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McKinley and Teddy

July 6, 2011

The new calves on our farm have been named McKinley and Teddy in honor of the White House elected in 1900. The campaigns of 1900 saw incumbent President William McKinley and his new running mate, Theodore Roosevelt as the Republican nomination. McKinley’s previous vice president, Garret Hobart, had died of heart failure in 1899. Roosevelt was Governor of New York prior to being the vice presidential nominee.

That year the democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan and Adlai Stevenson to challenge the incumbents. Bryan, a native of neighboring Illinois, gained popularity after vying for presidential office in 1896 (he was beat out by McKinley). The candidates shaped up the same as they had in 1896, though different issues were raised in 1900.

The campaigns varied, the Republicans were able to tout victory on the campaign trail. In the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War of 1898 the United States acquired the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam as colonies and assumed control over Cuba (until Cuban independence in 1902). Teddy Roosevelt and his “Rough Riders” gained notoriety during this campaign and brought that to the campaign.

In protest of imperialism, Democrat William Jennings Bryan campaigned on a platform of the unnecessary involvement of the United States in places overseas (such as Puerto Rico and the Philippines). In fact, the platform adopted at the Democratic National Convention in 1900 in Kansas City states:

The greedy commercialism which dictated the Phillippine policy of the Republican administration attempts to justify it with the plea that it will pay, but even this sordid and unworthy plea fails when brought to the test of facts.  The war of “criminal aggression” against the Filipinos, entailing an annual expense of many millions, has already cost more than any possible profit that could accrue from the entire Philippine trade for years to come.  Furthermore, when trade is extended at the expense of liberty the price is always too high.

from The Democratic Campaign Book Presidential Election 1900, prepared by the authority of the Democratic National Committee , Globe Printing Company, Washington, D.C.

While other factors contributed to both campaigns, the involvement of the American military overseas seemed to be a forerunner. In reading the entire platform documents of both parties it is interesting to note that some of the same issues that are debated along the presidential trail are still discussed today. Both sides have strict views regarding the economy (in 1900 the Gold Standard was the debate), immigration, and Veteran’s affairs. Tariffs were also discussed as a topic just as taxes are today. In 2011, politicians use the mass media of television to make their presence known, in 1900, the candidates took to the rails. Bryan and Roosevelt covered thousands of miles of rail searching from votes from the populous.

Modernly, we are used to seeing exit polling to give us an indication of how the vote is leaning and numbers as soon as each state is declared. On November 6, 1900, Chicago’s sky was lit on the hour with colored fireworks indicating who held the lead in the count. Voters wanted immediate information when it came to election results. This was different from previous years where people would wait days to find out if their candidate prevailed. New telephone lines were installed by the San Francisco Examiner to carry information westward from Chicago and New York City. Electronic billboards like the ones we see dotting street sides today were not found, but stereopticon slides were projected against buildings with update results.

In the end, McKinley and Roosevelt triumphed. With nearly 52% of the popular vote (7.2 million) and 292 electoral votes, they defeated Bryan and Stevenson (6.4 million popular, 155 electoral). In local interest, Polk County (home of Living History Farms) voted Republican, as did all but 8 of Iowa’s 99 counties. The democrats held favor mostly in the South, but in the end, President McKinley was inaugurated for a second time on March 4, 1901. In his address, McKinley touted a surplus budget instead of a deficit and increased production and jobs. He pressed for a lasting peace that had been gained and resolution of conflict with arbitration  Little did he know what the world would face in the 20th century.

During his speech William McKinley addressed the country’s concerning interests overseas. What he says reflects the spirit of Manifest Destiny that led the pioneers to settle the West.

The American people, intrenched in freedom at home, take their love for it with them wherever they go, and they reject as mistaken and unworthy the doctrine that we lose our own liberties by securing the enduring foundations of liberty to others. Our institutions will not deteriorate by extension, and our sense of justice will not abate under tropic suns in distant seas.

Unfortunately, McKinley would not be able to see his second term through. While visiting the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, on September 6th, 1901, the President was shot in the abdomen. He died eight days later on September 14th from complications. President Roosevelt was sworn in that afternoon.

Roosevelt would go on to have his own illustrious career as our nation’s leader. We celebrate both former presidents this year by naming our calves after them.

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