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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