Source: Cambridge Chronicle
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “‘What’s in a Name?’”
City of publication: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Date of publication: 16 November 1901
Volume number: none
Issue number: none
|“‘What’s in a Name?’” Cambridge Chronicle 16 Nov. 1901: part 2, p. 10.|
|McKinley assassination (personal response).|
|Alexander; Napoléon Bonaparte; Marcus Junius Brutus [identified as Cassius Brutus below]; Julius Caesar; Gaius Cassius Longinus [identified as Cassius Brutus below]; Leon Czolgosz; William McKinley; Philip II (Macedon).|
|This item (below) appears in an editorial section of the newspaper titled “Observations.”|
“What’s in a Name?”
He who divided the great into three orders—those
born great, those who achieve greatness and those who have greatness thrust
upon them—reckoned but poorly. There is a fourth class, comprising a few who,
having achieved a measure of greatness, are thrust upon with yet more.
Such men are often in their day looked upon as scourges of humanity and instruments of an evil power. One such was Alexander, the son of Philip of Macedon, born a prince, to be sure, but only of a wild region of northern Greece. His after greatness was, in truth, achieved through indomitable will and a capacity for organization and control of men. Alexander the Great later conquered the world, carrying in his mind the great idea of Hellenizing it, of imbuing it with the spirit of Hellenic thought and civilization.
In so far he achieved greatness. But little did he think that his Hellenistic conquest, great as it was, was simply the preparation of the ground for a far greater Christian conquest to follow later. In this respect a much more significant greatness was thrust upon him.
Napoleon Bonaparte, in his turn, of comparatively humble birth, achieved a greatness second only to that of Alexander. By the force of his will and the power of his imagination, with an Alexandrian dream of world-conquest, he held part of Europe in his hand and the whole in his fear. A united Germany stands as a monument to him. But his memory, and the memory of his greatness, are anathema and accursed.
The achievements of Alexander and of Napoleon were great, but they were, each in his day, assassins of thousands, and their greatness was devilish. With the adventitious greatness thrust upon them they personally had nothing to do. Providence prevails, but yet their names live and will live so long as lives the world, cursed even though they were by the men of their day.
Another of this fourth class of men has but just passed along. Of low birth, as we reckon birth, in a single second he achieved greatness, of an unenviable and abhorred sort, to be sure, but yet greatness it cannot be gainsaid. So long as there is a memory of this country, so long will there be a record of its wars, for wars are the landmarks of history. So long as there is any record of the Spanish war, with its tremendous significance, so long will there be a memory of William McKinley. And with the name of McKinley must ever be linked that of his murderer. Cassius Brutus and the rest slew Caesar. Czolgosz slew McKinley. So the page must run. He slew a greater than himself, and by the act achieved greatness. The insignificant became significant.
Standing as we do with a long look backward, possessing the perspective of history, we can estimate exactly the greatness thrust upon Alexander and Napoleon. Who shall say how men looking at Czolgosz with our perspective towards Alexander may not regard him?
Points of view change with changing epochs. He whom we execrate today may, in the course of time, be called a martyr. Not the less should we execrate him today, however. And yet, his name, murderer though he be, will doubtless live on into the ages, whether blessed or cursed of men, while we shall have been long forgotten. Providence prevails, but mysteriously.