William McKinley

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McKinley, William

McKinley, William, 1843–1901, 25th president of the United States (1897–1901), b. Niles, Ohio. He was educated at Poland (Ohio) Seminary and Allegheny College. After service in the Union army in the Civil War, he returned to Ohio and became a lawyer at Canton. He entered politics and was elected as a Republican to Congress in 1876. As a congressman until 1891 (except for part of one term when his election was declared invalid), he strongly advocated protective tariffs, thus pleasing Ohio industrialists. The highly protective McKinley Tariff Act of 1890 was unpopular and helped to bring about the Republican defeat in 1892. It had already cost McKinley his seat in Congress in the election of 1890, but he had attracted the attention of the powerful capitalist-politician Marcus A. Hanna, who put the force of the efficiently organized Ohio Republican machine behind the ex-congressman. McKinley was elected governor in 1891 and again in 1893.

Two years later Hanna along with Charles Dawes began a skillful and successful preconvention campaign to have McKinley nominated by the Republicans for president in 1896. The Democrats took a radical position and nominated William Jennings Bryan with a platform favoring free silver. Although McKinley had earlier favored bimetallism and voted for the Bland-Allison Act, he accepted a platform endorsing the gold standard, and the issue was squarely joined. Many conservative Democrats viewed their party's stand as reckless, and Hanna's handling of the campaign was a masterpiece of adroitness. Conservatism and McKinley won. The Republicans also had control of Congress, and in 1897 a thoroughgoing Republican tariff was adopted. McKinley's election marked the beginning of a period of Republican dominance in American politics that did not end until the 1932 election of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Interest then swung to external affairs. There was much sympathy in the United States for the rebels in Cuba, who were seeking independence from Spain. The destruction of the battleship Maine gave the advocates of war a rallying cry, and McKinley made the decision to ask Congress for a declaration of war. The Spanish-American War was brief, and from it the United States emerged a world power. McKinley directed the peace commissioners to demand the Philippine Islands for the United States. This resulted in the unsuccessful and bloody Philippine insurrection (1899–1901) led by Emilio Aguinaldo against U.S. rule. Cuba became a U.S. protectorate. The president also signed the bill to annex Hawaii and supported the Open Door policy in China, thus vigorously advancing the interests of the United States and American commerce. The Currency Act of 1900 consolidated the gold standard policy on which McKinley had been elected in 1896. He was reelected in 1900, but his new administration was short. On Sept. 5, 1901, he addressed the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo, N.Y., advocating commercial reciprocity among nations. The next day he was shot down by an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, and on Sept. 14 he died. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt succeeded him.


See biographies by C. S. Olcott (1916, repr. 1972), W. C. Spielman (1954), K. Phillips (2003), and R. W. Merry (2017); L. L. Gould, The Presidency of William McKinley (1981); S. Miller, The President and the Assassin (2011); K. Rove, The Triumph of William McKinley (2016).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

McKinley, William


Born Jan. 29, 1843, in Niles, Ohio; died Sept. 14, 1901, in Buffalo, N.Y. American statesman. Member of the US Congress from 1877.

In 1890, on McKinley’s initiative, a law increasing customs tariffs on imported goods (by an average of 50 percent) was passed that led to price increases on goods of mass demand and promoted the growth of monopolies and an increase in their profits. A member of the Republican Party, he was president of the USA from 1897 to 1901. Practicing the politics of imperialist expansion, McKinley’s administration unleashed the Spanish-American War of 1898 and in 1899 advanced the doctrine of the Open Door in China. On Sept. 6, 1901, McKinley was wounded by an anarchist and died on September 14.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

McKinley, William

(1843–1901) twenty-fifth U.S. president; born in Niles, Ohio. After briefly teaching, then serving in the Civil War, he studied law in Ohio and began practice in 1867. His interest in politics took him to the U.S. House of Representatives (Rep., Ohio; 1877–91), where his campaign for a protective trade policy finally resulted in the high McKinley Tariff of 1890. Although that tariff contributed to his losing his seat in 1890 (and the Republicans' losing the presidency in 1892), he became governor of Ohio (1891–97). In 1896 he ran a successful presidential campaign with the help of big business and Republican kingmaker, Mark Hanna. A new high tariff soon appeared, but more urgent matters took precedence; reluctantly giving in to widespread militant sentiment, he declared war on Spain in 1898. After a short war, America found itself a colonial nation in possession of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines, and McKinley was soon endorsing international initiatives from Cuba to China. He was reelected in 1900 with Theodore Roosevelt as vice-president, but on September 6, 1901, he was shot by an anarchist, Leon F. Czolgosz, and died eight days later. Although personally decent, honest, and well intentioned, McKinley would always be associated with the special interests of big business and party politics.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.