The South and President McKinley’s Death
To the Editors of The Outlook:
You have had something to say in
your columns of the world-wide sorrow occasioned by the terrible
news of the President’s assassination. I wish to call especial attention
to the grief felt in one section—the very section that politically
opposed Mr. McKinley most.
The South has not previously been
so stirred by the death of a Chief Magistrate. The murder of Lincoln,
though most disastrous in its consequences to us, could not at the
time draw forth many tears from our people. The killing of Garfield
was lamented among us, but the personal loss was not felt so keenly
inasmuch as General Garfield had just entered on his first administration.
The present circumstances are very different. It is true that Mr.
McKinley had for a long time been the representative of those very
policies that the Solid South resisted. It is true that in his last
election the Southern States had stood practically alone in their
opposition to him. But, for all that, to-day, when the Nation is
mourning, nowhere is the sorrow more sincere or the grief more keen
than in the Southland.
It is a mistake to suppose that the
Southern people are changing their political views. They cannot
forget the awful days of reconstruction, or the party responsible
for that system. The chief argument used by the opponents of Senator
McLaurin to-day is not that his position is intrinsically wrong,
but that it is similar to the position of the Republican party.
The Solid South will remain unbroken for some time to come.
For the past five years Mr. McKinley
has stood for those very ideas that the South has resisted. Notwithstanding
this fact, his sincerity, his good sense, his conciliatory attitude
toward this section, had won the respect of its people. They ceased
to think of him as a Republican whenever it was not election time,
and were loyal to him as President of the whole country, and their
One Southern newspaper—probably the
most influential in South Carolina—did not share in this feeling.
The day after the shooting it expressed horror at the crime, but
added that it yet opposed Mr. McKinley, believing that he had prostituted
his office more than any of his predecessors, and that it might
not be a great calamity if he should die and give place to Mr. Roosevelt.
I am sure that in this view the editor represented only himself.
Many were quick to rebuke him for the expression of such ideas at
the time, and I have yet to find one Southerner who shares his sentiments.
Earnest prayers for the President’s recovery went up from every
pulpit and almost every home; intense interest was manifested in
every town and hamlet over the news from his bedside; and when the
message came bringing tidings of the worst, the demonstrations of
sorrow equaled those a few years ago over the death of the South’s
own President, Jefferson Davis. The two sections have been more
firmly united by McKinley’s life and by his death.
R. A. L.