U.S. President William McKinley

One of many presidents who grew up in Ohio, William McKinley always believed he would be president someday. He inherited a poor economy from President Cleveland and wanted to focus on America’s domestic problems.


Official Presidential Portrait of William McKinley

Instead, he ended up presiding over a war with Spain. Having already witnessed the Civil War, McKinley had no desire to involve the country in Cuba’s fight for independence. Once the U.S. warship Maine exploded in Havana’s harbor, however, McKinley was pressured by the public to declare war. He finally gave in.

Once committed to a war, McKinley set out to win it. He set up the first modern war room in a corner office of the White House. By the war’s end the U.S. emerged for the first time as a world power. The United States not only served as protector of Cuba, but also took Puerto Rico and Guam from the Spaniards.

A confident president McKinley also sought to take the Philippines from Spain, but the Filipinos fought back. In order to subdue them, U.S. soldiers resorted to tactics such as burning villages in which innocent people, including children, were killed. McKinley disliked the atrocity stories but believed strongly in Manifest Destiny. He saw it as America’s duty to civilize the Filipinos and convert them to Christianity.

The bullet of an assassin ended the president’s second term during a cross-country tour. That trip was the last time a president traveled without the Secret Service.


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