William McKinley was born in Niles, Ohio, on 29th January, 1843. McKinley served in the Civil War and after retiring as a major in 1867 he became a lawyer in Canton, Ohio.
McKinley, a Republican, was elected to Congress in 1877. A stanch supporter of protectionism, in 1890, as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, he helped to raise duties on foreign imports. After being defeated in 1890, McKinley served two terms as governor of Ohio (1892-96).
McKinley was selected by the Republican Party as their candidate in the 1896 presidential election. During the campaign against the Democratic candidate, William Jennings Bryan, McKinley argued for high protective tariffs on foreign goods. This message was popular with America's leading industrialists and with the support of Mark Hanna, McKinley was able to raise $3,500,000 for his campaign. Outspending Bryan by 20 to 1, McKinley easily defeated his opponent by an electoral vote of 271 to 176.
After his election McKinley revised customs duties upwards (the Dingley Tariff). He was soon involved in a foreign policy crisis with the Cuban insurrection. In the short war that followed the United States defeated Spanish forces in Cuba. McKinley was accused of imperialism when he declared that Puerto Rico and the Philippines must not be allowed to "fall into unfriendly hands" and made them United States dependencies.
McKinley was re-elected in 1900 but the following year on 6th September, was shot by the anarchist, Leon Czolgosz while visiting the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo. Although surrounded by fifty bodyguards, Czolgosz was able to walk up to McKinley and fire two shots at him. Hit in the chest and abdomen, McKinley shouted out "Be easy with him, boys" as secret service agents beat Czolgosz with fists and pistol butts.
William McKinleywas taken to hospital where it was discovered that the chest wound was superficial but the other bullet had torn through the stomach wall. For the first few days his condition improved and newspapers reported that he would recover. However, the path of the bullet that had passed through the wall of the stomach and his kidney, had turned gangrenous and he died on the 14th September, 1901. McKinley was replaced by his vice-president, Theodore Roosevelt.