Source: Country Life
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “‘Home and Free from Care’”
Date of publication: 21 September 1901
Volume number: 10
Issue number: 246
|“‘Home and Free from Care.’” Country Life 21 Sept. 1901 v10n246: pp. 354.|
|William McKinley (death: international response); William McKinley; McKinley assassination (international response); anarchism (international response); William McKinley (presidential policies).|
|Robert Cecil [identified as Salisbury below]; Leon Czolgosz; James A. Garfield; William Ewart Gladstone; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; Theodore Roosevelt.|
“Home and Free from Care”
WHEN we last wrote it was immediately after President McKinley had been shot,
and the description of his wounds gave us little reason to believe in his recovery.
Following that, however, came a number of encouraging reports from his medical
attendants, and most of us were only too glad to believe that the murderer’s
design was being foiled by modern science. On Thursday, September 12th, anxiety
had given way to a confident trust that the wounded man had passed the critical
stage, and that time only was required to set him on his feet again. Next morning,
however, an alarming bulletin was published, and long before evening it had
become evident that it would go hard with the President. He accepted his fate
with a noble and simple courage, which was the more remarkable inasmuch as at
first he had felt glad and sure of his own recovery. Only in his fifty-eighth
year, an early age as statesmen reckon it, he had no doubt mapped out much to
do, much that would exercise his energy. Yet behind it all was the active man’s
longing for rest. “Home and free from care” were among the last words he muttered,
and they remind us that the most splendid position may carry least comfort.
On those whose lives have been crowded with successful actions responsibility
also lies heavy, and no doubt there were times when even President McKinley
wished himself a simple peasant. But this is only a natural reaction. If he
had once more to make his choice, we may be sure that again he would courageously
follow the path he had followed before, not shirking activity because it carries
in its train danger, care, and weariness. And how often has it happened before
that the innocent holder of some great position has had to pay for his greatness
with his life. It is indeed strange that in democratic modern times the President
of the American Republic should have been on three occasions the victim of assassination.
President Lincoln, President Garfield, and now President McKinley, have by the
fate of each shown that democracy is no safeguard against the murderer’s deadly
malice. The crowned heads of Europe have escaped lightly in comparison.
Even from the point of view of the half-witted Anarchist who fired the shot, nothing whatever is gained by this violence. If, as is asserted, the blow was a protest against capitalism, much ill has been done to the cause of labour. We know, and are glad to know, that humanity will never turn against a class or an office or a person because of this kind of crime. On the contrary, it serves only to form a public opinion most hostile to the classes represented by the murderer. President McKinley is dead, but Vice-President Roosevelt succeeds him, and were the latter to adopt the most drastic measures for suppressing every society that even indirectly encourages violence, and punishing most severely the individuals who palliate, excuse, or suggest it, the deed of Czolgosz would only win support for the measure. Just as every religion has been strengthened by the blood of its martyrs, so methods of political rule receive new force from this violent interference. The Anarchists are not only lawless, but extremely stupid, if they hope to produce revolution by any such means. The death of Mr. McKinley is absolutely of no advantage to them, and the manner of its occurrence, and the way in which he met his fate, will enshrine his name henceforth as a popular hero, while it will not be mentioned without exciting hatred and detestation of the unnatural gang who have warred against their fellow-men with the weapons of the hired bravo—the infernal machine, the pistol, and the dagger. Instead of advancing their cause, the crime will make them execrated throughout the length and breadth of Christendom. Probably the saner members of the conspiracy will find it to their own interest to disavow Czolgosz and all his works; but this must be taken with great reservation. Those most actively engaged in the propagandum would no doubt shrink from actual violence, but that proves nothing, except that they have not the courage of their opinions. It is no secret that they favour and recommend assassination as a kind of “tolling of the chapel bell” to adopt a phrase of the late Mr. Gladstone. The tools who have carried out their designs have all been more or less half-witted, but that does not in the slightest degree lessen their responsibility.
As yet it seems rather early to speculate on the changes likely to ensue. While pointing out that the continuity of policy in the United States will not be interrupted by the tragedy, we cannot minimise the greatness of the loss incurred. Careful observers have for some time been aware that the Republic has arrived at a critical point in its history, that is to say, it is changing from being a consuming into a producing country, and this has necessitated a complete revision of its commercial policy. The American manufacturer is annually becoming to a greater degree dependent on foreign custom. That is the crux of the situation, and the late President recognised it frankly, in the manner of a strong man. Only a few years ago he was utterly blind to the fact, and the promulgation of the famous McKinley tariff was obviously based on a mistaken belief that the situation in America was unchanged. But the great proof of his strength was that when it came home to him that foreign trade was essential to the well-being of his country, he had the courage most resolutely to retrace his steps. Instead of trying any longer to injure Great Britain with hostile tariffs, he began to draw close to the Mother Country and to cultivate the friendliest relations with the Government of Lord Salisbury. One of the last, if not the very last, of his public utterances at the Congress where he met his death was actually in favour of Free Trade. In all this he had a considerable party against him, and it remains to be seen if his successor has the vigour and ability to carry out the designs of his late chief. For it has to be remembered that Mr. Roosevelt has not yet been tried as the head of a Government. In a subordinate position he has acquitted himself to admiration; we have yet to learn what capacity he has to play a leading part on the great stage of Imperial politics.