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After his defeat for congress in 1890, nothing in the ordinary course of events could have prevented Major McKinley from becoming governor of Ohio. He had apparently made no plans looking toward such a consummation, but the drift of talk set toward him at once as the man to be nominated by die next republican state convention. He was recognized as a man of broad views—his home folk never regarded him as a man of one idea—and he had met all the duties which had been thrust upon him so well that he inspired the people with the utmost confidence. He was a safe man, his rectitude unquestioned, his devotion to principle unshakable. But Ohio had many able men who aspired to the governorship. Major McKinley stated to his friends that he would be pleased with the nomination for governor, but would not enter into a contest for it.
When the legislature met in January the representatives of the people were interviewed, and the sentiment in favor of Major McKinley was so overwhelming that thenceforth no.other man was spoken of for the place by the republicans. In the campaign for congress he had made such a splendid canvass that the republicans felt sure he would redeem the state for them. James E. Campbell, who had been elected governor in 1889, by a plurality of 10,872. had declared that he had made Ohio a permanently democratic state, and in order to keep it so, the democratic leaders thought the defeat of Major McKinley for congress would be essential. Consequently, they had unmercifully gerrymandered the state, so that even should the republicans carry it by 20,000 plurality, they could not hope to secure more than seven out of twentyone congressmen. But the republicans were in no wise dismayed. Confidence in the party success became strong, and an unusually large number of candidates for nomination on the republican state ticket presented themselves before the convention, which was held in Columbus in June, but there was only one name mentioned for the gubernatorial nomination—that of William McKinley.
When McKinley arrived at Columbus he received a great ovation. It was one of the most enthusiastic conventions Ohio had seen since the war of the rebellion. Ex-Governor Foraker nominated Major McKinley in a characteristically brilliant speech, and upon motion of Ex-Governor Foster, the nomination was unanimously conferred upon the major. In his speech of acceptance, Major McKinley made an admirable presentation of the issues of the day, particularly as to currency and the tariff, and stirred his auditors to a high pitch of enthusiasm. The platform endorsed the "patriotic doctrine of protection," and likewise the "amended coinage act of the last republican congress, by which the entire production of the silver mines of the United States is added to the currency of the people."
The democrats nominated Governor James E. Campbell, who had in the previous campaign defeated Senator Foraker.
The campaign was formally opened in August, at Niles, McKinley's birthplace. But in the interim, the major spoke at soldiers' reunions, "harvest homes," etc. August 22c\, at Niles, he made his first formal speech in the campaign. There was a large political and industrial parade, which was reviewed by the gubernatorial candidate from the veranda of the house in which he was born. From the day of his nomination until his election, he made 13c speeches, and visited eightyfour out of the eighty-eight counties of the state. His speeches were always apt, and no man stirred the people more than he, though many of the campaign orators were more eloquent. There was not one, however, who surpassed him in earnestness, or who more clearly defined the issues of the campaign. As a result, he was elected by a splendid plurality.
His administration as governor during the two terms was unostentatious. He was the same plain "Major" McKinley he had been throughout his congressional career. Red tape was abolished, and any one who had any business with the executive could always reach him. In his first inaugural address, he said:
"I approach the administration of the office with which I have been clothed by the people deeply sensible of its responsibilities, and resolved to discharge its duties to the best of my ability. It is my desire to cooperate with you in every endeavor to secure a wise, economical and honorable administration, and, so far as can be done, the improvement and elevation of the public service."
This was the key note of his work as governor. He endeavored to give to the public institutions the benefit of the services of the best men of the state; and while there was never any question as to his stalwart republicanism, he always tried to prevent inefficiency and demoralization in the management of the state institutions through the introduction of extreme partisanship. At the inception of his administration he realized the tendency to extravagance in public institutions, and he advocated economy from the start, and insisted upon it through his gubernatorial career. He approved of liberal appropriations for necessities, and saw that abundant provision was made for the care of the helpless and unfortunate wards of the state.
He never attempted to build up a personal machine, but acted fairly and justly by every interest in the state, according to his best judgment. Notwithstanding the arduous labor he had performed in connection with national affairs, he displayed, as governor, a thorough knowledge of the needs of the state, and his various messages to the legislature were models of simplicity and directness. He advocated the preservation and development of the canals of the state, the improvement of country roads, just laws relating to labor, and other measures for the general good.
The governor's sense of justice was exemplified in his first inaugural address, when he came to consider the subject of gerrymandering. He had several times been the victim of this vicious practice, but he did not permit his personal experiences to sway him in pronouncing upon the matter. He told the legislature that it would be necessary, under the new census, to redistrict the state, and said:
"Make the districts so fair in their relation to the political divisions of our people, that they will stand until a new census shall be taken. Make them so impartial that no future legislature will dare disturb them until a new census and a new congressional apportionment will make a change imperative. Extreme partisanship in this arrangement should be avoided. There is a sense of fair play among the people which is prompt to condemn a flagrant misuse of party advantage at the expense of popular suffrage. Partisanship is not to be discouraged, but encouraged in all things where principle is at stake; but a partisanship which would take from the people their just representation, as in the case of the congressional redisricting by the last legislature, is an abuse of power which the people are swift to rebuke."
Governor McKinley gave considerable time to the subject of taxation during his term of office, and called attention to the danger of recklessly authorizing local indebtedness. This he believed to be such an evil that he declared, "the creation of local indebtedness of counties and municipalities, should not be authorized by the general assembly without submission to the people, except for great emergency."
Governor McKinley's first term expired in 1893, and he was renominated without opposition. His democratic competitor was the Hon. L. T. Neal. Governor McKinley was elected by 80,000 plurality.
In a preceding chapter Governor McKinley's sympathy with the laboring man has been pointed out. In 1886, in the national house of representatives, he advocated the bill providing for arbitration between railroad corporations and their employes, and during his first term as governor of Ohio, a law creating a state board of arbitration was passed. He always favored legislation for the protection of workingmen in hazardous occupations, and of procuring for them such considerate treatment as of right belonged to them, and which could be secured by the enactment of laws. In 1892 he recommended legislation for the safety and comfort of the employes of steam railroads; in 1893 he repeated the , recommendation, and specifically urged the furnishing of automatic couplers and air brakes for all railroad cars used in the state. In the same year he called attention to the wonderful developemnt of street railways and the application of electricity thereto, and urged that legislative requirements should be made, looking to the safety of employes and the traveling public. He recommended, also, that the legislature should require that all street cars should be furnished with "vestibules," to protect the motormen and conductors from the severe weather to which they are exposed. The legislature acted on his recommendation and passed such a law.
But these were not all his services to the cause of labor. He always recommended arbitration of labor difficulties when they were brought to his attention, and bent every effort to secure such an outcome. In this way the strike of the miners in the Massillon district was brought to a close, after every other effort at settlement had failed. About twentyfive mines were involved, and 2,000 mine workers had been idle for eight months. The loss of earnings and business consequent upon the strike, amounted to about $1,000,000. When Governor McKinley was consulted about a settlement, he got the parties together, and, with the aid of the state board of arbitration, a solution of the trouble was speedily reached. This was accomplished without cost to the state, and with no violence or malicious destruction of property.
The year 1894 is memorable for the labor troubles which occurred. It was in that year that the railway men of the country, under the direction of Eugene V. Debs, quit work and tied up nearly every transportation line in the country. The national government ordered out troops to see that there was no interference with the carrying of mails, and nearly all of the states, from coast to coast, had their local soldiery under arms. In Ohio, the miners' strike, in June, caused trouble, and a disposition was manifested to destroy property and interfere with the rights of people not parties to the control. Governor McKinley was prompt to act. He called out regiment after regiment until nearly every national guardsman in the state—some 3,600—was on duty.
The governor's action served notice upon everybody that he proposed to uphold the dignity and the good name of the state, as long as there was a soldier left to obey his orders. For sixteen days he remained incessantly at his post, giving orders, seeing to the comfort of the men and repressing any attempt to use the military rashly or unlawfully. The troops were in the field many weeks, but the people had no cause to complain of their doing more than their bounden duty. The spirit of the governor inspired the troops, and, indeed, the whole state. What he did was right at the time, and in the right way. He had been through four years of active service during the war, and he knew better than did the young men in the coal valleys of the state, what it meant to march and to fight.
During that summer of trial, it is related that an employer of a large number of men then on strike asked the governor what he would do about ordering out the militia in a certain contingency, which it was supposed might be reached. The governor answered:
"It is needless to ask what a public officer of Ohio will do. He does his duty. The practical question is what can we do, and what will your employees do; what can we all do properly to divert the necessity of using force? That is the question for immediate solution, at which I have been engaged for some days." He had already secured the attendance of the state board of arbitration, and that day a meeting between the parties interested was held in his office, and before midnight the tidings were sent abroad that the great strike on the Hocking Valley railway was ended. This was brought about without expense to the state, and without any disturbance of the public peace.
By daylight the next day. July 18, the thousands of freight loaded cars that had stood on switches for three weeks, the numerous coal mines stopped through sympathy for the strikers, or for want of transportation facilities, and the four thousand men who had been forced into idleness, began to stir. In less than twenty-four hours all through the Hocking Valley, every industry was in operation, and the credit for this happy outcome was due, in no small degree, to the worthy governor of the state.
Another incident, showing how swift and effective were the governor's methods, occurred in 1895, when the Hocking Valley mines were suffering because of a strike. January 7 a meeting was held at Nelsonville of the Trades Labor Union, comprising the Hocking Valley mining district, for the purpose of effecting an organization and formulating a plan to relieve the distress and destitution existing among the miners and their families. After a full discussion of the situation, a committee was appointed to wait upon Governor McKinley and present