Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 40

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 40


This is the grave of Mark Hanna.

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Mark Hanna was the premier Republican kingmaker of the Gilded Age. Most famous for his close association with William McKinley, Hanna became a major Cleveland businessmen in the years after the Civil War, getting involved in a wide variety of projects. A lifelong Republican and supporter of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, Hanna turned to politics by 1880. In an era of convoluted political machinations in presidential politics, Hanna hoped to use his influence and power to launch Ohio politicians onto the national stage. This began in the fall of 1880 when Hanna did much to manage James Garfield’s presidential campaign, in particula convincing Ulysses S. Grant to come visit Garfield at his home in a sign of unity after a deeply fractured convention led to the rise of the darkhorse Garfield. Hanna didn’t even like Garfield that much because Hanna opposed civil service reform and liked the spoils system, but supporting Ohio politicians would be his key to power. Hanna then sought to make Ohio senator John Sherman president, beginning in 1884, even though he never actually met Sherman until 1885. When that failed and James Blaine received the Republican nomination, Sherman got Hanna appointed to the Union Pacific Railroad’s board of directors. In the Gilded Age, no inside dealing went unrewarded. If Hanna believed in anything other than power and Ohio, it was the power of capitalists to do whatever they wanted.

Hanna then moved on to work for William McKinley, having been impressed by him in 1888, when he actually suggested that Sherman step aside for the rising Ohioan. Sherman refused and Hanna continued working for him, but Benjamin Harrison received the nomination that year. Realizing that the next chance for an Ohioan president was in 1896 and that Sherman would be too old by then, Hanna put all his eggs in the McKinley basket. McKinley became governor of Ohio in 1891. Hanna insured Sherman’s reelection to the Senate the next year and Ohio Republicans were largely unified. Hanna then worked for the next four years to ensure McKinley’s nomination, dealing with other party bosses, planning campaign strategy, buying a home in the South to build connections with southern Republicans who could still play a major role in the convention. This was only partially successful, as many state level bosses wanted nothing to do with McKinley because he refused to allow them to control local patronage. But McKinley easily beat back any native son candidacies and became the nominee, thanks to Hanna’s work. It was Hanna’s finest hour. The Democratic press attacked Hanna as McKinley’s corporate master, but this charge did not stick enough to throw the election to William Jennings Bryan. Nor did it defeat Hanna’s groundbreaking fundraising campaign.

Hanna did not want a Cabinet position in return for all his work, thinking it would be seen as a corrupt bargain. So McKinley asked John Sherman to be Secretary of State. He agreed and Hanna won his position in the Senate. Hanna continued to advise McKinley closely from the Senate, even though he opposed the Spanish-American War, he also made sure McKinley got his declaration of war from the Senate. Although Hanna was horrified when Theodore Roosevelt won the VP slot in 1900 and even more horrified when he became president upon McKinley’s assassination, Hanna and Roosevelt came to a working relationship. Hanna strongly considered running for the Republican nomination in 1904 against Roosevelt. J.P. Morgan said he would fund Hanna’s campaign. But Hanna’s health was rapidly declining and he died on February 15, 1904.

Mark Hanna is buried in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio.

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