Source: Our Town
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “William McKinley”
Author(s): Clarke, Albert
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 4
Issue number: 10
|Clarke, Albert. “William McKinley.” Our Town Oct. 1901 v4n10: pp. 6-8.
|William McKinley (political character); William McKinley (death: public response); William McKinley (mourning); William McKinley (death: international response); William McKinley (personal character); William McKinley (presidential character).
|William Jennings Bryan; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley; Charles H. Taylor; George Washington.
|This same magazine issue includes a biographical essay on the author (pp. 13-14), who was a friend of McKinley.
AFTER the tragic death of perhaps the best beloved man in the world, and the
national and international obsequies that have engaged universal attention almost
to the exclusion of other subjects, it is hardly hoped that anything which a
monthly publication can say will arrest the attention of many readers, and yet
No man except Abraham Lincoln ever got quite so near the hearts of the people as William McKinley. Eleven years ago, when he led in the enactment of a protective tariff which was strongly opposed by powerful interests and a great political party, he was much misrepresented and misunderstood, and yet, even then his amiable personality formed friends among his political opponents. Since then, partly through the adversity which followed the reversal of his policy, partly through the diversion of the public mind to other subjects upon which his views met with favor, partly  through his accession to the presidency and his noble and successful administration of that high office, partly through the general prosperity which even partisan opponents cannot wholly dissociate from some or all of the measures for which he stood, and partly, too, through what some think has been a broadening of his views, he has steadily and even rapidly made friends and his martyrdom has enshrined him in all patriotic hearts.
It is a praiseworthy fact, and a most hopeful one for our country, that his death stilled party strife, and many of the noblest tributes paid to his character and services came from the opposition party. In one day, Mr. Bryan, his recent rival for presidency, and the Democratic and Populist state conventions in Nebraska, gave utterance to sentiments about him and in abhorrence of his murder, which left nothing to be desired by the warmest of his political and personal friends, and within a few hours of his decease General Charles H. Taylor printed an editorial in the Democratic journal under his control, the Boston Globe, which for true feeling, just estimate and high panegyric, has not been surpassed. When his funeral was being attended in Canton hundreds of thousands of mourning meetings were held all over the country. For a brief and impressive period the wheels of traffic came to a standstill on many thoroughfares and in many a great factory, which he had done so much to bring into profitable operation, the machinery was stopped as if for silent prayer. In the islands which he, as our leader, has emancipated from oppression and started on the high road to American freedom and civilization, there was such sorrow as children feel when they have lost a father; and in Europe, where but a few years ago he was regarded as a commercial enemy, monarchy, nobility and commonalty united in many testimonials of respect for his character, and sympathy for his family and country. Solemn services were held in Westminster Abbey and the guns of Gibraltar saluted our illustrious dead. The ruler of nearly or quite every civilized country on the globe telegraphed personal and national condolence, not in a perfunctory way, but with expressions of deep and sincere regard. It can safely be said that no other man was ever so universally mourned, for he had become a great factor and friend among nations and his voice was for peace.
In view of all this it is likely to be the verdict of history that he was fortunate in death. But be this as it may, he loved life and grandly used it for his fellow men. A more unselfish man never lived. This is shown, not only by his model domestic life, but by his early, voluntary  and dangerous service for his country in the years of its greatest peril and in every act of almost continuous public service since the civil war. He was animated by correct ideas of citizenship. Whatever the proposition, he first asked himself “Is it right and will it be to the good of the country?” If he had been corrupt or even selfish he might have become wealthy. The fact that until after he became president he had always lived in a hired house, and that he died worth less than one hundred thousand dollars, testifies to his unselfish devotion. Purity and patriotism beamed from his countenance and surrounded him with a panoply that kept at a distance every tempter’s art. In his championship of protection he necessarily had to become acquainted with its effects upon different industries, companies and men; but he looked upon all of them as but parts of the country, and as God gave him to see the light, he labored solely for his country. In the later great causes with which he was so conspicuously identified—the Spanish war and its resultant responsibilities, and the troubles in China—he first sought the peace and protection of the United States but never in any narrow and exacting way. Rather did he impress the world with the great strength of this country by its calmness, moderation and generosity. In all this he had able assistants, but like the trained statesman and natural leader that he was, he dominated our foreign relations and with unfailing courtesy he inspired others to think and act his will. So his personal unselfishness became national forbearance and his patriotism grew to be almost as boundless as the air. He was far sighted enough to see how this would redound to the glory and the profit of the United States; but he was enough a citizen of the world so that he would have counted it gain to sacrifice for humanity.
But he had not changed; he had only carried forward the benificent [sic] principles for which he had always stood. He had kicked down no ladder by which he climbed; he had deserted no old friends for new. On the contrary he had become revealed to the new and at last
“None knew him but to love him,
Nor named him but to praise.”
That is, none worth mentioning. Even the wretched pervert who shot him owed him no ill-will. As well as can be judged so soon after his career has closed, measured by any standard known to history, his fame is in the highest niche of fame alongside of Washington and Lincoln, emulating both of their examples, rivaling their abilities and even surpassing them, by the larger measure of his opportunity, as a liberator of his fellow men.