William McKinley and His America

By H. Wayne Morgan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
The McKinley Boom

LIFE IN CANTON as an ex-governor had its compensations. The Major and Ida spent more time together and with old friends. He was always a familiar figure there, but he was now a famous man, next in line, his neighbors were sure, for the presidency itself. People smiled and congratulated him, stopped him on the streets, pointed him out to visitors when he went to the drugstore for Ida's medicine or talked horses with the blacksmith.

The McKinleys redecorated their old house on Market Street which they had sold when he went to Congress and which they now leased. In the flush of their first real home life in over twenty years, he and Ida recalled their youth. “We have got back our old home in Canton, keeping house for the first time in twenty-two years, and in the house [in] which twenty-five years ago we took up our housekeeping as newly married people,” he wrote Whitelaw Reid, publisher at the New York Tribune, and prominent Republican, with a touch of almost boyish pride.1 In the midst of his retirement he and Ida celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, and gifts from friends and admirers all over the country heightened the occasion.2

But both knew that their seclusion was short lived. In fact, it was not real at all. The long-distance telephone called the Major back to the demands of politics hourly, and a steady stream of important visitors and floods of mail reminded him that he was in the midst of a complex and difficult struggle for the Republican presidential nomination.

McKinley was busier than ever in 1895 and especially after leaving the governorship in 1896, gathering delegations and swaying public opinion to his side. A dry fatalism hung over his work; he believed that destiny had secured this role for him. As early as 1892, he told a Boston host that he would be elected president. Recalling his wartime experiences, he remembered that he had told his mother no harm would come to him. He felt the same about political battles. “I shall in 1896 be nominated and elected to the presidency of the United States. I have never been in doubt since I was old enough to think

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