William McKinley, Soon to Be President, Movingly Speaks of “the arduous work before me”

He accepts the decision of his friend Cornelius Bliss to decline his offer of the post of Secretary of the Treasury

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Soon he would prevail upon Bliss to accept the position of Secretary of the Interior

The election of 1896 was a watershed election.  The Democratic nominee, William Jennings Bryan, invented the strategy of actively whistle-stopping all over the country to speak to crowds of supporters.  The Republican nominee, former Congressman and Governor...

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William McKinley, Soon to Be President, Movingly Speaks of “the arduous work before me”

He accepts the decision of his friend Cornelius Bliss to decline his offer of the post of Secretary of the Treasury

Soon he would prevail upon Bliss to accept the position of Secretary of the Interior

The election of 1896 was a watershed election.  The Democratic nominee, William Jennings Bryan, invented the strategy of actively whistle-stopping all over the country to speak to crowds of supporters.  The Republican nominee, former Congressman and Governor William McKinley, built a modern style campaign organization and was anointed early as the party’s apparent nominee.  At the convention in June 1896, this was manifested by his nomination on the first ballot with 661½ votes to 84½ for House Speaker Tom Reed.

Cornelius N. Bliss was a partner in one of the largest wholesale dry-goods firms in the country. Involved in politics, he knew fellow New Yorker Chester A. Arthur and served as chairman of the Republican committee in New York in 1887 and 1888, contributing much to the success of the Benjamin Harrison ticket in his state in the 1888 election. He served as treasurer of the Republican National Committee from 1892 to 1904, and became friendly with McKinley at that time. Presidents Arthur and Harrison both wanted to offer him cabinet posts, but he declined on the grounds that his wife was a semi-invalid and could not move from their New York home to Washington. In January 1896, McKinley asked Bliss to become Secretary of the Treasury in his incoming administration, but Bliss declined on the same grounds.

In this letter McKinley accepts his decision with great reluctance and speaks of the hard work ahead of him as President. Autograph letter signed, on his personal letterhead, Canton, Ohio, January 11, 1896, to Bliss, and marked “Personal”.  “I cannot explain the disappointment which I feel on the receipt of your letter. It was deep and sincere, but your reasons are conclusive and serve to increase my admiration for you. You have done right and I honor you for it. I did want you so much for I know you would have helped the Country and greatly aided me in the arduous work before me. I shall still count on your patriotic services as a friend and citizen. Please convey to Mrs. Bliss the cordial respects of Mrs. McKinley and myself.”

In the end McKinley just could not accept no for an answer, and as a result of his persistence Bliss accepted the post of Secretary of the Interior in McKinley’s Cabinet. Bliss’s daughter came to Washington to serve as his hostess in lieu of his wife. Then, in 1900, a result of the death of his vice president Garrett Hobart, McKinley needed a new vice presidential candidate for his reelection run. He offered the post to Bliss, who declined. So the party chose Theodore Roosevelt, and the rest is history.

Good content ALSs of McKinley are very uncommon if not outright rare. We obtained this letter directly from the Bliss descendants, and it has never before been offered for sale.

 

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