« PreviousContinue »
MC KINLEY'S ASSASSINATION.
be determined. But the apparent improvement in President McKinley's condition had been deceptive. In the absence of the gangrene, he would almost certainly have recovered. With it there, death had begun from the instant the wound was inflicted.
Through Sunday the body of the dead President lay in the house of his friend, and sermons were delivered throughout the country extolling his virtues, and deprecating the horror of his taking off. The whole nation was bowed with the terrible sorrow. Mr. McKinley had always been a strong partisan, and yet he had been so gentle in manner, so courteous even to his opponents, and so manly and honorable in his business and social life, that there was no bitterness in any heart toward him. Those who had differed with him in policy cheerfully conceded his uprightness and sincerity. But, above all, there was a sentiment, more evident here than in any other case, that this man was the President of the whole nation; that he was, in some sense, the expression of the purpose and the dignity of every lawabiding man and woman. It was the perfection of the national sentiment; and every citizen felt a personal sense of bereavement, of indignation
at the felon who had stricken down this official, and of horror at the deed. Almost the last words of the President had been:“God's will be done!” And the general sorrow was tempered with a reverent regard for the uncomplaining victim of unreasoning crime.
Monday morning the body, inclosed in a casket upon which the flag of the nation was laid, started for Washington. The journey was made on a special train, which was given the right of way. All along the line were evidences of the general grief. In cities and towns bells were tolled, and flags were at half-mast. Along country roads families of farmers, and pupils from district schools assembled, and waved their tearful salute as the crape-covered train hurried past. In Harrisburg a great choral society sang “Nearer, my God, to Thee''-a hymn which had been well loved by the President. Thousands gathered at the station in Washington, and followed respectfully and silently through the night as the casket was carried to the White House. It remained there until morning, and then was removed to the rotunda of the capitol, where a funeral service was conducted in presence of a thousand friends of the late President, and offi
cials of the various governments represented in Washington. At the conclusion of the service the great bronze doors were thrown open, and the public was admitted. For six hours the people filed past, and then the doors were closed again, and the great coffin was carried back to the executive mansion.
Thursday the body of President McKinley was consigned to a vault in the cemetery at Canton, Ohio, the home he had chosen when a young man. The little city was crowded beyond all precedent. More than a hundred thousand people had come to attend the last sad rites. The entire population of Canton was but thirty thousand, and accommodations for entertainment were far from adequate. But there was no complaint at discomfort. An inclination on the part of certain citizens to make money in consequence of the nation's grief-as by renting their windows, and charging exorbitant prices for food-was noted, and passed without comment.
The final funeral services were held in the Canton church at which Mr. McKinley had been an attendant, of which he had been a member through all his adult life; and then the last journey began. Nominally, it was a private funeral.
Actually it was a national demonstration. More than twelve thousand marching men were in line. About half were the citizen soldiery of Ohio. The rest were old soldiers, or members of the civic and fraternal organizations from all over the country. The head of the cortège arrived at the cemetery at 3:30 o'clock in the afternoon. The roadway from the gate to the receiving vault was strewn with flowers. From the hill-tops the President's salute of twenty-one guns, fired at intervals of a minute, boomed his last official recognition. As the casket was lifted from the hearse the gathered throngs stood with bared heads; and when the door of the vault was reached, eight buglers, brought from the regular army, joined in sounding “taps”—the soldier's good-night. Mrs. McKinley, who had been in delicate health for years, was unable to accompany the body of her husband to its last resting-place, and remained in the Canton home which his industry had provided, and his love had glorified to her using.
The funeral was made the more impressive by an unprecedented action taken throughout the country. While the coffin was being transferred from hearse to vault, and while the last prayers