President McKinley: Architect of the American Century

S. & S. Nov. 2017. 624p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781451625448. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781451625462. BIOG
One of eight children reared in an anti-slavery Ohio household, William McKinley (1843-1901) enlisted in the army at 18 at the onset of the Civil War, joining the same Union regiment as future president and mentor Rutherford B. Hayes. He ended the war as a major and embarked on a postwar law career, fostering a cautious approach to politicking, which eventually propelled him to the presidency in 1896. Though most comfortable dealing with tariff issues, McKinley faced a cascade of international crises—the Spanish-American War, the annexation of Hawaii, and the contested acquisition of the Philippines—that expanded America's new role as a nascent imperial superpower. But soon after his second inaugural, McKinley was killed by a Polish anarchist at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY. Merry (Where They Stand) seeks to boost the reputation of the 25th president, who, despite being widely popular while in office, was deterred by a "rhetorical blandness" and is often overshadowed in history by his successor, Theodore Roosevelt.
VERDICT Though sometimes lost in the 19th-century political weeds, this is a deserving reappraisal of a middling leader that will intrigue presidential history fans. [See Prepub Alert, 3/27/17.]

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