“The President Is Dead…”: On the Anniversary of the Death of the U.S. President William McKinley
Republican William McKinley was the 25th President of the U.S. elected in 1896; McKinley was well-known for his efforts to promote American industry, setting protective tariffs, and the adoption of the gold standard, rather than the use of the “free silver” one. Especially helpful and effective was the implementation of the Dingley Tariff (1897) that protected American-based companies from competition with their foreign opponents.
McKinley was the last American president to have served during the Civil War, moreover – he was the only president who started the war as an ordinary volunteer: he was enlisted and became a private in the Union Army, ending it in the rank of a brevet major. Just like General Pershing, McKinley obviously took part in the Spanish-American War (1898) and, actually, led the nation to victory there.
His presidency is considered to be “successful” by a number of historians and political scientists: this year he has been placed 19th overall in the list of 45 presidents by APSA (American Political Science Association), right between the 5th President, Democratic-Republican James Monroe and the 11th President, Democrat James Polk. Such Presidents as the 6th, Democratic-Republican John Quincy Adams, the 18th, Republican Ulysses S. Grant, and the 38th President, Republican Gerald Ford, could have only dreamt of such posthumous evaluation of their terms.
William McKinley was born January 29, 1843 and raised in the town of Poland, Ohio, where he attended Seminary and graduated from there in 1859. When the Civil War started, thousands of Ohioans joined the Union Army, and future president McKinley was among them, serving in the Poland Guards and, eventually, in the 23rd Ohio Infantry Division. Among the main battles McKinley participated in during the Civil War were The Battle of South Mountain (September 14, 1862 – decisive Union victory) and the Shenandoah Valley Campaigns of 1864.
His political career started in August 1876, when he won the Republican nomination for the Ohio 17th Congressional district. He later served as governor of Ohio in 1892-1896: the years preceding his presidency. The same year, 1896, he defeated the Democrat candidate for the Presidency from Nebraska, William Jennings Bryan, with a result of 271-176 in terms of the Electoral vote, and became the 25th President of the country.
September 6, 1901, was supposed to be another work day for President McKinley, who was in his second term by then – in the election of 1900 he defeated Democrat (by an interesting coincidence – he was from Nebraska too, just like McKinley’s previous opponent) Adlai Stevenson I, with the result of 292 electoral votes against 155. In the September of 1901 McKinley was at the peak of his political career, and his popularity among people was beyond any doubt very high: the more shocking the shots fired became for the American society.
McKinley was shot twice in the abdomen by an anarchist Leon Frank Czolgosz (a descendant of the Polish immigrants, 27, at that point of time) on the grounds of the Pan-American Exposition at the Temple of Music in Buffalo, New York. Thus, one man from Poland was assassinated by another “man from Poland”. President McKinley died 8 days after, September 14, 1901, of gangrene caused by the wounds, while Leon Frank Czolgosz was executed seven weeks after the assassination took place, October 29, 1901.
Just 20 years after the assassination of another U.S. President, Republican James A. Garfield, McKinley became the third President in the American history to be assassinated, while holding the office.
Next time it happens, more than 60 years later, the world would be completely different, but this certainly is another interesting story to write about.