“..I am here to shake hands and sign dollar bills. Now, good sir, could you spell your name out to me for the dedication?”
“Certainly! It's C‑z‑o‑BANG!”
William McKinley, Jr. (January 29, 1843 - September 14, 1901) was the 25th President of the United States (1897-1901). His presidency is most remembered for his outrageous support for the gold standard, promoting Republican values in a post-Industrial society, his leadership over the Spanish-American War, and ultimately, his assassination at the literal hands of Leon Frank Oswald Czolgosz.
Prior to his presidency, McKinley was an esteemed musician. He excelled at the clarinet and was an instructor of many piano classes. He lived the quiet life of an Ohio Representative, and had served in the American Civil War. Unbeknown to many, McKinley suffered from an incredibly rare addiction to the shaking of peoples' hands. Many speculate this was why he ventured into the political realm of the United States. Whatever the case, this vice would ultimately bring about his assassination and death.
William McKinley, Jr., was born in Niles, Ohio, on January 29, 1843, to Nancy (née Allison) (April 22, 1809 – December 12, 1897) and William McKinley Sr. (November 15, 1807 – November 24, 1892). The seventeenth of nineteen children, McKinley received as much attention as was possible between his parents and their family's servants. When he was six, McKinley was diagnosed with the extremely rare hand-shaking disorder that would shape his adult life. The only cure at the time was drinking profuse amounts of alcohol, so McKinley's father obliged and the family kept the disorder secret. At ten years old, his parents longed for the old country of their Irish/Polish ancestry, so they relocated to Poland, Ohio. There William would finish his schooling as a child and would attend Allegheny College for two months until his parents' money reserves ran dry, forcing him to join the Army.
McKinley enlisted in the Union Army under Sergeant Rutherford B. Hayes. McKinley would prove a strong-spirited soldier, yet lacked any sort of common sense when it came to personal safety. Recognizing a promising future in politics for the young McKinley, Hayes promoted him to First Lieutenant after the battle of Antietam, in order to keep him off the battlefield and out of his hair.
It was on the sidelines of the battlegrounds that McKinley would develop his love for music. As Antietam raged on, William met a former slave named Toby who, to pass the time, taught McKinley how to play the clarinet. Instantly entranced by the musical instrument, McKinley spent hours at a time within the officers tent, practicing the instrument, and would even perform rallying tunes at the head of marching columns. The men of the 23rd Ohio Infantry marveled at McKinley's quick expertise, and he would become known among the soldiers as "Woody Willy", after the nickname he had given the woodwind. Once the war ended in 1865, McKinley was promised a commission by President Lincoln himself, but never received it, as Lincoln was tragically assassinated before the ceremony could take place.
|Yes, Lincoln was a good man, but what sort of fool allows himself to be shot during a play? If you elect me, my gold standard shall deflect the bullets of common-folk bills! If I were President, you could count on me not to embarrass myself like that!|
—William McKinley, on Lincoln's assassination during his 1896 presidential campaign.
Progression to Politics
After many years of intense studying and drinking for the bar exam, McKinley started his own private law practice in Canton, Ohio. There he would meet and marry his wife Ida Anglo-Saxton, and together they would have three children: Katherine and Ida, both of whom would die not three months after birth, and the ever-mysterious Clement, of whom very little is known.
Despite his shortcomings of fathering unhealthy children, McKinley quickly became well-known, as a local lawyer, for his long-winded addresses to court systems, and his extremely profane-yet-poetic verbal berating of ex-Whig party members.
In 1876, after a Union Army veteran reunion, McKinley was introduced to American politics for the first time. His old commander, Rutherford B. Hayes, now the 19th President, showed McKinley how inanely fun the position of Commander-in-Chief could be. The two went on a six-month journey across North America, drinking, playing clarinet, and assaulting Native Americans the entire way. The journey would end in 1877, when the two men returned to Washington D.C., where McKinley would engage in a drunken pistol duel with former President Andrew Johnson. Johnson, already so preternaturally incompetent that he surprised people by breathing without hurting himself, fired the pistol in to the ground and took exile in France. McKinley, overwhelmed with pride of his yearlong victory, decided he had what it took to be in politics, and promptly stood for office.
Early Years and Campaign
Having already made a name for himself as the loquacious lawyer of Canton, McKinley was quickly absorbed by the Republican Party, and, with the help of profuse amounts of bribery via Rutherford B. Hayes, found himself a Representative for the state of Ohio. As popular as he was in the Ohio court system, he had no problem quickly becoming a favorite among fellow Republicans. His popularity was, in part, brought about by his constant creation of pointless tariffs on random goods such as sand, cheese, and paper. On the reverse end of the spectrum, McKinley was viewed as a buffoon by Democrats, who claimed he constantly arrived drunk to Representative Sessions. Needless to say, McKinley felt right at home in Washington.
McKinley found himself quickly bored with the typical actions of Congress, and decided it was time to run for President. The country, tired of Grover Cleveland's failures as a leader, quickly became enthralled with McKinley's unorthodox ways of politics. After randomly picking his Vice President from a hat, he began his campaign by hiring every citizen of his old city of Canton, Ohio to bicycle across the country and preach his name. Although many died from exhaustion, McKinley's goal was reached, and by 1896 his national popularity was at almost 80%. The following election was a landslide victory, with McKinley taking all states accept two, Maine and New Hampshire, where his opponent, William Jennings Bryan, had blackmailed the vote counters, in a futile and bizarre attempt to steal a victory. William McKinley, aged 54, and sporting a spectacular expanse of forehead, became the 25th President of the United States.
The Spanish-American War
McKinley's presidency was immediately thrust into the arms of conflict as Spain increased its aggression towards Cuba. McKinley, a stout anti-Spaniard, declined at first to pull the country into any unnecessary war, but when the U.S.S. Maine experienced a sudden and calamitous molecular failure in the harbor at Havana, he quickly blamed the Spanish. Thus began the Spanish-American War.
The public, outraged by the sinking of the Maine, and also unsure where Spain was if it really wasn't Mexico, looked to McKinley for leadership. McKinley, a veteran of the Civil War, knew little about the guerrilla warfare used by his men, and entrusted his entire military to the extraordinarily-violent Secretary of War, Theodore "Teddy Soul-Slayer" Roosevelt. Roosevelt's main tactic to defeat the Spanish was not to invade Spain itself, but to send the Navy in the opposite direction and annex the Hawaiian Islands and the Philippines. Meanwhile, Roosevelt headed south with his personal kill squad, the Rough Riders, and "killed as many of them Mexican-Spaniards as possible". After a mere five months at war, Spain packed up her traps and chattels, leaving America as the victor. In what could be described as a "somewhat uneven" conflict, 7,500 Spaniards had been killed, compared with two fatalities on the American side.
McKinley's turning over of the military to Roosevelt brought about harsh criticism from the public, and his popularity dropped sharply. Under extreme stress, he turned away from the bottle, vowing sobriety, and instead turned his full attention to fixing the problem in the Caribbean, Cuba. McKinley imposed heavy tariffs and embargoes upon Cuba for bringing the Spanish near North America, and also created a number of laws that he believed would prevent any sort of problems on the island for some time. He outlawed beards of any shape or sort, public speeches anywhere, and made it illegal to stand next to any flag other than the American one. Towards the end of his first term, tensions also rose between McKinley and the War Department. His creation of a treaty between the United States and Spain incited the ire of war-hungry generals; he was able to quell these feelings, for the moment, by allowing them to continue the annexing of pointless islands in the Pacific Ocean.
Despite his differences with Theodore Roosevelt, who called him a "weakling with no leadership skills", McKinley was inspired by the strength and power that almost dripped off him, and was quick to choose him as his running mate for the next presidency. The two army veterans won in another landslide victory for the Republicans, and McKinley was president once again, and in a new millennium.
Having lost his ability to drink alcohol, McKinley became extraordinarily stressed as president. It was during the first days of his second term that his closeted addiction to the shaking of people's hands reappeared for the first time since his early childhood. The relapse began trivially, when McKinley noted strange feelings of elation after merely gazing at another man's hand. The amount of handshaking required for a public official, however, soon teased his addiction into overdrive. McKinley became prone to debilitating fits of withdrawal after a mere day of not shaking someone's hand. McKinley, afraid to seek medical attention for fear of being ridiculed, began to frequent national Handshaking Conventions. As it was customary for any president to shake as many hands as possible, he was thus able to indulge his addiction without it becoming public, or interfering with his presidency. Sadly, this dependence on Handshaking Conventions would also be his downfall.
In August of 1901, McKinley attended one of the more luxurious conventions, in Buffalo, New York, ostensibly to give a public speech on political affairs. However, historians would later note that McKinley seemed hazy and unfocused during the entire speech, and paused several dozen times to stare longingly at the hands of random audience members. After the speech, he quickly joined the crowd, hands trembling, intending to get his usual handshake fix. At the head of a long queue of people, he was approached by anarchist Leon Frank Oswald Czolgosz. Czolgosz, so caught up with being an anarchist that he had decided to kill the president for "kicks and giggles", had a bandage wrapped around his right hand, with a .32-caliber pistol concealed beneath. McKinley, being polite, reached out for Czolgosz' left hand; Czolgosz then raised his weapon and fired twice. The first bullet grazed McKinley's shoulder, but the second one went through his stomach, pancreas, and kidney, before exiting his body, making a sharp U-turn and re-entering it, passing through his other kidney, his heart, both of his lungs, his pocketbook, the kidneys of three other men, and then demolishing a kitten. The vengeful bullet returned, at last, to come to a rest in McKinley's duodenum. As the President fell dead onto the floor, the impact restarted his heart, giving doctors a convenient excuse to dig around his entrails in a futile but entertaining search for the bullet.
While the assassin was grabbed, beaten, thoroughly drenched in spittle and urine, and then dragged away by the crowd of spectators, doctors began operating on McKinley on the very floor of the convention. The enthusiastic doctors used newly-developed x-ray technology, in an attempt to locate the inconveniently-placed slug, giving McKinley a vast overdose of radiation with the primitive machine, and causing him slightly more pain than the maximum rating on the just-then-invented McKinley Pain Chart. After forty-six hours of bleeding and skin-melting agony, William McKinley, Jr. died, at 2:15 am on September 14, 1901. Czolgosz, the assassin, was put on trial; realizing that he was both foreign and an anarchist, the jury instantly found him guilty, and sentenced him to a public execution. William McKinley was interred in his home town of Niles, Ohio, outside of his childhood home turned BP gas station with his trusty clarinet, "Woody".
LegacyDespite his first presidential term being overshadowed by the Spanish-American War, and his second term being cut short by his assassination, William McKinley left a legacy including a number of prestigious awards related to his many talents and abilities, such as his ability to drink profuse amounts of alcohol in one sitting, as well as many monuments and memorials scattered across the United States.
Due to his highly-impressive, yet mostly-forgotten level of musicality and proficiency with the clarinet, the William McKinley Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio created the overtly grand William McKinley Award for Sheer Dedication in the Art of Clarinet for the extreme mastering of the woodwind instrument. Many famous musicians, artists, politicians, and car mechanics have received this award; the more famous include:
- John F. Kennedy
- James Brown
- Thomas Edison (Awarded whilst alive, rejected. Then awarded posthumously)
- Brian Urlacher
- Les Paul (Posthumously. Denied.)
- Sir Issac Newton (Posthumously.)
McKinley had been married with his wife Ida for almost thirty years when he was assassinated. Although his daughter Katherine would die of a freak Miniature Golf accident, he would be surpassed by his mysterious bastard child, Clement. While little is known about this man, rumors speculate that he would later grow up to become either the father of Timothy McVeigh or Mr. Rogers. However, this all remains as speculation, as many conspiracy theorists believe that McKinley was himself Clement, only masquerading as another younger man in order to drink and whore at his own free will.
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Rutherford B. Hayes
- The Civil War
- The Spanish-American War
- Les Paul
- ↑ These men were reportedly killed by Roosevelt himself, who had strangled them in his sleep while they tried to awake him for battle. He said on the topic,"I always start my day with a good throttling".
- ↑ The actual quote was:"[McKinley is]...a weak-ass bastard with no leadership skills whatsoever. However, he is quite adept at bossing idiots around." Roosevelt was world-renowned for his eloquence.
- ↑ It was purported that Roosevelt himself performed the execution using only a box of matches and a pair of scissors. This remains merely a rumor.