McKinley and the Prohibition Movement

McKinley was a devout Methodist, from a family of devout Methodists.  The Methodist church, the largest denomination in the United States during his career, demanded total abstinence from the consumption of alcoholic beverages by its members.  McKinley agreed with this position, and as a young politician in Stark County, Ohio, advocated total abstinence in speeches around his adopted hometown of Canton.

His first public office was prosecuting attorney.  Margaret Leech reports, In the Days of McKinley (New York: Harper and Row, 1959) that the young prosecutor's most noticeable achievement was the pursuit of the illicit sale of liquor.  This background led the supporters of prohibition to hope that as President McKinley would support their cause.