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The bad economic times had continued, and strengthened the hand of forces for free silver.

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The issue bitterly divided the Democratic Party; President Cleveland firmly supported the gold standard, but an increasing number of rural Democrats wanted silver, especially in the South and West. The silverites took control of the Democratic National Convention and chose William Jennings Bryan for president; he had electrified the delegates with his Cross of Gold speech.

Bryan's financial radicalism shocked bankers—they thought his inflationary program would bankrupt the railroads and ruin the economy. With his eloquence and youthful energy his major assets in the race, Bryan decided on a whistle-stop political tour by train on an unprecedented scale. Hanna urged McKinley to match Bryan's tour with one of his own; the candidate declined on the grounds that the Democrat was a better stump speaker: "I might just as well set up a trapeze on my front lawn and compete with some professional athlete as go out speaking against Bryan.

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I have to think when I speak. Hal Williams in his book on the election, "it was, as it turned out, a brilliant strategy. McKinley made himself available to the public every day except Sunday, receiving delegations from the front porch of his home. The railroads subsidized the visitors with low excursion rates—the pro-silver Cleveland Plain Dealer disgustedly stated that going to Canton had been made "cheaper than staying at home".

Once there, they crowded close to the front porch—from which they surreptitiously whittled souvenirs—as their spokesman addressed McKinley. The candidate then responded, speaking on campaign issues in a speech molded to suit the interest of the delegation. The speeches were carefully scripted to avoid extemporaneous remarks; even the spokesman's remarks were approved by McKinley or a representative.

This was done as the candidate feared an offhand comment by another that might rebound on him, as had happened to Blaine in Most Democratic newspapers refused to support Bryan, the major exception being the New York Journal , controlled by William Randolph Hearst , whose fortune was based on silver mines. In biased reporting and through the sharp cartoons of Homer Davenport , Hanna was viciously characterized as a plutocrat, trampling on labor. McKinley was drawn as a child, easily controlled by big business.

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The Democrats had pamphlets too, though not as many. Jones analyzed how voters responded to the education campaigns of the two parties:. For the people it was a campaign of study and analysis, of exhortation and conviction—a campaign of search for economic and political truth. Pamphlets tumbled from the presses, to be read, reread, studied, debated, to become guides to economic thought and political action. They were printed and distributed by the million Favorite pamphlets became dog-eared, grimy, fell apart as their owners laboriously restudied their arguments and quoted from them in public and private debate.

McKinley always thought of himself as a tariff man and expected that the monetary issues would fade away in a month. He was mistaken—silver and gold dominated the campaign. The battleground proved to be the Midwest—the South and most of the West were conceded to Bryan—and the Democrat spent much of his time in those crucial states. By the end of September, the Republicans had discontinued printing material on the silver issue, and were entirely concentrating on the tariff question. Bryan had concentrated entirely on the silver issue, and had not appealed to urban workers.

Voters in cities supported McKinley; the only city outside the South of more than , population carried by Bryan was Denver , Colorado. The presidential election is often seen as a realigning election , in which McKinley's view of a stronger central government building American industry through protective tariffs and a dollar based on gold triumphed. The voting patterns established then displaced the near-deadlock the major parties had seen since the Civil War; the Republican dominance begun then would continue until , another realigning election with the ascent of Franklin Roosevelt.

McKinley was sworn in as president on March 4, , as his wife and mother looked on. The new President gave a lengthy inaugural address; he urged tariff reform, and stated that the currency issue would have to await tariff legislation. He warned against foreign interventions, "We want no wars of conquest. We must avoid the temptation of territorial aggression. Sherman had an outstanding reputation but old age was fast reducing his abilities. When I saw him last I was convinced both of his perfect health, physically and mentally, and that the prospects of life were remarkably good.

Maine Representative Nelson Dingley Jr. Charles Dawes, who had been Hanna's lieutenant in Chicago during the campaign, was considered for the Treasury post but by some accounts Dawes considered himself too young.

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Dawes eventually became Comptroller of the Currency ; he recorded in his published diary that he had strongly urged McKinley to appoint as secretary the successful candidate, Lyman J. McKinley was reluctant, stating to one Roosevelt booster, "I want peace and I am told that your friend Theodore is always getting into rows with everybody. Alger , former general and Michigan governor. Competent enough in peacetime, Alger proved inadequate once the conflict with Spain began. However, he proved a valuable adviser both for McKinley and for his Cabinet members. The wealthy Vice President leased a residence close to the White House; the two families visited each other without formality, and the Vice President's wife, Jennie Tuttle Hobart , sometimes substituted as Executive Mansion hostess when Ida McKinley was unwell.

Cortelyou served as his personal secretary. Cortelyou, who served in three Cabinet positions under Theodore Roosevelt, became a combination press secretary and chief of staff to McKinley. For decades, rebels in Cuba had waged an intermittent campaign for freedom from Spanish colonial rule.

By , the conflict had expanded to a war for Cuban independence. American public opinion favored the rebels, and McKinley shared in their outrage against Spanish policies. McKinley insisted that a court of inquiry first determine whether the explosion was accidental. He did not ask for war, but Congress declared war anyway on April 20, with the addition of the Teller Amendment , which disavowed any intention of annexing Cuba.

The expansion of the telegraph and the development of the telephone gave McKinley a greater control over the day-to-day management of the war than previous presidents had enjoyed, and he used the new technologies to direct the army's and navy's movements as far as he was able. Within a fortnight, the navy had its first victory when the Asiatic Squadron , led by Commodore George Dewey , destroyed the Spanish navy at the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, in the Caribbean theater, a large force of regulars and volunteers gathered near Tampa, Florida , for an invasion of Cuba. Sampson 's North Atlantic Squadron in the largest naval battle of the war. McKinley's cabinet agreed with him that Spain must leave Cuba and Puerto Rico, but they disagreed on the Philippines, with some wishing to annex the entire archipelago and some wishing only to retain a naval base in the area.

McKinley proposed to open negotiations with Spain on the basis of Cuban liberation and Puerto Rican annexation, with the final status of the Philippines subject to further discussion. During the war, McKinley also pursued the annexation of the Republic of Hawaii. The new republic, dominated by business interests, had overthrown the Queen in when she rejected a limited role for herself.

Newlands of Nevada to accomplish the result by joint resolution of both houses of Congress. Wayne Morgan notes, "McKinley was the guiding spirit behind the annexation of Hawaii, showing It is manifest destiny. Even before peace negotiations began with Spain, McKinley asked Congress to set up a commission to examine trade opportunities in Asia and espoused an " Open Door Policy ", in which all nations would freely trade with China and none would seek to violate that nation's territorial integrity.

American missionaries were threatened with death when the Boxer Rebellion menaced foreigners in China. Closer to home, McKinley and Hay engaged in negotiations with Britain over the possible construction of a canal across Central America. The Clayton—Bulwer Treaty , which the two nations signed in , prohibited either from establishing exclusive control over a canal there. The war had exposed the difficulty of maintaining a two-ocean navy without a connection closer than Cape Horn.

McKinley had built his reputation in Congress on high tariffs, promising protection for American business and well-paid American factory workers. With the Republicans in control of Congress, Ways and Means chairman Dingley introduced the Dingley Act which would raise rates on wool, sugar, and luxury goods. McKinley supported it and it became law. American negotiators soon concluded a reciprocity treaty with France, and the two nations approached Britain to gauge British enthusiasm for bimetallism. Wolcott , that he would be amenable to reopening the mints in India to silver coinage if the Viceroy's Executive Council there agreed.

In the wake of McKinley's election in , African Americans were hopeful of progress towards equality. McKinley had spoken out against lynching while governor, and most African Americans who could vote supported him in McKinley's priority, however, was in ending sectionalism , and they were disappointed by his policies and appointments. Although McKinley made some appointments of African Americans to low-level government posts, and received some praise for that, the appointments were less than they had received under previous Republican administrations.

Blanche K. Bruce , an African American who during Reconstruction had served as senator from Mississippi , received the post of register at the Treasury Department; this post was traditionally given to an African American by Republican presidents. McKinley appointed several black postmasters; however, when Democrats protested the appointment of Justin W. Lyons as postmaster of Augusta, Georgia , McKinley asked Lyons to withdraw he was subsequently given the post of Treasury register after Bruce's death in Jackson, a former slave, to the post of customs collector in Presidio, Texas.

The administration's response to racial violence was minimal, causing him to lose black support.


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Although black leaders criticized McKinley for inaction, supporters responded by saying there was little the president could do to intervene. Critics replied by saying that he could at least publicly condemn such events, as Harrison had done. According to historian Clarance A. McKinley toured the South in late , promoting sectional reconciliation. He visited Tuskegee Institute and black educator Booker T.

He also visited Confederate memorials. In his tour of the South, McKinley did not mention the racial tensions or violence. Although the President received a rapturous reception from Southern whites, many African Americans, excluded from official welcoming committees, felt alienated by the President's words and actions. Republicans were generally successful in state and local elections around the country in , and McKinley was optimistic about his chances at re-election in Bliss , but none were as popular as the Republican party's rising star, Theodore Roosevelt.

Elected governor of New York on a reform platform in , Roosevelt had his eye on the presidency.

Platt , who, disliking Roosevelt's reform agenda, sought to sideline the governor by making him vice president. When the Republican convention began in Philadelphia that June, no vice presidential candidate had overwhelming support, but Roosevelt had the broadest range of support from around the country. The candidates were the same, but the issues of the campaign had shifted: free silver was still a question that animated many voters, but the Republicans focused on victory in war and prosperity at home as issues they believed favored their party.

Soon after his second inauguration on March 4, , William and Ida McKinley undertook a six-week tour of the nation. Traveling mostly by rail, the McKinleys were to travel through the South to the Southwest, and then up the Pacific coast and east again, to conclude with a visit on June 13, , to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.

He also postponed the visit to the fair until September, planning a month in Washington and two in Canton before the Buffalo visit. Although McKinley enjoyed meeting the public, Cortelyou was concerned with his security due to recent assassinations by anarchists in Europe, such as the assassination of King Umberto I of Italy the previous year, and twice tried to remove a public reception from the President's rescheduled visit to the Exposition.

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McKinley refused, and Cortelyou arranged for additional security for the trip. In his final speech, McKinley urged reciprocity treaties with other nations to assure American manufacturers access to foreign markets. He intended the speech as a keynote to his plans for a second term.

One man in the crowd, Leon Czolgosz , hoped to assassinate McKinley.