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Remarks to the Commission Appointed to Investigate the Administration of the War Department in the Spanish-American War

September 26, 1898


Before suggesting the matters which shall come before you for investigation, I desire to express my appreciation to each of you for your willingness to accept the patriotic service to which you have been invited.

You are to perform one of the highest public duties that can fall to a citizen, and your unselfishness in undertaking it makes me profoundly grateful.

There has been in many quarters severe criticism of the conduct of the war with Spain. Charges of criminal neglect of the soldiers in camp and field and hospital and in transports have been so persistent that, whether true or false, they have made a deep impression upon the country. It is my earnest desire that you shall thoroughly investigate these charges, and make the fullest examination of the administration of the War Department in all of its branches, with the view to establishing the truth or falsity of these accusations. I put upon you no limit to the scope of your investigation. Of all departments connected with the army I invite the closest scrutiny and examination, and shall afford every facility for the most searching inquiry. The records of the War Department and the assistance of its officers shall be subject to your call.

I cannot impress upon you too strongly my wish that your investigation shall be so thorough and complete that your report, when made, shall fix the responsibility for any failure or fault, by reason of neglect, incompetency, or maladministration, upon the officers and bureaus responsible therefor—if it be found that the evils complained of have existed.

The people of the country are entitled to know whether or not the citizens who so promptly responded to the call of duty have been neglected or misused or maltreated by the government to which they so willingly gave their services. If there have been wrongs committed, the wrong doers must not escape conviction and punishment.

Source: The Washington Post, September 26, 1898, p. 1.

William McKinley, Remarks to the Commission Appointed to Investigate the Administration of the War Department in the Spanish-American War Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/360591

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