Source: William McKinley: Character Sketches of America’s Martyred Chieftain
Source type: book
Document type: public address
Document title: “The Nation’s Grief”
Author(s): Wasson, W. A.
Compiler(s): Benedict, Charles E.
Publisher: Blanchard Press
Publisher location: New York, New York
Year of publication: [1901?]
|Wasson, W. A. “The Nation’s Grief.” William McKinley: Character Sketches of America’s Martyred Chieftain. Comp. Charles E. Benedict. New York: Blanchard Press, [1901?]: pp. 111-13.|
|full text of address; excerpt of book|
|W. A. Wasson (public addresses); William McKinley (death: religious response); William McKinley (mourning); McKinley assassination (religious interpretation).|
From page 111: Rev. W. A. Wasson on the Nation’s Grief.
From title page: William McKinley: Character Sketches of America’s Martyred Chieftain; Sermons and Addresses Delivered by the Pastor of St. James M. E. Church, Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, N. Y., and Addresses by Brooklyn Pastors and Other Prominent Ministers and Laymen, Portraying the Character of Our Late Lamented President.
From title page: Compiled by Charles E. Benedict.
The Nation’s Grief
The people mourn, the whole nation
is under the shadow of a great grief. We have been sorely smitten, our hearts
are heavy. All our hopes have been shattered, and our President lies in the
cold embrace of death, a victim of cruelty and treason. Truly, none of us liveth
unto himself, and no man dieth unto himself. We are bound together by ties of
common sympathy and common interest. Joy and prosperity oftentimes separate
us and weaken the sentiment of brotherhood, while sorrow and bereavement draw
us close together. To-day this great nation of seventy millions of inhabitants
is indeed one people. Partisanship has been suspended, sectional interests and
class differences and social distinctions have been buried out of sight. Throughout
the length and breadth of this great land, from the coast of Maine to the far
off islands on the other side of the globe, there is but one heart and one mind.
As with the individual, so with the nation, sorrow, loss, affliction brings out the best and truest sentiments. It purges away the dross and purifies and ennobles the character. The cynic tells us that human nature is altogether selfish. But it is not so. There is much in human nature that is noble and beautiful, much that is kind and unselfish. The bullet that penetrated the body of the President also penetrated the nation’s heart. What touching sights have been witnessed during the past week—Crowds of men, women and children, rich and poor, laborers, merchants, clerks, professional men, standing before the bulletin boards, watching for the latest news from the President’s sick room! What a study of human nature, and the best side of human nature, those upturned faces presented, now lightened up with hope and joy as some favorable message is posted, now expressing pain and anxiety at some unfavorable turn in the patient’s condition. I tell you, my friends, we have no reason to fear for our country’s future when we witness such scenes as these. The  head may go wrong, we may make mistakes, but so long as the heart beats true in common love and sympathy, all is well. The fight for life has been lost, but shall we say nothing has been gained? Has the terrible tragedy been an unmixed evil? I believe I anticipate your answer when I say, No. The design and the deed of the cowardly fiend who, Judas-like, struck down his unsuspecting victim under the pretense of greeting him and paying him dutiful respect, this design and this deed were altogether evil, and nothing can be said in mitigation of its heinousness. And yet, casting our eyes back over the history of human events, and calling to mind the tragedies, the treasons and the monstrous crimes that have been perpetrated by man against man, we can see how all these evils, conceived and executed by wicked men, have, by God’s providence and mercy, been made to work out some wise and beneficent end. And so we take heart, believing that in some way which we know not of, God will use this present sad event for our good and His glory. Aye, we may say with confidence and perfect conviction of truth that if good do not come out of this evil, the fault will be ours, not God’s.
And this thought leads us to see that the prayers that have ascended to the throne of divine grace during the past week, while not answered as we desired and hoped they might be, have by no means been in vain. God will answer them, aye, He is answering them even now in His own divine way. The Lord has not been deaf to our petitions. He has not cast His people away from His sight. He is still near to us as a nation; let us draw nearer to Him. His mighty arm is still stretched out to defend and bless us. If He chasten us and permit affliction to pierce our hearts, it is only because He loves us, even as a father loveth his own children. He doeth all things well. We see as through a glass darkly; His eye penetrates into the secret things of heaven and earth, of time and eternity. We stand, trembling and wondering and guessing; He is ever calm and serene and infinite. With us three score years and ten seems a long time; with Him a million ages is but like the twinkling of an eye. If, as a nation, we have been inclined to be proud and self-sufficient, let these thoughts humble us. Let us learn to distinguish between the mortal and the immortal,  between temporal things and things eternal. Let us learn to realize our frailty, our ignorance, our unworthiness, and let us bear in mind that all nations and peoples are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance in the sight of the Lord. And, yet, weak and insignificant and sinful as we are, God has taught us to call Him our Father.
The country has lost its President, and, while we mourn the loss, let us thank God for all our President was to us and for all the good he did in his day and generation. Let us thank God for the heroism and spirit of Christian resignation that he manifested in his last hours. We commend his soul to the loving protection of that Savior in whom he so firmly trusted.
The nation is secure. The foundations of justice, freedom and equality upon which it is based cannot be shaken by foe from without nor by treason within. That foundation has stood these hundred years through toil and tempest and civil strife, and it will stand unto the end. We face the future with strong courage and unshaken faith. The reins of government have fallen into the hands of a patriot and statesman, a man brave in war and wise in time of peace. We may rest assured that with such a mind and heart and will, the new President will lead the country in the ways of truth and peace. Long live Theodore Roosevelt! God bless the President of the United States. God bless our nation now and always.