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Grover Cleveland's Tribute To William McKinley

( Originally Published 1902 )



ON the day of President McKinley's funeral, a memorial service was held at Princeton University, in Alexander Hall. President Patton offered prayer, and ex-President Cleveland made an address, which was in part as follows :

"He has passed from the public sight, not joyously, bearing the garlands and wreaths of his countrymen's approving acclaim, but amid the sobs and tears of a mourning nation. He has gone to his home, not the habitation of earthly peace and quiet night, with domestic comfort and joy, but to the dark and narrow home appointed for all the sons of men, and then to rest until the morning light of the Resurrection shall gleam in the East.

" All our people loved their dead President. His kindly nature and lovable traits of character, and his amiable consideration for all about him, will long live in the minds and hearts of his countrymen. He loved them in return with such patriotism and unselfishness that in this hour of their grief and humiliation he would say to them : ` It is God's will ; I am content. If there is a lesson in my life or death, let it be taught to those who still live and leave the destiny of their country in their keeping.' Let us, then, as our dead is buried out of our sight, seek for the lessons and the admonitions that may be suggested by the life and death which constitute our theme.

" First in my thoughts are the lessons to be learned from the career of William McKinley by the young men who make up the student body of our university. These lessons are not obscure or difficult. They teach the value of study and mental training, but they teach more impressively that the road to usefulness and to the only succcess worth having, will be missed or lost except it is sought and kept by the light of those qualities of the heart, which it is sometimes supposed may safely be neglected or subordinated in university surroundings. This is a great mistake. Study, and study hard, but never let the thought enter your mind that study alone, or the greatest possible accumulation of learning alone, will lead you to the heights of usefulness and success. The man who is universally mourned to-day achieved the highest distinction which his great country can confer on any man, and he lived a useful life. He was not deficient in education, but with all you will hear of his grand career and his services to his country and to his fellow citizens, you will not hear that the high plane he reached or what he accomplished was due entirely to his education. You will, instead, constantly hear as accounting for his great success that he was obedient and affectionate as a son, patriotic and faithful as a soldier, honest and upright as a citizen, tender and devoted as a husband, and truthful, generous, unselfish, moral and clean in every relation of life. He never thought any of those things too weak for his manliness. Make no mistake. Here was a most distinguished man, a great man, a useful man—who became distinguished, great and useful because he had, and retained unimpaired, qualities of heart which I fear university students sometimes feel like keeping in the background or abandoning."

While Mr. Cleveland did not underestimate Mr. McKinley's intellectual ability, but gave him full credit for the possession of a masterly mind, yet he showed great wisdom in laying particular emphasis upon the natural and moral affections which made him so strong and universally beloved. And there was a peculiar timeliness in suggesting the relation of heart-values to earthly success to the students of a university, for educated young men often feel that the affections are a department of their nature considerably below the intellectual, and that the highest manliness is secured rather by a suppression of the tender, generous, or even religious sympathies, than by the cultivation of them. The heart is where a man lives ; it is the place where character dwells. In it there are justice, honesty, chastity, fidelity, bravery, devotion and love; these are the things that most determine how large a man is to be, what public favor he is to secure, and what destiny shall await him in the next world. Mr. Cleveland was right in assigning to the tender, affectionate, pure, pious spirit of Mr. McKinley, the reason for his greatness and popularity.

It will be well for all people, old and young, to remember, that while the heart is reached by the intellect as a channel, it yet controls the mind, and though the will determines conduct, the hand of affection is laid upon its helm to guide it. It was what the martyred President loved that made him what he was. And so it is with other people ; their lives are the measure of their affections.

Our Heavenly Father has recognized this great fact, and has given us a religion which appeals to the heart, and has sent the only Son of his bosom to bear that message to us, and to impart himself to us as its incarnation. Earthly and immortal destiny depends upon the condition of the heart.



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