Welcome to MAIWelcome to MAI


"Hello, I'm William McKinley."
partial cover image from "American Boys' Life of William McKinley"                                              
About MAI
Disclaimer
Help MAI


Who I Am
Contact Me



 


Publication information
view printer-friendly version
Source: Patriotic Orations
Source type: book
Document type: public address
Document title: “William McKinley”
Author(s): Fowler, Charles Henry
Editor(s): Fowler, Carl Hitchcock
Publisher: Eaton and Mains
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: 1910
Pagination: 189-244

 
Citation
Fowler, Charles Henry. “William McKinley.” Patriotic Orations. Ed. Carl Hitchcock Fowler. New York: Eaton and Mains, 1910: pp. 189-244.
 
Transcription
full text of address; excerpt of book
 
Keywords
Charles Henry Fowler (public addresses); William McKinley (memorial addresses); William McKinley (death: personal response); William McKinley (chronologies); William McKinley (personal history); William McKinley (public statements); William McKinley (personal character); William McKinley (religious character).
 
Named persons
Anchises; Atia; Augustus; Aurelia; Ibrahim Bin Adham [variant spelling below]; Otto von Bismarck; Napoléon Bonaparte; Julius Caesar; John C. Calhoun; Thomas Carlyle; Robert Cecil [identified as Salisbury below]; Pascual Cervera y Topete; Cicero; Gaspard de Coligny; Cornelia; Hernán Cortés [variant spelling below]; Oliver Cromwell; George Crook; George Dewey; Dives; Isaac H. Duval; Jubal A. Early; Edward VII; Eremon [identified as Hermon below]; John B. Floyd; Joseph B. Foraker; John C. Frémont; James A. Garfield; Ulysses S. Grant; Benjamin Harrison; Rutherford B. Hayes; Heinrich [identified as Henry below]; Jesus Christ; Lazarus; Fitzhugh Lee; Abraham Lincoln; Nancy Hanks Lincoln; Matthew D. Mann; Gaius Marius; Stanley Matthews; Ida McKinley; Nancy Allison McKinley; William McKinley; John G. Milburn; Napoléon III; Patrick; Paul; Pericles; Samuel J. Randall; Quintus Marcius Rex; John Rooney; Theodore Roosevelt; William S. Rosecrans; William Thomas Sampson; Winfield Scott Schley; William Shakespeare; Philip Sheridan; John Sherman; Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord; Roger B. Taney; Thor; Venus; George Washington; Mary Ball Washington; William I; William II.
 
Notes
The identity of “Dr. Bloom, a prominent physician of Philadelphia” (below) cannot be determined.

An editor’s note on page 187 reads as follows: “At the time of the assassination of President McKinley in Buffalo, New York, Bishop Fowler was a resident of that city. At the request of its citizens he delivered this oration at the Delaware Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church. Many thousands of mourners were turned away from the church, unable to gain admission.”

From title page: By Charles Henry Fowler, Late Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

From title page: Prepared for Publication by His Son, Carl Hitchcock Fowler.

From title page: With an Introduction by John Wesley Hill, Pastor Metropolitan Temple, New York.
 
Document

 

William McKinley

TAKE out of Greece a dozen names, and you have made even that classic soil barren. Take out of America a dozen names, and you destroy half of our essential wealth. Carlyle said England would sooner give up her Indian empire than her Shakespeare. We can put no price on our great men and heroes.
     We have some magnificent buildings. The National Library building in Washington is an inspired dream, crystallized by the wand of genius into marble and gold, so enchanting and majestic that we appreciate the bewilderment of the Arizona chief who had seen with Indian stolidity the government buildings, the new Post Office, and the Capitol itself, but gazing at the Library building, with its spacious stairway, its lofty columns and decorations in chiseled marble and tracery of gold, he threw up his hands in amazement, asking, “Made by man?” This and all these buildings are not the glory of America. You must seek that elsewhere.
     We have some great and wonderful cities that for rapid growth, lofty buildings, and palatial homes are not surpassed anywhere on earth. [189][190] These are not the true glory of America. Let the nations of the earth combine against us, swarm everywhere along our coasts and burn all our seaboard cities, and they would have done nothing. We would retire inland beyond their naval cannon and await them and welcome them to bloody graves. They might destroy to the last hamlet, desolate to the last hearth, and desecrate to the last altar, and still they would have done nothing. There would remain the invincible millions of freemen, with the productive continent beneath our feet and the free heavens above our heads, with our heroic history behind us and the long habit of liberty woven into our every fiber. There would remain the free, trained, human mind, swift as the light, unapproachable as the sun, strong as the Eternal purposes, resistless as destiny, and deathless as God. Here, here, in this field, we must look for the glory of America. When our free institutions have in this field brought forth a William McKinley, it is as if another sun had risen on the noonday never to go down.
     Some distances are so vast that it is most difficult to find a unit of measurement. To measure the dooryards of our neighboring stars, the distance between the earth and sun can serve as an inch-rule. But when we wish to measure the diameter of the known universe, the wide orbit of the sun itself is too short, too infinitesimal. In [190][191] measuring such a man as McKinley it is hard to find a proper unit of measurement. Cortez, in his march into Mexico, suffered destructive defeat. Many of his men were killed and his vessels were destroyed. In his retreat his despair was dispelled by the sight of his shipwright safe and well. Having him, he knew he could make more ships. It was not the craft, but the builder, that was of priceless value. It is not the cities, but the citizens, that constitute the strength and glory of America. It is the great man that weighs in the scales of destiny. Cicero said of Cæsar, his great antagonist, “All the acts of Cæsar, his writings, his words, his promises, his thoughts, have more force since his death than if he were still alive.” Louis Napoleon said, “For ages it was enough to tell the world that such was the will of Cæsar for the world to obey it.”
     Admiral Coligny, the great Huguenot commander, embodied all the hopes of his party. Assassinated by the treachery of his king, the hope of Protestantism went down with him. His country lost the path to freedom, and wandered through the gloom of superstition and persecution into the crimson night of the Reign of Terror. He was great in character and achievement, but he left no foundation upon which Liberty could stand. France is only a tatter on the threshold of the twentieth century. William McKinley was [191][192] slain in the midst of his great work, but so firmly had he builded that the rumbling wheels of his funeral car did not jar the foundations of the temple he had helped to rear.
     In some ways we find a measure of McKinley in William the Silent. Struggling for the freedom of Holland, having it as his task to stand against the despotisms of Europe and convert habitual defeat into victory, he so trained his people by their very conflicts that his principles remained and his martyr blood only cemented the foundations of the Dutch republic. He stands as the great sacrifice for that heroic people who formed for centuries the advance guard, the picket line, fighting for the world’s civil and religious freedom.
     The best types of McKinley and associates in sacrifice are found in our own history in the memory of living men. We turn from Cæsar and from Coligny and from William the Silent to the great martyr of our land.
     In William McKinley we see the typical American on his Mount of Transfiguration. Born on an American farm, he started barefooted in the furrow. Trained in the common school of economy, he carried the simple habits of the village into the White House. Marching in the ranks of the toiling millions of the Republic, he rises with Lincoln and Garfield to the solitude of the martyr’s throne. [192][193]
     His death is a surprise to the civilized world, a shock to the human race. Lincoln was assassinated by the infuriated and incarnated spirit of civil war. Garfield was assassinated by disappointed personal lunacy. McKinley was assassinated by the incarnated, organized lunacy of anarchy. Lincoln was struck by a bolt from an exhausted thundercloud. Garfield was smitten by the paw of an uncaged wild beast. McKinley was carried away by a rainbow of promise suddenly twisted into a cyclone of wrath. We the American people are surprised beyond utterance. Those who looked into McKinley’s face in that awful moment when the fatal bullet entered his body say that a most penetrating gaze, never before seen in his gentle eyes, pierced the eyes of the assassin, followed first by a look of surprise, then by a look of pity. So we stand to-day in the presence of this calamity that has befallen the nation, vainly trying to penetrate its motive and mystery, and wondering what world we are in where such crimes are possible. Though we cannot see the brimstone furnaces, we do grip our flesh with nervous hands to make sure that we are in the body.
     McKinley sprang from good old Scotch-Irish blood. His line is traced by John J. Rooney, a high authority on genealogies, back to Hermon, the first king who ruled over all Ireland, from [193][194] whom sprang over eighty kings before the days of Saint Patrick. In more modern times his blood was mixed with Scotch, English, and Dutch, the finest mixtures to be found in the world. Thick and strong as is our English blood, we all know what thrift and enterprise are in this Scotch-Irish blood, how rich in patriots and martyrs it has been for centuries. Then through his mother comes that wonderful Dutch blood, more thickly mixed with love of freedom than any other blood in all these modern centuries. We must not forget that it is to Holland that we owe nearly everything in our free institutions—our written constitution with checks on the executive, our state constitutions federated in autonomy, our free church, free press, wide suffrage, secret ballot, free schools for boys and girls alike, free libraries, free judiciary, equal division of intestate land, public record of deeds and mortgages, for the accused guaranteed subpœnas for his witnesses and counsel for his defense, and the emancipation of married women. What a crop of rights and liberties! They cost the sacrifices and blood of the eighty years’ war. They are worth all they cost, enough to enrich a hundred republics. All these the gift of the Dutch republic—a rich sea among those old Dutch dykes, a good sea in which to fish for heroes. McKinley comes of a long line of patriots and soldiers. It could hardly happen that an appeal should be [194][195] made to defend the flag in his presence without a prompt response. We are not surprised to see him wearing the uniform of a common soldier when he was only seventeen years old.
     The successive important dates in the life of the late President are as follows:

1844, February 26, William McKinley, Jr., born at Niles, Ohio.
1860-61—Taught school at Poland, Ohio.
1861, May—Enlisted as private soldier, Twenty-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
1861-65—His war record: Served on the staffs of Generals Hayes and Crook; became Sergeant; was made Second Lieutenant for gallant conduct at Antietam; served throughout the Valley Campaign; made Captain, and breveted Major “for gallant and efficient services.” Mustered out, July, ’65.
1865-67—Studied law in Warren, Ohio; admitted to the bar; went to live at Canton.
1869—Elected District Attorney of Stark County. Served ’69-71.
1871—Married Miss Ida Saxton.
1876-90—In Congress. Elected to the Forty-fifth Congress as a Republican. Reëlected to the Forty-sixth, Forty-seventh, Forty-eighth, Fiftieth, and Fifty-first Congress. In Fifty-first Congress made Chairman of Committee on Ways and Means, and in that capacity pre- [195][196] pared the bill to reduce the revenue and equalize duties on imports, known as the McKinley Bill.
1891—Elected Governor of Ohio, 21,000 plurality.
1892—Made permanent Chairman Republican National Convention at Minneapolis, and received 182 votes for the nomination for President.
1893—Reëlected Governor of Ohio, 80,000 plurality.
1896—Elected President of the United States.
1900—Reëlected President of the United States.
1901, September 6—Shot at a reception in the Temple of Music, Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo.
1901, September 14—Died at the home of John G. Milburn, No. 1168 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, from the effects of the wound received on September 6.

     His education is a subject of inheritance. Some one has said that a man’s training must begin in his mother. We prefer to go farther back. It must start generations before his mother. It is a long journey from one end of the cat-o’-nine-tails to the other. It takes at least five generations to so remake a bondman that the hollow of his foot will not make a hole in the ground. Nature uses many rugged and rough teachers in making a hero or in maturing a great people. [196][197]
     We were taken out of the nursery of the mother country and planted in the wilderness of the New World. See how we were developed and inured on the mountain side, to storm and tempest, while we were in that English nursery. This was the nursery in which we were sprouted and toughened for the wilderness. This was the school that enriched the blood and toughened the fiber of William McKinley. Thus nature made him strong enough to be gentle, brave enough to be true, and great enough to be unselfish. Thus he was prepared for the education that made him great among the great.
     The strong Holland strain that reached him through his mother allied him to the soldiers of William the Silent, and to the martyrs who purchased civil and religious liberty fighting the butchers of the Duke of Alva and on all the battlefields of the Netherlands.
     Cæsar boasted that he was descended from Anchises and Venus through the famous Marius and the family of Marcius Rex. He says, “Our house united to the sacred character of kings who are the most powerful among men, the venerated holiness of the gods who hold kings themselves under their subjection.” McKinley’s line runs back on one side to the father of eighty kings, and on the other to the martyrs of the eighty years’ war for religious liberty. History will never [197][198] lose the name of Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, nor of Aurelia, mother of Cæsar, nor of Atia, mother of Augustus, nor of Mary, mother of Washington, nor of Nancy Hanks, mother of Lincoln, nor of Nancy, mother of McKinley. A necessary part of true education and of possible greatness is a divine call to be borne by a great mother.
     Sprung from such stock and from a mother with hard common sense and exalted religious convictions as old as Protestantism, he was prepared to make the most of all his chances for education. His education was in the common school, where he caught ideas and flies, the public caldron which must be kept boiling, for boiling it will work off enough to keep it healthy, but let it cool and stagnate and it will soon make room for the man on horseback. So the public schools must be defended. We must stand around if need be with red-hot bayonets and keep them from every hand that would rend them and from every tongue that would slander them. From the public school he went to Poland Academy, and Allegheny College, where he mastered the course to the senior year. Seeking health, teaching school, and drilling in the army were his best chances for discipline. The responsibilities of a commissioned officer almost constantly on the firing line were his ablest teachers. After these drillmasters had [198][199] turned him over to the pursuits of peace, the careful study of law further prepared him for his high duties and destiny.
     Sometimes we have heard of the “McKinley luck.” This phrase sounds like the snarl of envious mediocrity. I have exploited this lead and can report on the subject. He never wasted either strength or time. He kept himself well groomed, always in hand, never slouchy. He took no chances of leaving an unfavorable impression either by dress or by manner. He approached the care of a gentleman. He avoided making enemies. He carefully made friends. His clothes were kept up to regulation requirement. His weapons were as bright as the brightest. He spent his spare hours reading the biographies of great generals. He was almost obnoxious to the criticism passed by Cicero upon Cæsar, that “he scratched his head with one finger so as not to rumple his carefully combed locks.” One comrade said of him as he passed, “Billy Mac is almost a dude.” An old veteran replied, “You watch that lad. I have studied him. He will be a General yet.” He studied carefully everything he had to do. He soon became the authority on whatever subject he needed to handle. As a law student he was known as “Mr. Dig, Dig, Dig.” When he opened an office he made himself useful to the other lawyers about him. He was thorough. Anything [199][200] that was worth doing was worth doing well. When he copied a paper for a lawyer it was so carefully done that the next paper to be copied would be brought to him. This habit gave him cases from other offices. “Dig, dig, dig,” is the secret of the “McKinley luck.”
     In Congress he bent his every energy to the thing Congress gave him to do. He mastered the statistics of all the productive pursuits of the country. He wrote hundreds of letters to men on all sides of his questions so as to know how things looked to them. He questioned men and treasured their information. He could give from memory the figures on the production, export, and import of many if not most of the commodities handled by his tariff. During the Spanish War it became necessary to know the equipment and supplies of a certain obscure garrison. The papers were not at hand. McKinley gave them from memory, and later comparison verified his figures. This explains the “McKinley luck.”
     His sayings can be placed in the same catalogue with the aphorisms of Lincoln and Grant—not always so intense, but comprehensive, showing grasp and discipline of mind. I clip from a collection of one of the great dailies:

     “A noble manhood, nobly consecrated to man, never dies.”
     “Patriotism is above party, and national honor is dearer than any party name.” [200][201]
     “I believe in arbitration as a principle; I believe it should prevail in the settlement of international differences. It represents a higher civilization than the arbitrament of war. I believe it is in close accord with the best thought and sentiment of mankind; I believe God puts no nation in supreme place which will not do supreme duty.”
     “An open schoolhouse, free to all, evidences the highest type of advanced civilization. It is the gateway to progress, prosperity, and honor, and the best security for the liberties and independence of the people. It is the strongest rock of the foundation, the most enduring stone of the temple of liberty; our surest stay in every storm, our present safety, our future hope—aye, the very citadel of our influence and power. It is better than garrisons and guns, than forts and fleets.”
     “The want of the time is manly men, men of character, culture, and courage, of faith and sincerity; the exalted manhood which forges its way to the front by the force of its own merits.”
     “The American home where honesty, sobriety, and truth preside, and a simple, everyday virtue without pomp and ostentation is practiced, is the nursery of all true education.”
     “Christian character is the foundation upon which we must build if our citizenship is to be lifted up and our institutions are to endure.”
     “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of man more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”
     “The men who established this government had faith in God and sublimely trusted him. They besought counsel and advice in every step of their progress. And so it has been ever since; American history abounds in instances of this trait of piety, this sincere reliance on a higher power in all great trials of our national affairs.” [201][202]

     His leadership in Congress was achieved by constant study and application to the matters in hand. A wide and careful reader, he became acquainted with almost every subject that could come before Congress. In 1889 he was put at the head of the Committee on Ways and Means, on account of his wide information and tireless industry, where he achieved a national reputation and molded the policy of the government and of the country. His policy became the policy of the country. His name is attached to the distinguishing legislation that formed a chief issue between the great national parties. Congress furnished him a wide and inviting field for the development and use of his great powers. Brought into close relation and often into intellectual strife with the great men gathered there from all the States, he was under constant incitement to mental activity. It was a most strenuous life. No college curriculum could have been better fitted to the maturing of his faculties. “Dig, Dig, Dig,” is the secret of the “McKinley luck.”
     Napoleon once said, “In war men are nothing; a man is everything.” There is a gulf, almost as impassable as the gulf between Dives and Lazarus, between the common soldier and the general commanding. It takes a whirlwind of fire and a favoring Providence to lift a private over that gulf. The battle is the general’s. The private is only [202][203] food for powder. All history so describes the strifes of war. To write a history of the common soldier is like writing an epic upon a page of a city directory. Yet General Grant dedicated his wonderful “Memoirs,” books that will be read as long as the English language is read, “To the American soldier and sailor”; and he said, when leaving America for his celebrated trip around the world, “The honor for saving the Republic is due as much to the soldiers who carried muskets as to the officers in command.” The man who made the actual sacrifices for the country, who endured the sore privations, slept on the ground uncovered in the rain, ate scant supplies of “hard-tack,” waded the streams waist deep in the midst of floating ice, who pressed his way over slippery pontoons into the hot mouths of blazing cannon, who actually bared his bosom to shot and shell, to bayonet and saber, who paved with his body the highway for cavalry hoofs and artillery wheels in order that Liberty might have the right of way—that man was the common soldier.
     While McKinley enlisted as a common soldier, and never till the very last rose above the rank of a company officer, yet it is fitting for us to pause a moment on his war record.
     On the 11th of June, 1861, he went to Camp Chase, in Columbus, Ohio, and was personally inspected by General John C. Fremont, once a [203][204] Republican candidate for the Presidency, who looked him over, thumped his chest, saying, “You’ll do.” McKinley said, “I am going to do the very best I can.” That day General Fremont spoke wiser than he knew. He little dreamed how much that lad would do. That was a wonderful regiment, the Twenty-third Ohio Volunteers. Its first Colonel became General Rosecrans, Major-General commanding the Department of the Cumberland. Its Lieutenant-Colonel was Stanley Matthews, afterward United States Senator and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Its first Major was Rutherford B. Hayes, afterward General, Governor of Ohio, and President of the United States. That was a distinguished regiment. In its ranks, disguised in the uniforms of common soldiers, were Lieutenant-Governors, Congressmen, Judges, and one more President. This regiment justified the boast that there were brains enough in the average Northern regiment to stock a whole Congress.
     On September 10, 1861, at Carnifex Ferry, fighting against General Floyd, once Secretary of War, McKinley received his “baptism of fire.” This is the sacrament of war that fixes the character of the private soldier. When a lad sees the column shifting position, regiments deploying into the field and putting aside their knapsacks, and sees the staff officers gathering about the generals, ready [204][205] for use, then his pulse quickens and he has to swallow a lump in his throat. When his regiment files out into line, taking him with it, and he sees the enemy whirling their artillery into place, and off to one side, under cover of some knoll or strip of timber, the long tables of the surgeons and the surgeons themselves with their aprons on and their assistants by them with the knives and bandages ready and waiting to be used, and then looks along the waiting line of his comrades and knows that in ten minutes some of those well, sound, manly forms will be on those tables, under those knives, and that those limbs now so ready to march will then be carried away by the cart-load to be buried—then the black angel of destiny feels of every fiber of the lad’s being, and the hero in him leaps to the front and stamps him for all future battles and campaigns. The heroes in the great volunteer armies of the Republic are so thick that, like the blood-washed throng on the jasper sea, no man can number them.
     Do you wish to know how our Ohio lad handled himself in this “baptism of fire”? Come with me to Kernstown, near Winchester. General Crook, with a small force, including General Hayes’s brigade and the Twenty-third Ohio Volunteers, is fighting an overwhelming division of General Early’s army, and is obliged to fall back. One regiment, the Thirteenth West Virginia, evidently [205][206] has not received the order to retreat. With the cool pluck of tigers they are standing against the great army and are being rapidly separated from their friends and surrounded by their enemies. Ten minutes will fix their fate. They will be buried yonder where they are so doggedly fighting, or yonder in the famine pens of Richmond or Andersonville. General Hayes sees the peril, quickly calls Lieutenant McKinley, and asks, “Lieutenant, can you take the order to that regiment?” “Yes, General,” was the response. “It is a dangerous errand.” “I know it, but I will go.” Turning his famous bob-tailed horse that way, he gave him the rein and the spur and was off like a bolt from a catapult. It was a long ride over fences and ditches, in the open view of the enemy. One officer said, “He can’t make it”; another, “He is a dead man.” Boys from his old company called, “Billy Mac, come back. It is impossible.” The enemy saw him and their sharpshooters aimed at him. Their bullets whistled about him. But on he rode. A rebel battery was trained on him and a shell went screeching after him and burst behind him. Another and another screeched after him. Then down go horse and rider as a shell bursts on a fence as his horse is leaping it. “He is dead,” said a staff officer, and Hayes, bowing his head, said, “I knew he would never go through it.” But out of the smoke and dust [206][207] of the exploded shell up sprang the Lieutenant and up rose his horse. In a second he mounts and is riding again at highest speed toward the orchard beyond which was the fighting Thirteenth. McKinley halts before the Colonel and delivers his order: “General Hayes orders you to retreat; you are unsupported.” The Colonel replied, “Retreat? Well, we will have one more whack at the scoundrels.” Lieutenant McKinley directed the way back to their brigade. When he came to General Hayes, Hayes grasped his hand, saying, “McKinley, I never expected to see you in this life again. You did your duty well.” No officer with stars on his shoulders ever did a braver or more heroic deed. This is only one of unnumbered deeds of heroism performed by starless shoulders. As Grant said, “The country was saved by the boys that came from the shops and the farms to fill the ranks. When the safety of the country depends upon one man, we will have no country worth saving.”
     William McKinley was twice promoted for courage on the field. Sent with orders to General Duval to march by a certain ravine road, he found the road impassable for an army. Stating the case, he changed the order and General Duval arrived in time to save the day. Captain McKinley reported to General Crook what he had done. The General in surprise asked Captain McKinley, “Did [207][208] you know you might be cashiered for that?” The Captain answered, “Yes, sir.” “Did you know that in case of disaster you might be shot as a traitor?” “Yes, sir.” “Would you take the chances, knowing this?” “Yes, sir.” He was perfectly willing to face anything to save the day and the army, and act on his own judgment.
     His promotion is no surprise to us. The boys in his command enjoyed his advancement almost as if it were their own. But the names that appear on his recommendation and new commission are incapable of being duplicated in all human history. General Crook wrote, “I have the honor to earnestly recommend Captain William McKinley, Twenty-third Ohio Infantry, for appointment to a higher grade than his present rank, for bravery, gallantry, soldierly conduct, and distinguished services during the campaigns of West Virginia and Shenandoah Valley.” General Sheridan indorsed it, “Approved. The appointment recommended is well deserved.” This was also indorsed by General Grant, who approved it. Finally it received the supreme approval by the hand and name of Abraham Lincoln. McKinley, Crook, Sheridan, Grant, Lincoln—the paper bearing these names, three of which have been Presidents of the United States, would make an heirloom till the coming of the judgment day. On July 26, 1865, McKinley was mustered out of the service as a Major, [208][209] to be again mustered into the service by the American people as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy. Senator Foraker says of his action during the Spanish War, “He was in reality, as in name, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the Navy of the United States. He marshaled our forces on land and on sea, and struck quick and hard and everywhere. Not a regiment was organized, not a ship was put in commission, not a movement was made, not a battle was fought, except with his personal knowledge, approval, and direction.” It was his personal order, against the advice of his Cabinet, to Dewey, to “find and destroy the Spanish fleet,” that hurled Dewey into Manila Bay and hurled the Spanish squadron down to the bottom of the bay. It was his personal order that hurled the warships of Sampson and Schley against the fleet of Cervera. It was his order that pushed our land forces against El Caney, and rushed them up San Juan Hill. It was his order that crushed the Spanish in Porto Rico. It was his order that put a fleet in readiness to move on the seaports of Spain, if Spain had hesitated to sue for peace. The unbroken series of victories that exalted our arms and glorified our flag belonged to him quite as much as to the officers he selected to execute his will. As Commander-in-Chief he demonstrated ability of a high order. [209][210]
     When he turned his back on promotion in the regular army he turned to the study of the law. The principles of the law make a field for the deepest study. The law is a great and honorable profession. It is an absolute necessity to a free government. There must be some place of final confidence and of consequent peril. In a Republic that place is not in the Executive. If the President seeks to overthrow the government, Congress can tie him hand and foot in one hour and impeach him in another hour. It is not in the Senate, for the Lower House holds the purse strings and can starve them into loyalty before their second election. It is not in the Lower House, for the people have too frequent judgment days for danger there. The place of final confidence and consequent peril in a Republic is in the Supreme Court. Here revolutions can be wrought without powder. Judge Taney changed the government from a free government into a slave despotism by one decision declaring that the Constitution protected slavery in the Territories. The Supreme Court is the place of peril. We cannot have a free country without a great and unimpeachable Supreme Court. We cannot have a great and unimpeachable Supreme Court without a great and learned bar. McKinley selected this noble profession as the field of his work. Success soon met him at the door. Position and affluence soon called him by his given name [210][211] as if he were their favorite son. When he decided to enter that profession he went to Albany Law School, where he dug and dug and dug his way through. Then he went home. When his mother met him she asked, “Did you pass, William?” “I did, Mother.” “And now you are an out-and-out lawyer?” “Yes.” “William, I want you to promise me one thing. Don’t ever take a law case that isn’t clean.” “I’ll promise that.” “And don’t ever take a case unless you are sure your client is in the right.” “I’ll promise that too.” He kept these promises to the end.
     He won his way on that basis to a good practice, was prosecuting attorney for his county a term. As a lawyer he did his full share of unpaid work for the poor. He soon acquired the habit of success. Events favored him. Once he defended a prominent surgeon who was prosecuted for large damages for malpractice in deforming a leg he had set and cared for. The plaintiff was brought into court and exhibited a very crooked leg. The case was clear to the jury. The lawyer for the plaintiff declared it was neglect, because the man was poor. It all looked bad. But McKinley had observed the plaintiff, and called him again, and asked him to show the other leg. After some wriggling and objection, the judge ordered the other leg uncovered, when the judge and jury burst into uproarious laughter. The other leg was [211][212] more crooked than the one that had been treated. The case was dismissed and McKinley asked the court to advise the man to have the other leg broken and treated by his client!
     In 1876 his friends took him out of his law office and sent him to Congress, where he remained with the exception of one term till 1890. Here he achieved greatness in work, in influence, and in reputation.
     His first speech in Congress was made on the tariff and his last upon the same subject, and he made many other speeches in those notable debates on that national issue. This has caused many people to regard this as his specialty and think that he did not talk of much else. Nothing is farther from the facts. Read his speeches on “Payment of Pensions,” “Purchase of Government Bonds,” “Death of John A. Logan,” “Civil Service,” “Direct Tax,” and “Hawaiian Treaty.” Add to these the great variety of subjects he discussed outside of Congress on all kinds of occasions, such as “The American Farmer,” “Our Public Schools,” “New England and the Future,” “The American Workingman,” “An Auxiliary to Religion,” and scores of other subjects, before clubs, literary circles, on lecture platforms, before colleges and universities, and one is amazed at the vast amount of work he could endure. He had the culture of the typical, best American. [212][213] He read widely, criticised carefully, classified patiently, and retained accurately a vast store of general knowledge. These gave him the respect and retained for him the confidence of the strong and great men whom he encountered in Congress and in Washington.
     His administration is a high demonstration of ability in the field of the most honorable practical politics. His two terms as Governor of the great State of Ohio were masterpieces of good government. They did not furnish, either to competitors in his own party or to enemies in the opposing party, any clubs with which to maim him in the race for national honors. It is difficult to find cleaner or more satisfactory administrations than he gave us in the White House. He found the country impoverished, the treasury overdrawn, and the national debt bounding up by the hundred millions. He left it in a most prosperous condition, furnaces blazing, exports multiplying, labor abundant, wages unprecedented, and the whole land at peace. The strong business men of the country gathered about him and indorsed his policy. He quieted the mutterings in his own party, reconciled all factions, attached to himself personal rivals, mollified the asperities of political opponents, made many of them contented with his policy, and most of them warm personal friends. He so compacted his party and disarmed his [213][214] political opponents that Congress was ready to do his bidding and an earnest desire was almost equal to an enacted law.
     He pontooned the bloody chasm, making the nation one, more successfully than any other man had done since the old nullification debates in the days of Calhoun and the agitation of the slavery question. His journeys and speeches in the South allayed much of this old prejudice, and his management of the Spanish War drew the sections together. Leading Confederate officers led the boys who had worn the gray and their sons back into the ranks under the old flag, and marched with the sons of both of the old armies against a common foe. The Confederate mother whose son went with Lee into the Spanish War and who wrote him never to darken her door again, but when she read how the boys went up San Juan Hill wept and reflected and wrote her son, “You can come home now; I have a United States flag over the door,” was only the representative of a great class. One private in a New York regiment was the only man in his regiment to volunteer for the Spanish War. When asked why he enlisted he said, “Boys, I must go. My father was a Confederate soldier. When he was dying he said to me, ‘I fought as best I could to destroy the old flag. Now, if that flag is ever assailed, I want you to fight for it. Swear you will.’ I swore I [214][215] would, and I am going to do it.” That man represented a host who love the country and recognize the new condition of things. The wisdom of McKinley’s administration made these revelations to the country and to the world. He has made us one nation, and woe to the nation that forgets it. This alone would give William McKinley a pedestal upon which he can sit secure in his fame to the latest generation.
     Statesmanship must vindicate itself by results. A surgeon said, “We had a splendid operation in our hospital to-day. You ought to have seen it.” Some one asked, “Did the man live?” The surgeon answered, “No, they always die in that operation, but it was a splendid operation.” That surgeon could not apply his rule to statesmanship. That must succeed. Measured by this rule, McKinley’s statesmanship is of a high order.
     When he went to the White House we were a moderate sea power in these Western waters, contented with our coast and lakes. It is no secret that Chile, after her war with Peru, felt able to chase us off the sea. She did not attempt it. But you could not talk with a Chilean naval commander without seeing that he was certain of their ability to resist us. To-day things have changed. Once we were a young nation, a mere boy among the nations. We stretched our limbs in the wilderness of the western hemisphere and wondered at [215][216] the great old nations beyond the sea. They patronized us and ridiculed us and pretended to despise us. We kept chopping down our forests, digging down our mountains, plowing up our fields, building up our defenses, and saving up our margins. The mother country assumed to inspect us a little too much and came over here to punish us. But we got angry and told her she was not our mother, that we did not recognize her even as a stepmother; so we boxed her ears and sent her home to meditate on the difficulties of punishing a half-grown boy who has been shifting for himself for a time.
     We had a splendid father, George Washington. We are as proud of him as it is possible to be. May his name never be spoken except with the most profound reverence! He suited us perfectly. His wisdom was inspired. It fitted our youth. Nothing could have been better. He said, “Beware of foreign entanglements.” This was just the garment we most needed. It fitted us like a bib. We put it on and held on to it. So we stayed at home and hugged our bib. Once the pirates of Algiers were defying all the Old World, and even interfered with our merchants. Then we laid aside our bib and went over there and taught them not to meddle with the Stars and Stripes or we would give them the stripes till they saw the stars. After that we sailed home, put on our bib again, [216][217] and stayed in our own seas. We sailed around in the South Atlantic, and wore our bib. We were perfectly contented with our coast line and neighboring seas. We grew and grew, till our bib looked like a patch on our breast, but we held onto it, expecting to wear it forever and stay in our South Atlantic waters forever. But on February 15, 1898, the Spanish touched off a magazine under the Maine while we were sleeping in Havana Harbor. We went up into the air. Then we came down everywhere, to stay. Our bib was blown off by that explosion, and we have been compelled to take up a man’s burden and do a man’s work.
     The three greatest strides the race has made since the tragedy on Calvary are: First, the conversion of Saint Paul. That opened the door to us Gentiles and widened Christianity out from being the religious cult of the Jews in that little subjugated province at the foot of the Mediterranean, to becoming the religion of all the races and of all the ages. Second, the firing on Fort Sumter. That took up this conquering, Anglo-Saxon race, and baptizing them in blood has made them fit for the highest uses. Being now free, we can make others free. Since Fort Sumter we have a liberty and life worthy of the highest propaganda. We are begetting freedom and free constitutions everywhere. And, third, the blowing up of the Maine. That made these American Saxons one. [217][218] We scold each other and quarrel a little yet; but we are like wrestlers on a swift vessel. We may at times wrestle for dominion in small things, but we go, and go together. We are one nation. This Spanish War, a war against the hereditary enemies of mankind, made all these Saxon families essentially one. Prince Henry’s visit was not possible before Spain went out of the western hemisphere. Now Edward VII and William II and our Rough Rider, Teddy the First and the Last, can put their heads together and dictate peace to the rest of the world. Not a soldier anywhere on the earth can lift a foot without their consent. We have been lifted up into one of the great world powers that must be reckoned with in any settlement of boundary lines or spheres of influence. Once in great councils all eyes were fixed on Bismarck; now Uncle Sam is much observed. Where he sits is the head of the table.
     McKinley’s highest statesmanship is typed in his diplomacy. Statesmanship at times has seemed like the crutches with which weak administrators have hobbled out of the path of progress. It has always been so where statesmanship has been made up of the false schemes of tricksters and mere politicians. And diplomacy has long stood for duplicity. Napoleon’s prince of diplomats, Talleyrand, said that language was the means of concealing our ideas. Diplomats have been boat- [218][219] men, looking one way but going the other. Salisbury listens carefully to all the Russian Minister says, in order to know what Russia does not intend to do. McKinley invented a new statesmanship and a new diplomacy, which set forth exactly what he thought ought to be done and how he intended to do it. His statesmanship and diplomacy were his seven-league boots with which he strode into the center of things and into the future.
     His diplomacy in Peking exhibited the highest statecraft. He first and alone comprehended the necessity of preserving the integrity of China. A long war between China and the Western nations meant the partition of China to pay the bills. This meant the advancement of Russia, and the retirement of England from India, a new lease of life to heathenism, and the exclusion of the United States from the one remaining great market of the world, the Far East. It was the greatest game ever played by diplomats on the world’s chessboard. There were most weighty reasons why the Great Powers should parcel out Chinese territory. The cheap iron ore and cheap coal that enabled our manufacturers to sell their pig-iron and steel rails in London and Berlin and Paris demonstrated that these nations must yield commercial supremacy to the United States. These iron pigs and steel rails were like the first flakes of snow after [219][220] the battle of Borodino outside the walls of Moscow, that taught the old Bonaparte that events had deserted him and that his destiny was fixed. The seizure of nearly all the available seaports of China and the extension of spheres of influence awakened the ancient sleeping Heathen Giant. The Boxer troubles were only the foam on the surface of a deeper tide. To dismember China would involve two great unmeasured calamities, world-wide and ages long: first, the prolongation of heathenism by the century—for evangelization fares better under Chinese rule than under Russian repression; second, the narrowing of the world’s marts, by the loss of the most-favored-nation clause. This means the closing of our factories and the cooling of our furnaces in the not remote future. This means mobs of hungry men instead of groups of prosperous workmen. And this means standing armies and multiplied armories instead of rattling factories and thriving villages. McKinley had the ken of the statesman and the vision of the prophet. His objective point was the integrity of China.
     The first move was the shifting of a pawn, or at most a knight, on the board. It was to keep the Chinese Minister at Washington, the continuance of diplomatic relations with China. True, Chinese soldiers were uniting with the Boxers, and the Empress Dowager encouraged and rewarded [220][221] them and promoted the enemies of the “foreign devils.” Still McKinley called it a riot and maintained peace with the Chinese government. He brought all the Powers to the same ground. This eliminated fourteen of the nineteen provinces of China. This averted a long war and narrowed the damages so much that they could be settled in money instead of land. The long struggle of the Powers to secure ends inimical to all interests but their own made the work of that settlement most difficult. In the end it greatly exalted American influence.
     The “open door,” which McKinley kept open with the full weight of his presence, means the vast increase of the wealth and power of this country. On one side of us lies Europe. She has poured her wealth into America. Now, to the west of us lie Japan, Korea, and China, with five hundred millions of people, three times the population of Europe, one third of the human race. Soon, long before the end of this century, these will be Christian lands. They will demand the commerce of Christian nations. Great cities must spring up in the path of this trade. Our great deserts will be crowded by industrious millions. Cheap electrical power will lift the water onto those rich plains, till blooming like a garden they will support a population as dense as is now supported in the valley of the Ganges. The open [221][222] door, the door kept open by McKinley’s statecraft and diplomacy, means wealth and multiplied blessings to the thousand millions of freemen that shall yet cultivate this continent and dictate peace to the Old World.
     Reciprocity is the watchword of the twentieth century. McKinley, in his last round of the sentries, gave out this password. By it the nations will pass in and out of the common camp. It is the slot in which protection can work without straining the machinery. It exchanges exclusiveness for neighborliness and brotherhood. Proclaimed from the Pan-American Fair, it struck and fitted the Americas from pole to pole. These continents are bound together. They face a common destiny. They are linked by the great law of supply and demand. Lying on opposite sides of the equator, they command all the seasons and all the crops all the time. When we are in the cold grip of winter South America is in the lap of summer. When we are enjoying the smiles of summer they are struggling with the blasts of winter. Soon we shall have direct and rapid steamship lines plying from continent to continent. Soon railroad express trains will unite us. Then with refrigerator steamers and cars we can trade as adjoining towns. When we are in winter they can pour their spring and summer products into our marts, and when they are wrapped in winter [222][223] we can pour our fresh vegetables and products into their lap. Thus teetering across the equator, we can multiply the blessings of each and grow rich and strong together. Reciprocity means that South America, a great continent, with as much arable land as has North America—for it is narrow in the frigid zone and wide in the temperate and torrid zones and has a table-land that carries the temperate zone within eight degrees of the equator—that South America and North America shall help each other. Thus the semi-temperate belt is extended upon which both corn and oats can be raised as well as cotton and rice, and the productive power of the southern continent is brought up to compete with the northern continent. Thus united, we can secure a great future.
     There has come to us out of the long past a statement that the swan in the night before it dies sings a wonderful song. This may be a myth. But it is no myth that William McKinley the last day of his public life gave a wonderful utterance. It was a magnificent legacy. That last speech, delivered at the Fair, will pass down in the history of this government like a clear, sharp bas-relief, cut on a precious stone, showing President McKinley with his face toward the future. Just protection and reciprocity, arbitration and not war, commerce and not slaughter, one family of nations, brothers and not enemies—this is a magnificent legacy. [223][224]
     McKinley’s, like Grant’s, fame depends upon “the arduous greatness of things achieved.” It does not depend upon the accident of an assassin’s bullet. That one bullet could reverse the ballots of eighty millions of citizens, but it could not secure permanent fame. The depths of our hearts are powerfully moved by the barbarous and brutal way in which our honored and much-loved President was torn from us. We feel like children about the casket of a father. But this is not fame. All this will drop out of sight as our aching hearts, one by one, in that near to-morrow, drop into the open grave. We will melt away into the receding past like evening mists. Other generations will soon come who do not know those heartaches. These are not fame. Fame rests on achievements. A new lease in the life of a nation, a bend in the stream of human history, an epoch from which nations and civilizations reckon and take their bearings—to cause these to be is to secure fame.
     To end the Spanish empire and cruelty in the western hemisphere, and to found the American empire in the eastern, will grow greater through the centuries. To preserve the open door and autonomy of the Chinese empire, and thus hasten the Christianization of those multiplied millions, is to secure a pedestal for permanent fame. To project a new world power into the affairs of the world just when the presence of such a power is [224][225] necessary for the perpetuation of British rule in India, and thus secure a new lease of life for the British empire, the bulwark of Protestantism, is to leave footprints on the highway of advancing civilization which the dews of many centuries will not obliterate. So much at least is secure.
     Pericles said, “I do not know how to play the fiddle, but I do know how to make a small town over into a great city.” McKinley might have said, “I do not know how to braid gold lace, but I do know how to make a western nation over into a great world power.”
     Great as McKinley was, and solid as is the foundation of his fame, resting as it does on his achievements, yet his greatest characteristic was his goodness. This struck all who approached him. It shone in his genial face. He was no goody-goody man. He was business always, and his goodness was a part of it. It shone like a candle, because it was lighted. He was not one of those lighthouse keepers who, when they have kindled the lamps in the lighthouse, go and ring the bell to let people know that they have so kindled the lamps. His light shone itself. He did not shine it.
     His mother said, “William was always a good boy. I do not believe that he ever told me a lie.” He always wanted to do good to men and bless them. Every little occasion was improved. A [225][226] bird-dog will dart off the moment he crosses the track of a bird. It is his gift, his instinct, his nature. So McKinley scented a chance to do good. A page in Congress was careless and tricky and was dismissed. He was in trouble. McKinley took him and talked to him an hour on his mistakes, and on the boy’s promising to do right and be honest he secured his reinstatement. The boy kept his word. At odd times McKinley advised and encouraged him. He was finally rewarded by seeing the boy a vigorous, useful minister.
     In the fighting at Antietam, McKinley’s regiment was pushed for two days without rest and with little to eat. McKinley was in the commissary service and did what was never done before. He cooked meats and prepared coffee, and took them to the front under most difficult conditions. He caught and hitched up a pair of mules and drove them forward till the mules were shot, then conscripted another team and served the hot meat and hot coffee at the front on the firing line, in the heat of the battle. The exhausted men cheered for Billy Mac, took new heart, and pushed the fight. Anything to help the men.
     He would give up his dry tent to a sick soldier and stand in the rain himself. He would loan his blanket to a soldier who needed it. In crossing the Salt Pond Mountain the roads were almost impassable. It was a heavy drag at the best. [226][227] McKinley would loan his horse to some exhausted soldier. Once he helped a poor old contraband woman who was following the army. She had several bundles and three or four children. The little ones cried. McKinley carried one of the children as much as a mile, and helped the colored mother over more than one ditch. Such a thing shows a man’s heart. There is nothing put on about that.
     When he was working on the Tariff Bill a Democratic manufacturer came to him and said, “My Democratic Congressman will not hear or help me. I have no claims on you, but I want to represent my business to you.” McKinley told him to bring his figures. He brought out his own figures and compared them and worked with that man till midnight, then thanked the man and said, “You have helped me. It would have been wrong as we had it.”
     Once in Congress, Samuel J. Randall, then old and feeble, was delivering a carefully prepared speech on the Mills Bill. His time expired. Members objected to his proceeding. He held up his withered old hand and begged for time. Men objected. Then McKinley, in a clear, strong voice, caught the chairman’s ear and said, “I yield to the Democratic gentleman from Pennsylvania out of my time all that he may need to finish his speech.” Both parties applauded. That [227][228] is the act of a good man, and it takes also a great man to do such a thing.
     His whole life was keyed to help his fellows. The purpose of his years of work on the Tariff Bill was to so perfect it that it would bring prosperity and happiness to his countrymen. A Russian officer was called across the empire in winter to bring certain information to the government. After weeks of sledging, night and day, he reached Saint Petersburg. He sat in the anteroom and fell asleep. He was so exhausted that it was impossible to awaken him. The officers walked him about, burned his arms, tried every way to rouse him, but in vain. The sledgeman, learning the situation, said, “I can awaken him.” He seated him as in the sledge, and then crawled up on one side and called in his ear, “Count, the sledges are ready.” Instantly the man was on his feet, wide awake. He had locked himself in on that combination. The combination that always held McKinley was the chance to bless his fellows. Cry “Help!” in his ear, and he was awake all over.

“Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
 Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
 And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
 Making it rich and like a lily in bloom,
 An Angel, writing in a book of gold.
 Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
 And to the presence in the room he said,
 ‘What writest thou?’ The vision raised its head [228][229]
 And, with a look made all of sweet accord,
 Answered: ‘The names of those who love the Lord.’
 ‘And is mine one?’ said Abou. ‘Nay, not so,’
 Replied the Angel. Abou spoke more low,
 But cheerily still, and said: ‘I pray thee, then,
 Write me as one who loves his fellow men.’

“The Angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
 It came again with a great wakening light,
 And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
 And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.”

     His goodness rose into the highest ranges of character. He followed his principles into private life, preferring to be defeated with his principles rather than to win without them. He went into poverty to keep step with his honesty. He turned his back on the nomination to the Presidency in order to keep company with his honor. In 1888 McKinley went to the convention pledged to support John Sherman. Some of the Ohio delegation voted for McKinley. He sprang to his feet, faced the convention which was turning to him, and shouted, “Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: I cannot remain silent with honor. I demand that no delegate who would not cast reflection upon me shall cast a ballot for me.” This checked the tide, as all knew that he would never take the nomination if it even shadowed his honor. Again, in 1892, he was chairman of the convention, and the cry was started for McKinley. The convention was wild for him. He was pledged to Harrison. [229][230] He refused to let the movement have a hearing, and declared that he was not a candidate. This is a virile goodness that no winter of neglect can kill and no fires of temptation can blight.
     We must pause to mention some of his public virtues. Perhaps the highest public virtue of the citizen is patriotism. As it is certain that no man can be true to his God who is not true to his friends, so it is difficult to understand how a man can be true to his God who is not true to his country, when that country is blest with just laws and free institutions. Patriotism is the religion of the state. In all ages men have counted it as essential to every great character. His enlistment before he was eighteen, and his long and brilliant service in the Civil War, never hesitating in the path of duty, elevate him among the best in this constant inspiration for service. When admonished against some course he proposed to follow, that it would make him unpopular, he answered, “If I can only serve through one term with credit to myself and honor to the country, it will be all I ask.” This patriotism was made conspicuous by the courage which never failed him, either in the ranks or alone. A high British authority on military matters affirms that “any people uniformed, drilled, and in line have courage.” They are so surrounded that it is easier to keep in line than to break out. But to stand alone on the picket [230][231] line, within range of sharpshooters, or go alone along the firing line, requires something, courage or heroism, call it what you will, that is not the natural possession of every soldier.
     With all his promptness and executive ability, he had also undisturbed evenness and gentleness of temperament. He was always gentle and kind. He was so simple that his public honors did not disturb his simplicity. He loved the common people, and was fond of serving and helping them. He observed the children of the people. One minute before he was shot he was shaking hands with a little child.
     His absolute honesty was seen in his surrender of all his property. His wife added her estate for his obligations. It was only to help a friend that he used his name, but that name must not be soiled. It is good to see such honesty. When a man takes his wife out of a home of luxury and then, for the sake of honesty, to help another, walks with that wife down into poverty, to start again in the hard hand-to-hand struggle for existence, then there is no doubt about the sincerity and elevation of his honesty and honor.
     There are some strange links connecting our martyred Presidents. The bond is only on the surface. But the bond of martyrdom sets them apart by themselves.
     In 1890 McKinley was present at the ceremonies [231][232] connected with the dedication of a Garfield memorial on Decoration Day. He was called out by the crowd and said, “No President since Washington, Lincoln, and Grant has been closer to the hearts of the American people than James A. Garfield. I heard him twenty-four years ago pronounce a eulogy upon the lamented Lincoln. He used these words, and now let me apply them to him, the second martyr in the holy and heroic succession.” Let me now quote them for President McKinley, the third martyr in the “holy and heroic succession”:

“Divinely gifted man,
 Whose life in low estate began,
 And on a simple village green;
 Who breaks through birth’s invidious bar,
 And grasps the skirts of happy chance,
 And breasts the blows of circumstance.
 And grapples with his evil star;
 Who made by force his merit known,
 And lived to clutch the golden keys,
 To mold a mighty state’s decrees,
 And shape the whispers of the throne;
 And, moving up, from higher to higher,
 Becomes, on Fortune’s crowning slope,
 The pillar of a people’s hope,
 The center of a world’s desire.”

     His whole life was an exaltation of the home. He kept it sweet and pure. It seems under his care like a dream of Eden. First, in filial love [232][233] to his wise and godly mother. Never a day passed without his visit to his mother when he was at home, and when absent he wrote to her every day. The love she bore him was reciprocated. It was one of the features the people were wont to study and admire. The better nature of every man was drawn toward the busy public servant who never forgot his mother.
     “Mother” is the sweetest word in the language. How our hearts turn back toward those sacred memories, the wrinkled old face, the thin gray hair, the shriveled hands, the bowed form! How glad we would be to have those wrinkled brown hands on our heads once more! They would make our old hearts leap with the joy of youth again. This man cherished his mother to the utmost. From the Governor’s office, or from his desk in the Capitol, or from the chair of state in the White House, every day, always, went a letter or a telegram to cheer and comfort her.
     Many a time the people, looking upon him helping her to the church or walking with her down the aisle to the communion, have thought of Washington and his mother, and have opened wide their hearts to let this man sit in the same sacred chamber with the “Father of his Country.”
     But this was not the only touch sanctifying and exalting the American home. The home is an Anglo-Saxon institution. It is eminently an Amer- [233][234] ican institution. The home is the unit of our government. The public land is held for families and homes. We are not a nation of tramps, but of families. It is in our blood to make a home. We will go out and settle anywhere on the land where we can make a home. Some races must live in cities, in gangs. With a chair on the broad sidewalk of the capital, and a closet on some fifth floor where they can sleep, some races are happy. Not so with the Saxon, and especially the American. We stick in the soil and make a home.
     This makes us colonizers. This conquers the earth. The Latin races once had India; now the Saxon is there. The Latin races once had the New World; now the Saxon is there. The Saxon is planting his homes in South America, till he controls the commerce. His laws and money and business are much in evidence in Europe, in Africa, in Australia. It is the triumph of the home. It makes us colonizers. Gamblers and pirates and freebooters are always poor. Colonizing nations grow strong and rich. In the old Norse mythology Thor is struggling with the serpent that encircles the earth. When he is exhausted and faint he touches the earth and that renews his strength. So these colonizers, these home-builders, touch the earth and are renewed for the time-long conflict against the serpent.
     The American is a home-builder. President [234][235] McKinley has exalted womanhood and the home. Many a young couple seeing the tenderness and continued courtship of this great man and that sweet, beautiful woman, that nestles so close to his side, have caught its contagion and have gone forth to make another home.
     William McKinley married Miss Ida Saxton, January 25, 1871. We have thought of Mrs. McKinley as gentle and inoffensive, clinging to him, turning her sweet face up to his strong, tender one, and so it has seemed. He has always been on duty, or pleasure, by her side. Never a day when absent, in which he did not write her once or twice and telegraph her often, usually every two hours, knowing she needed him. In Columbus, as Governor, he boarded in a hotel opposite the Capitol building. He never entered that building by day that he did not stop on the steps and lift his hat, a signal, to his wife watching him from her window. It was known as the McKinley signal. She traveled with him when it was possible. She sat by his side at the table in the White House. They spent hours side by side on one of the great sofas there, and the other day, when she took her farewell of the White House, she was led over to that sofa and kissed it. It and the memory were all she had left.
     All the years she has been his companion, familiar with his great enterprises, talking over his [235][236] heavy work with him, pouring the light of her woman’s instinct into the dark places, often leaving a path of light for him to follow. Her health broke with the loss of her children and never returned, but her instincts never flagged and her absorbing interest in all his great work never relaxed. She steadily prompted him to his high purposes. She said many years ago that he would be President of the United States, and she never weakened in her faith or was bewildered in her visions. As we watch these lovers through these wonderful years, we see a holy light settling down from Heaven upon the American home. Possibly this work of exalting the home may endure in its blessed influences as long as the widened borders of our empire.
     It is hardly necessary to refer to this man’s Christian life. We cannot touch him but we feel the inspiration of a Christian life in its best and most practical form. Born of Christian parents, nourished under the Word of God, he never looked upon himself except as under obligation to God. At the age of fourteen he was soundly converted and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. He constantly held its faith, used its means of grace, attended its services, and labored for its advancement. He studied the Bible, claimed its promises, and enjoyed the peace of communion with God. His whole life exemplified the life of his Master. [236][237] He never treated any man unkindly. He was always gentle, showing the spirit of Christ. Even when he was shot, as he looked into the eyes of the assassin and surprise gave way to the consciousness of what had been done, there was no sign of anger. He wondered why the man wanted to kill him. Then pity filled his face till tears stood in both his calm, clear eyes. We all remember the wonderful things that came up out of his heart: “Do not tell my wife”—the old lifelong care for her; “Love is stronger than Death is strong.” Then, looking at his own hand red with his own heart’s blood, he saw on the floor before him the assassin lying in his blood, and he said, “Let no one hurt him.” We cannot but think of Him round whose cross we danced in coarse mockery, clanking our chains which he came to break in his face, as he bent his pierced hands over us, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Then the unselfish regret, “I am sorry to be the occasion of harming your Fair.” No man is stagy in such an hour. Those wonderful words bubbled up out of his deepest nature.
     On the surgeon’s table he wondered why the man wanted to shoot him. No word of reproach, only surprise and pity. As he was taking the ether and was sinking into unconsciousness, Dr. Mann saw President McKinley’s lips moving, and, [237][238] stooping to catch what might be his last words, he heard him distinctly say, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” Later, when the end did come, he said, “Good-bye, all. Good-bye. It is God’s way. His will be done, not ours.” With these words of gentle submission on his lips, he passed on to behold the King in his glory.
     Providence writes his plans upon the broad heavens in characters so large that few men, if any, are able to read them. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are God’s ways above our ways. Yet he comes out to us at most unexpected turns. While men are gazing into the heavens bewildered with the heat-lightning of higher criticism, God exhibits at our feet, on the very floor of science itself, his unanswerable argument, the supernatural mosaic, made out of the lives of his servants and copied after the pattern in the heavens. The facts of such a life as McKinley’s must be handled by any science that deals with the subject. For any science that would ignore any single fact in its field would wreck all its theories and cease to be a science. This argument from his life has swept over the country almost as widely as the sacred hymns that bubbled from his purple lips. A lawyer in New York told me of a lawyer who visited him in his office and said, “I am an agnostic. I do not believe in God. There cannot be any God. But when I see so [238][239] strong and clear a man as McKinley go down to death with such confidence and assurance, I am compelled to say that I may be wrong. He must be right. I must review the situation.” Dr. Bloom, a prominent physician of Philadelphia, says that to his own knowledge and in his own experience not less than twenty skeptics have renounced skepticism on account of the Christian fortitude and courageous death of President McKinley. These living stones make the walls of the city coming down from God out of heaven, and they are the defenses of the truth. Let the comma chasers—men who spend their lives chasing a comma around the tail of a pronoun, trying to land it—go on with their heat-lightning. While the Church can produce even some fruit like McKinley the ax will not be laid to the roots of this tree. And while our free institutions can produce such patriots as William McKinley there will never be room on our soil for a throne or for the man on horseback.
     It is the glory of American institutions that they pass the magnet over every particle of the soil and draw up every atom of mineral. They are not confined to a few deposits of ore. That is why the output of the true metal is so great. It has been the misfortune of England in her African War that she has been compelled to select her leaders from the limited supply in the aristocracy, [239][240] where indulgence begets effeminacy instead of heroism. In our Republic every path leads to the front. It may have the poor man’s cottage at one end, but it may also have the White House at the other end. The genius of our liberties, like the sun, shines upon the mountain side and in the lowly valley. It warms and quickens the oak on the spur of the crag and cheers the tiniest blade of grass by the low creeping rivulet. That genius of our liberties walks throughout all our borders hunting for heroes. She cannot be deceived by the tin models at one end of society, nor by the rags at the other. I see her yonder, picking her way through the wilderness of a new continent, and taking a young surveyor by the hand, as if he were her betrothed. I see her yonder, walking by the cabin of the frontiersman, and leading away a tall, lank boy. There, in a leather store in an obscure inland Western town, she finds another boy. There, by the towpath, she has picked another lad. And, yonder, in a little Ohio village, she has found another. She leads these lads to the White House. Then, standing before all the monarchies of all the aristocracies of the world, she holds up Washington, and Lincoln, and Grant, and Garfield, and McKinley, saying, “See what I can do. I have made these out of the common people—richer treasures than can be found among all the crown jewels of all the ages.” [240][241]
     See that chemist, Nature, picking up a handful of slime from the gutter. It seems to be only slime, composed of clay and sand and soot and moisture. Watch the transformation as the chemist touches the slime with the wand of his genius. The clay catches the azure of the sky and throbs a deep-chested sapphire. The sand catches the soul of the sunset and earth and sea and air, and the opal reflects all the colors of the rainbow. The soot catches the spirit of the noonday sun, and the diamond scintillates all the colors of the universe. And the moisture rounds into the sparkling dewdrop. So watch the genius of our free institutions, touching with her magic wand a handful of soil called the common people. Here stands up the matchless patriot, the Father of his Country. Here steps forth the great Emancipator, whom all the world loves and venerates. Here marches out the Field Marshal of all the ages, and all the world wonders. And here in our midst sits the Hero of Peace and the Angel of Prosperity, while all the races join the universal brotherhood. Monarchy may make great institutions, but the Republic makes great men. “What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!” [241][242]
     How shall we picture this last great man so as to see him on all sides? How can we exhaust Nature’s alchemy so as to know all the elements mixed and balanced in him! We find in him integrity without severity, sincerity without austerity, gentleness without weakness, meekness without stupidity, patience without indolence, dignity without coldness, scholarship without pedantry, eloquence without ostentation, courage without rashness, caution without cowardice, liberality without prodigality, prudence without parsimony, reason without infidelity, and faith without superstition.

                               “The elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, This is a man!

  “He was a man, take him for all in all,
   We shall not look upon his like again.”

     Do you ask whence his greatness? Study the men that faced the fires at Smithfield, and the men who fought under Cromwell, and the men that waded out up to their armpits from the Mayflower and prayed on Plymouth Rock, chin-deep in the snow; study the men who marched from Bunker Hill to Valley Forge and won liberty for mankind from Concord to Yorktown; study this life from the prayer room of Nancy McKinley, in Niles, Ohio, to the room of triumph in the Milburn residence on Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, [242][243] from which he went up to report to God, and in all this you may find whence came his greatness. It was warmed in by the lips of maternal love. It was prayed in by a mother’s anxious heart. It was worked in by the close economies of tireless industry. It was rubbed in by protracted drilling. It was worn in by long marches. It was steeped in by the dews of night. It was pressed in by the long watches on the picket line. This is whence came his greatness, where the veteran found his power.
     A son, loving, thoughtful, obedient, he secured the blessings of a happy mother and the blessing of Almighty God. A husband, devoted, faithful, pure, tender, and watchful as the stars, he exalted the American home. A soldier, brave, vigilant, prompt, he performed every duty with alacrity and courage. A scholar, thoughtful, industrious, he was practical, mastering the departments of knowledge involved in his pursuits. A leader in Congress, he illumined every subject he discussed with the fullness and accuracy of his information and secured the attention and retained the confidence of his colleagues by the clearness of his statements and the candor of his convictions. An exalted politician, he harmonized his party, conciliated his rivals, pacified his opponents, and justified his measures by their success. A Christian, he illustrated the saving power of grace, and retained the [243][244] favor of God. A man, he represented the typical American on the Mount of Transfiguration. He has gone into history, to be catalogued with Washington and Lincoln and Grant, and to be loved and honored forever. As a nation, we are proud of so many supremely great men. As a Church, we say, Blessed be Almighty God who hath matured such a character to show forth the power of his grace to transform and save in every walk of life.

 

 


top of page