McKinley returns home just before election

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, President William McKinley returned home to Ohio to promote his new policies for the nation’s economy in the days leading up to the first Election Day since his presidential victory a year earlier.

The McKinleys first traveled to Cincinnati on Saturday, Oct. 30, 1897, to speak before the Chamber of Commerce and the Commercial Club of Cincinnati. He was promoting the concepts of a new monetary standard of gold and for Congress to approve protective tariffs to groups of like-minded men.

He knew he needed business leaders to go out in their communities to explain the ideas his administration was developing to rebuild the economy after four years of recession.

Said McKinley, “This assemblage represents men of all parties and creeds, united in a common aim. We gain by intelligent discussion of public questions carried on, in an organization like yours, not from a standpoint of partisanship, but of good citizenship. Nothing makes more for the government than intelligent and virtuous citizenship. It should start in the home and be taught in the schools. It should be the inspiration of example in public and private stations.”

“One great element in the strength of any government is the patriotism of its people, their love for institutions, their pride for its name and achievements. We have everything to inspire good citizenship, because we have equal and responsible citizenship. The government and people are inseparable under our system. This unity is the strength of our political structure. The people are the beneficiaries of the government, and have every reason to love our institutions and regard our laws, because they make and support them.”

McKinley next went home to Canton, and upon his arrival by train said, “It gives me great pleasure to be back at my old home again, and to receive the hands of my fellow citizens the heartfelt welcome to greet me tonight. And nothing could be more gratifying to me than to be assured by fellow citizens, as I have been assured by them tonight that they are now employed and have steady work. I am deeply interested in the prosperity of my home city, and the greater the prosperity the greater will be my satisfaction. I will detain you in this inclement weather only long enough to assure you that from my heart I thank you for this generous welcome.”

The McKinleys would then head to their homestead to relax and enjoy the company of old friends. The president and his aides would also wait for the telegraph to provide election results in local and state contests. He knew he had only one year from this day to get many of his programs approved before the 1898 congressional elections, which could change the voting makeup of the U.S. House and Senate to push through his agenda.

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.