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This Week in History
January 25 to 31, 2015  

On the Occasion of the William McKinley’s Birthday
January 29, 1843

By John Ascher  

President McKinley Speaks on General Grant and New York

On the occasion of the birthday of the 25th President of the United States, William McKinley, born on January 29, 1843, we publish here the dedication which he presented in New York City on April 27, 1897. President McKinley delivered this speech to dedicate the Monument for President Ulysses S. Grant (known as Grant’s Tomb, or the General Grant National Memorial), located in Riverside Park in Upper Manhattan, near the historic Riverside Church where the Schiller Institute just held an important conference on January 17, 2015. Amongst his various unique distinctions, William McKinley was the last US President to have served in the Civil War, and he saw himself, even after Lincoln’s death, as a follower of Abraham Lincoln. President McKinley served as US President from March 4, 1897 until his untimely death on September 14, 1901, six months into his second term. He was assassinated in Buffalo, NY, on September 6, 1901 and died on September 14, one hundred years prior to 9/11.

Address at the Dedication of the Grant Monument, New York, April 27, 1897

Fellow- Citizens:

President William McKinley, from the Library of Congress Presidents and First Ladies Collection

A great life, dedicated to the welfare of the nation here finds its earthly coronation. Even if this day lacked the impressiveness of ceremony and was devoid of pageantry, it would still be memorable, because it is the anniversary of the birth of one of the most famous and best beloved of American soldiers.

Architecture has paid high tribute to the leaders of mankind, but never was a memorial more worthily bestowed or more gratefully accepted by a free people then the beautiful structure before which we are gathered.

In marking the successful completion of this work, we have as witnesses and participants representatives of all branches of our government, the resident officials of foreign nations, the governors of States, and the sovereign people from every section of our common country, who join in this august tribute to the soldier, patriot, and citizen.

Almost twelve years have passed since the heroic vigil ended and the brave spirit of Ulysses S. Grant fearlessly took its flight. Lincoln and Stanton had preceded him, but of the mighty captains of the war Grant was the first to be called. Sherman and Sheridan survived him, but have since joined him on the other shore.

The great heroes of the civil strife on land and sea are, for the most part, now no more. Thomas and Hancock, Logan and McPherson, Farragut, Dupont, and Porter, and a host of others, have passed forever from human sight. Those remaining grow dearer to us, and from them and the memory of those who have departed, generations yet unborn will draw their inspiration and gather strength for patriotic purpose.

Ulysses S. Grant.

A great life never dies. Great deeds are imperishable; great names immortal. General Grant's services and character will continue undiminished in influence, and advance in the estimation of mankind so long as liberty remains the corner-stone of free government and integrity of life the guaranty of good citizenship.

Faithful and fearless as a volunteer soldier, intrepid and invincible as commander-in-chief of the armies of the Union, calm and confident as President of a reunited and strengthened nation which his genius had been instrumental in achieving, he has our homage and that of the world ; but brilliant as was his public character, we love him all the more for his home life and homely virtues. His individuality, his bearing and speech, his  simple ways, had a flavor of rare and unique distinction; and his Americanism was so true and uncompromising that his name will stand for all time as the embodiment of liberty, loyalty, and national unity.

Victorious in the work which, under divine Providence, he was called upon to do, clothed with almost limitless power, he was as yet one of the people—plain, patient, patriotic, and just. Success did not disturb the even balance of his mind, while fame was powerless to swerve him from the path of duty. Great as he was in war, he loved peace, and told the world that honorable arbitration of differences was the best hope of civilization.

By Daniel Schwen (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Grant's tomb at Riverside Drive and West 122nd Street, Manhattan, New York City.

With Washington and Lincoln, Grant has an exalted place in history and the affections of the people. To-day his memory is held in equal esteem by those whom he led to victory and by those who accepted his generous terms of peace. The veteran leaders of the blue and the gray here meet not only to honor the name of the departed Grant, but to testify to the living reality of a fraternal national spirit which has triumphed over the differences of the past and transcends the limitations of sectional lines. Its completion, which we pray God to speed, will be the nation’s greatest glory.

It is right, then, that General Grant should have a memorial commensurate with his greatness, and that his last resting-place should be the city of his choice, to which he was so attached in life, and of whose ties he was not forgetful even in death. Fitting, too, is it that the great soldier should sleep beside the noble river on whose banks he first learned the art of war, of which he became master and leader without a rival.

But let us not forget the glorious distinction with which the metropolis among the fair sisterhood of American cities has honored his life and memory. With all that riches and sculpture can do to render the edifice worthy of the man, upon a site unsurpassed for magnificence, has this monument been reared by New York as a perpetual record of his illustrious deeds, in the certainty that, as time passes, around it will assemble, with gratitude and reverence and veneration, men of all climes, races, and nationalities.

New York holds in her keeping the precious dust of the silent soldier; but his achievements—what he and his brave comrades wrought for mankind—are in the keeping of seventy millions of American citizens, who will guard the sacred heritage forever and forevermore.

—From Speeches and Addresses of William McKinley from March 1, 1897 to May 30, 1900