McKinley’s first year in office

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

One hundred twenty years ago, March 4, 1898, marked the beginning of President William McKinley’s second year of his term in office. He faced graver concerns than he could have forseen in his first year as president. The respect and confidence of his countrymen was evident.

Events of early 1898 brought changes in the public’s attitude. The New York Times reported the following:

“Up to the time that the disaster in the harbor of Havana drove all thoughts of other things from the public mind there was much difference of opinion as to the president among those who had supported his election. Some features of his policy and conduct had been good; others had been disappointing.”

“On the whole, making all fair deductions for the things that have proved unsatisfactory, serious as some of these are, it is our judgment that Mr. McKinley stands better with the country than at the time of his election, and has given his fellow citizens cause for substantial confidence which we profoundly trust will be increased and rendered more stable as time passes.”

In the final days in the first year of the McKinley administration, tranquility has settled down over the Army and Navy under the influence exerted by the administration to suspend discussion of the Maine incident during an inquiry of the naval board that is seeking to learn whether the disaster was caused by an explosion or by a submarine mine or torpedo exploded by a foreign foe.

Prominent men, some of them writers for the press, have informed the president that what is called “government” in Cuba is a mere shell, ready to crumble into dust at the first pressure by an outside power that would bring the insurrection to an end. This situation has been suggested to the president.

On March 3, the press reported that those who have great confidence in the president expect that he will meet the main question without hesitation. The president will demand that Spain stop the war or abandon its efforts on the island of Cuba. The weeks that follow will determine the outcome.

Wendell Lauth of Bristol is a Trumbull County historian.