In the Election of 1900 as the incumbent Republican president, William McKinley is looking to get re-elected in what is the first presidential election of the 20th century, and it all culminates with an ending that no one sees coming… So with all that said, let’s get into it.
Economy & Imperialism
Following his victory in the 1896 election, William McKinley has been busy in more ways than one; For starters, the economy has recovered from the financial crisis and businesses are continuing to boom within the country.
Secondly, the big issue of using gold or silver as currency in the U.S. is going to be solved as McKinley believes in using the Gold Standard and with the economy doing so well the idea of using sliver currency begins to die out by the turn of the century.
And finally, the third biggest thing that occurred under McKinley’s term in office was the spread of imperialism by way of intervening in Latin America.
After a U.S. Naval ship called the USS Maine suffered an explosion that is still subject of debate for some, President McKinley asked Congress to have the authority to wage war on Spain and not too long after getting approval, U.S. soldiers travel to Cuba to fight against the Spanish forces occupying the area. “The Spanish-American War” as it’s been called by historians only lasted a few weeks with the U.S. acquiring Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines and Cuba for a certain amount of time.
However, America’s interest in imperialism and intervention would soon see the U.S. get into conflict with the Philippines after the United States refused to acknowledge the Filipinos demands for independence following the previous war with the Spanish, thus leading to the “Philippine-American War” which would continue on during this election.
So that’s been the three major things going on in McKinley’s time in the White House and he easily gets renominated by the Republican Party but before we look at who his opponent will be in this election, there’s a small bit of business that needs to be handled first relating to his running mate.
The New Running Mate
As President McKinley was getting renominated, he needed to find a new running mate as his vice president, Garret Hobart had died the previous year from heart problems at the age of 55.
Many of the Republican Party bosses including Thomas C. Platt from New York were looking to find a new person to run with McKinley for the 1900 election and then they stumbled upon Theodore Roosevelt, the former Assistant Secretary of the Navy and NYC Police Commissioner who was the current Governor of New York.
With his success in New York and his time as a war hero in the Spanish-American War, you’d think Roosevelt was chosen to be McKinley’s running mate because of his credentials, however, that isn’t the case as Platt and the other GOP bosses despised Roosevelt for his progressive policies and they thought that by making him McKinley’s new running mate and presumably the next vice president would put a halt to Roosevelt’s progressive influence in New York.
Due to the fact that the role of VP doesn’t really have much power to it, Theodore Roosevelt was hesitant to accept the nomination but sure enough, he would go along with it and became President McKinley’s new running mate…So now that’s the Republican ticket, now let’s turn to the Democrats and their nominees for this election.
At first, Admiral George Dewey who led navy forces during the Spanish-American War looked like a possible candidate to run for the Democrats but after making numerous plunders which were captured and mentioned in the newspapers, he decided to withdraw.
The only other person the Democrats turned to as a nominee for president in 1900 was William Jennings Bryan, the man who lost to McKinley in the previous election, but nevertheless still had strong support amongst many within the Democratic Party, and he got the nomination with Adali Stevenson (the former Vice President to Grover Cleveland in 1892) as his running mate. So, we have a rematch from 1896 on our hands as it’s McKinley vs. Bryan once again but with the circumstances changed ever so slightly.
McKinley’s strategy in this election was to repeat his Front Porch Strategy from 1896 and decided to run on his record with a recovering economy and the success in the Spanish-American War, which led to the GOP slogan for this election being: “Four More Years of the Full Dinner Pail”.
In addition to this, Theodore Roosevelt is travelling all over the country giving speeches as to why the people should go out and vote for McKinley while also using his dynamic energy to fire up the crowd.
William Jennings Bryan decided to run on the idea that he had in 1896 which was supporting the idea of Free Silver as the new currency but due to the economy doing so well, his messages about Free Silver didn’t resonate like they did four years earlier.
Another talking point that Bryan ran on in this election was McKinley’s brand of Imperialism when it came to the Philippine-American War, claiming that the president replaced a bad Spanish tyranny with a bad American one.
Again this also didn’t resonate too well with Americans as many of them were happy about the outcomes of the wars and it made it feel like Bryan look a little bit out of touch.
Now that we’ve discussed the two platforms both sides are running with in this election, it’s time to look at the results.
William McKinley easily won re-election, remaining 25th president of the United States with 292 electoral votes and 51.6% of the popular vote while William Jennings Bryan received 155 electoral votes and 45.5% of the popular vote. McKinley became the first Republican president since Ulysses S. Grant to win two consecutive elections with more than 50% of the popular vote.
Now this would normally be where I wrap up the story, but as I mentioned in the intro of this article there’s going to be an ending that no one sees coming…and now the time has come to talk about that ending.
Assassination & Ramifications
Mere months after being re-elected, President McKinley heads to Buffalo New York in September of 1901 where his scheduled to appear at the Pan-American Exposition at the Temple of the Music for political reasons when he goes out to shake hands with the people in attendance without any type of security escort much to the dismay of McKinley’s personal secretary.
On September 6th 1901, a former factory worker turned anarchist by the name of Leon Czolgosz heads to Buffalo and decides to take his frustrations about losing his job and the wealth disparity going on within the country out on William McKinley and he does so when he shoots the president twice with the second bullet getting stuck into his abdomen.
Many feared that McKinley would die from gangrene as a result of his injuries, but the president didn’t die at first and was recovering quite nicely upon being tended to by doctors however just a few days after the attempt, William McKinley would end up succumbing to his woes becoming the third president to be assassinated and Leon Czolgosz would be tried, convicted and executed via the electric chair on October 29th 1901 where his body was then covered in acid in order to dissolve any remaining traces of the killer’s body.
As a result of the assassination attempt on William McKinley, Roosevelt returned to Buffalo New York where he went to the Ansley Wilcox House and was officially sworn in as the 26th president of the United States, making Theodore Roosevelt the youngest man to ever become president at just the age of 42.
The death of President McKinley will be not only a big blow to the country but to the corporate side of the Republican Party as well because the whole reason Roosevelt was chosen to become vice president in the first place was to leave him in a role that would stop him from passing any progressive-minded policies in New York.
However, with the previous guy dead and Roosevelt being his Vice President means that the former rough rider is now the new commander and chief and Roosevelt is going to be spreading his progressive influence not just in New York but the entire country for the next four years.
So that’s the election of 1900 the Republican Party picks up another victory, but the new century is going to kick off not with a very energetic and progressive president at the helm.
The Election of 1896: William McKinley vs. William Jennings Bryan
The Election of 1892: Grover Cleveland vs. Benjamin Harrison vs. James B. Weaver
The Election of 1888: Grover Cleveland vs. Benjamin Harrison
The Election of 1884: Grover Cleveland vs. James Blaine
The Election of 1880: James Garfield vs. Winfield Scott Hancock