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President McKinley and American Expansion


President McKinley and American Expansion In 1896, as Democrat William Jennings Bryan barnstormed the country in search of enough votes to be elected president, staid and conservative William McKinley was content to let the voters come to him. McKinley purposely went no further than his front porch to air his views to the American people. Trainload after trainload of would-be voters descended upon McKinley's Canton Ohio property to hear him speak of how he would pull the nation out of its current economic depression. While McKinley's style put off some observers-one referred to him as a figure "who walked among men like a bronze statue determinedly looking for a pedestal"-the American people elected him their 25th president with a plurality of more than 600,000 votes.

Once in office, McKinley championed the Dingley Tariff which increased tariffs on imported products. He also adopted the Currency Act of 1900 which put the nation on the Gold Standard. However, foreign affairs soon came to dominate McKinley's agenda. As press accounts, some of dubious veracity, informed Americans of atrocities perpetrated by Spanish colonialists on Cuban natives, McKinley was pressured to act. Despite being on record as deploring what he termed "jingo nonsense," McKinley requested from Congress, on April 11, 1899, a declaration of war on Spain. Victory was swift, and for the US, fairly bloodless. McKinley soon found himself in a position to expand considerably the American empire. Along with winning Cuba, Guam, and the Philippines from Spain, McKinley oversaw the annexation of Hawaii, and the partition of the Samoan Islands with Germany. Such expansion did not come without a cost, however. When Filipino freedom fighters did not quietly submit to US rule, McKinley was forced to commit up to 70,000 troops to a prolonged and costly war.

Displeasure with the duration of the war in the Philippines threatened to weaken McKinley as the presidential campaign of 1900 got underway. Buttressed by the vigor of his newly chosen running mate, Theodore Roosevelt, McKinley was able to regain the White House, beating out William Jennings Bryan by an even greater margin than in 1896. Among McKinley's aims for his second term was the breaking up of the increasingly powerful trusts. McKinley would not have the chance to see this goal through, however. On September 6, 1901 he was shot twice by anarchist Leon Czolgosz. After clinging to life for 8 days, William McKinley died on September 14.
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