As a Civil War soldier for four years, William McKinley (1843-1901) knew first-hand that peace was better than war. Born on this day in the small town of Niles, Ohio, McKinley became a lawyer after the war and was soon elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (1876-1891) and served as his hometown's governor (1892-1896).
"Our differences are politics. Our agreements are principles," he once said.
By defeating his popular rival William Jennings Bryan, McKinley, the "Idol of Ohio," was elected the 25th President of the United States in 1897. The personable McKinley often charmed strangers by offering them the trademark red carnation he wore in his lapel.
"A free man cannot long be an ignorant man," said McKinley, his face today is on the $500 bill.
As President, the Republican was charming and beloved. He was best known for foreign policy successes, which included victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898 and maintaining control of Cuba, Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico, and Hawaii. "We need Hawaii," said McKinley of the right of America to expand West. "It is manifest destiny."
With McKinley, the U.S. developed into a world power. A visionary, he recognized the need for the U.S. to expedite coast-to-coast movement of ships and laid the framework for the Panama Canal.
He understood that, "the mission of the United States is one of benevolent assimilation."
He was a good man. Reelected, then assassinated in 1901, the injured McKinley lingered for several days before dying and described his assailant as "some misguided fellow."
More PRESIDENTIAL Quotations
Give peace a chance.