McKinley declined calls for 3rd term

The 22nd Amendment, which limited the number of terms served by a president, was not ratified until 1951. William McKinley was favored and encouraged to campaign for a third term.

He declined the notion of a third term only months into his second term.

President and Mrs. McKinley required many delays, postponements and an early exit from their train tour through California in June 1901. Mrs. McKinley had become severely ill during the trip, forcing a halt to the tour and much concern over her health.

The general sentiments of the nation toward McKinley’s decision were penned in The Washington Post on June 23, 1901. “Irish Tribute To Mr. M’Kinley. His Third Term Letter and Mrs. M’Kinley’s Illness Arouse Sympathy.”

“Editor Post: A noble and sympathetic tribute to our President from the pen of, Mr. Flinerty, a prominent Irish-American in the West, has just been published. It no doubt voices the sentiment of his countrymen generally all over the land.

Commenting upon Mr. McKinley’s declination of a third term, Mr. Flinerty says: “Mr. McKinley’s nobler nature was uppermost when he penned that letter. He was out of the atmosphere of the Depews, the Grosvenors and the other hero-worshippers who, like the ill-judging followers of Gen. Grant, would violate an established American tradition for the gratification of their personal ends.

“We have no doubt whatever that Mr. McKinley is the strongest candidate the Republican party can nominate, and, were he nominated, he would, most probably, be re-elected, because the American people, despite the anti-third term policy of Washington Jefferson, are slow to change a public servant in whom the majority undoubtedly, as proven by their votes, have confidence.

“Therefore, William McKinley has made no empty sacrifice in declining to be a candidate for the third term. He has sat down on the imperialistic element of his party, and has given assurance of the people that, although he may err in his public policy — as we honestly believe he has — he is still, at heart, an American and a patriot.

“The President has been sorely tried in his domestic circle of late. That a good wife, whom he so chivalrously and devotedly loves, has lingered long in the Valley of the Shadow, and is, even now holding on to life by a slender thread. His heart has been racked by this home agony, and every man who has human emotions, and who loves his own, sympathizes with the Chief Magistrate in his bitter trial.

“His letter is as frank and comprehensive as it is terse in expression and lofty in sentiment, and will go down to posterity as another safeguard to the sacred traditions of the great republic. We sincerely hope that with it, too, may go down the record of a policy that will do justice to the Fillipino and keep faith with the Cuban. A man can not be entirely great in acts of renunciation only. While he possesses the power to do good to mankind and protect human liberty, he should exercise it, careless of combinatibus and cabals.

“We hope all this for William McKinley, so that when, in the course of nature, he is called from earth, his countrymen may visit his tomb with that feeling of reverence which permeates their minds when they visit the tombs of his illustrious predecessors at Mount Vernon, Monticello, and Springfield.

“Although some Irish-Americans, like Mr. Finerty himself, voted against the President, as they were privileged to do, there is still ample proof that the great majority of Irishmen in every State of the Union voted for him, for no matter how they may defer from him in some things, they are all deservedly proud of him. They don’t forget that he is descended from a long line of Irish Presbyterian patriots who “in dark and evil days” stood and fought for the sacred cause of Irish nationality.

“It was this same feeling that permeated the minds of our eloquent Dr. Stafford and his great Irish congregation a few weeks ago, when fervent prayer was offered for “the speedy and complete recovery” of the good and amiable Mrs. McKinley. May she live long to cheer our own illustrious and successful war President in the great work in hand for his country.

“This is the fervent prayer of every good man and woman with human emotions who love their own domestic circle.”


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