Source: The International Year Book
Source type: book
Document type: article
Document title: “McKinley, William”
Editor(s): Colby, Frank Moore
Publisher: Dodd, Mead and Company
Place of publication: New York, New York
Year of publication: 1902
|“McKinley, William.” The International Year Book. Ed. Frank Moore Colby. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1902: pp. 464-69.|
|full text of article; excerpt of book|
|William McKinley (personal history); McKinley presidency; William McKinley (political character).|
|Emilio Aguinaldo; Russell Alexander Alger; William Allen; James G. Blaine; Cornelius N. Bliss; William Jennings Bryan; James E. Campbell; Samuel S. Carroll; Pascual Cervera y Topete; George Crook; Charles Denby; George Dewey; Frederick N. Funston; Lyman J. Gage; James A. Garfield; James A. Gary; Charles E. Glidden; Winfield Scott Hancock; Marcus Hanna; Benjamin Harrison; John Hay; Rutherford B. Hayes; Fitzhugh Lee; Abraham Lincoln; John D. Long; Joseph McKenna; Ida McKinley; William McKinley; John G. Milburn; Nelson A. Miles; Elwell S. Otis; Theodore Roosevelt; William Thomas Sampson; Winfield Scott Schley; Jacob G. Schurman; William R. Shafter; John Sherman; Adlai E. Stevenson; William Howard Taft; Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau; Friend Whittlesey; James Wilson; Stewart L. Woodford; Dean C. Worcester.|
A photograph of McKinley appears as an unnumbered plate facing page 464.
From title page: The International Year Book: A Compendium of the World’s Progress during the Year 1901.
From title page: Editor, Frank Moore Colby, M.A.; Consulting Editor, Harry Thurston Peck, Ph.D., L.H.D., Professor in Columbia University; Associate Editor, Edward Lathrop Engle, B.A.
WILLIAM, twenty-fourth President of the United States,
died at Buffalo, N. Y., on September 14, 1901, from a bullet wound received
at the hand of an assassin on September 6, while holding a public reception
at the Pan-American Exposition. He was born in the village of Niles, Trumbull
County, O., January 29, 1843, and came of Scotch-Irish stock, of which the first
American representative settled in Pennsylvania about the middle of the eighteenth
century. William McKinley, after attending for a time the school of his native
village, was taken by his parents to Poland in Mahoning County, to enjoy the
better educational advantages offered by the academy in that town, where, as
a student, he soon distinguished himself by his assiduity, and particularly
by his parliamentary skill in the academic literary society. At sixteen he entered
the junior class of Allegheny College, at Meadville, Pa., but was compelled
by poor health to abandon his collegiate career shortly afterward, and became
a teacher in the public schools. Responding to President Lincoln’s call for
volunteers after the firing on Fort Sumter, he enlisted as a private in the
Twenty-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry, on June 11, 1861, in which regiment Rutherford
B. Hayes was a major. McKinley’s first promotion was to commissary-sergeant
on April 15, 1862, and in this line of duty he performed meritorious service
at the battle of Antietam, for which he was commissioned second lieutenant on
September 24 of the same year. He served throughout the war, rising to the rank
of major by successive promotions for merit, and at different periods served
as aide to Generals Hayes, Crook, Hancock, and Carroll. At the close of the
conflict, although personally desirous of following a military career, he left
the army in deference to the wishes of his family and entered the law office
[of] Judge Glidden at Canton, O. In 1867 he graduated at the Albany (N. Y.)
Law School, and being admitted to the bar of Ohio, began practice at Canton.
From 1869 to 1871 he was prosecuting attorney for his county, but failing a
reelection in the latter year, returned to his legal practice, although retaining
an active interest in  politics. In 1875,
during the contest for governor, between Hayes and Allen, McKinley came for
the first time into more than local prominence as a campaign orator, speaking
for Hayes, the Republican candidate. In the following year he was sent to Congress
and immediately became prominent for his advocacy of the principles of protection
for American industries. From the time of his first election he served seven
successive terms in Congress in spite of the fact that Democratic gerrymanders
in 1878 and 1884 placed him in especially difficult districts. In his Congressional
career, Mr. McKinley was from the very first a specialist in tariff legislation,
and of him in this connection, Mr. Blaine said: “He was soon recognized in the
House as one of the most thorough statisticians and one of the ablest defenders
of the doctrine of protection”—the doctrine with which his name has always been
most intimately associated. In 1880, in succession to James A. Garfield, he
was appointed to the ways and means committee, and he remained an active member
of that body during the rest of his Congressional service, becoming its chairman
in 1890, and as such, the author of the “McKinley Bill,” a high protective measure
passed in that year. Coming as the bill did just before the election of representatives
to Congress, its unfavorable reception by the country was clearly shown by the
Democratic majority immediately chosen, and the measure received its death-blow
before it had been fairly tested. Succumbing to the general Democratic victory
and to the fact that his district had been gerrymandered professedly to keep
him out of Congress, McKinley was defeated in 1890, although he reduced the
prior Democratic plurality of 2,900 in that district to 302.
At once an agitation was started to secure his nomination for governor, and at the State convention in June of 1891, he was made his party’s candidate by acclamation. During the ensuing campaign he delivered 134 speeches in every part of Ohio, dealing principally with detailed discussions of the question of protection and free trade. He was elected over Governor James E. Campbell by a plurality of 21,500, and two years later, having again received the unanimous nomination of the party, was elected by 80,995 plurality. During his first term (1893), Governor McKinley became involved in serious financial difficulties, by having too freely indorsed the notes of a personal friend. It was the governor’s intention to retire from office in order to meet these obligations, but a subscription list circulated among his personal friends, of whom Mr. Marcus A. Hanna was a leader, raised the required amount (about $100,000), and Mr. McKinley continued in office. In his second term he unfortunately gained an unpleasant notoriety from sensational newspaper stories charging him with subservience to street-railway lobbyists.” To increase the State revenue a bill was introduced to extend the “Nichols Law” (providing for the taxation of telephone, telegraph, and express companies, in the proportion of their property within the State to their property elsewhere), to cover freight and equipment companies and street railways. Later, the part relating to street railways was struck out, and from the fact that the men most actively interested in street railways in Ohio had also been the most prominent in defraying the governor’s personal liabilities in 1893, a connection between the two circumstances was immediately discovered by his political detractors, some of whom did not hesitate to assert that McKinley had himself called on the author of the bill (Senator Whittlesey) to urge its alteration. Again, during the legislation to bestow on the legislature the power to grant street-railway franchises for 99 years instead of 25 as theretofore, when it transpired that a conference of senators and capitalists had been held in the governor’s office, an additional clamor was raised by the Democratic press. Statements unusually harsh, more harsh than even the heat of political warfare ordinarily sanctions, were made against the moral as well as the civic character of the governor, and the persistent circulation of these canards overshadowed the substantial service rendered by McKinley during his incumbency. In his two terms he brought the National Guard to the highest point of efficiency it had ever known, he made judicious selections in his official appointments, restrained his legislatures from indulging in the extravagant appropriations and special legislation to which they were inclined, maintained the State charitable institutions on their high plane of excellence, and in particular, accomplished the organization of the State Board of Arbitration, the outcome of a plan previously explained by him in Congress. Need for such a body existed in Ohio, on account of the unsettled labor conditions, and the board was instrumental in averting subsequent rioting and bloodshed.
After his retirement from the governor’s office McKinley lived in seclusion at Canton for a time. But he had already made his place in the national politics of the Republican party, and in 1896 he was called upon to accept the nomination for President, which on two former occasions he had avoided only by his strict adherence to lofty ideals of political justice. In 1888, as chairman of the Ohio delegation, which had been pledged to secure the selection of John Sherman as the Presidential candidate, he attended the convention of his party and became prominent as chairman of  the committee on resolutions. As the balloting progressed an effort was made to nominate McKinley, a movement which he quelled by declining in these words: “I cannot with honorable fidelity to John Sherman, who has trusted me in his cause and with his cause; I cannot consistently with my own views of integrity consent, or seem to consent, to permit my name to be used as a candidate before the convention. I do not request, I demand, that no delegate who would not cast reflection upon me shall cast a ballot for me.” Again in 1892, while chairman of the convention of that year, he quieted a stampede in his favor by peremptorily demanding the withdrawal of his name from consideration, because he had pledged himself to accomplish the renomination of Benjamin Harrison. In 1896 he was nominated by the St. Louis convention on the first ballot, receiving 661½ out of 922 votes. The platform of the convention had declared unequivocally for the gold standard, and the uncertain position of Major McKinley on this question caused great anxiety throughout the party as to what his stand would be. This doubt arose from the remembrance that in his earlier political career he had advocated a monetary policy exactly opposed to what was embodied in the St. Louis platform, and no positive recantation of that policy had been publicly made. In 1878 he had favored the plan to resume the coinage of the silver dollar which had been discontinued since 1873 by coining “not less than $2,000,000 nor more than $4,000,000 of silver bullion per month” (Bland-Allison Bill)—this over President Hayes’s veto and against his party; and in 1890 he was an ardent supporter of the Sherman Law, providing for larger purchases of silver. During his first term as governor of Ohio (1892), he announced that free coinage would be bad for the country, and in the Congressional campaign of 1894 he spoke vaguely in favor of the gold standard. In 1896, however, his speech in acceptance of the Presidential nomination heartily indorsed the gold plank in the party platform, and showed his monetary conversion to be complete. His principal opponent in the following campaign was William Jennings Bryan, of Nebraska, and the “paramount issue” the money question. Deeming it undignified for a Presidential candidate to tour the country in the effort to win a greater popular vote, McKinley remained at Canton, and there conducted what was perhaps the most remarkable campaign in American politics. From his own doorstep he delivered 300 speeches between June 19 and November 2, to persons who had come from all parts of the country to hear him, and in that time it was estimated that he addressed an aggregate audience of more than 750,000. The election gave McKinley a popular plurality of 601,854 votes out of 7,104,779, and in the electoral college the result was: McKinley, 271; Bryan, 176.
McKinley became President on March 4, 1897, with the following cabinet: Secretary of state, John Sherman; secretary of the treasury, Lyman J. Gage; secretary of war, Russell A. Alger; secretary of the navy, John D. Long; secretary of the interior, Cornelius N. Bliss; attorney-general, Joseph McKenna; postmaster-general, James A. Gary; and secretary of agriculture, James Wilson. In his inaugural address he recommended a new tariff law, a commission to study and propose changes in the fiscal laws, and the adoption of international arbitration treaties. A special session of Congress convened on March 15, and in response to a message from the President, passed the Dingley Tariff Bill. From the first the foreign relations of the country occupied the foremost position in Congress. The subject of the annexation of Hawaii was freshly agitated, and the President sent a new treaty to the Senate. Before any action was taken a protest was received from the Japanese minister, objecting to any arrangement that might conflict with the treaty already in force between Japan and Hawaii, which bad been violated by the latter. This matter was settled by the agreement of Hawaii to pay a money indemnity to Japan, and the republic became formally a part of the United States on August 12, 1898. For many years the relations between Spain and the island of Cuba had been such as to cause the greatest concern in the United States. An insurrection of long standing existed there, which Spain was plainly demonstrating her inability to subdue. Charges of excessive cruelty were affirmed against Governor-General Weyler, and the starving condition of the Cuban reconcentrados aroused a bitter sentiment against Spain. The President at the beginning of his administration showed that his treatment of the matter was to be conciliatory. Urging upon Spain the desire of this country to see the conflict quickly ended, he offered to assist in the accomplishment of such a result by arbitration. The offer was declined, with the promise of administrative reforms that would soon end the insurrection. At the same time (October 23, 1897), Spain besought the United States to continue the measures to prevent filibustering expeditions which were giving great assistance to the Cubans. An autonomous government for Cuba was inaugurated in January, 1898, but because of its restrictive character changed affairs little or not at all. In the meantime public sentiment in the United States had become more hostile, and the jingo press was already clamoring for war. The anti-American element among the Spaniards in Cuba was growing daily more bitter, and in January Consul-General Fitzhugh Lee,  at Havana, requested that an American man-of-war be sent to that port for the moral effect it might have. The Maine was sent, which on February 15, was sunk by an explosion in Havana Harbor, with the loss of 2 officers and 258 men killed or drowned and 58 wounded. The press in general became more insistent for an immediate declaration of war, but the President was averse to an extreme move without exhausting every honorable means to reach a settlement short of war. Congress voted him $50,000,000 to be used for the national defense at his discretion, and provided for the contingent increase of the army to 100,000 men. On March 1, the President communicated with Spain, stating that although the autonomist government had been in operation for two months and less harsh rules had been adopted for the prosecution of hostilities, affairs in Cuba were no better, and asked for further change in the position toward the island. On March 31, Spain submitted the following propositions: (1) To arbitrate the Maine catastrophe; (2) to do away with the reconcentration camps in the western provinces of Cuba and to place 3,000,000 pesetas to the credit of the poor farmers; and (3) to grant an armistice whenever asked for by the insurgents. With this reply, General Stewart L. Woodford, United States minister at Madrid, asserted his belief that in making these propositions the Spanish ministry had gone as far as it dared without incurring the danger of overthrowing the government by revolution. He also said: “There is no real war spirit here among the middle and lower classes. . . . [It] prevails only among the aristocracy and the generals and officers of the army.” On April 3, he wired: “I know that the queen and her present ministry sincerely desire peace, and if you can still give me time and reasonable liberty of action, I will get for you the peace you desire so much and for which you have labored so hard.” On April 5 he asked if the President would restrain Congress from hostile action, provided the queen would grant an immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities for six months. “This,” he said, “means peace.” Secretary Sherman answered that the President would not longer delay his special message to Congress, but would refer to that body any message from the queen. On April 10, word was received that the unconditional armistice had been granted. On April 11, the President sent a special message to Congress, reviewing in detail the negotiations between the two countries, and leaving the decision to that body. A joint resolution was passed on April 19, recommending intervention to secure the independence of Cuba, and it was approved on the following day. On April 21, General Woodford received his passports, and four days later a resolution of Congress was approved, declaring that war had existed since the 21st. The President called for 125,000 volunteers, and by the end of the month they had begun to concentrate at Tampa, Fla. A blockade of Cuba was established on April 22, and on May 1, Admiral Dewey won a decisive victory over the Spanish fleet in the harbor of Manila, P. I. On May 19, a flying squadron under command of Commodore W. S. Schley left Key West, Fla., in search of the Spanish fleet that had left the Cape Verde Islands on April 29 under Admiral Cervera. It was located at Santiago, and Commodore Schley repaired thither, being joined there by Admiral W. T. Sampson, who took command of the American fleet on June 1. General William R. Shafter with 16,000 men embarked for Cuba on June 14 under the protection of 11 war vessels, and landed on the 22d at Daiquiri, 17 miles east of Santiago. After an engagement at Las Guasimas on June 24, the army took the heights of El Caney and San Juan on July 1-2. On July 3 Admiral Cervera sailed out of Santiago Bay, and, being met by the blockading fleet, all of his vessels were sunk or disabled in the ensuing engagement. The American troops took possession of Santiago on July 17. General Nelson A. Miles, the commanding general of the army, landed at Guanica, near Ponce, Porto Rico, on July 25, and in three weeks had taken complete possession of the island with the exception of San Juan. The peace protocol was signed on August 12 and the terms of peace were agreed upon December 10. The treaty, which was ratified by the Senate February 6, 1899, provided for the abandonment by Spain of all claims of sovereignty over and title to Cuba, the cession of Porto Rico and Guam, the cession of the Philippine Islands, and the payment by the United States of $20,000,000.
Early in 1899 an insurrection against the authority of the United States broke out under Emilio Aguinaldo (q.v.) in the Philippines. The President had previously appointed a commission of five, Admiral Dewey, General Elwell S. Otis, Jacob G. Schurman, Dean C. Worcester, and Charles Denby, to investigate conditions in the Islands, and to offer recommendations for their administration, and he now placed General Otis in charge of the military operations there, to put down the insurrection with vigor. A serious problem arose in the fact that the volunteers then in the Philippines had enlisted only for the Spanish War, and for that reason it was necessary for them to be repatriated. Additional regiments were organized, especially for Philippine service, and the uprising was put down by districts as fast as the elusive tactics of the Filipinos and the conformation of the islands would permit. The capture of the rebel leader by General Frederick Funston (q.v.), in March, 1901,  sounded the end of organized revolt, the fighting thereafter being carried on by scattered guerrilla bands, with inefficient leaders and defective organization. The first Philippine Commission completed its report and was discharged on January 31, 1900, and a new one was appointed, headed by Judge William H. Taft, which after painstaking and thorough investigation of the political needs of the Filipinos, established a civil government with headquarters at Manila, on September 1 of the same year. In 1900 occurred the Boxer uprising in the Chinese empire, by which the United States, in common with other Powers, sustained losses of life and property. In the subsequent indemnification proceedings, the same spirit of conciliation that characterized former official acts of President McKinley was seen, and in these negotiations he was notably assisted by his able secretary of state, John Hay (q.v.). Other important events which occurred during the McKinley administration were the settlement of the Samoan question, by which the tripartite government of Great Britain, Germany, and the United States was abandoned, November 8, 1899, Great Britain and Germany relinquishing all claims to the islands east of 171º, which include Tutuila, with its splendid harbor of Pago-Pago; the establishment of colonial government in Porto Rico; the reorganization of the army; the consummation of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, providing for the construction of the Nicaragua Canal under American control; the improvement of the merchant marine; and the establishment of reciprocity treaties with European governments. In 1900 President McKinley was unanimously renominated, and was reelected, with Theodore Roosevelt (q.v.), of New York as Vice-President, by an electoral vote of 292 to 155 for Bryan and Stevenson. He attended the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo in September, 1901, accompanied by Mrs. McKinley and some of his cabinet, and was received there with distinguished honors. After being shot he was taken to the private residence of John G. Milburn, the president of the exposition, and noted surgeons attended him, but were unable to save his life. Thursday, September 19, the day of the interment at Canton, was observed as a time of national mourning. In the cities throughout the United States as well as in foreign capitals, memorial services of the most impressive character were held, and the President’s death was mourned as that of one who had entered deeply into the universal heart.
It was the lot of William McKinley to conduct an administration at a period replete with events of tremendous moment to his country; but how far he controlled those events and how far he was mastered by them, it is perhaps for another generation to decide. He saw a war, the outcome of which placed the United States in the first rank of world powers, and assuming the responsibilities of such a position, he caused the application to the constitution of an entirely new interpretation of the right to acquire territory. In his administration occurred the first acquisition of territory as colonial possessions, to be ruled by representatives appointed by the central government, and in 1901 the supreme court rendered a decision confirming the right of the United States to govern such territories as dependencies without providing for their incorporation as States and without according their inhabitants the rights of citizenship. (See UNITED STATES, paragraph Constitutional Status of Porto Rico and the Philippines.) His experience in Congress taught him how to treat that body, and throughout his administration the most harmonious relations existed between Congress and the President. This frictionless state of affairs presented a striking illustration during 1898, when Congress did not demand, as it might with perfect propriety have done, the publication of the negotiations between the President and General Woodford, which as a matter of fact were not given to the public until two years after the close of the Spanish War. When defective bills were introduced, the President was in the habit of summoning the authors, and by explaining the inconsistencies to them, contrived to have the measures offered in acceptable form, which explains his small use of the veto power. Personally, his views on the two leading questions of his twenty-five years of public life, the monetary standard and the tariff, present a remarkable metamorphosis. His position on the money question has already been described: but his change on the theory of tariff, while not so complete, is fully as important. In 1888, he said: “A revenue tariff is inconsistent with protection, it is intended for a wholly different purpose. . . . It can have but one effect—that of opening up our markets to the foreign producer, impoverishing the home producer and enriching his foreign rival.” On September 5, 1901, the day before his assassination, he said: “We must not repose in fancied security that we can forever sell everything and buy little or nothing. . . . Reciprocity is the natural outgrowth of our wonderful industrial development under the domestic policy now firmly established. . . . If perchance some of our tariffs are no longer needed for revenue or to encourage or protect our industries at home, why should they not be employed to extend and promote our markets abroad?” It has been often declared, by friends and enemies alike, that McKinley always “had his ear close to the ground,” a statement that finds no better illustration than the contrast furnished by the foregoing quotations. Before everything else a party man, he  showed in his development the submission to changing conditions in his party and the desire to accomplish acceptable legislation. In his private life McKinley presented a model character, one phase of his personality, at least, to which his detractors can offer no slight. In 1871 he married Miss Ida Saxton, of Canton, and from this union two daughters were born, both of whom died in childhood. A confirmed invalid, Mrs. McKinley depended upon the constant care of her husband, whose burdens were never too heavy nor his moments too full of anxiety to deprive her of the devoted attentions it was his delight to pay.