Page images
PDF
EPUB

before the bounties were given and drafting began, but it was peculiarly fortunate in its field officers. Its first colonel was William S. Rosecrans, afterward the commander of great armies ; its first lieutenant-colonel was Stanley Matthews, afterward a senator and an associate justice of the Supreme Court, and its major was Rutherford B. Hayes, afterward President of the United States. McKinley was not long in rising to the rank of sergeant; and a gallant and thoughtful action at Antietam,

ple felt that they were poor. They were all accustomed to the close economies of the farm life of that period, and were not in the least ashamed of them. The richest man in Poland at that time was not worth ten thousand dollars. A man with five thousand dollars' worth of property and no debts was thought to be well off. Mrs. McKinley helped out the narrow income of the family by taking boarders and herself did the cooking with the help of her girls. Young McKinley was an ardent student. It was his mother's ambition as well as his own that he should go through college and then study law, but whether this aim could be accomplished was always rather doubtful. The father was frugal, industrious and self-denying, but he had a large family to provide for and his earnings were small. William did what he could to help out the family income by one sort of work and another in vacation times. At one time it was alınost decided that the plan for his education must be abandoned, but his elder sister Annie came to the rescue with the money she had saved as a school teacher. At seventeen he left the seminary so well advanced in his studies that he was able to enter the junior class in Allegheny College, at Meadville, Pa. Illness obliged him to return home during his first college year, however, and the way was not clear financially for going back, so he taught a country school in a district near Poland the next winter. The little school house is still standing-a wooden box, with a door and two windows in front, three windows on each side, and in the rear a dead wall against which the boys toss their balls. In his study years McKinley was very fond of mathematics, but for Latin he cared little, although he always passed his examinations creditably. In the colleges and academies at that time mathematics, grammar and the dead languages constituted pretty much the whole stock of instruction. He showed no fondness for the debates of the literary societies or the orations of the regular Saturday school exercises, but he was known as a good essay writer.

[graphic][merged small]

FOUR YEARS A SOLDIER.

The Civil War put an end to McKinley's plans for completing his school education. In June, 1861, he enlisted at Poland in a company recruited in that village to join the Twenty-third Ohio Regiment of Infantry. He was eighteen at the time-a lad of medium height and muscular build, with straight black hair, gray eyes, deep-set under heavy brows, and a heavy chin that indicated a determined character. He marched away as a private in the ranks, trudging along the dusty road to Youngstown where the company was put aboard cars and sent to Camp Chase, at Columbus. He was one of the youngest boys in the company, although there were some who had exaggerated their age a little to get beyond the minimtim of eighteen prescribed by army regulations, and there were few who were over twenty-five. The Twenty-third was a good average Ohio regiment of the first year's enlistment,

in furnishing the men with food and coffee while they were under fire, was brought to the attention of Governor Tod, who sent him a lieutenant's commission. He was a captain before the war closed and was brevetted major. He carried into his military service the seriousness and sense of duty that he had shown in his school life and he soon gained the friendship of the best officers in the regiment. Long afterward, when he was first a candidate for Governor of Ohio, Ex-President Hayes said of him : • Young as he was, we soon found that in business, in executive ability, young McKinley was a man of rare capacity, of unusual and unsurpassed capacity. especially for a boy of his age. When battles were to be fought or service was to be performed in warlike things he always took his place. The night was never too dark ; the weather was never too cold ; there was no sleet or storm or hail or snow or rain that was in the way of his prompt and efficient performance of every duty." For about two years he was upon Hayes' staff ; then he went to the staff of Gen. George Crook and afterward to the staff of Gen. Carroll. When the war ended he was urged to ask for a commission in one of the new regiments formed for the regular army, but he

declined, having no taste for military life as a pro the good will and respect of the people of that town fession. Mustered out in July, 1865, he gladly re as a teacher of unusual merit. The young lawyer turned to Poland, laid aside his uniform, hung up felt a warm affection for his sister, who had come his sword and began the study of law. He valued to his help at a critical time in his hard stuggle for highly his army esperience, however, as a great an education and who was intellectually very comeducating influence, in patriotism, in discipline of panionable to him. Annie McKinley was a woman mind and body, in the subordination of self to duty of unusual capacity. She had excellent judgment and in the intellectual development which he got in practical affairs and in her long career as a teacher from close association with older men of superior in Canton she saved and wisely invested a modest ability. He still looks back on those four years of competency. She died in 1890. It was through her campaigning as a more potent educational force influence that the father and mother removed their than all the years he spent over Latin and mathe household from Poland to Canton in 1867. She unmatics in the seminary.

derstood the business advantages of the town fore

saw its growth and appreciated the social and eduTHE YOUNG LAWYER AND POLITICIAN.

cational advantages that a young city could offer McKinley read law in the office of Charles E. over the obscure village that had been the home of Glidden, of Poland, who was elected judge of the the family since her childhood. Northern Ohio was Common Pleas court in 1865. Glidden was a rare then making great strides in industrial development, man and he exercised a strong and lasting influence based on the iron ores of the Lake Superior region, upon the character of the young soldier fresh from which were brought down the lakes by cheap water four years of hardships and fighting. His nature carriage to meet the fuel of the Ohio and western was singularly sweet and sound, and his perceptions Pennsylvania coal fields. Canton did not engage in in all matters involving questions of equity were as the smelting of ore, like the towns in the Mahoning clear and direct as a demonstration in geometry. and Shenango valleys, but looked to the making of He was himself barely past thirty at this time and more advanced products of iron and steel, such as he made a companion of his law student. His gentle tools, implements and machinery. disposition, his high standard of conduct and the Here the son of the ironmaster found himself, serious and judicial bent of his mind aided power when he hung out his shingle as a lawyer, surfully to turn the thoughts of the late staff captain rounded by a business public strongly interested in into the channels of peaceful study and purpose. the protective tariff principle, which next to the McKinley always speaks of Judge Glidden with ac maintenance of the American Union and the extinc cents which show that the relations between the two tion of slavery had been the dominant idea of che men were stronger than those of ordinary friend. Republican party. The county of Stark, however, ship and reached the heights of a deep affection. of which Canton is the capital, was strongly DemoJudge Glidden had a career of marked success upon cratic in its politics. The population of its rich, rollthe bench and all the older lawyers in eastern Ohio ing farming lands was largely Pennsylvania Gercherish his memory and speak of him as a man who man in its origin. -a stolid, sturdy, unprogressive was peculiarly fitted for high judicial duties. Mc race, which clung to open hearths and Dutch ovens Kinley was a hard student. The same tenacity and built under sheds in the dooryards long after the singleness of purpose which made him successful as invention of cooking-stoves ; toilsome, thrifty and a soldier he brought to bear on his law studies. He moral, but immovable in their political attachments. has never been a man of side issues. A few main The powerful currents of thought in the war-time aims in life he has pursued with a quiet and un had not much disturbed their rock ribbed Jackson. swerving directness that has shaped circumstances ian Democracy. They accepted the offensive epithet and compelled fate. He was not a recluse or a book of Copperhead and bore the sneers and denunciations worm ; he found time to mingle in the young of the returned soldiers, because they believed that society of the village, but the business in hand was the Federal government had no constitutional right to master the principles of the law and this he never to coerce sovereign states. They were bitterly hosfor a moment forgot. After a year and a half with tile to the proposition to bestow the elective franJudge Glidden he managed to get the necessary chise upon the negroes. McKinley was an ardent money to attend a course of lectures at the Albany Republican. To him Republicanism meant union, law school, and in 1897 he was examined and admit freedoni and progress—the cause for which he had ted to the bar. Poland was a village of only a few fought for four years. If political ambition had hundred people and afforded no field for another been uppermost in his mind at that time he would lawyer. One of the most prosperous of the large not have selected Stark county for his home. Nevertowns of the region was Canton, which had then theless he was drawn into politics almost as soon as about five thousand inhabitants, was a county seat he had his first brief. In the autumn of 1867 there and was developing important manufacturing in was a hotly contested gubernatorial campaign in dustries. McKinley chose Canton as a promising Ohio, and a constitutional amendment giving suffield for his efforts as a lawyer. In his choice he frage to colored men was submitted to the popular was influenced largely by a desire to join his elder vote. The Republicans carried the election, but the sister Annie, who was already firmly established in amendment was lost. In this canvass McKinley made

his first political speech and it was in favor of the veteran Ohio journalist, John Saxton, who estabsuffrage amendment. The place was the little vil lished the Ohio Repository in 1815—the year of lage of New Berlin, and the orator, then twenty Waterloo-and carried on the paper until his death four years of age, spoke from the tavern steps to an at an advanced age. He had the distinction of antagonistic audience. Men who heard that speech being the journalist of longest continuous service in say that it was strong and logical and insist that the whole country west of the Alleghanies. One of they then foresaw a great career in public life for his sons, James A. Saxton. became a banker, a the young lawyer. However that may have been, capitalist and a man of large and varied business it is certain that McKinley was at once welcomed affairs. One of the daughters of the banker was Ida, by the Republican county leaders as a valuable re a girl of many personal charms, a tall blonde, with cruit and was given numerous appointments in that large, expressive blue eyes, a winning manner and a campaign and in the Presidential campaign of 1868 quick intelligence. She was well educated and after to speak at town-halls and school-houses throughout her graduation from Brook Hall Seminary, at Media, the county. By 1869 he had become generally ac Pennsylvania, the father sent her to Europe with quainted in the county and was well thought of as her sister to give her a broader view of the world a rising lawyer and a good political talker of a seri and fit her for the earnest duties of life. The older ous and thoughtful type, and in the latter year the sister had married and gone to Cleveland to live party managers asked him to run for prosecuting and the father hoped that Ida would form no early attorney and to undertake what seemed to be the love attachment and would remain in his home to hopeless task of overcoming a strong Democratic brighten his life. It is said that he systematically majority. He canvassed the county assiduously; discouraged the addresses of all young men and that his talk was persuasive and not antagonistic ; he for the purpose of giving his daughter a serious bent had courteous, kindly and simple manners that he persuaded her on her return from the foreign made the country people like him, and to every tour to go into his bank as his assistant. There body's surprise he was elected. The office of prose Ida was installed as cashier. He had won a comcuting attorney is regarded as a great prize by young fortable fortune, but his theory about girls was that Ohio lawyers, not for the compensation, which is they should be ught a business that would make small, but because it gives them an opportunity to them independent of marriage and enable them to show their mettle in the courts in criminal trials and be self-supporting in case the parents should leave opens the way to private practice. At twenty-six them without sufficient property for their support. William McKinley, Jr., had his feet firmly planted Lawyer McKinley had frequent occasions for dropon the first rounds of the ladder of success.

ping in at the Saxton bank and it was not long be

fore Ida's bright eyes, charming manner and intelMARRIAGE AND DOMESTIC LIFE.

ligent chat had made a complete conquest of his Two years later, in 1869, occurred what in the life heart. No doubt the same thing happened to other of every serious-minded man must be the most impor young men in Canton, who transferred their actant event of all-marriage. In Canton lived the counts to Saxton's bank that they might have an

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[graphic][merged small][merged small]

excuse to meet the pretty cashier, but the ambitious young attorney, whom most of the Canton girls regarded as too serious to be good company, attracted Ida. Banker Saxton soon learned that love is stronger than any theories of life and he yielded graciously to the inevitable. He thoroughly liked and esteemed McKinley. The marriage was celebrated on January 25, 1871, in the quaint old Presbyterian church where Ida's parents and grand parents worshiped and where the girl taught a class in the Sunday School. The young bride was warmly attached to this church, but she immediately transferred her allegiance to the Methodist Church as a proof of her affection for her husband, who had been in the Methodist communion since his sixteenth year.

The married life of these two young people began under the happiest auspices. Mr. Saxton gave his

daughter a pretty house on the best street in the town. McKinley had by this time built up a good law practice and his income was sufficient to maintain the new home in modest comfort. The future seemed to stretch away like a broad and sunny path, bordered by flowers, but in a little time the shadows of great sorrows fell and left ineffaceable marks of suffering on the characters of the loving husband and wife. Two children were born to them, and both were claimed by death before the eldest reached the age of four. The grief of the young mother wrecked her health and left her a victim to a nervous disease which made her a cripple for life, able to walk only with pain and with a supporting arm. The devoted husband saw before him the tragic vision of a childless life and the companionship of an incurable invalid. No man ever accepted such a situation with more cheerful self abnegation. He made himself the faithful and skillful nurse of his unfortunate wife and gave every hour he could spare from his work to the task of lightening her sorrows and cheering her broken life. This course he bas pursued unfaltering!y for more than twenty years, without admitting in his own secret thought that he has been doing anything worthy of praise. His wife's condition cut him off from most of the social pleasures which men enjoy—the easy-going fellowship of clubs and smoking-rooms, of hunting excursions and pleasure trips, of dinners and receptions ; for, once free from his duties as a lawyer or as a Congressman or Governor, he always returned to his wife's side, feeling that she had need of his companionship. When the wife realized the lasting character of her affliction she determined that she would not allow it to interfere with her husband's public career, and she would have forced herself to be content with a far less measure of care and affection than he has given her, but it was not in his nature to be less devoted. The remarkable unity and continuity of conduct which has been a marked feature of his military and political career showed itself in his domestic life as a natural result of his organization. He could not be himself and be otherwise than faithful and tenderly devoted to the wife of his youth and the mother of his dead children. His home tragedy has no doubt intensified the natural gravity of his character and has given to his face the lines of sternness and asceticism which are noticeable when it is in repose, but it has not in the least soured his disposition. On the contrary, it seems to have imparted additional sweetness and strength.

[graphic][merged small]

FOURTEEN YEARS IN CONGRESS. Major McKinley was beaten when he ran a second time for prosecuting attorney of his county, in 1871, and for five years he did not come before the people for any elective office, but he never failed to appear on the stump in a political campaign and he soon gained recognition as one of the best platform speak ers in the state. He was wanted outside of Stark county, and his stumping tours made him known to the people in the other counties of the Eighteenth Congressional district, then made up of the counties of Stark, Columbiana, Mahoning and Carroll. No doubt he had his eye on the House all this time. There has never been anything accidental in his political career, and “trust to luck” was never one of his maxims. He has built up his political influence slowly and solidly and always by methods that were straightfoward and legitimate. In 1876, the year that Hayes was elected President, he announced himself as a candidate for Congress. He did not say that his friends were urging him to run or make any false pretense of reluctance to enter the race. He wanted to go to Congress, he believed himself capable of doing good service there for the district and State, and he said so in plain terms. The sitting member was in the field for another term, but the custom had prevailed for a long time of shifting

the office from county to county, giving two terms to each, and the sitting member was not strong enough to break down this tradition. There were a number of aspirants and McKinley was nominated on the second ballot. His renomination in 1878 followed as a matter of course and was conceded to him by acclamation, and in 1880 he was again nominated without much effort; but in 1882, the year of Republican disaster that followed the assassination of Garfield and the unpopular beginning of the Arthur administration, he had a hard fight in the convention, where Columbiana county claimed the nomination by right of the old custom of rotation, and in the election he came out with only eight majority. His seat was contested by his Democratic opponent, but the Democratic House at Washington permitted him to hold on until near the end of the last session before putting in the contestant by a party vote.

McKinley was thirty-four years old when he en tered the House in December, 1877. Samuel J. Randall, the great Democratic protectionist from Philadelphia, was speaker and tue Republican leader was James A. Garfield. The young man from the Eighteenth Ohio district, with the Napoleonic face, the quiet manners and the grave, pre-occupied look, soon attracted attention by the deep interest he showed in all economic questions. The great champion of protection at that time was William D.

« PreviousContinue »