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Source: Musician
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “A Reality and a Possibility”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 6
Issue number: 10
Pagination: 304

“A Reality and a Possibility.” Musician Oct. 1901 v6n10: p. 304.
full text
McKinley assassination (personal response); William McKinley (presidential character); William McKinley; Leon Czolgosz.
Named persons
Rutherford B. Hayes; William McKinley; Victoria.


A Reality and a Possibility

     It is but a few short months since editorial comment was made on the death of two celebrities, one a ruler, the other a composer. Now the American people are bowed in grief of unusual depth and sincerity. William McKinley, President of the United States, was made a sacrifice to the mad theories of fanatics. When, in February, the death of Queen Victoria was heralded unaccompanied by the horrors of crime, and the qualities which earned for her the love of her people and the respect of the world were published abroad, there was universal admiration that there should be united in one born in the purple so many commendable attributes.


     There has been demonstrated in American life a truth of far-reaching significance. A President, whose official career received the severest criticism, was struck down by an assassin, and in the days of anxious waiting and final grief, there came to the public sense a fuller knowledge of a life with which all official acts could be aligned. What some had thought to be double dealing resolved itself into a kindliness of temper, which had in it no trace of swerving from duty. What were considered weaknesses were shown to be misunderstood elements of a character of unusual strength. The basis on which the life was rested was shown in the utterances, “Let no man hurt him,” and “It is God’s way, His will be done.” No man, who so builded on the foundations of resignation to Divine Will and Christian Charity as that, when stricken down, he could spontaneously forgive his slayer, and express a quiet assurance in the infallibility of God, could permit the mingling of the dross of deceit with the finer metal of his composition.


     It is a thing to be proud of that American civilization produces such characters. And it is a fact worth remembering that this example of its activity began his life work just as the vast majority of us have begun and now are beginning. Unlike the Queen, he was of humble birth and experienced all the vicissitudes and struggles of the poor, unaided young aspirant for success. The secret of his success is given in the following extract from an editorial in the New York Christian Advocate:

     “It was now recognized that this man of plain extraction was born with a capacity of developing—under the influence of light, patriotic warmth, and the stress of events—into Greatness. This attained, with the aid of advisers whom his tact and knowledge of men, gained by experience, enabled him to select, he was able to cope with a multiform task which involved the prevention of divisions at home, preventing European interference, delaying the breach with Spain, making vast preparations of unforseen [sic] duration, and preventing a too early recognition of a crude government in Cuba.”

     The italicized words are significant. “Born with a capacity for development” is a pregnant statement. One who reviews McKinley’s life, from his entrance into the army on through its widely varying activities and responsibilities to his death, is struck with the steady development which characterized him. He grew, and grew steadily broader and better.


     What has this to do with the musician? It has all to do with him. It is the factor which will make him a success in his chosen field as was President McKinley in his. The capacity for development is the priceless boon of the successful man, be he musician or President. And what is the capacity for development? There are those to whom it seems to be a birth right [sic]. But study McKinley’s life and it will readily be discovered. Patient persistence in a given course of study, concentration of mind and energies in the work to be done, loyal adherence to principles and a tireless capacity for labor. These were the elements of which his capacity for development was comprised. He was wise as well as President; he looked ahead and chose the avenues along which his activities were to be pressed. He had the wisdom to put into practice the advice of President Hayes, who was his friend, and who said to him:
     “To achieve success and fame you must pursue a special line.  *  *  *  You must confine yourself to one particular thing. Become a specialist. Take up some branch of legislation and make that your study.” With a premonition of his future public career, he prepared himself for it by several elaborate courses of reading selected with reference to his needs.


     What William McKinley did others can do. The musician can make himself and his future by adherence to principle and a judicious attention to the nature of his work and the channels along which it progresses. The qualities that made McKinley great were not isolated, showing themselves adapted to the few alone. They are the outcome of that which any man may possess if he will.


     There is another aspect presented by this tragedy. Musicians are called cranks[.] And too often their manner and appearance give color to the accusation. The murderer of our President was a real crank. He was a crank because he permitted his mind to centre itself, unrestrained by the principles of real philanthropy, upon sophistries which, while they profess to preach the betterment of mankind, are at bottom concentrated selfishness. True perspective was impossible and sound judgment not to be expected. The musician who, by any means, narrows his perspective until it takes in himself alone, has set bounds to his capacity for development, limits the attainment of his ideals and sets his face in the pathway of the crank.


     It is a matter of rejoicing that the black cloud of useless crime should be lined by the silver of a life and character like that of the stricken one, and it adds to the measure of our chastened joy that such a character may be possessed by all who desire it and seek after it.



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