The work of the biographer of Mr.
McKinley is peculiarly a labor of love. It is easy to say good things
of the dead, and easier to pass over with a light touch all frailties
and failings, but the task is easiest of all where there is so much
good to be said and so little to pass over unsaid. Of William McKinley
is it especially true, that for the good that he did and lived and
taught in this life he will be remembered. His shortcomings—and
he had them, for he was a man—we need not even touch lightly upon,
for they can be boldly exposed to the light of criticism with no
fear that they will detract from the excellence of his character.
They but act as a background against which the true nobility of
that character shines more distinctly and but serve to emphasize
The key-note of our late president’s
character might be summed up in the one word, Charity. Love for
his fellow-men, and not only for his fellow-men of his own social
state alone, but of all states and shades and conditions, was his
dominating passion. He cared for his country, but he cared for his
countrymen more. Even his enemies—and who has them not?—were included
in this unbounded charity. The miserable assassin, the author of
a nation’s mourning and a world’s sorrow, can not even be excluded
from this universal kindness. “Let no one hurt him,” was what Mr.
McKinley might have been expected to say on that fateful afternoon;
but how many other men in like circumstances could we expect to
give utterance to such a kindly expression? His forgiving spirit
was remarkable; his bitterest enemies found themselves unable to
withstand this noble trait in his character and often, in spite
of their inclinations, became his fastest friends. Of few adversaries
can it be said as has been said of McKinley, that on once meeting
him one wished to meet him again. He captured his enemies by kindness.
His sincerity and disinterestedness were as deep as his generosity
and charity. They enabled him to handle men with a facility and
success attained by no public man of our day. He drew men toward
him and attained his ends by the simple words of kindly persuasion.
The club was not his weapon, rather the velvet glove with its gentle
clasp of good will.
Perhaps no higher tribute has ever
been paid to the memory of a public man than that accorded to Mr.
McKinley by Chancellor Andrews during the memorial services in Lincoln.
He said that the dominating characteristic of the man was his intense
humanity, and that the instances where rulership in its highest
aspect has been attended by such marked humanity have been extremely
rare in history. It is impossible to say where his humanity ended
and his rulership began. As a ruler he was still the man—with all
that the word implies. Some men, having attained great rulership,
are remembered as rulers only, others as men only. It is rare indeed
that one is remembered both as a ruler and as a man. Mr. McKinley
was one of them. Though one may differ from the late president in
his political policies, and it is well that we do not all think
alike, there can be but one opinion as to the final attainment of
his desires. Beset by difficulties such as have beset few rulers,
he overcame them all and brought his country to a condition of unprecedented
peace and prosperity. If such is an element of greatness, then William
McKinley was great.
In his domestic life the nobility
of his character stood out in all its purity and radiance as fully
as in his public career. The life partner of his joys and sorrows,
a weak and invalid woman, can testify to the worth of the true American
husband. The sorrows and tears of a stricken nation prove the worth
of the upright American statesman; the love and affection inspired
in all who came in contact with him testify to his right to the
title of the true American man; and the faith of the world in his
uprightness, his humility, his willingness to serve and bear others’
burdens prove his right to the title of the true Christian gentleman.
If among the rulers of the earth there
has been a true follower of the lowly Nazarene, Mr. McKinley was
As an example for the emulation of
others, and especially as an object lesson for the rising generation,
no better life can be chosen than that of William McKinley, the
martyr, statesman, and man.