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Biography of William McKinley


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McKinley, William. Twenty-fifth president of the United States. Born in Niles, OH, January 29, 1843. He was educated at the public schools, and at the Poland, OH, Academy. In May 1861 he volunteered for the army, and entered the 23rd Ohio Infantry as a private. He served four years, rising by merit and faithfulness to the captaincy of his company, and to the rank of major, when mustered out in 1865. He at once began the study of law. In 1867 was admitted to the bar, and commenced practice at Canton, OH, where he afterward had his residence. In 1869 he was elected prosecuting attorney for Stark County, where his success attracted local attention. Entering politics, he was elected to Congress in 1876, and was reelected for six successive terms. In 1882, his election was contested, and he was unseated, but triumphantly returned at the next election. His reputation in Congress rests chiefly on the tariff bill that bears his name. It was drawn by him as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and passed by the 51st Congress. This bill, and his able advocacy of it before the House, distinguished him as the leader of the Republican Party on the tariff question. The Republican Party went before the country in 1892 almost solely on the issue raised by the McKinley tariff, but a reaction against it had set in, and Cleveland was elected. Meanwhile, McKinley failed of reelection in his district, though largely reducing the adverse plurality created by a redistricting that changed the limits of the district. In 1891 he was elected governor of Ohio by a large plurality over former Governor James E. Campbell, a very popular Democrat, and reelected in 1893 in the reactionary tidal wave of politics following a contrary tariff policy, that carried the Republican Party back to power in Congress, having a plurality of over 80,000. By this time, his name was frequently mentioned as a future candidate for the presidency. In 1895, a systematic canvass in McKinley's behalf was instituted by his supporters, and was continued until the election of 1896. He was elected after a campaign of more intense interest than had been displayed in any election since the Civil War.

President McKinley's first term is memorable chiefly for the occurrence of the Spanish-American War with its unexpected results. That his policy during 1896-1900 was accepted by the American people was shown by his unanimous re-nomination, and by his reelection in 1900 by an electoral majority of 137. His second term began most suspiciously and ended tragically. On September 5, 1901, he visited the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY, that day having been set apart in his honor and called the "President's Day." On the afternoon of the following day, while holding a public reception in the Temple of Music, he was shot twice by Leon F. Czolgosz, an anarchist, who was at once arrested. The wounded president was first taken to the emergency hospital on the exposition grounds for immediate treatment, and then removed to the residence of John G. Milburn, the president of the exposition. Hopes of his recovery were entertained for several days, but on September 13th he sank rapidly, and died the following day. His remains were laid in state in the Capitol at Washington, and later interred in his home city, Canton, OH.