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William McKinley: The American Presidents Series: The 25th President, 1897-1901 Hardcover – October 1, 2003
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Phillips doesn't seem to have consulted any primary sources at all. We get a lot of "he must have reflected" stuff, and assertions that McKinley deliberately wore a mask of conventionality, and that his blandness was a conscious strategy, etc., with no attempt to demonstrate the historical validity of any of it.
Still, there is some good stuff about Ohio's political centrality in the post-Civil War era, and a very good summary of the gold-silver debate, which was a matter of passionate interest in the 1880s and 1890s but is so baffling to modern Americans.
The stereotype of McKinley is that he was a somewhat dimwitted puppet under the control of Big Business, a man of little imagination, no culture, and a nonprogressive who was eclipsed by the ascendance of Teddy Roosevelt following his assassination. Phillips, on the other hand, wants to argue that he was a self-confident reformer who masked his goals under a congenial exterior, possessed a highly cultivated knack for maneuvering others to his own position, was vastly more concerned with protecting laborers and wages than the desires of business, and laid the foundations for progressive reforms that he himself would have begun had his life not ended so suddenly. Phillips shows that McKinley's obsession with tariffs had little to do with a desire to reward the rich, but with a desire to increase the wages of American workers.
Though but lightly stated, much of Phillips's book is intended as a polemic against contemporary misuses of McKinley, such as Karl Rove, George W. Bush's chief aide.Read more ›
The entire book seems to be written as a rebuttal of other biographers' lackluster opinions of McKinley. Liberally interspersed throughout the narrative are refutations of supposedly popular beliefs about McKinley, from his education to his influence on his successor, Teddy Roosevelt. This would probably appeal to someone who has read several books on the topic, but it is a strange pick for the American Presidents series, which should be a basic primer for the uninitiated. The book says little about what specifics McKinley accomplished in his presidency, says little about the Spanish American War, and says nothing about his assassination, except for where it happened. I feel like I now have to go and look him up on Wikipedia to find the information that was not included in this book. If you are not already quite familiar with the topic, I'd recommend reading something else on the subject first.
The book argues that McKinley's rise in politics--from the Ohio state political world to president--was largely self-orchestrated. That he took control over his political ambitions (and was not a mere puppet of Mark Hanna, his key political operative later in his political career).
Earlier in the book, his family background is described as is his solid service in the Union Army during the Civil War (indeed, he served with Rutherford Hayes, another American president--and another Ohioan).
As his political career developed, Phillips argues that his political views were more "enlightened," for want of a better term, than many of his Republican peers. He had some sympathy and provided some support for workers; he seemed to have recognized the value of blacks and women having political rights; he exhibited a much more nuanced view of tariffs than standard pro-capitalist Republicans.
When he became president there was one new aspect to his administration--no owing political bosses Cabinet positions and so on; some predecessors were hamstrung by deals made with party leaders in order to gain the office. His defeat of Bryan in the critical 1896 election helped realign politics.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
"The American Presidents Series" is full of well written biographies. I read a lot of history and a lot of presidential biographies that go deeper (well, are larger... Read morePublished 11 hours ago by R. J. Tierney
You will not learn much about William McKinley, but you will read a lot of dull ruminations about why Kevin Phillips believes the McKinley presidency regenerated the Republican... Read morePublished 2 days ago by D. Hurdelbrink
Worst Bio I ever read. Kevin Phillips goes oput of his way to bore and confuse the reader by using / creating as many 50 cent words as possible to intimidate the reader into... Read morePublished 4 months ago by L W Jander
This is not only a biography but used to convey the author's point of view on William McKinley. It reads more like a college thesis than a short biography. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Jeffery W. Fallis
I think that he author did a good job of showing that McKinnley while not a great presidnet was one of the near great presidents. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Harry E. Byrd
Author doesn't appear to be fully objective and more defensive of McIinleyPublished 10 months ago by RGC
I read the book for a school report and i didnt even know his birthday or that he had 2 kids until i looked it up. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Barb W.
The sentence structure with frequent, lengthy parenthetical insertions requires rereading in order to begin to glean the author's intent. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Stephen M. Feldman