Source: William McKinley: Character Sketches of America’s Martyred Chieftain
Source type: book
Document type: public address
Document title: “Address”
Author(s): Gibbons, James
Compiler(s): Benedict, Charles E.
Publisher: Blanchard Press
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: [1901?]
|Gibbons, James. “Address.” William McKinley: Character Sketches of America’s Martyred Chieftain. Comp. Charles E. Benedict. New York: Blanchard Press, [1901?]: pp. 186-89.|
|full text of address; excerpt of book|
|James Gibbons (public addresses); William McKinley (memorial addresses); McKinley assassination (religious response); William McKinley; presidents (protection); William McKinley (recovery: role of prayer).|
|Belshazzar [identified as Bàlthazzar below]; Marcus Junius Brutus; Julius Caesar; James A. Garfield; Jesus Christ; Judas; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt.|
On page 186: Address by Cardinal Gibbons.
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.
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. Bàlthazzar, 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 civic virtues.
Brutus plunged his dagger into the heart of Cæsar 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 offending him.
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.