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Murdering McKinley: The Making of Theodore Roosevelt's America Reprint Edition

27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0809016389
ISBN-10: 0809016389
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This ambitious book paints a fresh picture of American culture a century ago and finds there the confused stirrings of our own age. Rauchway's lens opens on the 1901 assassination of President William McKinley by Leon Czolgosz and keeps that event in focus throughout. The author's aim is to get us to understand in new ways the dawning 20th century, when so many of our present political and social struggles took form and solutions were proposed. For instance, the involvement in Czolgosz's case of "alienists" and criminologists provides Rauchway (The Refuge of Affections) with openings into such varied issues as nativism, racism, industrial conditions and social work. As for politics, he deals skillfully with now mostly forgotten issues-such as tariffs and currency policy-that rarely appeal to readers, but which here gain clarity through Rauchway's deft brevity. Most important, he shows how the nation's culture, and Theodore Roosevelt, who gained the presidency on McKinley's death, got caught up in a debate about the reasons for the murder. Was Czolgosz spurred by his psychological state or by anarchist ideology? Did the murder's origins lie within the assassin or in the social conditions that produce desperate people? These are issues that continue to divide Americans. And the book shines in dealing with them, making an important contribution to historical understanding. Rauchway's explanation for Roosevelt's 1912 loss as "Bull Moose" candidate of the Progressive Party-that he was caught between opposing interpretations of the roots of the nation's ills-is especially provocative. That alone should make the book controversial.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Justice moved swiftly in 1901, dispatching the assassin of William McKinley a few short weeks after the crime. Rauchway wonders if the motives of the killer, self-proclaimed anarchist Leon Czolgosz, were sufficiently investigated. For factual backbone, Rauchway relies on evidence gathered by one Vernon Briggs, a psychologist who interviewed the Czolgosz family and was sensitive to explaining aberrant behavior in terms of social conditions. And there was much to be sensitive about in late 1890s America, whether one was a stand-pat capitalist or a protesting proletarian: Rauchway works the fears and demands of both archetypes into his interpretation of the politics of the Progressive Era. Czolgosz serves as the author's vehicle for taking his narrative in many directions, such as immigration, industrialization and poverty, concepts of race as enunciated by Theodore Roosevelt, and more. Ultimately offering a theory of Czolgosz's motive, Rauchway presents an interpretive narrative best suited to readers with at least a TR biography under their belts. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; Reprint edition (September 18, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809016389
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809016389
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Wang on July 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
While President McKinley's assasination (and as Rauchway would argue, even his legacy) is much forgotten today, this book reminds the reader that its impact on American politics is no less dramatic than the assasinations of Lincoln and Kennedy. Czolgosz (the assasin), by murdering McKinley, directly paved the way for Theodore Roosevelt's entrance into the White House, and from there the first modern progressive president was born.

Rauchway makes interesting obersvations about the social inequalities of the turn of the century, the moral decay in American cities, the rise of anarchism, the growing fusion of big businesses and politics, and an outdated legal system struggling to catch up with medical advancement.

Lastly, the book made me draw comparisions between the fear of anarchists that enveloped the nation after McKinley's assasination in September 1901, and the fear of terrorists after 9/11, exactly 100 years later. Overall, this is a great read for anyone interested in history, law or criminal psychology.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M Quigg VINE VOICE on December 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting book just for the examination of the assassination of President McKinley. Rauchway details the shooting of McKinley and the aftermath. The aftermath was the trial and execution of Leon Czolgosz, the war on anarchism and the rise of the Progressives (Roosevelt and Wilson). During this short book, I read of the history of the social and political movement at the turn of the last century. The political legacy was of conservative Republicans allied with big business and capital, with an arch conservative judicial system.

McKinley's assassination caused the rise of a different force in the Republican Party. Roosevelt made the Progressives respectable and caused changes in the political process which modernized the political, social, and economic landscape. The final portion deals with the assassination attempt on Roosevelt in 1912 which was a reaction to all that Roosevelt accomplished. The assassination of McKinley focused negative press on the Anarchists, and the attempt in 1912 was a reaction to the Progressive policies of 1912.

This is a good read. The only criticism I have is that this book focuses much attention on the human element of one assassin.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By JMack VINE VOICE on October 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
The assassination of William McKinley is far less examined than those of Lincoln and Kennedy. If only for the relative obscurity of the topic alone, this deserves a look. While somewhat disappointing for a lack of focus, the book is quite informative.

The author's thesis seems to be that the assassination of McKinley was symbolic of America's discontent with conservativism and big business's hold on politics, bringing about the progressive movement and the emergence of Theodore Roosevelt. The title of the book would seem to imply a focus on the assassination of McKinley, which is not accurate. Make no mistake about it, the title of the book is deceiving. Rauchway goes for several pages at a time examining nothing but the rise of Roosevelt. In that respect, the author strays from delivering what the title of the book suggests and at times from supporting his apparent thesis.

One of the issues the book does a reasonable job of addressing is the story behind McKinley's assassin, Leon Czolgosz. Alienist Vernon Briggs investigated the life of Czolgosz only to find the powerful businesses that McKinley shielded were a key part of the environment that created the assassin. In the process of his investigation, Briggs brings the issue of the insanity defense to the attention of the American justice system. In this respect, Briggs's research had a major impact on the judicial system.

Without the significant digressions into the social changes brought about by the Roosevelt administration, this book would be much thinner. Perhaps that is why Rauchway chose to include it. Even with the digressions, the book is decidedly thin. I enjoyed the book even though I believe it could have been composed with a much better sense of focus.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Moody on December 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Do not be too misled by the title of this book...this is really a thesis on the initiation of the Progressive period of our government and not a study dedicated to the assasination of President William McKinley. True, author Eric Rauchway uses McKinley's assasination as the hinge-point for this theory, but this work delves deeply into the idealogical origins of the movement and also, as a secondary objective, attempts to examine the potential insanity of assasin Leon Czolgosz. Once Czolgosz admits to shooting McKinley, Rauchway tries to rationalize Czolgosz's admission under the "anarchy" umbrella and to show this philosophy as a social disorder...a disorder driven by McKinley's percieved obstruction of social change and one which could drive an otherwise normal, hard-working man to commit such a heinous crime. Rauchway consolidates all this into a history summarizing the social outlook that was prevelent at the beginning of the 20th century and offers new scholorship on McKinley, new President Theodore Roosevelt and Czolgosz.
Following McKinley's assasination on September 6, 1901, the initial motive of assasin Czolgosz is determined to be his association with and adherence to the dogma of anarchy. Rauchway's view is that with McKinley gone, Progressivism takes off with Roosevelt as it's main proponent. At this point, we get detailed discussions on anarchy and it's leaders along with the idea of Progressivism and the personalities that moved it to the forefront of early 20th century society. Rauchway shows how the McKinley administration's lack of a progressive policy coupled with the onset of a major economic shift to an industrial based society, drives the lower classes (read immigrants) to a view of government that's assumed skewed to the upper classes.
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