Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Nickname: Idol of Ohio
McKinley's presidency was a time of expansion. The period of Western expansion was over in the American frontier. That meant, if the U.S. wanted to expand, they would have to go outside the mainland. In 1898, the USS Maine exploded in Havana's harbor. Spain ruled over colonial Cuba. A media frenzy pushed a reluctant McKinley to declare war on Spain. Or that's what a lot of people think. There is still controversy today about the Spanish-American War. The U.S. was basically waiting for someone to beat up, and acquire more land. The USS Maine may of sunk for three reasons. First is the reason people agreed with at the time and for many decades after, which is that the ship hit a mine put there by the Spanish. Second, a fire in the coal bunker. And third, and probably the most disturbing, is that the Maine was blown up on purpose to start a war with Spain. We will probably never know which one is true, but it doesn't matter as much now since they went to war anyway.
The U.S. basically slapped the Spanish around, seeing as Spain was a fading power, and the U.S. was coming into an age of power. The war was over in the matter of a few months, and the U.S. now had new territories, the Philippines, Guam, Cuba, and Puerto Rico (The U.S. would let Cuba and the Philippines were let go eventually by the U.S. We are still in possession of Guam and Puerto Rico).The people of the Philippines were happy to be rid of Spain and hoped that the U.S. would grant them independence. No such luck, we colonized the area and used it for raw goods. The people of the Philippines staged a mini-war against the Americans that lasted for a few years.
McKinley, after the war, decided to reverse his decision on high tariffs, deciding that if overseas markets were to be opened to American goods, commercial barriers had to fall at home. He spent the rest of his presidency going against the Republican mode of protectionism and lowered tariffs. Thus ended the Gilded Age, and brought America into the Progressive Era. Even so, McKinley was still hesitant to use the full power of the presidency, a thing his successor would not do.
McKinley won a second term and learned that the rebel forces in the Philippines had been put down ending the war three years after the Spanish-American War. Scattered fighting lasted for about another year. A few months after, McKinley announces that he will not go for another term. *Fun Fact*: Most presidents were extremely hesitant to go for more than two terms due to the fact that Washington had only two terms. They didn't want to make the point that they were better than him. FDR apparently didn't think of it that way, or had no qualm with it.
On September 6, 1901, Polish-American anarchist Leon Czolgosz shoots McKinley in the stomach when the president was touring the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. McKinley dies over a week later. His Vice-President, Theodore Roosevelt is sworn into office.
McKinley is sort of an enigma. He may of started a war to gain land, which is bad, but he also lowered tariffs, which is something he helped raise in the first place. He was an above average president in some regards, but too willingly went out to fight the Spanish I think.