A Tribute to the Dead
The end has come so
far as death can put a period to any great life. The end has not
come in that a fine life leaves behind it a far-reaching influence.
While it may be thought for the moment that President McKinley’s
death one week ago would have been a less tremendous shock to the
American people, that one week has given, as no other combination
of circumstances could have done, an actual impulse toward nobility
reaching into every State in the Union and into every home. The
wrath, the indignation, the grief of a great nation deprived of
its ruler by the act of an assassin has become something much higher
and finer, the mourning of men for a man.
This fact, for the moment, is before
all others. It unifies the whole nation as a death in a family reconciles
the inevitable cleavages in even the smallest circle of intimates.
Even in the darkness of present sorrow it surrounds as with a white
light the figure of the soldier, statesman, President, and, first
and always, the citizen, who fought his last battle with gentle
fortitude, and has now closed his eyes in everlasting dignity. “It’s
God’s way,” he said, “His will be done.”
The example of such a death, brought
thus intimately into the lives of millions of people, is more than
a sermon. It is a great fact illustrative of the noble possibilities
of human life, an idea which can hardly fail to enter into the daily
existence of many of those who have so vividly seen its reality,
and to make their daily existence better by so much as their own
natures can absorb of it. Men must inevitably differ in their opinions,
their creeds, their attitudes toward practical problems, but manhood
is a standard quality. The millions rarely see it so splendidly
typified as in the close of a life that met its end in simple, manly
dignity without fear and without reproach.
It is pleasant to think also, after
the heavy work and responsibilities of the year just past, that
the heart of the nation weeps, not for a ruler so much as for a
citizen; that in his last hours there came to President McKinley
a tribute of love and respect, wholly deserved, yet only possible
when his last splendid struggle had made his true self pre-eminent.