McKinley, William
(1843–1901)
   The 25th president of the United States, William McKinley led the country in war against the Spanish Empire in 1898 and laid the foundations for an overseas empire and a strong international presence of the United States. A civil war hero from Ohio who served in the U.S. Congress from 1877to 1882 and again from 1885 to1891 and as governor of Ohio from 1892 to 1896, McKinley had little interest in foreign policy and no international experience before he assumed the presidency in 1896. Confronted with the Cuban struggle for independence, McKinley refused to recognize the Cuban revolutionaries and urged Spanish reforms of colonial rule with limited local sovereignty. The president opposed annexation schemes for Cuba, as he interpreted the inclusion of a multiracial society into the United States as detrimental for the American body politic. Once confronted with the deterioration of Spanish control over the island, public outrage over the brutal Spanish policy of forced Cuban resettlements, and the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana harbor, however, McKinley asked Congress for a declaration of war.
   McKinley interpreted American victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898 as a unique opportunity to strengthen the U.S. informal empire in the Caribbean with control over Cuba and understood the new colonial empire, which among other possessions encompassed the Philippines and Hawaii, as stepping-stones to the Asia market. He staunchly supported the acquisition of colonies in a powerful national debate between expansionists and anti-imperialists over the merits of empire and gained reelection in 1900. For McKinley, the colonial empire strategically and commercially complemented American hegemony in the Caribbean and safeguarded his administration’s claim to access to markets on the Asian mainland under the Open Door diplomacy of 1899 and 1900. In 1900, during the Boxer Insurrection , McKinley dispatched 2,500 soldiers to participate in a multinational expedition to protect foreign legations against Chinese rebels. McKinley was assassinated on a visit to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, in September 1901.
   See also <>, <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Dobson, John. Reticent Expansionism: The Foreign Policy of William McKinley. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1988;
    Gould, Lewis L. The Presidency of William McKinley. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1982;
    Musicant, Ivan. Empire by Default. New York: Henry Holt, 1998.
   FRANK SCHUMACHER

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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