McKinley - Reading Community Schools
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#25 William McKinley 1897-1901
President in Transition Born: January 29, 1843 in Niles, Ohio. Parents: William and Nancy (Allison) Wife: Ida (Saxton) Children: Katherine and Ida
Background and Early Life
William McKinley was born to a semiprosperous family in small town Ohio. McKinley’s family background is ScotchIrish. His father was an iron manufacturer. He attended local schools and then went to Mt. Union College and Allegheny College, but he did not earn a degree from either. McKinley entered the Union Army as a private. He was promoted many times and eventually earned the brevet rank of Major for his actions.
Marriage McKinley was married to Ida Saxton when he was 27 years old and she was 23. Ida was thought to be a beautiful young lady, and quite a catch. Unfortunately Ida was an epileptic and suffered seizures. McKinley was thought to be very caring and sensitive to his wife.
After the Civil War McKinley studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1867. He served as the prosecutor in Stark County, Ohio for two years.
Politics McKinley served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1883-1884 when his election was contested. He came back from 1885-1890 where he sponsored the McKinley Tariff Act, establishing a heavy tax on imported goods. In 1890 he was not re-elected to the House. From 1892-1896 he was the governor of Ohio.
Rise to the Presidency
McKinley supported high tariffs to protect American industry. Though some blamed this policy for the Panic of 1893, it was popular with small farmers in the East, the rising urban Middle-Class, and Protestant working men. McKinley also favored the maintenance of the gold standard, and was opposed to William Jennings Bryan’s call for the unlimited coinage of silver. McKinley convinced working people that silver would lead to severe inflation and actually reduce wages.
McKinley’s campaign raised millions in what was the first truly modern campaign. McKinley ran a “frontporch” campaign. McKinley was elected president in 1896 by a landslide. Bryan won no state East of the Mississippi or North of the MasonDixon line.
McKinley reinforced the gold standard. McKinley established another strong tariff. The United States annexed Hawaii and made all Hawaiians U.S. citizens (mostly to give American sugar and plant distributors and unfair advantage over foreign competition). The U.S. also added Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam, and Samoa and made Cuba a protectorate, although promising never to annex it.
Spanish American War In the late 1890’s American newspapers began describing “atrocities” committed by Spain against Cuban revolutionaries. Many Americans wanted to help the Cubans, and the U.S.S. Maine was docked in Havana Harbor. In February 1898, the Maine was “mysteriously” blown up, and McKinley was forced to declare war.
The Spanish American War was a success, though the Americans were ill prepared for war. The U.S. eventually gained Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam, and Samoa as a result of their victories. Many in America were critical of McKinley and accused him of being an imperialist. The charges did not hurt him that much, because he won the election of 1900 easily.
William McKinley attended the PanAmerican Exposition in Buffalo New York and on September 5, 1901 he was shot by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist. McKinley died on September 12.
McKinley is known for being a protectionist president and proponent of tariffs. He claimed these policies would help American workers, but his enemies claimed it was to help American business interests (he did back off high tariffs when the U.S. gained access to an empire). Along with Jefferson and Polk, McKinley is known for helping to create American imperialism. He was the first U.S. president to gain large areas of territory outside the Western Hemisphere.