacted legislation that made such appropriations illegal. (27 Stat. 591 (1893)).
By the mid-1890s, the rising number of threats directed at President Grover Cleveland finally prompted a significant strengthening of Presidential security. Cleveland's wife persuaded him to increase the number of policemen serving at the Mansion from three (the size of the detail since the end of the Civil War) to twenty-seven. Although they were organized in 1865; it s not
until 1894 that a small number of Secret Service agents (then known as "operatives") were assigned to the White House, forming an "inner perimeter of bodyguards to supplement the enhanced "outer perimeter" of protection provided by the police. With the addition of the Secret Service, White House security assumed the shape that it has maintained to the present day.
Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park