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Source: History of the United States
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “Mr. McKinley’s End” [chapter 19]
Author(s): Andrews, E. Benjamin
Volume number: 5
Publisher: Charles Scribner’s Sons
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: 1903
Pagination: 359-81

Andrews, E. Benjamin. “Mr. McKinley’s End” [chapter 19]. History of the United States. Vol. 5. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1903: pp. 359-81.
full text of chapter; excerpt of book
McKinley assassination; William McKinley (death); William McKinley (political character); William McKinley (presidential character); Leon Czolgosz; anarchism.
Named persons
James G. Blaine; Andrew Carnegie; Grover Cleveland; Leon Czolgosz; Edward VII; James A. Garfield; Emma Goldman; Charles J. Guiteau; Marcus Hanna; George F. Hoar; Thomas Jonathan Jackson; Fitzhugh Lee; Robert E. Lee; Abraham Lincoln; Ida McKinley; William McKinley; John G. Milburn; Theodore Roosevelt; William M. Stewart; Joseph Wheeler.
No text appears in this chapter on pages 361-62 and 367-68. Pages 362 and 368 are blank pages; the other pages contain photographs.

This chapter includes photographs captioned as follows: “President McKinley at Niagara—Ascending the stairs from Luna Island, to Goat Island” (p. 361), “The last photograph of the late President McKinley. Taken as he was ascending the steps of the Temple of Music, September 6, 1901” (p. 363), “The Milburn Residence, where President McKinley died—Buffalo, N. Y. ” (p. 365), “Ascending the Capitol steps at Washington, D. C., where the casket lay in state in the Rotunda” (p. 367), “President McKinley’s Remains Passing the United States Treasury, Washington, D. C.” (p. 372), “The Home of William McKinley, at Canton, Ohio” (p. 376), and “Interior of room in Milburn House where Theodore Roosevelt took the oath of Presidency” (p. 380). A photograph of McKinley appears on the book’s frontispiece.

From title page: History of the United States: From the Earliest Discovery of America to the End of 1902.

From title page: With 550 Illustrations and Maps.

From title page: By E. Benjamin Andrews, Chancellor of the University of Nebraska, Formerly President of Brown University.


Mr. McKinley’s End

     UPON invitation President and Mrs. McKinley visited the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo. September 5, 1901, the first day of his presence, the Chief Magistrate delivered an address, memorable both as a sagacious survey of public affairs and as indicating a modification of his well-known tariff opinions in the direction of freer commercial intercourse with foreign nations.
     “We must not,” he said, “repose in fancied security that we can forever sell everything and buy little or nothing.” . . . “The period of exclusiveness is past.” . . . “Reciprocity treaties are in harmony with the spirit of the times; measures of retaliation are not.” . . . “If perchance some of our tariffs are no longer needed for revenue or to encourage and protect our industries at [359][360] home, why should they not be employed to extend and promote our markets abroad?” In connection with this thought the President expressed his conviction that we must encourage our merchant marine and, in the same commercial interest, construct a Pacific cable and an Isthmian canal.
     The projects of Mr. McKinley’s statesmanship thus announced were approved by nearly the entire public, but they were destined to be carried out by other hands. On his second day at Buffalo, Friday, September 6th, about four in the afternoon, the President stood in the beautiful Temple of Music receiving the hundreds who filed past to shake hands with him. A sinister fellow, resembling an Italian, tarried suspiciously, and was pushed forward by the Secret Service attendants. Next behind him followed a boyish-looking workman, his right hand swathed in a handkerchief. As the first made way Mr. McKinley extended his hand to the young man’s unencumbered left. The next instant the bandaged right arm raised itself and two shots rang on the air. The President staggered back into [360][363] the arms of a bystander, while his treacherous assailant was borne to the floor.
     Grievously wounded as he was in breast and in stomach, the President’s first thoughts were for others. He requested that the news be broken gently to Mrs. McKinley, and, it [363][364] was said, expressed regret that the occurrence would be an injury to the exposition. As cries of “Lynch him” arose from the maddened crowd, the stricken chief urged those about him to see that no hurt befel the assassin. The latter was speedily secured in prison to await the result of his black deed, while President McKinley was without delay conveyed to the Emergency Hospital, where his wounds were dressed.
     Except for continued weakness and rapid heart action, the symptoms during the early days of the succeeding week gave strong hopes of the patient’s recovery. At the home of Mr. Milburn, President of the exposition, whose guest he was, President McKinley received the tenderest care and most skilful treatment. So far allayed was anxiety that the Cabinet officers left Buffalo, while Vice-President Roosevelt betook himself to a sequestered part of the Adirondacks. The President himself, vigorous and naturally sanguine, did not give up till Friday, a week from the date of his injury.
     Upon that day his condition became alarm- [364][365] ing. The digestive organs abdicated their functions, nourishment even by injection became impossible, traces of septic poison were manifest. By night the world knew that McKinley was a dying man. In the evening he regained consciousness and bade farewell to those about him. “Good-by, [365][366] good-by, all; it is God’s way; His will be done.” The murmured words came from his lips, “Nearer, my God, to Thee; e’en tho’ it be a cross that raiseth me.”
     At the early morning hour of 2.45, Saturday, September 14th, the rest which is deeper than any sleep came to the sufferer. The autopsy showed that death was due to gangrene of the tissues in the path of the wound, the system having failed to repair the ravages of the bullet that had entered the abdomen.
     The next Monday morning, after a simple funeral ceremony at the Milburn mansion, the remains were reverently borne to the Buffalo City Hall, where, till midnight, mourning columns filed past the catafalque. The body lay in state under the Capitol rotunda at Washington for a day, and was borne thence, hardly a moment out of hearing of solemn bells or out of sight of half-masted flags and dumb, mourning multitudes, to the old home at Canton, Ohio. Here the late Chief Magistrate’s fellow-townsmen, his old army comrades, and other thousands [366][369] joined the procession to the cemetery or tearfully lined the streets as it passed.
     On the day of the interment, September 19th, appropriate exercises, attended by enormous concourses of people, occurred all over the country, and even in foreign parts. In hardly an American town of size could a single building contain the crowd, overflow meetings being necessary, filling several churches or halls. Special commemorative services were held in Westminster Cathedral by King Edward’s orders.
     No king was ever honored by obsequies so widespread or more sincere. Messages of condolence poured in upon the widow from the four quarters of the globe. Business was suspended. For five minutes telegraph clicks and cable flashes ceased, and for ten minutes, upon many lines of railway and street railway, every wheel stood still.
     None but the rash undertook, at once after his lamented decease, to assign President McKinley’s name to its exact altitude on the roll of America’s illustrious men. Ar- [369][370] dent eulogists spoke of him as beside the nation’s greatest statesman, Lincoln, while his most pronounced opponents in life accorded him very high honor. During his career he had been accused of opportunism, of inconsistency, of partiality to the moneyed interests of the country. His views of great public questions underwent change. One of his altered attitudes, much remarked upon, that concerning silver, involved, as pointed out in the last chapter, no change of essential principle. In regard to protection he at last swung to Blaine’s position favoring reciprocity, which, as author of the McKinley Bill, he had been understood to oppose; but it should be remembered that his final utterances on the subject contemplated an industrial situation very different from that prevalent during his early years in politics. The United States had become a mighty exporter of manufactured products, competing effectively with England, Germany, and France in the sale of such everywhere in the world.
     American material supplied in large part [370][371] the Russian Trans-Siberian Railroad. American food-stuffs and meats wakened agrarian frenzy in Germany. The island-hive of England buzzed loudly with jealous foreboding lest America capture her world-markets. From an average of close to $163,000,000 annually from 1887 to 1897 United States exports of manufactured products reached in 1898 over $290,000,000, in 1899 over $339,000,000, in 1900 nearly $434,000,000, and in 1901, $412,000,000. As coal-producer the United States at last led Britain, American tin-plate reached Wales itself, American locomotives the English colonies and even the mother-country, while boots and shoes from our factories ruled the markets of West Australia and South Africa. For bridge and viaduct construction in British domains American bids heavily undercut British bids both in price and in time limit.
     His progressive insight into the tariff question betrayed Mr. McKinley’s mental activity and hospitality, as his final deliverances thereupon exhibited fearlessness. None knew better than he that what he said at Buffalo would [371][372] be challenged by many in the name of party orthodoxy. Even greater firmness was manifest when, at in earlier date, speaking at Savannah, he ranked Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson as among America’s “great” sons. With this brave tribute should be mentioned his commendable nomination of [372][373] the ex-Confederate Generals Fitz-Hugh Lee and Joseph Wheeler as Major-Generals in the United States Army. Such words and deeds showed skilled leadership also. Each was fittingly timed so as best to escape or fend criticism and so as to impress the public deeply.
     Not a little of Mr. McKinley’s apparent vacillation and of his complaisance toward men and interests representing wealth was due to an endowment of exquisite finesse which stooped to conquer, which led by seeming to follow, or by yielding an inch took an ell. In him was rooted by inheritance a quick sense of the manufacturer’s point of view, for his father and grandfather had been iron-furnace men, and a certain conservative instinct, characteristic of his party, which deemed the counsel of broadcloth wiser than the clamor of rags, and equally patriotic withal. Notwithstanding this, history cannot but pronounce McKinley’s love of country, his whole Americanism, in fact, as sincere, sturdy, and democratic as Abraham Lincoln’s. [373][374]
     Mr. McKinley’s power and breadth as a statesman were greatly augmented by the responsibilities of the presidency. Before his accession to that exalted office he had helped devise but one great public measure, the McKinley Bill, and his speeches upon his chosen theme, protection, were more earnest than varied or profound. But witness the largeness of view marking the directions of April 7, 1900, to the Taft Philippine Commission: “The Commission should bear in mind that the government which they are establishing is designed not for our satisfaction or for the expression of our theoretical views, but for the happiness, peace, and prosperity of the people of the Philippine Islands, and the measures adopted should be made to conform to their customs, their habits, and even their prejudices, to the fullest extent consistent with the accomplishment of the indispensable requisites of just and effective government.”
     Most of President McKinley’s appointments were wise; several of the most important ones quite remarkably so. He man- [374][375] aged discreetly in crises. He saw the whole of a situation as few statesmen have done, penetrating to details and obscure aspects, which others, even experts, had overlooked. During the Spanish War his advice was always wise and helpful, and at points vital. Courteous to all foreign powers, and falling into no spectacular jangles with any, he was obsequious to none. No other ruler, party to intervention in China during the Boxer rebellion in 1900, acted there so sanely, or withdrew with so creditable a record.
     What made it certain that Mr. McKinley’s name would be forever remembered with honor was not merely or mainly the fact that his administration marked a great climacteric in our national career. His intimates in office and in public life unanimously testified that in shaping the nation’s new destiny he played an active and not a passive rôle. He dominated his cabinet, diligently attending to the advice each member offered, but by no means always following it. Party bosses seeking to lead him were themselves led, [375][376] oftenest without being aware of it, to accomplish his wishes.
     As a practical politician in the better sense of the word McKinley was a master. Repeatedly, at critical junctures, he saved his following from rupture, while the opposition became an impotent rout. Hardly a contrast in American political warfare has been more striking than the pitiful demoralization of the Democracy in the campaign of 1900 [376][377] compared with the closed ranks and solid front of the Republican array. Anti-imperialists like Carnegie and Hoar, silver men like Senator Stewart, and the low-tariff Republicans of the West united to hold aloft the McKinley banner.
     The result was not due, as some fancied, to Mr. Hanna. Nor did it mean that there was no discord among Republicans, for there was much. The discipline proceeded from the candidate’s influence, from his harmonizing personal leadership. This he exercised not through oratory, for he had none of the tricks of speech, not even the knack of story-telling, but by the mere force of his will and his wisdom.
     Mr. McKinley’s private character was pure, exemplary, and noble. His life-long devotion to an invalid wife; his fidelity to his friends; the charm, consideration, and tact of his demeanor toward every one; and, above all, the Christian sublimity of his last days created at once a foundation and a crown for his fame.
     Ex-President Cleveland said: “You will [377][378] constantly hear as accounting for Mr. McKinley’s great success that he was obedient and affectionate as a son, patriotic and faithful as a soldier, honest and upright as a citizen, tender and devoted as a husband, and truthful, generous, unselfish, moral, and clean in every relation of life. He never thought of those things as too weak for his manliness.”
     A special grand jury forthwith indicted the assassin, who, talking freely enough with his guards, refused all intercourse with the attorneys assigned to defend him, and with the expert sent to test his sanity. He was promptly placed upon trial, convicted, sentenced, and executed, all without any of the unseemly incidents attending the trial of Guiteau after Garfield’s assassination. No heed was given to those who, some of them from pulpits, fulminated anarchy as bad as that of the anarchists by demanding that Czolgosz be lynched. These prompt but perfectly orderly and dispassionate proceedings were a great credit to the State of New York.
     Leon Czolgosz, the murderer of President McKinley, was born in this country, of [378][379] Russian-Polish parentage, in 1875. He received some education, was apprenticed to a blacksmith in Detroit, and later employed in Cleveland and in Chicago. At the time of his crime he had been working in a Cleveland wire mill. It was said that at Cleveland he had heard Emma Goldman deliver an anarchist address, and that this inspired his fell purpose. It was suspected that he was the tool of an anarchist plot, and that the man preceding him in the line when he shot the President was an accomplice, but there was no evidence that either was true. There were indications that Czolgosz had made overtures to the anarchists and been rejected as a spy. No accessories were found. Nor did the dreadful act betoken that anarchism was increasing in our country, or that any special propagandism in its favor was on. To all appearance, it stood unrelated, so far as America was concerned.
     Leon Czolgosz’s heart had caught fire from the malignant passion of red anarchy abroad, which had within seven years struck down the President of France, the Empress [379][380] of Austria, the King of Italy, and the Prime Minister of Spain. In their fanatic diabolism its devotees impartially hated government, whether despotic or free, and would, no doubt, gladly have made America, the freest of the great commonwealths, for that reason a hatching ground for their dark conspiracies. They were no less hostile to one than to the other of our political parties. The murder had no political significance, though certainly calculated to rebuke virulent editorials and cartoons in political papers, [380][381] wont to season political debate with too hot personal condiment, printed and pictorial. President McKinley had suffered from this and so had his predecessor.
     Upon such an occasion orderly government, both in the States and in the nation, reasonably sought muniment against any possible new danger from anarchy. McKinley’s own State leading, States enacted statutes denouncing penalties upon such as assailed, by either speech or act, the life or the bodily safety of any one in authority. The Federal Government followed with a similar anti-anarchist law of wide scope.
     Deeply as the country prized McKinley—and the sense of loss by his death increased with the days—Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt took over the presidency with as little jar as a military post suffers from changing guard.



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