Publication information

Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Death of President McKinley”
Author(s): anonymous
City of publication: London, England
Date of publication: 21 September 1901
Volume number: 98
Issue number: 3202
Pagination: 441-42

“Death of President McKinley.” Tablet 21 Sept. 1901 v98n3202: pp. 441-42.
full text
McKinley assassination; McKinley assassination (international response); William McKinley (presidential character); William McKinley (personal history); Theodore Roosevelt (political character).
Named persons
William Jennings Bryan; Leon Czolgosz; Abraham Lincoln; William McKinley.

Death of President McKinley

FOR the third time within recent history a President of the United States has fallen by the hand of an assassin. Not all the love and loyalty of seventy millions of people, not all the respect and esteem of the civilised world, has availed to shield an honoured life from the malignity of criminals who saw in him an impersonation of the social order they detest. In the prime of life, in the zenith of a splendid career, the elected magistrate of the great American democracy has been stricken down, just as fresh possibilities of service to his country seemed opening before him as the fruit of the larger experience gathered during his previous term of office. In every part of the world the news has been received with profound regret mingled with execration for a crime no less foul than futile. No cause has been advanced by it, not even that of the reign of violence invoked by its authors, since the working of the administrative machinery is not suspended even for a day by a catastrophe which should rather serve to unite all nations in a campaign against the propaganda for the promotion of such atrocities. If the mistaken love of so-called liberty which, alike in this country and on the opposite side of the Atlantic, tolerates the public advocacy of infamous doctrines, shall be shown by CZOLGOSZ’S crime to be incompatible with organised government, PRESIDENT MCKINLEY will not have died in vain. English sympathy with the bereavement of a kindred nation is intensified by the recent recollection of a similar melancholy experience. The twentieth century has had a gloomy inauguration in the death during its opening year of the heads of the two great English-speaking communities. But in the case of the late lamented QUEEN, the end came in the fulness of years by the inevitable law of nature at the close of a long life spent to the very end in the fulfilment of the most exalted duties. The faithful servant of her people had fully earned her unending rest. The national sorrow for PRESIDENT MCKINLEY is darkened, on the other hand, by a sense of horror of the act which strikes at the people through its ruler, and by unutterable regret for the untimely termination of a great career as the result of human turpitude. The suddenness and violence of the blow doubles the sense of loss with that of shock, and sends an answering thrill of indignant surprise through all the habitable globe. In England, and indeed throughout the British possessions, the closeness of the tie woven by community of language, despite wide divergence of political aims, is shown in a display of signs of mourning almost as universal as in the United States themselves. From the day of the death to that of the funeral flags drooped at half-mast as they did on the demise of our own beloved SOVEREIGN, and the closing of places of amusement on the day of the obsequies of the PRESIDENT is a sign of respect equally prompted by genuine and spontaneous sentiment. Nor is this feeling confined to any one rank in society: while the Court dons its sables, no one who listens to the comments of the working classes on the tragical event can fail to recognise how deeply the heart of the nation is stirred, and how responsively it answers to any demand on its sympathies from the land which is the working man’s ideal of freedom. Not less loudly expressed than their pity for the victim is their detestation of the criminal, and any socialistic agitator who should attempt to plead in his defence would fare badly at the hands of an assemblage of English artisans.
     The high personal character of the late PRESIDENT, his amiability in private life, and his chivalrous devotion to an invalid wife, serve to enhance the tragedy of his cruel end. Simple in his habits, unswerving in his rectitude, he stood for all that is best in the political life of his country, and “the fierce light that beats” no less on the Presidential chair than on a throne, found him unspoiled by success, and uncorrupted by the temptations inseparable from the possession of power. As a statesman, he was rather able than great. His was not the force of character which moulds events, but rather the adroitness which adapts itself to their course. His view of his position was that it made him the mouthpiece rather than the inspirer of the popular will, the instrument of its resolve, not the masterful force to shape it to his own ends. Yet his name must go down to history as one of his country’s greatest heroes, since it was his to guide its destiny during a period of boundless material expansion, and through a successful foreign war in which it overleaped for the first time the bounds of the continent, and entered on a new phase of its story as a factor in the future of the world at large. In international politics, PRESIDENT MCKINLEY was distinctly a moderating influence—not, perhaps, powerful enough to stem any violent current of popular feeling, but with sufficient address to deflect the less impetuous movements that admit of such modification. Pacific by temperament and disposition he was hurried by circumstances into a war of conquest, since the explosion of the Maine, though more probably the work of an enemy of Spain than of a Spaniard, left him no choice but to head and direct the tide of popular passion it unchained. He thus became the representative and embodiment of American imperialism, while energetically repudiating the word. On the tariff question, again, circumstances conspired to make him modify the attitude of ultra protection with which he was at first identified, and though at one time an advocate of the free coinage of silver, he fought the great Presidential campaign of 1896 against MR. BRYAN as the champion of sound money and a gold standard. Like most Presidents of the United States, he has had a diversified career, and played many parts in life. The outbreak of the great Civil War in 1861 transformed him, in his nineteenth year, from a teacher into a soldier, and he fought his way from the ranks to a brevet majority conferred on him by PRESIDENT LINCOLN for gallantry in action. He was still a very young man when the close of the war restored him to civil life, and he was admitted to the bar at Canton in his native State of Ohio in 1867. In his case, as in that of many others, the law was but a stepping-stone to politics, and the real work of his life began with his election to the House of Representatives in Washington in 1876.
     After fourteen years’ tenure of his seat he lost it in 1890, and was immediately after elected Governor of the State of Ohio. This position he exchanged for that of the Republican candidate for the Presidency, since his election to which office, in 1896, his life has been identified with the history of his country. The bullet, probably poisoned, of an obscure assassin has cut short his second term of office within twelve months of his second election, when he had still three years of office to look forward to. A remarkable speech uttered by him at the Pan-American Exhibition at Buffalo on the very day before he received his death wound showed that he was even then meditating a further modification of the protectionist policy with which his name has been identified, in obedience to the teaching of circumstances. Speaking of the figures testifying to the commercial prosperity of the country as “almost appalling,” and citing the testimony of the unprecedented savings banks deposits as conclusive in regard to the participation in it of the people at large, he declared that isolation was no longer possible, and went on to say: “Our capacity to produce has developed so enormously that the problem of more markets requires immediate attention. A system which provides for the mutual exchange of commodities is manifestly essential. We must not repose in the fancied security that we can for ever sell everything and buy little or nothing. Reciprocity is the natural outgrowth of our wonderful industrial development. If perchance some of our tariffs are no longer needed for revenue or to protect our industries, why should they not be employed to extend our markets abroad?” A fresh evolution of policy necessitated by commercial growth was presaged by these words, but it will not be carried out by him who uttered them. Of the vicissitudes of his illness we need not speak; the week of suspense during which the bulletins, so hopeful to the end, were eagerly watched for by a waiting world, is still fresh in our readers’ mind. The deep sense of religion that characterised the dying PRESIDENT was manifest in the end, when he crowned a blameless life with a supreme act of resignation to the Divine Will. So, in the faith and trust of a Christian, he passed away from the strife and toil of his busy life to the final and higher peace, amid the regrets of a sorrowing nation. His successor, so unexpectedly called to the highest office in the State that he had gone on a hunting expedition to the mountains on the faith of the assurances of the [441][442] physicians, is a man of different stamp. Of more forceful will and stronger character, he has more of the elements of greatness, with less of the prudent sagacity which makes for safety in those entrusted with the destinies of nations. But the burden of actual responsibility has a steadying effect on native impetuosity, and the new PRESIDENT has begun by declaring his adherence to the policy of the old. Of him, too, fame has nothing but good to speak. A brilliant soldier, orator, and author, he has used his high intellectual gifts in fighting the battle of honesty and combating municipal corruption in his native city. Whatever his attitude towards other countries, the prestige of his own is not likely to suffer in his hands.