Source: The Life and Speeches of Hon. Charles Warren Fairbanks
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “The Assassination of President McKinley” [chapter 11]
Author(s): Smith, William Henry
Publisher: Wm. B. Burford
Place of publication: Indianapolis, Indiana
Year of publication: 1904
|Smith, William Henry. “The Assassination of President McKinley” [chapter 11]. The Life and Speeches of Hon. Charles Warren Fairbanks. Indianapolis: Wm. B. Burford, 1904: pp. 154-61.|
|full text of chapter; excerpt of book|
|Charles W. Fairbanks; McKinley assassination; McKinley assassination (personal response); Charles W. Fairbanks (public statements); Charles W. Fairbanks (public addresses); William McKinley (memorial addresses); William McKinley; William McKinley (political character).|
|Charles W. Fairbanks; Marcus Hanna; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley.|
From title page: The Life and Speeches of Hon. Charles Warren Fairbanks, Republican Candidate for Vice-President.
From title page: By William Henry Smith, Author of History of Indiana.
The Assassination of President McKinley
IN 1900 President McKinley was nominated and elected to succeed
himself. The intimacy and friendship between the Senator and the President continually
increased, and so highly did the President regard the abilities of his Indiana
friend that he gave him notice that it was his intention in the near future
to invite him into his Cabinet. On the sixth day of September, 1901, a terrible
blow fell upon the American people, and for the third time within a third of
a century an American President was stricken down by the hand of an assassin.
This great calamity touched all Americans. It was a blow at law and order.
For six years Mr. Fairbanks had been on terms of the closest intimacy with Mr. McKinley. The President relied much on the judgment and sagacity of the Senator; the Senator had an exalted estimate of the ability and patriotism of the President. Under these circumstances the blow fell with peculiar force on Senator Fairbanks. To the nation it was the President who had been slain; to Senator Fair-  banks it was a loved friend. When the bullet of the assassin had found its mark all thought the end had come, but a few days later it was announced that the stricken President would recover. Senator Fairbanks had been at the bedside of his friend and chief, but when this cheering word from the surgeons was received he left Buffalo to fulfill an engagement to address a Thanksgiving service of the Grand Army of the Republic at Cleveland, Ohio, to be presided over by Senator Hanna. That great body of patriotic men, who had served their country on the field of battle in the hour of the country’s direst need, held a Thanksgiving service over the announcement that the President was to yet live. Senator Fairbanks paid a glowing tribute to the character of the President, and said:
“Fellow citizens, it is a source of gratification to know that in the solution and settlement of the great problems and great questions which are yet pending before the American people, undetermined, we shall have the wise statesmanship of William McKinley. We not only want him, and wish him to live for that, but we wish him to live as the American people wished that Abraham Lincoln might live, until he can see the full fruition of his administration, and live many years to receive the grateful homage of a grateful republic. . . . . My friends, let us retire to our homes with a profounder reverence for law and order; let us return to our  homes and continue at the fireside our supplication to the Allwise [sic] Ruler that He speed the hour when the brave President of the United States will leave his bed of pain and walk again among the people he loves so well, in the full possession of his health and his magnificent manhood.”
Hardly had these words died away on the air when the startling news came that the great President was dead. The country was shrouded in grief, and all the nations of the earth joined America in mourning over the awful crime.
In October, 1901, he addressed a campfire of the Sixty-ninth Indiana and paid a tribute to the memory of the late President, and thus spoke of the crime that took from the country its Chief Executive:
“I speak only the truth when I say that when the tragedy occurred at Buffalo Democrats and Republicans felt that a crime had been committed against them each alike. It seems yet like a horrid nightmare. What had this man done to deserve such a fate? One of the kindest, one of the bravest, and one of the best. . . . . The blow was not struck alone at him; it was a blow struck at the state. Anarchy! What a hated word! Anarchists—how at war with all our conceptions of right, of orderly government! Anarchists! There is no room in this Republic, great and splendid as it is, for anarchy! The red flag must go down in the face  of the Stars and Stripes! The anarchist is the enemy of all governments, monarchial and republican alike. There ought to be treaties between the various governments in the civilized world leaving no spot for anarchy to place its foot short of perdition itself.”
President McKinley worshiped at the Metropolitan Methodist Church at Washington, and a few months after his death a tablet to his memory was placed in the church. On that occasion Senator Fairbanks was one of the speakers. His short speech was a generous tribute to the worth of the martyred President. Because of its correct estimate of the character of Mr. McKinley, and because it evidences the sincere feeling and affection of the Senator, it is reproduced here:
“My friends, we are met to perform a most gracious service—to dedicate here, in this house of God, a tablet to one of the few names that was born to never die. We stand upon ground made sacred by the presence of William McKinley. Unto this shrine the Christians will come in the unnumbered years before us and derive new hope and inspiration. It seems but yesterday that our friend occupied yonder pew, brave, strong, in the very plenitude of power, the most beloved of our fellow-men. We can yet almost hear his voice as it was raised in song and thanksgiving. Here he came upon the Sabbath day to pay tribute to his Maker, for he was a sincere believer in religion, a devout Christian and a doer  of Christian deeds. He not only taught but carried the great truths into every act and deed of his life.
“It was here he found solace from the great and arduous responsibilities which rested upon him, and drew courage and inspiration to meet and discharge them. It does not seem that it was but a few months ago, less than one brief year, that our friend was here. It is, indeed, but a short time, measured by the calendar, but measured by events how long it is. What mighty events have come and gone; how the great heart of the nation has been wrung with an uncommon sorrow. The tragedy at Buffalo was the master crime of the new century. We could not at first believe the awful truth—it was so unnatural. We stood bereft of speech. Who could be so dead to all sense of pity as to strike down one who so loved his fellow-men? About us everywhere were the ample evidences of peace. Sectional differences were dead; a fraternal spirit was everywhere, and under the guidance of our great President we were moving on to a splendid national destiny.
“The theme which this occasion suggests is a great one—too vast for the brief hour in which we are assembled. There is in all the world nothing so great and beneficent as a good name. It raises our poor humanity to a more exalted plane. It lifts us into an ‘ampler ether and diviner air.’ William McKinley was, in the fullest and best sense of the word, ‘of the people.’ He rose by the force of his genius  from an humble beginning to stand among the greatest of men. He sought to interpret the public will, knowing full well that the wisdom of the people is unerring, that their voice is indeed the voice of Almighty God. He inspired confidence among men in the integrity of his purpose and in the wisdom of his policies. He was a total stranger to arts by which weaker men seek to attain place and power. He did not attempt to rise upon men; he preferred to rise with them. His mind and heart were filled with no shadow of hate; the sunshine of love, affection and human sympathy filled them to overflowing. He was in the truest and best sense a patriot. He gave the best years of his life—he gave life itself to his country. . . . . In the National House of Representatives he won enduring fame by his intelligent service and complete consecration to the interests of his fellow-men. His every act was characterized by a high conception of his exalted trust. When summoned by the voice of his countrymen to the chief office in the Republic he entered upon its grave and difficult duties with a full consciousness of the tremendous responsibility that rested upon him. He reverently invoked wisdom from on high that he might well discharge the task that had come to him.
“When others sought to plunge the Nation into war he stood against it with all his power. He abhorred it, although knowing full well that victory  must crown our arms if war should come, and that the prestige of his name would fill the earth. He thought not of that, but of the loss and suffering the war must bring. And not until all pacific means had been exhausted and the national honor commanded did he consent that his country should draw the sword. When obliged to strike he struck rapidly and with terrific power, and upon the ruins of monarchy he planted republican institutions.
“The multitude will come and look on yonder tablet and in time it will crumble away. Monuments will arise throughout the land and disappear. Canvas will seek to perpetuate and be forgotten, but the name of our friend will live. His enduring tribute will be found in the hearts of the people so long as this great Republic endures. Long after we have lived our brief hour and the physical monuments we have raised have been resolved into the dust, the pure, patriotic and holy influence of William McKinley will continue to be an inspiration and benediction among men.”
So well was the intimate friendship that existed between the Senator and the President known that on several occasions where a tribute was to be paid to the memory of the President Mr. Fairbanks was invited to deliver an address. The most notable of these occasions was the unveiling of the McKinley monument at Toledo, Ohio, on September 14, 1903. On that occasion the Senator delivered an elaborate  address in which he reviewed the life and public services of Mr. McKinley. The soldier, the man, the Representative in Congress, the Governor, the President, all passed in review before the audience. It was not alone the tribute of an eulogist, but the tribute of one acute mind to the public services of another. As a citizen Mr. Fairbanks had lost his President; as a party man he had lost his political chief; as a friend he had lost a brother; and in paying his great tribute at Toledo to the dead he spoke as a citizen and a friend, but not as a party man.