An Epochal Utterance
To the Editor: Sir:—President McKinley
passed from the stage of action as the official head of this great
nation at a time when the eyes of the world were upon him, as, perhaps,
never before in all his illustrious career.
On the day before he was stricken
down by the assassin, President McKinley delivered an address to
the entire civilized world, albeit he had before him as auditors
but a few thousands of his own fellow citizens.
That address was an augury for the
good of civilization. Its significant and far-reaching import was
so apparent and so welcome that it is safe to say that that address
was more quickly flashed around the world by electric telegraph
than any other utterance made by President McKinley.
Why? Because the president spoke with
intent to convey a message of hope, cheer and good-will to all nations.
He said to them in effect: This country
has grown so great as a nation in its commercial life, we can no
longer afford to be small, narrow and selfish in our dealings with
other nations. Of necessity we have to look to the Old World for
markets for our surplus products. The Old World must furnish us
such products as are indigenous thereto, that we have to have. Wherefore,
between this nation and the nations of the Old World, there must
be maintained a policy of commercial reciprocity.
These words plainly imply that President
McKinley was favorable to the inauguration of free trade (limited)
as the fiscal policy of our government.
Let not the sticklers for protective
tariff be startled by this bold assertion, and rush into print to
confute its truth. They cannot confute it.
What else than free trade (limited)
is commercial reciprocity?
Herein, then, consists the most striking
feature of the late president’s last and greatest speech. The chief
apostle of the fiscal doctrine of high protective tariff outlined
a policy diametrically opposite, to be adopted by this nation.
This was an utterance inspired by
the genius of statesmanship. So, too, was it prompted by political
sagacity. It was intended to forestall tariff reprisals by European
countries. And it also foreshadowed intent on the part of the president,
as the leader of the republican party, to “spike the guns” of the
enemy (the democratic party) in the great forthcoming battle of
words in 1904.
So sure as that battle is waged, one
of the vital issues to be by it, for the time being, settled, will
be the tariff policy of this government.
Democracy will demand the repeal of
all tariff laws that are at all tinged with the color of trust protection;
and will advocate imposition of tariff in scheduled rates, upon
imports not in competition with our domestic trusts’ products, with
view only to deriving adequate revenue supplementary to internal
taxation, to run the government. Under democratic regime, all foreign
products that would come into direct competition with domestic products
monopolized by trusts, would be put on the free list.
The writer is not in the confidence
of the councillors [sic] of the democracy; he does not speak
oracularly; he merely states his belief as to what will be the attitude
of the democracy.
How can one err in holding such belief?
Democracy would not be democracy did it take any stand upon the
tariff question counter to or materially differing from that which
is herein outlined.
President McKinley, with the keen
acumen of a skilled politician, knew that such would be the position
taken by the democracy; and in his last speech he broadly hinted
that such, practically, would be the attitude of the administration
and the republican party. It was with intent to obscure, if not
remove, the clear line of cleavage between the two political parties
on this important question of policy; to rob the democracy of a
chance, as it were, to make pre-election ammunition by defining
the issue and descanting upon it contrarywise to the position held
by the dominant party.
The now silent speaker and leader
plainly implied in his Buffalo speech, that material modification
of the Dingley tariff law was desirable, and would be made to conform
to a liberal policy of reciprocity between this nation and all other
nations with which we have commercial dealings.
Said he: “The period of exclusiveness
is past. The expansion of our trade and commerce is the pressing
problem. The 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 shoud [sic] they not be employed
to extend and promote our markets abroad?”
That is to say, why should we not
adapt our tariff policy more to draw rather than repel the trade
of foreign countries? If we have right to expect liberal patronage
from other countries freed from the entrammelment of restrictive
tariffs, why have not other countries equal right to expect from
this country similar patronage in so far as they have goods and
wares that we have to buy or want to buy?
This above-quoted utterance by the
late president has not, mayhap, the binding force to shape and determine
congressional action that it would have, had it been made in an
official message. But, in view of the reverence in which he was
held, and the hallowed remembrance with which his name and fame
are cherished by the American people, may it not be possible that
such utterance having been his last expression of desire concerning
the future policy of this government in matters fiscal, will be
even more impelling to action by his party than it would have been
had he lived to officially recommend such course? In other words,
may it not be proved that, “though dead he yet speaketh,” and that
the silent eloquence of his stilled tongue will be more potential
than would have been his words, supported by the great weight of
his winning personality?
His able, honest and forceful successor
to the great trust and responsibilities of the executive office,
declared to the world with earnest solemnity, standing in the presence
of those who loved and revered their martyred chieftain, that he
would carry out the McKinley policies.
Has not this nation, then, aye, and
the whole world, an unmistakable augury of a most beneficent departure
from the long-established, rigorous policy of commercial exclusiveness
that has characterized our government?
“Even so,” says some one yet incredulous
as to the bearing this has to the sudden, violent taking off of
President McKinley, “but why should our great chieftain have been
removed from the scene just as he was about to lead in a way to
the betterment of human conditions the world over?”
Because, brother, God Almighty in
His infinite wisdom and His love and tender mercy did not want to
jeopardize the chances of this wise and beneficent policy being
Had He permitted President McKinley
to live to become the target of verbal assailment by political friends
and foes because of his right-about-face position, who doubts but
that there might have been grave probabilities of failure to inaugurate
such a policy?
God’s love for McKinley and for the
world is of such measure that He snatched the great American away
from the harassments and vexations which would have been his unhappy
lot, and made the conditions environing his removal such as will
give the world assurance that it will be the 
gainer and not the loser by his taking off.
It is the earnest belief of the writer
that William McKinley, enrolled among earth’s martyrs, and now in
the realms of the great Beyond, will be of infinitely more good
to humanity, because a more potential influence by reason of his
martyrdom, than he would have been had he continued living as the
chief executive of this nation. What impels to this belief is the
fact that he was not taken until he had delivered in the hearing
of the world a truly epochal utterance.
The sequel will prove that that last
speech by President McKinley was epochal. The writer is more and
more convinced of this as events shape themselves.
JOHN A. JONES.
Oakland, Cal., Nov. 1, 1901.