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Source: William McKinley: Character Sketches of America’s Martyred Chieftain
Source type: book
Document type: public address
Document title: “The Great Sorrow”
Author(s): McGaffin, Alexander
Compiler(s): Benedict, Charles E.
Publisher: Blanchard Press
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: [1901?]
Pagination: 120-23

McGaffin, Alexander. “The Great Sorrow.” William McKinley: Character Sketches of America’s Martyred Chieftain. Comp. Charles E. Benedict. New York: Blanchard Press, [1901?]: pp. 120-23.
full text of address; excerpt of book
Alexander McGaffin (public addresses); William McKinley (memorial addresses); William McKinley (mourning); McKinley assassination (religious response); William McKinley; William McKinley (religious character); anarchism (religious response).
Named persons
Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; George Washington.
On page 120: Rev. A. McGaffin on the Great Sorrow.

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 Great Sorrow

     Christian men and women: In the providence of God we are here to-day burdened with a great sorrow and in the presence of what must be called, from our human point of view, a great disaster. Officially, it is an earth wide grief, and over land and sea the governments of the world have bowed their heads toward the home which holds the mortal remains of our illustrious and beloved dead, a sign of their lament for him and their respect for the great republic of the West. Racially, it is an Anglo-Saxon grief; and wherever the mother English tongue is spoken and the virile English race has camped, on mighty mainlands and storm swept islands of the sea, where our own and Britain’s “far flung battle line” extends and the flags of the Anglo-Saxon peoples wave “over palm or pine” in token of liberty and peace, there will heart speak to heart of those who own one blood, one language, one history, one world-duty, and thoughts of love and sad regret turn toward the bier where lies a great and noble chieftain of the race.
     Nationally, it is a genuine, deep and universal grief, for in the presence of this great calamity there is in this fair land to-day no faction or section, no North or South, no East or West, no Democrat or Republican, no rich or poor, no capitalist or proletariat; but one strong, united, stricken, indignant citizenship, bound heart and soul by the bonds of faith in the permanence of its government and of sorrowing respect for the honored and murdered man of its own free choice.
     Individually, it is a personal grief, this grief of ours to-day. Truly the treacherous hand struck through our leader at us, at just and stable government, at law and order and peace. But collective citizenship, government, law and order are abstract things, safe in the keeping of an intelligent and patriotic people. The blow aimed at these by the powers of lawlessness and lust was futile folly; and, though they never were endangered they are [120][121] safer yet to-day in the affections of an aroused and outraged nation. But, alas, while law and order reign on in our midst, and “the government at Washington still lives,” he has gone who embodied all these things for us and stood in our stead, by our hands ordained the high priest of our political temple, to lead, to endure, to suffer and, if need be, to die. The hand that struck at him was false as hell, but fatal as death. I have no tears to shed over the attack of an insane pack of lawless men upon the majority of government and law. The majesty of government is lost in exasperation, in pity and love aroused by the pathetic spectacle of our unoffending, highminded, humane yet murdered, foully murdered, statesman and President, a victim of the lawless one’s hatred of law and a sacrifice upon the altar of the beauties of good government and peace. No; I have no tears to shed, no exasperation or horror to express for anarchy’s machinations against the political and social fabric. A free and enlightened people may be trusted to take good care of both government and anarchy. But I have deep sorrow in my heart for the agony and death of one whose youth was earnest and honest; who offered his life to his country upon the field of blood; who served long and faithfully in her state and national Legislatures; who guided her with jealous care and eager zeal to lead her straight along the path of peace with honor of war, in necessity with justice and humaneness, through hours of new opportunities and responsibilities most grave since Washington gave her a name and Lincoln saved her in her integrity from shame; who served his generation to the satisfaction of the vast majority of his countrymen and the admiration of the civilized world; who was a friend beloved, a husband both tender and true, and yet was murdered in the hour of his achievement. He has gone, William McKinley, President of these United States, gone when we had come to believe that the skill of science and the care of love would save him to his people; gone from the midst of many nations gathered in peaceful array to hear his words and to toil together in those human pursuits whose welfare ever held so large a share of his thought and interest; gone with the human word “good-bye” and the divine word “God’s will” upon his death-chilled lips; gone to a nobler assemblage than any of earth and to a [121][122] greater reward than lay in the power of any people to bestow upon him. The country has lost a great citizen. Government has lost a wise statesman. Religion has lost a true friend and exemplar. The country will enshrine him in its memory as a model of citizenship; government will cherish him as a martyr, and religion will enroll him among the great cloud of witnesses. No creed, no party can claim the man from us. As an American he belongs to us all without distinction of party; as a good man he belongs to the church universal without distinction of creed.
     Here in this house of God we look not so much at President and policy as at the Christian gentleman whose life story honors God; and we take thought with ourselves that at the last great, tremendous hour which must come to us all, it will not be place or power, financial or intellectual might which will make men sad when we are gone or give us right to the company of the immortals, but goodness and faithfulness, love and friendliness, the ability to look the world with its richest rewards full eyed in the face and say without fear of reproach, as he did, “Good-bye,” and look heaven in the face and say without fear of judgement, as he did, “God’s will be done.” For the man who can thus feel and speak death has no great terror and judgement will bring no degradation. However sudden may be the summons, fidelity will leave us never unprepared; goodness, not greatness, will make us ever ready. May God sanctify this nation by this calamity. May it breed in every heart an intenser love of land and law and a deeper delight in the great realities of character which make William McKinley, though dead, speak more eloquently than ever he did by word to the hearts of a grieved and indignant people.
     Concerning the direct and indirect authors of this awful crime, the anarchist and anarchism which have defiled our free land, the self-restraint of our people and press in their grief and horror is to be most highly commended. We upholders of law and order, we followers of the Crucified who said: “Forgive them, for they know not what they do,” we will not become anarchists at heart and wish that law had turned or will turn from its prescribed, stern and relentless course. We will be no party to any attack upon the orderly processes [122][123] of justice to thus change the criminal to martyr and ourselves wreck the very fabric at which the assassin struck. We cannot avoid the presence of these vain, misguided men in our midst, and we will not be harried into hysterical efforts for their suppression, which would give them an importance and influence in our land unwarranted by their power and numbers.
     We shall hope, hereafter, that our Presidents will not be unnecessarily democratic during their official life and will cease to mingle with promiscuous crowds upon the streets and station platforms; that reputable newspapers will see the grandeur of the office more and the supposed faults of the man less, and in their references to him and his acts will show that chaste restraint and decent respect which become great guides of public opinion. We shall hope that disreputable newspapers will be prohibited by law from cartooning, with shameless and conscious deceit, the chief magistrate of the nation, belittling him in the eyes of the unthinking crowd and handing him over to the hatred and violence of the lawless and discontented minority, which can ever find an empty-headed conceited fool to be its vainglorious instrument. We shall hope, too, that in the minds of the people the Presidential office will be lifted to a place of such honor and regard as will save the man whom the people choose to fill it from the hasty judgements and acrimonious denunciations of the private citizen. But after we have done all this and whatever else is wise, we shall still be compelled to leave our ruler in the hands of God and pray, “From wicked men and lawless acts, O Lord, deliver him.” We shall hope on and hope ever that the benefits of good government, the light of increasing knowledge, and the precepts of religion more and more commanding the affection and assent of the whole people will prevent the desecration of our political temple, will save us from a repetition of the horror and grief of this calamitous hour, and preserve us and our rulers in prosperity and peace. May God grant it, for His own name’s sake. Amen.



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