McKinley speaks to manufacturers about gold standard

Editor’s note: This is part of a weekly series marking the 120th anniversary of Niles native William McKinley’s U.S. presidency.

William McKinley said many times in his presidential campaign, and in his presidential speeches in his first year in office the economy and jobs would be key components of his presidency.

He went to New York City in late January to speak before the fledgling National Manufacturers Association while Congress debated and approved the tariff bill he promoted. McKinley focused his remarks on the monetary standard of our nation.

As Ohio governor in 1895, McKinley spoke to the association at its first convention in Cincinnati. With his relationship with the group’s leadership and its strong support of his campaign, he considered this opportunity as president to further push his goal of setting gold as the nation’s monetary standard.

After coming through the disaster of the Financial Panic of 1893 and the four-year recession that followed, McKinley boldly addressed the group to push Congress, especially Republicans from the manufacturer’s home districts, to approve gold before the mid-term elections.

He said at the convention, “National policies can encourage industry and commerce, but it remains for the people to project and carry them on. If these policies stimulate industrial development and energy, the people can be safely trusted to do the rest. The government, however, is restricted in its power to promote industry. It can aid commerce, but not create it. It can widen and deepen its rivers, improve its harbors and develop other transportation routes. The government can raise revenues by taxation in such a way as will discriminate in favor of domestic enterprises (tariffs).

“It can enter into reciprocal arrangements to exchange our products with those of other countries. It can aid our merchant marine by encouraging our people to build ships of commerce. It can assist private enterprise to unite the two oceans with a great canal (Panama). It is you who must build and operate factories, furnish the ships and cargoes for the canal and the rivers and the seas.

“The ship requires a shipper; but the shipper must have assured promise that his goods will have for a sale when they reach their destination. It is our duty to make American enterprise and industrial ambition, as well as achievement, terms of respect and praise, not only at home, but among the family of nations the world over.

“There is another duty resting upon the national government, to coin money and regulate the value thereof. This duty requires that our government shall regulate the value of its money by the highest standard. The money of the United States is and must forever be unquestioned and unassailable. Whatever may be the language of the contract, the United States will discharge all of its obligations in the currency recognized as the best throughout the civilized world at the times of payment.

“All those who represent business interest of the country, owe it not only to themselves, but to the people, to insist upon the settlement of this great question now. This is our plain duty to more than 7 million voters who, fifteen months ago, won a great political battle on the issue. The membership of this association are capable of infinite good to the respective communities in which the members live, and to the nation as a whole.”

Mike Wilson is the Director of SCOPE Senior Services of Trumbull County and has traveled around the nation performing as William McKinley for the past 25 years.