Jeffrey Keeten's Reviews > The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century

The President and the Assassin by Scott  Miller
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Jun 21, 13

bookshelves: presidents-with-reviews
Read from January 07 to February 11, 2012

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


 photo william_mckinley_zps1cadcd4b.jpg

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 Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, 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.

LeonCzolgosz
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.

McKinnleyandRoosevelt
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
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Reading Progress


Comments (showing 1-38 of 38) (38 new)

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message 1: by Melki (new)

Melki Good review, despite the fact that you planted an image in my head of Emma Goldman standing over a subway grate, white dress billowing around her head.


message 2: by Mike (new)

Mike Excellent, excellent. I think your observation of this book being caught in the shade of the Millard book is very appropriate. You shed some much needed light on a book that deserves more attention. Thanks!


Jeffrey Keeten Melki wrote: "Good review, despite the fact that you planted an image in my head of Emma Goldman standing over a subway grate, white dress billowing around her head."

Okay, now I have that image in my head. haha glad you liked the review. Thanks.


Jeffrey Keeten Mike wrote: "Excellent, excellent. I think your observation of this book being caught in the shade of the Millard book is very appropriate. You shed some much needed light on a book that deserves more attenti..."

Thanks Sir Michael. You'll love both books.


Jeffrey Keeten Joyce wrote: "Great review, Jeffrey. I loved Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, so if you think this is of a similar caliber, I may have to take a look."

They go together like peanut butter and apricot jam. Since you liked the Millard book I have no doubts you will like this book. I'm reading a book on the Grover Cleveland scandal A Secret Life: The Lies and Scandals of President Grover Cleveland, not as well written as the Millard or Miller books, but more like reading a newspaper article or listening to a news broadcast with all the "difficult" words left on the cutting room floor.


message 6: by Steve (new)

Steve Good stuff, Jeffrey. Is praise of your reviews getting a little redundant? Maybe you can write a poor one some time just to get us out of this rut. :-)

Are you familiar with E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime? There's a fairly extensive section on Emma Goldman. (I don't recall the status of her dress, though.)


Jeffrey Keeten Joyce wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "Joyce wrote: "Great review, Jeffrey. I loved Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President, so if you think this is of a similar caliber, I may..."

The Darrow sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the recommend.


Jeffrey Keeten Steve wrote: "Good stuff, Jeffrey. Is praise of your reviews getting a little redundant? Maybe you can write a poor one some time just to get us out of this rut. :-)

Are you familiar with E.L. Doctorow's Rag..."


I did, but you know another lifetime ago. Good call, I should read that again. I never tire of hearing your appreciation Steve. MJ voiced a similar concern to me the other day that I was writing so many good reviews that he was afraid everyone was going to start taking me for granted. *sigh* I could throw a fight, but it's just not in my nature. Thank you Steve, you've been so supportive of my efforts.


[Name Redacted] Hey, Emma was a real cutie!


Jeffrey Keeten Ian wrote: "Hey, Emma was a real cutie!"

I like the puffy sleeve. It's as if she is saying "just try and knock this chip off my shoulder."


message 11: by knig (new)

knig I'm with Melki on this one: Emma Golden is actually scary. If she had offspring with King Umberto, I wonder what it would look like?


Jeffrey Keeten Knig-o-lass wrote: "I'm with Melki on this one: Emma Golden is actually scary. If she had offspring with King Umberto, I wonder what it would look like?"

Ehh gads. The poor child couldn't hold his/her head up for the large mustaches.


message 13: by Will (new) - added it

Will Byrnes No billowing skirt imagery for me. It looks like she should be called Mistress Emma, and might be wearing a leather corset, and holding a whip.

Sounds like an illuminating read, JK. Thanks for this excellent bit of reading encouragement.

Organizationally, in the USA, the IWW, International Workers of the World, aka Wobblies, were the largest, to my knowledge, manifestation of a form of anarchism here.

And for one of the best political commentaries ever
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAaWvV...


Jeffrey Keeten I haven't seen that "bloody peasant" bit in a long time. It is still hilarious. Your welcome Will. I think you'll enjoy this one.


message 15: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue Another great review and book to add to the ever-lengthening list. Thanks Jeffrey.


message 16: by sckenda (new)

sckenda I actually find Emma Goldman attractive had she of just cracked a smile. I like women with glasses and strong opinions and commitment to social justice. I don't know that I would have followed her to Russia or prison.


Jeffrey Keeten Steve wrote: "I actually find Emma Goldman attractive had she of just cracked a smile. I like women with glasses and strong opinions and commitment to social justice. I don't know that I would have followed her ..."

And you haven't even seen her gams yet, never know that might put you over the top.


message 18: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Behle Jeffrey--thanks for all the photos. The offbeat coffee shop in my city of Baltimore is named Red Emma's. Loved the book and just posted my review.


message 19: by Jeffrey (last edited Feb 16, 2013 05:42AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jeffrey Keeten John wrote: "Jeffrey--thanks for all the photos. The offbeat coffee shop in my city of Baltimore is named Red Emma's. Loved the book and just posted my review."

Your welcome John. I have written a series of presidential book reviews. I've got the new Coolidge bio en-route. I like learning about the obscure presidents especially. Grover Cleveland for instance was a real eye-opener. I'll give you a couple of links to books you might like. http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... Oh and if you haven't read the new Garfield bio it is excellent.
http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...

When I get to Baltimore I will have to make sure I have a cup of coffee at Red Emma's. Thanks John.


message 20: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Behle Jeffrey wrote: "John wrote: "Jeffrey--thanks for all the photos. The offbeat coffee shop in my city of Baltimore is named Red Emma's. Loved the book and just posted my review."

Your welcome John. I have written..."


Yes, my wife and I want to go to Grover Cleveland's birthplace in New Jersey. We are presidential buffs. I have visited a birthplace, home, library or site for 28 presidents --a good hobby.


Jeffrey Keeten John wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "John wrote: "Jeffrey--thanks for all the photos. The offbeat coffee shop in my city of Baltimore is named Red Emma's. Loved the book and just posted my review."

Your welcome John..."


Wow I am impressed. Whenever we visit a state we always research for presidential sites. I love it and luckily so do my wife and kids.


message 22: by John (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Behle Jeffrey wrote: "John wrote: "Jeffrey wrote: "John wrote: "Jeffrey--thanks for all the photos. The offbeat coffee shop in my city of Baltimore is named Red Emma's. Loved the book and just posted my review."

Your..."


A good one I found in Lancaster PA is the home of James Buchanan. The president who never married--so interesting, I spent an hour one-on-one with the curator. Sorry to leave.


message 23: by Lynne (new)

Lynne King I love the review Jeffrey. What a super historical social document. As for pin-up Emma. What a fright she gave me.


Jeffrey Keeten Lynne wrote: "I love the review Jeffrey. What a super historical social document. As for pin-up Emma. What a fright she gave me."

Thank you Lynne! Emma still gives me a shiver.


message 25: by Kalliope (last edited Jun 21, 2013 09:17AM) (new) - added it

Kalliope Jeffrey, please, can you count Three Likes?

Thank you.

Wonderful review. Very clear and fair. I think this is a TBR for me.

I have to say, though, that I had not thought of you as someone so hung up with sexy pin-up girls.....!!!... at least you have taste.


Jeffrey Keeten Kalliope wrote: "Jeffrey, please, can you count Three Likes?

Thank you.

Wonderful review. Very clear and fair. I think this is a TBR for me.

I have to say, though. that I had not thought of you as someone so h..."


I actually nearly sputtered coffee when I read in this book about anarchist males keeping pictures of Emma Goldman in their wallets as a pin-up girl. It was too good not to use in the review. Thank you Kalliope! I do think you would enjoy this book.


message 27: by Kalliope (new) - added it

Kalliope Jeffrey wrote: "

I have to say, though. that I had not thought of yo..."


Jeffrey, you mean to say that you do not have her in your wallet?..she has a nice waist...

Yes, this looks like a fascinating book. Thank you for your review.


message 28: by Gary (new)

Gary  the Bookworm It seems that Anarchists have a different take on what makes a woman desirable. I hope Hillary Clinton doesn't get any ideas...


message 29: by Kalliope (new) - added it

Kalliope Gary wrote: "It seems that Anarchists have a different take on what makes a woman desirable. I hope Hillary Clinton doesn't get any ideas..."

may be on the waist..?


Jeffrey Keeten Gary wrote: "It seems that Anarchists have a different take on what makes a woman desirable. I hope Hillary Clinton doesn't get any ideas..."

So is it weird that I have a pin-up of Hillary Clinton in my wallet? Right next to Janet Reno and Madeleine Albright?


Jeffrey Keeten Kalliope wrote: "Gary wrote: "It seems that Anarchists have a different take on what makes a woman desirable. I hope Hillary Clinton doesn't get any ideas..."

may be on the waist..?"


There are many women who would be jealous of Emma's tiny waist.


message 32: by Lynne (new)

Lynne King It's all very well having a tiny waist but what about the face? Or does darkness prevail and excitement just grows...


Jeffrey Keeten Lynne wrote: "It's all very well having a tiny waist but what about the face? Or does darkness prevail and excitement just grows..."

Haha I like that Lynne. Well lighting is important to all of us especially as we get older. Emma doesn't create any sparkle for me, but then I'm not a very good anarchist either.


message 34: by Lynne (new)

Lynne King On that sparkle note Jeffrey, dinner beckons.

You're wonderful. Your wife is a very lucky person.


Jeffrey Keeten Lynne wrote: "On that sparkle note Jeffrey, dinner beckons.

You're wonderful. Your wife is a very lucky person."


Have a wonderful dinner. I try to convince my wife of how wonderful I am all the time especially given my book budget. haha Thanks Lynne! I feel lucky to have GR friends like you.


message 36: by Lynne (new)

Lynne King Thank you Jeffrey!


message 37: by Mara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mara Such a good review that my review was basically a suggestion to read yours. I also loved Destiny of the Republic. Giteau was presumptuous and insane, but for some reason Czolgosz struck me as being just incredibly annoying- one of those people who just makes everyone hate the world a little bit more.


Jeffrey Keeten Mara wrote: "Such a good review that my review was basically a suggestion to read yours. I also loved Destiny of the Republic. Giteau was presumptuous and insane, but for some reason Czolgosz struck me as being..."

I thought your review was great Mara! And thanks for the nod in your review! It is much appreciated. I have a fondness for books about presidents and have several more on the shelf I need to work into the queue for reading. I also read and reviewed Destiny of the Republic. It was so odd how both books came out so close together.


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