7 Major Accomplishments of William McKinley, 25th President of the United States
Here are 7 examples of President William McKinley’s greatest accomplishments, which includes how he led the nation to a quick and decisive victory against Spain during the Spanish-American War (1898).
The article also explores how the pro-business and industrial initiatives of the McKinley Administration helped lift the nation out of a depression, transforming America into a real global super power, militarily and economically.
Fast Facts about William McKinley
Born: January 29, 1843 in Niles, Ohio, U.S.
Death: September 14, 1901 at Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Father: William McKinley Sr.
Mother: Nancy Allison
Spouse: Ida Saxton (married in 1871)
Children: 2 – Katherine (1871) and Ida (born 1873)
Training and Apprenticeship: Lawyer
Education: Allegheny College, Mount Union College, and Albany Law School
Political Party: Republican Party
Elected Public Offices: 25th President of the United States (1897-1901); 39th Governor of Ohio (1892-1896); Member of the U.S. Congress (1877 – 1884 and 1885-1891)
Presidency: March 4, 1897 to September 14, 1901
Predecessor: Grover Cleveland
Successor: Theodore Roosevelt
Most known for: McKinley Tariff of 1890; Leading the U.S. to victory during the Spanish-American War (April 21-December 10, 1898); Annexing Hawaii
Major Accomplishments of William McKinley
McKinley was the last US President to serve in the American Civil War
Born in 1843 at a place called Niles (in Ohio), William McKinley had the honor of fighting for the Union Army in the American Civil War (1861-1865). Driven by the ideals of freedom and civil liberties, the future 25th president of the United States enlisted as a private in Poland Guards in June 1861. He ultimately attained the rank of brevet major by the close of the war.
His service in the Union Army was a distinguished one, serving bravely under Rutherford B. Hayes (later 19th POTUS) command in the Civil War. McKinley even holds the record of being the last US President to serve in the American Civil War.
William McKinley made a name for himself practicing law
With the Civil War over in 1865, McKinley directed his focus to studying law, securing an admission to the bar in Ohio in 1867. He then moved to Canton, Ohio, where he established his law practice.
In 1868, William McKinley was elected prosecuting attorney in Stark County. It was also around this time that he married (in January, 1871) Ida Saxton, a well-educated woman from a well-to-do family in Canton.
In 1876, McKinley took on a pro bono case to defend a group of coal miners accused of rioting. He showed the nation just how good a lawyer he was by getting all but one of the defendants acquitted. Shortly after, labor unions and American workers came to have a strong liking for William McKinley – something that would later help in his political career.
He was an influential member of Congress for 14 years
At just 34, McKinley got elected to Congress, representing Ohio’s 17th congressional district. He was massively supported by labor and other mine workers.
By so doing he defeated Levi L. Lamborn of the Democratic Party. McKinley was sworn into office in October 1877. The young politician quickly positioned himself as an expert in tariffs and trade.
His captivating character allowed him to push for protective tariffs to protect businesses at home from excessive foreign competition. Owing to his dedication in the House, he was picked chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, a position which further increased his influence on Capitol Hill.
Sponsored the McKinley Tariff of 1890
His crowning achievement came in 1890, when the McKinley Tariff of 1890 was passed by Congress. The bill, which was named after McKinley, was championed by McKinley with the goal of placing tariffs on imported goods into the country.
Owing to the influence that McKinley wielded on Capitol Hill, the Democrats had one goal only when they took back control of the House; conscious efforts were made to get William McKinley out of the House.
In 1882, the Ohio-born politician was effectively gerrymandered out of the House by the Democrats. However, he made a comeback in 1884 and went on to serve five more years in Congress before losing to John G. Warwick by 300 votes.
Two-time Governor of Ohio
Determined to get his political career ticking again, McKinley turned his attention to the governor’s seat in Ohio. He easily secured the Republican Party’s nomination and went on to defeat incumbent Democratic governor James E. Campbell. McKinley’s road to victory in 1891 was largely supported by funds raised by long-time friend and ally Mark Hanna.
As governor, McKinley worked very hard to resolve labor disputes. He also had the backs of workers’ unions by protecting them from the excessiveness of employers. As a result, he strolled into an easy re-election in 1893.
Became the 25th President of the United States
With largely two very successful terms as governor of Ohio, McKinley shifted his attention to the national election.
Starting around 1888, McKinley and his political ally Hanna began strategizing for a Republican Party nomination. Hanna devoted all his time and resources to see to it that McKinley had adequate funding for his presidential bid.
McKinley secured nomination at the Republican National Convention held in St. Louis on June 16, 1896. Garret Hobart of New Jersey was nominated as his running mate.
His campaign relied on him carrying himself as an agent of prosperity. Unlike his opponent, Democrat William Jennings Bryan, who crisscrossed the country campaigning, McKinley adopted a front porch campaign strategy. From the porch of his home in Canton, Ohio, he delivered speeches to over 700,000 people. This feat of his was made possible by the enormous campaign funds raised by Mark Hanna.
Riding on campaign themes of using the gold standard to arrest the 1893 depression, McKinley defeated Jennings.
William McKinley was sworn into office on March 4, 1897 as the 25th President of the United States.
His first order of business in the White House was dealing with the economic recession. He called on Congress to enact high tariffs in order to protect local manufacturers and American workers.
Marshaled the nation’s troops to victory in the Spanish-American War
Initially, the U.S. foreign policy was one of minimal interference in the affairs of neighboring countries. However, that all changed by 1897, when the general public sentiment in the nation swayed in favor of Cuba’s independence from Spain.
President McKinley, as well as large section of the public, had grown very frustrated of Spain’s suppression and brutalities during the Cuban War of Independence. This culminated in the U.S. going to war against Spain in 1898.
Prior to the break out of the Spanish-American War, the president made sure that he had exhausted all diplomatic channels to compel Spain to concede Cuban Independence. However, after the battleship USS Maine sunk, along with 266 American souls, at the harbor in Santiago, Cuba, the public and Congress wanted the U.S. to intervene; the latter even passed several resolutions that called on the president to intervene in Cuba.
Congress declared war on Spain on 20th April, 1898; and so began the 100-day war against Spain.
Guided by the values of humanitarianism, President McKinley led the United States to a decisive victory against Spain. The win reinforced America’s military might and dominance in the world.
And as part of the Peace Treaty of Paris in December 1898, Spain ceded control of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico to the U.S.
It was also agreed that Cuba be given its independence. Although, there were a few anti-imperialist sentiments from leading Democrats and some small sections of the public, the decisive victory over Spain was a good thing for McKinley’s political career.
Similarly, the annexation of the Republic of Hawaii, under the Newlands Resolution passed on July 8, 1898, was met with a lot of praise from the American public. His supporters showered praises on him for breathing life into America’s Manifest Destiny – a principle with imperialist undertones.
William McKinley inspired economic growth and industrial boom
Upon the urging of President William McKinley, Congress passed the Dingley Tariff in 1897. The tariff was designed to protect American manufacturers and factory workers from excessively competitive imported goods. It was the highest protective tariff until that time.
The president also urged Congress to pass the Gold Standard Act in 1900. That act, which he signed into law on March 14, 1990, was designed to keep the U.S. using the Gold Standard.
Additionally, McKinley’s economic initiatives allowed the nation to recover swiftly from the 1893 depression. In his last few months in the White House, President McKinley adopted many trade policies that in the long run helped establish the U.S. as a formidable economic power house on the global stage.
Owing to all that, he, supported by running mate Theodore Roosevelt, was easily re-elected in 1900, securing the largest victory since 1872. The president even won in Nebraska, his opponent’s (Democrat William Jennings Bryan) home state.
Other Notable Accomplishments by William McKinley
- He maintained an “Open Door Policy” when it came to trade with China by calling on European nations to lift trade restrictions.
- In June 1900, President William McKinley sent about 5,000 troops to Beijing, China, during the China Relief Expedition to protect Americans in the city.
- His tenure marked the beginning of America’s dominance in the world, a status it has held since then – both militarily and economically.
Assassination of President William McKinley
About six months into his second term, President William McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz – a man of Polish decent with deranged anarchist leanings.
The president died on September 14, 1901 and was survived by his wife Ida Saxton McKinley. The president’s body was laid to rest in Canton, Ohio.
Upon McKinley’s death, Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt was sworn into office as the 26th President of the United States.