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Murdering McKinley: The Making of Theodore…

Murdering McKinley: The Making of Theodore Roosevelt's America

by Eric Rauchway

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1525123,848 (3.53)2
"After President William McKinley was fatally shot at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, on September 6, 1901, Americans were bereaved and frightened. Eric Rauchway's brilliant Murdering McKinley re-creates Leon Czolgosz's hastily conducted trial and then traverses America as Dr. Vernon Briggs, a Boston alienist, sets out to discover why Czolgosz rose up to kill the President. While uncovering the answer that eluded Briggs and setting the historical record straight about Czolgosz, Rauchway also provides the finest portrait yet of Theodore Roosevelt at the moment of his sudden ascension to the White House."--Jacket.… (more)



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Entertaining and informative book about the times surrounding McKinley’s assassination, though disorganized/lacking a through-line. One of the most interesting parts was about how the African-American man who first tackled the assassin was written out of the story, which connected to the broader abandonment of African-Americans by Republicans like Roosevelt and native white cultural anxieties about immigrants overtaking their willingness to pay attention to blacks. The assassin Leon Czolgosz, a native-born American, was perceived as a foreigner, and connected with anarchism; he was apparently shaped by the experience of extreme economic uncertainty under the robber barons of the age. The other really neat section discussed the tension between the idea that only a madman would assassinate a president—which if true would give Czolgosz a good insanity defense—and the idea that he had actual political grievances, however misguided—which if true would force Americans to confront the severe consequences of capitalist development. The hostility to immigrants and the huge wealth inequalities have obvious resonances for today’s America, too. ( )
1 vote rivkat | May 21, 2013 |
  Aerow | Aug 15, 2011 |
A captivating history on the assassination of President McKinley and all of the characters involved. You also get to learn of the dealings of syphilis, of all things...
1 vote Aerow | Aug 15, 2011 |
"...Of all the US presidential assassinations (there have been four, and every president since Kennedy to George W Bush has had an assassination attempt), Rauchway describes the 1901 assassination of President McKinley by Leon Czolgosz as being the most dangerously politically motivated. Czolgosz was the son of Polish-Russian immigrants and a self-avowed anarchist. Declared insane and executed, Czolgosz’s crime introduced a wave of fear and suspicion of the immigrant working-class in the United States, but at the same time, as Rauchway argues, forced US policy makers to confront some home truths.

President McKinley was assassinated in 1901 by Leon Czolgosz, a self-confessed anarchist, who approached McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, with his hand wrapped in a handkerchief that concealed a gun. He was immediately apprehended and would have been beaten to death by the crowd had the police not intervened. As he was strapped into the electric chair he made a dramatic, 11th hour statement: ‘I killed the president because he was the enemy of the good people! I did it for the help of the good people, the working men of all countries!’

This book looks at how the subsequent administration of Theodore Roosevelt responded to the assassination and the questions it raised about the working classes and immigrant labour, questions that had never been addressed before. Of course, the assassination also fed into and exacerbated the fear of European anarchists and led to a clampdown on all potentially radical activity. But Rauchway also examines how the McKinley assassination forced opinion makers to confront the question of nature versus nurture, and question whether an increasingly urbanised society contributes to creating troubled citizens. Intriguingly, too, Rauchway looks at how this fed into the anarchists’ idea that capitalism was damaging to the common labourer while benefiting the wealthy few..." (reviewed by Lindsay Porter in FiveBooks).

The full interview is available here: http://fivebooks.com/interviews/lindsay-porter-on-assassination ( )
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1 vote | FiveBooks | May 26, 2010 |
I liked the concept, but the execution was lacking. The idea is T. Roosevelt and the Progressive movement was driven, and drove, societies viewpoints on insanity and what that implies about societal obligations to correct conditions that create insanity. An intriguing idea, but the author fails to explore it adequately .Nonetheless, an OK read, and brief.
1 vote jmcilree | Aug 6, 2009 |
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