Deeper Into Jeopardy! XXXVI: Inaugural Addresses – Final Jeopardy!

Jeopardy! category: INAUGURAL ADDRESSES (25-5-2007)

FJ! Clue: This president said, “We remain accountable… for the reconstruction of Cuba as a free commonwealth”

Correct response

The gist: He opposed going to war to begin with, but he accepted responsibility for the cleanup afterward regardless. William McKinley, 25th President of the United States (1897-1901, when he was assassinated while in office by anarchist Leon Czolgosz), hoped to reach a diplomatic agreement with Spain over the increasingly brutal repression the Spanish monarchy was inflicting on Cuban revolutionaries. The U.S., McKinley included, were appropriately horrified at the events on the island, but as many of the people called for war, McKinley urged restraint. Even after an official inquiry determined that the USS Maine was blown up by a mine, he attempted to negotiate a deal that would have Spain grant independence or autonomy to Cuba, to no avail. On April 11, 1898, almost two months after the American ship exploded, McKinley put the matter pf establishing a “stable government” – with no mention of war – to Congress. On April 20, Congress passed the president’s motion and authorized him to use any means necessary to do so, with the stated condition that the U.S. did not intend to annex the island, known as the “Teller Amendment.”

Armed from his office with his new telephone and the expanded telegraph lines, McKinley was able to take a much more direct role in actual battlefield tactics than earlier presidents. His abrasive relationship with Secretary of War Russell Alger and Army General Nelson Miles led him to relay his own movements to ships and troops, on the advice of Alger’s predecessor John Schofield. After the Battle of Manila Bay, McKinley began to look at other Spanish possessions – ones he hadn’t promised not to annex – as potential new territory for the U.S., and he believed the American people would demand the Philippines in particular as a prize of war. After the conclusion of the war in the Caribbean and the beginning of peace talks, McKinley favoured the annexation of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico, although he faced opposition from fellow politicians. The president’s position would eventually go forward, with Cuba being granted independence, when the U.S. narrowly voted to pay Spain $20 000 000. And, although Cuba was now a free state, McKinley did manage to bring another island nation under American control: the young Republic of Hawaii, which had seen Queen Lili’uokalani overthrown by a cadre of American businessmen a few years previous. McKinley’s predecessor, Grover Cleveland, had rejected the annexation of Hawaii, stating that it was not in accordance with the will of the Hawaiian people. McKinley, however, had entered office in favour of annexation, and wrote in a letter to his personal secretary that acquisition of the islands was “manifest destiny.” And, for his reelection campaign in 1900, McKinley selected Theodore Roosevelt, the hero of San Juan Hill, as his running mate.


Signing of the Peace Protocol Between Spain and the United States, by Theobald Chartran. McKinley is standing on the left.

The clue: Cuba, of course, has been in the American consciousness plenty of times. But when might a president have felt responsibility for rebuilding it as a free state? There was the Cuban Revolution of the 1950s, that saw the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista and creation of a Communist government under Fidel Castro, while Eisenhower was in office, but it’s unlikely he would have insisted of American aid to a Communist regime during the Cold War. Two of this game’s contestants tried J.F.K., who succeeded Eisenhower – a fair guess, but also not so likely. The next most likely time, supposing you’re familiar with Cuba’s role, would be the Spanish-American War, which means you’ll need to know who was President during that conflict. Unfortunately, the two contestants who went with J.F.K. seem to have gotten tripped up before even getting to that stage. (And I know we’ve already mentioned McKinley plenty of times this installment – consider this post a review, or something. I can only work with what the J!Archive gives me.)

In Jeopardy!: Like any president, there’s plenty that Jeopardy! asks about when it comes to his 60 or so regular and two FJ! clues, although the Spanish-American War is one of the least popular, in just six regular clues plus this one (plus one about the Maine). More popular are his 1901 assassination (18), his home state Ohio, of which he was governor (22), and his second vice prez and successor Teddy Roosevelt (14). Those seem to be the most important things to know about him, but it’s always good to have at least a summary knowledge of each U.S. president’s career, McKinley included. And if you’ve got a little extra time, read about him specifically, too.


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