Publication information

Literary Digest
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “Foreign Comment on the Character and Policy of Mr. McKinley”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: 19 October 1901
Volume number: 23
Issue number: 16
Pagination: 473

“Foreign Comment on the Character and Policy of Mr. McKinley.” Literary Digest 19 Oct. 1901 v23n16: p. 473.
full text
William McKinley (quotations about); William McKinley (presidential character).
Named persons
Julius Caesar; Robert de Caix; Ch’ing I-kuang [identified as Ching below]; Gaston Deschamps; James A. Garfield; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; Auguste Moireau.

Foreign Comment on the Character and Policy of Mr. McKinley

APPRECIATIVE comments on the career and personality of the late President McKinley appear almost without a disparaging note in the press of Europe. Like every one whose position has raised him head and shoulders above the crowd, says the Temps (Paris), the President attracted to himself the homicidal mania of the creature of diseased soul as surely as a lightning conductor attracts lightning. But it was not his station alone that singled him out. He himself was a man of mark:

     “If he can not rank with a Lincoln, whose glorious career has left a shining track, neither is he a Garfield, a passing guest in the upper air of public life, who was snatched away before he could write a line on the white page of his Presidency. William McKinley will be remembered as a man who did something, who brought things to pass.”

     He was one of the most perfect examples of the man of the people, writes Robert de Caix, in the Journal des Débats (Paris). The Figaro (Paris) publishes a character sketch of the late President by M. Gaston Deschamps, the well-known French writer who recently made a tour of the United States, and who was presented at the White House. M. Deschamps describes the extreme simplicity of the Executive Mansion as compared with the royal palaces of Europe, and remarks how well the dignified yet simple character of Mr. McKinley fitted in with the surroundings in Washington: “A high forehead, penetrating, prominent eyes, rendered more striking by the assertive eyebrows, an aspect of care which sat forcibly on his clean-shaven face—in all, a serious countenance, that of a statesman who realized perfectly the weight of his responsibilities.” There was really none of the Napoleonic lineaments, this French writer insists, altho European representations of Mr. McKinley usually indicate a resemblance. The face was too kindly and simple for that of a Cæsar. Mr. McKinley, concludes M. Deschamps, “performed the exalted functions of his office with an almost majestic simplicity which sat well on the chief magistrate of a democracy to which all the world looks for an example of peace and civilization.” Honest, simplicity, and devotion to the popular will made him nearly perfect in American eyes, says Auguste Moireau, writing in the Revue Bleue (Paris).
     Most of the continental journals refer to Mr. McKinley’s close identification with the high protection idea in this country. That is Europe’s only score against him, declares the St. Petersburger Zeitung. His administration witnessed the greatest development in the United States during the past twenty-five years, observes the Frankfurter Zeitung, and he can point to much of this as his own work. The impression made by his death in Germany, says the Hamburger Nachrichten, is even deeper than that occasioned when Lincoln was assassinated. The greatest President that ever sat in the White House, is the comment of the Vossische Zeitung (Berlin). The Fremdenblatt (Vienna) and the Pester Lloyd (Budapest), both semi-official journals, express much the same views. The general tenor of comment in the British press is that, while the late President had no very strong, masterful character, yet he possessed the virtues complementary to his defects and was eminently conservative and gifted with common sense. The London Times says:

     “He was not a statesman remarkable for original views or distinguished by a bold initiative in policy, but he was, in a marked degree, a typical representative of the prevailing opinion of the majority of the American people. He was actuated throughout his life by a strong sense of duty. His devotion to his country was never questioned, even by those who differed from him. He was courageous and clear-sighted, too, in dealing with some of the most important problems that have arisen in the historical development of the United States. He has left his mark upon his time.”

     The Daily News (London) believes that the greatest source of his strength lay in his power of waiting:

     “He could study serenely a burst of popular passion without apparently being swayed by it, and his bitterest enemies could not accuse him of playing to the gallery. His temperament may have been prosaic, but it was felt to be safe, and there was a certain dignity and adequacy about his utterances which made themselves felt outside America.”

     He was all that a self-made North American should be, declares The Leader (London); the “typical unassuming average man of his generation, who won the confidence of the millions of average men who supported him because of his solid virtues and his safe views.” The St. James’s Gazette (London) declares that “it will be forever remembered of President McKinley that in his time Great Britain ceased to be thought of and spoken of as the secular foe of the United States,” and The Standard (London), in commenting on the universality of the mourning, observes:

     “Homage was not confined to communities of the Western type. Far beyond the limits of Christendom, people came together at the appointed hour to join in the words of sorrow and of hope. Not the least sincere, we may hope, of those who attended these services were Prince Ching and the imperial officials who formed part of the congregation at Peking. They may well feel that in President McKinley they lost one who had proved unmistakably his watchful concern for the peace and welfare of their country.”

     The dead President was so exactly typical of his people, says The Speaker (London), that, “if the lunatic’s desire was to draw down upon himself a universal detestation without achieving a pennyworth of political result, it would be difficult to name any one whom he could have chosen more apt for his object than the President.” It continues:

     “Mr. McKinley has in his virtues, even more than in his faults, a representative character. His weaknesses are those attaching to the commercial disease from which the Northern and Eastern States conspicuously suffer. They are pardoned by his contemporaries. His virtues are precisely those which every traveler most values in his fellow citizens. A great simplicity of manner and a charming and open courtesy in the relations of private life are the salvation of American society; these the President possessed in the highest degree.”

     The keynote to his character, says The Spectator (London), was his “habit of regarding of himself as one bound by his position to be the funnel for the popular will.” It continues:

     “The ‘man with his ear to the ground,’ if only he has the right kind of ear, and honestly believes, as Mr. McKinley did, that his business is to use it, can but rarely go wrong in important crises. To hear the undergrowl clearly and interpret it aright requires, no doubt, a special, and it may be a rare, faculty; but the man who possesses it will not make great blunders, except when the people are hopelessly in the wrong.”

     The Telegram (Toronto) points out as an indication of Mr. McKinley’s character the fact that his last public utterance was a message of peace to the world; a pronouncement indicative of high ideals and a broad and generous statesmanship. Says this Canadian journal in conclusion:

     “That message to the nations of the earth bespoke his high sense of duty as a statesman; his faltering farewell to his wife bespoke the reliable qualities of the man. The merest suspicion of empty cant in the President’s farewell address is removed by the character of the words uttered when there was no arena to applaud, no public sentiment to humor, no personal feeling to disguise. William McKinley has no claim to a place in the world’s book of statesmen, but the greatest who have gone before did not die with a grander message to the nations or a nobler parting from family ties.”

Translations made for THE LITERARY DIGEST.