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William McKinley was the 25th President of the United States elected to the office in the 1896 election. He was elected on the platform of protective tariffs on imports, pluralism among all ethnic groups in US and the use of gold as the US money system. During McKinley presidency, United States returned to prosperity after the 1893 economic panic.
William McKinley was born to 29th January 1843, the 7th child of William and Nancy McKinley in Niles, Ohio States. His father operated a foundry leasing business in Niles. Later, the family moved to Poland, Ohio where the 9 years old William attended Poland academy until he graduated. His love for public speaking, debate and reading were harnessed at the Poland academy where he was the president of the school debate club. Later in 1860, he joined Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, for one year until 1861.
At the start of Civil war, McKinley enlisted as a private in the Union Army, 23rd regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, under the command of future US president Ruther Hayes. The regiment was sent to Carnifax Ferry, West Virginia, where it spent one year fighting confederates forces. Ruther Hayes would later promote McKinley to the rank of commissary sergeant as rewards for his bravery and courage under fire. McKinley continued display of courage in the battle field would see him promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant. By the time the civil war was ending, McKinley had rose to the rank of captain to Brevet Major, in the same regiment that he enlisted as a private.
In 1865, McKinley returned to Poland Ohio, where he briefly studied law. In 1866, he moved to New York to attend Albany school of Law for one year, returning to Poland, Ohio in 1867. He would later get a job working for a close friend, George Belden, a judge at Canton Ohio, where he worked until he opened his law office. It was here that he became active in politics as a republican. 1869 saw William McKinley elected as the prosecuting attorney of Stark County, Canton Ohio.
McKinley got married to Ida Saxton, a daughter of a Canton banker, in January 1871. Later that year, their first daughter Catherine was born. Catherine would die later at the age 4 years from Typhoid. Their second daughter, Ida, born in 1873 died within 5 months of birth. These tragic events led to the illness of Ida McKinley, suffering from depression coupled with epilepsy and phlebitis.
William McKinley was elected to the United State House of Representative as a republican serving for seven terms from 1877 to 1891. It is important to note here that for nine months between 1884 and 1885, McKinley seat was under Jonathan Wallace who successfully contested the 1882 election and it was decided that Wallace had actually won the election.
During his terms as a congressman, tariff issues were McKinley main focus. To that effect, he authored McKinley Tariff which raised import tariffs to the highest rates in the history of United States. High tariffs meant increase in consumer prices. The tariff issues was so crucial to the US politics at that time that McKinley became so unpopular and eventually lost his bid for re-election to the congress in the 1890 elections.
Returning to Ohio in 1891, McKinley was elected to the office of the governor, Ohio. In 1892, he was a presidential hopeful but without success, he would later switch camp to campaign for re-election of President Benjamin Harrison. He successfully won the 1893 governorship re-elections. As a governor, he successfully secured safety legislations for workers in the transport industry and imposed exercise tax on corporations operating within the State of Ohio.
Election to the Presidency
With the support of republicans who helped clinch the governor seat, McKinley was nominated as the republican presidential candidate on a protective tariff and gold standard platform. His campaign was limited to his home area mainly because of his ailing wife. To this effect, his campaign manager, Mark Hanna, came up with new campaigning strategies that revolutionized the way political campaign were done at that time. McKinley campaign speeches were printed all over the United States. He won the 1896 presidential election by a whooping 7 million votes.
McKinley administration experienced reduced political agitation and suspense and support from capitalists. Domestic policies introduced by McKinley led to revival of major sectors of the economy. In 1897 business and agriculture prosperity was restored. Dingley Tariff act, seeking to increase Protective tariffs was passed in 1897, and Gold Standard act, aimed at making gold the standard money system, was passed in 1900.
Under the presidency of William McKinley, United States became world power, largely because of his action on foreign affairs surrounding United States at the time he was taking office as a president. Cuba fighting with Spain for independence called for United States to take action to protect its interest in Cuba. The destruction of USS Maine battleship on 15th Feb 1898, sent by the US to Cuba, killing 266 service men lead to declaration of war on Spain by United States. For the next 110 days, US waged offensive on Spain interests in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Philippines. Under the Treaty of Paris Guam and Puerto Rico became United States possessions and the Philippines became a US territory.
Another important policy was the 1898 Open Door Policy which aimed to strengthen trade relationship between United States and China. Under this policy, US had equal access to the Chinese trade which was profitable at the time. An uprising inside China by secret Chinese society under the banner of Boxer, seeking to expel foreigner out of China led McKinley to send 5,000 troops to help putdown the rebellion in China. Such action on foreign affair strengthened the US presidency and the authority of a president as the commander in chief.
In 1900, McKinley was re-elected to the office of the presidency, foreign policies were strong on his agenda. His views on protective tariffs had changed as it has led to business monopolies leading to high consumer prices. Free commerce through mutual trade agreement was his preferred policy on the domestic fronts. The second term of McKinley presidency witnessed violation of civil rights, torturing of the black communities and increased cases of murder in United States.
On 6th September 1901, in Buffalo, New York, during the second day of Pan-American Exposition, McKinley was shot twice by Leon Frank Czolgosz. In a bid to save his life, doctors managed to remove one bullet but failed to locate the second one. For the next few days, McKinley seemed to be recovering but due to infections caused by the bullet that was logged in his body, he died 8 days later on 14th September 1901. He was buried on 18th September at his home town of Canton, Ohio.
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Charles S. Olcott (2004) William McKinley: Part 2 American Statesmen Series, Kessinger Publishers, United States.
Howard Wayne Morgan (2003) William McKinley and His America, Kent State University Press, United States, Ohio.
Joyce Appleby, McGraw-Hill, Alan Brinkley (2004) The American Journey: reconstruction to the Present, McGraw-Hill Publishers, United States.
Murat Halsted (2006) The Illustrious Life of William McKinley: Our Martyred President, Kessinger Publishers, United States.
Richard L. McElroy (1996) William McKinley and Our America, Stark County Publishers, United States.