Sharpshooters, Protesters, a Secret Train Trip

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Sharpshooters, Protesters, a Secret Train Trip


The next day, the departing president, Ulysses S. Grant, invited Hayes to the White House and had him secretly sworn in without the nation knowing, forestalling any last-ditch effort by Tilden or the Democrats to reverse the outcome and guarding against any possible violence by aggrieved Southerners. The inauguration was later repeated for the public, which did not know that Hayes had already taken the oath.

After Franklin D. Roosevelt won an unprecedented fourth term, he opted for a slimmed-down inauguration in deference to the sacrifices of a country fighting a world war abroad and enduring austerity measures at home — and reflecting his own failing strength with less than three months to live.

Rather than be sworn in at the Capitol, Roosevelt, his hands trembling and his voice weak, took the oath on the South Portico of the White House before a relatively small crowd. The ceremony lasted only 15 minutes. There was no inaugural parade, no gala ball, just a relatively perfunctory luncheon. “Dog catchers have taken office with more pomp and ceremony,” the president’s Secret Service chief observed.

Richard M. Nixon took the oath for the first time in the middle of a very different foreign war, one without the popular support at home. Activists protesting the conflict in Vietnam gathered at several key points along the route of the inaugural parade while troops in uniform stood watch.

Targeting Nixon’s passing limousine, the protesters threw rocks, sticks, bottles, cans, firecrackers, smoke bombs, forks, spoons, tomatoes, manure, burning miniature American flags and a paint-filled Christmas ornament. “Two, four, six, eight — organize to smash the state,” they chanted. At one point, protesters tossed a ball of tinfoil that was mistaken for a possible bomb, and Nixon’s driver abruptly sped up to avoid it, causing the presidential passengers a jolt.

Nixon, who stood up in the open car at times, was unharmed and took little public notice of the disruption as he went on to the rest of a festive day. But the police arrested 81 people, and it was a sour start to a tumultuous tenure.



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