Source: Leslie’s Weekly
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “William McKinley, the Noble-Hearted President”
Date of publication: 21 September 1901
Volume number: 93
Issue number: 2402
|“William McKinley, the Noble-Hearted President.” Leslie’s Weekly 21 Sept. 1901 v93n2402: [no pagination].|
|McKinley assassination; William McKinley (last public address: personal response); McKinley assassination (personal response); William McKinley (personal character); Ida McKinley; William McKinley (personal history); McKinley presidency.|
|James G. Blaine; William Jennings Bryan; James E. Campbell; Samuel S. Carroll; Charles E. Glidden; Ulysses S. Grant; Winfield Scott Hancock; Benjamin Harrison; Rutherford B. Hayes; Robert E. Lee; Abraham Lincoln; Anna McKinley (sister); Ida McKinley; Ida McKinley (daughter); Katie McKinley; William McKinley; William McKinley, Sr.; Thomas Brackett Reed; William S. Rosecrans; James A. Saxton; Philip Sheridan; John Sherman.|
William McKinley, the Noble-Hearted President
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 Bible.
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 distinction.
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, “A. Lincoln.”
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 pathos.
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 tariff.
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, was decisive.
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 people.
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.