The 1896 Republic Party National Convention was held in Saint Louis, Missouri, from June 16 to June 18, 1896, and by the start of the convention William McKinley already had an ample majority of delegates. McKinley followed events at the convention closely by telephone, as back then candidates did not attend conventions as a matter of decorum, and was able to hear part of Sen. Joseph Foraker’s speech nominating him over the line. When Ohio was reached in the roll call of states, its votes gave McKinley the nomination, which he celebrated by hugging his wife and mother as his friends fled the house, anticipating the first of many crowds that gathered at the Republican candidate’s home.
For three years, the nation had been mired in a deep economic depression, marked by low prices, low profits, high unemployment, and violent strikes. Economic issues, especially reliance on silver or gold for the money supply, and tariffs, were central issues. The Republican platform of 1896 favored the gold standard but left the door open to free coinage of silver, the acquisition of Hawaii and parts of the Danish West Indies, a canal across Central America, naval expansion, sympathized with revolutionaries in Cuba and Armenia, applauded gains in women's rights and pledged "equal pay for equal work.”
Russell Benjamin Harrison was the son of President Benjamin Harrison and the great-grandson of President William Henry Harrison. Then Representative William McKinley worked closely with President Benjamin Harrison to pass the McKinley Tariff, which preserved high taxes on imports, an act designed to protect domestic industries from foreign competition. Long a supporter of the Republican Party, and coming from a prominent political family, a letter of congratulations on becoming the Republican presidential nominee from Russell B. Harrison would have been welcomed by McKinley and appreciated. In this Autograph letter signed, on personal letterhead, Dayton, Ohio, June 30, 1896, to Harrison after receiving the latter’s congratulations on securing the Republic Party’s nomination, “My Dear Mr. Harrison: For your message of congratulation and good wishes, I am very grateful. Yours sincerely, W McKinley.”
Rapid economic growth marked McKinley's presidency. He promoted the 1897 Dingley Tariff to protect manufacturers and factory workers from foreign competition, and in 1900, he secured the passage of the Gold Standard Act. McKinley hoped to persuade Spain to grant independence to rebellious Cuba without conflict, but when negotiation failed, he led the nation in the Spanish–American War of 1898; the U.S. victory was quick and decisive. As part of the peace settlement, Spain turned over to the United States its main overseas colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines; Cuba was promised independence, but at that time remained under the control of the U.S. Army. The United States annexed the independent Republic of Hawaii in 1898 and it became a U.S. territory.