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The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

Nice, concise review of this time period.

In the interest of full disclosure, I bought this book because I am a huge fan of Theodore Roosevelt and wanted to know more about the events that brought him to the Presidency. While TR does not come out of this book smelling very good (portrayed as being very impulsiv...
In the interest of full disclosure, I bought this book because I am a huge fan of Theodore Roosevelt and wanted to know more about the events that brought him to the Presidency. While TR does not come out of this book smelling very good (portrayed as being very impulsive, overstepping his authority as asst. sec'y of the navy, and a wildly reckless warmonger), I enjoyed the book as a general review of the time period. From the title, one might anticipate this book is largely about the McKinley assassination. It is not. Instead, it nicely covers the political, socioeconomic, and cultural aspects of America circa 1872-1901. The anarchy movement, the Panic of 1893 and subsequent deep recession, the election of 1896, the Spanish-American War, and the growing pains of newborn American imperialism are well-covered. Unnerving similarites to our own past decade are readily apparent in the Wall Street debacle of 2007-8, the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, and U.S. military ventures that become bogged down in insurgencies. McKinley was a decent, honorable man thrust into enormous events that he managed with a steady and considered hand while devotedly tending to a frail, perhaps unbalanced wife. After reading this book, you will think of him fondly. I identified only one factual inaccuracy in the book, that being the statistic that the U.S. Navy was smaller than that of landlocked Austria. Austria in 1898 was, of course, part of the Habsburg AustroHungarian Empire and had a major naval base in Trieste, now in modern-day Italy, on the Adriatic Sea.

posted by 19thCenturion on January 5, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

Weaker of the two late 1800's presidential assassin books

This must be my week for late 1800's intrigue. I just reviewed Candice Millard's strong "The Destiny of the Republic" about the events surrounding the murder of James Garfield and now I turn to Scott Miller's "The President and the Assassin" which travels not too dissim...
This must be my week for late 1800's intrigue. I just reviewed Candice Millard's strong "The Destiny of the Republic" about the events surrounding the murder of James Garfield and now I turn to Scott Miller's "The President and the Assassin" which travels not too dissimilar ground in the assassin of Wm. McKinley.

Millard tells the better story, but Miller had the better material. History, to have impact, needs theater and relevance in its telling, and our great historians (Shelby Foote, David McCullough, Joseph Ellis, Edmund Morris, Jay Winik, Stephen Ambrose, Stephen Catton, Carl Sandberg, Barbara Tuchman, Hampton Sides and Candice Millard) have all been captivating storytellers first and foremost. Miller is simply a former journalist.

Miller tries to tell this story as a parallel biography: McKinley and, his assassin, Leon Czolgosz. I think the story, unfortunately, was more in the clash between capital expansion and anarchy. Neither McKinley nor Czolgosz were prime movers of their time, they were flotsam on the waves of countervailing currents of America of the time. Miller seems to recognize this with his extended, yet inert, focus on the anarchist voice, Emma Goldman. The problem with the anarchist story is that it doesn't fit nicely into the time frame Miller has prescribed ... the growing anarchist movement goes from well before Haymarket, featured here, through, at least, the bombing of the LA Times Building in 1910.

Like Garfield, McKinley was not served by his security or medical teams, but Miller doesn't really pursue that angle. Todd Lincoln's presence at both assassination attempts goes un-mentioned. And much like wasting an Oscar winner in doing voice-over, Miller hardly mentions Teddy Roosevelt, McKinley's VP and successor. I think he was worried about the comparison.

posted by jcrubicon on November 2, 2011

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  • Posted November 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Weaker of the two late 1800's presidential assassin books

    This must be my week for late 1800's intrigue. I just reviewed Candice Millard's strong "The Destiny of the Republic" about the events surrounding the murder of James Garfield and now I turn to Scott Miller's "The President and the Assassin" which travels not too dissimilar ground in the assassin of Wm. McKinley.

    Millard tells the better story, but Miller had the better material. History, to have impact, needs theater and relevance in its telling, and our great historians (Shelby Foote, David McCullough, Joseph Ellis, Edmund Morris, Jay Winik, Stephen Ambrose, Stephen Catton, Carl Sandberg, Barbara Tuchman, Hampton Sides and Candice Millard) have all been captivating storytellers first and foremost. Miller is simply a former journalist.

    Miller tries to tell this story as a parallel biography: McKinley and, his assassin, Leon Czolgosz. I think the story, unfortunately, was more in the clash between capital expansion and anarchy. Neither McKinley nor Czolgosz were prime movers of their time, they were flotsam on the waves of countervailing currents of America of the time. Miller seems to recognize this with his extended, yet inert, focus on the anarchist voice, Emma Goldman. The problem with the anarchist story is that it doesn't fit nicely into the time frame Miller has prescribed ... the growing anarchist movement goes from well before Haymarket, featured here, through, at least, the bombing of the LA Times Building in 1910.

    Like Garfield, McKinley was not served by his security or medical teams, but Miller doesn't really pursue that angle. Todd Lincoln's presence at both assassination attempts goes un-mentioned. And much like wasting an Oscar winner in doing voice-over, Miller hardly mentions Teddy Roosevelt, McKinley's VP and successor. I think he was worried about the comparison.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 5, 2012

    Nice, concise review of this time period.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I bought this book because I am a huge fan of Theodore Roosevelt and wanted to know more about the events that brought him to the Presidency. While TR does not come out of this book smelling very good (portrayed as being very impulsive, overstepping his authority as asst. sec'y of the navy, and a wildly reckless warmonger), I enjoyed the book as a general review of the time period. From the title, one might anticipate this book is largely about the McKinley assassination. It is not. Instead, it nicely covers the political, socioeconomic, and cultural aspects of America circa 1872-1901. The anarchy movement, the Panic of 1893 and subsequent deep recession, the election of 1896, the Spanish-American War, and the growing pains of newborn American imperialism are well-covered. Unnerving similarites to our own past decade are readily apparent in the Wall Street debacle of 2007-8, the "Occupy Wall Street" movement, and U.S. military ventures that become bogged down in insurgencies. McKinley was a decent, honorable man thrust into enormous events that he managed with a steady and considered hand while devotedly tending to a frail, perhaps unbalanced wife. After reading this book, you will think of him fondly. I identified only one factual inaccuracy in the book, that being the statistic that the U.S. Navy was smaller than that of landlocked Austria. Austria in 1898 was, of course, part of the Habsburg AustroHungarian Empire and had a major naval base in Trieste, now in modern-day Italy, on the Adriatic Sea.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    Good read

    Interesting account which covers the era niccely. For those who like history but don't want an academic level of detail.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2013

    "The President and the Assassin," is a terrific histor

    "The President and the Assassin," is a terrific historical account of the back round to the McKinley period and of the anarchist movement that was spawned by the Gilded Age. Having read "Destiny of the Republic", shortly before Scott Miller's book on McKinley the similarities are quite remarkable. I found both books to be extremely well written and if interested in Presidential History well worth reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2013

    A Dual Focus Book

    I bought this book because I wanted to know what events led up to Theodore Roosevelt becoming president "filling in the blanks". I learned that America was about to become a global superpower. McKinley was hesitant on China, and war with Spain right at the turn of the century. I didn't know that this was also a time of "anarchism". The assassin was a zealot, angry about approaching the technology boom and the loss of his job. The President and the Assassin draw out the tension to the final conclusion. A tremendous read!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2011

    Good not put this down

    This book was extremely well written and researched. I could hardly put it down. I highly recommend it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2011

    i live in buffalo

    excellent excellent

    1 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2012

    Very patriotic

    I am 14 and i always read books with facts

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2012

    A very dull book

    The factual data in this book could have been written on a pamplette instead of the neverending pages of "blah blah blah" in this book. I like a good factual story, this had maybe 20 pages of facts and sewn together assumptions and fluff for the remainder of the book. I liken this book to a really bad crab cake, 10% crab the rest was filler.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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