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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The result was the Dingley Tariff Act (sponsored by the Maine congressman Nelson Dingley), the highest protective tariff in American history. McKinley's support for the Dingley Tariff strengthened his position with organized labor, while his generally business-friendly administration allowed industrial combinations or "trusts" to develop at an unprecedented rate.
It was foreign affairs that would determine McKinley's presidential legacy, beginning with an ongoing conflict in Cuba, where Spanish forces were attempting to repress a revolutionary movement. Though the American press and public were outraged by the bloodshed, McKinley hoped to avoid intervention, and pressed Spain to make concessions.
After the sinking of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana's harbor in February 1898 was linked (erroneously, as was later discovered) to an external explosion presumed to be a Spanish mine, McKinley asked Congress for the authority to intervene in the conflict; a formal declaration of war came on April 25. From early May to mid-August, U.S. forces defeated Spain near Santiago harbor in Cuba, occupied Puerto Rico and seized Manila in the Philippines.
The Treaty of Paris, signed in December 1898 and narrowly ratified by Congress the following February, officially ended the Spanish-American War. In it, Spain ceded Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines to the United States and Cuba gained its independence. While opponents of the treaty derided it as "imperialist," McKinley took his cue from the majority of Americans who supported it, sending troops to quell a nationalist insurgency that broke out in the Philippines shortly after the war ended.
McKinley's administration also pursued an influential "Open Door" policy aimed as supporting American commercial interests in China and ensuring a strong U.S. position in world markets. In 1900, McKinley backed up this policy by sending American troops to help put down the Boxer Rebellion, a nationalist uprising against foreign intervention in China.
In 1900, McKinley again faced William Jennings Bryan, who ran on an anti-imperialism platform, and was reelected with a greater margin of victory than he obtained four years earlier.
The outcome reflected the American public's satisfaction with the outcome of the Spanish-American War and the country's economic prosperity.
After his second inauguration in March 1901, McKinley embarked on a tour of western states, where he was greeted by cheering crowds. The tour ended in Buffalo, New York, where he gave a speech on September 5 in front of 50,000 people at the Pan-American Exposition.
The following day, McKinley was standing in a receiving line at the exposition when a unemployed Detroit mill worker named Leon Czolgosz shot him twice in the chest at point-blank range. (Czolgosz, an anarchist, later admitted to the shooting and claimed to have killed the president because he was the "enemy of the people." He was executed in October 1901.)
Rushed to a Buffalo hospital, McKinley initially received a hopeful prognosis, but gangrene set in around his wounds and he died eight days later.
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