Source: William McKinley: Character Sketches of America’s Martyred Chieftain
Source type: book
Document type: public address
Document title: “A Lesson to Be Learned”
Author(s): Ingersoll, E. P.
Compiler(s): Benedict, Charles E.
Publisher: Blanchard Press
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: [1901?]
|Ingersoll, E. P. “A Lesson to Be Learned.” William McKinley: Character Sketches of America’s Martyred Chieftain. Comp. Charles E. Benedict. New York: Blanchard Press, [1901?]: pp. 107-10.|
|full text of address; excerpt of book|
|E. P. Ingersoll (public addresses); William McKinley (death: personal response); McKinley assassination (news coverage: personal response); William McKinley (personal character); McKinley assassination (personal response); McKinley assassination (religious interpretation); William McKinley (religious character); Theodore Roosevelt.|
|Alfred; James A. Garfield; Jesus Christ; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt; William I.|
On page 107: Dr. E. P. Ingersoll, on A Lesson to Be Learned.
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.
A Lesson to Be Learned
Within a generation three of our
Presidents have been martyred. Reverent men were they and true to their great
trust. The third has just fallen, and the nation—the civilized world—are in
mourning. Stricken down by the assassin’s bullet, the first thought and utterance
of President McKinley was of tender anxiety for his wife, and his second one
of shield for the ruffian who shot him. As the days went by and science, with
all its modern skill and gentleness, was bending over the sufferer for his help,
this prince among men had accepted the contest with heroic spirit, just as a
good soldier goes into battle—self-forgetful. Day before yesterday science,
which had stopped the funeral march of dissolution, gave its final help that
he might breathe his good-byes. Tenderly, lovingly, the brave woman, who has
shared his hopes and his toils and honors, bent over him, receiving and giving
the last tokens and words of earthly farewell. Sacred the love that blends the
hearts of a true man and a true woman! Then came the other farewells. History
gives no sweeter, grander departure. To God he murmured in prayer: “Thy will
be done.” And then slowly whispered: “‘Nearer, my God, to Thee’ is my constant
prayer.” His last words, “It is God’s way! Good-bye all, good-bye.” It was an
apotheosis, Christian, not pagan. He was glorified—not deified.
The hush of the Lord’s Day is upon us. We have not come as an Easter morn, for our joyful aspirations heavenward are clouded with gloom and smitten with sorrow. Throughout our land, in unwonted numbers, the people have gone and are going up to the sanctuary with a reverent hope for light and comfort. The press has spoken like messengers from heaven; rising to a degree of vision and prophecy, of counsel and comfort, that has never been surpassed. Most grandly and brightly they are  cheering us to the struggle for peaceful and enduring liberty. Staggered, they have not fallen; stricken with grief, these “bright warders of the land” have used their tears as lenses with which to bring nearer “the promised day.” In this they have caught the spirit of our martyred President.
To-day it is the turn of the pulpit to speak. We ought, perhaps, to take in more distinctly the divine—the Christian bearing of this terrible calamity. We are permitted also to emphasize some of the practical questions which belong to a noble national life, but so penetrated have the leaders of thought become with Christian ideals and principles that, almost to a man, when disaster or troubles “come in like a flood” they rise to the thought and plea of the gospel minister. So should it be. So in holy league with all gospel preachers, freed from party and commercialism, may it ever be with the press of our land.
William McKinley was a descendant of toilers—hand toilers. Like Lincoln and Garfield, his was the birthright not of wealth and ease, but of struggle. His heirloom was a chance to earn his way to influence and honor. Why should a hand toiler shoot him? Had he dishonored the ranks from which he came? By word, deed or spirit had he ever pushed them down or disdained them? He was never boisterous in his party life. Sincere, he was urgent, diligent, but always fair and candid. These qualities won for him advancement and renown. The higher he rose in positions of trust the clearer it became that he was equal to the trust, for every advancement in princely position revealed more clearly the great man, “great man that has fallen this day in Israel.” It was not the qualities of manhood which brought his death, for we have never had a Chief Magistrate who was more careful, generous and kindly.
Alas! alas! the mistake of our nation! Some from an unwise philanthropy, many because of a carelessness which comes from indolence and indifference, multitudes from a blind eagerness for low wages and so of gain, but a large number under the lash and heat of party, have continued to throw wide our gates, chanting, “We have room for all creation, don’t feel alarmed.” China must stay out and physical lepers must stay out, but  moral lepers, the depraved and offscouring of many lands, hated, despised, feared in their native land, have stealthily crept in upon us to degenerate our nation. Some of them are brainy, but denying God and hating all human restraint. Social and moral influences have failed. Is it not possible for us to frame and execute laws for our self-preservation? Let us screw our courage to the sticking place, guard our gates, make it treason to seek the life of our rulers. This enough? No! More diligently let us insist upon moral as well as intellectual education. “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth, and our daughters as cornerstones polished after the similitude of a palace.” “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
Is there involved in this tragedy a great underlying principle, sometimes the only thing to which our sluggish human nature will arise and bow? Yesterday I met a prominent banker of this city, who said to me: “It is awful, awful!” and then tears came to his eyes and his utterance was choked. Presently he added in slow and serious tone, “but I have been thinking that there are times when nothing but such a calamity as this will awaken us. Somebody we love and honor has to be sacrificed.” A grand, unselfish life has our departed Chief led. Will his “taking off” help us more than his life here? Lincoln’s did. The assassination of William of Orange exalted and cemented the patriotism of the Netherlands. May it not be a lesson in that profoundest and most glorious fact of our Christianity, “Christ died to make men free.” Ah! It ought not to have been. It need not have been if we had “come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” May William McKinley live, not chiefly in history, but as a vital force in the spirit and aims of all the people. May his exalted and pure faith, his sublime devotion—home and national—pass like particles of iron into the blood of our higher life!
Does not that thought suggest immortality? Shall an influence last longer than the character which has given it? Shall a signature endure longer than the mind and heart which prompted it? His bodily life was well-nigh gone, but the last words of our statesman, hero, brother, were as balanced and loving as if he had been  saying a “good night.” He believed that “his mortality was to be swallowed up of life.” That faith made his character and shaped his conduct. Because of the power that came from it we mourn for him, we honor his memory. The hope in which he lived and died is not worn out. We need no new gospel. “The word of the Lord abideth forever.” It sweeps the horizon of time and of eternity. It stimulates, it cheers, it exalts, it purifies. Let us learn well the lesson of his life. It is a call to his countrymen, to the world, for a consecrated living. Consecrated not to pleasure, or ambition, or gold, or any success below the stars. God does not brew a storm to waft a feather. He does not lash the ocean to drown a fly—neither does He stir the emotions and unselfish thoughts of a great nation simply to swell our hearts with grief. What He says to us now is well understood. Let us put it into lasting life.
Twice in the life of William McKinley he swept back the tide of a national convention that seemed ready to nominate him for the Presidency. His honor held him to another course. Plighted faith was to him a sacred thing. Afterward, twice, the nation bestowed its highest honors upon him.
There comes one to the presidency now who sought in vain to stay the strong tide that was bearing him on to the Vice-Presidency. In the prime of a balanced manhood, tested and proved by experiences that have revealed as they have exalted his manhood; meeting the larger duties and emergencies of his higher trusts with as clear vision and as consecrated decision as he met the lower, Theodore Roosevelt, soldier, statesman, patriot, husband, father, an exemplar of religion, with an abiding trust in the divine purpose and destiny of our nation, is now our President. We will give him our confidence. We believe he will be as obedient to the heavenly vision as was Alfred the Great, William of Orange, Lincoln and McKinley. “Long live the President!” “God save the State!”
As the solemn obsequies of the week come let us not forget to pray for the brave woman who shared the life and love of the great man who has fallen. We are called to prayer as well as tears. And for our nation, which God planted and has protected and guided, let us send up our petition.