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Source: Statist
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “President McKinley”
Author(s): anonymous
City of publication: London, England
Date of publication: 14 September 1901
Volume number: 48
Issue number: 1229
Pagination: 477-78

“President McKinley.” Statist 14 Sept. 1901 v48n1229: pp. 477-78.
full text
William McKinley (political character); U.S. trade policy (reciprocity).
Named persons
Nelson Dingley, Jr.; Lyman J. Gage; Marcus Hanna; John Hay; William McKinley; Robert Peel.


President McKinley

THE atrocious attempt upon President McKinley’s life has aroused everywhere special horror and indignation, so entirely causeless is it. In some countries Anarchism can in a sense be accounted for by misgovernment, the burdens of military service, oppressive taxation, widespread poverty, and utter hopelessness. But in the United States there are none of these things. Moreover, to the born American, whatever his descent, every office is open, even the very highest. Indeed, not a few of the Presidents of the United States have begun at the very lowest rung of the ladder. Even the foreign settler is offered naturalisation on exceedingly easy terms. And, save the Presidency, almost everything is accessible to him. Moreover, the kindly character of the President, and his known sympathy with all classes, seemed to make it impossible that he should have an enemy anywhere. Especially he seemed safe against attack, as his reputation has been rising in so marked a way of late. Few men, indeed, have advanced more rapidly in the world’s high opinion than Mr. McKinley during the four and a half years that he has occupied the White House. When he was first put forward as candidate for the Presidency little was known of him outside the United States, except as the reporter and advocate of an extreme measure of Protection. Even in the United States itself his abilities were not considered very high. Indeed, he was not thought very sound even upon the very silver question on which, as it happened, his candidature was based. But as the campaign went on thoughtful observers began to doubt whether he had been justly appraised either at home or abroad. The doubts were silenced for the time by the very positiveness with which it was asserted that the election was managed altogether by Mr. Hanna. But when Mr. McKinley became President, and Mr. Hanna took a seat in the Senate instead of in the Cabinet, the doubts returned and every day grew stronger. The selection of his Cabinet showed unmistakably his knowledge of character. Few better appointments have been made than those of Mr. Hay to the Secretaryship of State and of Mr. Gage to the Ministry of Finance. Then came the war with Spain and the appearance of the United States as a great world Power. Since then every day has added something to the strength of the Administration. No doubt Mr. McKinley has been greatly favoured by circumstances, more particularly by the long succession of good harvests, and the immense demand of the rest of the world for American exports. But it must not be forgotten that the great prosperity of the present is due to some extent to the fact that Mr. McKinley was the successful candidate at the election of 1896, and that since his accession to office his policy has increased the public confidence in his judgment, clear-sightedness, and prompt discernment of the drift of public opinion.
     Of late there have been several indications that Mr. McKinley was about to reveal himself in a character not only entirely new, but a little while ago entirely undreamt of—to use a telling phrase that has already been used by some of his countrymen, “that he was about to become the Sir Robert Peel of the United States.” Mr. McKinley, as said above, made his first mark in politics by his introduction of the so-called McKinley Tariff. For very many years he was looked upon at home and abroad as the incarnation of Protectionism, and for a long time he was supposed to have very strong leanings towards the silver heresy. Only the day before the atrocious attempt upon his life the President delivered what appears to have been one of the most important speeches ever spoken by him. In it he declared for reciprocity in a manner never ventured upon by him before. It is quite true that the law of the United States already recognises reciprocity. Indeed, more than one reciprocity treaty has been negotiated. But the manner in which President McKinley adopted reciprocity as his peculiar policy on President’s Day at the Buffalo Exhibition makes the speech specially notable. After referring to the great prosperity the country enjoys at present, and to the extraordinary development of its productiveness in every direction, the President went on as follows: “A system which provides for the mutual exchange of commodities is manifestly essential. We must not repose in the fancied security that we can for ever sell everything and buy little or nothing. Reciprocity is the natural outgrowth of our wonderful industrial development. If perchance some of our tariffs are no longer needed for revenue or to protect our industries, why should they not be employed to extend our markets abroad?” That Protection has been losing ground for years has been evident to all careful observers of events in the United States. But a little while ago few would have ventured to predict that the reputed author of the McKinley Tariff would be among the very first of public men to recognise the fact, and would have given his adherence to the new view of public duty. Yet that is what the speech at Buffalo really means. He recognises that there has been a great change in American public opinion, not only since the tariff which bears his name was passed, but even since the later tariff that bears the name of Mr. Dingley. And with a statesman’s judgment he acknowledges that the change is justified by the new [477][478] condition of the country, and he offers to help in carrying out the new policy the country desires. That he may be spared to preside over the framing of a Bill for that purpose is the wish and hope of ever friend of the United States—nay more, of every right-minded man, to whatever country he may belong.
     It need hardly be said here that, in the opinion of this Journal, the new policy is a wise one. Yet it may be objected that reciprocity will only help the United States to beat down barriers raised against its trade by other countries which have imitated its own economic legislation. Reciprocity can be pursued with regard to France, Germany, Russia, and so on. And even reciprocity treaties will help materially in promoting the trade between all these countries. But it may be argued that a reciprocity treaty is out of the question with ourselves, because we have already admitted all the world freely to our ports, and therefore have nothing to grant in return for concessions that we may desire from the United States. To this we would reply that what is known, or, at all events, believed, to be in the President’s mind is not merely the negotiation of reciprocity treaties—which, indeed, have had his care while he has been at the White House—but that he means to offer large concessions to all those who are willing to admit American goods on what appear to him and to Congress to be liberal terms. If that is the shape which the new legislation will take, it is obvious that our own country will share in the advantages. And, indeed, the very argument used by the President at Buffalo would be altogether out of place, and might easily even be directed against himself, if he were to refuse to the United Kingdom what he concedes to more Protectionist countries. For he advocates reciprocity on the very ground that America cannot always go on selling a great deal and buying little or nothing. She must buy a good deal if she is to sell immense quantities. And when everything is said, we are not merely her best customers, but practically we are better customers than all the rest of the world put together. For fully half the exports of the United States come to us. To extend very greatly her exports, then, it is essential that she should open her markets to our products likewise. And unless we entirely misread the President’s last great speech, that is exactly what he has in contemplation.



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