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William McKinley: The American Presidents Series: The 25th President, 1897-1901 Hardcover – October 1, 2003

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William McKinley: The American Presidents Series: The 25th President, 1897-1901 + Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series: The 23rd President, 1889-1893 + Grover Cleveland (The American Presidents Series)
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Product Details

  • Series: The American Presidents
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (October 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069534
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069532
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #315,170 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Wasn't William McKinley the lackluster chief executive whose assassination left the dynamic Teddy Roosevelt president? In this latest volume in the publisher's American Presidents series, historian Phillips, author of the well-received Cousins' Wars (1999), shows us there is much more to McKinley. In fact, the author goes so far as to insist, "By any serious measurement, William McKinley was a major American president." Of course, Phillips is not asking that the twenty-fifth president (whose tenure ran from 1897 to 1901) be considered a first-rank chief executive, alongside Washington and Lincoln. But in this original reevaluation, he makes a strong case for placing McKinley on the "six- or eight-president second tier." Although Phillips sounds strained on occasion, he nevertheless convinces readers that McKinley was a healing, renewing, and reuniting leader--a near-great president, that is. A bold, new look that, itself, deserves a serious look. (Also see following review.) Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"This little work of rehabilitation should help set McKinley's reputation right."
-- Publishers Weekly (Publisher's Weekly ) --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

You would think one or two pages if not an entire chapter would be dedicated to this event.
D. W. Bartee
And lest you think I just disagree with Phillips' politics, let me say I have generally enjoyed his essays and often agree with his point of view.
Thomas A. Wheeler
I have been reading biographies on many presidents and have read many in this series of books, but this is by far the worst.
David Sinason

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Phillips is a political commentator, not a historian or biographer. His goal with this book isn't to sketch in McKinley's life but to argue a thesis. His thesis is that McKinley was a important president, and the thing that makes him important is that he illustrates Phillips' career-making mega-theory about realignment politics. It's a campaign strategist's view of history.
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.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have tremendously enjoyed the volumes that have appeared so far in Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s The American Presidents, but this is the first volume to have appeared so far that managed to transcend the limitations inherent in a series such as this. Most of the other volumes consist of a chronological recounting of the relevant president's life and career, with some assessment of his significance and achievements. Kevin Phillips, in a comparable number of pages, manages to present a case for a complete revision of the popular understanding of William McKinley, our 25th President. Although many of McKinley's biographers have argued some of the same things that Phillips does here, he does so in a much more vigorous fashion.
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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is yet another entry into The American Presidents series of brief biographies, under the general editorship of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. One of the more intriguing facets of this series is the sometime use of eminent authors. Here, Kevin Phillips, a political commentator who once projected a Republican majority, writes an interesting work on McKinley, to some extent a political essay as much as a biography. His contention is that McKinley was one of the few really top notch presidents from Lincoln's assassination to FDR's service.

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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Christopher R. Magee on March 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was very disappointed by this book. As someone who didn't know much about McKinley, I read it with the aim of finding out all the basics about him - who he was, what he did, how he died. Yet after reading it I feel like I know little more than before.

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.
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