Publication information
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Source: New York Lancet
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “The Assassination of President McKinley”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 22
Issue number: 10
Pagination: 243-44

“The Assassination of President McKinley.” New York Lancet Oct. 1901 v22n10: pp. 243-44.
full text
McKinley assassination (personal response); presidential assassinations (comparison); anarchism (personal response); William McKinley; William McKinley (medical care: personal response); William McKinley (medical condition); William McKinley (surgery); Leon Czolgosz.
Named persons
James A. Garfield; Abraham Lincoln; Matthew D. Mann; William McKinley.
Click here to view what is believed to be the “criticism appearing in the New York Medical Record” alluded to below.


The Assassination of President McKinley

     Like a bolt of lightning from a clear sky came the terrible report that the President was shot. The public sense was benumbed and bewildered. The hearts of the people beat as one in sympathy for the injured and in abhorrence for the vile act.
     Thrice has a President been assassinated. The death of Lincoln,—following the end of a long and bitter struggle,—when the passions and prejudices of the nation were at fever heat, had its lesson of horror and suffering; and the death of Garfield was a shock to the sensibilities of the people and a discouragement to official authority. But neither of these combined in their motive the hellish purpose which actuated those who are responsible for McKinley’s death.
     The death of Lincoln was the individual act of one who assumed to believe that his removal relieved the country of a traitor. The sacrifice of Garfield was the act of a degenerate and lacked special political significance, but the death of McKinley is a stab at the vitals of constitutional liberty and rightful authority.
     Foreign socialistic and anarchistic sentiment found this tolerant, free country an asylum and refuge for a dangerous element. Their avowed purpose is to wreck society; and the nation should stop to consider whether the time is not ripe to rid herself of such, and whether, in her tolerance of civic liberty, she has not invited the calamity which prostrates the nation in suffering and mourning.
     The remedy will be found and applied. It would seem that no anarchist should be allowed to pollute this free soil by his presence.
     It would be fitting that some “far-off isle” in the Philippines should be made a penal colony where these dangerous wretches could be restrained and where, if they desire to exploit their theories, it would be only among their own number.
     It has taken more than thirty-five years to establish the rightful character and favor of Abraham Lincoln until now, North and South, his name is honored and loved equally with that of Washington. On the whole, considering his obscure birth and meager advantages, and the lofty position Lincoln attained as a patriot and a ruler, he may be regarded as the most remarkable development of American greatness and nobleness.
     With McKinley it is different. Unlike any of his predecessors, and unlike great men generally, he had won by moral worth, political sagacity, and his power to fathom the will of the people. In the hearts of the people he had secured an affectionate regard never before accorded a chief magistrate during his lifetime. This man of lofty patriotism, large and clear administrative ability, with boundless love for the weakest and humblest American citizen, had a sublime Christian character which will shine in the hearts of all lovers of truth and liberty with a luster which shall grow as the years of the Republic increase.
     The medical and surgical case of the illustrious man is of the deepest interest to the medical profession. How comforting is the belief that the best surgical aid was not only at hand, but was immediately utilized! When the American medical profession knew that he was in the hands of Dr. Mann and his eminent associates they were content. All that surgical skill could do was done. Nothing more nor nothing less could have been done by these skillful surgeons.
     That he lived a week is evidence to the masters of abdominal surgery that no error of judgment [243][244] was made, or failure in detail or technique. Further effort to find the bullet would have been not only unavailing, but suicidal. That failure followed their efforts will not detract from the living appreciation of their work which finds reflection in the public press and hearts of the people. No prescience could have foretold that gangrene would follow the injury. The newspaper theory, that there was disagreement among his attendants, has happily been set at rest. It is stated on authentic information that the President was a sufferer from renal disease and he had an anæmic appearance. His power of resistance was not of a high order, and when the facts revealed by the autopsy were known, the only wonder was that he survived so long in spite of an injury which was necessarily fatal.
     The criticism appearing in the New York Medical Record is, we believe, wholly unwarranted and illogical as a surgical proposition. It is, however, to be regretted that all the surgeons were so confident of his recovery as to affirm that he was practically out of danger, until a longer period of time had elapsed.
     Those familiar with abdominal surgery appreciate how difficult it is to meet successfully all the post-operative complications which are liable to follow so grave an injury, even when environed by the consummate skill of Dr. Mann and his most worthy associates.
     The bacteriological results following the autopsy were awaited with keenest interest, but as expected they shed little new light on the causes which eventuated in gangrene.
     The medical profession will rest content in the belief that American surgery has once more demonstrated its capability to deal with the severest questions with promptness and the highest skill.


     It appears that the assassin of the President is an anarchist, pure and simple. He glories in the accomplishment of his unholy purpose. Swift retribution will follow.
     His appalling crime has plunged the nation in mourning, and no penalty he can pay can expiate his guilt. The strong hand of the law and the strong sentiment of the people should find a way whereby these dangerous classes of society should be excluded from our land.



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