Source: National Magazine
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial column
Document title: “Affairs at Washington”
Author(s): Chapple, Joe Mitchell
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 15
Issue number: 1
|Chapple, Joe Mitchell. “Affairs at Washington.” National Magazine Oct. 1901 v15n1: pp. 5-30.|
|White House; William McKinley (death: personal response); William McKinley (personal character); William McKinley (at Pan-American Exposition); Pan-American Exposition (President’s Day); McKinley assassination; William McKinley (death); William McKinley (death: persons present in Milburn residence); William McKinley (death: public response); William McKinley (mourning); Louis E. McComas (public statements); William McKinley (death: public response: Canton, OH); Theodore Roosevelt (assumption of presidency); Theodore Roosevelt (swearing in: persons present in Wilcox residence); Theodore Roosevelt (swearing in); Theodore Roosevelt (public statements); Theodore Roosevelt (first official proclamation: full text); Theodore Roosevelt (fitness for office); presidents; Arthur Brisbane (public statements); Charles H. Taylor (public statements).|
|John Adams; John Quincy Adams; Frederic Archer [first name misspelled below]; Chester A. Arthur; John Barber (McKinley nephew); Mary Barber (Ida McKinley niece); Theodore Alfred Bingham; Arthur Brisbane; Wilbur C. Brown [identified as William below]; James Buchanan; Julius Caesar; Charles Cary [misspelled below]; Grover Cleveland; George B. Cortelyou; Leon Czolgosz [misspelled below]; Charles G. Dawes; Chauncey M. Depew; Sarah Duncan (McKinley niece) [first name misspelled below]; Sarah Elizabeth Duncan (McKinley sister) [first name misspelled below]; William McKinley Duncan; Robert Lee Dunn; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Millard Fillmore; James A. Garfield; Ulysses S. Grant; Marcus Hanna; Benjamin Harrison; William Henry Harrison; Rutherford B. Hayes; Webb C. Hayes; John R. Hazel; Ethan A. Hitchcock; Andrew Jackson; William Martin Jeffers [identified as Jeffords below]; Thomas Jefferson; Andrew Johnson; Abraham Lincoln; Henry Cabot Lodge; William Loeb; Charles Loeffler; John D. Long; James Madison; Matthew D. Mann; Charles McBurney [identified as Burney below]; Louis E. McComas; Abner McKinley; Helen McKinley; Ida McKinley; James F. McKinley (nephew); Katie McKinley [in notes]; William McKinley; John G. Milburn [identified once as James below]; James Monroe; Herman Mynter; Francis M. Osborne; Roswell Park; Franklin Pierce; Thomas Collier Platt; James K. Polk; Presley M. Rixey; Theodore Roosevelt; Elihu Root; Charles Emory Smith; John Philip Sousa; Charles G. Stockton; Charles H. Taylor; Zachary Taylor; John Tyler; Martin Van Buren; Eugene Wasdin; George Washington; Ansley Wilcox [first name misspelled twice below]; James Wilson.|
“Affairs at Washington” is a regular feature of this magazine, serving normally as an editorial column.
No text appears on pages 11, 15, 19, 21, 23, and 27-29 of this article.
This article includes photographs captioned as follows: President McKinley’s Second Child Katie, Who Died at the Age of Three and One-Half Years (p. 5); The Home of John G. Milburn, Where President McKinley Died (p. 6); Library in the Home of Ainsley Wilcox of Buffalo, Where Theodore Roosevelt Took the Oath of Office as President (p. 7); President and Mrs. McKinley Leaving the Train at Niagara Falls (p. 8); President McKinley Delivering His Address in the Esplanade Near Triumphal Bridge, Sept. 5 (p. 9); President McKinley Reviewing the Troops in the Stadium on President’s Day (p. 11); Secretaries Gage, Hitchcock and Root and Attorney-General Knox, a Snapshot Taken at Buffalo (p. 12); President McKinley and John G. Milburn Leaving the New England Building, President’s Day (p. 13); Veterans of the Spanish-American War in the Funeral Procession at Washington (p. 15); President McKinley Being Carried into the Emergency Hospital Just after the Shooting (p. 16); President McKinley and Mr. Milburn in a Carriage at Niagara Falls (p. 17); Pan-American Emergency Hospital Nurses, President McKinley’s Attendants (p. 19); President, Then Vice-President, Roosevelt Met by Interviewers on Leaving the Milburn Home the Last Sunday of President McKinley’s Life (p. 21); Removal of the Casket from the Hearse into the Capitol Rotunda (p. 23); Dr. Rixey, the President’s Physician (p. 25); Mr. and Mrs. McKinley Leaving the Train at Buffalo (p. 25); President McKinley’s Simple Baggage Being Taken from the White House to the Depot (p. 26); President McKinley, Secretary Wilson and John G. Milburn at Niagara Falls (p. 27); Theodore Roosevelt, 25th President of the United States (p. 28); President Theodore Roosevelt at His Desk (p. 29); President McKinley’s Carriage in the Funeral Procession (p. 30).
Affairs at Washington
WHEN I stood in the President’s office at the White House during the now buoyant,
now breathless moments of the last days of our late beloved President, what
a flood of memories came upon me. The canvas-covered furniture, the cool, white
matting, that has replaced the heavy carpets, the world atlas lying closed on
the desk, the deathly silence and quiet only broken by the ceaseless ticking
of the sounders in the “war telegraph” room—tears came to our eyes as we looked
for the cheery, genial face to complete the picture; and yet the bulletins at
that time were radiant with hope for recovery. There was the yellow-arm, revolving
chair at the head of the table in the cabinet room, just down the steps. There
were the ink well, pens and calendar just as he had left them when he departed
for the old home in Canton. Captain Loeffler, the veteran doorkeeper, was still
at his post, and all who entered spoke in whispers of the suffering one. There
was a rustle of newspapers in the secretary’s room, where clippings were being
made for the executive mansion scrap book; adding another chapter to the great
portfolio. Outside, the flowers bloomed with all the mature radiance of autumn.
The White House was being repaired for the comfort and convenience of the sweet-faced invalid mistress, on plans made during the happy Maytime. The painters were giving the portico and railing the finishing touch, and the newly gilded tops of the railing glistened in the September sunlight. Modest, home-like, unpretentious, there was a touch of the American devotion to home-making in it all; an expression of the ruling ideal  of the man at the head of the nation, who was first and always for the fireside and the home circle.
The heartfelt world-tributes to the memory of
William McKinley have no parallel in all history. A reunited country—a world’s
admiration: from every clime and class—every race and nation—come the simple
tributes of affection, which no words can transmit; the subtle, inexpressible
language of the soul.
Readers of “The National Magazine” can realize with what a heartache the record must be made—President McKinley is dead. In common with millions the loss comes to this writer with the full force of a personal bereavement. What a high inspiration for the myriads of the human race radiated from the gentle, unselfish, great heart, that will never cease to beat in the spirit of love and helpfulness of humankind!
We look up through blinding tears and listen to the dying words echoing and re-echoing in human hearts and minds throughout the world:
“It is God’s way. His will, not ours, be done.”
September 6, 1901, passes into history as a black and bitter day, lightened only by the sublime courage and calm resignation of its martyr.
The personal side of the life of William McKinley
was so perfectly and consistently blended with his public career, that he was
an epoch-making force not alone in practical affairs, but also in the realm
of the spiritual; and his life and career constitute one of the noblest examples
for mankind in history. 
There is a tremble in the hand and a quiver in the voice of whomsoever one meets, in these sad days, that tells of the death of a martyr president. The endeared wife and those who gather about the vacant chair at the hearthstone; every citizen of the great nation; the entire civilized world, aye, the human race, measures a loss in the death of the brave, gentle soul that passed away with such words as indicated the dominating purposes of his life.
It will require years of historical perspective to measure the full-statured, heroic and triumphant greatness of William McKinley, a president perfectly blended with the man as a pure type of Christian manhood; not only mature and well rounded in itself, but one of those personalities whose simple strength is a concrete inspiration and influence that will endure in the lives of millions of American citizens. The close range of vision makes William McKinley’s life  and career a more positive and vitalizing influence upon the young minds of to-day than even Washington or Lincoln, because William McKinley is not on a pedestal, lent glamor by the lapse of years, but was only yesterday a living, breathing presence—a force—coming into personal touch with this time and this people.
The world echoes with praise of the perfect career of William McKinley. He was shot down while extending that warm, magnetic, helping hand that has done so much for humankind. The bullet was aimed at the heart that always beat in sympathy for the wants of his fellow men and idealized the American fireside. And yet his work was not finished. Such a character was needed to impress upon human minds the highest and noblest ideals of life; he was a willing sacrifice to his country—yes, to the human race, to give the world an ideal sanctified in blood and everlasting love.
As the President and his wife left that beloved
home in Canton on that bright autumn morning, they both looked back to view
the newly re-painted and re-modeled grey-tinted home, where they had spent so
many happy years; now  the repairs were completed,
and with all the bright cheerfulness of bride and groom they talked of “our
home.” It was in Canton that the sweetest and tenderest memories of their life
clustered; it was there that their children were born; and there in sunshine
and shadow, in happiness and sorrow, they had typified the ideal and sacred
devotion of husband and wife.
One lingering look—yes, the last happy glance homeward for that noble home-maker, who as the gallant, beardless soldier had won his bride, and kept sacred the altar vows by a life’s devotion.
The startling crash of window glass in the Presidential car followed the welcome announcing the arrival in Buffalo. The presidential salute had come with the shock of an earthquake; the first thought of the man in whose honor it was given was for the invalid wife. Tenderly he took her in his arms and his assurance was enough. With her at his  side he was radiant and serenely happy.
“They had more powder than they thought,” he remarked with a genial smile.
The salutes were fired too close to the car, and the shattered glass was revealed later as an evil omen of the shattered hopes of the world, while the people waited for news from the bedside of the beloved President.
“President’s Day” dawned in the full-orbed splendor of Autumn. The air was rich with the fragrance of full fruitage. The golden month was at her best. “It’s McKinley weather” was on every lip as a hundred thousand people started on their way to the Pan-American Exposition grounds to see “our President.” Early in the morning the distinguished guests at the Milburn house on Delaware street were astir. The President carried the copy of his speech in his inside pocket and stopped during his brief morning walk about the grounds to jot down a new word or idea.
“I never have overcome the nervousness that comes over me before making a speech,” he jocularly remarked, adjusting his glasses. That speech was the ripe thought of the greatest American statesman of the times—and is one that will live in history. It was the summarizing of an epoch in national destiny, while the swift-moving events which it recorded were still fresh in the minds of the people. It was an account of his stewardship to the American nation, fraught with inspired foresight and fragrant with love and affection for the people and the highest ideals of patriotism.
The carriage bore them through the crowds to the Triumphal Bridge and then in the full glory of the September morning, with the gay flutter of flags of all America and the dreamy haze of Indian summer settling over the esplanade and fountains, the people gathered to hear what was destined to be the farewell address of the twenty-fourth president of the United States. There was a hush when he arose to speak, and the deliberation with which he wiped his eye glasses gave him time to overcome the nervousness that confronted him at the opening of every address. Raising his head and looking over his glasses in a kindly way, in full, rounded, measured tones, he delivered an address which was caught up and flashed around the world within a few hours of its utterance. It was an important message to the world and looked to the future. How gentle and significant was the scene; for nowhere have the peaceful achievements of the country been more thoroughly indexed than at the Pan-American. The throng that assembled on that bridge was an interesting study—truly typical of the country.
Citizens from all the various states and territories brushed elbows there; diplomats from the nations of the world, silk-tiled [sic] and conventional in black Prince Alberts. Orient and Occident were merged in that throng and everyone was thrilled. Thousands stood by patiently until the last words were spoken, although comparatively few in that vast assembly could hear what the speaker said. Little did any one think what precious, golden moments were passing!
Conspicuous in the crowd assembled on the Esplanade
to hear President McKinley’s speech, were several “National Magazine” badges,
worn by delegates to the “National’s” Pan-American Convention who remained to
greet the President. He sent his regrets at being un[able] to attend the “National’s”
convention. Children were everywhere present, and gave vent to wilder enthusiasm
than their elders. A pretty little maiden with fluffy hair demurely stood in
her father’s coat pocket, with her arms tightly clasping his neck, and from
this exalted posi-  tion she was the first
of her little group to see the President as he drove up.
“See! there he is! mamma, papa, mamma, there he is! Get up here, mamma; you can see just fine!”
The good natured crowd laughed at the childish enthusiasm.
“I want to see,” came a pleading voice from a little boy who was digging his head in the coat tails of a man in front. A second later he was elevated to the broad shoulders of a six-foot giant and a tired little woman murmured a word of thanks to the stranger.
“Down with the boy!” shouted a man just behind, who was short in stature.
“Never!” came back the reply. “You can’t down the American boy.” And the short man cheered with the rest.
“Mamma, did you see? He wipes his glasses just like Uncle George. Oh, but he must be a nice man.” “Hush, my child,” said the father, but the seed had been sown for a new thought in the mind of a grey-haired man standing near.
“That’s just the way Lincoln used to do. It’s the same thing over again; our greatest presidents are the humblest.”
The party was driven to the Stadium. The presence
of carriages on the grounds was a mark of the distinguished occasion. And yet
do you know one of the ambassadors remarked that it was suggestive of a funeral
cortege. The President preferred walking among the people, where it was possible.
Very sturdily he walked into the great Stadium under a scorching sun, to review the troops. The great, umbrella-bearing throngs rose to greet the President as he passed, and every  outburst of applause was met with that graceful bow and sincere salute which was distinctly characteristic of William McKinley. It was an expression of patriotic and personal devotion seldom witnessed. Standing on the reviewing stand I was thrilled to the finger tips, and somehow the thought flashed over me: Is this the crest of the wave?
His last review will remain a vivid memory to the thousands in the arena. As the troops passed with that elastic, swaying quick step, keeping time to Sousa’s new march, the “Invincible Eagle,” the President’s face beamed his pleasure and his coat was flying open as if showing the open hearted honesty of the man; he was somehow a part and parcel of the people, and it was the people who furnished the pageant for him rather than the troops. The diplomatic corps, representing all nations, caught the infectious enthusiasm and one member remarked:
“Such patriotism is an invulnerable bulwark of national strength.”
As the late President ascended the steps of the stand, gravely dignified but happy-faced, his deep blue eyes glistened in the radiant noon-day sun. He graciously bowed to the ladies on the stand.
“Are you fatigued,” inquired a lady standing near me.
“Oh, no; I’ve had a good six weeks’ rest at home,” he replied in his cheery way.
As he turned to watch the troops, with the fingers of one hand he tapped the railing in time with the music, for if any one liked music it was our late President. Alert, attentive and always interested, he made every man in line feel that he was receiving personal greeting. And herein was one secret of the superlative strength of William McKinley; he was always interested, and his sincerity was never questioned, nor was there ever a partiality. Always poised for emergencies, never did a shadow of hypocrisy pass over that kindly face. When he turned and saw my “National Magazine” convention badge of red, white and blue, he smiled.
“The colors are right”—and then, al-  most in the same breath, were scattered those brief words and acts of kindliness to scores of others which enshrine his memory in affectionate remembrance.
As the party passed out near the court of lilies, the homing pigeons were brought forth from the dove-cote and long and steadfastly he gazed at the circling birds, emblematic of the peace he loved. Peace, prosperity and happy homes were the watchwords of his career, from the time when he first took an official green bag as county attorney, until the last days of his life.
That evening, in the gentle twilight of fairyland
glowing on the shore of Mirror lake, with the illuminated buildings and trees
in the background, the President witnessed for the last time the glories of
nocturnal splendor. Happy and cheerful, and as interested as when a barefoot
boy at Niles, Ohio, when the Fourth of July pyrotechnics were in progress, he
enjoyed every flash of the swift, shooting rockets and clusters of light in
the cloud-banked sky. The flickering shadows and the dense darkness among the
trees made some of his personal protectors tremble, but he seemed to have no
consciousness of peril and discussed lightly the plan for the morrow, when he
was to visit Niagara.
Ah, that most touching, last morning! From the vine-covered verandah he came, with Mrs. McKinley, to greet the splendor of the new day! With her coat on his arm, (no man was ever more devoted) he turned to greet even those who held the cameras. The grand old flag he loved made the background of the picture. Mrs. McKinley was hidden behind a parasol, and even there was the genial face of the President to say:
“I’ll just have to let you have a picture.”
What a happy day seemed ahead! Appreciative of every moment the President and members of the cabinet stood upon the banks of the greatest wonder of the world, and watched the water in its onward rush to the sea. Thoughtful and considerate of the comfort of his wife and others, he had never a care for his own pleasure.
Just three hours before the fatal shot was fired,
the President, for the first time in weeks, requested a picture. Quick as a
flash it was taken by Mr. Dunn of “Leslie’s Weekly,” before the word was scarcely
uttered. Attired simply in a silk hat and black Prince Albert, with a white
vest, from which hung a simple gold fob, and his gloves, he looked every inch
the great man he was.
The President’s watch came out frequently, because if there was ever a methodical, punctual man, he was, and most anxious that the thousands at the Temple of Music should not be kept waiting. The train arrived at the north gate and the party was hurried past the Propylea [sic] and well into the midst of a sea of humanity, greeting him as he proceeded.
He wore an air of serious purpose, as he pressed onward, not to disappoint or keep the people waiting. The throng were packed against the door and had to pass in and out through an improvised aisle lined on either side with seats. Directly between the two stood the President, with Secretary Cortelyou on the right and President Milburn on the left. The President pulled out his watch again to see if he was on time, and looked about admiring the interior of the temple. Little could I think, as I caught a last glimpse of that beloved face among the hustling crowd, of the impending tragedy. Here in the gaieties of dedication day songs and chimes had gone forth; the Vice-President and Senator Lodge had spoken with Senator Hanna on the platform. Here, during the summer days, music lovers had gathered at the recitals given at this now fatal hour of four o’clock every afternoon. Here it was our Frederick Archer’s magic touch had  brought forth the heights and depths of the “Pilgrim Chorus” from “Tannhauser.” Here it was that the very artistic spirit of the Exposition centred—in fact—the magnet, the meeting point, the place where the sessions of all of the conventions and all special day exercises had been held. Here was where romance, comedy, music dwelt—and now deep-dyed tragedy stalked in.
The people began to pass forward, shake the President’s
hand and move on. In the twinkling of an eye it occurred. Standing within fifty
feet were hundreds of people who did not know what had taken place. There were
two shots in quick succession, about 4:12 p. m., but nothing was thought of
that because it could easily be confounded with the shooting from Indian festivities
outside. I saw vaguely a scuffle and my thought was, “Some drunken man.” Then,
when the President was taken to the inner side of the stage my first thought
was that he had fainted from the fatigue of the arduous duties of the day. The
people were stunned when the first ghastly whisper came across the room:
“The President is shot!”
Many would not believe it, but a few moments later, when they carried a limp form out to the ambulance, with the crimson blood staining the white vest, the awful realization came. Men, women and children burst into tears, the hard, white lines showed first in a desire to mete out some adequate punishment to the cowardly assassin.
The frenzy was fearful to contemplate.
“String him up! Kill him!”
Czolgozc—Shawlgotch—the young Polish-descended, American-born Anarchist, was beaten down by soldiers and the Georgia negro waiter at the Plaza restaurant, who was in line, and before the dazed crowd had realized the truth, the officers tried to sooth [sic] them with the report that it was all a mistake; but very soon all knew that the President was lying in the Pan-American Emergency Hospital, wounded and near to death.
The deadly hurts were tended with all the skill
that the President’s own physician, Dr. Rixey, and a group of famous colleagues
could bring to bear, and the distinguished patient was removed to the Milburn
house, where his stricken but brave wife might be near him in any crisis that
“This is not our first battle, Ida,” he  said to the sobbing woman at his bedside. “We have won more desperate cases than this. And though conditions may be critical, if there were only one chance in a thousand I would accept that chance and, for your sake, hope to win.” Then followed the days of hopeful news from that bedside, when it seemed as if the indomitable courage of the wounded man would conquer, and he would be spared to his people. The public fears grew lighter as reassuring bulletins followed each other twice or thrice daily.
What a wave of grief, almost of anguish, swept over the land when on Friday morning, September 13, just a week after the shooting, the correspondents camped in tents across the street from the Milburn home flashed to all the world the word that the President had had a relapse—that he was very low, sinking, and that the doctors had all but yielded the last hope. The world stood still with bated breath, praying, hoping against hope that he might rally and rise from the dark shadows that encompassed him.
But it was not to be. Recovering consciousness near the last, the dying man bade his physicians to cease the futile struggle. “Let me die,” he whispered. He knew that he must go, and with the simple, sublime courage that marked him on the field of Antietam, he met the inevitable with calm and unruffled front.
In this interval of consciousness Mrs. McKinley
was brought into the death chamber. The President had asked to see her. She
came and sat beside him, held his hand, and heard from him his last words of
encouragement and comfort. Then she was led away, and not again during his living
hours did she see him.
The President fully realized that his  hour had come and his mind turned to his Maker. He whispered feebly: “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” the words of the hymn always dear to his heart. Then in faint accents he murmured:
“Goodbye, all; goodbye. It is God’s way. His will, not ours, be done.”
With this utterance the President lapsed into unconsciousness. He had even then entered the valley of the shadow.
Slowly the hours passed without visible change in his condition, but there was no more hope. There was only the tense waiting for that moment when the great soul should quit its house of clay. At two o’clock in the morning of Saturday, September 14, Doctor Rixey was the only physician in the death chamber. The others were in an adjoining room, while the relatives, cabinet officers and near friends were gathered in silent groups in the apartments below. As he watched and waited, Dr. Rixey observed a slight, convulsive tremor run through the President’s frame. Word was at once taken to the immediate relatives, who were not present, to hasten for the last look upon the President in life. They came in groups, the women weeping and the men bowed and sobbing.
Grouped about the bedside at this final moment
were the only brother of the President, Abner McKinley, and his wife; Miss Helen
McKinley and Mrs. Sara Duncan, sisters of the President; Miss Mary Barber, niece;
Miss Sara Duncan, niece; Lieutenant James F. McKinley, William M. Duncan and
John Barber, nephews; F. M. Osborne, a cousin; Secretary George B. Cortelyou,
Charles G. Dawes, controller of the currency; Colonel Webb C. Hayes and Colonel
William C. Brown.
With these, directly and indirectly connected with the family, were those others who had kept ceasless [sic] vigil—white-garbed nurses and the uniformed Marine Hospital attendants. In an adjoining room were Drs. Charles Burney, Eugene Wasdin, Roswell Park, Charles G. Stockton and Herman Mynter.
The minutes were now flying, and it was 2:15 a. m. Silent and motionless, the circle of loving friends stood about the bedside.
Dr. Rixey leaned forward and placed his ear close to the breast of the expiring President. Then he straightened up and made an effort to speak.
“The President is dead,” he said.
The President had passed away peacefully, without the convulsive struggle of death. It was as if he had fallen asleep. As they gazed on the face of the dead, only the sobs of the mourners broke the silence of the chamber of death.
The last honors paid the dead chieftain in Buffalo,
in Washington and in his home city of Canton are still too fresh in the public
mind to require full recital. Let it be recorded, however, that not one of the
many and mighty triumphs of McKinley’s life approached in scope or intensity
his last great triumph won in death. Such an outpouring of love and devotion
was never paid to the memory of any man in all the history of the earth. There
was scarcely a dry eye among the scores of thousands that looked upon the nation’s
dead where he lay in funeral state, at Buffalo, at Washington and at Canton.
In proudest palace and in humblest cot and tenement alike the sorrow of his
people was profound. Men who had fought him hardest in life paid tear-wet tributes
to his goodness, his loyalty to his country and his God. Never a man to evoke
bitterness against himself, in this hour of his passing he compelled, by the
sweetness and purity of his career, the unreserved love of all them that had
The hand that sought to strike him down did but exalt him. It served but to throw into a stronger light those mag-  nificent qualities that made him the best and most universally beloved chief magistrate that America ever had.
One incident of the state funeral at Washington was perhaps more beautifully illuminative of the ties between McKinley and his people than any other memory of that sad occasion. At the start of the procession up Pennsylvania avenue, Monday evening, one wavering soprano voice back somewhere in the wilderness of people sang “Nearer My God To Thee,” the notes of which were on the lips of the President as he descended slowly into the valley of the shadow of death. The affecting refrain was caught up by thousands of subdued voices, which carried it up the thoroughfare, keeping pace with the cortege till the hymn burst forth from thousands more who were banked in upon Lafayette square opposite the White House gates, making the heart swell and tears to gush from eyes that watched the progress up the circular drive under the port cochere. No wonder that later on Monday night Senator Louis McComas, of Maryland, standing on the curb near the temporary residence of the new president, remarked: “The sublime faith in which William McKinley died has done more for the Christian religion than a thousand sermons preached in a thousands [sic] pulpits on a thousand Sundays.”
The funeral train, bearing the remains of the
beloved President from Buffalo to Washington, and from Washington to the loved
home in Canton, awakened an expression of national sentiment that has no comparison.
The unanimous personal sympathy of the people, enduring privation and hardship
in order to offer an individual tribute to the memory of the dead, was not adequately
recognized in the newspaper accounts. The bells tolled, the people watched and
waited in storm and darkness for hours, and all hearts echoed one continuous
refrain of their fallen leader’s favorite hymns—“Nearer, My God, to Thee,” and
“Lead, Kindly Light.” The telegraph wires were laden with eloquent descriptive
stories inspired by the scenes en route to the state funeral at Washington,
from the first trying ordeal at Buffalo, when President Roosevelt and the cabinet
and the endeared friends looked upon the thin, placid face at the Milburn home,
where the first simple services were held.
How fitting that the final tribute to the remains should be paid at the old home he loved so well; there among the scenes where the sweetest and tenderest memories of his life clustered. I never expect to witness again more impressive scenes. The hands of the city clock were stopped at 2:15, the hour of his death, and through the court house passed thousands of old friends from surrounding towns to look upon the face of one they loved until the pale glare of the electric light lit up the mourning draped walls. A soldier and a sailor of the United States stood at the head and foot of the casket draped with the flag which had waved so victoriously at the time of his first nomination for the presidency.
What a contrast with the thrilling scenes of ’96, when the crowds came to do honor to the living, with huzzas [sic]—now hushed and silent. The modest little home, which I had visited a few weeks ago, and the new porch, which had been so proudly pointed out by the President, carried no semblance of mourning. An additional electric arc light glowed at the side of the house. The throngs passed noiselessly and with bare heads as the soldier sentinel paced the lawn, trampled by enthusiastic admirers only a few years before. The shutters were closed and thousands kept watch on the last night that this little home contained the mortal remains of the dead President. The flowers in urn and vase shimmered with the September  dew, as if they, too, were experiencing a grief at the loss. Most pathetic was the sight of the empty willow rocker, where he sat so many times, swaying back and forth in the pleasant autumn evenings. What a pathos in this home scene, and what a flood of recollections it awakened!—the summer Sabbath evenings on the porch when they returned from Washington, and the little girl played on the violin “Home, Sweet Home” and “Nearer, My God to Thee;” the cheery sight of the President taking his fair wife to drive, as gallant as a lover; the swinging walk up and down Market street, to and from a well-ordered and busy law office.
William McKinley came to Canton at the suggestion of a beloved sister, who taught in the public schools, who was an inspiration of his life, and who now sleeps in the cemetery where her distinguished brother rests in peace. Here was the stone church where the young lawyer had taken the vows which were sanctified by a life’s devotion as a husband. And on another corner was the church in which he worshipped. In the fourth pew from the front, No. 10 in the centre aisle, was where he sat and loved to sing in full, round bass those dear old Methodist hymns which have cheered the souls of countless millions. Every scene in this busy little city he loved seemed in some way associated with him. I arrived by way of Massilon; the dusty road was fringed with vehicles bringing the people. Special trains from all directions poured in until it seemed as if there could not possibly be room for any more. The telephone and trolley poles were draped and there was not a house or habitation that was not in mourning.
The floral tributes have probably never been equalled. From every nation, from almost every organization, came these tributes—expressing much and eloquent sympathy in the language of heaven. And yet, with all this expression of a world’s admiration and affection, the love of the old friends and neighbors was the most impressive after all.
Vice-President Roosevelt, reassured by the hopeful
bulletins sent out by the President’s physicians during the first week, and
having not the least doubt of the President’s speedy recovery, had gone into
the northern New York woods to hunt.
There the news of his chief’s demise reached him. As rapidly as special trains could bear him on he rushed to Buffalo, where the members of the cabinet were assembled. He went at once to the home of his friend, Ainsley Wilcox, and at 3:39 o’clock on the afternoon of Saturday, September 14, he took the oath of office as President of the United States.
The scene, as witnessed and described by a staff writer of “The Boston Globe,” was one of the most dramatic and awesome in American history, and will never be forgotten by the half hundred persons who witnessed it.
The officials arranged themselves in a semi-circle, the Vice-President in the centre.
On his right stood Secretaries Long and Hitchcock, and the Vice-President’s private secretary, William Loeb. Standing on his left were Secretaries Root, Smith, Wilson and Cortelyou and Senator Depew. About the room were scattered Ansley Wilcox, James G. Milburn, Doctors Mann and Mynter, physicians to the late President; Dr. Charles Carey, William Jeffords, official telegrapher of the United States Senate; Colonel Bingham of Washington, the newspaper men and several women friends and neighbors of the Wilcox family.
At precisely 3:32 o’clock Secretary Root said in an almost inaudible voice:
“Mr. Vice President, I—” then his voice broke, and for fully two minutes the tears ran down his face and his lips  quivered so that he could not continue his utterances.
There were sympathetic tears from those about him, and two great tear drops ran down either cheek of the successor of William McKinley.
Mr. Root’s chin was on his breast. Suddenly throwing back his head as if with an effort, he continued in a broken voice:
“I have been requested on behalf of the cabinet of the late President—at least those who are present in Buffalo, all except two—to ask that for reasons of weight affecting the affairs of government you should proceed to take the constitutional oath of office of the President of the United States.”
Judge Hazel had stepped to the rear of Mr. Roosevelt,
and the latter coming closer to Secretary Root, said in a voice that at first
wavered, but finally became deep and strong, while as if to control his nervousness
he held firmly the lapel of his coat with his right hand:
“I shall take the oath at once, in accordance with your requests, and in this hour of deep and terrible national bereavement I wish to state that it shall be my aim to continue, absolutely unbroken, the policy of President McKinley, for the peace and prosperity and honor of our beloved country.”
Mr. Roosevelt stepped farther into the bay window,
and Judge Hazel, taking up the constitutional oath of office, which had been
prepared on parchment, asked Mr. Roosevelt to raise his right hand and repeat
it after him.
There was a hush like death in the room as the judge read a few words at a time and the President in a strong voice and without a tremor and with his raised hand as steady as if carved from marble repeated it after him.
“And thus I swear,” he ended it. The hand dropped by his side, the chin for an instant rested on the breast and the silence remained unbroken for a couple of minutes, as though the new President of the United States were offering silent prayer.
Judge Hazel broke it, saying: “Mr. President, please attach your signature.”
And the President, turning to a small table near by, wrote “Theodore Roosevelt” at the bottom of the document in a firm hand and at 3:39 o’clock Theodore Roosevelt began his career as President of the United States at the age of forty-two.
Secretary Root was the first to congratulate him. The President then passed around the room and shook hands with everybody.
The first act of the new President, his formal announcement calculated to reassure the industrial interests of the country, won the confidence of these great interests, and the toilers dependent upon them, and made it sure that the tragedy which had shocked the world would not be followed by the depressing effect of administrative uncertainty. The new President’s first official act was to proclaim the following Thursday, September 19, as a day of mourning and prayer throughout the United States. In this proclamation he said:
“A terrible bereavement has befallen our people. The President of the United States has been struck down; a crime committed not only against the chief magistrate, but against every law-abiding and liberty-loving citizen.
“President McKinley crowned a life of largest love for his fellow-men, of most earnest endeavor for their welfare, by a death of Christian fortitude; and both the way in which he lived his life and the way in which, in the supreme hour of trial, he met his death, will remain forever a precious heritage of our people.
“It is meet that we as a nation express our abiding love and reverence for his  life, our deep sorrow for his untimely death.
“Now, therefore, I, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do appoint Thursday next, September nineteen, the day in which the body of the dead President will be laid in its last earthly resting place, as a day of mourning and prayer throughout the United States.
“I earnestly recommend all the people to assemble on that day in their respective places of divine worship, there to bow down in submission to the will of Almighty God, and to pay out of full hearts their homage of love and reverence to the great and good President whose death has smitten the nation with bitter grief.”
Theodore Roosevelt, as stated elsewhere, is the youngest man ever called to the presidency of the United States. But he is remarkably well equipped by an unusual training to fulfill the vast and innumerable duties of that position. His career has been an open book to his fellow-citizens for many years past; as author, soldier and public servant he has been always essentially a vigorous, forceful, high-minded man—a natural leader. He aspired to the presidency, and there were very many men high in the councils of his party who regarded him as the logical successor of President McKinley in 1905. Now that the decree of Providence has called him to that succession, the great majority of his fellow-citizens share the conviction expressed by United States Senator Thomas C. Platt of New York, that “he will be a great President.” He has given the clearest evidence of wise statesmanship by pledging all the members of President McKinley’s cabinet to serve out their terms as if there had been no change in the head of the administration. It is conceeded [sic] that Mr. McKinley, with his genius for executive affairs, drew about him one of the ablest and best balanced cabinets that has ever sat in Washington.
It is interesting and instructive at this time to read again the roll of the presidents of the United States, of whom Theodore Roosevelt is the twenty-fifth. The essential facts are set forth in the following table: 
Meantime the peoples of the earth have poured
in an avalanche of official and individual expressions of mourning for the dead.
Let one who more powerfully than any other assailed the political policies of
the living McKinley: let Arthur Brisbane, the editor of “The New York Journal,”
tell how the world pays tribute to McKinley fallen:
“It ends to-day.
“Fifty years of struggle and achievement, leading from obscurity to supreme power and fame, are ‘rounded with a sleep.’
“William McKinley has returned to the home of his childhood, never to leave it again. The nation stands with bowed head while the beloved dust is committed to the soil from which it came.
“The abounding activities of American life will pause this afternoon in a solemn hush.
“The rocket flight of express trains will be arrested on plain and mountain, the screws of steamships will cease to throb, the tireless murmur of the bustling trolley will be hushed.
“And, as eighty millions of Americans stand reverently in spirit by the open grave, all the nations of the earth will stand with them.
“It is the most moving, the most  impressive funeral the human race has ever known.
“Never before has a body been committed to the tomb with so nearly the entire population of the globe as mourners.
“When murdered Caesar was buried, only the people of a single city knew what was happening.
“When Washington was laid to rest, the toiling messengers were still galloping over muddy roads with the direful news of his death.
“The people of the United States were mourners at the tomb of Lincoln, but there was no cable to bring them into communion with the sympathetic hearts in Europe.
“But now the whole earth quivers with a single emotion. A shot was fired in Buffalo, and, as if by an electric impulse, flags dropped to half mast by the Ganges, the Volga and the Nile.
“The captive Filipino chieftain laid his tribute of homage upon the tomb of his magnanimous conqueror.
“Boer and Briton joined in sorrow for the distant ruler who had sympathized with the sufferings of both.
“All the world murmurs to-day: ‘Rest in peace.’
“And the American people—his own people—to whom he gave his love and his life, echo reverently: ‘Rest.’”
Testimonies innumerable have been offered to
the manifold good qualities of President McKinley, but it is doubtful if any
has put his finger with more certainty upon the mainspring of the dead man’s
character than has General Charles H. Taylor in his “Boston Globe,” when he
“Emerson says: ‘If a man wishes friends, he must be a friend himself.’ William McKinley evidently believed this sentiment, and carried it out faithfully from the beginning of his life to the end. When thanked the other day by a man to whom he had been a good friend he simply replied, ‘My friends have been very good to me.’ A man who doesn’t stand by his friends in religion, in politics, in business and in social life, in adversity and prosperity, has something lacking in his make-up, which prevents a successful and perfectly rounded life. President McKinley met this test in a superb and striking manner.
“I have always maintained that any man, no matter how rich or powerful he may become, no matter what positions of power he may hold, will, as he draws near the end of his life, find the most satisfaction in reviewing the acts where he has been helpful and kind to those who are weaker and poorer than he. President McKinley’s life has been filled with acts of kindness which made up one of the brightest and most satisfactory pages of his busy life. He will be sincerely mourned by the American people as a whole, but his memory will be especially prized by the host of people whose burdens were lifted and into whose lives rays of sunshine came from the kind heart of William McKinley.”
The mourners retire, and in the silence of her home the gentle widow bides with bowed head and aching heart. The hearts of her sisters in sorrow yearn to her, their prayers for her are unceasing at the throne of the Almighty God, who alone can solace the afflicted.