Lesson Plan 8: "McKinley Protection"

Song Analysis Worksheet Evaluation


[Answers are given inside brackets and are italicized.]

Instructions: Answer each question and cite specific lyrics if appropriate.

1st verse: 

What do the lyrics argue about why we need tariffs? [That without protection, factories close and laborers are out of work. — "Our forges are cold and our factories still, Every day seems like Sunday down by the old mill." That with tariffs, American business run smoothly — "running like water down hill."]

4th verse:

What does the line "We've had Coxey's armies and tramps by the score, Poor people are suffering the whole country o'er" refer to? [Note to teacher: if your textbook does not talk about Coxey's army, have some other reference materials on hand so the students can look it up.] [Coxey's army refers to a march of unemployed men who marched to Washington to protest government policies prior to and during the Panic of 1893. They started off from Ohio on March 25, 1894 and arrived in Washington on April 30th. Jacob Coxey, who organized the march, wanted the government to hire the unemployed in order to create jobs and also advocated an increase in the amount of currency in circulation in order to inflate the currency.] What is it trying to imply about who tariff protection will help? [The laboring classes: people who work at factories…because factories will close if tariffs aren't enacted and therefore they laborers will be out of work.]

5th verse:

What does this verse argue about the price of goods, with and without a tariff? [It does concur with the idea that prices will be lower without tariffs. — "But things will be cheaper…without McKinley Protection"] How does it defend against the argument? [That it doesn't matter if goods cost less — if workers don't have jobs then they can't buy any products.]

6th verse (extra credit):

What does it mean, that "we won't have a fifty cent dollar…when we get McKinley Protection"? [The song is implying that with tariff protection…and no silver coinage, the value of a dollar will be higher, but if there are no tariffs, prices may be lower, but a dollar won't be worth as much. For more elaboration on this issue, see the "You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold!": The Issue of Bimetallism in the Late Nineteenth-Century lesson plan. This question should probably be used as extra credit unless the issue of free-silver was recently discussed in class.]

7th verse:

The lyrics are addressing a specific audience — who is this song trying to appeal to? [It is specifically addressing the working classes…the laborers.]

General Questions:

Who is the McKinley in the song? [William McKinley, Republican candidate for President; sponsor of the 1890 McKinley Tariff Act]


What political party did he belong to? [Republican]


What does the book say about why McKinley's party supported tariffs and why the other political party did not? [Republicans, as the political party that supported business interests, favored tariffs because they protected home industries from import competition; Democrats, as the political party that supported farming and laboring interests, opposed tariffs because the cost of imported goods rose, while domestically produced goods remained high because of the lack of competition.]


Explain the rationale for this song. Why was it written? Who is it trying to appeal to? Would the arguments have been believable to the intended audience? How does its message work with the textbook's explanation of who supported tariffs and who did not? What does this tell us about the language and arguments used by political parties? [Arguments used by political parties to try and woo voters who are not their traditional base of support, may not actually reflect the best interests of those voters, but the arguments may be very appealing because of their simplistic nature and easy-to-understand ideas.] Who is not mentioned in song? [Industrialists, capitalists, the wealthy]