The Contrasts Of The Tragedy
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
WHAT strange contrasts were connected with the tragedy which removed President McKinley ! It was President's Day at the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo. The President, attended by members of his Cabinet and by distinguished men from every section of the land, in the largest gathering of the Fair, arose to make his speech. In doing so he stood upon the highest pinnacle of earthly greatness and pride, the object of the universal affection of his people, looking out upon a nation at the period of its greatest prosperity and happiness. His address, which was spoken to the people of our own country and of all lands, closed with the following words of peace on earth, good-will toward men:
" Who can tell the new thoughts that have been awakened, the ambitions fired, and the high achievements that will be wrought through this Exposition? Gentlemen : Let us ever remember that our interest is in accord, not conflict, and that our real eminence rests in the victories of peace, not those of war. We hope that all who are represented here may be moved to higher and nobler effort for their own and the world's good, and that out of this city may come, not only greater commerce and trade for us all, but, more essential than these, relations of mutual respect, confidence and friendship which will deepen and endure.
" Our earnest prayer is that God will graciously vouchsafe prosperity, happiness and peace to all our neighbors, and like blessings to all the peoples and powers of earth."
At the reception on the day following, in an instant the great man fell from his pinnacle of pride, strength and happiness, and sank down wounded and fainting in a chair, helpless as the weakest child, and his sceptre of power slipped into the hand of another. What a contrast there was between the throne of power and the bed of languishing !
At the reception in the Temple of Music, he gave an expression of his faith in the people and his love for them ; he came down close to them that he might look into their faces, and take their hands. His countenance showed that he had never willingly planted a thorn in any man's bosom ; it was irradiated with the love he had for his fellow men, it wore that smile which his affectionate heart prompted, and in the very act of smiling upon and offering to take the hand of the young man who pretended to be his friend, the vile wretch, feigning to return the salutation, shot him down. The demon did not know the President, had no personal grievance against him, had no complaint to make against him personally, only murdered him because he was our representative, and because he wanted to show his diabolical hatred of all authority, human and divine. Was there ever a crime deeper-dyed? What a contrast between the President's love and the criminal's hate ! What a contrast between the divine benignity manifested in the character of the one, and the satanic malice expressed in that of the other! It was the contrast between the brightness of heaven and the blackness of hell on earth. The assassin's bullet that entered the body of William McKinley, pierced the bosom of seventy-five million people. They were dazed at first by the shock, but the hope of the wounded man's recovery soon began to dawn, and their own wound began to heal. Skillful and faithful surgeons did their part; the sufferer's strong will and brave heart served him well, and positive pledges were given upon the best authority that the President would get well. People of all parties and all creeds, Protestant, Catholic, Hebrew, and even Pagan, had prayed for the restoration of the stricken man, and it was thought that it was God's will that he should be restored. The deepest gratitude prevailed, praise services were announced and held, a happy nation went out in a burst of thanksgiving to God for having saved the life of their Chief. On the very day that the bulletin boards made the official announcement that Mr. McKinley would certainly recover, that every doubt on the subject had been removed, the same bulletin boards told the people of the nation that their President was dying. And there was such a wail of universal lamentation as this country never heard. What a contrast there was between the joy of a great nation at the hope of the restoration of their idol, and the awful sorrow occasioned by the news of his death !
Contrasts we find everywhere in the world about us, between the rose and the noxious weed, the song-bird and the hissing serpent, the gentle zephyr and the terrible tornado, the sunshine and the shadow, the snow and the orchard in bloom, day and night. There are these same contrasts in human experience, there is the passing from weakness to strength, and from strength to weakness ; from humiliation to exaltation, and from exaltation to humiliation; from failure to earthly success, and from success to failure ; the phases of mildness and severity are alternately revealed in this mortal life of ours. These mutabilities, these contrasts when rightly employed, are intended to develop the noblest character, and secure ultimately the highest destiny.
Wherever in this world there is beauty, there is homeliness to confront it; wherever there is innocence, there is guilt to oppose it ; where there is love, there is hate with a hand raised against it; wherever there is purity, there is sin ready to murder it. The only perfect One who ever lived was betrayed by a kiss and sold to his death by a pretended friend. In the busy throng there are thousands of hands of treachery, hypocrisy and malice, holding a revolver covered by a handkerchief, ready to strike down their fellow men. A nation rejoicing one moment and crying the next, is a very good picture of the individual human heart, which is constantly passing to the highest altitudes of joy and descending into the lowest depths of sorrow. The One who said " that my joy might remain in you and that your joy might be full " also said " my soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death."
But the contrasts of the awful tragedy which we have noticed are on the earthward side; there are contrasts on the heavenward side which it is worth our while to consider. Looking through the thinly-woven veil we see that the man that sank fainting in the chair and lay languishing upon a bed of death has entered a realm of everlasting health and strength ; that he has been elevated to a throne of honor and power by the side of which all earthly potentates seem weak and small. The hand of wrath seemed only to open the door of the tomb at Canton, but in reality it opened the gateway of life through which the imperial soul of the great man flew away, from a world of toil and care and struggle and sin into a realm of rest and peace and purity ; away from the arms of the people of the nation that idolized him into the embraces of the spirits without fault before the throne of God. At the very time a nation was weeping for him, with harp in hand and angelic voice, he was singing the praises of his Redeemer in the highest, brightest heaven, " the song of Moses and the Lamb." It may be of advantage to the nation and to individuals to regard the contrasts on this side and especially those on the other side of the river of Death.
When our loved ones go away from us, we weep for them as though they had gone to the grave, when, if we would look with spirit-eyes, we would discover that they have arisen to the highest altitudes of glory and enjoyment, and are to be congratulated rather than commiserated upon their translation from earth.