A Teen’s Perspective

(Cazenovia, NY – Jan. 2013) Born Jan. 29, 1843, in Niles, Ohio, William McKinley, the youngest of nine children, was destined for greatness. Through his childhood, he attended public schools and went on to Allegheny College, although he only was able to stay a year due to health struggles, depression and lack of family finances.

McKinley turned to teaching school and working in a post office. Then, the Civil War broke out. McKinley immediately enlisted in the 23rd Ohio Volunteers as a private under commanding officer Rutherford B. Hayes, the future 19th President of the United States.

McKinley was an outstanding soldier and obtained the rank of major within four years. He fought in such battles as the Battle of South Mountain and the Battle of Antietam, one of the war’s bloodiest actions.

Following the end of the war, McKinley began studying law and became involved in local politics. During this time, he married Ida Saxton, with whom he eventually had two daughters.

McKinley was elected to Congress at the age of 34 where he served, with the exception of one term, for 14 years. In 1891, he was elected governor of Ohio and kept the title for a second term, doing much to improve Ohio’s canals, public institutions and roads.

In 1896, the Republican Party asked McKinley to run for president against William Jennings Bryan. He agreed, and so began his campaign. It seemed McKinley would take the Northeast and Bryan the South and West. McKinley turned his attention to the Midwest for supporters, and this proved wise when American voters awarded McKinley the White House with a popular vote of 51 percent and a good majority of the Electoral College.

In his inaugural address, he said, “War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed.”

Despite this, the big event of the McKinley administration was the Spanish-American War (1898). McKinley tried to avoid war by removing the callous governor of Cuba, negotiating with Spain and, in February 1898, he sent a battleship, the Maine, to Havana in an effort to protect American lives. When a submarine mine blew up the ship killing 266 Americans, the public’s antipathy reached a boiling point, and newspapers ran headlines “Remember the Maine!”

In April, McKinley requested Congress declare war. Over the next two-and-a-half months, the conflict included Theodore Roosevelt leading the “Rough Riders” in a charge up San Juan Hill, General Nelson Miles conquering Puerto Rico and Commodore Dewey taking the Philippines with six warships while not losing a ship or a man.

Finally, Spain requested a treaty. On Dec. 10, 1898, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines were ceded to the United States by Spain. Cuba was given her independence and, in the same year, Hawaii was added to the union.

McKinley’s first term was now concluded, and he was again running against Democrat William Jennings Bryan. The Democrats had slogans such as “Flag of a Republic Forever, Of an Empire Never,” and “A Republic Can Have No Colonies.” Despite their efforts to reinstate a Democrat to office, that party lost and McKinley was given a second term with war hero Theodore Roosevelt as his vice president.

Just six months after his second inauguration, McKinley was attending the Pan-American Exposition in New York when a young man, Leon Czologosz, approached McKinley to greet him. Czologosz’s hand was wrapped in order to hide a gun, with which he fired two bullets in McKinley.

Though rushed to the hospital and beginning to show signs of recovery, eight days after the shooting, McKinley’s heart began to fail. He reportedly told the doctors, “It is useless, gentlemen. I think we ought to have a prayer.”

In the early morning of September 14, 1901, he died.

McKinley’s biographer wrote that, though some may have disagreed with his political views, no one could deny that William McKinley was a responsible, dignified, active man who did much for his country in the way he saw best. Though not thought of as one of America’s greatest presidents, such as Washington and Lincoln, McKinley nonetheless was a patriotic man who loved his country and tried hard to lead it wisely, sensibly and justly; and he did just that.

Alyssa B. is a local high school sophomore. She can be reached at MadNews@m3pmedia.com.

By martha

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