The wider field of interest which the United States occupied [after the war with Spain] had undoubtedly broadened and elevated President McKinley's statesmanship. He gave striking evidence of this in a remarkable speech which he delivered on September 5th, in the city of Buffalo, before a gathering of fifty thousand people. In that speech he showed plainly that he was no longer fettered by the dogmas of a narrow protectionism. He spoke words which ten years before would have seemed to him heretical. But they were words of genuine statesmanship, and they should be remembered and inscribed in golden letters upon the temple of American economics. . . .
"Isolation is no longer possible or desirable. God and man have linked the nations together. No nation can longer be indifferent to any other. Only a broad and enlightened policy will keep what we have. No other policy will get more. By the sensible trade arrangements which will not interrupt our home production we shall extend the outlets for our increasing surplus.
"Reciprocity is the natural growth of our wonderful industrial development under the domestic policy now firmly established. What we produce beyond our domestic consumption must have a vent abroad. The excess must be relieved through a foreign outlet and we should sell everywhere we can, and buy wherever the buying will enlarge our sales and productions, and thereby make a greater damand for home labor.
"The period of exclusiveness is past. The expansion of our trade and commercee is the pressing problem. Commercial wars are unprofitable. A policy of good will and friendly trade relations will prevent reprisals. Reciprocity treaties are in harmony with the spirit of the times; measures of retaliation are not.
"If, perchance, some of our tariffs are no longer needed for revenue or to encourage and protect our industries at home, why should they not be employed to extend and promote our markets abroad?
"Gentlemen, let us ever remember that our interest is in concord, not conflict, and that our real eminence rests in the victories of peace and not in those of war."
President McKinley had visited Buffalo for the purpose of inspecting the so-called Pan-American Exposition. On the day after his public speech, he held a reception in the Temple of Music, giving a personal greeting to all who wished to meet him. Among these was a young man having the appearance of a respectable mechanic, whose right hand was apparently covered with a bandage. As he approached the President, he rapidly uncovered a revolver, and before he could be prevented, he had fired two bullets into the body of the President.
Ere he had fired a third time, he was seized and hurled to the ground. Mr. McKinley stood for a moment as tho dazed, and then swayed backward into the arms of his attendants. The first words that he spoke were to his private secretary: "Cortelyou, be careful; tell Mrs. McKinley gently." Then, observing the attempt of the maddened people to tear his assailant to pieces, the President said in a feeble voice, "Let no one hurt him."
The assassin was rescued by the police. He proved to be a German Pole named Leon Franz Czolgosz, by occupation a blacksmith in Detroit. He was an unintelligent, dull young man whose brain had been inflamed by listening to the oratory of foreign anarchists, among them particularly a woman, named Emma Goldman, who had long been conspicuous as an agitator. In 1893, she had spent ten months in prison for inciting to riot, and her views were revolutionary even beyond those of ordinary anarchists. Short in figure, hard featured and frowsy in appearance, she hated women and spent her life chiefly among men. At one time she had been the mistress of Johann Most, tho later she had quarreled with him and had assaulted him at an anarchistic meeting. It was from her more than from any other that Czolgosz received the impulse which led him to commit the crime for which presently he suffered death (October 29th).
President McKinley lingered for a few days; and the favorable reports which were given out by his physicians led the country to hope that he might recover. This hope proved to be baseless, and he died on the morning of Saturday, September 14th. His remains lay in state in Buffalo and afterward in the rotunda of the Capitol at Washington, where they were received with impressive ceremonies. His body was interred in the cemetery at Canton. . . .
To President McKinley there was accorded a spontaneous tribute of universal grief such as no one in our history, since Washington, had ever yet received. Americans sorrowed both for the ruler and for the man; and their sorrow was the more poignant because of the false hope which had been given them by the premature and quite unjustifiable optimism of his physicians. In it all there was nothing official, nothing studied or insincere. Its most impressive feature was found in its quiet intensity, the intensity of a feeling too sacred and too profound for utterance in mere words. At the hour when the simple ceremonial in Canton was proceeding, a great hush came over every city and hamlet in the land. The activities of seventy millions of people ceased.
He died at an hour that was friendly to his fame. A foreign war had ended in the triumph of the American arms. The Republic of the West had at last assumed its place among the greatest nations of the earth. Political bitterness had spent itself in the electoral contest of the preceding year, and there had succeeded a lull which brought with it good will and tolerance. Extraordinary material prosperity had enriched the nation, so that men might at some future day look back upon those years as to a Golden Age. And finally, the tragic ending of a useful, honorable life stirred all the chords of human sympathy, and seemed to cast upon that life itself the pathos and the splendor of a consecration.
1 From Peck's "Twenty Years of the Republic." By permission of the publishers, Dodd, Mead & Company. Copyright, 1906.