Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers The Assassination of William McKinley (9/6/1901) - Aug. 11th, 2005
Posted on 08/10/2005 10:00:34 PM PDT by SAMWolf
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Anarchist Leon Czolgosz came to Buffalo, New York, with a mission. He believed that government was evil, and he planned to stamp out that evil, beginning at the top.
Leon Czolgosz stood in line and counted the people between him and the president of the United States. Nondescript, dressed in a dark suit, and wearing an innocent expression, Czolgosz (pronounced chÃ´lgÃ´sh) looked younger than his 28 years. He had waited for more than two hours in 82-degree heat on September 6, 1901, for his turn to shake hands with President William McKinley, who was visiting the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.
It was the first year of the new century, a perfect time to reflect on the nations rise in world prominence and to speculate on the future. The exposition, a worlds fair that celebrated the Americas industrial progress and achievement, had attracted visitors from around the world. The event was more than halfway through its six-month run when President McKinley, the most popular chief executive since Abraham Lincoln, arrived.
Leon Czolgosz (18731901)
McKinleys final public appearance in Buffalo was an afternoon reception in the Temple of Music, an ornate red-brick hall on the exposition grounds. Since being elected president in 1896, McKinley had been notorious for discounting his own personal safety at public appearances, and he had repeatedly resisted attempts by his personal secretary, George Cortelyou, to cancel this event. Cortelyou had argued that it wasnt worth the risk to greet such a small number of people, but the 58-year-old president refused to change his mind. "Why should I?" he asked. "Who would want to hurt me?"
Cortelyou, always nervous about public receptions, tightened security as best he could. The people who wished to greet the president at the Temple had to file down a narrow aisle under the scrutiny of a special guard provided for the occasion. Outside, mounted police and soldiers controlled the massive crowd seeking entrance.
Just months into his second presidential term, McKinley -- who had easily won reelection in 1900 -- had made the most significant speech of his presidency the day before, announcing a policy of reciprocal trade agreements with foreign nations to encourage improved markets for American goods. It marked the culmination of a decade-long evolution in thinking for the long-time isolationist and exemplified his statesmanship in recognition of changing times.
President McKinley seated at his desk, 1900.
McKinleys star first rose on the national scene some 10 years earlier as the Republican Partys staunchest advocate of protectionism. He believed that high tariffs discouraged the importation of foreign goods, thereby helping keep prices high for American goods and producing profits for industries and high wages for workers. Using protectionism as his platform for election to the U.S. House of Representatives and the Ohio statehouse, where he served two terms as governor, McKinley established himself as his partys standard-bearer. According to biographer Margaret Leech, McKinley "carried to Congress an emotional conviction that the solution for all the countrys economic ills was to make the already high tariff rates higher still." By 1900, however, he saw reciprocity as a means for commercial expansion and a way to promote world peace.
McKinley was a veteran of the Civil War and retained vivid memories of the bloody conflict. As president, he was reluctantly drawn into the Spanish-American War of 1898. At first he downplayed stories of Spanish atrocities against Cuban nationals. But the yellow journalism of competing newspaper publishers William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer fired passions after the battleship Maine exploded and sank in Havanas harbor. Big business, looking to expand markets, added to the inexorable forces pushing the president toward war.
Temple of Music Building. President William McKinley was shot twice outside there by a deranged anarchist, Leon Czolgosz and died eight days later.
Spain proved little challenge though, as American forces easily defeated the outnumbered and out-gunned army and navy of the Old World power. As the victor, the United States gained Puerto Rico, Wake, Guam, and the Philippines. The Pacific Islands were particularly significant as they established an American presence in a new hemisphere. Moreover, the United States annexed the Hawaiian Islands that summer. American business concerns became ecstatic over the prospects for expanded influence overseas. But not everyone supported the president. Hearst in particular continued to publicly criticize him. The condemnation reached a low point on April 10, 1901, when the publishers Journal printed an editorial that declared, "If bad institutions and bad men can be got rid of only by killing, then the killing must be done." Although Hearst had been responsible for many attacks on McKinley, he maintained that the editorial had been published without his knowledge. He ordered the presses stopped, but a number of newspapers were already on the streets.
On September 5 an estimated 50,000 people, including Leon Czolgosz, had listened to the presidents speech. "Isolation is no longer possible or desirable," McKinley said. "The period of exclusiveness is past. The expansion of our trade and commerce is the pressing problem. Commercial wars are unprofitable. A policy of good-will and friendly trade relations will prevent reprisals." The New York Times, remarking on the presidents about-face, wrote, "Unquestionably the President has learned much in the last few years."
Unfortunately, Americas move toward imperialism had done little for the common workingman. Already frustrated by years of economic depression that began with the Panic of 1893, and by the lack of progress toward more humane working conditions, American workers wondered why some of the vast wealth of the industrial boom wasnt trickling down to them. Millionaires like railroad king Cornelius Vanderbilt, oil baron John D. Rockefeller, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, and banker J.P. Morgan had accumulated unprecedented private wealth and were known to spend more on an evenings entertainment than a coal miner or tradesman could earn in a lifetime. Such ostentatious displays bred discontent. Rubbing salt in the wound, the industrialists routinely relied on the government to help squelch worker uprisings.
Employee unions had progressively become a more dominant force in American life during the last quarter of the nineteenth century as they sought to improve working conditions. Strikers had clashed violently with police and the military in Chicagos Haymarket Riot in 1886 and again in the Pullman strike eight years later, leaving scores of people dead in the streets. In 1892, Pinkerton detectives in Homestead, Pennsylvania, suppressed a steel strike and protected scab laborers. The government had sided with management against workers in each instance.
A more dangerous element -- anarchism -- exacerbated the situation when it arrived from Europe. Anarchists brought a more radical philosophy to the scene, maintaining that any form of government exploited and oppressed the people. They believed that one way to combat government was to eliminate those in power. Since 1894, anarchists had assassinated four European leaders -- President Sadi Carnot of France, Empress Elizabeth of Austria, King Humbert of Italy, and Spanish statesman CÃ¡novas del Castillo. In the United States, an anarchist had attacked industrialist Henry Clay Frick, in part for his role in the failed Homestead strike.
For some individuals with little or no formal education, few skills, and no hope of improvement, anarchism offered a natural outlet for their frustration. Cleveland resident Leon Czolgosz fit the profile perfectly. Poor, reclusive, and often unemployed, he had been born in Detroit to Polish parents in 1873. He left school after five and a half years and worked at various jobs and later drifted to Chicago and became interested in the socialist movement. The interest continued in Cleveland, where he took a job in the citys wire mills. Two weeks before he traveled to Buffalo, Czolgosz attended a lecture given by the nations most notorious anarchist leader, Emma Goldman. She spoke of the struggle between the classes and why the time had come for action against government.
25th President of the United States
President William McKinley
Vice President: Garret A. Hobart (1897-1899), Theodore Roosevelt (1901)
Born: January 29, 1843, Niles, Ohio
Nickname: "Idol of Ohio"
Education: Allegheny College
Marriage: January 25, 1871, to Ida Saxton (1847-1907)
Children: Katherine McKinley (1871-1875), Ida McKinley (1873)
Political Party: Republican
Writings: The Tariff in the Days of Henry Clay and Since (1896)
Died: September 14, 1901, Buffalo, New York
Buried: Canton, Ohio (adjacent to Westlawn Cemetery)
For a long time, William McKinley was considered a mediocre President, a chief executive who was controlled by his political cronies and who was pressured into war with Spain by the press. Recent historians have been kinder to McKinley, seeing him instead as a decisive President who put America on the road to world power. McKinley's difficult foreign policy decisions, especially his policy toward China and his decision to go to war with Spain over Cuban independence, helped the U.S. enter the twentieth century as a new and powerful empire on the world stage.
Born in 1843 and raised in Ohio, William McKinley planned as a young man to become a Methodist minister. When the Civil War started, McKinley proved a valiant soldier, rising in the ranks from a private to a brevet major on the staff of Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes, who became a lifelong friend and mentor. When he returned to Ohio to practice law, he used his connections with Hayes to rise rapidly in Ohio politics. He served in Congress from 1877 to 1891 before becoming governor of Ohio. Congressman McKinley was the Republican Party's leading spokesman for protectionism in foreign trade. His McKinley Tariff of 1890 established substantially higher tariff rates on imported goods in order to protect U.S. business and manufacturing.
Young Major McKinley
The nation's devastating economic collapse in 1893 turned voters against the Democratic Partys hold on the presidency, giving McKinley a good shot at the White House in 1896. McKinley argued that his commitment to protective tariffs on imported goods would cure unemployment and stimulate industrial growth. McKinleys political ally from Ohio, the industrialist Marcus Hanna, helped McKinley organize and fund his campaign. McKinley beat Democrat William Jennings Bryan in the greatest electoral sweep in twenty-five years. Four years later, the popular McKinley ran on a strong record and defeated Bryan again, by even larger margins.
McKinley led the U.S. into its first international war with a European power since the War of 1812. The decision to come to the aid of the Cubans struggling to throw off Spanish rule was hastened by reports that Spain was responsible for the explosion of the U.S. battleship Maine. On April 25, 1898, Congress declared war, promising to secure independence for Cuba once the war ended. To secure America's position in the Pacific, McKinley immediately pushed a joint resolution through Congress to annex the Hawaiian Islands. After three short months of fighting, the U.S. was victorious. The peace treaty between the United States and Spain granted Cuba its independence -- although the island became a U.S. protectorate -- and gave the United States control of former Spanish colonies, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Practically overnight, the United States became a colonial power, but not without costs. The United States almost immediately entered into a brutal conflict with Filipino nationalists who rejected American rule.
Ida McKinley on her wedding trip.
Further asserting American power on the global scene, McKinley sent 2,000 troops to China to help the Europeans put down the Boxer Rebellion. He also intervened twice in Nicaragua to protect U.S. property interests. Both of these actions were examples of the U.S. as a rising hemispheric and world power.
To obtain a hold on world markets, McKinley authorized his secretary of state, John Hay, to issue the "Open Door" notes on China. These notes declared U.S. support for an independent China and expressed the American desire that all nations with commercial interests in China compete on an equal footing. The war with Spain and the Open Door strategy laid the groundwork for a new American empire.
First Lady Ida Saxton McKinley never recovered from the devastating loss of both her infant children as well as her mother within three years of her marriage to McKinley. She developed epilepsy, a disease for which there was no treatment in the late nineteenth century. McKinley gave the First Lady his full attention, breaking White House protocol in seating her by his side at State dinners. When he was shot by an assassin in 1901, McKinley said to his personal secretary, George B. Cortelyou, "My wife, be careful, Cortelyou, how you tell her -- oh, be careful." McKinley died from his wounds eight days later, on September 14, 1901.
Despite criticism from contemporaries and historians, many of whom disagreed with his policies and found his leadership wanting, McKinley was a President who acted decisively in going to war with Spain, asserted great presidential authority over his cabinet and generals, and understood the link between foreign markets and national prosperity. During his administration, the U.S. acquired possessions that allowed it to become a major world power.
Very interesting. A tragic event in our nation's history.
She looks like she'd fit right in with today's leftists.
btw, like your tagline today.
Ping for an AM read tomorrow.
Very interesting presentation on President McKinley.
Sounds like he would have survived the gunshot wounds if penicillin and operating techniques like today's were employed.
As an Alaskan, this article hits a nerve. The hippie types and leftists are always screaming change the name of Mt. McKinley (named after Pres. McKinley) to Denali, the native's name for the mountain.
It's the highest mountain in North America. Deserving of the name of such a great American president(and Republican).
On This Day In History
Birthdates which occurred on August 11:
1778 Friedrich Ludwig Jahn founder of turnverein (gymnastics) movement
1807 David Atchison legislator: president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, president of U.S. for one day [March 4, 1849], the Sunday before Zachary Taylor was sworn in
1823 Charlotte Mary Yonge England, writer (Heir of Redclyffe)
1833 Robert Green Ingersoll NY, author/politician/agnostic (Att Gen-R-Ill)
1862 Carrie Jacobs Bond Janesville Wisc, songwriter (I Love You Truly)
1867 Joseph Weber comedian (Weber & Fields)
1892 Hugh MacDiarmid Scotland, writer (Scots Unbound)
1897 Louise Bogan Maine, writer (Sleeping Fury)
1900 Alexander Mosolov Kiev Russia, composer (Zavod)
1900 Charles Paddock sprinter (world's fastest human of 1920s)
1902 Lloyd Nolan SF Calif, actor (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Peyton Place)
1911 Henry Kulky Hastings-on-Hudson NY, actor (Otto-Life of Riley)
1912 Jean Parker Montana, actress (Beyond Tomorrow, Little Women)
1920 William Masselos Niagara Falls NY, pianist/prof (Juiliard 1976)
1921 Alex Haley US, author (Roots)
1924 Arlene Dahl Minneapolis Minnesota, actress/TV panelist (Ambush)
1925 Carl Rowan gun-toting newspaper columnist (Wash Post)
1925 Mike Douglas Chicago Ill, talk show host (Mike Douglas Show)
1926 Claus Von Bulow accused of murdering his wife
1927 Raymond Leppard London England, conductor (St Louis Symphony Orch)
1933 Jerry Falwell televangelist, Moral Majority head
1937 Anna Massey actress (De Sade, Doll's House)
1941 Elizabeth Holtzman Bkln DA (D-Rep-NY, Watergate Committee)
1942 Mike Hugg drummer (Manfred Mann)
1946 Marilyn Vos Savant St Louis Mo, writer/world's highest IQ (Guinness)
1947 Jeff Hanna singer/guitarist (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band)
1947 Sergey Kovalneko USSR, basketball (Olympic-bronze-1968)
1949 Eric Carmen Cleveland, Ohio, rocker (All by Myself)
1949 Ian Charleson Edinburgh Scotland, actor (Jamie-Master of the Game)
1950 Erik Brann guitarist (Iron Butterfly)
1950 Steve Wozniak cofounded Apple Computer
1952 Ann Michelle England, actress (Virigin Witch)
1953 Hulk Hogan [Terry Bollea], Ga, WWF heavyweight champion (1984-89)
1953 Sanford Jensen South Haven Mich, actor (Foley Square)
1954 Lina Polito Naples Italy, actress (Love & Anarchy)
1955 Joe Jackson England, singer (Steppin' Out)
1959 Linda Rhys Vaughn Grossmont Ca, playmate (Apr, 1982)
1964 Hamish rocker (The Pasedenas-Riding on the Train)
1969 Eddie Garcia LA, actor/musician (Guys Next Door-I Was Made For You)
I'm bookmarking this thread to my profile page.
as a history buff and collector of presidential memorablia, this caughyt my eye.
I have a memorial plate with McKinley's picture on it and a breadplate dating back to the early 1900's commemorating the assassiantion.
Wow, a visit from the World Tallest Hobbit. Howdy.
Excellent work, Sam! I learned a great deal from your post.
As for Leon Czolgosz . . . who was it that coined the phrase about how, "one motivated nutjob" can accomplish a lot?
I gotta say it was hard to believe that the interrogator was a Col. Seemed more like a contract operative. Also, there's something really sexy about a female soldier that gets in a guys face and calls him "sh!tbird". Sweet.