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Source: The Authentic Life of William McKinley
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “The Impressive State Funeral Ceremonies” [chapter 22]
Author(s): McClure, Alexander K.; Morris, Charles
Edition: Memorial edition
Publisher: none given
Place of publication: none given
Year of publication: 1901
Pagination: 349-62

McClure, Alexander K., and Charles Morris. “The Impressive State Funeral Ceremonies” [chapter 22]. The Authentic Life of William McKinley. Memorial ed. [n.p.]: [n.p.], 1901: pp. 349-62.
full text of chapter; excerpt of book
McKinley funeral services (Washington, DC); McKinley funeral services (Washington, DC: attendees); William McKinley (eulogies); Edward G. Andrews (eulogies: full text); William McKinley (religious character); William McKinley (personal character).
Named persons
William Boyd Allison; Edward G. Andrews; Henry Harrison Bingham; J. C. Burrows; W. H. Chapman; Grover Cleveland; Francis Marion Cockrell; Christopher Columbus; Oliver Cromwell; Shelby M. Cullom; John Dalzell; John Warwick Daniel; James A. Garfield; Ulysses S. Grant; Joseph R. Hawley; John Hay; Albert Jarvis Hopkins; Jesus Christ; Abraham Lincoln; Ida McKinley; William McKinley; Henry R. Naylor; John Henry Newman; Sereno E. Payne; Orville H. Platt; Theodore Roosevelt; John Coit Spooner; George Washington; William I.
Pages 353-54 feature photographs only. The captions read: “The President Poses for the Children’s Cameras at El, Paso, Texas” (p. 353) and “Funeral Procession to the Capitol: Senators and Representatives in Line” (p. 354). Page 363, following this chapter, features a photograph captioned as follows: “The Funeral Ceremonies in Washington: Removal of the Casket from Hearse into the Capitol.”

From title page: The Authentic Life of William McKinley, Our Third Martyr President: Together with a Life Sketch of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States; Also Memorial Tributes by Statesmen, Ministers, Orators and Rulers of All Countries; Profusely Illustrated with Reproductions from Original Photographs, Original Drawings and Special Pictures of the Family by Express Permission from the Owners.

From title page: Introduction and Biography by Alexander K. McClure, Author of the “Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln.”

From title page: The Life and Public Career by Charles Morris, LL.D., Author of the “Life of Queen Victoria.”


The Impressive State Funeral Ceremonies

     THE last sad services at the Nation’s Capital began on Wednesday, the 17th of September, when the body-bearers silently and reverently raised to their stalwart shoulders the casket, containing all that was mortal of the illustrious dead. As they appeared at the main door of the White House the Marine Band, stationed on the avenue opposite the mansion, struck up the hymn the President loved so well, “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” and, as the last sad strain of the music died away, the throng in the building lifted their heads, but their eyes were wet.
     Slowly along the White House driveway, through a fine drizzling rain, the solemn cortege wound its way down to the gate leading to the avenue and halted. Then, with a grand, solemn swing, the artillery band began the “Dead March from Saul,” a blast from a bugle sounded “march” and the head of the procession was moving on its way to the Capitol. The casket, in a black carved hearse and drawn by six coal-black horses, caparisoned in black net with trailing tassels and a stalwart groom at the head of each, moved down through the gateway toward the distant Capitol. In the great funeral procession were bodies of troops representing the army and navy, high dignitaries of State, including the Judiciary, members of both houses of Congress and representatives of foreign governments; also many civic organizations from all sections of the country.
     At 10.12 o’clock the head of the procession arrived at the north end of the Capitol plaza. The troops swept around to the south end of the plaza and then marched to position fronting the main entrance to the Capitol. As soon as they had been formed [349][350] at rest, the artillery band on the left and the Marine Band on the right of the entrance, the funeral cortege with its guard of honor entered the plaza from the north.
     The guard of honor ascended the steps, the naval officers on the right and the army officers on the left, forming a cordon on each side, just within the ranks of the artillerymen, seamen and marines. As the eight sturdy body-bearers, four from the army and four from the navy, tenderly drew the flag-draped casket from the hearse the band sweetly wailed the pleading notes of “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” Every head in the vast attendant throng was bared. Tear-bedimmed eyes were raised to heaven and silent prayers went up from the thousands of hearts.
     With careful and solemn tread the body-bearers began the ascent of the staircase with their precious burden and tenderly bore it to the catafalque in the rotunda.
     Here, under the great dome of the Capitol, on whose vast canopy the artist has painted the apotheosis of Washington, there rested the body of William McKinley, whose apotheosis is in the hearts of his countrymen. In the centre of the rotunda that has resounded to the tread of statesmen for almost a century stood the bier of the dead President, while on either side passed 60,000 men, women and children who sought a last glimpse of the face of the man they all loved so well.
     The obsequies, from the moment the remains of the President were carried from the White House to the Capitol until they were placed upon the train which bore them to the old home in Canton, were simple and democratic. There was no display of pomp and splendor. The ceremonies were majestic in their simplicity. The occasion was historic, though sorrowful, and the greatest in the land paid humble tribute to the dead President. The new President of the United States, the only living ex-President, the Supreme Court, the highest officers of the army and navy, the Senate and House of Representatives, the representatives of the foreign powers, delegations of the great patriotic orders of the [350][351] country, representatives of States and municipalities, all met with bowed heads about the bier of William McKinley. Through its representatives a nation paid the last honors to its martyred President.


     It was a genuine day of mourning, and Nature added to the gloom. Gray clouds overcast the sky early in the day and at intervals rain deluged the city. Despite the frequent downpours, the tens of thousands of Washington’s citizens who besieged the Capitol to look upon the dead form of the President held their places in line, drenched to the skin, but determined to show their affection for him who had been so ruthlessly taken from them.
     In the services in the rotunda of the Capitol all interest centred, as they expressed the sympathy of the nation and the acquiescence in God’s will according to the President’s last prayer of resignation. The place was well chosen and already hallowed by the religious services over the bodies of the other two martyred Presidents. President McKinley’s remains rested directly in the centre of the Capitol beneath which it had been the purpose of the designers of the building to have placed the body of the Father of his Country, George Washington. On the walls surrounding the rotunda hang immense paintings depicting the great events in the early history of the country. Its discovery by Columbus, the embarkation by the Pilgrim Fathers, the surrender at Yorktown, and other great events marking the birth of the nation, are shown; while from pedestals on the east and west side of the circle the marble statues of Lincoln and Grant looked down upon the bier of the martyred President.
     This was a spot which always attracted Mr. McKinley when a member of Congress. Hundreds of times had he stood gazing on these pictures, pointing them out to friends and visitors, and thousands of times, in the pursuit of his duties as Congressman, had he traversed this rotunda, a familiar figure to the guides and employees of the Capitol. To-day the guides, grown gray in the [351][352] service, who used to point out Major McKinley to the curious visitors as the leader of the House and a great man, acted as ushers and seated the audience of 800 or more that gathered about Major McKinley’s coffin to pay their last respects.


     It seemed peculiarly fitting that the body of this distinguished man should lie amid the scenes of his great achievements as a statesman and legislator. How strong he was in the affections of Congressmen was shown by the large attendance of Senators and Representatives. His old colleagues in the House and members of the Senate, with whom he labored and accomplished great work of legislation, were inexpressibly affected as they gathered about his remains.
     Few of the older Congressmen could hide their feelings. There was Payne, of New York; Hopkins, of Illinois; Bingham and Dalzell, of Pennsylvania, who served many years in the House when William McKinley was one of its foremost Republican members, and Allison, of Iowa; Hawley and Platt, of Connecticut; Burrows, of Michigan; Spooner, of Wisconsin; Cullom, of Illinois; Cockrell, of Missouri; Daniel, of Virginia, and others of the Senate who had the most pleasant recollections of their associations with Mr. McKinley when he was a member of Congress. The faces of these distinguished statesmen reflected their heartfelt sorrow. Senator Hawley, an intense admirer of President McKinley before and after the latter entered the White House, tottered into the rotunda almost in a state of collapse. He had come from Buffalo with the funeral party, and, though broken in health and shaken by age, he was determined to pay his respects to the beloved dead.
     It was a most distinguished and august body that gathered about the casket. There was President Roosevelt, sitting at the head of his Cabinet, conscious of the great responsibilities suddenly thrust upon him, but with sorrow depicted in every line of [352][355] his face. In full command of his feelings, it was only the firm set of his jaw that revealed the effort to preserve a calm exterior.
     Across a narrow aisle from him sat the only living ex-President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, who now visited Washington for the first time since he resigned the reins of Government into the hands of William McKinley on March 4, 1897. Mr. Cleveland seemed affected by the services and the surroundings, reverently bowed his head in prayer and joined with the audience in repeating the Lord’s Prayer at the close of the minister’s invocation.


     With President Roosevelt there sat all the members of Mr. McKinley’s Cabinet. Secretary Hay sat on his left, a heartbroken, sorrow-stricken man. For the third time in his life he attended services held over the bodies of murdered Presidents. It has been his fate to have been intimately associated with the three Presidents of the United States who have fallen at the hands of assassins. He was private secretary to the first martyred President, Abraham Lincoln, and was Assistant Secretary of State under President Garfield. This third cruel blow was much more than he deserved. Besides Secretary Hay, there were the other members of the late President’s two Cabinets.


     Mrs. McKinley was unable to attend the services at the Capitol, but the other members of the dead President’s family gathered near the casket and listened to the simple prayers, hymns and address that composed the service. The two hymns, which were special favorites of Mr. McKinley, were sung by a double quartet. Everybody was affected by the sweet music and touching words. “Lead, Kindly Light” and “Nearer, My God, to Thee” seemed to have deeper significance as the strains of the well-known tunes rang through that vast rotunda and were re-echoed from the lofty dome. [355][356]
     There was a profusion of floral gifts in all forms of magnificent and costly flowers, sent from all parts of the country and expressing the love, affection and esteem of representatives of all governments, organizations and bodies of men. The railing about the rotunda was lined with exquisite floral pieces, while the flag-draped casket was banked with some of the finest wreaths and designs.
     The funeral services were simple and beautiful. They were of the form prescribed in the Methodist Church. Two hymns, a prayer, an address and a benediction comprised all of it, yet the impression left at the end was of perfection.
     When the noise occasioned by seating the late-comers had ceased a hush fell upon the people and then the choir softly sang “Lead, Kindly Light,” Bishop Newman’s divine anthem, while every one stood in reverence. At the conclusion of the hymn Rev. Dr. Henry R. Naylor, presiding elder of the Washington District M. E. Church, delivered the invocation, while the distinguished company listened with bowed heads.
     As the pastor ceased the voices of the choir swelled forth, and the rich, pure soprano notes of a soloist led the hymn “Some Time We’ll Understand.” The music was remarkably effective and touching as the notes came back in soft echoes from the fulness of the dome overhead. As soon as the hymn ceased Bishop Edward G. Andrews, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, who had come from Ohio to say the last words over the remains of his lifelong friend and parishioner, arose. He stood at the head of the casket and spoke in sympathetic voice and with many evidences of deep emotion.
     As the bishop concluded every one in the vast rotunda rose and, the choir intoning the air, hundreds of voices joined in the grand old hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”
     The last notes died away softly, and with uplifted hands the benediction was pronounced by Rev. Dr. W. H. Chapman, acting pastor of the Metropolitan Church. This ended the religious service. [356][357]


     ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord, who of His abundant mercy hath begotten us again into a lively hope by the resurrection of Christ from the dead, to an inheritance uncorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in Heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.’
     “The services for the dead are fitly and almost of necessity services of religion and of immortal hope. In the presence of the shroud, and the coffin, and the narrow home, questions concerning intellectual quality, concerning public station, concerning great achievements, sink into comparative insignificance, and questions concerning character and man’s relation to the Lord and giver of life, even the life eternal, emerge to our view and impress themselves upon us.


     “Character abides. We bring nothing into this world, we can carry nothing out. We ourselves depart with all the accumulations of tendency, and habit, and quality which the years have given to us. We ask, therefore, even at the grave of the illustrious, not altogether what great achievement they had performed, and how they had commended themselves to the memory and affection or respect of the world, but chiefly of what sort they were; what the interior nature of the man was; what were his affinities. Were they with the good, the true, the noble? What his relation to the Lord of the universe and to the compassionate Saviour of mankind; what his fitness for that great hereafter to which he had passed.
     “And such great questions come to us with moment, even in the hour when we gather around the bier of those whom we profoundly respect and eulogize and whom we tenderly love. In the years to come, the days and the months that lie immediately before us will give full utterance as to the high statesmanship and great achievements of the illustrious man whom we mourn to-day. We [357][358] shall not touch them to-day. The nation already has broken out in its tears, and is still pouring them, over the loss of a beloved man. It is well.


     “But we ask this morning of what sort this man is, so that we may, perhaps, knowing the moral and spiritual life that is past, be able to shape the far-withdrawing future. I think we must all concede that nature and training and—reverently be it said—the inspiration of the Almighty conspired to conform a man admirable in his moral temper and aims.
     “We none of us can doubt, I think, that even by nature he was eminently gifted. The kindly, calm, and equitable temperament, the kindly and generous heart, the love of justice and right, and the tendency toward faith and loyalty to unseen powers and authorities—these things must have been with him from his childhood, from his infancy; but upon them supervened the training for which he was always tenderly thankful and of which even this great nation from sea to sea continually has taken note.
     “It was a humble home in which he was born. Narrow conditions were around him; but faith in God had lifted that lowly roof, according to the statement of some great writer, up to the very heavens and permitted its inmates to behold the things eternal, immortal and divine; and he came under that training.
     “It is a beautiful thing that to the end of his life he bent reverently before that mother whose example, and teaching, and prayer had so fashioned his mind and all his aims. The school came to him but briefly, and then came to him the Church with a ministration of power. He accepted the truth which it taught.
     “He believed in God and in Jesus Christ, through whom God was revealed. He accepted the divine law of the Scripture; he based his hope on Jesus Christ, the appointed and only Redeemer of men; and the Church, beginning its operation upon his character at an early period of his life, continued even to its close to mould him. He waited attentively upon its ministrations. [358][359]
     “He gladly partook with his brethren of the symbols of mysterious passion and redeeming love of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was helpful in all of those beneficences and activities; and from the Church, to the close of his life, he received inspiration that lifted him above much of the trouble and weakness incident to our human nature, and, blessings be to God, may we say, in the last and final hour they enabled him confidently, tenderly, to say, ‘It is His will, not ours, that will be done.’


     “Such influences gave to us William McKinley. And what was he? A man of incorruptible, personal and political integrity. I suppose no one ever attempted to approach him in the way of a bribe; and we remember, with great felicitation at this time, for such an example to ourselves, that when great financial difficulties and perils encompassed him he determined to deliver all he possessed to his creditors, that there should be no challenge of his perfect honesty in the matter. A man of immaculate purity, shall we say? No stain was upon his escutcheon; no syllable of suspicion that I ever heard was whispered against his character. He walked in perfect and noble self-control.
     “Beyond that, this man had somehow wrought in him—I suppose upon the foundations of a very happily constructed nature—a great and generous love for his fellow-men. He believed in men. He had himself been brought up among the common people. He knew their labors, struggles, necessities. He loved them; but I think beyond that it was to the Church and its teachings concerning the fatherhood of God and universal brotherhood of man that he was indebted for that habit of kindness, for that generosity of spirit, that was wrought into his very substance and became him so that, though he was of all men most courteous, no one ever supposed but that courtesy was from the heart. It was spontaneous, unaffected, kindly, attractive, in a most eminent degree. [359][360]
     “What he was in the narrower circle of those to whom he was personally attached I think he was also in the greatness of his comprehensive love toward the race of which he was part. If any man had been lifted up to take into his purview and desire to help all classes and conditions of men, all nationalities beside his own, it was this man.


     “Shall I speak a word next of that which I will hardly advert to—the tenderness of that domestic love which has so often been commented upon? I pass it with only that word. I take it that no words can set forth fully the unfaltering kindness and carefulness and upbearing love which belonged to this great man.
     “And he was a man who believed in right, who had a profound conviction that the courses of this world must be ordered in accordance with everlasting righteousness, or this world’s highest point of good will never be reached; that no nation can expect success in life except as it conforms to the eternal will of the Infinite Lord and pass itself in individual and collective activity according to that Divine Will. It was deeply ingrained in him that righteousness was the perfection of any man and of any people. Simplicity belonged to him. I need not dwell upon it, and I close the statement of these qualities by saying that underlying all and overreaching all and penetrating all there was a profound loyalty to God, the great King of the universe, the Author of all good, the Eternal hope of all that trust in Him.


     “And now, may I say further that it seems to me that to whatever we may attribute all the illustriousness of this man, all the greatness of his achievements—whatever of that we may attribute to his intellectual character and quality, whatever of it we may attribute to the patient and thorough study which he gave to the various questions thrust upon him for attention, for all his successes as a politician, as a stateman, as a man of this great [360][361] country, those successes were largely due to the moral qualities of which I have spoken.
     “They drew to him the hearts of men everywhere, and particularly of those who best knew him. They called to his side helpers in every exigency of his career, so that when his future was at one time likely to have been imperiled and utterly ruined by his financial conditions, they who had resources, for the sake of helping a man who had in him such qualities, came to his side and put him on the high road of additional and larger successes.


     “His high qualities drew to him the good-will of his associates in political life in an eminent degree. They believed in him, felt his kindness, confided in his honesty and in his honor. His qualities even associated with him in kindly relations those who were his political opponents. They made it possible for him to enter that land with which he, as one of the soldiers of the Union, had been in some sort at war and to draw closer the tie that was to bind all the parts in one firmer and indissoluble union.
     “They commanded the confidence of the great body of Congress, so that they listened to his plans and accepted kindly and hopefully and trustfully all his declarations. His qualities gave him reputation, not in this land alone but throughout the world, and made it possible for him to minister in the style in which he has within the last two or three years ministered to the welfare and peace of human kind.
     “It was out of the profound depths of his moral and religious character that came the possibilities of that usefulness which we are all glad to attribute to him. And will such a man die? Is it possible that He who created, redeemed, transformed, uplifted, illumined such a man will permit him to fall into oblivion? The instincts of immortality are in all good men. The Divine Word of the Scripture leaves us no room for doubt. ‘I,’ said One whom he trusted, ‘am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth [361][362] in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.’


     “Lost to us, but not to his God. Lost from earth, but entered Heaven. Lost from these labors and toils and perils, but entered into the everlasting peace and ever-advancing progress. Blessed be God who gives us this hope in this hour of calamity and enables us to triumph through Him who hath redeemed us.
     “If there is a personal immortality before him, let us also rejoice that there is an immortality and memory in the hearts of a large and ever-growing people who, through the ages to come, the generations that are yet to be, will look back upon this life, upon its nobility and purity and service to humanity and thank God for it.
     “The years draw on when his name shall be counted among the illustrious of the earth. William of Orange is not dead. Cromwell is not dead. Washington lives in the hearts and lives of his countrymen. Lincoln, with his infinite sorrow, lives to teach us and lead us on. And McKinley shall summon all statesmen and all his countrymen to purer living, nobler aims, sweeter faith and immortal blessedness.”



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