William McKinley

Summary

William McKinley, born January 29, 1843 in Niles (Ohio) and died September 14, 1901 in Buffalo (New York State), was an American statesman. He was the 25th president of the United States, serving from 1897 until his death.

McKinley began the Civil War as a soldier and ended it with the rank of brevet major. After the war, he moved to Canton, Ohio, where he became a lawyer and married Ida Saxton. In 1876, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he became a Republican expert on protectionist tariffs that he believed would bring prosperity. His proposal to raise tariffs sharply through the McKinley Tariff was widely criticized and the controversy associated with Democratic gerrymandering cost him his seat in the 1890 election. He was elected governor of Ohio in 1891 and again in 1893, where he tried to balance the interests of capital and labor. With the help of his close advisor Marcus Hanna, he obtained the Republican nomination for the presidential election of 1896, whose main issue was the economic crisis that hit the country. He defeated his Democratic opponent, William Jennings Bryan, by defending a “sound currency” and promising that high tariffs would restore prosperity without high inflation.

McKinley’s presidency was marked by rapid economic growth. He defended the Dingley Act of 1897 to protect American industries from foreign competition and in 1900 he obtained the passage of the Gold Standard Act ending bimetallism. McKinley tried to persuade Spain to grant independence to Cuba, which was in the midst of a revolution, but after negotiations failed, he led the United States into the Spanish-American War. The American victory was swift and decisive; by the Treaty of Paris of 1898, Spain transferred control of its colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States; Cuba was to become independent, but in reality it became an American protectorate. The Republic of Hawaii, then independent, joined the United States in 1898 with the status of a territory.

McKinley was re-elected against Bryan in 1900. However, he was assassinated by an anarchist in September 1901 and succeeded by his vice president, Theodore Roosevelt. Historians regard McKinley’s victory in 1896 as a turning point in American politics, marking the beginning of the progressive era dominated by the Republican Party.

Youth

William McKinley, Jr. was born on January 29, 1843 in Niles, Ohio. He was the seventh child of William and Nancy (Allison) McKinley. The McKinley family’s ancestors were English and Scots who had settled in western Pennsylvania in the 18th century. William McKinley, Sr. was born in Mercer County, Pennsylvania and his family moved to New Lisbon (now Lisbon), Ohio when he was a child. There he met Nancy Allison in 1829 and they were married the same year. The Allison family was among the first English settlers in Pennsylvania. Both families were in the metal business and McKinley, Sr. operated foundries in New Lisbon, Niles, Poland and Canton.

McKinley, Jr.’s parents were, like most Connecticut Western Reserve families, sympathetic to the Whig party and the abolition of slavery. The family was deeply Methodist, and young William continued this tradition by becoming involved in the local Methodist church at the age of 16; he remained a devout Methodist throughout his life. In 1852, the family moved from Niles to Poland so that the children could have a better education. McKinley graduated in 1859 and entered Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania the following year. He remained there for only one year before returning home in 1860 after falling ill and into depression. His health improved, but his family could no longer afford to pay for his education, and he worked as a postal clerk and then as a teacher in a school near Poland.

Civil War

At the outbreak of the Civil War, thousands of Ohio men volunteered to join the army. McKinley and his cousin William McKinley Osbourne enlisted as soldiers in the newly formed Poland Guards in June 1861. The unit moved to Columbus where it merged with other troops to form the 23rd Ohio Infantry. The soldiers were disappointed to learn that, unlike the old Ohio volunteer regiments, they would not be able to elect their own officers, who would be appointed by Ohio’s governor, William Dennison. Dennison appointed Colonel William Starke Rosecrans to lead the regiment, and the men began training in the suburbs of Columbus. McKinley quickly became accustomed to life as a soldier and wrote a series of enthusiastic letters to his hometown newspaper about the army and the Union cause. Delays in the delivery of uniforms and weapons rekindled tensions between the men and their officers, but Major Rutherford B. Hayes was able to convince them to accept what the government had provided; his commanding manner impressed McKinley, and the two men formed a friendship that lasted until Hayes’ death in 1893.

After a month of training, the 23rd Ohio Infantry Regiment, now commanded by Colonel Eliakim P. Scammon, left for West Virginia in June 1861 as part of the Kanawha Division. McKinley initially thought Scammon was a tyrant because of his harsh discipline, but when the regiment came under fire, he came to appreciate the value of the hard training. The first confrontation with the enemy came in September when they repelled Confederate troops at the Battle of Carnifex Ferry in present-day West Virginia. Three days after the battle, McKinley was assigned to the quartermaster brigade where he was responsible for supplying his regiment. In November, the regiment moved to winter quarters near Fayetteville. During the winter, McKinley replaced a sick sergeant and in April 1862, he was promoted to that rank. The regiment resumed its advance in the spring with Hayes in command (Scammon commanded the brigade) and participated in several limited engagements with the South.

In September, McKinley’s regiment was called east to reinforce General John Pope’s Army of Virginia at the Second Battle of Bull Run. Delayed while crossing Washington, D.C., the 23rd Ohio Regiment did not arrive in time to participate in the battle but joined the Army of the Potomac as it marched forward to cut off the advance of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia in Maryland. The 23rd Regiment was the first to meet the Confederates at the Battle of South Mountain on September 14. Despite heavy casualties, the Union forces pushed the Confederates back and advanced toward Sharpsburg, Maryland, where they faced Lee’s army at the Battle of Antietam, one of the bloodiest battles of the war. The 23rd Regiment was particularly active in the battle and McKinley was caught under heavy fire while bringing rations to the men on the front lines. McKinley’s regiment again suffered heavy casualties but the Army of the Potomac was victorious and the Confederate forces retreated to Virginia. The regiment was then detached from the Army of the Potomac and returned to West Virginia by train.

While the regiment was in winter quarters near Charleston, McKinley was ordered to return to Ohio with other sergeants to recruit fresh troops. When they arrived in Columbus, Governor David Tod surprised McKinley by granting him the rank of second lieutenant in recognition of his bravery at Antietam. McKinley and his comrades stayed out of the fighting until July 1863 when the division faced John H. Morgan’s cavalry at the Battle of Buffington Island. In early 1864, the command structure in West Virginia was reorganized and the division became part of Major General George Crook’s Army of West Virginia. The army advanced into southern Virginia to destroy the salt and lead mines operated by the enemy. On May 9, the army engaged Confederate troops at the Battle of Cloyd’s Mountain, where the Northerners stormed the Southern entrenched positions and routed them. After this victory, Union forces destroyed Southern supplies and won several more battles against the Confederates.

McKinley and his regiment entered the Shenandoah Valley when hostilities resumed in the spring of 1864. Crook’s unit was attached to Major General David Hunter’s Army of the Shenandoah and captured Lexington, Virginia on June 11. The army continued to advance south toward Lynchburg, destroying railroads in the process. Hunter believed, however, that the troops defending Lynchburg were too strong and the brigade returned to West Virginia. Nevertheless, Confederate General Jubal Anderson Early’s raid into Maryland caused McKinley’s unit to be recalled to the north. At the Second Battle of Kernstown on July 24, the Northern army was defeated. During its retreat into Maryland the army was reorganized; Major General Philip Sheridan replaced Hunter and McKinley, who had been promoted to captain after the battle, was transferred to General Crook’s staff. In August Early retreated south of the valley with Sheridan’s army in pursuit. The Northern army repelled a Confederate assault at the Battle of Berryville in which McKinley’s horse was killed and during the Battle of Opequon broke through the opposing lines and continued south. The Battle of Fisher’s Hill on September 22 was another Union victory and McKinley participated in the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19. After a promising start for the Confederates, McKinley helped rally the troops and turn the tide of the battle.

After Cedar Creek, the army stayed close to the battlefield on presidential election day. McKinley cast his first vote and his choice was the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln. The next day, the men returned to the northern part of the valley to set up winter quarters near Kernstown. In February 1865, Crook was captured by a Confederate commando. The kidnapping added to the confusion of the army as it was reorganized for the spring offensive, and over the next fortnight McKinley served on the staffs of four generals, Crook, John D. Stevenson, Samuel S. Carroll, and Winfield S. H. Carroll and Winfield S. Hancock. After finally being assigned to Carroll’s staff, McKinley served as the general’s first and only assistant. On April 9, Lee and his army surrendered to Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant and the war ended a few days later. McKinley found time to join a Masonic lodge in Winchester (which was later renamed after him) before he and Carroll were transferred to Washington, D.C. Just before the end of the war, he was promoted to the rank of brevet major and then, in July, relieved of his military duties. Carroll and Hancock encouraged McKinley to stay in the army, but he declined the offer and returned to Ohio the following month.

Legal career and marriage

After the war ended in 1865, McKinley decided to begin a career in law and began an apprenticeship in the office of a Poland, Ohio lawyer. The following year, he continued his studies at Albany Law School in New York State. After studying there for a year, McKinley returned home and was admitted to the bar in Warren, Ohio in March 1867. That same year he moved to Canton, the county seat of Stark County where he established a small practice. He opened a practice in partnership with George W. Belden, an experienced attorney and former judge. McKinley’s practice was sufficient to enable him to purchase a building on Canton’s main street and he made a steady income from it for several decades. When his former commander Rutherford B. Hayes ran for governor in 1867, McKinley made speeches on his behalf in Clark County, his first foray into politics. The county was deeply divided between Republicans and Democrats, but Hayes had a majority in the county and won the election. In 1869, McKinley ran for district attorney in Stark County. The office was usually held by a Democrat, but against all odds McKinley was elected. However, when he ran for re-election in 1871, the Democrats opposed William A. Lynch, an influential lawyer, and McKinley was defeated by 143 votes.

As his professional career progressed, so did his social life when he courted Ida Saxton, the daughter of a prominent Canton family. They were married on January 25, 1871 in Canton’s newly built Presbyterian Church, although Ida joined her husband’s Methodist faith. Their first child, Katherine, was born on Christmas Day 1871. They had a second daughter, Ida, in 1873 but she died that same year. McKinley’s wife fell into a deep depression after the death of their daughter and her already fragile health deteriorated. Two years later, in 1875, Katherine died of typhoid fever. The couple had no more children, but Ida never recovered from the death of her daughters, suffering from epilepsy and regretting the regular absence of her husband, who remained a devoted husband and cared for his wife until his death.

Ida insisted that William pursue his increasingly successful career in law and politics. He attended the Republican convention that nominated Hayes to run for a third term as governor in 1875 and campaigned for his old friend that fall. The following year McKinley defended coal miners arrested after a confrontation with strikebreakers in a high-profile case. Lynch, McKinley’s opponent in the 1871 election, and his partner William R. Day were among the prosecution, and the mine owners included Marcus Hanna, a Cleveland businessman. Defending the case pro bono, he won the acquittal of all but one of the miners. The case increased McKinley’s popularity with the workers, who made up a large part of the Clark County electorate, and allowed him to meet Hanna, who became one of his most important supporters.

McKinley’s popularity with working people was instrumental in his campaign to win the Republican nomination for Ohio’s 17th Congressional District. County delegates believed he could appeal to the working-class electorate, and McKinley was chosen in August 1876. At the same time, Hayes had been nominated to run for president and McKinley made speeches in his favor while running his own campaign. His platform included protectionist tariffs and he defeated his Democratic opponent, Levi L. Lamborn, by 3,300 votes while Hayes was elected president despite numerous cases of fraud. McKinley’s financial situation was affected by his election to Congress because his salary as a representative was half that of his income as a lawyer.

Political ascension

McKinley took office in the House of Representatives in October 1877 when President Hayes called Congress into special session. With the Republicans in the minority, McKinley served on committees without much power. Moreover, McKinley’s friendship with Hayes was more of a liability for McKinley, as the president was disliked by congressional leaders.

The young congressman distanced himself from Hayes’ positions on money, but this did not affect their friendship. The United States had in fact adopted the gold standard after the passage of the Coinage Act of 1873; when the price of silver collapsed, many people sought to monetize silver again in the same way as gold. Such a policy risked inflationary tendencies, but its proponents argued that the economic benefits of an increased money supply would outweigh the drawbacks of inflation. Opponents warned that free coinage would not bring the expected benefits and would handicap American trade. McKinley voted for the Bland-Allison Act of 1878, which required the Treasury Department to purchase large amounts of silver for coinage, and he joined large majorities in both houses to override Hayes’ veto. Thus, McKinley voted against the position of the leader of the House Republicans, his colleague and Ohioan and friend, James A. Garfield.

In his first term in Congress, McKinley became a strong advocate of protectionist tariffs. The main purpose of this policy was not to increase government revenues but to support the development of American industry by providing a competitive advantage over foreign competitors in the domestic market. McKinley’s biographer, Margaret Leech, noted that Canton had flourished as a center for agricultural equipment manufacturing as a result of the protectionist measures and this may have influenced his policy ideas. McKinley introduced and defended legislation that increased tariffs and opposed those who wanted to reduce them. Garfield’s election as president in 1880 created a vacancy in the House Ways and Means Committee (McKinley was chosen to replace him and thus entered the most powerful committee in the House after only two terms.

McKinley became a leading figure in federal politics. In 1880, he served briefly as Ohio’s representative on the Republican National Committee. In 1884 he was chosen as a delegate to the Republican convention, where he was commended for his stewardship of the committee he chaired. By 1886, McKinley, Senator John Sherman, and Governor Joseph B. Foraker were considered the leaders of the Republican party in Ohio. Sherman, who had been involved in the founding of the Republican Party, ran for the Republican nomination for president three times in the 1880s but failed three times, while Foraker began a meteoric rise in Ohio politics in the early part of the decade. Hanna, once in public affairs as a generous contributor and political supporter, championed the ambitions of both Sherman and Foraker. The relationship between the two ended at the 1880 Republican convention, at which McKinley, Foraker, and Hanna were all delegates and supported Sherman. Convinced that Sherman could not win, Foraker offered his support to the unsuccessful candidate in the 1884 presidential election, Maine Senator James G. Blaine. When Blaine said he did not wish to run, Foraker rallied Sherman, but Indiana Governor Benjamin Harrison was eventually chosen and won the presidency. In the bitterness that followed the convention, Hanna abandoned Foraker, and for the rest of McKinley’s life the Ohio Republican Party was divided into two factions, one supporting McKinley, Sherman and Hanna, and the other supporting Foraker. Hanna became close to McKinley and a close friend and advisor. Although Hanna continued his business activities and encouraged other Republicans, he spent more and more time after 1888 supporting McKinley’s political career.

In 1889, the Republicans had a majority in Congress and McKinley sought election as Speaker of the House of Representatives. He failed against Thomas B. Reed of Maine, but Reed appointed him chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. McKinley introduced the Tariff Act of 1890, more commonly known as the McKinley Tariff, in Congress. Although the bill was amended under pressure from lobbies in the Senate, it imposed several protectionist tariffs on foreign goods.

Recognizing McKinley’s potential, the Democrats, upon regaining control of the Ohio legislature, sought to redraw the electoral districts to oust him. In 1878, McKinley won the election in Ohio’s 17th Congressional District despite the redistricting. Hayes commented on this success: “Oh, McKinley’s luck! His district was gerrymandered and he beat the gerrymandering! We are as happy as he is. After winning re-election in 1882, he lost his seat in a ballot challenge. The Democrats redistricted Stark County again for the 1884 election, but McKinley was still elected to Congress.

For 1890, the Democrats placed Stark County in the same district as Holmes County, a Democratic stronghold inhabited by Pennsylvania Dutch. Based on the old results, the Democrats hoped for a lead of 2,000 to 3,000 votes. Since the Republicans could not change the electoral boundaries until 1891, they threw all their forces into the district because opposition to the McKinley Tariff was the central issue in the Democratic campaign. The Republican party sent its most prominent speakers to Canton, including Blaine (then Secretary of State), Reed and President Harrison. The Democrats responded with their most influential representatives. McKinley campaigned hard in his new district and met with all 40,000 voters to explain his protectionist measures:

“Designed for the people…as a defense of their industries, as a protection of their labor, as a guarantee for the happy homes of American workers, and as a security for their education, wages, and investments…They will bring to the country a prosperity unparalleled in our history and unparalleled in the history of the world.”

The Democrats fielded a strong candidate in former Lieutenant Governor John G. Warwick. To gain voter support, they hired young supporters and posed as peddlers. The peddlers went door-to-door selling 50 cent tinware items worth only 25 cents and explaining that the price increase was due to the McKinley Tariff. In the end, McKinley lost the election by 300 votes, but the Republicans won the statewide majority and claimed a moral victory.

Governor of Ohio

Even before his term as a representative ended, McKinley met with a delegation of Ohioans who urged him to run for governor. The incumbent, James E. Campbell, who had defeated Foraker in 1889, was also seeking re-election. The Ohio Republican Party was divided, but McKinley was able to convince Foraker to support him at the 1891 convention, where he was chosen by acclamation. The former representative spent most of the second half of 1891 campaigning against Campbell. Hanna had little involvement in the campaign, as he devoted himself to raising funds to elect legislators who promised to vote for Sherman in the 1892 Senate election. McKinley won the election by nearly 20,000 votes. In January, Sherman, with strong support from Hanna, was elected senator against Foraker.

The governor of Ohio had relatively little power because he had no veto power, but because Ohio was a swing state, its governor was an important political figure. Although McKinley saw the health of the nation as dependent on the health of economic affairs, he was even-handed with labour; he championed legislation setting up an arbitration board where wage disputes could be settled, and he won passage of a law condemning employers who fired workers for belonging to a union.

President Harrison proved unpopular and the Republican party was divided as the 1892 election year approached and Harrison considered running for re-election. Although there was no declared candidate against the incumbent, many Republicans were prepared to oust him from the presidential ticket if an alternative emerged. McKinley, Reed and Blaine were among the possible candidates. Fearing that the Ohio governor would emerge as an opponent, Harrison’s supporters arranged for McKinley to chair the Republican convention in Minneapolis so that he would play a public and neutral role. Hanna set up an unofficial McKinley staff near the convention site, but no real attempt was made to rally delegate support for McKinley’s candidacy. McKinley objected to the delegates voting for him, but he still came in third behind Harrison and Blaine, who had said he did not want to be a candidate. McKinley campaigned loyally for his party, but Harrison was defeated by former President Grover Cleveland in the November election. After Cleveland’s victory, McKinley was considered the likely Republican candidate for 1896.

Shortly after Cleveland took office, the Panic of 1893 plunged the nation into an economic slump. A Youngstown, Ohio, businessman named Robert Walker had loaned McKinley money a few years earlier; in gratitude, McKinley had often guaranteed Walker’s loans for his business. The governor had not kept track of what he signed and believed Walker to be a successful businessman. In reality, Walker had deceived McKinley by telling him that the new loans were renewals of old loans. Walker was ruined by the recession and McKinley was called upon to pay off his debts in February 1893. The amount was $100,000 (about $2.6 million in 2012 dollars) and McKinley in desperation initially offered to resign as governor in order to pay off the debts on his legal salary. However, McKinley’s financial supporters, including Hanna and Chicago publisher H. H. Kohlsaat, formed a fund to pay off McKinley’s debts. William and Ida placed their property in the hands of the fund and his supporters raised enough money to ensure repayment. All of the couple’s properties were returned to them by the end of 1893, and when McKinley asked for a list of contributors to pay them off someday, he was denied. Many people who were victims of economic hardship sympathized with McKinley, and his popularity grew. He was easily re-elected governor in November 1893 with the largest majority since the end of the Civil War.

McKinley campaigned for the Republicans in the 1894 midterm elections and many of the candidates in the districts where he made speeches in their favor were victorious. His political efforts in Ohio were rewarded in the November 1895 election in which a Republican, Asa S. Bushnell, was elected to succeed him. Bushnell, was elected to succeed him as governor and the Republican legislature elected Foraker to the Senate. McKinley had endorsed both Foraker and Bushnell, and in return both men agreed to champion McKinley’s presidential ambitions. Once the Ohio Republican Party rallied behind him, McKinley turned to the federal arena.

Appointment

It is not clear that McKinley was seriously preparing to run for president. As his biographer, Kevin Phillips, writes, “there are no documents, no diaries, no confidential letters to Marcus Hanna (or anyone else) that tell of his secret hopes or hidden schemes. From the outset, McKinley’s preparations had the support of Hanna, whose biographer William T. Horner noted, “What is perfectly certain is that in 1888 the two men began to develop a close working relationship that helped to send McKinley to the White House. Sherman did not seek the Republican nomination for president after 1888 and Hanna was able to fully support McKinley’s ambitions.

Backed by Hanna’s funding and organizational skills, McKinley quietly gathered support for his candidacy in 1895 and 1896. When other candidates such as Reed and Iowa Senator William B. Allison sent their agents out of state to garner support for their candidacies, they discovered that Hanna’s men had preceded them. According to historian Stanley Jones in his study of the 1896 election,

“A common feature of both Reed’s and Allison’s candidacies was their inability to offset the groundswell of support for McKinley. In fact, both campaigns were unable to make progress from the moment they were launched. The confidence with which each candidate claimed the support of his or her portion was quickly followed by sharp accusations that Hanna, in winning the support of these shares for McKinley, had violated the rules of the game.”

On McKinley’s behalf, Hanna met with eastern Republican political bosses such as Senators Thomas C. Platt of New York and Matthew Quay of Pennsylvania, who were willing to support McKinley in exchange for guarantees of positions in his administration. McKinley, however, was determined to get the nomination without making any deals, and Hanna agreed. Their first efforts were in the South and Hanna rented a vacation home in Georgia where McKinley met with Republican politicians in the area. McKinley needed 453½ delegate votes to secure the nomination; he won nearly half of them in the South and border states. In his memoirs, Platt lamented that “he had practically won the South before any of us woke up.

The bosses still hoped to prevent McKinley from securing a majority on the first ballot at the Republican convention by encouraging the candidacies of rivals such as Quay, New York Governor (and former Vice President) Levi Morton and Illinois Senator Shelby Cullom. The wealthy Illinois delegates were hotly contested, and McKinley’s supporters, such as Chicago businessman (and future vice president) Charles Dawes, sought to elect delegates who would vote for McKinley at the convention in St. Louis, Missouri. Cullom was unable to compete with McKinley despite the support of local Republicans, and at the convention in April, McKinley won almost all the delegates from Illinois. Former President Harrison was considered a possible candidate, but he declined a third nomination and McKinley’s organization took control of Indiana with a speed that Harrison privately considered indecent. Morton’s agents in Indiana reported that the state was completely behind McKinley. Wyoming Senator Francis E. Warren wrote, “The politicians are giving him a hard time, but if the masses could talk, McKinley would be the choice of at least 75 percent of the Union Republican electorate.

By the time the national convention opened in St. Louis on June 16, 1896, McKinley had a large majority of delegates. The former governor, who remained in Canton, followed the convention events by telephone and was able to hear Foraker’s speech in his favor. When Ohio announced its choice, its votes gave McKinley the nomination, which he celebrated by kissing his wife and mother as his friends left the house in anticipation of the crowd that quickly surrounded the Republican presidential candidate’s home. Thousands of supporters came from Canton and surrounding towns to hear McKinley speak from his front porch. The convention chose the vice-chairman of the Republican National Committee, Garret Hobart of New Jersey, to run for the vice presidency; the choice had actually, according to most reports, been made by Hanna. Hobart, a wealthy lawyer, businessman and former state legislator, was not well known, but as Hanna’s biographer Herbert Croly wrote, “if he did not really strengthen the ticket, he did nothing to weaken it.”

Before the Republican convention, McKinley had ambivalent positions on the currency issue, favoring moderate positions such as the establishment of bimetallism through international agreements. In the days leading up to the convention, McKinley decided, after meeting with politicians and businessmen, to support the gold standard even though he still favored the establishment of bimetallism through international agreement. The adoption of this position caused some Western delegates, such as Colorado Senator Henry M. Teller, to leave the convention. However, compared to the Democrats, the Republican divisions on the issue were weak because McKinley promised further concessions to silver supporters.

The economic slump continued, and it strengthened the silver supporters. The issue deeply divided the Democratic Party as President Cleveland supported the gold standard while a growing number of rural Democrats, particularly in the South and West, wanted bimetallism. Silver supporters took control of the Democratic convention and chose William Jennings Bryan to run for president. Bryan’s economic radicalism, demonstrated in his famous Golden Cross speech in Chicago, shocked the financiers who thought his program would ruin the economy. Hanna approached them to support the Republicans and they gave $3.5 million (about $100 million in 2012 dollars) to the speakers and financed the distribution of more than 200 million leaflets advocating Republican positions on currency and tariffs.

Bryan’s campaign raised only $500,000 (about $14 million in 2012 dollars), mostly from silver mine owners. With his eloquence and energy, Bryan undertook a frenetic campaign and travelled by train nearly 29,000 km in three months. Hanna urged McKinley to match Bryan’s tour, but the Republican candidate declined, arguing that the Democrat was more comfortable touring: “I could just as easily set up a trapeze on my lawn and compete with a professional athlete as I could speak against Bryan. I have to think when I speak. Instead of going out to meet the people, McKinley stayed in his Canton home and allowed the people to come to him; according to historian R. Hal Williams in his book on the election of 1896, “this ultimately proved a brilliant strategy. McKinley’s ‘stoop campaign’ became legendary in American political history.

McKinley met with the public every day except Sunday and received delegations from the front porch of his home. The railroad companies offered discounts to visitors, and the pro-bimetallism Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper lamented that going to Canton was “cheaper than staying home. The delegations marched across town from the train station to McKinley’s residence and once there gathered in front of McKinley’s house, stealthily tearing off pieces of it as a souvenir, while their spokesmen addressed McKinley. The candidate would then respond on campaign issues in a way that satisfied the interests of the delegation. Speeches were carefully crafted to avoid off-the-cuff remarks, and even the spokesperson’s scripts were approved by McKinley or his representatives. This was intended to avoid offhand comments that might damage his candidacy.

Most Democratic newspapers refused to support Bryan, with the notable exception of the New York Journal controlled by William Randolph Hearst, whose fortune was based on silver mining. In Homer Davenport’s biased articles and acerbic cartoons, Hanna was portrayed as a plutocrat who despised workers. McKinley was drawn as a child manipulated by financial interests. Even today, these representations continue to influence the images of Hanna and McKinley: one as a heartless businessman and the other as his creature.

The Midwest was the main battleground, as the South and most of the West were in Bryan’s favor. After the early votes in Maine and Vermont in September, the Northeast was considered won for McKinley. By this time it was clear that support for bimetallism had waned and McKinley focused on the tariff issue. By the end of September, the Republicans stopped printing material on the currency question and focused solely on protectionist measures. On November 3, 1896, McKinley won the entire Northeast and Midwest. 51 per cent of the electorate voted for the Republican candidate, and his majority was even greater in the Electoral College. Bryan had campaigned solely on bimetallism and failed to win the urban vote. The only city with more than 100,000 people that Bryan won was Denver, Colorado.

The presidential election of 1896 is often considered a turning point in American political history in which McKinley’s vision of a strong central government supporting American industry through protectionist measures and a gold-based dollar triumphed. Republican domination of American politics continued until the 1932 election and the victory of Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt. Phillips argues that, with the possible exception of Senator Allison of Iowa, McKinley was the only Republican who could defeat Bryan because Eastern candidates such as Morton and Reed would probably have failed to rally midwestern voters against the Illinois-born Bryan. According to the biographer, although Bryan was popular with rural voters, “McKinley received support from a very different kind of urbanized, industrial America.

Presidency (1897-1901)

William McKinley was sworn in on March 4, 1897, and gave a long inaugural address in which he advocated tariff reform and explained that the currency issue would wait until protectionist measures were in place. He also warned against the risk of foreign intervention, “we do not want wars of conquest. We must avoid the temptation of territorial aggression.

McKinley’s most controversial appointment was John Sherman as Secretary of State. Sherman was not McKinley’s first choice and he initially thought of giving the job to Allison. One of the reasons for this appointment was to free up his place for Hanna (who had declined to become Postmaster General). Since Sherman had been Secretary of the Treasury under Hayes, only the State Department could interest him so much that he gave up his term as Senator. Sherman’s mental faculties had deteriorated and this was widely known in political circles, but McKinley refused to believe the rumors. He nevertheless sent his cousin, William McKinley Osborne, to dinner with the 73-year-old senator, who reported that Sherman was perfectly lucid. McKinley wrote after the announcement of the nomination, “The stories of Senator Sherman’s ‘mental decay’ are without foundation…When I saw him, I was convinced of his excellent health, both physical and intellectual.

After some difficulty, Ohio Governor Asa Bushnell appointed Hanna to the Senate. Once in office, Sherman’s mental incapacity became apparent. He was often replaced by his first assistant, McKinley’s friend, Judge William R. Day, and his second assistant, Alvey A. Adee (en), who suffered from hearing problems. Day, an Ohio lawyer with no diplomatic experience, was often discreet in meetings. According to one diplomat, “the head of the department knows nothing, the first assistant says nothing and the second assistant hears nothing.

Maine Congressman Nelson Dingley Jr. was McKinley’s first choice for the Treasury Department, but he declined the offer because he preferred to remain chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Charles Dawes, who had been Hanna’s assistant in Chicago during the campaign, was considered, but according to some accounts he was deemed too young. Dawes eventually became comptroller of the currency; he wrote in his diary that he had strongly recommended to McKinley that he appoint Lyman J. Gage then president of the First Chicago Bank. The Navy Department was given to former Massachusetts representative John Davis Long on January 30, 1897. McKinley initially thought he would allow Long to choose his assistant, but there was much pressure on the president to appoint Theodore Roosevelt, a former member of the New York State legislature and the chief of the New York City police. McKinley was reluctant to do so because of Roosevelt’s character, “I want peace, and I’ve been told that your friend Theodore is always arguing with somebody. Nevertheless, he accepted his nomination.

In addition to Sherman, McKinley made another ill-advised appointment to his cabinet, that of Michigan governor and former general Russell Alexander Alger as Secretary of War. Although competent in peacetime, Alger was overwhelmed by the conflict with Spain. His mistakes brought the War Department under fire and he resigned in mid-1899. As was the norm at the time, Vice President Hobart was not invited to cabinet meetings. Nevertheless, he proved to be a valuable advisor to McKinley and the cabinet. The wealthy vice president rented a residence near the White House; the two families met informally, and the vice president’s wife, Jennie T. Hobart, sometimes filled in for her. Hobart, sometimes filled in for the First Lady when Ida was not feeling well. During most of the McKinley administration, George B. Cortelyou served as the president’s private secretary. Cortelyou, who served in three capacities in Theodore Roosevelt’s Cabinet, acted as McKinley’s chief of staff and press secretary.

For decades, rebels had been organizing revolts in Cuba to demand greater freedom and an end to Spanish colonial rule. By 1895, these clashes had turned into a full-blown war of independence. To combat this uprising, Spanish reprisals became increasingly harsh. These included the internment of Cubans in concentration camps near Spanish military bases to prevent the population from supplying the rebels. American public opinion supported the Cubans’ demands for freedom, and McKinley shared his outrage over Spanish policies. While many of his compatriots called for armed intervention to liberate Cuba, McKinley favored a peaceful approach and wanted to negotiate with Spain to grant Cuba independence or greater autonomy. Negotiations between the two countries began in 1897, but it soon became clear that Spain would never accept independence for the island and that the rebels (and their American supporters) would not negotiate anything else. In January 1898, Spain promised to make some concessions to the rebels, but when Consul Fitzhugh Lee reported that Havana was being rocked by riots, McKinley agreed to send the battleship USS Maine to protect American lives and property. On February 15, the USS Maine exploded and sank, taking 266 sailors with her. Public opinion was heated and newspapers called for war, but McKinley insisted on a commission of inquiry to determine whether the explosion was accidental or not. Negotiations with Spain continued during the commission’s work, but on March 20 the commission concluded that the American battleship had been sunk by an underwater mine. Despite growing demands for a declaration of war in Congress, McKinley continued to negotiate for Cuban independence. Spain refused McKinley’s proposals and on April 11, McKinley transferred the issue to Congress. He did not ask for war, but Congress declared it on April 20 and added the Teller Amendment, which denied any intention of annexing Cuba.

The expansion of the telegraph and the development of the telephone meant that McKinley had more control over the command of the war than any president before him, and he used these technologies to direct the movements of the army and navy as much as he could. McKinley found Alger unfit for his position as Secretary of War, and he did not get along well with the Army’s commanding general, Nelson Miles. Bypassing them, he sought strategic advice from Miles’ predecessor, General John McAllister Schofield, and then from Adjutant General Henry C. Corbin. The war also brought about a change in McKinley’s cabinet, as the president accepted Sherman’s resignation as secretary of state and Day replaced him until the end of the war.

Less than two weeks into the conflict, Commodore George Dewey’s Asiatic Squadron won a major victory in the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines, destroying all opposing ships without a single casualty in its ranks. Dewey’s overwhelming victory meant that the war would also determine the fate of the Spanish colonies in the Pacific. The following month McKinley increased the size of the expeditionary force in the Philippines and empowered the army commander, Major General Wesley Merritt, to set up the legal and fiscal system that was necessary for a long-term occupation. By the time the troops arrived in the Philippines in late June 1898, McKinley had decided that Spain should cede control of the archipelago to the United States. He stated that he was open to all suggestions on the subject, but he believed that if the war was prolonged, public opinion would demand the retention of the islands as prizes of war.

At the same time, a large army was assembled near Tampa, Florida, in preparation for the invasion of Cuba. The army struggled to resupply the ever-growing force before it even left the United States, but by June Corbin had managed to solve most of these problems. After several delays, the army, led by Major General William R. Shafter, left Florida on June 20 and landed near Santiago de Cuba two days later. After skirmishes at Las Guasimas on June 24, the U.S. army engaged Spanish forces on July 2 at the Battle of San Juan. After a day of intense fighting, the Spaniards were routed, but losses were heavy on both sides. The next day, the Spanish Caribbean fleet, which was sheltering in the port of Santiago, left its anchorage but was intercepted and destroyed by the North Atlantic Squadron commanded by Rear Admiral William T. Sampson in the largest naval battle of the war. Shafter laid siege to the city of Santiago, which capitulated on July 17, placing Cuba under effective U.S. control. McKinley and Miles also ordered the invasion of Puerto Rico, which was quickly completed in July. The remoteness of Spain and the destruction of the Spanish fleet made a counterattack impossible, and the Spanish government began to seek a way to end the war.

On July 22, the Spanish authorized Jules Cambon, the French ambassador to the United States, to represent Spain in the peace negotiations. The Spanish government initially wished to limit the discussions to Cuba, but was soon forced to recognize that its other possessions were also claimed as prizes of war. McKinley’s cabinet agreed that Spain should give up Cuba and Puerto Rico, but it was divided on the question of the Philippines; some wanted to annex the entire archipelago while others wanted to keep only a naval base in the area. Public opinion seemed to favor annexation of the Philippines, but several influential politicians, including Bryan, former President Cleveland, and the newly formed Anti-Imperialist League, voiced their opposition. McKinley proposed opening negotiations with Spain on the basis of the liberation of Cuba and the annexation of Puerto Rico and that the final status of the Philippines would be the subject of further discussion. He remained firm on this demand despite the deteriorating military situation in Cuba caused by a yellow fever epidemic in the U.S. military. Spain finally agreed to a cease-fire on these terms on August 12, and negotiations began in Paris in September 1898. Discussions continued until December 18 and the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The United States took control of Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam, and Spain gave up its claim to Cuba; in exchange, the United States offered Spain $20 million (about $17.3 billion in 2012 dollars). McKinley had difficulty convincing the Senate to approve the treaty with the necessary two-thirds majority. The pressure of the president and vice president was finally rewarded on February 6, 1899, when the Senate ratified the treaty by a vote of 57 to 27.

During the war, McKinley also achieved the annexation of the Republic of Hawaii. The new republic, dominated by American interests, had overthrown the monarchy ruling the islands in 1893. Harrison’s lame-duck administration had presented a treaty of annexation to the Senate; after his return to the presidency, Cleveland sent a special mission to the islands. After receiving his report, Cleveland withdrew the treaty, arguing that the revolution did not reflect the will of Hawaiian citizens. Many Americans, however, were in favor of annexation, and the cause gathered increasing support as the United States was engaged in war with Spain. McKinley was a supporter of annexation and lobbied Congress to adopt the idea because he believed that doing nothing could lead to a monarchical counter-revolution or a Japanese takeover. Anticipating difficulties in gathering a two-thirds majority in the Senate in favor of the annexation proposal, McKinley supported the efforts of Democratic Representative Francis G. Newlands of Nevada to secure a joint resolution from both houses of Congress. The Newlands resolution passed both houses with large majorities and McKinley signed it on July 8, 1898. McKinley’s biographer, H. Wayne Morgan notes that “McKinley was the driving force behind the annexation of Hawaii and he showed great firmness in his determination to obtain it.” The president tells Cortelyou, “We need Hawaii just as much, if not more, than California. It is a manifest destiny.” Wake Island, an uninhabited atoll between Hawaii and Guam was claimed by the United States on July 12, 1898.

By acquiring possessions in the Pacific, McKinley improved the ability of the United States to trade in China. Even before the peace negotiations with Spain began, McKinley had asked Congress to establish a commission to evaluate trade opportunities in the region and he presented an “open door doctrine” in which all nations would trade freely with China and none would seek to violate its territorial integrity. When John Hay replaced Day as Secretary of State at the end of the Spanish-American War, he presented notes on this subject to the European powers. The United Kingdom was in favour of it, but Russia opposed it; France, Germany, Italy and Japan agreed in principle, but specified that they would only implement it if all other countries did the same.

Trade with China was soon jeopardized by the Boxer Rebellion, which aimed to drive Western interests out of the country. Americans and other Westerners in Peking were besieged, and in cooperation with the other powers, McKinley sent 5,000 troops to rescue the besieged in June 1900 as part of the Eight Nation Alliance. The siege was lifted the following month, but several Democratic congressmen criticized McKinley’s decision to send troops without consulting Congress. McKinley’s actions set a precedent, and most of his successors exercised similar independent control over the military. After the end of the revolt, the United States reaffirmed its adherence to the open-door policy, which became the basis of American policy toward China.

In the Americas, McKinley and Hay entered into negotiations with Britain over the possible construction of a canal through Central America. The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, signed by the two nations in 1850, prohibited exclusive control by either country over a canal in that region. The war with Spain had exposed the difficulty of maintaining a fleet in both oceans without a connection closer than Cape Horn. With American financial and military interests growing in Asia, a canal seemed an essential development, and McKinley pressed for a renegotiation of the treaty. Hay and the British ambassador, Julian Pauncefote, agreed to the idea of the United States controlling a future canal on the condition that it not be fortified and that the passage of all ships be allowed. McKinley was satisfied with these terms, but the Senate rejected them, demanding that the United States be allowed to fortify the canal. Hay was embarrassed by the refusal and tendered his resignation; McKinley refused it and asked him to continue negotiations until the Senate agreed. His efforts were successful, but the new treaty was not drafted and approved until after McKinley’s assassination in 1901.

Two of the great issues of the day, tariff reform and bimetallism, became intertwined in 1897. Dingley, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced a new tariff act (later called the Dingley Act) to reform the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act of 1894. McKinley defended the bill, which increased taxes on imports of wool, sugar and luxury goods, but the new tariffs alarmed the French, who exported many luxury goods to the United States. The Dingley Act easily passed the House of Representatives but its passage through the Senate was delayed by French objections. French diplomats offered to cooperate with the United States in drafting an international agreement on bimetallism if the new tariffs were reduced. This satisfied the pro-silver Republicans in the Senate whose votes were needed for passage. The Senate amended the bill to allow limited reciprocity but without reducing taxes on luxury goods. McKinley signed the bill into law and agreed to begin international negotiations on an international bimetallic agreement.

American diplomats quickly concluded a reciprocity treaty with France, and the two nations approached the United Kingdom to gauge British opinion on bimetallism. The Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, showed some interest in the idea and told the American emissary, Edward O. Wolcott, that he would be willing to restart minting in India to issue silver coins if the British-dominated local government agreed. News of a possible departure from the gold standard triggered immediate opposition from its supporters, and fears of the Indian administration led the British to reject the proposal. With the international effort for bimetallism failing, McKinley abandoned the silver coinage and embraced the gold standard. Even without an agreement, the demand for bimetallism diminished with the return of prosperity, and the recent gold discoveries in the Yukon and Australia increased the money supply without the need to mint silver. In the absence of an international agreement, McKinley championed legislation to formally peg the dollar to gold, but these efforts were initially rejected by silver supporters in the Senate. In 1900, with a new election campaign approaching and the economy growing, McKinley urged Congress to pass such legislation and signed the Gold Standard Act on March 14, 1900 with a gold pen.

Strongly influenced on economic issues by the banker and mine owner Marcus Hanna, he adopted a repressive attitude towards workers’ strikes, not hesitating to send in the army.

In the wake of McKinley’s election in 1896, African Americans hoped to make strides toward greater equality. While governor, McKinley had denounced the practice of lynching and most African Americans who could vote did so in 1896. McKinley’s priority, however, was to end sectionalism, and they were disappointed by his policies and appointments. While McKinley had appointed some African Americans to junior government positions and was praised for doing so, there were fewer appointments than under previous Republican administrations. Blanche K. Bruce, an African American who had been a senator from Mississippi during Reconstruction was appointed clerk of the Treasury Department, a position that was usually given to an African American by Republican presidents. McKinley appointed several black postmasters, but when whites protested the appointment of Justin W. Lyons as postmaster general of Augusta, Georgia, McKinley asked him to resign; he subsequently replaced Bruce upon his death in 1898. The president, however, appointed George B. Jackson (ar), a former slave, to the position of collector of customs in Presidio, Texas. African Americans in the northern states, however, felt that their contribution to McKinley’s election was overlooked because few were appointed to his administration.

The administration’s responses to racial violence were minimal and McKinley lost black support. When black postmasters were assaulted in Hogansville, Georgia, in 1897 and Lake City, South Carolina, the following year, McKinley issued no letter of condemnation. While black leaders criticized McKinley for his inaction, his supporters responded that the president had little power to intervene. Critics responded by arguing that he could at least publicly condemn such actions as Harrison had done.

According to historian Clarence A. Bacote, “Before the Spanish-American War, blacks considered McKinley the best friend they ever had. African Americans saw the outbreak of the War of 1898 as an opportunity to demonstrate their patriotism and black soldiers fought bravely at El Caney and San Juan. Under pressure from black leaders, McKinley asked the War Department to appoint African American officers above the rank of lieutenant. The heroism of these soldiers did not ease racial tensions in the South, and the second half of 1898 was marked by several episodes of racial violence: 11 African Americans were killed in riots in Wilmington, North Carolina. McKinley visited the South in late 1898 to quell separatist sentiments. In addition to a visit to the Tuskegee Institute and a meeting with the militant Booker T. Washington, he made a speech to the Georgia legislature and visited Confederate memorials. He made no mention of racial tensions or violence, however. While the president received a standing ovation from white Southerners, many African Americans, excluded from the ceremonies, felt forgotten in McKinley’s actions and words.

According to Gould and biographer Phillips, given the political climate in the South where legislatures were passing segregationist laws such as the one upheld in Plessy v. Ferguson, McKinley had few ways to improve community relations and did better than some of his successors such as Theodore Roosevelt, who doubted racial equality, or Woodrow Wilson, who was a supporter of segregation. Nevertheless, Gould concludes that “McKinley lacked the vision to overcome the prejudices of his time and provide a better future for all Americans.

After the retirement of Associate Justice Stephen Johnson Field, McKinley appointed Attorney General Joseph McKenna to the Supreme Court in December 1897. This choice sparked some controversy, as McKenna’s critics in the Senate argued that he was too close to railroad interests and lacked qualifications for the position. Despite the objections, McKenna’s nomination was unanimous. McKenna responded to criticism of his legal education by attending Columbia Law School in the months before he took office. In addition to his appointment to the Supreme Court, McKinley appointed six judges to federal courts of appeal and another 28 to district courts.

Election of 1900

Republicans won most local and federal elections in 1899, and McKinley was confident of re-election in 1900. McKinley’s popularity during his first term ensured his party’s unanimous nomination. The only issue at the convention was who should be the vice-presidential candidate, as Hobart had died of influenza in November 1899. McKinley had originally considered Elihu Root, who had succeeded Algiers as Secretary of War, but he felt that Root was doing too good a job in the War Department to change his position. He also considered other candidates such as Allison and Secretary of the Interior Cornelius Newton Bliss, but none was as popular as the rising star of the Republican Party, Theodore Roosevelt. After a short period as assistant secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt resigned and formed a volunteer cavalry regiment that fought valiantly in Cuba, and Roosevelt returned to the United States in glory. After being elected governor of New York State in 1898, Roosevelt set his sights on the presidency. Many supporters recommended him to McKinley, and Roosevelt saw this as an excellent stepping stone to the 1904 presidential election. McKinley did not speak out publicly on the issue, but Hanna was strongly opposed to the governor of New York, whom he considered too impulsive. This view was undermined, however, by the efforts of political bosses such as New York Senator Thomas C. Platt, who sought to get rid of the reform-minded governor by making him vice president.

At the opening of the Republican convention in Philadelphia, none of the vice-presidential candidates seemed to stand out clearly, but Roosevelt had the largest partisan base in the country. McKinley claimed that the choice was the convention’s, not his. On June 21, McKinley and Roosevelt were elected unanimously on the first ballot. The Democratic convention was held a month later in Kansas City and William Jennings Bryan was easily chosen after the withdrawal of Spanish-American War hero George Dewey, so the 1900 election was a repeat of the 1896 election. The candidates were the same, but the issues had changed; bimetallism was still an important issue, but the Republicans emphasized the victory over Spain and the prosperity of the country, which they believed favoured their party. The Democrats knew that the war had been popular, even if imperialism was criticized, and so they focused on the issue of monopolies and financial powers by portraying McKinley as a servant of capital and big business. As in 1896, Bryan embarked on a nationwide tour while McKinley remained at home; the only speech he gave was one in which he accepted his nomination, and Roosevelt became the principal speaker of his campaign. Bryan’s campaign failed to excite voters as it had in 1896, and McKinley never doubted his re-election. On November 6, 1900, McKinley won the largest victory for a Republican since 1872. Bryan led in only four states outside the Solid South, and McKinley even led in Nebraska, where Bryan was a representative.

Second term and assassination

Shortly after the second inauguration ceremony on March 4, 1901, William and Ida McKinley embarked on a six-week tour of the country. The First Lady fell ill in California, so a visit to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, originally scheduled for June 13, was postponed until September.

On September 5, 1901, the president gave a speech to 50,000 people at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo. In the crowd, anarchist Leon Czolgosz wanted to assassinate McKinley but gave up because he was not sure he would hit his target. He returned the next day to the Exposition’s Temple of Music, where he shot the president twice in the abdomen.

McKinley, poorly treated at the scene, seemed to recover from his injuries at first, but his condition deteriorated in the days that followed. He died on September 14, 1901 at 2:15 a.m. Theodore Roosevelt had quickly returned to Buffalo by horse and train and was sworn in that afternoon at the home of his friend, Ansley Wilcox, from whom he had borrowed more formal clothing. He swore to pursue McKinley’s political agenda. Czolgosz was sentenced to death on September 26 and electrocuted on October 29, 1901.

Funerals and tributes

According to Gould, “the nation was overcome with a strong sense of guilt at the news of McKinley’s death. The president’s casket was sent to Washington, D.C., where it was placed in the East Room of the White House. His remains were then displayed in the Capitol Rotunda where nearly 100,000 people, some of whom had waited for hours in the rain, paid their respects. The casket was then moved to the Canton courthouse where an equal number of people paraded McKinley’s remains. On September 19, a funeral service was held at the Presbyterian Church where he was married and the casket was sealed and taken to the McKinley home where his loved ones paid their last respects. Pending the construction of a memorial, the casket was placed in a vault in West Lawn Cemetery in Canton.

A McKinley Memorial was dedicated in Canton by President Theodore Roosevelt on September 30, 1907. It was funded by donations of $500,000.

Many other sites pay tribute to the former president. A memorial was built in his hometown of Niles and 20 schools in Ohio are named after him. Nearly $1 million in private donations and public funds were allocated to build memorials to McKinley in the year following his death. According to Phillips, the number and importance of memorials in Ohio is a testament to the state’s attachment to McKinley, who would rank him among the great presidents. Alaska’s Mount McKinley, officially called Denali since 2015, the highest peak in North America, was named in his honor in 1897, likely for political reasons.

McKinley’s biographer, H. Wayne Morgan, notes that McKinley died the most beloved president in history. Nevertheless, the young and enthusiastic Roosevelt quickly gained the attention of the people after the death of his predecessor. The new president made little effort to negotiate the reciprocal trade treaties sought by McKinley. Public interest in Roosevelt during his seven and a half years as president somewhat overshadowed the memory of McKinley, and by the 1920s, according to Gould, the McKinley administration was seen as a “mediocre prelude to the energy and vigour of Roosevelt’s.” Beginning in the 1950s, evaluations became more favorable, but he was generally ranked in the middle of the pack of American presidents. Morgan suggests that this middle ranking is related to the perception among historians that while many of the decisions of McKinley’s presidency profoundly affected the future of the country, he followed more mainstream opinion than he led it.

Most historians agree that McKinley’s election took place at a pivotal moment between two political periods referred to as the “third” and “fourth party systems. Historian Daniel P. Klinghard argued that McKinley’s personal control of the 1896 campaign gave him the opportunity to reform the presidency, rather than simply following his party’s platform, by presenting himself as the voice of the people. More recently, some historians, such as David Mayhew, have questioned the idea that a profound political realignment took place in 1896 and thus McKinley’s role as a key figure in that evolution. Historian Michael J. Korzi argued in 2005 that while it is tempting to see McKinley as the central figure in the transition from congressional control to a strong president, this change was in fact a slow process that lasted from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century.

Phillips writes that McKinley’s average ranking is unfair and that he should be ranked just behind great presidents like Washington or Lincoln. He cites McKinley’s success in building an electoral coalition that kept Republicans in power for nearly 30 years. Phillips considers McKinley’s legacy to be the men he placed in his administration who dominated the Republican party for more than a generation. These include Cortelyou, who held three cabinet posts under Roosevelt, and Dawes, who became vice president under Coolidge. Similarly, Day was appointed to the Supreme Court by Roosevelt and remained there for nearly 20 years, and William Howard Taft, whom McKinley appointed governor general of the Philippines, succeeded Roosevelt as president.

The most controversial aspect of McKinley’s presidency was the territorial expansion of the United States and the question of imperialism, because apart from the Philippines, which gained its independence in 1946, all the territories acquired under McKinley remained American. The territorial expansion of 1898 is often considered by historians as the beginning of American imperialism.

The assassination of McKinley prompted the U.S. Congress to entrust the Secret Service with the protection of high-profile individuals, a role it continues to play today.

He was the first recipient of an honorary doctorate from the University of Chicago on October 17, 1898.

References

Sources

  1. William McKinley
  2. William McKinley
  3. En 1896, certains des camarades de McKinley militèrent pour qu’il reçoive la Medal of Honor en récompense de sa bravoure lors de la bataille ; le lieutenant général Nelson Miles était prêt à remettre la distinction à McKinley mais le président en exercice déclina la proposition[39].
  4. Jusqu’à la ratification du 20e amendement en 1933, la Constitution prévoyait que le Congrès commence ses sessions régulières au début du mois de décembre[75].
  5. Avant le passage du 17e amendement de la Constitution en 1913, les sénateurs étaient élus par les législatures des États.
  6. Il s’agissait d’un type de campagne électorale typique de l’époque, dans laquelle le candidat ne faisait pas campagne mais recevait des délégations et réalisait des discours depuis sa propre maison.
  7. 1 2 Internet Movie Database (англ.) — 1990.
  8. ^ Willam McKinley fu un devoto metodista per tutta la vita. Cfr. Morgan, op. cit., pp. 9-10.
  9. Fuente: General James Rusling, “Interview with President William McKinley” en el diario The Christian Advocate del 22 de enero de 1903, pág. 17. Citado en Schirmer, D. y S. Rosskam Shalom (eds.), The Philippines Reader. Boston: South End Press, 1987, págs. 22–23.
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