President McKinley: Calm Voice in Turbulent Waters


Some of our most forgotten presidents have been individuals who contributed in their own way to making this country great.  In McKinley's case we often do not remember his experiences in the Civil War, his forging of the Spanish-American War, and his important election in 1896.  This 25th President of the United States beat William Jennings Bryan and achieved his victory with a significant popular majority.  He was only one of eight presidents who came from Ohio, and McKinley adopted the Ohioan thinking with Mark Hanna. 

Many of the programs started by McKinley were fulfilled by Theodore Roosevelt’s administration.  On William's watch he annexed Hawaii and made America control the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico.  He made sure the rest of the world understood America was becoming a global and economic power.  According to one author, he promoted the interests of blue-collar workers and presided over a growing country with industrial might.  Because of McKinley’s stature, he chose Theodore Roosevelt to be his running mate.

Think of McKinley as a principled man with strong moral convictions.  We should also remember that McKinley opposed slavery and came from a family of abolitionists.  McKinley came of age when the nation debated the importance of tariffs and whether the wealth was equally distributed.  He never insulated himself from the American people.

Within the last year or so, a new book (our core book) has emerged as resurrecting McKinley as one of the better presidents of our country.  In the core book the author reminds us that McKinley never cared who got the credit.  Come and talk about McKinley’s "heavy quiet" that influenced the way people thought about issues and American progress.  It should not be forgotten that McKinley had tremendous devotion to his frail wife during his presidency and before. 

Weekly Topics

Session 1.  McKinley's Roots, Time in the Civil War, and Iron Mongering with His Father.

Session 2.  William's Influential Parents, Ida's Medical Conditions, Hayes Winning Presidency  McKinley's Political Persona, Ohio Politics, and GOP Major Figure, Mark Hanna

Session 3.  McKinley's Expertise on Tariffs, Attentiveness to Ida, Campaign for Ohio Governor, Two-Term  Governor  Presidential Campaign Slogan:  "People Against The Bosses", Strong Support throughout South, Opposition of Speaker Reid and Foraker

Session 4.  Emergence of Dawes, Bryan and His Cross of Gold, Campaign Chairman Hanna, the "Front Porch" Campaign, Weaving Currency, Patriotism, and Protection

Session 5.  Building a Cabinet:  Secretary of State (John Sherman) and Treasury (Lyman Gage), Choosing "Peaceful" Teddy Roosevelt as VP, McKinley's First Inauguration  The Cuban Setback, the Hawaiian Relationship, Mahan's Influential Book, Doting on Mrs. McKinley,  Commission on Bimetalism

Session 6.  Sympathizing with Cuban Rebels, Commissioner Investigating Ruiz's Death, Selecting Diplomat for Spain, Calibrated Actions for Cuba, Inaugural Speech

Session 7.  Spain's Two Demands for McKinley, President's Deft Handling of Requests, Declaring Gold-Standard  Party, Congressional Opposition to Hawaiian Acquisition, Sending Maine to Havana  Blowing Up the Maine, Endless Negotiations with Spain, Maine Report Delivered, Manila Bay Battle  and Dewey, McKinley's Attitude toward Philippine Occupation

Session 8.  Spanish-American War, Describing Caribbean Victories Quickly, Nightmare Logistics, Different Times for Spanish Surrender, Bitter Congressional Fight over Hawaiian Annexation, Deplorable Conditions at Camp Wikoff

Session 9.  Philippine Insurrection and Aguinaldo, "Acceptance of the Archipelago," McKinley's Conviction of  Humanitarian Rather than Empire Concern, Dodge Commission on Conduct of Cuban War, Beef Controversy and General Nelson Miles

Session 10.  Cat-and-Mouse Tactics of Aguinaldo, Passing Troop Strength Bill (100,000), Considerable Interest in Isthmian Canal, Middle Ground on Trusts, Popularity of McKinley, Gold Standard Act of 1900, Puerto Rico:  Free Trade:  Colony or Trust?, Boxer Rebellion, Enduring Love for Ida, Assassination


Core Book

Merry, Robert W.  President McKinley:  Architect of the American Century  New York:  Simon & Schuster,     2017.  

Other Helpful Sources

Gould, Lewis L.  The Presidency of William McKinley.  Lawrence:  University Press of Kansas, 2003.

Leech, Margaret.  In the Days of McKinley.  New York:  Harper & Brothers, 1959.  

Phillips, Kevin.  William McKinley:  American Presidents Series, 1897-1901.  New York:  Times Books,     2014.  

Rove, Karl.  The Triumph of William McKinley:  Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters.  New York:  Simon     & Schuster, 2015.