Source: A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents
Source type: government document
Document type: essay
Document title: “McKinley”
Author(s): Stewart, William M.
Volume number: 13
Publisher: Bureau of National Literature, Inc.
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: 
|Stewart, William M. “McKinley.” A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents. Vol. 13. New York: Bureau of National Literature, : pp. 6233C-33D.|
|full text of essay; excerpt of book|
|William McKinley (personal history); William McKinley (personal character); William McKinley (political character); McKinley assassination.|
| This book does not provide a publication or copyright year; however,
an internal reference to Roosevelt’s death (1919) as well as references
to the separately published “encyclopedic indexes” suggest the same year
of publication as the indexes themselves (1922).
From title page: With Additions and Encyclopedic Index by Private Enterprise.From title page: Prepared under the Direction of the Joint Committee on Printing, of the House and Senate, Pursuant to an Act of the Fifty-Second Congress of the United States.
In William McKinley, Twenty-fifth
President of the United States, was crowned a fortunate life by an immortal
death; and the last moments of his earthly career showed him to be one of those
who live their best in order to die worthily. Carried by a patriotic impulse
at an early age into the Union Army, his sterling qualities bore him forward
by sheer force of merit to a position that none could have foreseen in the quiet
and slender youth of 1861. Four years of strenuous army life brought out and
strengthened in him that native disposition to habits of discipline, industry,
dutifulness and comradeship which afterwards helped him along so surely towards
the highest of public stations. Restored to home and a civil career by the return
of peace he took up the studies and training that might fit him for the practical
work of a lawyer. Aided by a steadiness of application, and by a readiness and
power of argument, he made a place for himself at the bar not merely successful,
but always so honorably filled that his early translation to the field of politics
was a recognized loss to his chosen profession.
McKinley had inherited and grown up among those political principles that, by the time he came to manhood, constituted the creed of the Republican party as founded in 1854. Sincerely believing in them, it was natural to him to engage actively in their advancement. Beginning in the ranks, and doing his duty there, as before, without thought of else than duty, he became a leader by the force of his own qualities and the confidence of those by whom leaders are chosen.
Space forbids other than mere mention of a long career in the House of Representatives, during which he constantly grew in intellectual adaptability to public affairs and broadened in the experience necessary to deal with them successfully on their practical side. In Congress, too, was preserved that amiability which forever saved him from personal rancor on either side, and won him friends on all sides. He knew his own motives and he believed in the sincerity of those who differed from him. This unswerving feeling of comradeship with his fellow-men, existing all his life and under the strain of all circumstances, endowed his character with a nobility for which mere brilliance would have been but a poor exchange.
The McKinley Tariff Act brought its author first prominently before the Nation. The popular reception of it retired him for the moment to private life in the general but temporary downfall of his party.. His courageous answer to the public verdict was that the tariff act was right and would speedily vindicate itself. Speedily it did, and the vindication carried him up to the great office of Governor of Ohio, with a large access of National reputation. One term brought another, and in 1892, Governor McKinley was a great figure in the Republican National Convention, which showed a disposition then to take him up as its Presidential candidate, only checked by his own protest against putting him into a position where he could not honorably stand. Four years later the nomination came to him honorably and with hardly the semblance of a contest. [6233C][6233D]
McKinley’s behavior and addresses during the whirlwind campaign of 1896 left his eulogists nothing to desire. He came to the Presidency in 1897, amid a popular conviction that he would fill it with high conscience, ability and dignity, and throughout the rest of his life, which he spent as President, the conviction was signally realized. Accepting Congress as the proper interpreter of the National feeling, he laboriously sought to keep on the best terms with it and its individual members, so that throughout his Presidency the legislative and executive departments worked together in the public service as they had rarely done before. With Congress he could not always do all that he would, but his influence over Congress in matters of moment, exercised under the quiet guises of patience and persuasion, was the greatest that any President has yet possessed.
As President, McKinley was distinguished by his prompt success in restoring protectionism to the foundations of the tariff system; by a triumphant but humane and generous conduct of the Spanish War; by a just and enlightened participation in the sentiment of the Chinese difficulties, winning the gratitude of China, and the esteem of Europe, and by the careful, conscientious and effective manner in which he met the trying problems that arose, one after another, in relation to Cuba, Porto Rico and the Philippines, he would have passed into history as one of the most successful of Presidents had he lacked claims to a higher distinction.
On Thursday, September 5, 1901, at the Buffalo Exposition, President McKinley made an address which is worthy to stand as his final utterance on public affairs. With deep solemnity it reminded the Nation of the responsibilities attending its enlarged power and importance in the concerns of the earth; it proclaimed good-will to all mankind, and spoke for friendly rivalry and fraternal relations in the world-wide activities of commerce. The next day, while holding a public reception at the Exposition and looking compassionately upon a young man with a seemingly bandaged and injured hand, a fatal pistol shot came from beneath the treacherous cover, to number the good President among the blameless victims of a perverted and bloody scheme of miscalled social regeneration. After a brief promise of recovery, the Nation was called upon to lay him away amid an unexampled outburst of grief and admiration throughout the world. Thus the grave closed over one of our first of public men who was one of the most lovable, whose private life was a shining example of purity and devotion, and whose deathbed has been fittingly described as that of “a noble and gallant Christian gentleman.”