one of the best loved of all who held that high office, is dead.
Hopeful messages from the bedside, cheerful, even confident, bulletins
from the group of surgeons about him, were all vain words. The man
was dying when the people were rejoicing over his escape. The nation
which gave thanks that the assassin failed to kill has found after
a week of illusion that the wretched creature has done his work
too well. If the murderer in his cell has been told what his shot
has accomplished this is his day of triumph. All that the resources
of the commonwealth, the love of a devoted people, the best surgical
skill in America could do; all that the desires and prayers of good
people throughout the world might effect; whatever force there was
in the strength, courage and determination of the President himself,
were matched against the achievement of one miserable man in one
fatal moment. The anarchist has won, and he will probably go to
the chair of execution exulting in his victory.
Some days ago this journal pointed
out that the bulletins sent out by Dr. Rixey and his associates
bore a painfully exact resemblance to those first issued by Dr.
Bliss and his fellow surgeons from the sick room of President Garfield.
In this case the change and the end has [sic] come more suddenly
than in the other, and the shock will be the greater. No doubt there
will be criticism of the doctors, as there was of the surgeons who
attended Guiteau’s victim. By the critics it may perhaps be charged
that the doctors did too little to ascertain the nature and effect
of the injury as before it was charged that they did too much. But
when the time for a just judgment comes it will probably be found
that these eminent surgeons followed the course that with the information
available was the best known to the science of which they are among
the masters. It is at least fair to assume that much now even
with the delusive bulletins before us.
Mr. McKinley may not be classed in
history as one of the great presidents. He has not been such an
imposing personality as George Washington, who was regarded with
veneration rather than love. He had not the keen and philosophical
intellect of Jefferson, but neither had he the Jeffersonian duplicity.
The rude, half-barbaric force of Jackson would be foreign to the
last president. In the nature of things President McKinley cannot
fill so large a place in history as Lincoln, the war president,
with his unique character and singular appropriateness for the work
he had to do. But if fortune has not cast the lot of President
McKinley amid such memorable events as those which Washington
and Lincoln saw, he was not chosen for an altogether unimportant
part. In his presidency the United States has entered upon a career
of expansion such as Washington or Lincoln never dreamed of, and
the republic has for good or evil taken her place among the great
powers. No longer isolated, unconcerned what the nations of the
old world do, free from the restraints and amenities which hamper
the European powers, she has come out in company. She has given
hostages in the eastern seas, and on her own coasts. She has greatly
extended her assailable frontier. Accepting these international
responsibilities and comradeships, the president has sent his soldiers
to fight beside European armies in China and his plenipotentiaries
to sit with European diplomatists in laying down the law for Pekin.
Under this last president the United States has become the third
or fourth naval power in the world, and before long she will be
the second. He organized a standing army several times larger than
was ever known before in time of peace. All this has been done,
not without opposition at home, but with little effective opposition.
The president was a large part of these developments, and yet he
did not make himself personally conspicuous. He through it all maintained
in an extraordinary degree the respect of foreign countries, and
to a still more striking extent the affection of his own countrymen.
His popularity as president came from his skill and success, and
from the belief that he was sincere and upright. The personal hold
he had on the people was due to his own hearty, genuine, social
nature and his exceeding amiability. His domestic life presents
an ideal picture, which appeals strongly to a people essentially
domestic and home loving.