Source: Deck and Field
Source type: book
Document type: public address
Document title: “Address before the District of Columbia Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States”
Author(s): Hackett, Frank Warren
Publisher: W. H. Lowdermilk and Company
Place of publication: Washington, DC
Year of publication: 1909
|Hackett, Frank Warren. “Address before the District of Columbia Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.” Deck and Field. Washington, DC: W. H. Lowdermilk, 1909: pp. 145-51.|
|full text of address; excerpt of book|
|Frank Warren Hackett (public addresses); William McKinley (memorial addresses); William McKinley (personal character); William McKinley.|
|Joseph R. Hawley; Abraham Lincoln; John D. Long; William McKinley; George Washington.|
|From title page: Deck and Field: Addresses before the United States Naval War College and on Commemorative Occasions.|
Address before the District of Columbia Commandery of the
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
We met here, last spring, and said good-bye to one another, looking forward to the pleasures of vacation and of distance from the city during the summer, and looking forward, also, with genuine pleasure to coming here, at the opening meeting, and grasping hands fraternally and with affection. How little did any one suspect at that meeting that this first meeting of the series would be devoted, as it is here to-night, to a subject in which our hearts well up with grief! Truly, “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.”
We must look through all the sadness,  and all the grief, and all the trouble, and see the meaning behind. As Companion Hawley said at the beginning, it is easy to speak of William McKinley. You have got to speak right out of your heart, and “tell you that which you yourselves do know,” and you speak into other men’s hearts who have the same feeling. It is nothing new you tell; and it meets with a quick response, because fortunately here, in this audience at least, we all knew William McKinley.
One of the wonderful characteristics of the man was that God gave him opportunity to come into personal contact, and into affectionate relations, with a larger number of his countrymen and countrywomen, probably, than any other American who ever lived. It was not simply that he was President of the United States, but because he had a heart that went out to every citizen of the United States, high or low.
We like, when we try to dwell in memory on the character,—and that is what lives of a man after the body has passed away,—we like to try and analyze that character, and see if we can find some one salient point that seems to typify the man. When we come  to apply this process to William McKinley, we shall find that if there were one quality he exhibited above all others, it was that of sincerity.
I was thinking this over, this afternoon, and walking in company with my chief, Secretary Long, who was dear, I know, to President McKinley. I spoke to him of it, and I asked him if it were not so, that there were two characteristics of our late President which were very marked—the one simplicity and the other sincerity. “Yes,” said the Secretary to me; “but are not those two the same thing?” I reflected a moment, and I replied, “Yes.” It is the sincere man who is simple—simple in his character and simple in the expression of that character to others. He told me—and he had a right to tell me because of his friendship with the President, for no man knew him better—that I was right in attributing to him as a predominating trait that most excellent quality of sincerity.
Now, William McKinley—and many of you here knew him as well, and some of you better, than I—had this peculiar habit: When you went to him, aside from business,  and even on business, you found very quickly that he was turning the subject from himself to you. Almost the first question he put to you was regarding yourself and your dearest interests; and that was spontaneous and natural with him, because he was a man who found his happiness in making others happy.
I suppose that we have never had in public life a man who exemplified that trait as President McKinley did. This curious result has followed: I think if you talk about President McKinley to any man who knew him, that man will, you shall find, venture to believe that somehow the President was a little closer to him than to anybody else. I believe he impressed you, when you were with him, with that feeling. It was not an illusion; it was born of the relations which existed at that time between you and him; he had so loving a heart.
Now this I am sure is not mere sentiment. It is true, genuine, and real; and that very thing, it seems to me, in the character of William McKinley is bequeathed to his countrymen as a precious legacy, that will be fruitful of good to this country for years and years to come. 
Just think of the influence, upon the country at large, of the death-scene, which has been spoken of so feelingly by those who have preceded me. The last words, or almost the last words, of that man were “Good-bye”—not that alone—“Good-bye all! ” That little word; how significant! It took in everybody, and everybody in the land felt that he was thought of by the President in that supreme moment.
The other day, as I was passing near the White House, I saw one of the faithful attendants coming along, grief depicted in his countenance, and I shook hands with him for the second time (for I had done it only a few days before), and sympathized with him. I spoke to him of these words. His face lighted up, and he said: “That was the remark that the President made to all of us when he left the White House.” So I infer that it was a common remark with him. But how beautiful at such a time was that one word “all.” It was typical of the man’s nature.
I see placed here on these walls most appropriately pictures of the three great Americans on whom we shall rely in future  generations as exemplifying the best traits of the American people. How dissimilar, and yet how alike are they! Washington—and the interesting fact in regard to Washington is that we to-day know him better than our forefathers did. The real Washington is depicted to us as he was not to them; Washington, who seems to have been selected by Divine Providence to bring this country out of its trials and place upon a firm foundation a free people.
Then Lincoln, that wonderful man with an infinite fund of practical sense, yet with a vein of poetry and womanly tenderness in him; a strange mixture, raised up at that period; the only man, probably, who could have guided us through those perilous times. It would seem as though Washington and Lincoln had exhausted all those qualities of greatness possible to Americans, as their countrys representatives in the chair of the Presidency.
And then the face of McKinley!
It was the fortune of William McKinley, strangely enough (for there were no signs of it when he entered upon his office), to guide this country through the perils of  another war. He was at the head of the government; a peril greater than war confronted this country, for a new departure had come upon us. The wisdom and the capacity, the patience and the practical good sense that characterized every act of his proves that he was the right man in the right place, though the time has not, perhaps, come yet when we fully understand it.
Had McKinley living gone out of office, it would have been to look back upon a remarkably successful and wise administration. God willed that it should not be thus—that there should be the story of his wonderful death. In generations to come those scenes will be rehearsed. Nothing can ever surpass the heroism, the Christian fortitude, the thoughtfulness and unselfishness with which William McKinley met his fate, and passed from this world to another.