Thursday, September 06, 2007

September 6

According to a long-time White House doorman named Theodore Pendel, William McKinley enjoyed a good handshake. In his 1902 memoir, Pendel explained that
[t]he President always took great delight in shaking hands with the people. He told one of the officials at the White House that he took more delight in shaking hands with the people than he did at one of the state dinners. It seemed to be a great gratification to him to meet the masses of the people.
Shortly after 4:00 p.m. on September 6, 1901, an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz shot McKinley in the chest and stomach while the president was presumably having the time of his life, shaking hands with his adoring public at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.

Although it initially appeared that McKinley might survive his wounds, he eventually succumbed to pancreatic necrosis after eight lingering days. At his funeral, Rev. Morgan Dix -- son of former New York governor John Dix -- hyperbolized about the third presidential assassination in four decades. Calling attention to the perils of anarchism, Dix asked
will the nation fail to act as a great nation should, to deal as it ought to do with the most deadly foe that it has or ever can have? For if this foe prevails, the nation, the state, the law, the government will disappear forever and ever. Are we to forget what has thrown us into this present mourning and these tears? Are we to lapse into a fatal apathy, and let the preaching of murder and inciting to murder and the applauding of murder go on as before? Are the laws still to protect the very persons who hate and detest them and are banded together for the overthrow of society? It seems to me that the most solemn issue of the hour is as to what we have to do who remain—whether we are equal to the occasion. Are we now to fall back before this enemy, the last and most dangerous we have ever encountered or ever shall, and let things drift from bad to worse, in new instances of a passion which spares not one life that stands in its way?
Czolgosz, who was nearly beaten to death by infuriated bystanders after the shooting, was taken into custody and quickly tried for McKinley’s murder; to no one’s surprise, he earned a guilty verdict and a sentence of death, which was carried out on October 29, six weeks after McKinley's demise. At his electrocution, Czolgosz expressed no regrets and issued no apologies for the assassination.

"I killed the President," he said, "because he was the enemy of the good people, the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime."

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