Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “McKinley’s Death and Its Influence on the Republic”
Author(s): Williams, W. Roland
Date of publication: December 1901
Volume number: 21
Issue number: 12
|Williams, W. Roland. “McKinley’s Death and Its Influence on the Republic.” Cambrian Dec. 1901 v21n12: pp. 532-34.|
|McKinley assassination (international response: Americans outside the U.S.); William McKinley (death: impact on anarchism); William McKinley (death: personal response); William McKinley (death: impact on lynching); William McKinley (death: impact on religion); William McKinley (death: religious response); anarchism (dealing with); anarchism (religious response).|
|George A. Gordon (b); Jesus Christ; William McKinley; James A. Worden.|
McKinley’s Death and Its Influence on the Republic
Saturday morning, September 7, on
the streets of Colwyn Bay, North Wales, the news was told me that our beloved
President had been shot by the hand of a brutal anarchist. The news caused a
commotion in every circle around me. In a moment like this one could easily
see how the hearts of the two countries beat together. Blood is thicker than
water. We kept watching the reports day by day until Tuesday, the 10th, when
we sailed on the “Saxonia” from Liverpool for Boston. The President’s condition
was so encouraging up to that date as to warrant us in entertaining a strong
hope of his recovery. My fellow passengers were mostly Americans and we would
often mention one to the other our hopes and fears concerning McKinley’s condition.
Sunday, the 15th, we assembled at 10:30 in the first cabin for divine service.
The captain, a venerable looking man, read the service of the Episcopal Church.
Rev. Dr. G. A. Gordon, of Boston, one of the most famous preachers in America,
being present, read the Scripture lessons. And such reading, every word seemed
to speak to us! A rare treat it was to listen to him. Then the captain called
him to lead in prayer. We knew the burden of every part, but we knew not how
to pray. Dr. Gordon prayed in two ways: for the President’s recovery, if still
living; for the widow, and for the country if the President had already passed
into the world beyond.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday came, but no chance for news. Wednesday night we were informed that Thursday morning early would find us approaching the harbor. Some of us mentioned the subject once or twice ere we went asleep. At 6 a. m. we were in sight of land. We dressed hurriedly, and were leaning over the deck in time to see the pilot climbing the rope ladder that had been lowered to him. Our boat was almost 600 feet long. We stood at the stern, the pilot came aboard at the bow, but almost as quick as lightning there passed from one end to another the sad word, “The President is dead.”
Hearts that had been aglow with joy at the sight of land gave way to grief. Countenances that had beamed with cheer turned pale. We were all mourners. We landed as if into a funeral, and it turned out to be the funeral day of William McKinley. At 3:30 p. m. that afternoon his remains were sacredly laid away in that precious vault in the cemetery at Canton, Ohio. The day had been set apart as a day of mourning, and of special religious and memorial services by the whole nation. Many days have elapsed  since then. The machinery of our government moves along as before smoothly and with unceasing regularity. But the heart of the nation still aches for her late beloved ruler, and his death is destined to wield an untold influence upon the future of our country.
It may be too much to claim that his death will prove a deathblow to anarchy, but it will tend more than anything else to lessen its power, and to redeem men front its cruel grasp. The manner of his death cannot fail to touch the most hardened nature. In his words, “Let no one hurt the man,” there is nothing to kindle anew the fiery elements in the hearts of the anarchist, but there is a great deal in them to extinguish the flame and to pacify his nature. The influence is identically the same benign influence as that of the Cross of Jesus. It does not bring about a sudden revolution, but it acts as a leaven, and will quietly reach the lowest strata. The bitter enemy of all rule and government found in that bleeding heart of our chief magistrate the touch of divine pity.
It will awaken the nation as a whole to the fact that there exists right in our very midst a company of men and women who are lawless heart, soul and body, and who breathe vengeance against all manner of government, and while the benign influence of McKinley’s death will appeal to their sympathies, the heavy arm of the law must be exerted to limit their actions and proceedings. It will also force the nation to inquire more diligently to the character of those who immigrate to our fair borders from distant lands. Instead of ascertaining the amount of money, and the nature of the goods which these new comers bring with them, it will be deemed more essential to know what manner of life did they lead in their home land. It might even be proper to demand a suitable passport signed by proper authorities.
The death of McKinley will strengthen more than any other event, the crusade against lynch law. As someone has remarked, “When next the temptation comes to some infuriated mob to slash or burn or strangle the untried, unjudged object of its suspicions, let someone in the crowd in clear tones, repeat these words, ‘Let no one hurt the man,’ now made tenfold more significant by the seal which death has set on them, and depend upon it there will be found to be magic in the cry.” And the swift execution of righteous judgment that carried away the cruel assassin, will convince the mob that the arm of the law is mighty enough to deal a blow to every foul criminal.
But nowhere has the death of our beloved late President exerted a mightier influence than in the religious circles of our country. It gives a mighty inspiration to enter into a vast campaign for the evangelization of our whole populace. Seldom has the world known of a more triumphant Christian death. Only a consecrated Christian of a deep spiritual nature could face such a death with these words upon his lips, “Good by all; good by. It is God’s way. His will be done.” Well might  the “New York Evangelist” remark, that we would like to have William McKinley back for even a moment to ask him how did he keep his inner religious life so pure and so warm amidst the turmoil and the chilly influences of American political life. His death is an impetus to faith, faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ. In the assassin we have the product of atheism; in William McKinley the triumph of divine grace. The two extremes met face to face that memorable day in Buffalo.
The conventions and associations of all our religious bodies recently held this fall have felt a new and strong inspiration coming to them from the Christian death of our late chief magistrate. In a Sunday School institute held here in Washington, Iowa, Dr. Worden, of Philadelphia, made a solemn appeal for missionary work. He said he had had a dream. He dreamt our President had not been shot, but to the contrary his assassin when a boy had been snatched from the streets and taken in hand by a consecrated Sabbath School teacher, who taught him tenderly the story of Jesus and the way of life; and made of him through grace a Christian worker. Alas, he said, it was a dream. But the fact of its possibility was made clear, and we became convinced that now is the time to double our forces and reclaim the children that are running loose on our streets ere they be poisoned by the vicious creeds of evil men.
There is before me a tract published by the Home Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church and to be had gratis for distribution, entitled “Anarchism and the Gospel.” It dwells on the fact that the danger to our institutions is both grave and imminent, and again, the conviction that only the power of God grappling conscience and transforming life is strong enough to reach the root of our troubles. It calls not for an occasional collection, not an arm’s length sympathy, not a revival spasm. “Flesh and blood and soul must go into the campaign.” The church must forget her ease, and herself and comrades must lock their shoulders. Moneyed men must invest less in special police, and more in agencies that take hold not of the collar, but the conscience. The godliest and best of our young men must train and give themselves to this mightiest battle of the age. They can do it, under the inspiration of saving souls from death, and a nation from disaster.
The indications are that the spiritual work undertaken and accomplished this winter will be unusually large and successful throughout our vast Republic. The death of our great patriot is a call to duty. If it is heeded and new life wholesome and beneficent permeates our social fabric, it will be proved that our martyred President did not die in vain.