Publication information
view printer-friendly version
Source: The History of the United States: From 1492 to 1910
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “The Twentieth Century” [chapter 38]
Author(s): Hawthorne, Julian
Volume number: 3
Publisher: P. F. Collier and Son
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: 1910
Pagination: 1122-70 (excerpt below includes only pages 1133-35)

Hawthorne, Julian. “The Twentieth Century” [chapter 38]. The History of the United States: From 1492 to 1910. Vol. 3. New York: P. F. Collier and Son, 1910: pp. 1122-70.
excerpt of chapter
McKinley assassination.
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; James A. Garfield; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt.


The Twentieth Century [excerpt]

     At the end of the summer of 1901 President McKinley, accompanied by his wife and several members of the Cabinet, visited the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo. There on September 5 he delivered a notable address permeated with his ripe political wisdom and announcing the policy of the Government under his second administration which had begun only six months before. This was a clear and sound statement of the problems involved in the new position the nation had taken in the world, and it stirred the whole people like a bugle-call, being recognized at once throughout the land as the most masterly utterance that William McKinley had ever made. The next day the civilized world was inexpressibly shocked to learn that the President had been attacked by an assassin. On September 6, while extending the hand of fellowship to all comers at a public reception in his honor in the Music Hall of the exposition, he was shot down most treacherously and wickedly by a crazy Anarchist named Czolgosz, who had journeyed from Cleveland, Ohio, for the purpose of a most dastardly murder. As the President offered his hand this animated piece of the scum of the earth fired [1133][1134] two pistol shots from under the cover of a bandage. One bullet lodged in McKinley’s breast and the other penetrated his abdomen. The first was extracted at once by the best surgeons who could be summoned quickly, and though the second bullet was not found the President rallied so well that for several days his recovery was expected. At the end of a week, however, it was found that the abdominal wound had gangrened, and early on the morning of September 14 he died, with a brave and noble resignation, uttering the words: “It is God’s way; His will be done.” For the third time, and within less than forty years, the Republic had suffered the loss of its Chief Magistrate at the hands of the assassin. President Lincoln fell a victim to the hatred rankling in the breasts of a small group of malcontents after four years of civil war. President Garfield lost his life to satisfy the personal vengeance of a disappointed office-seeker. Here, it was universally felt, was an even more sinister crime. President McKinley probably did not have a personal enemy in the world; no President before him had ever enjoyed so great a popularity throughout the land in his term of office, and the death of no other had ever been so universally mourned: in the decades since the Civil War the Republic had been welded into an unbreakable union, and under his administration the process of unification had become complete. The weak-brained Anarchist who murdered this good man, a man whose political opponents promptly joined with his political associates in bearing tribute to “the broad kindliness of his nature, the sweetness and gentleness of his character,” had no personal grievance against President McKinley; the blow was aimed not at this President, but at all presidents; at the great symbol of government; at the very reign of law itself. But its result, beyond the death of a good man widely loved by his fellows, was only the strengthening of the Government assailed. The very law which this wretched fool defied was at once invoked to save him from being torn to pieces by the people who had wit- [1134][1135] nessed his crime. In no sense was the deed of this Anarchist committed on behalf of any part of the people against the Government—which was obliged at the moment to exert its police power to save him from instant death at the hands of the people—and that deed did not cause any dislocation in the American governmental system. Upon the death of McKinley, Vice-president Roosevelt became President, taking the oath of office at Buffalo on the day President McKinley died. He retained the Cabinet of his predecessor and at once announced his determination to continue unaltered the late President’s policy of administration.



top of page