Read WILLIAM MCKINLEY of Lives of the Presidents Told in Words of One Syllable , free online book, by Jean S. Remy, on

The man, who now, in the year 1900, stands at the head of our great land, was born at Niles, Ohio, on January 29th, 1843. In the schools near his home he was taught his letters and, as a child, was fond of books, and quick to learn. He was a mere boy, when he taught school to earn the means to go to Collège. The schoolhouse in which he taught still stands; it is a plain, square, white house, with two windows in front and three on each side. His mother was a good woman, with a clear, strong brain; she taught him, as well as his eight brothers and sisters, to love truth, and to live brave and strong lives.

Young William was not long to lead a life of peace; for in 1861 he, then but a boy of eighteen, left his books and his home, and went to the war. Many stories prove how brave he was while there; but two will show you why he rose so fast from the ranks. At one time the guns had been left on the road, after a great fight; and it would be a hard task to go back near the foe to get them. But, young McKinley said, The boys will haul them; and he and a few others went back for them and brought them into our lines. Then he was at one time two miles from the fight, in charge of the food; he was quite safe; but he thought our men would fight better, if they had some coffee and food. So he filled a cart and drove straight to the lines, where our brave men were hard at work. Was this not a brave act? To risk his life for the sake of taking food and drink to the worn men. He worked his way straight to the front and came out of the war a captain. He went home at once and took up the study of law in Canton; one of his first speeches was for the rights of the black men; he said that they should have the same right to vote that white men had; and he was ever on the side of the black man. In 1869 McKinley was married to Miss Ida Saxton. They were both very young when their two little children died. The young lawyer did all he could to cheer his wife; and she was as brave as he, and did not let her grief keep him from his work. He rose fast in his state, and held high place more than once; then, in 1877, he was sent to Congress. In 1891 he was made governor of Ohio; and in 1897, he had made such a great name for himself that he was put up for prèsident by the Republicans, and elected. Just as he came into office, the strife in Cuba was at its height; and men here in our great, free land had much pity for the Cubans, who were trying to get free from Spain, just as we had tried to shake off the hand of England long years ago. The Spanish rule grew worse and worse, as Spain found that Cuba would not give in. At last General Weyler, a harsh and cruel man, was sent there to force peace on any terms; but General Gomez knew his foes well, and his brave men fought with a strength born of a great hate for Spain. By and by, when Spain saw she could not win the day, she sent word that if Cuba would lay down her arms, she could have the rights for which she had asked in vain in the past.

But it was too late; Cuba had no faith in Spain, and would now be free from her hard yoke. There was much want in the big towns of Cuba at this time, for Weyler had made all the poor folks, who had lived in peace on their small farms, come into the towns. He said they gave help to the Cuban troops, and so he forced them to leave their homes and would only let them bring with them just the few things that they could put on their backs. Then he had their little homes, and their crops which they had raised with care, all burned to the ground. He had little food to give this great host of poor people, and many died in the streets for the want of bread. You may be sure that our great land saw the pain and want down in Cuba, and longed to give aid; but an act of help on our part would mean war with Spain, and this McKinley did not wish. But there came a day when a great cry went up through the United States at a foul deed done in the bay of Havana. Our great war ship, the “Maine,” was blown up by a bomb, as she lay at anchor in the harbor. The thought of our poor men sent to such a death raised the cry of war in all hearts. “Remember the Maine,” was the warcry; and men cried for war at once with Spain. But McKinley gave Spain one more chance to stop the fight and free Cuba; this she would not do. So on April 21st, 1898, once more the United States had to make ready for war. From all the states men poured in and camps sprang up here and there, where the men were taught to load and fire their guns. Off at HongKong, in charge of our warships, was brave Admiral Dewey. He knew that the Spanish fleet was in Manila Bay, near the Philippine Islands, which were ruled by Spain; the loss of these ships would be a great blow to Spain just at this time; so Dewey steered his ships there to strike a blow for his country.

It was night when he reached the spot, and before the Spaniards knew he was near, six of his great ships had slipped past their forts. Then a fierce fire poured on him from the forts; but it did not do much harm. At last the Spanish fleet saw him, and at once the ships opened fire; but Dewey’s flagship, the “Olympia,” sent out such a storm of shot and shell, that the first of the Spanish ships was sunk, and all on board killed.

The fight lasted two hours; and at the end of that time the Spanish fleet had all been sunk. Great joy was felt in the United States when this glad news was heard, and Dewey was the hero of the whole land.

Our men down in Cuba fought well, and many brave deeds were done. On June 6th Admiral Sampson fired on the forts at Santiago; our men put their hearts in their work and their aim with the great guns was true and straight. The Spaniards did not aim so well, and their shots did not go so far, and so the shot and shell from their forts did not do us much harm.

Soon our men had stopped the fire from all the forts save Castle Morro, and this fort was rent and torn in great holes.

On June 24th our “Rough Riders,” with Theodore Roosevelt at their head, were sent out to clear the way to Santiago. The foe poured a hot fire on our men from the tall grass and weeds in which they lay hidden; and there was great loss of life. Full of fire and pluck were these “Rough Riders,” and led by their brave colonels, Roosevelt and Wood, they forced the Spanish troops back, foot by foot. The line of fight was five miles long; the heat was fierce; and food and water scarce. But at last the troops came to the fort of San Juan Hill; then, with a mad rush, up, up went our men to the Spanish fort at the head! Cheers and shouts rose to the skies as the red, white and blue waved from the old Spanish fort; but the cost of this fort had been great, for there was much loss of life on both sides. On July 3d Cervera, the Spanish Admiral, tried to sail his fleet out of the bay of Santiago; he was seen, though, by our men, and after a hot chase and fierce fighting, the whole Spanish fleet was burned or sunk.

Spain lost scores of brave men; but on our side not one man was killed, nor did we lose a ship.

The end of the war was near; on July 10th we laid siege to Santiago, and on July 17th we went into the city and raised over it the Stars and Stripes.

In this part of the world the last shot had been fired; but Dewey in the far east did not know this, and so he struck one more blow for his country.

He took the city of Manila with the loss of but twelve men, and when our flag waved over this city, the end of the Spanish war had come. On January 1st, 1899, the Spanish flag, which for four hundred years had waved over Cuba, was hauled down; the red, white and blue of our own land took its place; and Cuba, free from the hard rule of Spain, blessed the great nation that had come to her aid.

In September of 1899 Admiral Dewey came home; and from end to end of this land his name was cheered.

He was the guest of the city of New York for three days; and well did the city honor the hero of Manila.

When we took Manila from Spain, and so closed the Spanish war, it did not give us the Philippines. The men there were glad to have us drive out the Spaniards, but did not wish us to take their place. Long months of war followed, but now, Aguinaldo, their chief, has yielded and peace seems to be at hand.

It was not easy to see when McKinley became prèsident that we were soon to be in the midst of war; but our land has borne her part well. We have gained new lands in the far east, and our flag waves over strange people who have not yet learned that it stands for freedom. They still fear that the yoke of the United States will be as hard to bear as that of Spain. This is not so, and it will not be long before all these faroff lands will learn to love and bless the Red, White and Blue, just as every State in our great Union does today.