William McKinley - 25th President of the United States


United States President - William McKinley

William McKinley, the 25th president of the United States (1897–1901), was born in Niles, Ohio, on January 29, 1843, and passed away in Buffalo, New York,  on September 14, 1901. In 1898, under McKinley's direction, the US entered a war with Spain, winning an empire that comprised Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. 

Born: January 29, 1843.
Died: September 14, 1901 (aged 58).
Office: presidency of the United States of America (1897-1901), United States governor (1892-1896), Ohio.
Political Affiliation: Republican Party
Notable Family Members: spouse Ida McKinley. 


One of the most thrilling presidential campaigns in American history took place in 1896. The nation's money supply was the main problem. While William Jennings Bryan, a candidate for both the Democratic and Populist parties, argued for a bimetallic standard consisting of both gold and silver, McKinley ran on a Republican platform that placed an emphasis on maintaining the gold standard. Bryan actively promoted an inflated currency that would aid poor farmers and other debtors by travelling vast distances and giving numerous lectures. While still living at home in Canton, McKinley welcomed visiting Republican delegations on his front porch and delivered carefully crafted speeches extolling the virtues of a currency supported by gold. 

For his part, Hanna solicited large campaign contributions from large corporations while also organising a network of Republican speakers to paint Bryan as a perilous extremist and McKinley as "the advance agent of prosperity." Bryan was defeated by McKinley 271 to 176 in the electoral vote, making him the first president to win a popular majority since 1872.

After taking office on March 4, 1897, McKinley immediately convened a special session of Congress to increase customs taxes. The Dingley Tariff, the biggest protective tariff in American history at the time, was enacted on July 24 by him. Domestic difficulties, however, would have a negligible impact on McKinley's presidency. In the 1890s, after decades of isolationism, Americans had already begun to show symptoms of desiring to take a more active position on the international scene. The United States expanded into an empire under McKinley.

By the time McKinley took the oath of office as president, many Americans were eager to see the United States intervene in Cuba, where Spain was carrying out a brutal crackdown on an independence movement. This sentiment was greatly influenced by the sensationalistic yellow journalism of the Hearst and Pulitzer newspapers. At first, McKinley wanted to stay out of it, but in February 1898, two things made him more determined to take on the Spanish. First, a letter from the Spanish envoy to Washington, Enrique Dupuy de Lôme, was intercepted and published in American media on February 9. The letter criticised McKinley as being weak and overly anxious for praise from the people. 

The American battleship USS Maine then unexpectedly exploded and sank as it was docked in Havana harbour, killing 266 enlisted men and commanders, six days after the Dupuy de Lôme letter first appeared. The Maine was completely destroyed by an internal explosion, according to a mid-20th century study, but the yellow press persuaded Americans that Spain was to blame. Congressmen were ready to fulfil the public's desire for action, which was for armed intervention.

In March, McKinley issued an ultimatum to Spain that included requests for the beginning of talks leading to the island's independence and the cessation of the violence meted out to Cubans. The majority of McKinley's demands were met, but Spain refused to cede its final significant colony in the New World. Congress gave the president permission to use force on April 20 to ensure Cuba's independence, and five days later it approved a formal declaration of war.

According to Secretary of State John Hay, the brief Spanish-American War  was "a splendid little war," as the United States handily destroyed Spanish forces in the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico. Early in May, fighting started, and by mid-August, an armistice had been signed. The Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam were given to the United States at the subsequent Treaty of Paris, which was signed in December 1898 and ratified by the Senate in February 1899; Cuba gained independence.

Just one vote separated the ratification from the two-thirds threshold, demonstrating the strong hostility from many "anti-imperialists" to the United States acquiring foreign lands, especially without the agreement of the inhabitants. McKinley agreed with the "imperialists" in favour of ratification despite not entering the war for territorial expansion because he believed that the United States had a duty to take on responsibility for "the welfare of an alien people."

McKinley had a strong desire to help those who were less fortunate, and his marriage served as a prime example of this trait. In 1871, McKinley wed Ida Saxton (also known as Ida McKinley). The future first lady saw her mother and two daughters pass away within two years. She never fully recovered, living the rest of her life as a chronic invalid who frequently had seizures and put a tremendous strain on her husband both physically and emotionally. However, McKinley stayed committed to her, and the public came to admire him even more for his never-ending care.

In the 1900 presidential election, McKinley was renominated without opposition for a second term and once again faced Democrat William Jennings Bryan. Compared to four years prior, McKinley's margins of victory in the popular and electoral votes were larger, which undoubtedly reflected contentment with the war's conclusion and the general prosperity of the nation.

A speech at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, marked the end of McKinley's tour of the western states after his inauguration in 1901. On the journey, cheering throngs attested to McKinley's enormous popularity. At his exposition speech, which was attended by more than 50,000 fans, the leader who had previously been so closely associated with protectionism issued a demand for international trade reciprocity:

"We shall increase the channels for our growing surplus through smart trade agreements that won't interfere with our domestic output. It is obvious that a system that allows for the exchange of commodities between parties is necessary for sustained and healthy expansion of our export trade. We must not rest in the false security that comes from knowing, we can always sell everything and only buy little to nothing. Even if it were possible, it would not be in the best interests of either us or the others we interact with. As much of our customers products as we can consume without harming our industries or labour should be taken from them ".

On September 6, 1901, an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz shot the president twice in the chest and abdomen as he shook hands with a group of well-wishers at the fair. McKinley was rushed to a Buffalo hospital, where he stayed for a week before passing away early on September 14. His vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, who Mark Hanna mockingly referred to as "that damned cowboy," succeeded him.

Representative and Governor

The Republican Party instantly drew McKinley into politics, and he backed Hayes for governor in 1867 and Ulysses S. Grant for president in 1868. He won the Stark County prosecutor's election the next year, and in 1877, he started his long career in Congress as a representative for Ohio's 17th district. Only twice did McKinley not win reelection to the House of Representatives during his tenure there, once in 1882 when he was momentarily removed from office following a very close race, and once in 1890 when Democrats gerrymandered his district.

During his time in Congress, McKinley was most closely associated with the protective tariff, a high charge on imported products designed to shield American businesses from international competition. A Republican from a state that was quickly industrialising should naturally support protection, but McKinley's backing went beyond his party's pro-business leanings. Sincere in his concern for the welfare of American workers, McKinley believed that a high tariff was required to guarantee high salaries. 

He was the main supporter of the McKinley Tariff of 1890, which hiked levies higher than they had ever been, as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. However, by the conclusion of his administration, McKinley had converted to the idea of international trade reciprocity, realising that Americans needed to purchase commodities from other nations in order to support the export of American goods.

McKinley's tenure in the House of Representatives came to an end after his defeat in 1890, but thanks to wealthy Ohio businessman Mark Hanna, he was able to secure two terms as governor of his native state (1892–96). Hanna, a prominent player in the Republican Party during that time, made preparations to secure his close friend's nomination for the party's presidential nomination in 1896. Later, McKinley easily won the nomination.

Life in early years

McKinley was the son of Nancy Allison and William McKinley, a small-scale iron manufacturer and manager of a charcoal furnace. At the outset of the Civil War, when he was eighteen years old, McKinley served in an Ohio unit commanded by Rutherford B. Hayes, who would later serve as the 19th president of the United States (1877–1871). He was dismissed as a brevet major in 1865 after being promoted to second lieutenant for his valour during the Battle of Antietam (1862). He returned to Ohio, completed his legal education, passed the bar exam in 1867, and then established a law practise in Canton, where he spent the remainder of his life, with the exception of a brief period in Washington, D.C.

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