Best Known For
William McKinley is best known for being president when the United States acquired Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.
Watch a short video about America's 25th President William McKinley and the origins of the Spanish American War.
Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist immigrant, gunned down William McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY.
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William McKinley was born January 29, 1843 in Niles, Ohio. Following his service in the Union Army during the Civil War under Rutherford Hayes, he was drawn to service in the Republican Party. Yellow journalism at the time urged McKinley to start a war with Spain, leading to an American global empire.
War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed.
William McKinley was born January 29, 1843, in Niles, Ohio. As a young man, he briefly attended Allegheny College before taking a post as a country schoolteacher. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, McKinley enlisted in the Union Army; he eventually earned the rank of brevet major of volunteers.
Returning to Ohio after the war, McKinley studied law, opened his own practice in Canton, Ohio, and married Ida Saxton, the daughter of a local banker.
After the deaths, in quick succession, of her mother and her two young daughters early in their marriage, Ida's health rapidly deteriorated, and she spent the rest of her life as a chronic invalid. McKinley patiently catered to his wife throughout his burgeoning political career, winning praise from the public for his loving devotion to her.
McKinley entered Ohio politics in 1869 and rose through the ranks as a Republican, winning election to the U.S. Congress in 1876. Over nearly 14 years in Congress, he served as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and became known as a proponent of economic protectionism, in the form of high tariffs on imported goods.
After a tariff measure bearing his name passed in 1890, voters rejected McKinley and other Republicans due to rising consumer prices and he returned to Ohio. The following year, he ran for governor, winning by a narrow margin; he would serve two terms in that post.
After the so-called Panic of 1893 led to a crippling economic depression in the United States, McKinley and his fellow Republicans regained the political advantage over the Democrats.
McKinley won the Republican presidential nomination in 1896 thanks to his congressional and gubernatorial experience, his longtime support of protectionism and the skilled maneuvering of his chief supporter, the wealthy Ohio industrialist Marcus Alonzo Hanna. In the general election, McKinley faced William Jennings Bryan, who ran on a platform attacking the gold standard and supporting the coinage of silver as well as gold.
Touted by Hanna as the "advance agent of prosperity" and the protector of America's financial interests in contrast to Bryan's radical policies, McKinley won the popular vote by a margin of some 600,000, the largest victory in 25 years; he also won more than a third more electoral votes than Bryan.
Soon after taking office, McKinley called a special session of Congress in order to raise customs duties, an effort he believed would reduce other taxes and encourage the growth of domestic industry and employment for American workers.
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