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"Hello, I'm William McKinley."
partial cover image from "American Boys' Life of William McKinley"                                              
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The intent of McKinley Assassination Ink is to offer readers the largest possible selection of full-text primary and secondary source documents relating to the assassination of President William McKinley and the immediate aftermath of that event, including the succession of Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency and the incarceration, trial, and execution of assassin Leon Czolgosz. In selecting and assembling documents, MAI’s editorial staff is concerned exclusively with breadth and depth of coverage from all available newspapers, magazines, journals, books, and government documents. MAI has no historical, political, or social agenda. It serves merely as a repository for information. MAI’s editorial staff is content to forgo making any judgments, preferring instead to let the historical record speak for itself.

Readers are cautioned, however, that the historical record is oftentimes a product of passion, prejudice, and misinformation—and such is the case with America’s response to the McKinley assassination. The attack upon and subsequent death of William McKinley shocked and enraged the nation, naturally. (Czolgosz might well have been lynched on the spot had he not been effectively spirited away by the police and safely cloistered in a jail cell.) America’s response, both in writing and in deed, was a seething turn-of-the-century admixture of panegyric, histrionics, violence, and heightened anti-immigrant prejudice. The president’s superior moral character, his unblemished personal conduct, his selfless military heroics, and his remarkable political career were trumpeted vociferously (and largely without dissenting opinions) in the pages of the press. Simultaneously McKinley’s death—his “martyrdom”—was interpreted by some as an historic event of grandiose proportions. “Not since the betrayal of the Son of God by the hypocritical kiss of Judas Iscariot,” one writer opined, “has evil been set in sharper contrast with good than in the foul assassination of President McKinley.” Meanwhile, the press could be depended upon to misidentify Leon Czolgosz as a Polish anarchist (despite his status as a native-born American citizen) and writers to label him, among other things, a “degenerate,” a “moral pervert,” and an “animated piece of the scum of the earth.” Such was the tenor of the times.

Readers need also be aware that American journalism at the outset of the twentieth century was far from being a model of objectivity, factualism, and truthfulness. Accordingly, while these documents are useful as historical artifacts, they are not always dependable with respect to consistency, factual accuracy, or even simple truth.

 


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