The Biography of William McKinley

William McKinley is well-renowned for being the president behind when the United States acquired Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines – a legacy that brought the country to becoming one of the most influential colonial powers at the dawn of the new century.

Early Life

William McKinley was born on the 29th day of January in 1843 in the little town of Niles, Ohio. His parents were William McKinley Sr., a charcoal furnace manager, and an iron founder, and Nancy Allison, a village leader. As most young boys do, McKinley has been fond of swimming, fishing, horseback riding, hunting, and even ice skating. His father exposed him to his iron foundry, allowing the young McKinley to develop a respectful attitude and excellent work ethics.

He attended Poland Academy in high school and went to Allegheny College in 1860. However, he had to stop only after one term due to an illness and his family’s dire finances. After he recovered, he worked shortly as a postal clerk and a country school teacher.

In 1861, the Civil War broke after the fall of Fort Sumter. McKinley enlisted in the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry at the age of only 18. He was mentored by Being a hard worker, he worked his way up and eventually ranking as a brevet major after his four-year stint with the Union Army.

After the Civil War

After the war, McKinley went back to Ohio to continue his studies. He went to New York’s Albany School and passed the bar exams in Warren, Ohio, in 1867. To practice law, McKinley then moved to Canton, Ohio, and established a small office. Two years later, she met Ida Saxton, a daughter of a Canton banker, at a small picnic. They got married on January 25, 1871, at the First Presbyterian Church. McKinley was 27, and Saxton was 23 at the time of their wedding.

McKinley after the Civil War

Ida Saxton, McKinley’s Wife

The couple was blessed with two daughters. Unfortunately, Saxtons’s mother, and their two young daughters, died in quick succession, causing Saxton’s health to deteriorate rapidly. She developed epilepsy and phlebitis and became a chronic invalid for the rest of her life. Nevertheless, McKinley’s love for Saxton didn’t wither and treat her wife’s condition with love and affection. He ardently catered to Saxton’s needs throughout his flourishing political career, earning the sympathy of the public for his undying devotion.

Venture Into Politics

McKinley first entered politics in 1869 when he won as a country professor, snatching a position that used to be dominated by the Democrats. He was then elected to Congress in Washington, D.C., as a Republican in 1876 and served for nearly 14 years. McKinley became the House Ways and Means Committee chair and was renowned for his value for economic protectionism. Thus, the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890 was passed imposing high tariff rates on foreign commodities.

The measure backlashed, however, as it caused rising consumer prices. With that, McKinley and other Republicans lost in the next election. He returned to Ohio and ran for governor the following year. McKinley won with a narrow lead, and served two terms in the gubernatorial position.

The Journey To The White House

McKinley and the Republican Party gained political prominence after the severe economic depression in 1893. Backed up by his political experience, his protectionist view, and the excellent maneuvering of Marcus Alonzo Hanna, McKinley went on to win the presidential nomination easily.

McKinley’s adviser and close friend, Marcus Alonzo Hanna

McKinley faced the Democrat and Populist William Jennings Bryan in the general elections. The former’s platform centered on maintenance of the gold standard while the latter supported a bimetallic measure of silver and gold. But, Hanna marketed McKinley as the frontman of prosperity and the defender of American financial interest compared to Bryan’s more radical platform. With that, McKinley won the presidency decisively, winning 271 electoral votes compared to Bryan’s only 176.

William McKinley’s Presidency

McKinley and his cabinet

Soon enough, after his inauguration, McKinley ordered Congress to have a special session, aiming to increase customs duties. He believed that the actions would decrease internal taxes and would boost the hiring of American workers and the advancement of the domestic industry. The Dingley Tariff Act was the fruit of the said session and became the highest protective measure on tariffs in the History of the United States. While the McKinley administration solidified their position when it comes to the labor sector, they have been lenient with trusts or combinations, which grew at an outstanding rate.

Spanish-American War

McKinley’s legacy, however, stemmed from how he dealt with foreign affairs. The Spanish forces then were trying to quash the revolutionary attempts in Cuba. While the American public and media were infuriated by the hostilities, the McKinley administration decided to steer away from any involvement and forced the Spanish government to make the adjustments.

USS Maine circa 1898

In February 1898, the battleship of the United States, Maine, sank in Havana’s harbor. The incident was then said to be caused by an explosion from a Spanish mine. With that, McKinley finally decided to get involved with the conflict, formally announcing war on April 25 of the same year. In almost four months, the American forces were able to defeat the Spanish troops in Santiago harbor, take over Puerto Rico, and lay hold of the Philippines.

On December 10, 1898, the Paris Treaty was signed and concluded the Spanish-American war. Most members of Congress initially protested about the treaty, but McKinley was able to pursue them to ratify it by February. Spain gave up Guam, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines for their freedom.

The McKinley government also pushed the ‘Open Door Policy’ that proved American interest to bring every nation in equal standpoint when it comes to trading with China while also establishing the positing of the United States in the world market.

Second Inauguration and Assassination

In 1900, McKinley faced Bryan in another election, but this time the latter centered on an anti-imperialist platform. McKinley was re-elected with even a more significant lead compared to what he has achieved in their first battle for the presidency. The result of the election was mainly due to prosperous economic growth and the ending of the Spanish-American war.

McKinley’s re-election poster

After McKinley’s second inauguration, he went on a tour of the western states starting in March 1901, where amazing crowds always welcomed him. On September 6, 1901, he visited Buffalo, New York, for the Pan-American Exhibition. It was the last part of his tour, however, as he was shot two times in the chest by Leon Czolgosz, a 28-year old anarchist who said McKinley was the enemy of the people.

McKinley was rushed to a hospital in Buffalo and was initially given a favorable prognosis. But, gangrene developed around his wounds and died on September 14. His last few words revolved on saying that the incident was God’s will, and let His will be done. After a presidential funeral was given in Washington, D.C., his coffin was brought back to Canton, Ohio, via train for the burial. His Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, was appointed as his successor.

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