During the first five months of the McKinley administration, the new president appointed his foreign affairs advisers, gathered information about Cuba, and defined his policy toward Spain. Although many legislators wanted the administration to recognize Cuban belligerency, Congress provided time for McKinley to organize and attempt to negotiate a solution. In Spain during these months, Cánovas faced growing domestic opposition to the military suppression of Cuba; Sagasta and others called for political reforms to end the war. The situation changed dramatically in August, when an assassin killed Cánovas.
The new American president was experienced in domestic issues yet a novice in foreign affairs. Born to a lower-middle-class family, McKinley obtained a modest education, which eventually led to the practice of law. Caught up in the fiery events of the Civil War, he volunteered at the start, and during four years he rose in the ranks from private to major, with several citations for bravery. After the war McKinley practiced law in Canton, Ohio, and began a successful political career. He served fourteen years in the House of Representatives, rising to chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and served two terms as governor of Ohio. Before becoming president, McKinley had shown little experience or in-