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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.
Let me count off this book's weaknesses:
1) This McKinley biography is frustratingly disjoint and confusing. It is told in an only vaguely chronological style. For example, the first twenty pages jump from McKinley's childhood to his presidency, back to his time in Congress, his military service, then forward to his governorship, then back to his legal career and then back to his childhood again. Sometimes in the same paragraph this happens. It continues like this for the rest of the book, randomly jumping around in time so that you're not quite sure the sequence of events or the cause-and-effect flow of McKinley's life and times. Another example, on page thirty (only one-fifth into the book), there is suddenly a discussion of how President McKinley arranged his White House, some forty pages *before* McKinley's 1896 election is discussed. Even when he focuses on a particular topic, the author leaps around in time: tariffs, silver, the Spanish-American War, the 1896 election. It's really confusing. The whole biography comes across as a confused muddle of events.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Love the series. Perfect for a collection of presidential biographical booksPublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
"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 6 months 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 6 months 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 11 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 14 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 15 months ago by Harry E. Byrd
Author doesn't appear to be fully objective and more defensive of McIinleyPublished 16 months ago by RGC