William McKinley, 25th President of the United States of America, b. 1843, d. 1901.
Born in Ohio, McKinley became a staunch Republican in the mold of his mentor, Rutherford B. Hayes. After serving for four years in Hayes' regiment during the American Civil War, he left the military as a major and began studying law, eventually being admitted to the bar in 1867.
His ability to campaign, driven by his warm, friendly personality as well as his pragmatism and willingness to compromise made him a formidable political candidate. He served in Congress from 1877-1883 and 1885-1891, representing one of Ohio's most devoutly Democratic districts. During his congressional tour of duty he was known as a strong promoter of protectionism and was the primary author of the McKinley Tariff of 1890 (which was probably named after him).
After being elected governor of Ohio in 1891 and again in 1893, McKinley became the leading Republican candidate for the presidency in 1896. After easily securing the Republican nomination, he went head to head with the Democratic party. Critical of Grover Cleveland, the current Democrat in the White House, the Democrats rallied behind William Jennings Bryan. The key debate centered over the gold standard, with Bryan endorsing the coinage of silver with his platform proclaiming, "You shall not crucify mankind on a cross of gold." McKinley's campaign, heavily financed by corporate interests, successfully portrayed Bryan and his supporters as radicals and won the election.
The whole silver and gold debate never became that much of an issue after McKinley became president. Instead, issues of war and imperialism took center stage. Cuba's revolution against Spain, which began in 1895, had Americans yelling for war against Spain. As we all know, Americans have always been obsessed with who is hanging around in Cuba, and when McKinley could get no concessions from Spain on the issue, war with Spain began in 1898.
McKinley took it upon himself to personally direct the war and was involved in almost every detail. His decisions during the war opened the door for a colonial style empire in the Caribbean. Later he would spread American influence in the Pacific when his administration put down a Philippine revolt against American rule (where he was said to employ tactics he copied from Spain in their efforts to quell the Cuban resistance). He would later establish an American protectorate in Cuba and negotiate the Hay-Pauncefote treaties, which set the stage for the building of a canal across the isthmus of Panama.
McKinley would run for re-election in 1900, opposed once again by William Jennings Bryan, who actively denounced American imperialism under McKinley. His efforts to knock McKinley out of office failed and McKinley secured his second term. However, less than a year into his second term, McKinley would be assasinated by Leon Czolgosz, a man with two "Z"s in his last name. Theodore Roosevelt, who became McKinley's vice president after first term vice president Garret A. Hobart died in office, would succeed him and do a pretty good job of making a name for himself. Years later, McKinley's face would be selected for the five hundred dollar bill, which was rudely discontinued in a similar fashion to McKinley's presidency.
Some research material provided by an abbreviated version of
Lewis L. Gould's The Presidency of William McKinley
Which I found in the bathroom of a Miami seafood restaurant.