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Who is William McKinley?

By Devon Pryor
Updated May 23, 2024
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William McKinley is best known as the 25th President of the United States of America. His service to the country, however, began long before his time in office as president. McKinley was born in Niles, Ohio on 29 January 1843, and like many young men his age, he enlisted in the Civil War in 1861, fighting on the side of the Union Army. After serving in the Civil War, McKinley attended Albany Law School. He practiced law for a while, and became the prosecuting attorney of Sark County, serving from 1869 to 1871. In 1871 William McKinley married Ida Saxton.

William McKinley held a Republican seat in the House of Representatives during two separate periods. His first term lasted from 1877 to 1882. During this term McKinley was Chairman of the Committee on Revision of the Laws. McKinley’s second term in the House of Representatives spanned from 1885 to 1891. For a few of these years he served as Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, which held jurisdiction over taxation, tariffs, and other revenue-creating measures, as well as various government programs such as Social Security, Unemployment benefits, Medicare, and so on. McKinley is particularly known for writing the McKinley Tariff of 1890, which raised tax rates higher than at any previous time in history.

In 1891, McKinley transitioned from his seat in the House of Representatives to serve as governor of Ohio, a post he held for two terms. As governor, William McKinley stayed true to his growing reputation as a tax-hungry watchdog. He imposed excise taxes on corporations, restricted the anti-union practices of employers, and executed safety legislation on behalf of transportation workers.

In 1896 William McKinley left office as Ohio’s governor to chase down nomination as a Republican presidential candidate, and later began his famous “front porch campaign.” In contrast to most of his Republican comrades, McKinley appealed to all classes and ethnic groups by promoting the ideals of industry and pluralistic prosperity. This earned him a solid hold on the coveted votes of ethnic labor groups and urban areas.

In 1896, William McKinley became the 25th President of the United States of America, marking the beginning of the Progressive Era. He was the last veteran of the Civil War to be elected to presidential office. Among his most noted achievements as president were the American success in the Spanish American War, the annexation of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Hawaii, and the implementation of a protectorate over Cuba.

Domestically, McKinley lived up to his promise for prosperity, bringing about a revival of business and agriculture. Understanding the importance of media as a tool in staging political agenda, McKinley set up the first White House press room, and gave reporters his version of events. In foreign affairs William McKinley was equally proactive. He pushed for access to foreign markets, expanding American influence through annexation and through modification of tariffs to garner more freedom in foreign trade.

On 6 September 1901, while in attendance of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, William McKinley was assassinated. He was shot twice by anarchist Leon Frank Czolgosz. McKinley survived for eight days, but eventually succumbed to a gangrene infection caused by the shooting. He died on 14 September 1901.

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Discussion Comments
By wesley91 — On Nov 05, 2010

@googie98: Leon Czolgosz was interested in anarchism for years. He believed that it was not right for one man to have so much service and another man should have none. In other words, he didn’t believe the President shouldn’t have so much power.

He read that the President would be at an Exposition on September 5, 1901, in Buffalo, NY, giving him the idea of shooting the President. President McKinley gave a speech for President’s Day, but Crologsz couldn’t get close enough to him to shoot. The next day, Crologsz stood in a line of people waiting to shake the President’s hand. His hand was wrapped in a handkerchief to hide the gun. When McKinley reached out to shake his “bandaged” hand, he fired twice at McKinley.

President William McKinley passed away on September 14, 1901, due to an infection and gangrene.

Leon Crologsz was sentenced to death on September 26, 1901 and was electrocuted on October 29, 1901.

By googie98 — On Nov 05, 2010

Why did Leon Czolgosz assassinate President William McKinley?

By anon65218 — On Feb 11, 2010

5th paragraph should have been In 1896 not 1987 when he became president.

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