Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 44

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 44


This is the tomb of William McKinley.

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Born in 1843 in Niles, Ohio, William McKinley volunteered for the Civil War in 1861. He slowly rose in the war, rising to be a captain and on the staff of General George Crook. The last Civil War veteran to be president, McKinley soon entered politics, working for his friend and mentor Rutherford B. Hayes when he ran for Ohio governor in 1867. In 1869, he ran for Stark County’s prosecuting attorney and won. He made the unusual move for the time of defending a group of strikers who had rioted and defeated a legal team led by Mark Hanna, who would soon become his friend and promoter. McKinley won a seat in Congress in 1876 and became known for his support of the tariff. He soon became a leader of the Ohio Republican Party, despite repeated attempts of Ohio Democrats to gerrymander him out of office, which they succeeded in doing twice. The second time, in 1890, McKinley shifted and ran for governor of Ohio in 1891, which he won. He soon decided he wanted to be president and won the nomination in 1896.

The 1896 election was really the pinnacle of the Gilded Age. Hanna engineered the election, which was seen as a referendum on the economic policies of the Republican Party for the first time since the Civil War. With William Jennings Bryan running on an economically populist platform, a shift from the racial politics of many post-war Democrats and from the DINO politics of Grover Cleveland. Men like Hanna and McKinley found Bryan utterly repulsive and they believed their victory, promoted with an unprecedented infusion of cash into politics Hanna engineered, that November ensured the ultimate victory of the plutocrats.

McKinley’s administration however would be defined by foreign policy, with the rise of imperialism. McKinley was not the strongest imperialist and when the yellow journalism of Hearst and Pulitzer rallied support for intervening in Cuba, hard-core imperialists like Theodore Roosevelt basically accused McKinley of not being a real man for his moderation on the issue. But McKinley came around and led the U.S. in the unjust imperialist conquest of Spanish colonies, including turning Cuba into a colony in all but name.


McKinley also worked on his core issue of protectionism in domestic policy, as well as opposing silver coinage, signing the Gold Standard Act in 1900. McKinley was basically terrible on civil rights policy, disappointing African-Americans. McKinley won reelection in 1900 but needed a new vice-president after Garret Hobart died in 1899. Theodore Roosevelt won the nomination and when Leon Czoglosz assassinated the president in 1901, a very different era began in American history. In the aftermath, McKinley statues rose throughout Republican states and the giant memorial erected in Canton, inside of which is the grave of he and his wife Ida.

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William McKinley is buried at the McKinley Memorial, Canton, Ohio.

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  • erick

    Pretty significant typo in your last paragraph, that would make for an interesting what if counter history:-)

  • bk

    when Leon Czoglosz assassinated Roosevelt in 1901

    I missed that chapter

    • osceola

      That’s not what he wrote. Erik talked about TR getting the VP nomination, then “Czolgosz assassinated the president.”

      • I had formed the hypothesis that bk saw an earlier version of the post, and that Eric had corrected it before (you and) I read bk’s comment.

        • bk

          That is correct

      • erick

        He edited the typo so bk’s and my comments don’t make sense anymore

  • Joe_JP

    The defending of strikers is an interesting tidbit.

    More on that?

    • (((Hogan)))

      Hanna wasn’t a member of the legal team; he was a mine owner, and one of the ones most open to negotiation and arbitration between organized business and organized labor. He had a good labor record as governor, and the longshoremen’s union on Lake Erie and the United Mine Workers both endorsed him for senator in 1898.

      • Joe_JP

        Thanks. That’s interesting.

  • Keaaukane

    I can’t believe I skipped the McKinley temple in favor of going to the NFL Hall of Lame when I was in Canton. Oh, well. Next life, maybe.

    • Dilan Esper

      Generic football Hall of Fame argument.

      “William McKinley made it to Canton and [insert name of underrated player] didn’t? That’s outrageous!”

      • Denverite

        [insert name of underrated player]

        Terrell Davis
        Rod Smith
        Randy Gradishar
        Steve Atwater
        Karl Mecklenberg
        Tom Jackson

        For a team that’s been in eight Super Bowls and won three of them, the Broncos have been screwed HOF-wise.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      You could, in theory, go to Canton, OH, more than once. In theory.

      • Keaaukane

        I’m good, thanks. Once was enough.

  • N__B

    I, too, would like to be buried inside an ICBM silo.

    • efgoldman

      I, too, would like to be buried inside an ICBM silo.

      Not in a bear cave?

  • StuartEugene

    Damn! I thought McKinley was a sergeant; I never knew he made Captain. I had thought him the answer to a trivia question: Of all the U.S. presidents who were veterans, which one was the only enlisted man?

    I guess the actual answer is: Nobody. They were all officers.

    • Joe_JP
      • LosGatosCA

        Proving that if you aren’t officer material you really should never be president.

        • Halloween Jack

          Yeah, that’s not a really useful criteria. Lincoln’s qualifications for being captain of his company were that he won a popularity contest, and ended his military career as a private. Reagan, by contrast, was a captain, but probably should have (and could have) been declared 4F for his poor eyesight, and spent WWII narrating training films.

  • osceola

    Karl Rove studied the 1896 election and used that as the template for Bush in 2000.

    Remember all those Republican and national security types going to visit Bush at the Texas governor’s mansion in 1999? That was Hanna’s “front porch campaign” in ’96. People coming to the candidate make him look important and needed and is more impressive than the candidate going out seeking support.

  • cleter

    Nice that there’s ample parking for all the McKinley fans out there.

    • Warren Terra

      But, terrible disabled access.

      • Keaaukane

        It has ramps on either side of the stairs. It’s a bitch going up, but quick coming down.

  • Eli Rabett

    So was Cuba better off under the Spanish heel or the US? Same for Philippines? Opinions differ

    • cpinva

      “So was Cuba better off under the Spanish heel or the US? Same for Philippines? Opinions differ”

      not really. a heel is, after all, still a heel, regardless of who it belongs to. the only practical difference, between Spanish oppression and American oppression, is that America has no royal titles. I’m not sure how much actual difference that makes, to the guy who has a gun pointed at his head either way.

      ultimately, I suspect if Spain had continued it’s ownership of Cuba, Castro & Che’ would have still resulted, just everyone would have spoken Spanish.

      • Warren Terra

        everyone would have spoken Spanish.

        Is this a subtle joke I’m not getting?

      • LeeEsq

        The Philippines would have probably been conquered by Germany or Japan on some pretext if the United States decided not to colonize it after the Spanish-American War. Both countries were looking for colonies and the Philippines were a very attractive target. The United States allowed for a big measure of self-government for a colony and were better alternative than Germany or Japan.

        • ExpatChad

          I live in PH, and can attest to both Germans and Japanese being here in force now, as are us Yanks, as retirees.


      • LeeEsq

        Spain messed up with Cuba and Puerto Rico. Both islands had a small enough population that they could have been treated as an overseas extension of Spain like the Canary Islands and allowed seats in the Spanish Parliament. Spain insisted on treating them as colonies. If treated like overseas provinces, both countries would have been still been part of Spain today most likely. Neither island had much of indigenous population left. Most of the population was either Spanish, African, or mixed.

        • weirdnoise

          Most of the population was either Spanish, African, or mixed.

          I think you answered your own question.

    • Dennis Orphen

      I don’t know the answer to that (leaning towards better off under the US) but I know that I am best off OVER a Cuban heel.

  • Bootsie

    I’ve lived through twelve recessions, eight panics, and five years of McKinleynomics. I’ll survive this.

  • Well, that is more than I ever knew about McKinley.

    • cpinva

      “Well, that is more than I ever knew about McKinley.”

      that’s probably more than everyone, except the one guy getting his PhD in history, and using him as his subject matter, knows about McKinley. well, except he does have a mountain named after him. I’m kind of surprised that wasn’t mentioned.

      that is one impressive grave site, especially for a guy who had, at best, delusions of mediocracy. that’s more like something you’d expect for a Lincoln or Washington. yep, damn impressive.

      • If I wasn’t lazy, that post could have easily reached 2000 words. There’s a lot to know about McKinley.

        • LosGatosCA

          There’s a lot to know about McKinley.

          But is it worth knowing?

        • Thom

          God yes, if there is one thing all call agree on it is that Erik Loomis is lazy!

        • witlesschum

          Seems like a pretty seminal president, in that he presided over the beginning of the U.S. as an imperial power and got his office through a recognizably modern political campaign. If you’re going to consider presidents important, he seems like he’s in the middle as far as consequential.

      • Warren Terra

        he does have a mountain named after him.

        Does he, though?

        • CrunchyFrog

          That was a funny event. The drive to rename McKinley to Denali came from Alaska and was bipartisan and effectively unanimous within Alaska. In fact, apparently Denali had been used locally since basically forever. The only roadblock to official renaming was the Ohio congressional delegation.

          Predictably, when Obama mandated that the mountain be renamed in 2015 most Republicans outside of Alaska labeled it a dictatorial act – even though all elected Republicans in Alaska supported it. Only one notable former Alaska politician was against it – you guessed it, dimwit herself, who accused Obama of everything under the sun in a usual Palinesque statement. She also denied that Alaskans had ever wanted to name the mountain Denali, despite video recordings of her as governor arguing that the mountain should be named Denali.

          Proof – if any were needed – that the GOP will label any Obama action as dictatorial even if they were lobbying for it in the first place.

          • Dennis Orphen

            Just think if Hilary Clinton did that. The facebook feeds be on fire with youtube videos showing what a lying duplicitous **** she is.

        • Dennis Orphen

          He doesn’t have a mountain named after him anymore but we are all in denali about it.

          • Warren Terra

            Turns out, Denali isn’t in any way a river in Egypt.

      • JMP

        One thing you can say about William McKinley is that, out of all of America’s Presidents, he was definitely one of them.

        • (((Hogan)))

          I would go farther and say he was, by all accounts, the 25th.

          • Warren Terra

            Nope. 24th President; 25th Presidency. Because Cleveland.

            • (((Hogan)))

              Fine. By most accounts.

  • LosGatosCA

    William McKinley is buried at the McKinley Memorial, Canton, Ohio.

    This made me think about the one key question I have about this series – will it be revealed who is buried in Grant’s tomb?

  • Bitter Scribe

    The Spanish-American war was infused with lies, jingoism and general fuckwittery on the American side, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that the Spanish were a nasty bunch of bastards themselves. They introduced concentration camps in Cuba, using them to effectively imprison the entire population of the island.

    • Bootsie

      A short history of Cuba: Do I want to get hit in the dick this way, or that way?

      • Bitter Scribe

        Americans actually treated the Cubans fairly well, AFAIK. It was how we handled the Philippine insurgency afterward that was the real disgrace.

        • witlesschum

          Yeah. Cuba was allowed to have its puppet government pretty much right away, but the Philippines weren’t allowed even that until after a bloody, expensive war. The idea was that the Cubans were whiter, I’d assume, in U.S. imagination, but I wonder why they were thought to be whiter, if the answer is as simple as that.

  • JR in WV

    Actually I am good friends with a descendant (great great granddaughter? not sure how many greats…) of Mr. President McKinley. Special ed teacher, a very wonderful person. Not a Republican.

    • McKinley had no children that survived childhood.

  • Matt_L

    The only politician I hate more than William McKinley is Leonid Brezhnev. Both were impeccable exemplars of their respective socioeconomic systems and everything that was wrong with late nineteenth century capitalism and late twentieth century state socialism.

    • Warren Terra

      This seems like an odd response. If the guy in charge hadn’t been McKinley, it would most likely have been someone extremely similar; I imagine the same is true for Brezhnev. Surely you should direct your special hatred for politicians who are much worse than expected, not who merely live down to their roles, even if they are perhaps especially good at it?

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Can I interest you in hating a new politician? Because we have a new model, just in, that’s just perfect for all sorts of decent people to hate.

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