Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: “William McKinley”
Date of publication: 25 September 1901
Volume number: 50
Issue number: 1282
|“William McKinley.” Puck 25 Sept. 1901 v50n1282: [no pagination].|
|McKinley assassination; William McKinley (presidential character).|
The circumstances attending the passing of our President are even more perverse than pitiful. Grieve as we must for the man, we are appalled more by the tragedy’s cruel lack of logic. There have been times in our history when the assassination of a President might have been apprehended. And we have had Presidents whose personalities were calculated at least not to disarm the intending assassin. But this time and this man were so wholly what times and men should be that no fear was left. No one could have looked for such a deed at such a time; and, even had the time been less propitious, no one could have dreamed that a man so lovable as William McKinley would have become an assassin’s victim. Probably no other President has been warmly liked by so many of the people. There have been others as lovable, but it was William McKinley’s fortune to serve during an epoch when the people were to become more nearly united than ever before, and when those who disagreed most widely with him in matters political could and did feel a genuine affection for him. That in a time of peace and unmatched prosperity this most kindly and winning of men should meet a fate that sometimes overtakes tyrants when their tyranny has reduced a people to desperation—this has made the thing hideously incongruous. We shall fail to comprehend how the slayer could do his deed; but at least we may see that he is as alien to our humanity as he was to our institutions, and that he need not be reckoned one of us. A little relief is in that.
The secret of McKinley’s wide popularity, of the affection felt for him by all classes of men, undoubtedly lay in the fact that he achieved with a finished grace the best current ideals of citizenship. In his private life not less than in his public he did the things which we agree that men should most strive to do. He showed himself to be really the man which most men try, or believe they ought to try, to be. This approximation of the great average ideals of domestic and civic virtue made him understanded of the people. Instinctively they were companionable with him, recognizing him as only another of themselves. What has occurred is as if a bit of the national life-blood had been drawn for analysis, to show us that we are still sound in our ideals and still safely steady in our devotion to them.
So apparently commonplace were the virtues of the man, so unassumingly flawless his democracy, so little was he badged with the conventional markings of greatness, that time must go before we sense his worth. We do not yet realize how admirable a President he made, nor how greatly we shall profit by his labors. When the history of the past three years has gone deeper into perspective we shall know better both the difficulties he had to meet and the genius he displayed in their handling. His country was to have a second birth and he was required to be godfather and guardian in a time that tried the best statesmanship. Almost from the day of his first inauguration a deadly strain was put upon him which was not to end while he lived; though, for the pleasanter memory of him, it had lightened appreciably in his later months. This strain he not only bore with a spirit unbroken, but he showed under it a quality of statesmanship so wise that the whole world has come honestly to admire it. Nor is that the most of the man. For this crushing, killing succession of cares, that would have vexed and crabbed the minds of most executives, seemed in his case to stimulate and make the mind flexible, so that he actually grew at an age when most men have long lost the way of growth. That he was at the last a broader, bigger man than when he took office is not the least of the tributes to be paid him.
To his country and to his party the name of William McKinley should long be an inspiration to the best endeavor. It should bring to every public man, great or small, a new sense of his responsibility; and to every private citizen a new and wholesome thrill of pride in his country,—and in himself as a part of the country that can grow such men.