Source: Forest Leaves
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: none
Author(s): Birkinbine, John
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 8
Issue number: 5
|Birkinbine, John. [untitled]. Forest Leaves Oct. 1901 v8n5: pp. 65-66.
|McKinley assassination (personal response); gun control; the press (criticism); McKinley memorialization.
|James A. Garfield; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley.
HAVING a special mission, F
Every true American heard with horror and shame that an attempt had been made upon the life of President McKinley, and grieved that this attempt resulted in his death. Every friend of forestry read with emotion the President’s protest the last day of his life, when the curtains were adjusted to reduce the daylight glare in the sick-room: “I want to see the trees; they are so beautiful.”
We have no space to waste on the cowardly assassin, or even to give the name of one who, while extending a hand to meet a friendly grasp, used the other to discharge his murderous weapon; but we have space to urge our readers to consider to what extent American toleration is responsible for conditions which make political assassinations possible in this country.
Acting upon the idea that America was to be the asylum of the oppressed of all nations, the country has become the almshouse for the world by receiving undesirable immigrants, some of whom undoubtedly “left their country for their country’s good.” This immigration came too rapidly to be thoroughly Americanized, and mistaken tolerance permitted lax observance of some of our truly American institutions and customs, and an apeing [sic] of those of continental Europe, with the result of a decidedly lower moral tone throughout the community. By the number of revolvers and other dangerous weapons carried, a stranger would imagine that life was in constant jeopardy. Rigid enforcement of laws prohibiting carrying  concealed weapons would make the pistol less of a universal menace.
In the heat of political campaigns partisanship pictures candidates of the opposition in such revolting shape that it is difficult for some people to eradicate the opinions thus formed; and even after the election has decided who is to fill offices, party loyalty is the excuse for continued defamation of those in authority. The American people have accepted, and too often enjoyed, cartoons which represent the President of the Republic in positions which are insulting, and which certainly weaken respect for the office.
The liberty of the press is not necessarily license to vilify. We believe firmly in the liberty of the press, and recognize the value of the medium for discussing or criticizing the acts of those chosen to represent the people; but this can be done without degrading the office in the opinion of the people. We believe that much injury results from sensationalism masquerading as journalism bringing into prominence blatant agitators by printing reproductions of their photographs and their wild talks, in connection with display headings. In this way some men and women of very ordinary acquirements, but with sufficient ability to keep them out of jail, have been paraded until their names are known throughout the land because of the abuse they have heaped upon governments, and which is forced upon the public by sensation mongers.
We sincerely hope that the deaths of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley may arouse public attention to the necessity of careful scrutiny of the antecedents of all immigrants, the importance of having the foreigner follow American customs, rather than have these changed to suit the new comer’s [sic] notion, and that the condemnation of the anarchist will include the abettor, but for whom the blatants would be unknown; for if practically unknown, except to the police and government secret service, their influence would be nullified.
We would that it were possible to keep before all our people, and especially all who make and execute our laws, President McKinley’s farewell to the outside world: “I want to see the trees; they are so beautiful.” Eulogies have been pronounced over the dead statesman, a whole nation stood in silence as the body of the President left its former home for the cemetery. Monuments will be erected to his memory, and two beautiful hymns have been brought close to the American heart because McKinley loved them. He loved the trees also, and while the sparks of life flickered he gave expression to this love. To the people of the United States this should be an inspiration. If they love the hymns he loved, loyalty to his memory would suggest preserving our forests. What better, more enduring monument could be raised to William McKinley than would result from a general interest in forest preservation and arboriculture, for then every village or hamlet could have a McKinley memorial grove, each schoolhouse a memorial tree, and every inhabitant could “see the trees,” for “they are so beautiful.”