The Final Tribute
No people ever paid more loyal and
loving tribute to a dead ruler than was shown by the American public
during the few days when President McKinley’s body was borne from
Buffalo, the scene of the arch crime that brought sorrow to every
heart, sorrow such as is felt only when one near and dear is stricken
Fate seemed to have decreed the tragic
end, to have prepared a glorious life for a martyr’s death. After
serving his country faithfully for many years, when the full greatness
of the man was appreciated, he made a triumphal tour of the country
he loved and received such an ovation as was never before known.
The day before he fell he spoke to the world, outlining the policy
he wished to have carried out. Had he known that he was so soon
to drop the reins of Government he could not have more thoroughly
pledged his successor. The next day he fell, finally shedding his
life’s blood, which he had offered years before while wearing the
uniform of our great army—during those years before his many acts
wiped out the final vestige of the line drawn during the Civil War.
He died at the height of his greatness,
loved and honored throughout the length and breadth of the land.
It was late in the evening
when the clatter of a squadron of cavalry sounded on the paved way,
near the White House. Every available space was occupied by a vast
throng of thousands waiting to do homage to the last home-coming
of their honored chief. The avenue, the park, and the open [?] about
the Treasury was packed. As the escort came slowly up the broad
avenue the crowd fell back, leaving a pathway to the gate. The cavalry
fell out, and lined the way with drawn sabres glittering in the
electric lights. As the body was carried under the great gates,
every head was uncovered in reverence. The silence was broken by
many sobs. As the body passed by a clear, sweet voice sang the first
strain of “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” the hymn the President loved
so well. As though trained in chorus the crowd joined in the hymn,
and sang it through as the body was being borne into the great mansion
for the last time. This sombre scene of reverent loyalty was one
impossible to surpass in pathos and sentiment. No greater tribute
could have been paid than by those thousands waiting well into the
night, sorrowing mourners at the home-coming. The rain fell unceasingly
during the day of the funeral. It seemed right that it should; the
sun would have been a mockery of brightness to hearts filled with
gloom and eyes suffused with tears.
As the cortege made
its solemn march up the great Pennsylvania avenue to the Capitol,
thousands stood uncovered, heedless of the pouring rain.
The same night the Pennsylvania station,
the scene of the former Presidential tragedy, saw thousands standing
in mute respect as the funeral train carried its illustrious burden
to its final resting place.