American Boys' Life of William McKinley/Chapter 28

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CHAPTER XXVIII


Relief of the Legations in Pekin—The President's Views on China—Capture of Aguinaldo—His Peace Manifesto—The President's Trip to the West


The taking of Pekin was as picturesque as it was daring. This immense city has a high stone wall around it, the building of which dates back many centuries. The wall is broad at the top, and at various points there are watch-towers or forts. Both walls and forts were guarded by thousands of Boxers, as were also the huge gateways leading into the city.

The majority of the Allies had come up by way of Peitsang and Tung-Chow, but others, including the Japanese, had taken a different route. While the sturdy Japanese soldiers attacked at one point, the Americans, English, and Germans attacked at another. There was heavy firing at various points, lasting several hours. Then the Russians joined the Japanese, and attacked beyond the grand canal. The artillery fire was terrific, lasting from three in the morning until five in the afternoon. The eastern gate of the city was completely demolished, and the soldiers rushed through, planting the flags of Russia and Japan upon the top of the great wall.

The entrance to the great city was made by the Americans and the English at the southeast gate. As soon as these troops were inside, they fought their way toward the legations, where the foreigners had now been besieged for fifty-six days. An entrance into the compound, or grounds, of the English legation was effected through the water gate of the canal, and here those wdthin, including many Americans, were found safe and sound, although suffering somewhat from their long confinement.

The rescuing of the foreigners from the clutches of the bloodthirsty Boxers was a grand event, and when the soldiers came pouring in, many cheered and not a few wept for joy. The band played, camp-fires were lit, and, led by an elderly minister, Americans and English joined fervidly in singing the Doxology, praising God for leading them through their great peril in safety.

If President McKinley had shown a high degree of statesmanship in his dealings with affairs in Cuba, Porto Rico, and the Philippines, he now showed equal sagacity in dealing wdth the Chinese question. The Chinese government professed to have nothing in common with the Boxer movement, nevertheless the nations of Europe w^ished China to suffer heavily for what had occurred, and for a time it looked as if the whole Chinese Empire must be broken up and divided among the other nations of the world.

"This must not be," said the President. "While we must compel China to do her duty, we must also help her to hold her own." And working along these lines he soon gave the world to understand that the United States did not favor the dismemberment of the Celestial Empire, and so strong was our influence in that direction that in the end the most of the foreign soldiers were withdrawn from China, and the Emperor was asked to settle the difficulty by a money consideration.

The second inauguration of President McKinley was a grand spectacle, the like of which had never before been seen in this country. In the review were representatives from Hawaii; Port Rico, and the Philippines, and each of these new territories vied with the others in doing him honor.

A Peace Commission was already at work, under the directions of the President, endeavoring to settle the Chinese and other troublesome questions. Soon after the President went into office a second time civil government was established in Porto Rico and in certain parts of the Philippines. But in the latter islands General Aguinaldo was still at large, and until he was caught it was felt that the rebellion would go on there, although it was now carried on solely in guerilla fashion.

At last General Frederick Funston, who had already made, by dash and daring, a well-known name for himself, resolved, by hook or by crook, to capture the wily Filipino chief. Some Insurgents had surrendered, and from these he learned that Aguinaldo was in a distant part of the
American Boys' Life of McKinley p321.jpg

The second inaugural address. March 4, 1901.

island, waiting for another Filipino leader to send him reënforcements.

General Funston's plan was to take some of the native troops then in the service of the United States and disguise them as the awaited reënforcements. With this body were to go a number of American officers and soldiers, who were supposed to be prisoners taken on the way.

To reach the district where Aguinaldo was in hiding was by no means easy, and several times the expedition came close to falling into a trap and being slaughtered by the savage tribe which lived there, and which knew little or nothing of civilization, Malayan or otherwise.

But with his accustomed bravery and pluck General Funston pushed forward, and at last, by means of decoy letters, reached the spot where Aguinaldo and his staff, with a handful of soldiers, awaited the supposed reënforcements. The surprise was complete, and though some resistance was offered, it was of no avail, and soon the Dictator, who had eluded capture for two years, found himself a prisoner. He was taken, under a strong guard, to Manila, and there, on April 9, 1901, he signed a peace manifesto which virtually brought the war in the Philippines to an end, although it is probable that isolated attacks on United States authority in out-of-the-way places are likely to occur for several years to come. Many of the natives are very ignorant and savage, and they will have to be dealt with very much as our country was compelled to deal with the bloodthirsty Apaches and Modocs of our own West.

As said before, the President had always been a good speechmaker, and I cannot refrain from introducing extracts of two of his addresses delivered at this time. While speaking of the war with Spain, he said:—

"Our glorious old flag, the symbol of liberty, floats to-day over two hemispheres. During the recent war we had exhibitions of unprecedented patriotism on the part of the people, and unmatched heroism on the part of our soldiers and sailors. Our second great triumph is the triumph of prosperity. The busy mills, the active industries, the general prosperity, have scattered plenty o'er a smiling country. Our third great triumph is the triumph we have had over sectionalism. We are no longer a divided people, and he who would stir up animosities between North and South is denied a hearing in both sections. The boys of the South and the boys of the North fought triumphantly on land and sea in every engagement during our war."

This address was delivered at Canton, Ohio. Several days later he spoke in Chicago, to an audience numbering thousands, as follows:—

"The United States never struck a blow except for civilization and never struck its colors. Has the pyramid lost any of its strength? Has the Republic lost any of its virility? Has the self-governing principle been weakened? Is there any present menace to our stability and duration? These questions bring but one answer. The Republic is sturdier and stronger than ever before. Government by the people has been advanced. Freedom under the flag is more universal than when the Union was formed. Our steps have been forward, not backward. From Plymouth Rock to the Philippines, the grand triumphant march of human liberty has never paused.

"Has patriotism died out in the hearts of the people? Witness the 250,000 men springing to arms and in thirty days organized into regiments for the Spanish war, and a million more ready to respond, and the more recent enlistment of 70,000 men, with many other thousands anxious to enlist, but whose services were not needed.

"Has American heroism declined? The shattered and sinking fleets of the Spanish navy at Manila and at Santiago, the charges of San Juan and El Caney, and the intrepid valor and determination of our gallant troops in more than forty engagements in Luzon, attest the fact that the American soldier and sailor have lost none of the qualities which made our early army and navy illustrious and invincible.

"May we not feel assured that if we do our duty, the Providence which favored the undertakings of the fathers, and every step of our progress since, will continue His watchful care and guidance over us, and that the hand that led us to our present place will not relax His grasp until we have reached the glorious goal He has fixed for us in the achievement of His end?"

As our country was now once again at peace with the whole world, President McKinley was urged by many of his friends and admirers to make a trip to the West, and he started on April 29, taking Mrs. McKinley with him. In the past he had visited the South and the Northeast, and his reception had been a right royal one. Now, from Washington to San Francisco he received a perfect ovation, thousands upon thousands of citizens gathering to do him honor, as he passed from town to town and city to city.

But Mrs. McKinley's health was not good, and at the height of its success, the trip had to be abandoned, much to the regret of all who had thus far failed to see their beloved leader. The sympathy of the whole nation was with Mrs. McKinley in her suffering, and all wished her a speedy recovery. The President and his wife returned to Washington, and here our chief magistrate lingered fondly over the sick-bed of his life companion until she recovered as fully as her delicate constitution permitted. The President's intense devotion to his wife at this time showed fully the breadth and depth of his loving nature. For her he gave up his triumphal trip without a moment's hesitation, his one thought being for her welfare and comfort. In this there is a lesson in unselfishness which all may learn with profit.