Twenty Years of the Republic (1885-1905)
second inauguration resembled his first, though it was still more
imposing. His new administration began with the best omens. No perplexing
problems existed to burden his mind or to stimulate a purely factional
opposition. His personal popularity had become very great. In the
early spring of 1901, he made, in company with his wife, a journey
westward to California, passing through the Southern States. Everywhere
he was received with the utmost cordiality and respect. He spoke
to the multitudes who greeted him, not as the President of a party,
but as the chosen ruler of a united nation. These days recalled
to students of history the second administration of President Monroe
which has become memorable as the Era of Good Feeling. The President
himself had really risen above the plane of partisanship. The wider
field of interest which the United States now occupied had undoubtedly
broadened and elevated President McKinley’s statesmanship. He gave
striking evidence of this in a remarkable speech which he delivered
on September 5th, in the city of Buffalo before a gathering of fifty
thousand people. In this speech he showed plainly that he was no
longer fettered by the dogmas of a narrow protectionism. He spoke
words which ten years before would have seemed to him heretical.
But they were words of genuine statesmanship, and they should be
remembered and inscribed in golden letters upon the temple of American
“Comparison of ideas is always
educational; and as such it instructs the brain and hand of
man. Friendly rivalry follows which is the spur to industrial
improvement, the inspiration to useful invention and to high
endeavour in all departments of human activity. . . . The quest
for trade is an incentive to men of business to devise, invent,
improve and economise in the course of production. Business
life, whether among ourselves or with other people, is ever
a sharp struggle for success. It will be none the less so in
the future. But, though commercial competitors we are, commercial
enemies we must not be. The wisdom and 
energy of all the nations are none too great for the world’s
work. The success of art, science, industry and invention is
an international asset and a crowning glory.
“Isolation is no longer possible
or desirable. God and man have linked the nations together.
No nation can longer be indifferent to any other. . . . Only
a broad and enlightened policy will keep what we have. No other
policy will get more. By the sensible trade arrangements which
will not interrupt our home production we shall extend the outlets
for our increasing surplus.
“A system which provides a mutual
exchange of commodities is manifestly essential to the continued
healthful growth of our export trade. We must not repose in
fancied security that we can forever sell everything and buy
little or nothing. If such a thing were possible, it would not
be best for us or with those with whom we have to deal. We should
take from our customers such of their products as we can use
without harm to our industries and labour.
“Reciprocity is the natural growth
of our wonderful industrial development under the domestic policy
now firmly established. What we produce beyond our domestic
consumption must have a vent abroad. The excess must be relieved
through a foreign outlet and we should sell everywhere we can,
and buy wherever the buying will enlarge our sales and productions,
and thereby make a greater demand for home labour.
“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.
“If, perchance, some of our tariffs
are no longer needed for revenue or to encourage and protect
our industries at home, why should they not be employed to extend
and promote our markets abroad?
“Gentlemen, let us ever remember
that our interest is in concord, not conflict, and that our
real eminence rests in the victories of peace and not in those
of war. We hope that all who are represented here may be moved
to higher and nobler effort for their own and the world’s good,
and that out of this city may come not only greater commerce
and trade for us all, but more essential than these, relations
of mutual respect, confidence and friendship, which will deepen
“Our earnest prayer is that God
will graciously vouchsafe prosperity, happiness and peace to
all our neighbours, and like blessings to all the peoples and
the powers of the earth.”*
President McKinley had
visited Buffalo for the purpose of inspecting the so-called Pan-American
Exposition. On the day after his public speech, he held a reception
in the Temple of Music, giving a personal greeting to all who wished
to take his hand. Among these was a young man having the appearance
of a respectable mechanic, whose right hand was apparently covered
with a bandage. As he approached the President, he rapidly uncovered
a revolver, and before he could be seized, he had fired two bullets
into the body of the President. Before he could fire for a third
time, he was  seized and
hurled to the ground. Mr. McKinley stood for a moment as though
dazed, and then swayed backward into the arms of his attendants.
The first words that he spoke were to his private secretary: “Cortelyou,
be careful; tell Mrs. McKinley gently.” Then, observing the attempt
of the maddened people to tear his assailant to pieces, the President
said in a feeble voice, “Let no one hurt him.”
The assassin was rescued by the police.
He proved to be a German Pole named Leon Franz Czolgosz, by occupation
a blacksmith in Detroit. He was an unintelligent, dull young man
whose brain had been inflamed by listening to the oratory of foreign
anarchists, among them particularly a woman named Emma Goldman,
who had long been conspicuous as an agitator. In 1893, she had spent
ten months in prison for inciting to riot and her views were revolutionary
even beyond those of ordinary anarchists. Short in figure, hard
featured and frowsy in appearance, she hated women and spent her
life chiefly among men. At one time she had been the mistress of
Johann Most, though later she had quarrelled with him and had assaulted
him at an anarchistic meeting.* It was from her more than from any
other that Czolgosz received the impulse which led him to commit
the crime for which presently he suffered death (October 29th).
President McKinley lingered for a
few days; and the favourable reports which were given out by his
physicians led the country to hope that he might recover. This hope
proved to be baseless, and he died on the morning of Saturday, September
14th. His remains lay in state in Buffalo and afterwards in the
rotunda of the Capitol in Washington, where they were received with
impressive ceremonies. His body was interred in the cemetery at
Canton, his native town.
To President McKinley there was accorded
a spontaneous tribute of universal grief such as no one in our history,
since Washington, had ever yet received. Americans sorrowed both
for the ruler and for the man; and their sorrow was the more poignant
because of the false hope which had been given them by the 
premature and quite unjustifiable optimism of his physicians. In
it all there was nothing official, nothing studied or insincere.
Its most impressive feature was found in its quiet intensity, the
intensity of a feeling too sacred and too profound for utterance
in mere words. At the hour when the simple ceremonial at Canton
was proceeding, a great hush came over every city and hamlet in
the land. The streets were deserted. The activities of seventy millions
of people ceased. Men and women of every type and class felt the
shadow touch for a moment their own lives, and they let their sorrow
find supreme expression in the solemnity of a reverent silence.
It was very human and it was very wonderful.
As a man, Mr. McKinley belonged to
the older school of American statesmen—whom he recalled in his personal
appearance, in his smooth-shaven face, his customary garb of black,
and the suavity of his address. He would have been at home in the
society of Clay and Cass and Benton and he will undoubtedly stand
as the last President of that particular type. He possessed also
the personal dignity of the older days, with the advantage of a
change in public sentiment which allowed him to maintain that dignity
without offence to the people. The time had gone by when Americans
took delight in an assumption of roughness and rudeness in their
Chief Magistrate. The orgy which disgraced Jackson’s first inauguration
would have been impossible in 1901; and Americans no longer expected
their Presidents to appear, so to speak, in their shirt-sleeves.
Mr. McKinley always managed to keep his purely personal affairs
and his domestic life from being vulgarised by the peculiar sort
of publicity which the newspapers gave to most of his predecessors.
He maintained, indeed, outside of his public appearances, the quiet
dignity and reserve that befit a private gentleman, and that are
still more to be desired in the ruler of a mighty nation. It is
remarkable, indeed, that Mr. McKinley should have been so thoroughly
successful in this particular thing; for his early environment was
one of the most democratic simplicity; while before 1896, his political
associates were by no means sticklers for niceties of form. Probably
Mr. McKinley was fortunate in his advisers and at the same time
quick to take a hint. At any rate, the fact remains that with the
single exception of Mr. Arthur, no President since the pre-Jacksonian
days had made things “go off” so well as did President McKinley.
And as Americans had begun to learn some needed lessons from older
countries, they heartily commended the refined simplicity which
pervaded the White House from 1896 to 1901. This satisfaction was
heightened by the knowledge that the President’s private life and
character were not only spotless but exceptionally beautiful.
Intellectually, Mr. McKinley is probably
to be compared with Millard Fillmore, to whom he bore some likeness.
Not in any sense endowed with originality, he possessed good judgment,
shrewdness, tact, and a willingness to listen to advice from any
quarter. He was not a reader of books, and the only quotation that
one recalls as made by him in public was from some obscure newspaper
poet of the West—a woman. 
He knew men, however, and he was a close student of political events.
As a speaker, he had a pleasant manner and at times could be sententious;
but he never made a speech that was at all remarkable for its eloquence.
Mr. McKinley, indeed, in oratory, as in his other gifts and attributes
represented the Horatian aurea mediocritas. He was neither
bloodless and cold, like Calhoun; nor, on the other hand, did he
possess the compelling magnetism which made Clay and Blaine so wonderful
as political leaders. Yet, if he could not rouse great masses of
men to a frenzy of enthusiasm, he could always win a hearing. If
men would not die for him, as they would for Clay, they would at
any rate vote for him; which, after all, was much more to the point.
He lacked magnetism, but he possessed a rare benevolence, a genuine
kindliness, which made it utterly impossible for even a political
enemy to be anything but a personal friend. And kindliness such
as this must have been absolutely genuine, or the falseness of it
would have been sometimes felt; whereas the popular belief in Mr.
McKinley’s good intentions grew firmer with every year. In the early
days of his incumbency there were many who thought that they detected
in his phraseology something which savoured of cant; but they forgot
that he was a member of a religious body which makes a freer use
of certain semi-religious expressions than is common; and that Mr.
McKinley’s way of expressing himself was the way in which he had
been taught to speak, and was, indeed, a mere façon de parler.
That he was no bigot, that he exercised a self-respecting independence
of thought and action in such matters, is seen in the fact that,
in spite of a most bitter outcry from the most extreme of his co-religionists,
he stood out firmly for the retention of the army canteen, that
he set wine upon his table at diplomatic dinners, and that he was
rather immoderately fond of very black and very strong cigars. All
these  things serve to characterise
the man—sincere, kind-hearted, firm and sensible, not brilliant,
to be sure, but eminently safe—the sort of man who does in general
go farther than any but the very greatest genius.
He died at an hour that
was friendly to his fame. A foreign war had ended in the triumph
of the American arms. The Republic of the West had at last assumed
its place among the greatest nations of the earth. Political bitterness
had spent itself in the electoral contest of the preceding year,
and there had succeeded a lull which brought with it good will and
tolerance. Extraordinary material prosperity had enriched the nation,
so that men might at some future day look back upon those years
as to a Golden Age. And finally, the tragic ending of a useful,
honourable life stirred all the chords of human sympathy, and seemed
to cast upon that life itself the pathos and the splendour of a