What Is William McKinley Famous For?

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William McKinley was the 25th president of the United States and led it to victory in the Spanish-American War, allowing the nation to gain control of Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico. His leadership placed the nation in a position to become a world power. An assassin shot McKinley just six months after re-election and he died eight days later, making Vice President Theodore Roosevelt the new president.

The United States had experienced ongoing tension with Cuba when McKinley became president. The sinking of the U.S. Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898 was erroneously associated with the actions of Cuba and McKinley sought permission to go to war with Spain. The United States defeated Spain in Cuba, seized Manila and occupied Puerto Rico. The Treaty of Paris ended the war, with Spain giving Cuba independence and ceding the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States.

While historians have not always looked at McKinley in a favorable light, members of his cabinet remained in leadership of the Republican party and the United States for more than 25 years. Theodore Roosevelt became the new president, McKinley's secretary served in three cabinets, and his Secretary of State, William Day, became a Supreme Court Justice. Puerto Rico and Guam remain territories, while the United States has granted the Philippines independence.