William McKinley was President of the United States when we emerged onto the world stage and became a power. It’s funny how he has been remembered; some people see him as one of the all-time great presidents because he ended a recession, got people back to work and took the steps necessary to make his Nation one of the world’s leading powers. These are usually consiered good points in a leader’s resume.
Of course others see him as a mere tool of the evil Capitalist rulers who launched into Imperialist adventures to oppress the poor around the world. I usually don’t go in for history that is reported in a Marxist model, for it is way too simplistic, and must always cram the facts into a class struggle matrix.
Still others have never even heard of William McKinley, even though people in his time considered him to be in the company of Washington and Lincoln at the top of the presidential heap.
Here’s an excerpt I found on the White House website:
During his 14 years in the House, he became the leading Republican tariff expert, giving his name to the measure enacted in 1890. The next year he was elected Governor of Ohio, serving two terms.
When McKinley became President, the depression of 1893 had almost run its course and with it the extreme agitation over silver. Deferring action on the money question, he called Congress into special session to enact the highest tariff in history.
In the friendly atmosphere of the McKinley Administration, industrial combinations developed at an unprecedented pace. Newspapers caricatured McKinley as a little boy led around by “Nursie” Hanna, the representative of the trusts. However, McKinley was not dominated by Hanna; he condemned the trusts as “dangerous conspiracies against the public good.”
Not prosperity, but foreign policy, dominated McKinley’s Administration. Reporting the stalemate between Spanish forces and revolutionaries in Cuba, newspapers screamed that a quarter of the population was dead and the rest suffering acutely. Public indignation brought pressure upon the President for war. Unable to restrain Congress or the American people, McKinley delivered his message of neutral intervention in April 1898. Congress thereupon voted three resolutions tantamount to a declaration of war for the liberation and independence of Cuba.
In the 100-day war, the United States destroyed the Spanish fleet outside Santiago harbor in Cuba, seized Manila in the Philippines, and occupied Puerto Rico.
“Uncle Joe” Cannon, later Speaker of the House, once said that McKinley kept his ear so close to the ground that it was full of grasshoppers. When McKinley was undecided what to do about Spanish possessions other than Cuba, he toured the country and detected an imperialist sentiment. Thus the United States annexed the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
In 1900, McKinley again campaigned against Bryan. While Bryan inveighed against imperialism, McKinley quietly stood for “the full dinner pail.”
His second term, which had begun auspiciously, came to a tragic end in September 1901. He was standing in a receiving line at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition when a deranged anarchist shot him twice. He died eight days later.
The Presidential biographies on WhiteHouse.gov are from “The Presidents of the United States of America,” by Michael Beschloss and Hugh Sidey. Copyright 2009 by the White House Historical Association.
However you choose to see McKinley’s legacy, he is an interesting person to study, and I would encourage anyone to read up on him, and since his birthday was yesterday, it seems like a good time to give him a thought or two. I’ll say one thing, America is ready for a little prosperity today!
- Happy Birthday Teddy Roosevelt! (lifereference.wordpress.com)