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March 4, 1897: President McKinley Inaugurated

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McKinley Delivering his Inaugural Address On March 4, 1897, William McKinley, Jr. (1843-1901) became the 25th President of the United States of America. Although the United States had avoided becoming embroiled in the Cuban situation since the Grant administration (1869-73), President McKinley was drawn into the conflict just thirteen months after his inauguration.

Born in Ohio, William McKinley served as a top Civil War military aid, studied the law, and became a leader in the temperance movement before he was elected to Congress as a Republican in 1876. As a Congressman and a two-term governor of Ohio, McKinley earned respect for his practical political style and commitment to protectionism. In the election of 1896, William McKinley easily defeated the Democrats' nominee, populist William Jennings Bryan.

President McKinley believed in consensus building and diplomacy. In response to Congressional and media reports of Cuban suffering under Spanish reconcentration policy, McKinley called on Spain to find a humane and peaceful solution to the insurrection. Even after the de Lome letter scandal and the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine, the President remained skeptical of military intervention . However, by 1898, U.S. public opinion, rallied by sensationalist journalist William Randolph Hearst, demanded intervention, and McKinley capitulated. In April 1898, President McKinley abandoned his failed diplomatic efforts and asked Congress for permission to intervene in Cuba.


Dyal, Donald H.. Historical Dictionary of the Spanish American War. Greenwood Press: Westport, CT, 1996.

Gould, Lewis L. The Presidency of William McKinley. University Press of Kansas, 1980.

O'Toole, G.J.A., The Spanish War: An American Epic-1898. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 1984.

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