It has been my melancholy
experience in the course of my sacred ministry to be startled by
the assassination of three Presidents of the United States. Abraham
Lincoln was shot in 1865. James A. Garfield was mortally wounded
in 1881, and William McKinley received a fatal wound on the 6th
day of September. Mr. Lincoln was shot in a theatre; Mr. Garfield
was shot while about to take a train to enjoy a needed vacation,
and our late beloved President fell by the hand of an assassin while
lending the prestige of his name and influence to the success of
a National exposition.
In the annals of crime
it is difficult to find an instance of murder so atrocious, so wanton
and meaningless as the assassination of Mr. McKinley. Some reason
or pretext has been usually assigned for the sudden taking away
of earthly rulers. Bŕlthazzar, the impious King of Chaldea, spent
his last night in reveling and drunkenness and profanity. He was
suddenly struck dead by the hand of the Lord.
How different was the
life of our Chief Magistrate. No Court in Europe or in the civilized
world was more conspicuous for moral rectitude and purity, or more
free from the breath of scandal than the official home of President
McKinley. He would have adorned any Court in Christendom by his
Brutus plunged his dagger
into the heart of Cćsar because of his overweening ambition. Whatever
may have been the errors of judgment on the part of our late President
(and who is free from them?) no man can honestly charge him with
tyranny or official corruption.
The Redeemer of mankind was
betrayed by the universal symbol of love. If I may reverently make
the comparison, the President was betrayed by the universal emblem
of friendship. Christ said to Judas: “Friend, betrayest thou the
Son of Man with a kiss?” The President could have said to his slayer:
“Betrayest thou the  head
of the Nation with the grasp of the hand?” He was struck down surrounded
by a host of his fellow-citizens, every one of whom would have gladly
risked his life in defense of his beloved chieftain.
Few Presidents were
better equipped than Mr. McKinley for the exalted position which
he filled. When a mere youth he entered the Union Army as a private
soldier during the civil war, and was promoted for gallant service
on the field of battle to the rank of Major. He served his country
for about fourteen years in the Halls of Congress, and toward the
close of his term he became one of the most conspicuous figures
in that body. He afterward served his State as Governor.
As President he was
thoroughly conversant with the duties of his office, and could enter
into its most minute details. His characteristic virtues were courtesy
and politeness, patience and forbearance, and masterly self-control
under very trying circumstances. When unable to grant a favor he
had the rare and happy talent to disappoint the applicant without
The domestic virtues
of Mr. McKinley were worthy of all praise. He was a model husband.
Amid the pressing and engrossing duties of his official life he
would from time to time snatch a few moments to devote to the invalid
and loving partner of his joys and sorrows. Oh! what a change has
come over this afflicted woman! Yesterday she was the first lady
of the land. To-day she is a disconsolate and broken-hearted widow.
Let us beseech Him who comforted the widow of Nain that He console
this lady in her hour of desolation.
It is a sad reflection
that some fanatic or miscreant has it in his power to take the life
of the head of the Nation, and to throw the whole country into mourning.
It was no doubt this thought that inspired some writers within the
last few days to advise that the President should henceforth abstain
from public receptions and handshaking, and that greater protection
should be given to his person.
You might have him surrounded
with cohorts, defended with bayonets, and have him followed by argus-eyed
detectives, and yet he will not be proof against the stroke of the
assassin. Are not the crowned heads of Europe usually attended by
military forces, and yet 
how many of them have perished at the hands of some criminal? No,
let the President continue to move among his people and take them
by the hand. The strongest shield of our Chief Magistrate is the
love and devotion of his fellow-citizens. The most effective way
to stop such crimes is to inspire the rising generation with greater
reverence for the constituted authorities, and a greater horror
for any insult or injury to their person. All seditious language
should be suppressed. Incendiary speech is too often an incentive
to criminal acts on the part of many to whom the transition from
words to deeds is easy.
Let it be understood once for
all that the authorities are determined to crush the serpent of
anarchy whenever it lifts its venomous head.
We have prayed for the President’s
life, but it did not please God to grant our petition. Let no one
infer from this that our prayers were in vain. No fervent prayer
ascending to the throne of heaven remains unanswered. Let no one
say what a lady remarked to me on the occasion of President Garfield’s
death. “I have prayed,” she said, “for the President’s life. My
family have prayed for him, our congregation prayed for him, the
city prayed for him, the State prayed for him, the Nation prayed
for him, and yet he died. What, then, is the use of prayer?” God
answers our petitions either directly or indirectly. If He does
not grant us what we ask, He gives us something equivalent or better.
If He has not saved the life of the President, He preserves the
life of the Nation, which is of more importance than the life of
an individual. He has infused into the hearts of the American people
a greater reverence for the head of the Nation, and a greater abhorrence
of assassination. He has intensified and energized our love of country
and our devotion to our political institutions.
What a beautiful spectacle
to behold prayers ascending from tens of thousands of temples throughout
the land to the throne of mercy! Is not this universal uplifting
of minds and hearts to God a sublime profession of our faith and
trust in Him? Is not this National appeal to Heaven a most eloquent
recognition of God’s superintending providence over us? And such
earnest  and united prayers
will not fail to draw down upon us the blessings of the Almighty.
The President is dead.
Long live the President! William McKinley has passed away, honored
and mourned by the Nation. Theodore Roosevelt succeeds to the title,
the honors, and the responsibilities of the Presidential office.
Let his fellow-citizens rally around him. Let them uphold and sustain
him in bearing the formidable burden suddenly thrust upon him. May
he be equal to the emergency and fulfil his duties with credit to
himself, and may his Administration redound to the peace and prosperity
of the American people.