Presidential Administration

McKinley had strong opinions concerning protectionism and the gold standard when he ascended to the presidency. Throughout his term in office, he attempted to shore up America's economy through what he saw as the best means possible.

McKinley was unafraid to move forward in gaining further land and other interests for America. He disagreed with President Cleveland's opinion concerning how America dealt with Queen Liliuokalani and Hawaii and approved its annexation. This would be the first step toward statehood for the island territory.

Remember the Maine

One of the main events of McKinley's administration was the Spanish-American War. At the time, many newspapers were in the business not only of reporting the news but also sensationalizing it — and in some cases making the news itself. This “yellow journalism” can be directly related to America's going to war with Spain in 1898.

On February 15, 1898, the U.S. battleship Maine, stationed in the Havana harbor, exploded and sank killing 266 members of the crew. The cause of the explosion has never been determined, but that did not stop newspapers from claming that Spanish mines were to blame. “Remember the Maine !” became the rallying cry of the Spanish-American War.

Frederick Remington was sent to Cuba by William Randolph Hearst to report about what was happening before the start of the Spanish-American War. Writing back to Hearst, Remington said, “There is no war. … Request to be recalled.” Hearst responded, “Please remain. You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war.”

This event directly led to war being declared against Spain on April 25, 1898. America fought against the Spanish in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Commodore George Dewey destroyed Spain's Pacific fleet while Admiral William Sampson destroyed the Atlantic fleet. American troops captured Manila and took possession of the Philippines. In Cuba, Santiago was captured. The United States also took Puerto Rico before Spain asked for peace. The United States and Spain made peace with the Paris Peace Treaty on December 10, 1898. According to the treaty, Spain gave up its claim to Cuba and ceded Puerto Rico and Guam to America. It also gave the Philippine Islands to the United States in exchange for $20 million.


America wanted to ensure that it had equal rights to trade with China along with other nations around the world. In 1899, Secretary of State John Hay created the Open Door policy to this effect. However, the Boxer Rebellion occurred in June 1900 as a backlash against Western influences in trade and culture in China. Western missionaries and foreign communities were targeted. America joined forces with eight nations — including Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and Japan — to stop the rebellion in 1900. China ended up having to pay war reparations. The war's outcome reduced the authority of the Chinese government in the eyes of its people, setting the scene for future rebellions.

Gold Standard

Economically, a significant action taken during McKinley's administration was the Gold Standard Act. According to this bill, America was officially placed on the gold standard, meaning that greenbacks were backed by gold held in reserve by the United States. This remained in effect until 1933 when President Franklin Roosevelt took America off the gold standard.


Henry M. Littlefield published an article called “The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism,” in which he describes hidden meanings throughout the book. According to Littlefield, L. Frank Baum, author and supporter of Bryan and free silver, wrote the story as an allegory of the problems with the gold standard. In the book, Dorothy's shoes — the means of her return to safety — are made of silver.


On September 6, 1901, President McKinley was visiting the Pan-American exhibit in New York City, a fair with participants from the Western Hemisphere similar to a world's fair. While there, McKinley was shot twice by anarchist Leon Czolgosz. McKinley died eight days later on September 14, 1901. Czolgosz claimed that he assassinated McKinley because the president was an enemy of working people. The assassin was convicted of McKinley's murder and electrocuted on October 29, 1901.

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