Source: Advocate of Peace
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “President McKinley’s Latest Utterances”
Date of publication: November 1901
Volume number: 63
Issue number: 11
|“President McKinley’s Latest Utterances.” Advocate of Peace Nov. 1901 v63n11: pp. 213-14.|
|William McKinley (public statements: personal response); William McKinley (public statements: religious response); society (criticism); McKinley assassination (public response: criticism); William McKinley (last public address: personal response).|
|Jesus Christ; William McKinley.|
President McKinley’s Latest Utterances
Some of the latest utterances of President McKinley
are certain to become historic, and to be often quoted in future years. At least,
such ought to be the case. If a hundredth part of the intense fervor is hereafter
put into their consideration and practical application in the national life
that has been exhibited in the public expression of admiration and laudation
of the late President, it will be well indeed for the country. We cannot conceive
of anything which would do more to check the corrupting tendencies now confessedly
prevailing, and to restore a sober and healthy national spirit, than the serious
acceptance and practice of the principles which lay at the bottom of these utterances.
The nation has done well to quote them, italicized and double-leaded, and to
post them everywhere in conspicuous places; but does the nation know that it
has thereby set the seal of its most solemn condemnation on much of what it
has recently been doing and allowing?
These utterances, we believe, reveal the real spirit and principles of the late President, which he would have carried out to the utmost in his official actions but for certain serious limitations, as we see the matter, criticism of which it is not here in place to repeat. We are greatly pleased that these principles, which are the only rational account of so much that was admirable and lovable in his character and life, made themselves so conspicuous in his last days.
There were four of these utterances, two in his last address and two after he was stricken down, each of which deserves close attention.
His very last understood words were that it had been his constant prayer that he might live nearer to his God. Men are very apt, when they speak at all, to give utterance to their deepest life and purposes when death is at their gates. Are all those who have lauded Mr. McKinley to the skies—a large part of the nation—ready to accept and follow this deepest law of life,—God’s presence and will? What an amazing transformation we should see in the public character and aims of the people, if this were done! It is the fashion to-day to be agnostic, to make little account of God, even to boast of having gotten beyond the need of Him, to live as if He were not, to ignore the moral significance of life, or to set up ambitious and mercenary schemes as if they were the chief end of man, and gaily to set aside the simplest principles of righteousness and love, on which both in His Word and in the human heart He has laid the supreme stress. What the nation needs above all other things at the present hour is to return to simple, sincere worship of God, and in humiliation to abandon its adoration of the idols of material wealth, power and position.
Equally worthy of all acceptation were President McKinley’s words about the assassin by whom he had been shot down: “Let no one hurt him,” or words to that effect. Others raved, and swore, and cried for vengeance, and wished they had been present to blow in pieces the wretch. Throughout the nation men of sense and Christian conduct, at ordinary times, talked as if they had never heard of the Christ, and as if the original three Furies had suddenly entered into them. The stricken President thought and spoke of the miserable man who had smitten him, in that kindly and merciful way which made one instinctively think of the Man of the Cross. Lynching! There were in heart a million lynchers that day, lawless men of blood, but the President was not one of them. And if lynching, with kindred forms of lawlessness at home and abroad, is ever banished from the land, it will only be by the possession and exhibition of the spirit shown by the lamented President that day in Buffalo. Every citizen who speaks the praises of McKinley’s noble conduct at that dark moment, and does not at the same time abandon in  toto this spirit of brutalism and vengeance, is solemnly condemned out of his own mouth.
In his address the previous day President McKinley had said, in regard to our commercial relations with foreign countries: “The period of exclusiveness is past. The expansion of our trade and commerce is the pressing problem. Commercial wars are unprofitable. A policy of good-will and friendly trade relations will prevent reprisals. Reciprocity treaties are in harmony with the spirit of the times; measures of retaliation are not.”
This is the enunciation of a distinctly pacific policy, squarely opposed to all commercial war, and in essence contradictory of much of our proceeding in the past. It will save the nation from an incalculable amount of friction in its foreign relations, and at the same time promote the steady prosperity of the masses of the people, if this advice is taken, and we quit speaking of other countries and acting towards them in the spirit of commercial haughtiness, which has too much characterized us in the past, and which is just now awakening against us alarm and ill-will in more than one quarter. The adoption of this friendly give-and-take policy, and the abandonment of our former exclusiveness, would be a much more worthy memorial to the lamented President than a bronze or stone monument in every city of the land. The period of exclusiveness in any sense ought to have passed. A world-power, so-called, thrusting itself boastfully into the affairs of all parts of the globe, may be essentially much more exclusive than a nation which minds its own business and trades and associates, in a spirit of good-will and friendship, with all. Let the lauders of William McKinley take seriously to heart this utterance of his.
A still more important passage of the Buffalo speech was this: “God and man have linked the nations together. No nation can any longer be indifferent to any other. And as we are brought more and more in touch with each other, the less occasion is there for misunderstanding and the stronger the disposition, when we have differences, to adjust them in the Court of Arbitration, which is the noblest form for the settlement of international disputes. Let us ever remember that our real interest is in concord, not conflict, and that our real eminence rests in the victories of peace, not those of war.”
These words need little comment, but they need to be much heeded. They reveal, as we have always believed, that President McKinley, in spite of the false courses which he took in subservience to self-seeking and irrational pressure, was at heart essentially a man of peace. He tried for a long time, we believe conscientiously, to prevent the Spanish war, which he always considered unnecessary. He supported with all the strength of his position the Hague Peace Conference. He offered his good offices to try to bring to an end the fratricidal South African war; it has come out since his death that he did this a second time in a more earnest way than at first. He looked forward with great hopes to the Pan-American Congress now meeting, and did everything in his power to prepare for its success. The words that we have quoted show clearly that, though some of his actions and speeches under the baneful pressure of circumstances seemed to indicate an opposite spirit, he yet conceived truly the real mission of our Republic among the powers of the earth, and likewise the relations of friendship and mutual service which ought to exist among all the nations.
If the nation, which has fallen in reverence at his feet, only lays to heart these final utterances, we shall have a genuine and general revival of godliness, of tenderness and humaneness of feeling, of Christian respect and consideration for other peoples, and we shall prepare for concord and the victories of peace, and not waste our energies and tens of millions of our resources in preparing the instruments of conflict and of war.