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(William McKinley Portrait)
(Ida (Saxton) McKinley Portrait)
THERE could be no more comprehensive history of a nation than that which deals with the life work of those, who, by their endeavors and accomplishments, have helped to give that nation an eminent position among the greatest nations of the world, and not too often can be repeated the life history of one who lived so honorable and useful a life and who attained to such notable distinction as did the late President William Mckinley, lawyer, soldier, statesman, and easily one of the most distinguished men that the great State of Ohio has ever produced. His character was one of signal exaltation and purity of purpose. Well disciplined in mind, maintaining a vantage point from which life presented itself in correct proportions, judicial in his attitude toward both men and measures, guided and guarded by the most inviolable principles of integrity and honor, simple and unostentatious in his self respecting, tolerant individuality, such a man could not prove other than a force for good in whatever relation of life he may have been placed. His character was the positive expression of a strong nature. In studying his career, interpretation follows fact in a straight line of derivation and there is no need for indirection or puzzling. The record of his life finds a place in the modern history of this State and that of the nation, and in this compilation it is necessary only to note briefly the salient points of his life history. And it is useless to add that both the State and the Nation were dignified by his noble life and splendid achievements, and that he stood as an honored member of a striking group of noted men whose influence in the civic and economic life of the nation was of a most beneficent order. He served as Congressman, Governor, and President, and was accorded every evidence of popular confidence and regard; the while he ever ordered his course according to the highest principles and ideals, so that he was found true to himself and to all men in every relation of life.
William McKinley was born on January 29, 1843, at Niles, Trumbull County, Ohio, the son of William, Sr., and Nancy (Allison) McKinley. Of Scotch-Irish ancestry and the scion of grandsires who fought with devotion and courage in the war of the Revolution, it is not strange that there were exhibited in him qualities of unusual order. William KcKinley, Sr., who was engaged in the iron business, possessed great strength of character and was a man of marked intellect, while of his wife, it is said that "she possessed in rare degree those qualities which gave character to her son." Possessing a strong spiritual nature, of an even and temperate life, she was also a woman of sound common sense, strong and self-relieant, and largely to her early guidance and teachings was her son indebted for that respect and observance of the spiritual verities which characterized his mature life. Indeed, it is said to have been her ambition that her son would enter the ministry and some day become a bishop. He did become a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which he was an earnest and consistent adherent during the remainder of his life. Of her son, Mrs. McKinley was justifiable proud, though never boastfully so, and she lived to see him receive from the hands of the nation the greatest gift within its power to bestow.
In order that his children might secure better educational advantages than were available in their home town, William McKinley, Sr., removed to Poland, Mahoning County, where was located Poland Academy, a most excellent educational institution, where William McKinley, Jr., received the major part of his higher education, being spoken of as a good student and an earnest and able debater. he later was a student for a year in Allegheny College, at Meadville, Pennsylvania, after which he taught school and then for a time was in the post office at Poland. At the outbreak of the War of the Rebellion, young McKinley, then but seventeen years old, gave practical evidence of his intrinsic patriotism by promptly offering his services to his country, enlisting as a private in the Twenty-third Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, a regiment which became notable from the character and services of its members, which included William S. Rosecrans, who became one of the noted military commanders of that war; Stanley Matthews, afterwards a justice of the United States Supreme Court, and two presidents, in the persons of Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley. Mr. McKinley was a good soldier, served on the staffs of Generals Hayes and Crooks, and at the close of the war had earned the rank of brevet major. The regiment had an active and honorable record, taking part in some of the most notable battles of that great struggle.
After the close of the war, Major Mckinley returned to his home in Poland and took up the study of law under the direction of Judge Charles E. Glidden, a man of great learning and eloquence. Major McKinley completed his professional studies at the Albany Law School and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1867. He immediately located at Canton, Stark County, which from that time on was his home and there he met with marked success early in his practice. In 1869 he was elected prosecuting attorney of Stark County, where he gained much valuable experience as well as a large reputation as a successful trial lawyer. Methodical and painstaking in the preparation of his cases, he always went to the court-room ready for the work before him, and handled his case with an ease and skill which stamped him as a lawyer of no ordinary caliber. He possessed an enthusiastic love for his profession, and it is said to have been his early ambition be become a common pleas judge, for which he was well adapted by ability and temperament.
During the ten years in which Major McKinley actively practiced law at Canton, he was deeply interested in political affairs, and in campaign years was one of the most effective speakers in advocacy of the principles of the Republican party. He had made a thorough study of the great political questions of the day, and in the presentation of the issues to his hearers he exhibited a profound knowledge of the intricacies of political economy, especially as relating to the tariff and other vital questions affecting the general welfare, with the ability to present these questions in a manner that was effective and forceful. In 1876, Mayor [Sic.] Mckinley was elected a member of Congress, and for fourteen years he represented his district in that capacity with ability and distinction. During that period no member of Congress exerted more direct influence on tariff and kindred legislation than he, and he naturally became one of the leaders of the house. He was an ardent and persistent advocate of the policy of a protective tariff, for he firmly believed it would lead the country to greater prosperity and to the betterment of the condition of the laboring men, and as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, he practically framed the tariff act known as the McKinley Bill. In 1878, his political adversaries redistricted the State, gerrymandering his district so that he could be defeated, but he succeeded in carrying the district. In 1890, the work was more effectually done, the new district having a nominal Democratic majority of about three thousand majority was reduced to a little more than three hundred. In 1891, Major McKinley was nominated by his party for governor of Ohio, and, after an unusually arduous campaign, was elected. In 1893, he was again chosen governor, and by a greatly increased majority over that of 1891. By this time Major McKInley had become a national figure and one of the most popular orators of the day, so that his name was prominently mentioned for the nomination for the Presidency. Indeed, "in the convention of 1888 it is generally believed that his loyalty to the distinguished statesman whose cause he upheld prevented his own selection." His speech in that national convention became famous in convention annals, and is worthy of preservation. It was as follows: "Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention, I am here as one of the chosen representatives of my State. I am here by resolution of the Republican State Convention, commanding me to cast my vote for John Sherman for President, and to use every worthy endeavor to secure his nomination. I accepted the trust because my heart and judgement were in accord with the letter and spirit and purpose of that resolution. It has pleased certain delegates to cast their votes for me for President. I am not insensible to the honor they would do me, but in the presence of the duty resting upon me, I cannot remain silent with honor. I cannot consistently with the wish of the State whose credentials I bear and which has trusted me; I cannot consistently with my own views of personal integrity, consent or even seem to consent to permit my name to be used as a candidate before this convention. I would not respect myself if I could find it in my heart to do or permit to be done that which could even be ground for any one to suspect that I wavered in my loyalty to Ohio, or my devotion to the chief of her choice and the chief of mine. I do not request--I demand that no delegate who would not cast reflection upon me shall cast a ballot for me." In the national convention of 1896, he was nominated for the Presidency, and then followed on of the most strenuous campaigns, as well as one of the most unique, in the history of American politics. For the time being, the tariff question was relegated to second place and the so-called silver question became the paramount issue. The Democrats favored the free coinage of silver at the ratio of sixteen to one, while the Republicans stood for the maintenance of the gold standard, with limited silver coinage to be maintained at par with gold. Governor McKinley promptly met the new issue, and, though he did not leave his home at Canton, he was visited by hundreds of delegations from all over the country, to all of whom he made addresses, which made a profound and favorable impression on the voters of the country, the result of the campaign being his triumphant election to the Presidency. At that time the relations between Spain and this country were strained owing to the unfortunate situation in Cuba, a situation which he determined to relieve as far as possible within the range of his official duties. However, the blowing up of the United States battleship "Maine" precipitated matters, the eventual out com being the opening of hostilities between the two nations. Fortunately, the conflict was short and decisive, and the triumph of the American arms complete. In the conclusion of the treaty of peace, the President was generous as far as he could be, but firm in his insistence upon certain conditions in accordance with what he believed to be right and in accord with the sentiment of his countrymen. Altogether, so wise and beneficent was his administration in all its public relations, that in 1900 President McKinley was renominated by acclamation for anther term of the Presidency, and was elected by an increased majority. The most important event during the few months of his second term was the Boxer uprising in China, in which American soldiers performed valiant service towards restoring order and insuring the safety of foreigner.
In early September, 1901, President McKinley made one of the most notable addresses of his entire career at the Buffalo Exposition, in which he outlined his future policy regarding trade relations with other countries, and the concluding words of which address were thoroughly characteristic of the broad and humanitarian spirit of the man who uttered them: "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 the earth." On September 6, while holding a public reception, he was stricken by an assassin and mortally wounded, lingering until September 14, when he died. His remains were brought back to Canton, and now rests in the beautiful mausoleum.
On January 25, 1871, William McKinley was married to Ida Saxton, daughter of James A. and Kate (Dewalt) Saxton, of Canton, where Mr. Saxton had for many years carried on a successful banking business. The fruits of this union were two daughters, Katie and Ida, one of whom died in infancy, the other living only a few years. This bereavement and the illness which followed the birth of her second child, broke the once vigorous health of Mrs. McKinley, who remained an invalid at least a part of the time up to her death. Mrs. McKinley, despite her ill health, always maintained the most affectionate interest in her husband's career, and her encouragement and sympathy were undoubtedly sources of great strength to him.
The following lines are quoted from a splendid review of President McKinley's life and accomplishments by Secretary of State (now Justice) William R. Day, whose close and intimate personal relations with the martyred President qualified him, better than almost any one else, to speak of this character: "William McKinley loved his home and cherished his friends. No matter to what heights of success he rose, to his friends and neighbors he was ever the same. . . . He was devotedly attached to his Canton home and took an almost boyish delight in improving and beautifying it.
"Those who seek in William McKinley the leader and the President, who undertook to set up his own policies and views in defiance of public opinion and without regard to the sentiments of co-ordinate branches of the Government, will be disappointed. He believed in his country and its institutions. He believed that the sober sense of the people of a republic was the ultimate appeal of the statesman. . . . He delighted to take his countrymen into his confidence by frequent visits among them and frank utterances in their presence.
"William McKinley never consciously wronged a fellow being. It was his rule not only to refrain from inflicting pain, but to scatter joy wherever he could. He would step aside from a march or retreat to assure a weeping mother, who loved the Union, that defeat was but for a day and would be turned into victory. Steadfast in his friendships, he would not swerve from loyalty for the glittering of the Presidency. Enduring the burdens which came before, during, and after the war, no word of impatience ever escaped him, and he met the people with a smile of welcome and a word of encouragement. He would turn from the most important affairs of state to give a flower to a little child, or to say a kindly word to some visitor for whom he could do no more. Resentments he had none. He believed life was too short to give any of his time to cherishing animosity. Sensitive to criticism, no one ever heard him utter an unkind word of another. He met calumny with silence and unjust criticism with charity. His was the gospel of cheerfulness. His presence was sunshine, never gloom; his encouraging word dispelled doubt and nerved others to their duty.
"With so much to make life dear, this strong man did not falter when the summons came. Looking forward to retirement in the home he loved sure of the affection of his countrymen and the respect of the world, holding the hand of his loved companion whose welfare had ever been the first purpose of his life, and whose returning strength had made his last summer one of hte brghtest, he entered the valley of the shadow of death with no murmur at his fate, leaning on the rod and staff which had comforted his fathers, in humble submission to the will of God. . . . He lives in the love of his countrymen. His character will grow brighter with the years; the nobleness of his life, the sublime heroism of his death shall never perish from the memory of men. He will live in the thousands of homes where comfort and domestic peace reflect the wisdom of his statesmanship. He will live in the beneficience of his example at every hearth where succeeding generations shall recount the strength and beauty of his character and tell again the story of his life."
Barbara's Bordered Backgrounds