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President McKinley: Architect of the American Century

– tekijä: Robert W. Merry

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
1914112,531 (4)3
"In this great American story, acclaimed historian Robert Merry resurrects the presidential reputation of William McKinley, which loses out to the brilliant and flamboyant Theodore Roosevelt who succeeded him after his assassination. He portrays McKinley as a chief executive of consequence whose low place in the presidential rankings does not reflect his enduring accomplishments and the stamp he put on the country's future role in the world"-- "Lively, definitive, eye-opening, [this book] by acclaimed historian Robert W. Merry brilliantly evokes the life and presidency of William McKinley, cut short by an assassin. Most often lost in the shadow of his brilliant and flamboyant successor, TR, the twenty-fifth president is presented by Merry as a transformative figure, the first modern Republican. It was President McKinley who established the United States as an imperial power. In the Spanish-American War he kicked Spain out of the Caribbean; in the Pacific he acquired Hawaii and the Philippines through war and diplomacy; he took the country to a strict gold standard; he developed the doctrine of 'fair trade'; he forced the 'Open Door' to China; and he forged the 'special relationship' with Great Britain. McKinley established the noncolonial imperialism that took America global. He set the stage for the bold leadership of Theodore Roosevelt, who built on his accomplishments. [This book] brings to life a sympathetic man and an often overlooked president. Merry raises his rank to a chief executive of consequence who paved the way for the American Century."--Dust jacket.… (lisätietoja)
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näyttää 4/4
Though nowadays overshadowed by his young, energetic successor that built upon his foreign policy successes in history, if not for his transformative Presidency the 20th Century could have gone differently for the United States. President McKinley: Architect of the American Century by Robert W. Merry explores the four and a half years of William McKinley in office and whether he led events or where led by them.

Merry begins his biography by leading up to its end, the assassination of McKinley in Buffalo at the Pan-American Exposition after the recently reelected President made a speech that seemed to show him turning towards freer trade and away from the protective tariffs that had defined his political career. After this dramatic beginning, Merry goes back to the first McKinleys to arrive in the Ohio territory where the future 25th President would live his life when not in the Union Army or in politics. Quickly going through McKinley’s early years, Merry spent a little more time following McKinley’s military career and how he rose quickly from a private to a Lieutenant within a year before finishing the war as a Major. After quickly covering McKinley’s time in law school, Merry covered his early years in Canton as a rising lawyer and meeting his future wife, Ida. As McKinley’s political career began and slowly took off, Merry slowed the pace of the narrative to give more facts including the how McKinley became a specialist on the tariff and dynamics of the Ohio Republican party that would impact his career. Once McKinley is in the White House, Merry slows down the narrative and focuses on the eventual four and a half years the redefined the United States at the end of the 19th Century leading to the 20th on the world stage from the lead up to and through the Spanish-American War to the Insurgency in the Philippines afterwards and the Boxer Rebellion in which the United States became a Great Power. Though McKinley’s time in office is now viewed as more foreign policy Presidency, McKinley himself had wanted to focus domestically more and Merry covered the many issues at home from the tariff to the gold standard to anti-imperialist sentiment that McKinley dealt with.

Merry began and ended his Presidential biography with how McKinley having been reelected based on his accomplishments of his first term was evolving his long-held political positions to meet new requirements to set up and complete his view of McKinley making decisions then incrementally push the political attitudes of others towards supporting his new position. Throughout Merry’s look at McKinley’s time in office, he showed evidence of McKinley’s incremental decision making and its high success rate but also the times when events moved too fast and how McKinley dealt with those events. Though focused on McKinley’s time in office more than the rest of his life, Merry’s biographical background of McKinley before his Presidency was fine but at times went back and forth in time during his political career that made things hard to follow and anticipate.

President McKinley is a well-written, informative political biography by Robert W. Merry of the 25th President’s time in office and how he made the decisions he made. While not a thorough biography of McKinley, it succeeds at it’s aim at covering the four and a half years that dramatically changed the United States standing in the world. ( )
1 ääni mattries37315 | Jun 28, 2021 |
An interesting and readable biography of a forgotten president. Interesting as a bio of McKinley, an understated personality who kept getting the better of flashier politicians who perpetually underestimated the Civil War major.

But to me the best part of this book was as a way to use history as a lens on our own time. Reading recent history, one can be struck by how similar everything seems to the present day — not invaluable, but also adding limited perspective.

In contrast, more remote history has a different impact. People in periods such as the early American republic fought about different issues from today, and thought about them in ways that can seem alien to us.

The period covered in this book, at the close of the 19th Century, is a happy medium. Many of the issues that consumed William McKinley and his rivals were largely different than the biggest issues today: the tariff, the metallic basis of the currency, war with other great powers, building a Central American canal. (Others are eerily similar: military efforts to suppress insurgencies in developing nations, international trade deals, scandals about the management of the army.) But McKinley and his contemporaries think in a recognizably modern way. Thinking about how Gilded Age politicians saw questions of the tariff or bimetallism as questions of political life or death in the same way that we see income tax rates or health care really helps put things in perspective.

So do many of the process fights: the way candidates framed campaigns as "outsiders versus party bosses," how state legislatures drew new district lines in an attempt to secure partisan gain, attempts to segment the electorate with targeted messages.

McKinley may deserve to be more highly rated as a president than he traditionally has been — Merry's largely laudatory biography argues that he was a major mover on many decisions that helped set up America's geopolitical dominance in the 20th Century. (Merry also doesn't grapple in depth with some of the moral issues involving the annexation of Hawai'i or the occupation of the Philippines. He often acknowledges the questionableness of those decisions but swiftly moves on or focuses on their implications for American power.) But this book is worth reading if only as a relatively breezy portrait of its times — times not so dissimilar from our own. ( )
  dhmontgomery | Dec 13, 2020 |
I read this biography of William McKinley immediately after reading Kotkin’s Stalin: Waiting for Hitler and the contrast between the two writing styles was jarring. While Kotkin’s biography of Stalin was a chore to get through, very densely presented and at times confusing, this work on the life of William McKinley was engaging and approachable, to the point of perhaps being overly simplistic, though perhaps that was just a function of so closely following the Kotkin book.

I am very familiar with the early American Presidents, through Andrew Jackson, and the Presidents of the 20th century, however with the exception of the Civil War era, the 19th century Presidents tend to run together for me, and I know very little about them. Prior to reading this book, the only thing I knew about William McKinley was that he was assassinated in office and succeeded by his Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt.

From reading this biography, it would seem that most historians view him as a very mediocre President, and that while many positive events transpiring during the course of his presidency, he gets little credit for them. As with many biographers, the author engages in a bit of hagiography, arguing that McKinley is underappreciated and misunderstood. Certainly, during McKinley’s term, the economy prospered, bi-metalism was resolved in favor of a gold standard, the United States attained Great Power status through victory over the Spanish and acquisition of Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, in addition to playing a leading role in the Chinese Boxer Rebellion resolution.

The question of course, is whether McKinley earned credit for these accomplishments, or whether he was simply along for the ride. Certainly, many historians view him as a bland, indecisive puppet of Ohio Senator Mark Hanna, and it is doubtful that McKinley would have ever risen to even the level of Ohio Governor without Hanna’s significant political acumen. The author argues, however, that McKinley’s supposed “indecision” was instead a form of incrementalism and a very successful management style. Critics allege that he was dragged involuntarily to success while the author argues instead that he guided events to their ultimate resolution. Perhaps most unfortunate for McKinley was his succession by Theodore Roosevelt, who was everything that McKinley was not; bold, decisive, energetic and wildly popular.

In any event, McKinley’s term served as a true turning point in American history. Whereas before, America was a largely insular, economically inconsistent, factionalized country, by the time of his death in 1901, The United States was a major force on the world stage, a colonial power with a thriving economy and a strong sense of national destiny. How much of this inures to the credit of William McKinley is open to debate. ( )
  santhony | Feb 5, 2018 |
Summary: A biography of McKinley's life, from Civil War hero to Canton attorney, congressman, governor, and to a presidency ended by an assassin's bullet, arguing he was a far more consequential president than usually credited.

My home state of Ohio holds the distinction of producing the most presidents, and many would also say, the most mediocre presidents. In many rankings of presidents, William McKinley is included in this number. He is often portrayed as the colorless pawn of Cleveland industrialist Mark Hanna. Robert Merry is one of those who would argue that he was far more consequential as a president, and able as the nation's leader than he is often credited.

Merry's account traces his life from its beginnings in Niles, Ohio, the family move to Poland, Ohio, near Youngstown, from where he enlisted to serve with the Union army in the Civil War. It is often not known that he rose from private to major during the war, based on his meritorious and occasionally heroic service, notably at Antietam, where as quartermaster, he made his way through enemy lines and fire to bring rations to his pinned down unit.

Legal studies followed his war service and a move to Canton, which he called home for the rest of his life. It was here where he courted and married Ida Saxton, and sadly buried two daughters, Katherine and Ida, both dying of typhoid fever in childhood. After the second daughter dried, Ida began to have epileptic seizures, and the biography recounts the struggle McKinley lived with between his political ambitions and his lifelong devotion to her care. He was rarely far from her side, although some of the doctors he worked with may have caused her more harm than good with their bromides.

McKinley's rise in politics followed a defense of mine workers involved in a clash with strikebreakers. Even though mine owner Mark Hanna was on the opposing side, McKinley's conduct of the case caught his attention. Hanna became a backer of his political ambitions, first in Congress, where he became an expert on tariff policy, later as state governor, and finally as president in 1896. Merry chronicles the divided Republican party in Ohio at this time, and McKinley's shrewd efforts to gain control of it from his rival, Joseph Foraker. This introduces a quality Merry notes that runs through McKinley's presidency as well, that quietly and assiduously, McKinley worked to achieve the outcomes he wanted, often against more fiery and public opponents.

McKinley was elected in 1896 adhering to the gold standard against William Jennings Bryan's "cross of gold" rhetoric. As president, his tariff policies and economic conditions and growth in the gold supply led to a booming economy. Like many presidencies, circumstances beyond his control created challenges to which he responded in ways that expanded American power and influence. He accomplished the annexation of Hawaii through a joint resolution of Congress when approval of a treaty of annexation appeared doomed, projecting American presence into the Pacific. While trying to avoid war with Spain until findings (later considered dubious) attributing the explosion on the Maine to hostile Spanish action made war unavoidable, he prosecuted war diligently, leading to defeats of the Spanish navy in the Philippines and in the Caribbean, and the seizure of Santiago, Cuba, and the island of Puerto Rico. In the settlement with Spain, Cuba gained independence, and Puerto Rico and the Philippines became American territories, making America an imperial power. He also nurtured the Hay-Pauncefote negotiations that renegotiated agreements with Great Britain, fostering a closer relationship between English-speaking peoples that cleared the way for the U.S. to build a canal in Central America.

In consequence, McKinley easily won a second term, though both William and Ida longed for a simpler life in Canton. McKinley refrained from personal campaigning in both, relying on an increasingly sophisticated political machine and surrogates to do the work on his behalf, including "Rough Rider" Teddy Roosevelt, who had been nominated his running mate. Six months into his second term, which he had announced would be his last (presidents were not then limited to two terms except by custom), anarchist Leon Czolgosz fired two bullets at close range into McKinley at the head of a receiving line at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Though seriously wounded, McKinley interceded with agents to show restraint in their efforts to subdue the assassin. He died of infection after initially rallying, putting Roosevelt, a very different leader, into the presidency.

Merry argues that while not a visionary nor dynamic leader, McKinley was an effective president who, for good or ill, expanded American power including the size of its army and navy, a shrewd politician whose party would occupy the White House for sixteen years, and who presided over the economic growth that propelled the United States into world leadership at the beginning of a new century, an American century, aided by a growth oriented monetary policy. His youthful heroism, his personal integrity, and devotion to Ida commend our attention. He was criticized, notably by the Democrat-oriented William Randolph Hearst, for his association with Mark Hanna, yet no president is elected without the support of such figures, and Hanna combined both resources and organizational skills, along with a genuinely warm personal relationship with McKinley. Yet in matters of patronage and policy, McKinley listened to Hanna, but also others, and made decisions on his own terms.

Whether or not you agree with Merry's case for McKinley, you will find this a highly readable and extensive biography. My own suspicion, as well as Merry's, is that McKinley has been overlooked because of the far more dynamic president who followed him. Yet he was elected to the presidency twice in an era of one-term presidents, a claim even Roosevelt could not make, and fulfilled his office with dignity, competent leadership, and honorable character to the very last. In my estimate, he is a president, if not among the greatest, certainly one my state can be proud of.

____________________________

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. ( )
  BobonBooks | Dec 27, 2017 |
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia

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"In this great American story, acclaimed historian Robert Merry resurrects the presidential reputation of William McKinley, which loses out to the brilliant and flamboyant Theodore Roosevelt who succeeded him after his assassination. He portrays McKinley as a chief executive of consequence whose low place in the presidential rankings does not reflect his enduring accomplishments and the stamp he put on the country's future role in the world"-- "Lively, definitive, eye-opening, [this book] by acclaimed historian Robert W. Merry brilliantly evokes the life and presidency of William McKinley, cut short by an assassin. Most often lost in the shadow of his brilliant and flamboyant successor, TR, the twenty-fifth president is presented by Merry as a transformative figure, the first modern Republican. It was President McKinley who established the United States as an imperial power. In the Spanish-American War he kicked Spain out of the Caribbean; in the Pacific he acquired Hawaii and the Philippines through war and diplomacy; he took the country to a strict gold standard; he developed the doctrine of 'fair trade'; he forced the 'Open Door' to China; and he forged the 'special relationship' with Great Britain. McKinley established the noncolonial imperialism that took America global. He set the stage for the bold leadership of Theodore Roosevelt, who built on his accomplishments. [This book] brings to life a sympathetic man and an often overlooked president. Merry raises his rank to a chief executive of consequence who paved the way for the American Century."--Dust jacket.

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