In the Days of William McKinley

Finalist, National Book Awards 1960 for Nonfiction

ISBN 978-0945707240
American Political Biography Press | Harper
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Margaret Leech

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In choosing the McKinley era for her concentrated study, Margaret Leech challenges the general assumption that a neglected period is an unimportant period. Actually the years spanned by McKinley’s presidency —1896 to 1901, when his assassination brought the ebullient Theodore Roosevelt to the White House— marked a turning point in our national history and character. We became an imperialist power, through the Spanish-American War and our subsequent- and questionable- acquisition of responsibility for Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines. Our diplomacy became a factor at the bargaining tables of the Western World — and the Boxer Rebellion precipitated us violently into happenings in the Orient. Names famous in our annals appeared on the scene:- Elihu Root, Mark Hanna, numerous representatives of the armed services. The McKinley Tariff, which antedates the presidency, set a keynote to McKinely’s role in the party; the Hay-Pauncefort Treaty, equally unpopular in its day, stressed yet another facet of a changing scene. By and large, as the panorama unfolds, from McKinley’s years of apprenticeship — from Congressman to Governor to President — to the years of achievement, the reader finds himself caught up in a shared sense of excitement and participation, an immediacy of mood and event, a contemporary echo that gives one a sense of “”this is where I came in”” as history repeats itself. Miss Leech has a rare gift of thorough scholarship so skillfully synthesized that one absorbs the facts effortlessly, while at the same time one feels integral to the thinking, the emotions, the response. As a social portrait of an era this is, perhaps, less vivid than Reveille in Washington; as a portrait of a man, beloved, revered, perhaps understated as a great president, and as a political and diplomatic and military history, this makes a great contribution to our historical understanding.