William McKinley

(1843-1901)

WHO S/HE WAS:

William McKinley was the twenty-fifth President of the United States, and the last veteran of the American Civil War to be elected. By the 1880s, McKinley was a nationally known Republican leader; his signature issue was high tariffs on imports as a formula for prosperity, as typified by his McKinley Tariff of 1890. As the Republican candidate in the 1896 presidential election, he upheld the gold standard, and promoted pluralism among ethnic groups. His campaign introduced new advertising-style campaign techniques that revolutionized campaign practices and beat back the crusading of his arch-rival, William Jennings Bryan. The 1896 election is often considered a realigning election that marked the beginning of the Progressive Era.

WHAT S/HE SAID:

We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California. It is Manifest Destiny.

WHY S/HE MATTERED:

McKinley was an ardent expansionist. Under his administration, the United States annexed Hawai’i, claimed Wake Island, and forced Spain to give up its colonies in the Caribbean and the Pacific as part of the treaty ending the 1898 Spanish-American War. In 1896, Alaska’s highest peak was named Mount McKinley by a sympathetic gold prospector. It remained so-named until 2015, when President Obama restored the mountain’s ancient name, Mount Denali.

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