William McKinley, the Noble-Hearted President
shot about 3:55 o’clock on the afternoon of Friday, September 6th.
At 5:20, one hour and fifteen minutes after the wound was inflicted,
the doctors began to administer ether, and in one hour and a half,
or at 6:50, the operation was complete. He was borne at once to
the Milburn house, where he remained up to the time of his death,
at two o’clock on Saturday morning, the 14th day of September.
On the day before he was stricken
down at Buffalo, President McKinley made one of the greatest and
best speeches of his life. It was a plea for peace among all men,
for international amity, and for national progress; it was a brave,
clear, inspiring utterance, the speech of a statesman, a patriot,
and a great public leader. But when, the next afternoon, he lay
prostrate near the same spot, the victim of a murderous hand, a
few words fell from the lips of President McKinley which did him
not less honor and bespoke not less greatness of heart and soul
than the masterly oration of the day before.
They were the words of tender and
anxious solicitude which he expressed for his invalid wife. His
first thought was for her welfare; hers was the first name upon
his lips. As through all the long years of their wedded life, so
now, in the moment of supreme peril, when brought to the very gates
of death by an assassin’s bullet, he who had always been so strong
and masterful would shield her, so far as he could, from the cruel
blow. He would have the news broken to her as gently as possible;
and it was done according to his wish.
It was all so simple, so natural,
so spontaneous, it bespoke the real man so clearly, that no heart
not less hard than that of the assassin himself could fail to be
touched by its pathos.
It was simply a side-light upon the
character of William McKinley, not as the President of the republic,
not as a leading figure in the great events of the world, but in
his character as a true man and a devoted husband. And in that light
William McKinley, after his tragic experience, stood even more exalted
and more honored than ever before in the eyes of every man and woman
in whom the deepest, sweetest, and tenderest feelings and sentiments
that belong to humanity hold sway.
Marvelous is the gift of wisdom and
power that enabled this chosen head of a mighty nation to guide
the ship of state steadily and safely through the perilous currents
of the past four years, and well and nobly was the duty performed,
but for nothing in all his long and brilliant career will the memory
of William McKinley be cherished with more genuine affection than
for his tender, chivalrous devotion to his invalid wife. In these
days, when the marriage bond is held in such light esteem by many
who count themselves among the high and mighty of the earth, it
is well that this lesson from the life of our beloved chief magistrate
should be set before the eyes of all the world.
William McKinley, the twenty-fifth
President of the United States, was born in Niles, Trumbull County,
Ohio, on January 29th, 1843. His father, William McKinley, Sr.,
came to Ohio from Pennsylvania. The family was Scotch-Irish, and
the President’s forefathers came to America 150 years ago. He was
the seventh child in the family of nine. His education was received
in the public schools of Niles, but when he was nine years of age
his parents removed to Poland, Mahoning County, Ohio, where he was
admitted into Union Seminary and pursued his studies until he was
seventeen. He was especially noted for his brilliancy in debate,
and evinced a lively interest in all the great public questions
of the day. He was obliged to return home for recuperation. When
his health was restored he obtained a place as a teacher in the
public schools of the Kerr district, near Poland. He joined the
Methodist Episcopal Church and became a diligent student of the
At the outbreak of the Civil War he
was a clerk in the Poland post-office. A call was made for volunteers.
Young McKinley was among those who stepped forward. He went with
the recruits to Columbus and was enlisted as a private in company
E of the Twenty-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry. This regiment numbered
among its officers William S. Rosecrans, afterward major-general,
and Rutherford B. Hayes, nineteenth President of the United States.
During the fourteen months he served
as a private he developed from a slip of a boy to a robust young
man. He participated in all the early engagements in West Virginia,
the first of these being at Carnifex Ferry. In the winter’s camp
at Fayetteville he earned and received his first promotion—commissary-sergeant.
While he was a second lieutenant,
McKinley’s regiment participated in a number of minor engagements,
in all of which he showed great gallantry. On February 7th, 1863,
he received his commission as first lieutenant. It was at the battle
of Kernstown, near Winchester, that he gained his greatest military
As McKinley came back with the regiment
he was cheered by the whole brigade. That very same night Lieutenant
McKinley led a party of volunteers to rescue four guns and some
caissons which were in imminent danger of falling into the hands
of the enemy. It was a most dangerous piece of work, gallantly accomplished.
The next year, July 25th, 1864, at the age of twenty-one, McKinley
was promoted to be a captain.
Captain McKinley’s first ballot was
cast, while on the march, for Lincoln, whose career his own was
to parallel so closely, even to assassination. McKinley was with
Sheridan at the battle of Winchester. For a time he was on the staff
of General Hancock. Later he was assigned as acting assistant adjutant-general
on the staff of General Samuel S. Carroll, commanding the veteran
reserve corps at Washington, where he remained through that exciting
period which included the surrender of Lee to Grant at Appomattox
and the assassination of President Lincoln. It was just a month
before Mr. Lincoln fell a victim to an assassin’s bullet that McKinley
received from him a commission as a major by brevet in the volunteer
army of the United States, “for gallant and meritorious services
at the battles of Opequan, Cedar Creek, and Fisher’s Hill,” signed,
Major McKinley participated in the
final act of the great war drama, the grand review in Washington.
On his return to Poland a complimentary dinner was tendered him
by the citizens. He entered the office of Judge Charles E. Glidden,
at Youngstown, Ohio. After one year’s study under the preceptorship
of Judge Glidden, he went to law school in Albany, N. Y., and in
March, 1867, was admitted to the Bar at Warren, Ohio.
On the advice of his sister Anna he
decided to settle at Canton, and was elected prosecuting attorney
of Stark County in 1869, overcoming a large Democratic majority.
He was renominated, but missed re-election by forty-five votes.
Resuming his private practice he soon built up a profitable business.
But in all campaigns he was in constant demand as a speaker.
Mr. McKinley was married to Miss Ida
Saxton on January 25th, 1871. Miss Saxton’s grandparents were among
the founders of Canton nearly a century ago. Her father was one
of the prominent bankers of the city.
Mr. Saxton was a man of practical
ideas. While educating his daughter, he at the same time desired
to guard her against possible adversity by giving her a business
training. Accordingly, he took her into the bank as cashier, a position
which she filled for some years with ability. It was while she was
cashier that William McKinley made her acquaintance.
She was a teacher in the Presbyterian
Sunday-school while young McKinley was teaching in the Methodist
Sunday-school. During their courtship he always accompanied her
to her church before going to his own. Two children were born to
them—Katie, on Christmas day, 1871, and Ida, in 1873. Both died
in early childhood. Since their death Mrs. McKinley has been an
invalid. Her dependence upon her husband has been a matter of tender
In 1876 Mr. McKinley was first nominated
for Congress. He was elected by 3,300 majority. During the progress
of this canvass he visited the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia,
and was introduced by James G. Blaine to a great audience, which
he completely captivated.
He entered Congress while his old
colonel, Hayes, was President, and the friendship gave him at the
start an influence which it might have taken him time to win under
other circumstances. His power as a speaker gave him distinction,
and his ability as a worker in committees was soon recognized. He
was re-elected to the Forty-sixth, Forty-seventh, Forty-eighth,
Forty-ninth, Fiftieth, and Fifty-first Congresses. During his whole
career in Congress Mr. McKinley was a consistent advocate of a protective
At the Ohio Republican Convention
of 1888 he was elected a delegate to the national convention. When
it was found that Blaine would not accept the nomination there was
a movement started for McKinley, but he had gone to the convention
committed to John Sherman, and felt in honor bound to do all in
his power to bring about Sherman’s nomination. He leaped upon his
chair at the head of the Ohio delegation and made a passionate appeal
to the delegates not to continue voting for him.
It was in the Fifty-first Congress
that McKinley’s great political opportunity came. He was a leading
candidate for the speakership with Thomas B. Reed. Reed was elected.
Naturally, the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee fell
to McKinley. On April 6th, 1890, he introduced the general tariff
measure which has since borne his name. The bill was passed by the
Senate and became a law on October 6th, 1890. During all of the
great struggle while the bill was pending, McKinley displayed qualities
of leadership of the highest order. Before the next election came
around his district had again been gerrymandered against him, the
adverse majority being fully 3,000. McKinley was defeated by 300
votes. His defeat really made him Governor of Ohio. His victory
over Governor Campbell, the Democratic candidate for re-election,
He was the presiding officer of the
Republican National Convention at Minneapolis in 1892, when the
attempt was made to stampede the delegates for him. It was a most
trying situation, but he bore himself with coolness and decision.
When Ohio recorded two votes for him he challenged the vote so as
to put himself on record for Harrison. When the roll-call was complete,
Harrison received 535 votes, Blaine 182, McKinley 182, and Reed
4. Leaving the chair, Mr. McKinley mounted a seat in the Ohio delegation
and moved to make the nomination of Harrison unanimous. Governor
McKinley’s campaign tour through the West for Harrison was one of
the marvels of the time. He made 325 speeches in 300 different towns.
For over eight weeks he averaged more than seven speeches a day.
He traveled over 16,000 miles and addressed more than 2,000,000
On the expiration of his term as Governor
he returned to his old home in Canton, where he lived quietly for
six months. In the Republican National Convention held in St. Louis
in 1896, he was nominated on the first ballot, and in the ensuing
election he received a popular vote of 7,104,779, a plurality of
601,854 over his principal opponent, William Jennings Bryan.
The first administration of President
McKinley was marked by the beginning of the revival of prosperity
which has continued ever since, and by the successful waging of
the war that wrested from Spain the last vestige of her vast empire
beyond the sea, and that placed the United States in the first rank
of world Powers. The conclusion of the Treaty of Paris, the pacification
and regeneration of Cuba, and the establishment of American military
rule in the Philippines, together with the practical stamping out
of organized rebellion there, are matters of history fresh in the
memory of all.
The President and Mrs. McKinley took
an extended trip across the continent in the spring to attend the
launching of the battle-ship Ohio in San Francisco. But the
trip was cut short by the severe and serious illness of Mrs. McKinley,
who was, however, able to be brought to her Ohio home, where she
recovered, so that her health was such that she was able to accompany
the President to Buffalo. Most of the summer vacation was spent
by the President and his wife in Canton, and they were about to
return there when the tragedy at Buffalo happened.