Source: University of Virginia Magazine
Source type: magazine
Document type: editorial
Document title: none
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 45
Issue number: 1
|[untitled]. University of Virginia Magazine Oct. 1901 v45n1: pp. 37-39.|
|William McKinley (presidential character); William McKinley (relations with American South); William McKinley (public statements).|
|Henry W. Grady; William McKinley.|
He interpreted well the temper of our Southern people. On a number of occasions when he might with some show of reason have interfered in our race troubles, he, even though against the wishes of many of his own party, prudently left the South to settle these matters for herself. When the Spanish-American war arose he not only appointed two gallant Confederate officers to brigadier-generalships, but he made it his care that the entire South should have ample opportunity to display its patriotism. His life during his administration was full of courtesies towards the South. While on one occasion he was making an address at a Confederate reunion, a veteran offered him a Confederate badge; Mr. McKinley gallantly pinned it upon his breast. Such acts as these show the manner of man that he was. On no occasion was his manliness better exhibited than when he uttered these courageous and patriotic words: “Every soldier’s grave made during our unfortunate civil war is a tribute to American valor. And although when those graves were made we differed widely about the future of this government, the differences were settled long ago by the arbitrament of arms, and the time has now come in the evolution of feeling and sentiment under the providence of God when, in the spirit of fraternity, we should share with you in the care of the graves of the Confederate soldiers.” Whether or not the South will be willing for others to join with her in the care of her dead, still she cannot fail to recognize the great heart and the nobility of character that prompted those words. They were spoken not in a spirit of egotistical superiority, not as pitying conqueror to the conquered, but “in the spirit of fraternity,” as one brave soldier to another.
It was President McKinley’s mission to complete the work of Henry W. Grady, to make the North and South one in spirit as they are one in government. Like Grady, he was taken away in  the midst of his best years, yet he lived long enough to see his work well-nigh accomplished, to realize that the “Mason and Dixon line” was but a rapidly vanishing shadow. If there still be any remains of this historic division, an entire nation’s grief over his untimely death should serve to forever destroy them. When the South has built him a monument, as she surely will, let his epitaph be the words to which he himself gave utterance, “Foes once, now friends forever.”
If the departed great ever think of the lands that they loved, of the hopes that they cherished, and of the achievements that they accomplished during their earthly years, then well may we imagine McKinley and Grady—the one the child of the West, the other the child of the South; the one a brave Federal officer, the other the son of a gallant Confederate—well may we imagine them as clasping hands on that farther shore with mutual congratulations for work well done, while they look back with lingering fondness upon a once divided but now united country.