William McKinley

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Our earnest prayer is that God will graciously vouchsafe prosperity, happiness, and peace to all our neighbors, and like blessings to all the peoples and powers of earth.

William McKinley, Jr. (January 29, 1843September 14, 1901) was the 25th president of the United States, serving from March 4, 1897, until his assassination in September 1901, six months into his second term. McKinley led the nation to victory in the Spanish–American War, raised protective tariffs to promote American industry, and maintained the nation on the gold standard in a rejection of inflationary proposals.



(campaign poster)
  • Under free trade the trader is the master and the producer the slave. Protection is but the law of nature, the law of self-preservation, of self-development, of securing the highest and best destiny of the race of man. [It is said] that protection is immoral.... Why, if protection builds up and elevates 63,000,000 [the U.S. population] of people, the influence of those 63,000,000 of people elevates the rest of the world. We cannot take a step in the pathway of progress without benefiting mankind everywhere. Well, they say, "Buy where you can buy the cheapest".... Of course, that applies to labor as to everything else. Let me give you a maxim that is a thousand times better than that, and it is the protection maxim: "Buy where you can pay the easiest." And that spot of earth is where labor wins its highest rewards.
    • Speech in Boston, MA (Oct. 4, 1892) William McKinley Papers, Library of Congress.
  • War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed.
    • First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1897)
  • Illiteracy must be banished from the land if we shall attain that high destiny as the foremost of the enlightened nations of the world which, under Providence, we ought to achieve.
    • First Inaugural Address (March 4, 1897).
  • We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California. It is manifest destiny.
    • Remark to personal secretary George Cortelyou (1898).
  • The mission of the United States is one of benevolent assimilation.
    • Letter (December 21, 1898).


  • Our differences are policies; our agreements, principles.
    • Speech in Des Moines, Iowa (1901).
  • The American flag has not been planted on foreign soil to acquire more territory but for humanity's sake.
  • Without competition we would be clinging to the clumsy antiquated processes of farming and manufacture and the methods of business of long ago, and the twentieth would be no further advanced than the eighteenth century.
    • Speech delivered at the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York (September 5, 1901).
  • Our earnest prayer is that God will graciously vouchsafe prosperity, happiness, and peace to all our neighbors, and like blessings to all the peoples and powers of earth.
    • Speech delivered at the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York (September 5, 1901).
  • Expositions are the timekeepers of progress.
    • Speech delivered at the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York (September 5, 1901).
  • Let us ever remember that our interest is in concord, not in conflict; and that our real eminence rests in the victories of peace, not those of war.
    • Speech delivered at the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, New York (September 5, 1901).
  • When I next realized that the Philippines had dropped into our laps I confess I did not know what to do with them … And one night late it came to me this way…:
    1. That we could not give them back to Spain — that would be cowardly and dishonorable;
    2. that we could not turn them over to France and Germany-our commercial rivals in the Orient — that would be bad business and discreditable
    3. that we not leave them to themselves — they are unfit for self-government — and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain's wars; and
    4. that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God's grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow-men for whom Christ also died.
    • Attributed by James F. Rusling "Interview with President McKinley" The Christian Advocate (22 January 1903), as remarks from a meeting with clergymen on 21 November 1899. The overtly religious part is disputed in Lewis Gould (1980) The Presidency of William McKinley.


  • I could not have told where those damned islands were within 2,000 miles."

About William McKinley[edit]

  • I am deeply affected by the news of the untimely death of President McKinley. I hasten to express the deepest and most heartfelt sympathy of the German people to the great American nation. Germany mourns with American for her noble son, who lost his life while he was fulfilling his duty to his country and people.
  • The ocean is not wide enough to hold all the sympathy that is streaming from the Old World to the New.
    • Austrian response to McKinley's death by Vienna newspaper Neues Wiener Tageblatt. The Authentic Life of President McKinley, page 397.
  • Mr. McKinley was one of the most popular figures in American history and one of the best representatives of American ideals. On account of the extraordinary purity of Mr. McKinley's character, the American people will find sympathy wherever civilized men dwell. Opinion in Europe regarding Pan-Americanism may possibly be divided, but it is comprehensible from the American point of view. Mr. McKinley died firmly believing that the work he had begun in domestic and foreign policy would find suitable instruments for its continuation.
    • Russian response to McKinley's death by St. Petersburg newspaper Boerse Gazette. The Authentic Life of President McKinley, page 397.
  • I learn with deep pain that his Excellency Mr. McKinley has succumbed to the deplorable attempt on his life. I sympathize with you with all my heart in this calamity which thus strikes at your dearest affections and which bereaves the great American nation of a President so justly respected and loved.
  • I have been deeply shocked by this crime. President McKinley was not a ruler of exclusive or aristocratic tendencies. He was a good friend of the people, a genuine democrat in the best sense of the word. With regard to Mexico, President McKinley had ever evidenced such friendly sentiments that his death will be mourned in this country hardly less keenly than in the United States.
    • President of Mexico Porfirio Díaz. The Authentic Life of President McKinley, page 398.
  • All our people loved their dead President. His kindly nature and lovable traits of character, and his amiable consideration for all about him will long live in the minds and hearts of his countrymen. He loved them in return with such patriotism and unselfishness that in this hour of their grief and humiliation he would say to them: 'It is God's will; I am content. If there is a lesson in my life of death, let it be taught to those who still live, and leave the destiny of their country in their keeping.' Let us, then, as our dead is buried out of our sight, seek for the lessons and the admonitions that may be suggested by the life and death which constitutes our theme.
    • Former President Grover Cleveland, Address to the students of Princeton University. The Authentic Life of President McKinley, page 409.
  • One evening, while engrossed in a book, I was surprised by several detectives and reporters. "The President has just died," they announced. "How do you feel about it? Aren't you sorry?" "Is it possible," I asked, "that in the entire United States only the President passed away on this day? Surely many others have also died at the same time, perhaps in poverty and destitution, leaving helpless dependents behind. Why do you expect me to feel more regret over the death of McKinley than of the rest?" The pencils went flying. "My compassion has always been with the living," I continued; "the dead no longer need it. No doubt that is the reason why you all feel so sympathetic to the dead. You know that you'll never be called upon to make good your protestations." "Damned good copy," a young reporter exclaimed, "but I think you're crazy."
  • One of its first steps had been the annexation of the Philippines, an act of treachery to the people whom America had pledged to set free during the Spanish War. McKinley also typified a hostile and reactionary attitude to labor: he had repeatedly sided with the masters by sending troops into strike regions. All these circumstances, I felt, must have exerted a decisive influence upon the impressionable Leon, finally crystallizing in his act of violence.
  • When the history of his time is written he will stand forth as the great figure in the years which have been so crowded with events. He gained the entire confidence of the nation by his patriotism, wisdom and ability, just as he won its love by his kindness and goodness to all men.
  • Thousands of armed white paramilitaries then destroyed the black area of Wilmington, killing as many as three hundred people and overthrowing its government. Jeter C. Pritchard, the Republican senator from North Carolina, had written a letter to McKinley in October warning of "race war" in the state: McKinley had done nothing. Nothing was also McKinley's response after the fact. A procession of black Republicans beseeched McKinley for intervention, but the president would offer nothing-not troops, not an investigation, not even so much as a sternly worded condemnation. McKinley "did not make a single public reference to the killings in Wilmington," Zucchino wrote. The black journalist Ida B. Wells would later observe that McKinley was "too much interested... in the national decoration of Confederate graves to pay any attention to the Negro's rights." Wilmington showed Democrats across the South that the party of Lincoln would no longer stand in their way. And they took the lesson to heart.
  • The distinctions between McKinley's call for unity and Biden's are the difference between a party that had already abandoned its multiracial coalition, and a party that remains reliant on one.
  • Through the two months between the blowing up of the Maine and the declaration of war I vacillated between hope that the President would succeed in preventing a war and fear that the savage cries coming from the Hill would be too much for him, as they were in the end. I honestly believed then as I do now that he was doing his best, and this in spite of the fact that my heart was hot with resentment for what I considered his cowardly desertion of my Poland friends in 1893. McKinley was patient, collected, surprisingly determined.

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