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JeffreyKeeten

JeffreyKeeten

The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century - Scott  Miller That's all a man can hope for during his lifetime - to set an example - and when he is dead, to be an inspiration for history.
William McKinley


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Scott Miller used the assassination of President William McKinley as the centering point of this historical overview of the events at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century that brought America forward as a world power. This book came out almost at the same time as [b:Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President|10335318|Destiny of the Republic A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President|Candice Millard|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327883084s/10335318.jpg|15237912], a book about the Garfield assassination,and both books are not only highly readable, but do an excellent job of describing the state of the world during these time periods.

This was a time of great expansion for the United States. Railroads were booming, factories were roaring along at such a productive rate that new markets were needed to move the surplus, and a small percentage of Americans were getting very, very wealthy. Working conditions were still at this time substandard with long hours and hazardous working conditions. The times were ripe for labor to organize and the country was beset with striking railroad and factory workers. Clashes between owners and labor often became bloody. Anarchists saw this as an opportunity to push their own agendas and their dynamic speakers spread through out the country encouraging violence and preaching that upheaval was the only chance for change. One of the most successful and sought after of these anarchist speakers was Emma Goldman.

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Emma Goldman Pin-up Girl for the Anarchist movement

I had to laugh when I read that Emma Goldman was the pin-up girl of the anarchist movement. Anarchists when arrested were invariably found with a picture of Emma in their wallets. I have never seen a picture of Goldman that gave me even the hint of a tingle, but to the movement, to these lonely, disenfranchised males she was the Marilyn Monroe of the day. She came to the United States and opened a restaurant on borrowed money (capitalism? hmmm)and became a successful small business owner. She became so excited about the strikes flaring up across the country that she closed her restaurant and went on a wide ranging speaking tour. Leon Czolgosz, not only saw her speak, but also spent a few hours in her company. At the time she was not impressed with him, but she soon would be.

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Leon Czolgosz

I haven't read enough on this era because I had no idea how aggressive and successful(?) the anarchist movement was not only in the United States, but across the world. In 1894 an Italian Anarchist Caserio stabbed to President of France Carnot to death.

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President of France Marie Francois Sadi Carnot

In 1900 another Italian/American Anarchist shot to death King Umberto of Italy. In a moment of real hubris the Italian American anarchist movement became frustrated with the inability of their European cousins to remove their king from power. They drew straws and Gaetano Bresci won the privilege of assassinating the foreign dictator.

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King Umberto I of Italy

All of this was foreshadowing for the successful attempt on President McKinley. Leaders were accessible and all it took was a man with the nerve to perform the deed.

When Spain started having difficulties with the natives of Cuba the United States sent the war ship S. S. Maine to Cuba to protect the 8,000 American citizens on the island. This was read correctly by the Spanish as a move of intimidation. The explosion of the Maine was the impetuous the US needed to intervene. Under the leadership of George Dewey the American Navy decimated the Spanish at the Battle of Manila Bay. The Spanish sue for peace and in the process the US obtains Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Cuba is also liberated and the influx of American business men with bulging briefcases of cash invade Cuba. This was the perfect opportunity for America to bring Cuba under the flag, but due to an anti-imperialist movement the island slips through their fingers. The emergence of Teddy Roosevelt during this time was a marvel. Garret Hobart died leaving the vice presidency open, and Roosevelt aggressively campaigned for the job. With a healthy, young President the party decided one of the safest places to tuck Teddy was in the vice presidency.

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William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt

This is an interesting time in American history with emerging markets in China, the development of a strong navy, our involvement with the Philippines, the beginnings of organized labor, and oh yes the assassination of an American President. I am the eternal optimist when reading a book like this. I know the outcome and yet as I'm reading the book I'm still pulling for a different result. This time the secret service will react fast enough and Czolgosz will be thwarted or the gun misfires as it did with the assassination attempt on Andrew Jackson. Alas, the space time continuum remained intact and the bullet does perforate McKinley's stomach, pancreas, and kidney, and 8 days after he is shot McKinley dies. This is one of those books that leaves the reader with a working knowledge of an important decade in American history and also encourages the reader to explore further. Every chapter presented a new perspective and I could feel the building blocks of knowledge sliding into place. Highly recommended!

If anyone would like to read my review of the Candice Millard book here is the link. Destiny of the Republic Review