Source type: journal
Document type: public address
Document title: “William McKinley”
Author(s): Hill, Kendrick C.
Date of publication: November 1901
Volume number: 16
Issue number: 10
|Hill, Kendrick C. “William McKinley.” Stenographer Nov. 1901 v16n10: pp. 255-56.|
|Kendrick C. Hill (public addresses); William McKinley (memorial addresses); William McKinley (poetry); William McKinley.|
|Jesus Christ; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; William Shakespeare; George Washington; John G. Whittier.|
“Oration delivered at Masonic Memorial Services, Masonic Temple, Trenton, N. J., September 19, 1901, by Kendrick C. Hill.”
The following note, about the speech below, appears on page 280 of this same issue:
Against the background of the Past
Three figures loom,
Unneedful of encomiast,
Unheedful of iconoclast;
Fixed as the dooms.
Though sculptors, painters, poets strive,
And statesmen plan,
There is no art that can contrive
A monument which will survive
These simple men.
Let but the truthful tale be told,
And far above
The reach of Time’s obscuring mold
A grateful world will ever hold
The names we love;
Let Truth the purposes proclaim
Of them, her sons,
And man will bid his servant Fame
To keep forever bright the names
Of Lincoln, McKinley and Washington.
Thus has the name of McKinley been
made, by perhaps universal approval, the third and last link in a chain which
comprises a trio of statesmen, rulers and liberators, which civilization will
ever hold in perpetual honor. Three men who proved themselves the signal benefactors
of posterity. In the course of human events these three men have been, at stated
intervals of time, the three leading field-marshals of Almighty God in this
western world, for they all had faith in the eternal justice and truth and the
boundless mercy of Providence and made the golden rule of Jesus Christ the practical
creed of their lives.
Let us consider, briefly, what it means to link a name with those of Washington and Lincoln. No man ever trod the globe who was the equal of Washington, with the single exception of “Him whose blessed feet were nailed for our advantage to the bitter cross.” Washington was declared in his own day to be “First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” One hundred years after his death he is even more than that, for he now ranks first in the hearts of all mankind. On the temple of human greatness his name is engraved above every other name. Underneath is inscribed the name of Abraham Lincoln—a man born and reared in a cabin; as he himself stated, of defective education—less than one year’s schooling; a hired hand on the boats of the Mississippi; and yet chosen of God, because of his sublime qualities, to guide the nation through a great civil strife, whose war darkness for four transcendent years he lit up by his genius, from horizon to zenith, and then suddenly departed at the dawn of peace, at once the martyr and the miracle of American history.
And when William McKinley issued the edict, in the name of suffering humanity, which released white and black slaves alike, from foreign shackles and thralldom, in the Island of Cuba, he moulded the third link of this chain, which he cemented for all time to the other two  links of this highly honored trio, by his stainless public and private character and life, combined with the pathetic yet hallowed grandeur of his death, in the heaven-born exhibition he displayed while a week at death’s door, of a submissive and sweet Christian spirit.
Thus we have before us these three great benefactors of mankind: Washington, the founder of liberty; Lincoln, who, through the abolition of slavery, gave to liberty a higher and nobler interpretation; and McKinley, whose name will endure the test of Time with theirs, because through him, and by him, was wrought that “more perfect union,” of which the preamble of the constitution spoke, as framed by our wisest men more than a hundred years ago. With a love for humanity as great as theirs in his heart, and with the grace of God ever upon his lips, the wise and noble fruits of his world-wide labors accomplished, William McKinley died as he lived, the crowning glory of his time—the ornament of the opening 20th century.
All three of these men were truly great, for their successes were never won at the expense of honor, justice, integrity; or by the sacrifice of a single principle.
Not long since some of us, peering through the portals of the 20th century city of light, gazed in spell-bound admiration and awe upon man’s greatest work, and then journeying to Niagara Falls, nearby, looked upward into the soul-inspiring face at Nature’s greatest wonder. However, we could but admit that the great glory of Niagara was the practical utilization by man of its “thundering sides” in the electrical illumination of the Pan-American Exposition. Little did we dream that that magnificent illumination was set to be the funeral pyre of William McKinley. Thus do the unforeseen and the invisible mysteries unravel, though we never seem to learn the true import of their warning lessons.
But William McKinley did, and as he lay on the brink of eternity he could sing in deathless song, with the poet Whittier:
I hear the solemn monotone
Of waters calling unto me;
I know from whence the airs have blown
That whisper of the Eternal Sea.
As low my fires of driftwood burn,
I hear that Sea’s deep sounds increase,
And, fair in sunset light, discern
Its mirage-lifted Isles of Peace.
The world has laid our beloved Chief Magistrate away in the tomb this day, and as we mentally turn away from the darkness and gloom of that grave to-night I can only say, in the language of Shakespeare—and not for the sake of poetic fancy do I say it, but sincerer words I never spoke:
Good-night, sweet prince, good-night,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.