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William McKinley

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William McKinley

William McKinley
A headshot of McKinley in formal attire
25th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1897 – September 14, 1901
Vice President
Preceded by Grover Cleveland
Succeeded by Theodore Roosevelt
39th Governor of Ohio
In office
January 11, 1892 – January 13, 1896
Lieutenant Andrew Harris
Preceded by James Campbell
Succeeded by Asa Bushnell
Personal details
Born (1843-01-29)January 29, 1843
Niles, Ohio, U.S.
Died September 14, 1901(1901-09-14) (aged 58)
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Resting place McKinley National Memorial
Canton, Ohio
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Ida Saxton
Children Katherine, Ida (both died in early childhood)
Alma mater Allegheny College, Mount Union College, Albany Law School
Profession Politician
Religion Methodism
Signature Cursive signature in ink
Military service
Years of service 1861–1865
Unit 23rd Ohio Infantry
Battles/wars American Civil War

William McKinley (January 29, 1843 – September 14, 1901) was the 25th President of the United States, serving from March 4, 1897, until his assassination on September 14, 1901, six months into his second term. McKinley led the nation to victory in the Spanish–American War, raised protective tariffs to promote American industry, and maintained the nation on the gold standard in a rejection of inflationary proposals.

McKinley was the last president to have served in the American Civil War, beginning as a private in the Union Army and ending as a brevet major. After the war, he settled in Canton, Ohio, where he practiced law and married Ida Saxton. In 1876, he was elected to Congress, where he became the Republican Party’s expert on the protective tariff, which he promised would bring prosperity. His 1890 McKinley Tariff was highly controversial; which together with a Democratic redistricting aimed at gerrymandering him out of office, led to his defeat in the Democratic landslide of 1890. He was elected Ohio’s governor in 1891 and 1893, steering a moderate course between capital and labor interests. With the aid of his close adviser Mark Hanna, he secured the Republican nomination for president in 1896, amid a deep economic depression. He defeated his Democratic rival, William Jennings Bryan, after a front-porch campaign in which he advocated “sound money” (the gold standard unless altered by international agreement) and promised that high tariffs would restore prosperity.

Rapid economic growth marked McKinley’s presidency. He promoted the 1897 Dingley Tariff to protect manufacturers and factory workers from foreign competition, and in 1900, he secured the passage of the Gold Standard Act. McKinley hoped to persuade Spain to grant independence to rebellious Cuba without conflict, but when negotiation failed, he led the nation in the Spanish–American War of 1898; the U.S. victory was quick and decisive. As part of the peace settlement, Spain turned over to the United States its main overseas colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines; Cuba was promised independence, but at that time remained under the control of the U.S. Army. The United States annexed the independent Republic of Hawaii in 1898 and it became a U.S. territory.

Historians regard McKinley's 1896 victory as a realigning election, in which the political stalemate of the post-Civil War era gave way to the Republican-dominated Fourth Party System, which began with the Progressive Era. McKinley defeated Bryan again in the 1900 presidential election, in a campaign focused on imperialism, protectionism, and free silver. However, his legacy was quickly cut short when a successful assassination was carried out on September 6, 1901 by Leon Czolgosz, a second-generation Polish-American with anarchist leanings, and he was succeeded by Vice President Theodore Roosevelt. As an innovator of American interventionism and pro-business sentiment, McKinley's presidency is generally considered above average, though his universally positive public perception was soon overshadowed by Roosevelt.


  • Early life and family 1
  • Civil War 2
    • Western Virginia and Antietam 2.1
    • Shenandoah Valley and promotion 2.2
  • Legal career and marriage 3
  • Rising politician 1877–1895 4
    • Spokesman for protection 4.1
    • Gerrymandering and defeat for re-election 4.2
    • Governor of Ohio 4.3
  • Election of 1896 5
    • Obtaining the nomination 5.1
    • General election campaign 5.2
  • Presidency 1897–1901 6
    • Inauguration and appointments 6.1
    • War with Spain 6.2
    • Peace and territorial gain 6.3
    • Expanding influence overseas 6.4
    • Tariffs and bimetallism 6.5
    • Civil rights 6.6
    • Judicial appointments 6.7
    • 1900 election 6.8
    • Second term and assassination 6.9
  • Funeral, memorials, and legacy 7
    • Funeral and resting place 7.1
    • Other memorials 7.2
    • Legacy and historical image 7.3
  • Administration and cabinet 8
  • See also 9
  • Notes 10
  • References 11
  • Bibliography 12
  • External links 13

Early life and family

William McKinley at age 15

William McKinley, Jr., was born in 1843 in [1]

The family moved to Ohio when the senior McKinley was a boy, settling in [4] Religiously, the family was staunchly Methodist and young William followed in that tradition, becoming active in the local Methodist church at the age of sixteen.[5]

He was a lifelong pious Methodist.[6] In 1852, the family moved from Niles to Poland so that their children could attend the better school there. Graduating in 1859, he enrolled the following year at [8]

Civil War

Western Virginia and Antietam

Rutherford B. Hayes was McKinley's mentor during the Civil War and afterward.

When the Southern states seceded from the Union and the American Civil War began, thousands of men in Ohio volunteered for service.[9] Among them were McKinley and his cousin William McKinley Osbourne, who enlisted as privates in the newly formed Poland Guards in July 1861.[10] The men left for Columbus where they were consolidated with other small units to form the 23rd Ohio Infantry.[11] The men were unhappy to learn that, unlike Ohio’s earlier volunteer regiments, they would not be permitted to elect their officers; they would be designated by Ohio’s governor, William Dennison.[11] Dennison appointed Colonel William Rosecrans as the commander of the regiment, and the men began training on the outskirts of Columbus.[11] McKinley quickly took to the soldier’s life and wrote a series of letters to his hometown newspaper extolling the army and the Union cause.[12] Delays in issuance of uniforms and weapons again brought the men into conflict with their officers, but Major Rutherford B. Hayes convinced them to accept what the government had issued them; his style in dealing with the men impressed McKinley, beginning an association and friendship that would last until Hayes’ death in 1893.[13]

After a month of training, McKinley and the 23rd Ohio, now led by Colonel Eliakim P. Scammon, set out for western Virginia (today part of West Virginia) in June 1861 as a part of the Kanawha Division.[14] McKinley initially thought Scammon was a martinet, but when the regiment finally saw battle, he came to appreciate the value of their relentless drilling.[15] Their first contact with the enemy came in September when they drove back Confederate troops at Carnifex Ferry in present-day West Virginia.[16] Three days after the battle, McKinley was assigned to duty in the brigade quartermaster office, where he worked both to supply his regiment, and as a clerk.[17] In November, the regiment established winter quarters near Fayetteville (today in West Virginia).[18] McKinley spent the winter substituting for a commissary sergeant who was ill, and in April 1862 he was promoted to that rank.[19] The regiment resumed its advance that spring with Hayes in command (Scammon by then led the brigade) and fought several minor engagements against the rebel forces.[20]

That September, McKinley’s regiment was called east to reinforce General John Pope’s Army of Virginia at the Second Battle of Bull Run.[21] Delayed in passing through Washington, D.C., the 23rd Ohio did not arrive in time for the battle, but joined the Army of the Potomac as it hurried north to cut off Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia as it advanced into Maryland.[21] The 23rd was the first regiment to encounter the Confederates at the Battle of South Mountain on September 14.[22] After severe losses, Union forces drove back the Confederates and continued to Sharpsburg, Maryland, where they engaged Lee’s army at the Battle of Antietam, one of the bloodiest battles of the war.[23] The 23rd was also in the thick of the fighting at Antietam, and McKinley himself came under heavy fire when bringing rations to the men on the line.[23][1] McKinley’s regiment again suffered many casualties, but the Army of the Potomac was victorious and the Confederates retreated into Virginia.[23] The regiment was then detached from the Army of the Potomac and returned by train to western Virginia.[24]

Shenandoah Valley and promotion

McKinley in 1865, just after the war. Photograph by Mathew Brady.

While the regiment went into winter quarters near Army of West Virginia.[27] They soon resumed the offensive, marching into southwestern Virginia to destroy salt and lead mines used by the enemy.[27] On May 9, the army engaged Confederate troops at Cloyd’s Mountain, where the men charged the enemy entrenchments and drove the rebels from the field.[27] McKinley later said the combat there was “as desperate as any witnessed during the war.”[27] Following the rout, the Union forces destroyed Confederate supplies and skirmished with the enemy again successfully.[27]

McKinley and his regiment moved to the Philip Sheridan replaced Hunter, and McKinley, who had been promoted to captain after the battle, was transferred to General Crook’s staff.[31] By August, Early was retreating south in the valley, with Sheridan’s army in pursuit.[32] They fended off a Confederate assault at Berryville, where McKinley had a horse shot out from under him, and advanced to Opequon Creek, where they broke the enemy lines and pursued them farther south.[33] They followed up the victory with another at Fisher’s Hill on September 22, and were engaged once more at Cedar Creek on October 19.[34] After initially falling back from the Confederate advance, McKinley helped to rally the troops and turn the tide of the battle.[34]

After Cedar Creek, the army stayed in the vicinity through election day, when McKinley cast his first presidential ballot, for the incumbent Republican, John D. Stevenson, Samuel S. Carroll, and Winfield S. Hancock.[35] Finally assigned to Carroll’s staff again, McKinley acted as the general’s first and only adjutant.[36] Lee and his army surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant a few days later, effectively ending the war. McKinley found time to join a Freemason lodge (later renamed after him) in Winchester, Virginia, before he and Carroll were transferred to Hancock’s First Veterans Corps in Washington.[37] Just before the war’s end, McKinley received his final promotion, a brevet commission as major.[38] In July, the Veterans Corps was mustered out of service, and McKinley and Carroll were relieved of their duties.[38] Carroll and Hancock encouraged McKinley to apply for a place in the peacetime army, but he declined and returned to Ohio the following month.[38]

Legal career and marriage

Ida Saxton McKinley

After the war ended in 1865, McKinley decided on a career in the law and began [43]

As McKinley’s professional career progressed, so too did his social life blossom as he wooed [44]

Ida insisted that McKinley continue his increasingly successful career in law and politics.[45] He attended the state Republican convention that nominated Hayes for a third term as governor in 1875, and campaigned again for his old friend in the election that fall.[45] The next year, McKinley undertook a high-profile case defending a group of [46]

McKinley’s good standing with labor became useful that year as he campaigned for the Republican nomination for [48] McKinley’s victory came at a personal cost: his income as a congressman would be half of what he earned as a lawyer.[49]

Rising politician 1877–1895

Spokesman for protection

Congressman McKinley

McKinley first took his congressional seat in October 1877, when [54]

From his first term in Congress, McKinley was a strong advocate of protective tariffs. The primary purposes of such imposts was not to raise revenue, but to allow American manufacturing to develop by giving it a price advantage in the domestic market over foreign competitors. McKinley biographer [56]

McKinley increasingly became a significant figure in national politics. In 1880, he served a brief term as Ohio’s representative on the [58] while Foraker began a meteoric rise in Ohio politics early in the decade. Hanna, once he entered public affairs as a political manager and generous contributor, supported Sherman’s ambitions, as well as those of Foraker. The latter relationship broke off at the 1888 Republican National Convention, where McKinley, Foraker, and Hanna were all delegates supporting Sherman. Convinced Sherman could not win, Foraker threw his support to the unsuccessful Republican 1884 presidential nominee, Maine Senator James G. Blaine. When Blaine stated he was not a candidate, Foraker returned to Sherman, but the nomination went to former Indiana senator Benjamin Harrison, who was elected president. 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 aligned with McKinley, Sherman, and Hanna and the other with Foraker.[59] Hanna came to admire McKinley and became a friend and close adviser to him. Although Hanna remained active in business and in promoting other Republicans, in the years after 1888, he spent an increasing amount of time boosting McKinley’s political career.[60]

In 1889, with the Republicans in the majority, McKinley sought election as Speaker of the House. He failed to gain the post, which went to Thomas B. Reed of Maine; however, Speaker Reed appointed McKinley chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. The Ohioan guided the McKinley Tariff of 1890 through Congress; although McKinley’s work was altered through the influence of special interests in the Senate, it imposed a number of protective tariffs on foreign goods.[61]

Gerrymandering and defeat for re-election

Recognizing McKinley’s potential, the Democrats, whenever they controlled the Ohio legislature, sought to [65]

Judge magazine cover from September 1890, showing McKinley (left) having helped dispatch Speaker Reed's opponent in early-voting Maine, hurrying off with the victor to McKinley's “gerrymandered” Ohio district.

For 1890, the Democrats gerrymandered McKinley one final time, placing Stark County in the same district as one of the strongest pro-Democrat counties, Holmes, populated by solidly Democratic Pennsylvania Dutch. The new boundaries seemed good, based on past results, for a Democratic majority of 2000 to 3000. The Republicans could not reverse the gerrymander as legislative elections would not be held until 1891, but they could throw all their energies into the district, as the McKinley Tariff was a main theme of the Democratic campaign nationwide, and there was considerable attention paid to McKinley’s race. The Republican Party sent its leading orators to Canton, including Blaine (then Secretary of State), Speaker Reed and President Harrison. The Democrats countered with their best spokesmen on tariff issues.[66] McKinley tirelessly stumped his new district, reaching out to its 40,000 voters to explain that his tariff

was framed for the people ... as a defense to their industries, as a protection to the labor of their hands, as a safeguard to the happy homes of American workingmen, and as a security to their education, their wages, and their investments ... It will bring to this country a prosperity unparalleled in our own history and unrivalled in the history of the world.”[67]

Democrats ran a strong candidate in former lieutenant governor John G. Warwick. To drive their point home, they hired young partisans to pretend to be peddlers, who went door to door offering 25-cent tinware to housewives for 50 cents, explaining the rise in prices was due to the McKinley Tariff. In the end, McKinley lost by 300 votes, but the Republicans won a statewide majority and claimed a moral victory.[68]

Governor of Ohio

Even before McKinley completed his term in Congress, he met with a delegation of Ohioans urging him to run for governor. Governor [70][3] McKinley won the 1891 election by some 20,000 votes;[71] the following January, Sherman, with considerable assistance from Hanna, turned back a challenge by Foraker to win the legislature’s vote for another term in the Senate.[72]

Even after his final run for president in 1884, James G. Blaine was still seen as a possible candidate for the Republican nomination. In this 1890 Puck cartoon, he is startling Reed and McKinley (right) as they make their plans for 1892.

Ohio’s governor had relatively little power—for example, he could recommend legislation, but not veto it—but with Ohio a key swing state, its governor was a major figure in national politics.[73] Although McKinley believed that the health of the nation depended on that of business, he was evenhanded in dealing with labor.[74] He procured legislation that set up an arbitration board to settle work disputes and obtained passage of a law that fined employers who fired workers for belonging to a union.[75]


Soon after Cleveland’s return to office, hard times struck the nation with the [79] He was easily re-elected in November 1893, receiving the largest percentage of the vote of any Ohio governor since the Civil War.[80]

McKinley campaigned widely for Republicans in the 1894 midterm congressional elections; many party candidates in districts where he spoke were successful. His political efforts in Ohio were rewarded with the election in November 1895 of a Republican successor as governor, Asa Bushnell, and a Republican legislature that elected Foraker to the Senate. McKinley supported Foraker for Senate and Bushnell (who was of Foraker’s faction) for governor; in return, the new senator-elect agreed to back McKinley’s presidential ambitions. With party peace in Ohio assured, McKinley turned to the national arena.[81]

Election of 1896

Obtaining the nomination

McKinley’s close friend and adviser, Mark Hanna.

It is unclear when William McKinley began to seriously prepare a run for president. As Phillips notes, “no documents, no diaries, no confidential letters to Mark Hanna (or anyone else) contain his secret hopes or veiled stratagems.”[82] From the beginning, McKinley’s preparations had the participation of Hanna, whose biographer William T. Horner noted, “what is certainly true is that in 1888 the two men began to develop a close working relationship that helped put McKinley in the White House.”[83] Sherman did not run for president again after 1888, and so Hanna could support McKinley’s ambitions for that office wholeheartedly.[84]

Backed by Hanna’s money and organizational skills, McKinley quietly built support for a presidential bid through 1895 and early 1896. When other contenders such as Speaker Reed and Iowa Senator William B. Allison sent agents outside their states to organize Republicans in support of their candidacies, they found that Hanna’s agents had preceded them. According to historian Stanley Jones in his study of the 1896 election,

Another feature common to the Reed and Allison campaigns was their failure to make headway against the tide which was running toward McKinley. In fact, both campaigns from the moment they were launched were in retreat. The calm confidence with which each candidate claimed the support of his own section [of the country] soon gave way to ... bitter accusations that Hanna by winning support for McKinley in their sections had violated the rules of the game.[85]

Hanna, on McKinley's behalf, met with the eastern Republican border states. Platt lamented in his memoirs, “[Hanna] had the South practically solid before some of us awakened.”[87]

Louis Dalrymple cartoon from Puck magazine, June 24, 1896, showing McKinley about to crown himself with the Republican nomination. The “priests” are Hanna (in green) and Congressman Charles H. Grosvenor (red); H. H. Kohlsaat is the page holding the robe.

The bosses still hoped to deny McKinley a first-ballot majority at

External links


  • Armstrong, William H. (2000). Major McKinley: William McKinley and the Civil War. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press.  
  • Cherny, Robert W. (1994). A Righteous Cause: The Life of William Jennings Bryan. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.  
  • Gould, Lewis L. (1980). The Presidency of William McKinley. American Presidency. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas.  
  • Harpine, William D. (2005). From the Front Porch to the Front Page: McKinley and Bryan in the 1896 Presidential Campaign. Presidential Rhetoric 13. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press.  
  • Horner, William T. (2010). Ohio's Kingmaker: Mark Hanna, Man and Myth. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.  
  • Jensen, Richard (1971). The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict, 1888–1896. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.  
  • Jones, Stanley L. (1964). The Presidential Election of 1896. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.  
  • Kazin, Michael (2006). A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.  
  • McElroy, Richard L. (1996). William McKinley and Our America (softcover ed.). Canton, Ohio: Stark County Historical Society.  
  • McKinley, William (1893). Speeches and Addresses of William McKinley. New York: D. Appleton and Company. 
  • Miller, Scott (2011). The President and the Assassin. New York: Random House.  
  • Morgan, H. Wayne (2003). William McKinley and His America (revised ed.). Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press.  
  • Olcott, Charles (1916). The Life of William McKinley 2. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved March 23, 2012. 
  • Pratt, Walter F. (1999). The Supreme Court under Edward Douglass White, 1910–1921. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press.  
  • Semonche, John E. (2009). "McKenna, Joseph". In Newman, Roger K. The Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.  
  • Williams, R. Hal (2010). Realigning America: McKinley, Bryan and the Remarkable Election of 1896. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas.  


  • Bacote, Clarence A. (July 1959). "Negro officeholders in Georgia under President McKinley". The Journal of Negro History (Washington, D.C.: Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Inc.) 44 (3): 217–239.  
  • Connolly, Michael J. (2010). I Make Politics My Recreation': Vice President Garret A. Hobart and Nineteenth Century Republican Business Politics"'". New Jersey History (Newark, New Jersey: New Jersey Historical Society) 125 (1): 29–31. Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  • Klinghard, Daniel P. (2005). "Grover Cleveland, William McKinley and the Emergence of the President as Party Leader". Presidential Studies Quarterly (Washington, D.C.: Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress) 35 (4): 736–760.  
  • Korzi, Michael J. (January 2004). "A New Migration of Political Forces: Party Decline and Presidential Leadership in Late Nineteenth-Century America". Polity (Staten Island, New York: Northeastern Political Science Association) 36 (2): 251–282.  
  • Lafeber, Walter (1986). "The 'Lion in the Path': The U.S. Emergence as a World Power". Political Science Quarterly (New York: Academy of Political Science) 101 (5): 705–718.  
  • McCormick, Thomas (May 1963). "Insular Imperialism and the Open Door: The China Market and the Spanish–American War". Pacific Historical Review (Berkeley, California: University of California Press) 32 (2): 155–169.  
  • Nice, David C. (September 1984). "The Influence of War and Party System Aging on the Ranking of Presidents". The Western Political Quarterly (Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah) 37 (3): 443–455.  
  • Nichols, Jeannette P. (December 1933). "Silver Diplomacy". Political Science Quarterly (New York: Academy of Political Science) 48 (4): 565–588.  
  • Weisenburger, Francis P. (June 1934). "The Time of Mark Hanna's First Acquaintance with McKinley". The Mississippi Valley Historical Review (Bloomington, Indiana: Organization of American Historians) 21 (1): 78–80.  


  • "Biographical Dictionary of the Federal Judiciary". Washington, D.C.: Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved March 4, 2012.  searches run from page, “select research categories” then check “court type” and “nominating president”, then select U.S. District Courts (or U.S. Circuit Courts) and also William McKinley.
  • "Walter l. Cohen". Louisiana Historical Assoc. Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  • "Sessions of Congress" (PDF). Congressional Directory. United States Senate. Retrieved March 11, 2012. 


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  3. ^ Armstrong, pp. 4–6; Morgan, pp. 2–3; Phillips, p. 13.
  4. ^ Phillips, pp. 17–18; Armstrong, p. 8; Morgan, pp. 10–11.
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  6. ^ Morgan, pp. 9–10.
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  15. ^ Armstrong, pp. 15–16.
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  17. ^ Armstrong, pp. 22–23.
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  19. ^ Armstrong, pp. 25–29; Phillips, p. 21.
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  21. ^ a b Hoogenboom, pp. 141–143; Armstrong, pp. 33–36.
  22. ^ Hoogenboom, pp. 146–148; Armstrong, pp. 36–38.
  23. ^ a b c Armstrong, pp. 38–41; Phillips, p. 21.
  24. ^ Armstrong, pp. 43–44.
  25. ^ a b Armstrong, pp. 44–45.
  26. ^ Hoogenboom, pp. 157–158; Armstrong, pp. 47–55.
  27. ^ a b c d e Hoogenboom, pp. 162–164; Armstrong, p. 63–65.
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  29. ^ Armstrong, pp. 70–71.
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  31. ^ Hoogenboom, pp. 170–171; Armstrong, pp. 75–77.
  32. ^ Armstrong, pp. 78–80.
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  34. ^ a b c d Armstrong, pp. 84–91.
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  39. ^ Morgan, pp. 28–30.
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  41. ^ a b Morgan, pp. 31–33; Leech, pp. 12, 21.
  42. ^ a b Leech, pp. 11–12.
  43. ^ a b c Morgan, pp. 34–35.
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  46. ^ a b c d Morgan, pp. 40–41; Weisenburger, pp. 78–80.
  47. ^ a b Morgan, p. 42.
  48. ^ a b Morgan, p. 43.
  49. ^ McElroy, p. 31.
  50. ^ Leech, p. 20.
  51. ^ Leech, p. 37.
  52. ^ Morgan, p. 47.
  53. ^ Horner, pp. 180–181.
  54. ^ Morgan, pp. 46–47; Horner, pp. 181–182.
  55. ^ Leech, pp. 36–37; Phillips, pp. 42–44.
  56. ^ Morgan, p. 55.
  57. ^ Phillips, pp. 60–61.
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  59. ^ Horner, pp. 59–60, 72–78.
  60. ^ Horner, pp. 80–81.
  61. ^ Phillips, pp. 27, 42–43.
  62. ^ Phillips, p. 27.
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  66. ^ Jensen, pp. 150–151.
  67. ^ McKinley, p. 464.
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  70. ^ Morgan, pp. 117–119.
  71. ^ Williams, p. 50.
  72. ^ Horner, pp. 86–87.
  73. ^ Williams, p. 117.
  74. ^ Gould, p. 7.
  75. ^ Williams, p. 122.
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  78. ^ Morgan, pp. 129–130.
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  83. ^ Horner, p. 81.
  84. ^ Horner, p. 92.
  85. ^ Jones, p. 103.
  86. ^ Jones, p. 105.
  87. ^ Williams, p. 57.
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  92. ^ Williams, p. 59.
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  97. ^ Leech, pp. 85–87.
  98. ^ a b Williams, pp. 130–131.
  99. ^ a b Leech, pp. 88–89.
  100. ^ Harpine, p. 52.
  101. ^ Williams, pp. 131, 226.
  102. ^ Jones, p. 285.
  103. ^ Jones, pp. 176–177.
  104. ^ Horner, pp. 272, 318.
  105. ^ Jones, p. 332.
  106. ^ Leech, p. 95.
  107. ^ Kazin, p. 68.
  108. ^ Phillips, p. 75.
  109. ^ Morgan, p. 184.
  110. ^ Kazin, pp. 76–77.
  111. ^ Williams, p. xi; Phillips, pp. 3, 77.
  112. ^ Phillips, pp. 73–77.
  113. ^ Phillips, p. 77.
  114. ^ Phillips, pp. 207–208.
  115. ^ a b c Gould, pp. 17–18.
  116. ^ a b c Morgan, pp. 194–195, 285; Leech, pp. 152–153.
  117. ^ Gould, p. 19.
  118. ^ Gould, p. 15; Horner, pp. 236–238.
  119. ^ Gould, p. 14.
  120. ^ Morgan, pp. 199–200.
  121. ^ Phillips, p. 127.
  122. ^ Gould, pp. 16–17, 174–176.
  123. ^ Connolly, p. 29–31.
  124. ^ Horner, pp. 139–140, 240–241.
  125. ^ Gould, p. 60.
  126. ^ Gould, p. 61.
  127. ^ Leech, p. 148.
  128. ^ Gould, pp. 65–66.
  129. ^ Gould, pp. 68–70.
  130. ^ Gould, pp. 71–72.
  131. ^ Gould, p. 74.
  132. ^ Leech, pp. 171–172.
  133. ^ Leech, p. 173; Gould, pp. 78–79.
  134. ^ Gould, pp. 79–81.
  135. ^ Gould, pp. 86–87.
  136. ^ Gould, pp. 91–93.
  137. ^ a b Gould, pp. 102–103.
  138. ^ Gould, p. 94; Leech, p. 191.
  139. ^ Leech, pp. 203–207.
  140. ^ Gould, p. 96.
  141. ^ Gould, pp. 97–98.
  142. ^ Gould, p. 101.
  143. ^ Morgan, pp. 467–468.
  144. ^ Leech, pp. 214–215.
  145. ^ Gould, pp. 104–106.
  146. ^ Gould, pp. 107–109.
  147. ^ Leech, pp. 249–252.
  148. ^ Gould, pp. 109–110.
  149. ^ Leech, pp. 253–258.
  150. ^ a b Gould, pp. 110–112.
  151. ^ a b c Gould, pp. 112–113.
  152. ^ Gould, p. 117.
  153. ^ Gould, p. 116.
  154. ^ a b Gould, pp. 118–119.
  155. ^ Gould, pp. 120–121.
  156. ^ a b Gould, pp. 142–143.
  157. ^ Gould, pp. 144–150; Morgan, p. 320.
  158. ^ Gould, p. 48.
  159. ^ Morgan, p. 222.
  160. ^ a b Gould, pp. 49–50.
  161. ^ a b Gould, pp. 98–99.
  162. ^ Morgan, p. 223.
  163. ^ Morgan, p. 225.
  164. ^ McCormick, p. 162.
  165. ^ McCormick, p. 155.
  166. ^ Gould, p. 201.
  167. ^ a b Gould, pp. 202–204.
  168. ^ a b Gould, pp. 220–222.
  169. ^ a b Lafeber, p. 714.
  170. ^ Gould, p. 233.
  171. ^ a b Gould, pp. 196–198.
  172. ^ a b c d McCullough, pp. 256–259.
  173. ^ a b c Gould, p. 40.
  174. ^ Gould, p. 41.
  175. ^ Morgan, pp. 211–212.
  176. ^ Gould, pp. 42–44.
  177. ^ a b Gould, pp. 44–45.
  178. ^ a b Gould, pp. 45–46.
  179. ^ Morgan, pp. 217–218.
  180. ^ Nichols, p. 586; Gould, p. 46.
  181. ^ Morgan, pp. 218–219.
  182. ^ Gould, pp. 169–171.
  183. ^ a b c Gould, pp. 153–154.
  184. ^ CohenLouisiana Historical Assoc, .
  185. ^ Gould, p. 155.
  186. ^ Bacote, p. 234.
  187. ^ a b Gould, pp. 156–157.
  188. ^ Bacote, pp. 235–237; Leech, p. 348.
  189. ^ Gould, pp. 159–160; Phillips, p. 149.
  190. ^ Gould, p. 94.
  191. ^ a b Semonche, p. 374.
  192. ^ Pratt, p. 29.
  193. ^ Federal Judicial Center.
  194. ^ Gould, pp. 207–208.
  195. ^ Gould, pp. 213–214.
  196. ^ a b c d e Gould, pp. 215–217.
  197. ^ Phillips, pp. 120–122.
  198. ^ Leech, pp. 531–533.
  199. ^ Horner, pp. 260–266.
  200. ^ Gould, p. 218.
  201. ^ Leech, pp. 540–542.
  202. ^ Gould, pp. 219–220.
  203. ^ Gould, pp. 226–227; Leech, pp. 543–544.
  204. ^ Gould, pp. 227–228; Leech, pp. 544–546.
  205. ^ Leech, pp. 549–557.
  206. ^ Gould, p. 228.
  207. ^ Gould, p. 229; Leech, p. 558.
  208. ^ a b Leech, p. 559.
  209. ^ Miller, pp. 289–290.
  210. ^ Gould, pp. 247–249.
  211. ^ Miller, p. 294.
  212. ^ a b Miller, pp. 298–300.
  213. ^ Gould, pp. 250–251.
  214. ^ Miller, pp. 297–298.
  215. ^ Miller, pp. 300–301.
  216. ^ Miller, pp. 301–302.
  217. ^ Leech, pp. 596–597; Miller, pp. 312–315.
  218. ^ Miller, pp. 315–317; Morgan, pp. 401–402.
  219. ^ Leech, p. 599.
  220. ^ Morgan, p. 401.
  221. ^ a b c d Leech, pp. 600–601; Miller, pp. 318–319; Morgan, pp. 401–402.
  222. ^ Miller, pp. 331–332.
  223. ^ Miller, pp. 321–330.
  224. ^ a b c Gould, p. 252.
  225. ^ Morgan, pp. 402–403.
  226. ^ McElroy, p. 167.
  227. ^ Morgan, p. 403.
  228. ^ a b Miller, pp. 348.
  229. ^ Leech, p. 602.
  230. ^ McElroy, pp. 189–193; Morgan, p. 406.
  231. ^ a b McElroy, p. 189.
  232. ^ Olcott, p. 388.
  233. ^ Phillips, p. 161.
  234. ^ Morgan, p. 404.
  235. ^ Morgan, p. 472.
  236. ^ Nice, p. 448.
  237. ^ Kenneth F. Warren (2008). Encyclopedia of U.S. Campaigns, Elections, and Electoral Behavior. SAGE. p. 211. 
  238. ^ Klinghard, pp. 736–760.
  239. ^ Rauchway, pp. 242–244.
  240. ^ Korzi, p. 281.
  241. ^ Phillips, pp. 156–157.
  242. ^ Phillips, pp. 163–164.
  243. ^ Phillips, p. 154.
  244. ^ Phillips, p. 99.
  245. ^ Morgan, p. 468.
  246. ^ Morgan, p. 473.


  1. ^ In 1896, some of McKinley’s comrades lobbied for him to be belatedly awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery that day; Lieutenant General Nelson A. Miles was inclined to grant McKinley the award, but when the then-President-elect heard about the effort, he declined it. See Armstrong, pp. 38–41; Phillips, p. 21.
  2. ^ Until the ratification of the 20th Amendment in 1933, the Constitution prescribed that Congress begin its regular sessions in early December. See Sessions of CongressUS Senate, .
  3. ^ Before the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1913, senators were elected by state legislatures.


See also

President McKinley and his cabinet, 1898
At far left: William McKinley. Left to right in back of table: Lyman J. Gage, John W. Griggs, John D. Long, James Wilson standing, and Cornelius N. Bliss. Left to right in front of table: John Hay, Russell A. Alger, and Charles E. Smith
The McKinley Cabinet
Office Name Term
President William McKinley 1897–1901
Vice President Garret A. Hobart 1897–1899
none 1899–1901
Theodore Roosevelt 1901
Secretary of State John Sherman 1897–1898
William R. Day 1898
John M. Hay 1898–1901
Secretary of Treasury Lyman J. Gage 1897–1901
Secretary of War Russell A. Alger 1897–1899
Elihu Root 1899–1901
Attorney General Joseph McKenna 1897–1898
John W. Griggs 1898–1901
Philander C. Knox 1901
Postmaster General James A. Gary 1897–1898
Charles Emory Smith 1898–1901
Secretary of the Navy John D. Long 1897–1901
Secretary of the Interior Cornelius N. Bliss 1897–1899
Ethan A. Hitchcock 1899–1901
Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson 1897–1901
BEP engraved portrait of McKinley as President
BEP engraved portrait of McKinley as President

Administration and cabinet

McKinley was a major actor in some of the most important events in American history. His decisions shaped future policies and public attitudes. He usually rises in the estimation of scholars who study his life in detail. Even those who disagree with his policies and decisions see him as an active, responsible, informed participant in charge of decision making. His dignified demeanor and subtle operations keep him somewhat remote from public perception. But he is once again at the center of events, where he started.[246]
Morgan alludes to the rise of interest in McKinley as part of the debate over the more assertive American foreign policy of recent decades:

A controversial aspect of McKinley’s presidency is territorial expansion and the question of imperialism—with the exception of the Philippines, granted independence in 1946, the United States retains the territories taken under McKinley.[243] The territorial expansion of 1898 is often seen by historians as the beginning of [245]

Phillips writes that McKinley’s low rating is undeserved, and that he should be ranked just after the great presidents such as Washington and Lincoln. He pointed to McKinley’s success at building an electoral coalition that kept the Republicans mostly in power for a generation.[241] Phillips believes that part of McKinley’s legacy is the men he included in his administration, who dominated the Republican Party for a quarter century after his death. These officials included Cortelyou, who served in three Cabinet positions under Roosevelt, and Dawes, who became vice president under Coolidge. Other McKinley appointees who later became major figures include Day, who Roosevelt elevated to the Supreme Court where he remained nearly twenty years, and William Howard Taft, whom McKinley had made Governor-General of the Philippines and who succeeded Roosevelt as president.[242]

There has been broad agreement among historians that McKinley’s election was at the time of a transition between two political eras, dubbed the Third and Fourth Party Systems.[236] Kenneth F. Warren emphasizes the national commitment to a pro-business, industrial, and modernizing program, represented by McKinley.[237] Historian Daniel P. Klinghard argued that McKinley’s personal control of the 1896 campaign gave him the opportunity to reshape the presidency—rather than simply follow the party platform—by representing himself as the voice of the people.[238] However, more recently, as Republican political official Karl Rove exalted McKinley as the agent of sweeping political realignment in the 2000s, some scholars, such as David Mayhew, questioned whether the 1896 election truly represented a realignment, thereby placing in issue whether McKinley deserves credit for it.[239] Historian Michael J. Korzi argued in 2005 that while it is tempting to see McKinley as the key figure in the transition from congressional domination of government to the modern, powerful president, this change was an incremental process through the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[240]

McKinley’s biographer, H. Wayne Morgan remarks that McKinley died the most beloved president in history.[234] However, the young, enthusiastic Roosevelt quickly captured public attention after his predecessor’s death. The new president made little effort to secure the trade reciprocity McKinley had intended to negotiate with other nations. Controversy and public interest surrounded Roosevelt throughout the seven and a half years of his presidency as memories of McKinley faded; by 1920, according to Gould, McKinley’s administration was deemed no more than “a mediocre prelude to the vigor and energy of Theodore Roosevelt’s”.[224] Beginning in the 1950s, McKinley received more favorable evaluations; nevertheless, in surveys ranking American presidents, he has generally been placed near the middle, often trailing contemporaries such as Hayes and Cleveland.[224] Morgan suggests that this relatively low ranking is due to a perception among historians that while many decisions during McKinley’s presidency profoundly affected the nation’s future, he more followed public opinion than led it, and that McKinley’s standing has suffered from altered public expectations of the presidency.[235]

The official Presidential portrait of William McKinley
Louisiana Purchase Exposition stamp (1904) honoring McKinley, who had signed a bill authorizing a subsidy for that upcoming event.

Legacy and historical image

In addition to the Canton site, for which over a million school children donated money, there are many memorials to McKinley. There is Mount McKinley in central Alaska is named for the former president; its summit, at 20,320 feet (6,190 m), is the highest point in North America. Until its name was changed to Denali National Park, the park that surrounds it was known as Mount McKinley National Park.[231]

McKinley on the $500 bill.

Other memorials

There was a widespread expectation that Ida McKinley would not long survive her husband; one family friend stated, as William McKinley lay dying, that they should be prepared for a double funeral.[228] This did not occur; the former first lady accompanied her husband on the funeral train. Leech noted “the circuitous journey was a cruel ordeal for the woman who huddled in a compartment of the funeral train, praying that the Lord would take her with her Dearest Love”.[229] She was unable to attend the services in Washington or Canton, although she listened at the door to the service for her husband in her house on North Market Street. She remained in Canton for the remainder of her life, setting up a shrine in her house, and often visiting the receiving vault, until her death at age 59 on May 26, 1907.[228] She died only months before the completion of [230]

According to Gould, “The nation experienced a wave of genuine grief at the news of McKinley’s passing.”[224] The stock market, faced with sudden uncertainty, suffered a steep decline—almost unnoticed in the mourning. The nation focused its attention on the casket that made its way by train, first to Washington, where it first lay in the [227]

McKinley memorial by Hermon MacNeil in front of the Ohio Statehouse, Columbus
McKinley’s tomb in Canton

Funeral and resting place

Funeral, memorials, and legacy

At 2:15 a.m. on September 14, President McKinley died.[221] Theodore Roosevelt was hastily returning to Buffalo by carriage and rail; that afternoon he took the oath of office as president in Buffalo at the house of his friend Ansley Wilcox, wearing borrowed formal clothing and pledging to carry out McKinley’s political agenda.[222] Czolgosz, put on trial for murder nine days after McKinley’s death, was found guilty, sentenced to death on September 26, and executed by electric chair on October 29, 1901.[223]

By September 12, McKinley’s doctors were confident enough of his condition to allow him toast and coffee. He proved unable to digest the food. Unknown to the doctors, the [221]

His hearty constitution, everyone said, would see him through. The doctors seemed hopeful, even confident ... It is difficult to understand the cheer with which they viewed their patient. He was nearly sixty years old, overweight, and the wound itself had not been thoroughly cleaned or traced. Precautions against infections, admittedly difficult in 1901, were negligently handled.[220]

McKinley biographer H. Wayne Morgan wrote of the week following the shooting:

It is difficult to interpret the optimism with which the President’s physicians looked for his recovery. There was obviously the most serious danger that his wounds would become septic. In that case, he would almost certainly die, since drugs to control infection did not exist ... [Prominent New York City physician] Dr. McBurney was by far the worst offender in showering sanguine assurances on the correspondents. As the only big-city surgeon on the case, he was eagerly questioned and quoted, and his rosy prognostications largely contributed to the delusion of the American public.[219]
Leech wrote, [218]In the days after the shooting McKinley appeared to improve. Doctors issued increasingly cheerful bulletins. Members of the Cabinet, who had rushed to Buffalo on hearing the news, dispersed; Vice President Roosevelt departed on a camping trip to the

McKinley’s concerns, after unsuccessfully trying to convince Cortelyou that he was not seriously wounded, were to urge his aides to break the news gently to Ida, and to call off the mob that had set on Czolgosz—a request that may have saved his assassin’s life.[216] McKinley was taken by electric ambulance to the Exposition hospital, which despite its name and the inclusion of an operating theatre generally only dealt with the minor medical issues of fairgoers. One bullet had apparently been deflected by a button and only grazed the President. Cortelyou selected Dr. Matthew D. Mann from the doctors who hastened to the scene; he had little experience in abdominal surgery or in dealing with gunshot wounds and proved unable to locate the other bullet. Although a primitive X-ray machine was being exhibited on the Exposition grounds, it was not used, and Mann carefully cleaned and closed the wound. After the operation, McKinley was taken to the Milburn House, where the First Lady had taken the news calmly.[217]

One man in the crowd, Leon Czolgosz, hoped to assassinate McKinley. He had managed to get close to the presidential podium, but did not fire, uncertain of hitting his target.[212] Czolgosz, since hearing a speech by anarchist Emma Goldman in Cleveland, had decided to do something heroic (in his own mind) for the cause. He had initially decided to get near McKinley, and on September 4, he decided to assassinate him.[214] After the failure on the fifth, Czolgosz waited until the next day at the Temple of Music on the Exposition grounds, where the President was to meet the public after his return from Niagara Falls. Czolgosz concealed his gun in a handkerchief, and, when he reached the head of the line, shot McKinley twice in the abdomen.[215]

Although McKinley enjoyed meeting the public, Cortelyou was concerned with his security due to recent assassinations by anarchists in Europe, and twice tried to remove a public reception from the President’s rescheduled visit to the Exposition. McKinley refused, and Cortelyou arranged for additional security for the trip.[211] On September 5, the President delivered his address at the fairgrounds, before a crowd of some 50,000 people. In his final speech, McKinley urged reciprocity treaties with other nations to assure American manufacturers access to foreign markets. He intended the speech as a keynote to his plans for a second term.[212][213]

Soon after his second inauguration on March 4, 1901, William and Ida McKinley undertook a six-week tour of the nation. Traveling mostly by rail, the McKinleys were to travel through the South to the Southwest, and then up the Pacific coast and east again, to conclude with a visit on June 13, 1901 to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.[209] However, the First Lady fell ill in California, causing her husband to limit his public events and cancel a series of speeches he had planned to give urging trade reciprocity. He also postponed the visit to the fair until September, planning a month in Washington and two in Canton before the Buffalo visit.[210]

McKinley entering the Temple of Music on September 6, 1901, shortly before the shots were fired.
Artist’s conception of the shooting of McKinley

Second term and assassination

The candidates were the same, but the issues of the campaign had shifted: free silver was still a question that animated many voters, but the Republicans focused on victory in war and prosperity at home as issues they believed favored their party.[203] Democrats knew the war had been popular, even if the imperialism issue was less sure, so they focused on the issue of trusts and corporate power, painting McKinley as the servant of capital and big business.[204] As in 1896, Bryan embarked on a speaking tour around the country while McKinley stayed at home, this time making only one speech, to accept his nomination.[205] Roosevelt emerged as the campaign’s primary speaker and Hanna helped the cause working to settle a coal miners strike in Pennsylvania.[206] Bryan’s campaigning failed to excite the voters as it had in 1896, and McKinley never doubted that he would be re-elected.[207] On November 6, 1900, he was proven correct, winning the largest victory for any Republican since 1872.[208] Bryan carried only four states outside the solid South, and McKinley even won Bryan’s home state of Nebraska.[208]

When the Republican convention began in Philadelphia that June, no vice presidential candidate had overwhelming support, but Roosevelt had the broadest range of support from around the country.[196] McKinley affirmed that the choice belonged to the convention, not to him.[200] On June 21, McKinley was unanimously renominated and, with Hanna’s reluctant acquiescence, Roosevelt was nominated for vice president on the first ballot.[201] The Democratic convention convened the next month in Kansas City and nominated William Jennings Bryan, setting up a rematch of the 1896 contest.[202]

Republicans were generally successful in state and local elections around the country in 1899, and McKinley was optimistic about his chances at re-election in 1900.[194] McKinley’s popularity in his first term assured him of renomination for a second.[195] The only question about the Republican ticket concerned the vice presidential nomination; McKinley needed a new running mate as Hobart had died in late 1899.[196] McKinley initially favored Elihu Root, who had succeeded Alger as Secretary of War, but McKinley decided that Root was doing too good a job at the War Department to move him.[196] He considered other prominent candidates, including Allison and Cornelius N. Bliss, but none were as popular as the Republican party’s rising star, Theodore Roosevelt.[197] After a stint as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt had resigned and raised a cavalry regiment; they fought bravely in Cuba, and Roosevelt returned home covered in glory. Elected governor of New York on a reform platform in 1898, Roosevelt had his eye on the presidency.[196] Many supporters recommended him to McKinley for the second spot on the ticket, and Roosevelt believed it would be an excellent stepping stone to the presidency in 1904.[196] McKinley remained uncommitted in public, but Hanna was firmly opposed to the New York governor.[198] The Ohio senator considered the New Yorker overly impulsive; his stance was undermined by the efforts of political boss and New York Senator Thomas Platt, who, disliking Roosevelt’s reform agenda, sought to sideline the governor by making him vice president.[199]

McKinley ran on his record of prosperity and victory in 1900, winning easy re-election over Bryan.

1900 election

After the retirement of Justice Stephen Johnson Field, McKinley appointed Attorney General Joseph McKenna to the Supreme Court of the United States in December 1897.[190] The appointment aroused some controversy as McKenna’s critics in the Senate said he was too closely associated with railroad interests and lacked the qualifications of a Supreme Court justice.[191] Despite the objections, McKenna’s nomination was approved unanimously.[192] McKenna responded to the criticism of his legal education by taking some courses at Columbia Law School for several months before taking his seat.[191] Along with his Supreme Court appointment, McKinley appointed six judges to the United States Courts of Appeals, and 28 judges to the United States district courts.[193]

Judicial appointments

According to Gould and later biographer Phillips, given the political climate in the South, with white legislatures passing segregationist laws such as that upheld in Plessy v. Ferguson, there was little McKinley could have done to improve race relations, and he did better than later presidents Theodore Roosevelt, who doubted racial equality, and Woodrow Wilson, who supported segregation. However, Gould concluded, “McKinley lacked the vision to transcend the biases of his day and to point toward a better future for all Americans”.[189]

[188][187] African Americans saw the onset of war in 1898 as an opportunity to display their patriotism; and black soldiers fought bravely at El Caney and San Juan Hill. African Americans in the peacetime Army had formed elite units; nevertheless they were harassed by whites as they traveled from the West to Tampa for embarkation to the war. Under pressure from black leaders, McKinley required the War Department to commission black officers above the rank of lieutenant. The heroism of the black troops did not still racial tensions in the South, as the second half of 1898 saw several outbreaks of racial violence; 11 African Americans were killed [186] According to historian Clarance A. Bacote, “Before the Spanish–American War, the Negroes, in spite of some mistakes, regarded McKinley as the best friend they ever had.”

McKinley, (right of center) flanked by Georgia Governor Allen D. Candler (front row to McKinley’s left) and Gen. William Rufus Shafter, reviewing the Atlanta Peace Jubilee parade, December 15, 1898. No African Americans are visible in the photograph.

The administration’s response to racial violence was minimal, causing him to lose black support.[183] When black postmasters at Lake City, South Carolina the following year, were assaulted, McKinley issued no statement of condemnation. Although black leaders criticized McKinley for inaction, supporters responded by saying there was little the president could do to intervene. Critics replied by saying that he could at least publicly condemn such events, as Harrison had done.[185]

In the wake of McKinley’s election in 1896, Presidio, Texas.[184] However, African Americans in northern states felt that their contributions to McKinley's victory were overlooked; few were appointed to office.[183]

Civil rights

American negotiators soon concluded a reciprocity treaty with France, and the two nations approached Britain to gauge British enthusiasm for bimetallism.[177] The Prime Minister, [181] By 1900, with another campaign ahead and good economic conditions, McKinley urged Congress to pass such a law, and was able to sign the Gold Standard Act on March 14, 1900, using a gold pen to do so.[182]

Two of the great issues of the day, tariff reform and free silver, became intertwined in 1897.[173] Ways and Means chairman Dingley introduced a new tariff bill (later called the [175] The Senate amended the bill to allow limited reciprocity (giving France some possibility of relief), but did not reduce the rates on luxury goods.[176] McKinley signed the bill into law and agreed to begin negotiations on an international bimetallism standard.[177]

1900 reelection poster celebrates McKinley standing tall on the gold standard with support from soldiers, sailors, businessmen, factory workers and professionals.

Tariffs and bimetallism

Closer to home, McKinley and Hay engaged in negotiations with Britain over the possible construction of a canal across Central America. The Clayton–Bulwer Treaty, which the two nations signed in 1850, prohibited either from establishing exclusive control over a canal there. The war had exposed the difficulty of maintaining a two-ocean navy without a connection closer than Cape Horn.[171] Now, with American business and military interests even more involved in Asia, a canal seemed more essential than ever, and McKinley pressed for a renegotiation of the treaty.[171] Hay and the British ambassador, Julian Pauncefote, agreed that the United States could control a future canal, provided that it was open to all shipping and not fortified.[172] McKinley was satisfied with the terms, but the Senate rejected them, demanding that the United States be allowed to fortify the canal.[172] Hay was embarrassed by the rebuff and offered his resignation, but McKinley refused it and ordered him to continue negotiations to achieve the Senate’s demands.[172] He was successful, and a new treaty was drafted and approved, but not before McKinley’s assassination in 1901.[172]

Trade with China became imperiled shortly thereafter as the Boxer Rebellion menaced foreigners and their property in China.[168] Americans and other westerners in Peking were besieged and, in cooperation with other western powers, McKinley ordered 5000 troops to the city in June 1900 in the China Relief Expedition.[169] The westerners were rescued the next month, but several Congressional Democrats objected to McKinley dispatching troops without consulting the legislature.[168] McKinley’s actions set a precedent that led to most of his successors exerting similar independent control over the military.[169] After the rebellion ended, the United States reaffirmed its commitment to the Open Door policy, which became the basis of American policy toward China.[170]

In acquiring Pacific possessions for the United States, McKinley expanded the nation’s ability to compete for trade in China.[165] Even before peace negotiations began with Spain, McKinley asked Congress to set up a commission to examine trade opportunities in the region and espoused an “Open Door Policy”, in which all nations would freely trade with China and none would seek to violate that nation’s territorial integrity.[166] When John Hay replaced Day as Secretary of State at the end of the war, he circulated notes to that effect to the European powers.[167] Great Britain favored the idea, but Russia opposed it; France, Germany, Italy and Japan agreed in principle, but only if all the other nations signed on.[167]

Expanding influence overseas

During the war, McKinley also pursued the annexation of the [163] Wake Island, an uninhabited atoll between Hawaii and Guam, was claimed for the United States on July 12, 1898.[164]

McKinley proposed to open negotiations with Spain on the basis of Cuban liberation and Puerto Rican annexation, with the final status of the Philippines subject to further discussion.[154] He stood firmly in that demand even as the military situation on Cuba began to deteriorate when the American army was struck with [157]

On July 22, the Spanish authorized Jules Cambon, the French Ambassador to the United States, to represent Spain in negotiating peace.[151] The Spanish initially wished to restrict the discussion to Cuba, but were quickly forced to recognize that their other possessions would be claimed as spoils of war.[151] McKinley's cabinet agreed with him that Spain must leave Cuba and Puerto Rico, but they disagreed on the Philippines, with some wishing to annex the entire archipelago and some wishing only to retain a naval base in the area.[152] Although public sentiment seemed to favor annexation of the Philippines, several prominent political leaders, including Bryan, ex-President Cleveland, and the newly formed American Anti-Imperialist League made their opposition known.[153]

Signing of the Treaty of Paris

Peace and territorial gain

Meanwhile, in the Caribbean theater, a large force of regulars and volunteers gathered near Tampa, Florida, for an invasion of Cuba.[144] The army faced difficulties in supplying the rapidly expanding force even before they departed for Cuba, but by June, Corbin had made progress in resolving the problems.[145] After lengthy delays, the army, led by Major General William Rufus Shafter, sailed from Florida on June 20, landing near Santiago de Cuba two days later.[146] Following a skirmish at Las Guasimas on June 24, Shafter’s army engaged the Spanish forces on July 2 in the Battle of San Juan Hill.[147] In an intense day-long battle, the American force was victorious, although both sides suffered heavy casualties.[148] The next day, the Spanish Caribbean squadron, which had been sheltering in Santiago’s harbor, broke for the open sea but was intercepted and destroyed by Rear Admiral William T. Sampson’s North Atlantic Squadron in the largest naval battle of the war.[149] Shafter laid siege to the city of Santiago, which surrendered on July 17, placing Cuba under effective American control.[150] McKinley and Miles also ordered an invasion of Puerto Rico, which met little resistance when it landed in July.[150] The distance from Spain and the destruction of the Spanish navy made resupply impossible, and the Spanish government began to look for a way to end the war.[151]

Within a fortnight, the navy had its first victory when the [143]

The expansion of the telegraph and the development of the telephone gave McKinley a greater control over the day-to-day management of the war than previous presidents had enjoyed, and he used the new technologies to direct the army’s and navy’s movements as far as he was able.[136] McKinley found Alger inadequate as Secretary of War, and did not get along with the Army’s commanding general, Nelson A. Miles.[137] Bypassing them, he looked for strategic advice first from Miles’s predecessor, General John Schofield, and later from Adjutant General Henry Clarke Corbin.[137] The war led to a change in McKinley's cabinet, as the President accepted Sherman’s resignation as Secretary of State; Day agreed to serve as Secretary until the war’s end.[138]

Editorial cartoon intervention in Cuba. Columbia (the American people) reaches out to help oppressed Cuba in 1897 while Uncle Sam (the U.S. government) is blind to the crisis and will not use its powerful guns to help. Judge magazine, February 6, 1897.

In January 1898, Spain promised some concessions to the rebels, but when American consul Fitzhugh Lee reported riots in Havana, McKinley agreed to send the battleship USS Maine there to protect American lives and property.[130] On February 15, the Maine exploded and sank with 266 men killed.[131] Public opinion and the newspapers demanded war, but McKinley insisted that a court of inquiry first determine whether the explosion was accidental.[132] Negotiations with Spain continued as the court considered the evidence, but on March 20, the court ruled that the Maine was blown up by an underwater mine.[133] As pressure for war mounted in Congress, McKinley continued to negotiate for Cuban independence.[134] Spain refused McKinley’s proposals, and on April 11, McKinley turned the matter over to Congress. He did not ask for war, but Congress declared war anyway on April 20, with the addition of the Teller Amendment, which disavowed any intention of annexing Cuba.[135]

For decades, rebels in Cuba had waged an intermittent campaign for freedom from Spanish colonial rule. By 1895, the conflict had expanded to a war for Cuban independence.[125] As war engulfed the island, Spanish reprisals against the rebels grew ever harsher. These included the removal of Cubans to internment camps near Spanish military bases, a strategy designed to make it hard for the rebels to receive support in the countryside.[126] American opinion favored the rebels, and McKinley shared in their outrage against Spanish policies.[127] As many of his countrymen called for war to liberate Cuba, McKinley favored a peaceful approach, hoping that through negotiation, Spain might be convinced to grant Cuba independence, or at least to allow the Cubans some measure of autonomy.[128] The United States and Spain began negotiations on the subject in 1897, but it became clear that Spain would never concede Cuban independence, while the rebels (and their American supporters) would never settle for anything less.[129]

War with Spain

In addition to Sherman, McKinley made one other ill-advised Cabinet appointment,[121] that of his personal secretary. Cortelyou, who served in three Cabinet positions under Theodore Roosevelt, became a combination press secretary and chief of staff to McKinley.[124]

Maine Congressman [120]

After some difficulties, Ohio Governor Bushnell appointed Hanna to the Senate.[117] Once in Cabinet office, Sherman’s mental incapacity became increasingly apparent. He was often bypassed by his first assistant, McKinley’s Canton crony Judge William Day, and by the second secretary, [116]

McKinley’s most controversial Cabinet appointment was that of John Sherman as [116]

McKinley was sworn in as president on March 4, 1897, as his wife and mother looked on. The new President gave a lengthy inaugural address; he urged tariff reform, and stated that the currency issue would have to await tariff legislation. He warned against foreign interventions, “We want no wars of conquest. We must avoid the temptation of territorial aggression.”[114]

Chief Justice Melville Fuller swears in William McKinley as president; outgoing President Grover Cleveland at right.
Video clip of McKinley’s inauguration in 1897.

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Inauguration and appointments

Presidency 1897–1901

The 1896 presidential election is often seen as a realigning election, in which McKinley’s view of a stronger central government building American industry through protective tariffs and a dollar based on gold triumphed. The voting patterns established then displaced the near-deadlock the major parties had seen since the Civil War; the Republican dominance begun then would continue until 1932, another realigning election with the ascent of Franklin Roosevelt.[111] Phillips argues that, with the possible exception of Iowa Senator Allison, McKinley was the only Republican who could have defeated Bryan—he theorized that eastern candidates such as Morton or Reed would have done badly against the Illinois-born Bryan in the crucial Midwest.[112] According to the biographer, though Bryan was popular among rural voters, “McKinley appealed to a very different industrialized, urbanized America.”[113]

The battleground proved to be the Midwest — the South and most of the West were conceded to Bryan — and the Democrat spent much of his time in those crucial states.[106][107] The Northeast was considered most likely safe for McKinley after the early-voting states of Maine and [109] On November 3, 1896, the voters had their say in most of the nation. McKinley won the entire Northeast and Midwest; he won 51% of the vote and an ample majority in the Electoral College. Bryan had concentrated entirely on the silver issue, and had not appealed to urban workers. Voters in cities supported McKinley; the only city outside the South of more than 100,000 population carried by Bryan was Denver, Colorado.[110]

For the people it was a campaign of study and analysis, of exhortation and conviction—a campaign of search for economic and political truth. Pamphlets tumbled from the presses, to be read, reread, studied, debated, to become guides to economic thought and political action. They were printed and distributed by the million ... but the people hankered for more. Favorite pamphlets became dog-eared, grimy, fell apart as their owners laboriously restudied their arguments and quoted from them in public and private debate.[105]
The Democrats had pamphlets too, though not as many. Jones analyzed how voters responded to the education campaigns of the two parties:

Most Democratic newspapers refused to support Bryan, the major exception being the New York Journal, controlled by William Randolph Hearst, whose fortune was based on silver mines. In biased reporting and through the sharp cartoons of Homer Davenport, Hanna was viciously characterized as a plutocrat, trampling on labor. McKinley was drawn as a child, easily controlled by big business.[103] Even today, these depictions still color the images of Hanna and McKinley: one as a heartless businessman, the other as a creature of Hanna and others of his ilk.[104]

A political cartoon. A closed fist protrudes from a jacket-sleeve covered in dollar signs; a cuff-link is marked “MARK $ HANNA”. The hand tightly grasps a chain from which hangs a tiny, sorry-looking figure marked “McKinley”. “A Man of Mark!” concludes the cartoon’s caption.
“A Man of Mark” 1896 Homer Davenport cartoon of McKinley as Hanna’s creature, from William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal

McKinley made himself available to the public every day except Sunday, receiving delegations from the front porch of his home. The railroads subsidized the visitors with low excursion rates—the pro-silver Cleveland Plain Dealer disgustedly stated that going to Canton had been made “cheaper than staying at home”.[99][100] Delegations marched through the streets from the railroad station to McKinley’s home on North Market Street. Once there, they crowded close to the front porch—from which they surreptitiously whittled souvenirs—as their spokesman addressed McKinley. The candidate then responded, speaking on campaign issues in a speech molded to suit the interest of the delegation. The speeches were carefully scripted to avoid extemporaneous remarks; even the spokesman’s remarks were approved by McKinley or a representative. This was done as the candidate feared an offhand comment by another that might rebound on him.[99][101][102]

William and Ida McKinley (to her husband’s right) pose with members of the “Flower Delegation” from Oil City, Pennsylvania, before the McKinley home. Although women could not vote in most states, they might influence male relatives and were encouraged to visit Canton.

Bryan’s campaign had at most an estimated $500,000. With his eloquence and youthful energy his major assets in the race, Bryan decided on a whistle-stop political tour by train on an unprecedented scale. Hanna urged McKinley to match Bryan’s tour with one of his own; the candidate declined on the grounds that the Democrat was a better stump speaker: “I might just as well set up a trapeze on my front lawn and compete with some professional athlete as go out speaking against Bryan. I have to think when I speak.”[98] Instead of going to the people, McKinley would remain at home in Canton and allow the people to come to him; according to historian R. Hal Williams in his book on the 1896 election, “it was, as it turned out, a brilliant strategy. McKinley’s ‘Front Porch Campaign’ became a legend in American political history.”[98]

Historic recording of William McKinley. The final 1:08 of this sound file (starting at 5:40) contains an excerpt from one of his 1896 campaign speeches.

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The bad economic times had continued, and strengthened the hand of forces for free silver. The issue bitterly divided the Democratic Party; President Cleveland firmly supported the gold standard, but an increasing number of rural Democrats wanted silver, especially in the South and West. The silverites took control of the 1896 Democratic National Convention and chose William Jennings Bryan for president; he had electrified the delegates with his Cross of Gold speech. Bryan’s financial radicalism shocked financiers—they thought his inflationary program would bankrupt the railroads and ruin the economy. Hanna approached them for support for his strategy to win the election, and they gave $3.5 million for speakers and over 200 million pamphlets advocating the Republican position on the money and tariff questions.[96][97]

Before the Republican convention, McKinley had been a “straddle bug” on the currency question, favoring moderate positions on silver such as accomplishing bimetallism by international agreement. In the final days before the convention, McKinley decided, after hearing from politicians and businessmen, that the platform should endorse the gold standard, though it should allow for bimetallism by international agreement. Adoption of the platform caused some western delegates, led by Colorado Senator Henry M. Teller, to walk out of the convention. However, compared with the Democrats, Republican divisions on the issue were small, especially as McKinley promised future concessions to silver advocates.[93][94][95]

A political cartoon. An imperially confident-looking man in an exaggerated military officer’s uniform sits upon a plank of wood marked “Financial question,” which is balanced between two saw-horses. The man’s weight is bending the wood rather dramatically.
Before the 1896 convention, McKinley tried to avoid coming down on one side or the other of the currency question. William Allen Rogers’s cartoon from Harper’s Weekly, June 1896.

General election campaign

By the time the national convention began in St. Louis on June 16, 1896, McKinley had an ample majority of delegates. The former governor, who remained in Canton, followed events at the convention closely by telephone, and was able to hear part of Foraker’s speech nominating him over the line. When Ohio was reached in the roll call of states, its votes gave McKinley the nomination, which he celebrated by hugging his wife and mother as his friends fled the house, anticipating the first of many crowds that gathered at the Republican candidate’s home. Thousands of partisans came from Canton and surrounding towns that evening to hear McKinley speak from his front porch. The convention nominated Republican National Committee vice chairman Garret Hobart of New Jersey for vice president, a choice actually made, by most accounts, by Hanna. Hobart, a wealthy lawyer, businessman, and former state legislator, was not widely known, but as Hanna biographer Herbert Croly pointed out, “if he did little to strengthen the ticket he did nothing to weaken it”.[91][92]

[90] wrote, “The politicians are making a hard fight against him, but if the masses could speak, McKinley is the choice of at least 75% of the entire [body of] Republican voters in the Union”.Francis Warren Wyoming Senator [89]

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