Source: Presidents of the United States from Pierce to McKinley
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “President William McKinley (Concluded)” [chapter 28]
Author(s): Marquis, T. G.
Publisher: Linscott Publishing Company
Place of publication: Toronto, Canada
Year of publication: 1907
Pagination: 455-68 (excerpt below includes only pages 462-68)
|Marquis, T. G. “President William McKinley (Concluded)” [chapter 28]. Presidents of the United States from Pierce to McKinley. Toronto: Linscott, 1907: pp. 455-68.|
|excerpt of chapter|
|William McKinley (last public address); McKinley assassination; William McKinley (death).|
|John Bright; Richard Cobden; George B. Cortelyou; Leon Czolgosz; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt.|
|From title page: By T. G. Marquis, Author of “Stories of New France,” “Marguerite de Roberval,” “Life of Earl Roberts,” Etc.|
President William McKinley (Concluded) [excerpt]
The summer rapidly drew to a close
with continued and increasing prosperity. The factories were producing for a
ready market, the fields were heavy with grain, the whole land was rejoicing.
The great Pan-American Exposition was being held in Buffalo, and in September
a President’s Day was appointed, and the President to encourage the enterprise
of the promoters of the Exposition journeyed to Buffalo, and on September 5,
delivered what was in many respects the greatest speech of his life. His address
on that day had about it an epigrammatic force, a sincerity that is usually
lacking in speeches on such occasions. It was the utterance of a man with lofty
ideals, the most Christian ruler that the world has yet seen.
“Expositions,” he said, “are the time-keepers of progress. They record the world’s advancement. They stimulate the energy, enterprise and intellect of the people and quicken human genius. They go into the home. They broaden and brighten the daily life of the people. They open mighty store-houses of information to the student. Every Exposition, great or small, has helped to some onward step. Comparison of ideas is always educational, and as such instructs the brain and hand of man. Friendly rivalry follows, which is the spur to industrial improvement, the inspiration to useful invention and to high endeavour in all departments of human activity. It exacts a study of the wants, comforts, and even the whims of the people, and recognises the efficacy of high quality and new prices to win their favour. The quest for trade is an incentive to men  of business to devise, invent, improve, and economise in the cost of production. Business life, whether among ourselves or with other people, is ever a sharp struggle for success. It will be none the less so in the future. Without competition we would be clinging to the clumsy and antiquated processes of farming and manufacture and the methods of business of long ago, and the twentieth would be no further advanced than the eighteenth century. But though commercial competitors we are, commercial enemies we must not be. . . . . . This portion of the earth has no cause for humiliation for the part it has performed in the march of civilisation. It has not accomplished everything; far from it. It has simply done its best; and without vanity or boastfulness, and recognising the manifold achievements of others, it invites the friendly rivalry of all the Powers in the peaceful pursuits of trade and commerce, and will cooperate with all in advancing the highest and best interests of humanity. The wisdom and energy of all the nations are none too great for the world’s work. The success of art, science, industry, and invention is an international asset, and a common glory. After all, how near one to the other is every part of the world! Modern inventions have brought into close relation widely separated people and made them better acquainted. Geographic and political divisions will continue to exist, but distances have been effaced. Swift ships and fast trains are becoming cosmopolitan. They invade fields which a few years ago were impenetrable. The world’s products are exchanged as never before, and with increasing transportation facilities come increasing knowledge and larger trade. . . . . .
“Isolation is no longer possible or desirable.  The same important news is read, though in different languages, the same day in all Christendom. The telegraph keeps us advised of what is occurring everywhere, and the press foreshadows, with more or less accuracy, the plans and purposes of the nation. . . . . .
“At the beginning of the nineteenth century there was not a mile of steel railroad on the globe; now there are enough miles to make its circuit many times. Then there was not a line of electric telegraph, now we have a vast mileage traversing all lands and all seas. God and man have linked the nations together. No nation can longer be indifferent to any other. And as we are brought more and more in touch with each other, the less occasion is there for misunderstandings, and the stronger the disposition, when we have differences, to adjust them in the court of arbitration, which is the noblest form for the settlement of international disputes. . . . . .
“By sensible trade arrangements which will not interrupt our home production, we shall extend the outlets for our increasing surplus. A system which provides a mutual exchange of commodities, is manifestly essential to the continued and healthful growth of our export trade. We must not repose in fancied security that we can forever sell everything and buy little or nothing. If such a thing were possible, it would not be best for us or for those with whom we deal. We should take from our customers such of their products as we can use without harm to our industries and labour. Reciprocity is the natural outgrowth of our wonderful industrial development under the domestic policy now firmly established. . .
“The period of exclusiveness is past. The expansion of our trade and commerce is the pressing problem. Commercial wars are unprofitable. A  policy of good will and friendly trade relation will prevent reprisals. Reciprocity treaties are in harmony with the spirit of the times; measures of retaliation are not. . . . . .
“Who can tell the new thoughts that have been awakening, the ambitions fired, and the high achievements that will be wrought through this Exposition? Gentlemen, let us ever remember that our interest is in concord, not conflict; and that our real eminence rests in the victories of peace, not those of war. We hope that all who are represented here may be moved to higher and nobler effort for their own and the world’s good, and that out of this city may come, not only greater commerce and trade for us all, but, more essential than these, relations of mutual respect, confidence and friendship which will deepen and endure.
“Our earnest prayer is that God will graciously vouchsafe prosperity, happiness, and peace to all our neighbours, and like blessings to all the peoples and powers of earth.”
As this speech is read it is hard to realise that it was uttered by the high priest of protection. It would almost seem that the voice of Cobden and Bright was speaking through his lips. He was, as has already been said, a great opportunist; up to the present he firmly believed that what his country needed for its proper development was high protection, but as he stood before the crowd at Buffalo on the 5th of September, he realised that the time might come within his own life when it would be necessary to break down all tariff walls. His speech, at any rate, was thoroughly cosmopolitan and Christian. It was the utterance of no mere politician, but of a great statesman who by the exigencies of the past two  years had been forced to take a broader outlook, and to consider what place his nation would occupy among the nations of the world. Leader he would be or nothing; and to lead properly his policy must be based on righteousness and brotherhood.
This speech created a tremendous sensation and on the following day was eagerly read by millions.
After his address the President took a holiday to Niagara to look with pleasure upon that mighty force which was driving so many of the mills and factories in which he took such pride. After his visit to the Falls he returned to Buffalo and in the Music Hall held a reception. Never was he happier than on this day. It had ever been a pleasure to grasp the hands of his fellow-countrymen, and now hundreds lined past him to grip the hand of the man they had learned to love and reverence. It was in the midst of this rejoicing that the dastardly deed which was to deprive the United States of its last great President was perpetrated. In the crowd was one Leon Czolgosz, a youthful foreigner whose brain and heart had been turned by Anarchist teachings. As the President was reaching forth his hand to welcome him as a citizen of his country he was brutally shot down by the assassin. It is unnecessary to dwell on the horrors of the scene; no more cowardly and insane murder was ever committed. There was nothing in the President’s career that could give the slightest occasion for such a deed, and the only motive could be a desire to strike not the man but the Presidential office.
The heroic character of the President was brought forth at this trying moment. He was suffering intensely from two wounds but his first thought was for his wife. He turned to his Secretary Mr. Cortel-  you, and said, “Be careful about my wife. Do not tell her.” Then seeing the crowd apparently about to tear his assassin to pieces, with his love of law and order, and with the dignity of his position before him he exclaimed, “Let no one hurt him.”
For eight days he struggled bravely with death, and for a time it seemed as if he had conquered, but it was only for a time. Despite all that the best medical skill in his country could do it was recognised, on September 13, that there was no hope. He saw it himself and with Christian fortitude faced the inevitable; almost welcomed it. His dying words will be treasured among the dying words of the great ones of this earth, and will doubtless help many to bravely face death.
“Good-bye all,” he said, “Good-bye! it is God’s way. His will be done.”
He lingered on for a few hours and on the morning of the 14th passed quietly away. The entire nation North and South, East and West, Democrat and Republican alike mourned for him, and the world mourned with his country. Crowds came to Buffalo to view the spot where he had fallen, and as he lay in state in Washington thousands flocked to look with reverence upon his dead face. The train which bore his body from Washington to his home in Ohio began its journey through the darkness of night but all along the track, at the stations, at the villages, in the towns, in the cities, crowds assembled to catch a glimpse of the train that bore him to his last resting place. But in his Canton home was the chief mourning; the greatest son that Ohio had produced had been taken from her in his prime.
Although his life was ended his spirit still worked on and is working. When President Roosevelt said  on taking the oath of office: “In this hour of deep sorrow and terrible national bereavement I wish to state that it shall be my aim to continue absolutely unbroken the policy of President McKinley, for the peace, prosperity, and honour of our beloved country,”—he uttered no idle words.
He is dead, but his ideals live on. He began for his country the great work of civilising the dark places of the earth, and before the twentieth century closes the policy that President McKinley adopted in dealing with Cuba and the Philippines will doubtless be generally adopted by the great Powers.