Source: Medical Times and Register
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Grief of the Nation”
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 39
Issue number: 10
|“The Grief of the Nation.” Medical Times and Register Oct. 1901 v39n10: pp. 259-60.|
|McKinley assassination (personal response); society (criticism); William McKinley (medical care: personal response); William McKinley (medical care: criticism).|
The Grief of the Nation
The shot which has brought the President of
the United States to his death-bed, bows our nation in profound sorrow and deep
humiliation. With hardly an exception; without regard to party, race or condition,
a great wave of indignation at the assassin and sympathy for the sufferer and
his beloved wife, swept through the hearts of our people with the announcement
of the crime. A good man and a great man has fallen at the hand of a wretched
disciple of lawlessness, and in his fall we have all fallen. That shot struck
every American heart; Alas! that it should be! That the fair name of America
should receive so foul a blot! That we should suffer, even foster, within our
borders such vile principles in the name of liberty!
Many are tempted in the excitement of the moment to blame others for this melancholy event. Many are looking about to find the persons who can be held responsible for this outcome, to point out some course of conduct or manner of speech, and say, “This is the consequence.” Little good can come from mutual blame and mutual recriminations. They who are taking the lesson most to heart, and are reflecting most wisely and planning most helpfully are those who in silence are searching themselves, sifting their own motives, judging their own actions and trying to find the right way of patriotic duty for the future. They who are most eager now to blame others are least to be depended upon for wise counsels.
But when the full extent of this crime against the American people is seen, they themselves will plead guilty and repent. They have harbored knowingly men and women who have planned such crimes and who have openly rejoiced in having carried out their plans. They have permitted anarchists to publish arguments advocating the murder of rulers, and to circulate them freely. They have allowed, without protest, meetings of the avowed enemies of society to encourage one another to such deeds.
The American nation stands awed, indignant, in the presence of a terrible crime committed against its own existence, a crime plotted to destroy not so much a man as the government which he represents. The burning hatred of the assassin was not against Mr. William McKinley as an individual, but against President McKinley, the chosen ruler of the people. It was the violent protest of anarchy against law.
The universal voice of the press,  both of America and of foreign countries, condemns the brutal attack and recognizes the superior character, both as a man and as a statesman, of President McKinley.
Probably it will be found that this irresponsible Pole was acting on his own initiative, not under the specific commands of any society of assassins, although he was undoubtedly incited to crime by the violent utterances of anarchist speakers and writers.
But this fact, if it be a fact, only adds to the difficulty of the situation. If neither a policy of rigorous repression nor one of absolute freedom of expression can do anything effectual to prevent murder, if assassination of public men thrives equally in Russia and in America, it is evident that the time has fully come for thoughtful men to consider afresh the question. How in this twentieth century can life be preserved? This is a fundamental question, but one apparently not so simple as it has been deemed. Murder as the product of covetousness and accompanied by robbery we know; murder as an act of malignancy inspired by personal revenge we know; murder by a fanatic rendered desperate by a despotism from which he foolishly expects relief by the assassination of the despot we know; but the assassination of President McKinley falls into none of these categories. So far as we can judge, this murder is the act of a man chiefly inspired by that most inexplicable and most despicable of ambitions, the desire for notoriety; the most despicable, and yet, in a democratic community, with its characteristic passion for publicity, liable to become more common in the future than in the past.
Regarding the medical aspect of the President’s case very little is to be said. All was evidently done for him that modern surgery could do, but it seemed to us all the way through that if the bulletins were correct, no physicians had any right to hold out the hope of recovery while the temperature remained above 100 and the pulse in the vicinity of 120 for nearly a week. It was only in an unwarranted prognosis that we should criticize the medical aspect of the case.