William McKinley

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William McKinley
25th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1897 - September 14, 1901
Born January 29, 1843
Template:Country data Ohio Niles, Ohio
Died September 14 1901 (aged 58)
Template:Country data New York Buffalo, New York
Spouse Ida Saxton McKinley

William McKinley Jr. (b. January 29, 1843 – d. September 14, 1901) was the 25th President of the United States. By the 1880s, this Ohio native was a nationally known Republican leader; his signature issue was high tariffs on imports as a formula for prosperity, as typified by his McKinley Tariff of 1890. As the Republican candidate in the 1896 presidential election, he upheld the gold standard, promoted pluralism among ethnic groups, reshaped the issues of the day and inaugurated the Fourth Party System. His campaign, designed by Mark Hanna, introduced new advertising-style campaign techniques that revolutionized campaign practices and beat back the crusading of his arch-rival, William Jennings Bryan. The 1896 election was a realigning election that marked the beginning of the Progressive Era. McKinley presided over a return to prosperity after the Panic of 1893 and was reelected in 1900 after another intense campaign against Bryan, this one focused on foreign policy. As president, he fought the Spanish-American War. McKinley for months resisted the public demand for war, which was based on news of Spanish atrocities in Cuba, but was unable to get Spain to agree to implement reforms immediately. Later he annexed the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam, as well as Hawaii, and set up a protectorate over Cuba. He was assassinated by an anarchist and succeeded by Theodore Roosevelt.


Early life

McKinley at 19

Born in Niles, Ohio, on Sunday, January 29, 1843, William McKinley was the seventh of nine children. In 1869, he made Canton, Ohio his permanent residence and remained there until he died. Most of his siblings lived within Stark County. His parents, William and Nancy (Allison) McKinley, were of Scots-Irish ancestry. He graduated from Poland Academy and attended Allegheny College for one term in 1860, where he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

In June 1861, at the start of the American Civil War, he enlisted in the Union Army, as a private in the Twenty-third Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The regiment was sent to western Virginia where it spent a year fighting small Confederate units. His superior officer, another future U.S. President, Rutherford B. Hayes, promoted McKinley to commissary sergeant for his bravery in battle. For driving a mule team delivering rations under enemy fire at Antietam, Hayes promoted him to Second Lieutenant. This pattern repeated several times during the war, and McKinley eventually mustered out as Captain and brevet Major of the same regiment in September 1865. In 1869, the year that he entered politics, McKinley met and began courting his future wife, Ida Saxton, marrying her two years later when she was 23 and he was 27.

Legal and early political career

Following the war, McKinley attended Albany Law School in Albany, New York and was admitted to the bar in 1867. He practiced law in Canton, Ohio, and became the prosecuting attorney of Stark County, Ohio, from 1869 to 1871.

United States House of Representatives

William McKinley

With the help of Rutherford B. Hayes, McKinley was elected as a Republican to the United States House of Representatives and first served from 1877 to 1882, and second from 1885 to 1891. He was chairman of the Committee on Revision of the Laws from 1881 to 1883. He presented his credentials as a member-elect to the Forty-eighth Congress and served from March 4, 1883, until May 27, 1884, when he was succeeded by Jonathan H. Wallace, who successfully contested his election. McKinley was again elected to the House of Representatives and served from March 4, 1885 to March 4, 1891. He was chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means from 1889 to 1891. In 1890, he authored the McKinley Tariff, which raised rated to the highest in history, devastating his party in the off-year Democratic landslide of 1890. He lost his seat by the narrow margin of 300 votes, partly due to the unpopular tariff bill and partly due to a gerrymander.

Governor of Ohio

After leaving Congress, McKinley won governorship of Ohio in 1891, defeating Democrat James E. Campbell; he was overwhelmingly reelected in 1893 over Lawrence T. Neal. He was an unsuccessful presidential hopeful in 1892 but campaigned for the reelection of President Benjamin Harrison. As governor, he imposed an excise tax on corporations, secured safety legislation for transportation workers and restricted anti-union practices of employers.

The 1896 election

Governor McKinley left office in early 1896 and, at the instigation of his friend Marcus Hanna began actively campaigning for the Republican party's presidential nomination. After winning the nomination, he went home and conducted his famous "front porch campaign." Marcus Hanna, a wealthy industrialist, headed the MicKinley campaign. His opponent was William Jennings Bryan, who ran on a single issue of "free silver." McKinley was against silver because it was a debased currency and overseas markets used gold, so it would harm foreign trade. McKinley promised that he would promote industry and banking and guarantee prosperity for every group in a pluralistic nation. A Democratic cartoon ridiculed the promise, saying it would rock the boat. McKinley replied that the protective tariff would bring prosperity to all groups, city and country alike, while Bryan's free silver would create inflation but no new jobs, would bankrupt railroads, and would permanently damage the economy. Even though Republicans were known to be anti-immigration and intolerable to many ethnic groups, McKinley was able to succeed in getting votes from the urban areas and ethnic labor groups. Campaign manager Mark Hanna raised $3.5 million from big business, and adopted newly invented advertising techniques to spread McKinley's message.<ref> Jensen (1971) ch 10</ref> Although Bryan had been ahead in August, McKinley's counter-crusade put him on the defensive and gigantic parades for McKinley in every major city a few days before the election undercut Bryan's allegations that workers were coerced to vote for McKinley. He defeated William Jennings Bryan by a large margin, paving the way for three decades of Republican hegemony in the Fourth Party System. His appeal to all classes marked a realignment of American politics. His success in industrial cities gave the Republican party a grip on the north comparable to that of the Democrats in the south.

Presidency 1897-1901

Chief Justice Melville Fuller administering the oath to McKinley as President of the United States in 1897. Out going president, Grover Cleveland, stands to the right.

Once in office, President McKinley quickly moved to control the political agenda. He understood that a leader who controlled the news could go far in controlling the politics. He set up the first press room for White House reporters, and gave them his version of events. The newspapers became dependent on his word. He hoped to make American producers supreme in world markets, and so his administration had a push for those foreign markets, which includes the annexation of Hawaii and interests in China. While serving as a Congressman, McKinley had been an advocate for the annexation of Hawaii because he wanted to Americanize it and establish a naval base, but he was unable to get the two-thirds vote. One notable observer of the time, Henry Adams, declared that the nation at this time was ruled by "Mckinleyism," a "system of combinations, consolidations, and trusts realized at home and abroad." This reflects the policies President McKinley pursued.


During this time there were some overseas conflicts, mainly with Spain. The US had interests in Cuba, the Philippines, Hawaii and China. McKinley didn't want to fully annex Cuba, just control it. In the Philippines, he wanted a base there to deal with China that would give the US a voice in Asian affairs. There were stories of horrible atrocities committed in Cuba and of Spain's use of concentration camps and brutal military force to squash Cuba's rebellion. This outraged public opinion against Spain, and created a demand for war coming mostly from Democrats. McKinley and the business community opposed the growing public demand for war, aided by Speaker Tom Reed in the House. However the mysterious explosion of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor kept the issue on the front pages, and by 1898 he began moving towards war as he realized Spain could never pacify Cuba. Spain began to show it was no longer in control as rebellions within the rebellion broke out. Spain repeatedly promised new reforms in Cuba, then repeatedly postponed them. As a matter of protection for US interests around Havanna, a new warship, the Maine, was dispatched. It mysteriously exploded and sank. Public opinion heated up and a greater demand for war ensued. McKinley turned the matter over to Congress, which voted for war, and gave Spain an ultimatum for an armistice and a permanent peace. Although the Army was poorly prepared, militia and national guard units rushed to the colors, most notably Theodore Roosevelt and his "Rough Riders." The naval war against Cuba and the Philippines was a success, the easiest and most profitable war in US history, and after a few battles in Cuba, Spain agreed to peace terms at the Treaty of Paris in July. Secretary of state John Hay called it a "splendid little war." The United States gained ownership of Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico, and temporary control over Cuba. McKinley had said, "we need Hawaii just as much as we did California," and the Hawaii Republic which had sought admission to the Union, was finally annexed in 1898. McKinley wanted a naval base in the Philippines at Manila. In the end, he decided to take all of the Philippines to protect Manila. Throughout these ordeals, McKinley controlled American policy and news with an "iron hand." McKinley was the first president to have the use of telephones and telegraphs giving him access to battlefield commanders and reporters in mere minutes, and he used this to his full advantage. He censored the news at home about the war abroad. These ordeals also gave life to an anti-imperialist movement at home.

McKinley campaigns on gold coin (gold standard) with support from soldiers, businessmen, farmers and professions, claiming to restore prosperity at home and victory abroad
For his reelection, McKinley again runs against William Jennings Bryant. McKinley was re-elected in 1900, this time with foreign policy paramount. Bryan had demanded war with Spain (and volunteered as a soldier), but strongly opposed annexation of the Philippines. He was also running on the same issue of free silver as he did before, but since the silver debate was ended with the passage of the Gold Standard Act of 1900, McKinley easily won reelection.

Significant events during presidency

McKinley validated his claim as the "advance agent of prosperity" when the year 1897 brought a revival of business, agriculture and general prosperity. This was due in part to the end, at least for the time, of political suspense and agitation, in part to the confidence which capitalists felt in the new Administration.

On June 16, 1897, a treaty was signed annexing the Hawaiian Republic to the United States. The Government of Hawaii speedily ratified this, but it lacked the necessary 2/3 vote in the U.S. Senate. The solution was to annex Hawaii by joint resolution, which required only 51%. The resolution provided for the assumption by the United States of the Hawaiian debt up to $4,000,000. The Chinese Exclusion Law was extended to the islands, and Chinese immigration thence to the continental republic prohibited. The joint resolution passed July 6, 1898, a majority of the Democrats and several Republicans, among these Speaker Reed, opposing. Shelby M. Cullom, John T. Morgan, Robert R. Hitt, Sanford B. Dole, and Walter F. Frear, made commissioners by its authority, drafted a territorial form of government, which became law April 30, 1900.

In Civil Service administration Mr. McKinley took one long and unfortunate step backward. The Republican platform, adopted after Mr. Cleveland's extension of the merit system, emphatically endorsed this, as did Mr. McKinley himself. Against extreme pressure, particularly in the War Department, the President bravely stood out till May 29, 1899. His order of that date withdrew from the classified service 4,000 or more positions, removed 3,500 from the class theretofore filled through competitive examination or an orderly practice of promotion, and placed 6,416 more under a system drafted by the Secretary of War. The order declared regular a large number of temporary appointments made without examination, besides rendering eligible, as emergency appointees, without examination, thousands who had served during the Spanish War.

Republicans pointed to the deficit under the Wilson Law with much the same concern manifested by President Cleveland in 1888 over the surplus. A new tariff law must be passed, and, if possible, before a new Congressional election. An extra session of Congress was therefore summoned for March 15, 1897. The Ways and Means Committee, which had been at work for three months, forthwith reported through Chairman Nelson Dingley the bill which bore his name. With equal promptness the Committee on Rules brought in a rule, at once adopted by the House, whereby the new bill, spite of Democratic pleas for time to examine, discuss, and propose amendments, reached the Senate the last day of March. More deliberation marked procedure in the Senate. This body passed the bill after toning up its schedules with some 870 amendments, most of which pleased the Conference Committee and became law. The act was signed by the President July 24, 1897. The Dingley Act was estimated by its author to advance the average rate from the 40 percent of the Wilson Bill to approximately 50 percent, or a shade higher than the McKinley rate. As proportioned to consumption the tax imposed by it was probably heavier than that under either of its predecessors.

Reciprocity, a feature of the McKinley Tariff Act, was suspended by the Wilson Act. The Republican platform of 1896 declared protection and reciprocity twin measures of Republican policy. Clauses graced the Dingley Act allowing reciprocity treaties to be made, "duly ratified" by the Senate and "approved" by Congress; yet, of the twins, protection proved stout and lusty, while the weaker sister languished. Under the third section of the Act some concessions were given and received, but the treaties negotiated under the fourth section, which involved lowering of strictly protective duties, met summary defeat when submitted to the Senate.

Administration and Cabinet

File:McKinley cabinet.jpg
President McKinley and his cabinet.

Supreme Court appointment

McKinley appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:


File:McKinley last photo.jpg
McKinley on steps of Temple of Music.
Leon Czolgosz shoots President McKinley with a concealed revolver.
File:McKinley death Milburn.jpg
Milburn residence, where McKinley died.

Upon invitation President and Mrs. McKinley visited the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. September 5, 1901, the first day of his presence, the President delivered an address, memorable both as a sagacious survey of public affairs and as indicating a modification of his well-known tariff opinions in the direction of making commerce and trade more free with foreign nations.

"We must not repose in fancied security that we can forever sell everything and buy little or nothing. … The period of exclusiveness is past. … Reciprocity treaties are in harmony with the spirit of the times; measures of retaliation are not. … If perchance some of our tariffs are no longer needed for revenue or to encourage and protect our industries at home, why should they not be employed to extend and promote our markets abroad?"

In connection with this thought the President expressed his conviction that we must encourage our merchant marine and, in the same commercial interest, construct a Pacific cable and an Isthmian canal.

The projects of Mr. McKinley's statesmanship thus announced were approved by nearly the entire public, but they were destined to be carried out by other hands.

McKinley was shot twice by Leon Frank Czolgosz at 4:07 p.m. on September 6, 1901, at the Exposition. He had been standing outside the Temple of Music shaking hands with the public, Czolgosz waited in line with a pistol in his right hand concealed by a handkerchief. The first bullet deflected off a button, and did not seriously injure the President. The second, however, went through McKinley's stomach, colon, and kidney, and finally lodged in the muscles of his back. One bullet was easily found and extracted, but doctors were unable to locate the second bullet. It was feared that the search for the bullet, using 19th century techniques, might cause more harm than good. In addition, McKinley appeared to be recovering, so doctors decided to leave the bullet where it was.<ref>"Biography of William McKinley". Retrieved on 2006-12-04.</ref>

The newly-developed X-ray machine was displayed at the fair, but doctors were reluctant to use it on McKinley to search for the bullet because they did not know what side effects it may have had on him. Also, ironically, the operating room at the exposition's emergency hospital did not have any electric lighting, even though the exteriors of many of the buildings at the extravagant exposition were covered with thousands of light bulbs. The surgeons were also unable to operate by candlelight because of the ether used to keep the president unconscious. So the doctors were forced to use pans to reflect sunlight onto the operating table as they treated McKinley's wounds.

McKinley's doctors believed he would recover, and the President convalesced for more than a week at the home of the exposition's director. But McKinley eventually went into shock. Eight days after he was shot, he died from gangrene, which surrounded his wounds, at 2:15 a.m. on September 14, 1901, in Buffalo. He was buried in Canton, Ohio. Czolgosz was later found guilty of murder, and he was electrocuted on October 29, 1901.

Monuments and memorials

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William McKinley National Memorial in Canton, Ohio
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William McKinley Burial Tomb in William McKinley National Memorial Canton, Ohio
File:McKinley Capitol casket.jpg
McKinley casket at Capitol.
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McKinley's remains passing Treasury building.
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Statue of President McKinley in Walden, New York.
File:WilliamMcKinley LucasCountyCourthouse.jpg
Statue of President McKinley at the Lucas County Courthouse in Toledo, Ohio.

After a simple funeral ceremony at the Milburn mansion, the remains were reverently borne to the Buffalo City Hall, where, till midnight, mourning columns filed past the catafalque. The body lay in state under the Capitol rotunda at Washington for a day, and was then borne to the old home at Canton, Ohio. Here the late Chief Magistrate's fellow townsmen, his old army comrades, and other thousands joined or watched the procession to the cemetery. On the day of the internment, September 19, enormous concourses of people attended appropriate exercises all over the country. Special commemorative services were held in Westminster Cathedral by King Edward's orders.

  • The statue of McKinley in Muskegon, Michigan is believed to be the first raised in his honor in the country, put in place on May 23, 1902. [1] It was sculpted by Charles Henry Niehaus.
  • McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, Canton, Ohio
  • McKinley Memorial Mausoleum, Canton, Ohio, his final resting place
  • McKinley Memorial, Niles, Ohio, commemorates McKinley's birthplace
  • McKinley Classical Junior Academy, middle school in St. Louis, MO
  • McKinley Monument, Buffalo, New York
  • McKinley Statue, Adams, Massachusetts
  • McKinley County, New Mexico is named in his honor.
  • Mount McKinley, Alaska is named after him.
  • McKinley Statue, Arcata, California
  • McKinleyville, California
  • McKinley Statue, Montgomery County Public Library Dayton, Ohio
  • McKinley Statue, Walden, New York
  • McKinley Monument, Antietam Battlefield, Maryland
  • McKinley Statue, Lucas County Courthouse Toledo, Ohio
  • McKinley Monument, Columbus, Ohio on the grounds of the Statehouse McKinley worked in as Ohio's Governor.
  • McKinley Statue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania outside Philadelphia City Hall.
  • Calle McKinley (McKinley Street), Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.
  • McKinley Vocational High School, Buffalo, NY
  • McKinley Parkway, part of the Olmsted Park System of Buffalo, New York
  • McKinley Mall, Blasdell, New York (Southtown of Erie County, New York)
  • McKinley Elementary Lakewood, Ohio
  • William McKinley Junior High School, Fort Hamilton, Bay Ridge, New York.
  • McKinley Elementary School, Fort Gratiot, Port Huron, Michigan Casper WY
  • McKinley High School on T st in Washington DC (Beside Hyde Leadership Public Charter School)
  • McKinley High School in Canton, OH
  • McKinley's, a cafeteria in the Campus Center building at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, where President McKinley briefly attended as an undergraduate student.