IT has been a grievous experience to have the President
shot. Imminent death is an engrossing interest. When it hovers over
a household it is hard for the members of that household who are
not themselves engaged in fighting it to settle to anything else.
They go about restlessly, coming to the door of the sick room, getting
news, going away again and again returning. If it is night, the
watchers and the waiters are sleepless. If it is day, they are preoccupied
and uneasy. So it was with hundreds of thousands of Americans on
the dark day of President McKinley’s collapse. It was to our
family that the stricken man belonged. His danger was our concern.
We read the hourly bulletins wearily, afraid of what they might
tell, and yet reluctant to miss anything that might give encouragement.
Our hopes had been high—had been assured. To have them blighted
in all their gladness seemed unendurable. But it was endurable,
for it was to happen.
Ah, brethren, we have had a hard blow.
It has brought us all grief. It has brought tears to thousands;
distress and lamentation to millions; anxiety and fear to very many.
But now that it has fallen in spite of all that skill and knowledge
could do to avert it, it behooves us all to turn our faces to the
front again and go on about the serious business of living. Suspense
is over; grief and loss must be endured; fear must be put aside,
for it has no sound basis. We go back with sore hearts to our duties,
to our tasks, to our pleasures, as we have sometimes done before,
as we shall doubtless do again, while still we keep our places in
the great procession of humanity.
FOR five years various circumstances made William
McKinley the object of active political criticism. Every candidate
for the Presidency undergoes an intense scrutiny and confronts detraction.
He did not escape those incidents of public service. Once elected,
he had almost immediately to deal with the Spanish War and all its
resulting complications, involving difficult and very troublesome
questions, for the settlement of which our history offered no precedents.
He could have followed no course which would not have been vigorously
criticised. Yet, again and again, important action of some sort
devolved upon him, and he acted. Whether he did what he wanted to
do or what he could not help, the responsibility was his, and he
assumed it. On him fell the chief weight of criticism. It did not
matter that in many instances the only choice he had was a choice
of seeming evils. If what he chose seemed bad, the blame fell upon
him about as freely as though the alternative was not worse. His
honest critics should not be disparaged. During his first administration
they saw our country enter courses which seemed to them contrary
to the mandates of the Constitution and the spirit of the Fathers.
They did right to cry out the warnings which their hearts prompted,
even though, often enough, they may have seemed to hold the President
accountable for consequences and situations which were absolutely
beyond his control. He steered, as best he might, such a course
as his judgment and his advisers’ counsel directed. As month succeeded
month, and the policies of the Government became more definitely
established and its purposes clearer, criticism lessened; the opposition,
partly by necessity, partly by conviction, became more reconciled
to the Government’s course, and confidence in the President increased.
When he was first elected there were thousands of observers who
looked upon him as an amiable and clever man, but weak. By the time
it came to voting for him for a second term, the notion that he
was a weak man was pretty well exploded, while confidence in his
ability and the soundness of his judgment had unquestionably been
MOREOVER, there was that about the man that disarmed
personal hostility, and seemed to make almost every one who came
to have personal relations with him, his friend. He was full of
good will to men, was exceedingly amiable, and had great charm of
manner. The sweetness of temper, the buoyancy of his spirit, his
patience, his courtesy, his tact, his ready gift of pleasant speech
made him beloved in a way that no President has been beloved since
Lincoln. It was those qualities, largely, that made him so remarkably
successful in his dealings with Congress; that made warm personal
friends of thousands of his political opponents and critics, and
stirred such a wail of grief and lamentation over his death. Whether
he will rank among the greatest of Americans we must leave it to
history to determine. That he will rank high among the best beloved
of Americans there is no question. He had come through much of storm
and fog to clear weather and calm waters. There seemed no problems
of extraordinary difficulty, nor perplexing crises ahead of him.
He was the most popular citizen of the republic as well as the most
conspicuous. We wished with all our hearts and hoped that he might
live; and that was human and natural; but so far as his own fame
is concerned he seems to have died in the fulness of it, while the
manner of his death—killed by an assassin as the representative
of the American Republic—has made imperishable a name already renowned.
IT has been with a heavy heart that President Roosevelt
has taken up the burden of responsibility that has come upon him.
He is a good man, and an able man. We need not fear but that the
government of the country will be wisely administered under his