Source: William McKinley: A Biographical Study
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “McKinley in the Home and as Commander-in-Chief” [chapter 6]
Author(s): Corning, A. Elwood
Publisher: Broadway Publishing Co.
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: 1907
Pagination: 133-59 (excerpt below includes only pages 140-42 and 144-45)
|Corning, A. Elwood. “McKinley in the Home and as Commander-in-Chief” [chapter 6]. William McKinley: A Biographical Study. New York: Broadway Publishing, 1907: pp. 133-59.|
|excerpt of chapter|
|William McKinley (personal character).|
|Marcus Hanna; William McKinley; John G. Milburn; Antoinette Witt.|
The following excerpt comprises two nonconsecutive portions of this chapter (pp. 140-42 and pp. 144-45). Omission of text within the excerpt is indicated with a bracketed indicator (e.g., [omit]).
From title page: With Introductory Address by President Roosevelt.
McKinley in the Home and as Commander-in-Chief [excerpt]
An act which occurred during his
last and tragic visit to Buffalo will illustrate the simple manner and graciousness
of the man. On the day before the assassination the President started out of
the Milburn House for an early morning stroll; the weather was very bright and
beautiful. As he turned out from Delaware Avenue into a side street he stopped
in front of a house where a laborer was cutting the grass with a lawn mower.
He engaged the man in conversation. The President asked him the cost and workmanship
of the different kinds of mowers and other little details of the man’s calling.
While he stood there talking a street sweeper came along, and he, too, was stopped
by the President and drawn into the conversation, all of which had reference
to the work in which the men were engaged. Just as he was about to leave he
put his hand into his pocket, and, pulling out two one-dollar bills, presented
one to each of the men, asking  them
to accept them as a token of the goodwill of the President of the United States.
This little deed of kindness and pathos was the last that President McKinley did in his capacity as a private citizen. The two men were much touched when they related this simple story of the great and kind-hearted man who was so soon to go home to his reward.
Even the little children loved him. It is related of a little boy that on the night before Mr. McKinley died he said to his mother: “You needn’t wake me, mama, if President McKinley dies. I don’t want to see any ‘Extras,’ for I never loved any other President half so well as I love him.” The newsboys loved him, for they knew he was their friend. When he met them on the street he would almost always stop and buy papers from them.
Another of those acts of his illustrating the kindly and gracious side of his nature, that never could be concealed, occurred on the fateful day when he made the rounds of the Exposition Buildings at Buffalo. While passing one of the booths in the Agricultural Building the young lady in charge, Miss Antoinette Witt, attracted his attention. He stopped, shook her hand, spoke with his charming smile a few words of well-wishing, and presented to her a rich bouquet of American Beauties, which had been given him shortly before. Then he passed rapidly on, but the young lady was the hero of  the day, and cherishes the recollection fondly.
Another incident occurred on the day of his funeral which is so pathetic and so beautiful a picture that it cannot be too often told.
It was that incident of the little girl of unknown name who on the day when the remains of William McKinley were laid at rest in Canton was found just at dusk at the entrance gate of the cemetery in Atlanta, Ga. She had been waiting there for some time, for in her hands were tightly clutched a bunch of wilted wild flowers. She had heard that her beloved President, whom all loved, was to be buried that afternoon, and she had come to the only burial place of which she knew to place on his bier a tender token of her love and esteem.
Sensitive to criticism, yet no one
overheard him speak unkindly about any one. He never consciously wronged a fellow-being.
He would turn from the cares of State to give a flower to a little child or
to say a kindly word to some visitor for whom he could do no more. His beginning
was that of the average American boy, and he won every step of his noble and
brilliant career because he was a true, patriotic, kind and courageous man.
No matter what came up in his official duties, he always remained true to his
character and convictions as a Christian gentleman. He was so upright in nature,
so tolerant in temper, so grand in bearing and so kind and considerate of others,
that he proved by his acts and words that “the bravest are the tenderest, the
loving are the daring.” In regard to this side of his character, Mark Hanna
has written of his friend:
“He seems to have met every emergency and the unusual problems and annoying complications of the times in a masterful way. These conditions furnished the opportunity for him to demonstrate his enormous talent and ability  for successfully solving every problem, rising to the full measure of every situation and overcoming all obstacles.” And he goes on to say that: “In all those thirty years of close relations I never heard him utter one word of what I would call resentment, tinged with bitterness, toward any living person.” This was again reflected in the story of the assassination told by Mr. Milburn, who said that he could “never forget the picture in the expression of his countenance as he glanced toward the dastard assassin. In his eyes read the words as plain as language could express it, ‘Why should you do this?’ And then, when the assassin was hurled to the ground when the fury and indignation of the people had begun to assert itself, he said, with almost saintly compassion, ‘Don’t let them hurt him.’ I know of nothing in all history that can compare with the splendid climax and enduring of this noble life.”