Using Leon Czolgosz as a platform from which to examine the ills of 1900’s society, Rauchway expounds upon their implications for America’s immediate future, and how they, in combination with McKinley’s murder, helped set the stage for Theodore Roosevelt and his administration. Why would a man like Leon Czolgosz have assassinated the president? How did this reflect and affect public sentiment, and how did the tier of American society that Czolgosz represented– the unhappy, alienated and downtrodden working class– provide Roosevelt with the opportunities he needed to make drastic change? Rauchway offers answers to each of these questions, while illustrating along the way that Czolgosz was neither insane nor truly an anarchist, Roosevelt was not quite the spontaneous, apolitical figure he pretended to be, and McKinley’s murder, tragic though it was, was in some ways a necessary evil.
Opening with the event of McKinley’s shooting and the man who shot him, Rauchway quickly zooms out, distancing us from the scene, reflecting on the political status of the President, who “in the instant before he was shot” had “stood at the peak of hi...
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...e the impious business magnates continued to prosper even during depressions. Believing he had syphilis, and nothing to lose, he attacked what he saw as the symbol of the oppressive forces in his society. As Rauchway (and the book) concludes, “he was the product of strains in a web of circumstance, a complex trap that resulted from the compounding effects of innumerable human decisions. Its strands connected William McKinley and John W. Gates to Emma Goldman and Abe Isaak, and linked Jane Addams to Jacob Riis to Booker T. Washington and James Parker. For an instant, by an effort of will, Czolgosz thrust himself into the center of that web; then, swallowed up by events he set in motion, he yielded his focal place to Theodore Roosevelt.”
Rauchway,Eric. Murdering McKinley: The Making of Theodore Roosevelt's America. 1st ed. New York: Hill and Wang, 2003.
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