William McKinley and His America

By H. Wayne Morgan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12
Cabinetmaking

PRESIDENT-ELECT William McKinley spent many hours in his study between his election and inauguration, with the sound of wind beyond the frosted panes, and the even ticking of his clock. But there was little time for contemplation. He spent far more time gazing intently into the faces of fellow politicians and listening to advisers and supplicants who came from the four corners of the country to ask favors and give advice.

Where does a new president find a cabinet? To whom does he turn and from whom does he have the right to expect the loyalty and ability that can withstand the drudgery as well as the power and importance of a cabinet post? McKinley turned to his task after a brief rest, though his early decisions were fluid. “I have concluded but a few things and they are likely to be disturbed before the 4th of March,” he wrote the inquisitive Whitelaw Reid at Christmas time.1 Alive to the powers of patronage, he anxiously watched the men in Congress with whom he would have to work and who would expect proper recognition. He did not need Matt Quay's proffered advice not to “distribute your plums before you secure your legislation.”2 One man kept silent; Mark Hanna held that he had nothing to do with cabinetmaking. His action gratified many ranking party men who agreed with John Hay on “the vital necessity for McKinley of asserting himself at the start and letting all and sundry know who is boss.”3

The new president did not lack advisers. Everyone who came through Canton was likely to cast a word his way. And the editors, reporters, and local politicians of the nation wholeheartedly devoted themselves to affairs in which they had as little practical influence as the emperor of China. Nor was there any dearth of candidates for patronage. A multitude of good Republicans, some of recent conversion, came forward. “In October an Irish Raypublican's so rare people pint him out on th' street, an' women carry their babies to see him,” Mr. Dooley, the popular newspaper humorist, said. “But th' day afther iliction, glory be, ye run into thim ivrywhere.”4

-190-

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