Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Greatness of McKinley and Lincoln (Part I)

The greatest president of all-time, to me, would be a combination of McKinley and Lincoln. Since both McKinley and Lincoln died early in their second term, the two combined to serve just over 8 years (the same as a two term president). So why not combine them into one presidency – after all, they served within a generation (36 years) of each other.

McKinley and Lincoln had a lot in common: They were both Republicans; they both served in the military (McKinley was a major in the Civil War, Lincoln was a captain) and they were lawyers; they both served in the US House of Representatives; they were both assassinated within 6 months after the start of their second term; they both served as war time presidents; they both had wives with medical issues (Ida Saxton McKinley suffered from epilepsy and Mary Todd Lincoln suffered from migraines and bipolar like behavior); they both pushed the power of the executive branch that raised questions of constitutionality over their policies; they were both very popular and gifted orators (McKinley campaigned from his front porch – thousands of people flocked to Canton, Ohio every day to hear him speak and of course Lincoln gave the most famous speech of all time – The Gettysburg Address); they were both very honest, humble, and modest – something that is non-existent in present day politics; and they both were elected President in their early 50s and died in their late 50s.

However, McKinley and Lincoln administrations were vastly different. The focus of the McKinley administration was mostly concentrated on foreign policy while the Lincoln administration was focused solely on domestic issues. In fact, Lincoln’s main foreign policy dealing was to ensure that foreign powers remained neutral in the American Civil War. Domestically, the main issues surrounding the McKinley administration dealt with corporate monopolies and the gold standard. McKinley did not enforce the newly passed Sherman Antitrust Act. The turn of the century was a time of industrial advances (electricity, mass transportation, etc.) and corporations were growing and booming and McKinley did not want to disrupt the economy by enforcing the law. McKinley also backed currency using the gold standard and refused to give into pressure to a bimetallism standard of gold and silver (Western states with large silver deposits objected to a gold only standard).

Lincoln’s domestic priority was focused solely on winning the Civil War. The economy under Lincoln was terrible mainly due to the war which generated stagflation. Conversely, the economy under McKinley was booming with very low inflation which can be accredited to protectionism tariffs and using the gold standard to back US currency. But it was Lincoln who saved the union and expunged the US of its evil domestic policy of slavery (without these accomplishments none of what McKinley accomplished would have been possible).

The McKinley administration dealt with American expansion. Despite McKinley efforts to avoid war with Spain, it was inevitable after the sinking of the Battleship Maine in Havana, Cuba. The inferior US navy destroyed the Spanish Navy in two battles at Manila, Philippines and at Santiago, Cuba. Spain was forced to surrender and the Spanish-American War was over in four months. The US received Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines from the peace treaty with Spain following the war (The U.S. also gave 20 million dollars to Spain). Prior to the war with Spain McKinley successfully annexed the Hawaiian Islands (and later made them a US territory). Opponents of McKinley saw him as not being an expansionist but being an evil imperialist like Western European nations. Allies of McKinley saw his actions as saving the inhabitants of these nations from imperialism rule. After all, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippine islands were riddled with poverty and the suppression of individuals under Spanish rule. But no one can argue the fact that McKinley’s foreign policy created the US as a global power for the first time in its short history. Within a few years of the occupation of Cuba they earned their independence in 1902. However, it was not until 1946 when the Philippines was granted its independence. Puerto Rico and Guam are presently US territories and of course Hawaii became our 50th state in 1959.

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