George Oberkirsh Seilhamer.

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his plea for free iron ore, but some of the Democratic Senators ac-
cused him of daring to interfere with the legislative branch of the
Government. " Mr. Cleveland is a big man," said Senator Vest, " but
the Democratic party is greater than any one man. It has sur-
vived Jefferson, Madison, Jackson; it will survive Grover Cleveland.
Under what clause of the Constitution did Mr. Cleveland get the
right, after a bill had been sent to full and free conference between
the two Houses, to make any appeal to his party friends to stand by
his individual views? " Senator Gorman's arraignment of the Presi-
dent was especially severe. " In patriotism the Democratic Senate,"
Mr. Gorman said, " had gone to work to save the country and keep
their party in power, when suddenly in the midst of their work came
the President's letter. It was the most uncalled for, the most extra-
ordinary, the most unwise communication that ever came from a
President of the United States. It placed the Senate in a position
where its members must see to it that the dignity and honor of the
chamber must be preserved. It places me in a position where I must
tell the story as it occurred. The limit of endurance has been
reached." He then went on to tell the history of the tariff bill after
its introduction into the Senate. He showed that Senators Jones and
Vest had frequent conferences with the President and Secretary Car-
lisle during the progress of the work; that Secretary Carlisle had
indorsed the completed Senate bill; that no one who had been con-
sulted had ever suggested that the bill was in violation of Demo-
cratic principles. Senators were called to sustain the truth of these
assertions, and after Messrs. Vest, Jones, and Harris had done this
Mr. Gorman proceeded to denounce the President in bold and bitter
terms, and to defend and uphold the Senate. If there had been deceit
anywhere, Mr. Gorman declared, it was with the President and not
with the Senate. This startling parliamentary episode caused a
profound sensation, and for a time it was believed that the President's
letter had made a break in the party that could not be closed. Sena-
tor Gorman's speech was made on July 23, and it w T as not until August
13, that a caucus of Democratic Representatives was held that re-
sulted in an agreement.

The agreement w T as a surrender by the House to the Senate. It was
a humiliating surrender, after the bold utterances and solemn


pledges of the Chicago platform; after the pronounced views and
serious advice of President Cleveland upon tariff reform; after the
shameful exposures of the operations of the sugar, iron, and coal
trusts, and their dominancy in party affairs; after the pointed letter
of the President setting forth the Senate modification of the original
Wilson bill as an act of " party perfidy and dishonor"; after a year
of heated discussion and energetic effort. The passage of a series of
" popgun " bills by the House placing sugar, coal, iron ore, and
barbed wire on the free list bills that the Senate was not expected
to pass only added to the humiliating character of the surrender
and to the proofs of Democratic inaptitude for tariff legislation.

After the bill reached the President the interest in its fate became
even greater than before its passage. Mr. Cleveland's undisguised
friendliness for the original Wilson bill, and his denunciation
of the adherents and advocates of the Senate bill, led many
persons to expect that he would veto the measure. It was con-
tended that in this way only could he save himself from stulti-
fication. On the other hand, the sentiment that had in-
duced the surrender of the House to the Senate was now di-
rected toward securing its approval. The President, owing to ill-
ness, was absent from the capital and gave no sign of his intended
action. Even after his return to Washington he refused to relieve
the tension. Congress, in view of the permissive clause of the Consti-
tution making a bill a law after the lapse of ten days, both Houses
being in session, had adjourned to August 28. At midnight
of the 27th the time limit expired, and the Tariff of 1894 superseded
the McKinley tariff. The only utterance of the President in regard
to his course in allowing the bill to become a law without his sanction
or signature was in a letter, dated August 27, addressed to Mr.
Catchings, of Mississippi, and Mr. Clarke, of Alabama, in which he
said that he felt the utmost disappointment at being denied the priv-
ilege to sign such a bill as he had hoped to see passed one which
embodied Democratic ideas of tariff reform. He did not claim to be
better than his party, nor intend to shirk any of his responsibilities,
but the bill contained provisions not in the line of " honest tariff
reform," and " inconsistencies and crudities which ought not to
appear in tariff laws." He would not separate himself from his party
by a " veto of tariff legislation which, though disappointing, was
chargeable still to Democratic effort." Besides, there were incidents
attending the passage of the bill in its later stages which made every
" sincere tariff reformer unhappy," and which " ought not to be tol-
erated in Democratic reform councils." He said he took his " place
with the rank and file of the Democratic party, who believe in tariff


reform and who know what it is, who refused to accept the results
embodied in this bill as the close of the war, who are not blinded to
the fact that the livery of Democratic tariff reform has been stolen
and worn in the service of Republican protection, and who have
marked the places where the deadly blight of treason has blasted the
counsels of the brave in the hour of their might. The trusts and com-
binations the communism of pelf whose machinations have pre-
vented us from reaching the success we deserved should not be for-
gotten nor fonnven. We shall recover from our astonishment at

o "

their exhibition of power, and then if the question is forced upon us
whether they shall submit to the free legislative will of the people's
representatives or shall dictate the laws which the people must obey,
we will accept that issue as one involving the integrity and safety of
American institutions."

The letter provoked wide discussion and received the severest criti-
cism of the President's party associates, some of whom denounced it
as more fatal to Democratic political prospects than his Wilson
letter had been to be the cause of tariff reform. They refused to see
in it an excuse for not signing the tariff bill, and looked upon the
entire party situation as far more complicated and serious than if
the President had signed the bill without comment.

With the passage of the Tariff Act of 1894 the Reciprocity Act of
1890 was repealed. Reciprocity was in no sense a party problem, but
one of plain business. To sustain it helped no party. There had
grown up about it, and by means of it, treaties with nearly every
country to the south of us, and with many in Europe, establishing
commerce on a reciprocal basis. They fell to the ground with repeal,
much to the regret of all treaty countries, and to the anger and con-
tempt of not a few of them. The countries of Europe, with which
reciprocity treaties had been made, entered their protests in our State
Department. These protests passed unheeded. They, therefore,
began a system of retaliation by excluding our products from their
ports, much to our commercial detriment, and especially to the injury
of our agricultural interests. The milling interests, live stock indus-
tries, and manufactures of furniture and farming implements in this
country felt the loss of reciprocity to a lamentable extent. The
largely increased export trade, especially to Cuba, Brazil, and other
important countries, which had come about under reciprocity, fell off
and the old trade balance against us was re-established. Thus a
tariff which had required more than a year for its passage, and that
satisfied nobody, became an agency for the humiliation of the coun-
try, and for the destruction of American trade as well as American


Just before the expiration of President Harrison's term he sent to
the Senate a Treaty for the annexation of Hawaii. This treaty was
pending when Mr. Cleveland was inaugurated, but five days after-
ward it was withdrawn and its withdrawal was followed by efforts to
subvert the Provisional Government of Hawaii and to restore the
deposed queen. The President's course defeated annexation for the
time, but the open effort to restore the Hawaiian monarchy tended
to make the Administration unpopular, especially as it was attended
by circumstances that afforded ground for ridicule of the President
and his advisers. The majority in Congress sustained the President's
policy with reluctance and the people repudiated it at the polls. The
effects of the reaction that began with the Democratic triumph in
1892 were felt in the elections of 1893, and were destined to assume
fuller proportions in 1894. The large Democratic majority in the
House was overturned by an equally large Republican majority in the
54th Congress, and the election of a Republican President in 1896 was
clearly foreshadowed.

The Senate in the 54th Congress contained 44 Republicans, 39 Dem-
ocrats, and 6 Populists, but as the Populists generally voted with the
Democrats the Republicans were powerless. The new Republican
Senators were John H. Gear, of Iowa; Lucien Baker, of Kansas;
Knute Nelson, of Minnesota; Thomas H. Carter, of Montana; John M.
Thurston, of Nebraska; William J. Sewell, of New Jersey; George W.
McBride, of Oregon; G. Peabody Wetmore, of Rhode Island; Arthur
Brown and Frank J. Cannon, of Utah; Stephen B. Elkins, of West
Virginia, and Francis E. Warren, of Wyoming. A Republican Sena-
tor ought to have been chosen from Delaware to succeed Anthony
Higgins, but owing to a factional fight in that State there was no
election. The Republican Senators who were re-elected were Edward
O. Wolcott, of Colorado; George L. Shoup, of Idaho; Shelby M. Cul-
lom, of Illinois; William P. Frye, of Maine; George F. Hoar, of Mas-
sachusetts; James McMillan, of Michigan; William E. Chandler, of
New Hampshire; and Richard F. Pettigrew, of South Dakota. The
other Republican Senators were George C. Perkins, of California;
Henry M. Teller, of Colorado; Orville H. Platt and Joseph R. Hawley,
of Connecticut; Frederick T. Dubois, of Idaho; William B. Allison, of
Iowa; Eugene Hale, of Maine; Henry C. Lodge, of Massachusetts;
Julius C. Burrows, of Michigan; Cushman K. Davis, of Minnesota;
Lee Mantle, of Montana; Jacob H. Gallinger, of New Hampshire;
Jeter C. Pritchard, of North Carolina; Henry C. Hansbrough, of
North Dakota; John Sherman, of Ohio; John H. Mitchell, of Oregon;
J. Donald Cameron and Matthew S. Quay, of Pennsylvania; Nelson
W. Aldrich, of Rhode Island; Justin S. Morrill and Redfield Proctor,


of Vermont; Watson C. Squire and John L. Wilson, of Washington;
and Clarence D. Clark, of Wyoming. It was a Senate that left neither
party in power in the last years of Mr. Cleveland's administration.

In the House of Representatives the pendulum swung as far for-
ward as it had swung backward in the 53d Congress. There were full
Republican delegations from sixteen States Connecticut, Illinois,
Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New
Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington,
West Virginia, and Wisconsin; not to speak of the States that had
only one Representative Delaware, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota,
Utah, and Wyoming. California elected six Republicans to one
Democrat; Colorado one Republican to one Populist; Kansas seven
Republicans to one Populist; Kentucky five Republicans to six Dem-
ocrats; Maryland three Republicans to three Democrats; Massachu-
setts twelve Republicans to one Democrat; Missouri eleven Republi-
cans to four Democrats; Nebraska five Republicans to one Populist;
New York twenty-nine Republicans to five Democrats; North Caro-
lina three Republicans to four Populists and two Democrats; Ohio
nineteen Republicans to two Democrats; Pennsylvania tw T enty-eight
Republicans to two Democrats; Tennessee four Republicans to six
Democrats; and Virginia two Republicans to eight Democrats. A
Republican was elected in three of the Southern States Alabama,
South Carolina, and Texas leaving unbroken to the Solid South
only Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The
country repudiated the Wilson-Gorman-Brice Tariff before it was
tried. It was to a hostile Congress that President Cleveland came
with his plea for financial relief in his third annual message.

Before the 54th Congress met in December, 1895, the income tax
feature of the Tariff of 1890 was declared unconstitutional by the
Supreme Court of the United States. All the while the Treasury con-
dition was growing worse. The gold reserve could not be preserved,
and the deficit was increasing daily. In order to meet the expenses
of the Government and preserve the National Credit, a resort was
had to borrowing. 150,000,000 bonds were sold in order to replenish
the Treasury. This did not last long, and another, and still a third
issue, became necessary, making a total of |262,000,000, in a little
over a year. This use of bonds in order to keep the Treasury in funds
was highly exasperating to the free-silver coinage sentiment in the
Democratic party, while the country at large felt great disappoint-
ment over the fact that the Wilson Tariff was falling so far below the
expectations and promises of its projectors in providing revenue
sufficient for the needs of Government in time of peace. In the first
year of the operation of the McKinley Tariff Act the Government


receipts were $37,239,762 in excess of expenditures. In 1892 the
receipts were $9,904,453 greater than expenses, and in 1893, $2,341,674
greater. In the first year of the operation of the Wilson Tariff Act,
the Government receipts ran $42,805,223 behind expenses, and in the
second year about $30,000,000 behind. In 1893, under the McKinley
Act, the importation of woolen goods amounted only to $36,000,000
in value, from which the Treasury received $34,000,000 in revenue.
Under the new tariff, in 1895, notwithstanding the reduced per capita
consumption of such goods, the importation aggregated $60,000,000,
from which the Government received a revenue of only $27,000,000.
From wool and woolens together the Government obtained a revenue
of nearly $44,000,000 in 1892, and only $27,000,000 in 1895. Here was
a loss of $17,000,000 revenue in these two articles. At the same time
the manufacture of $30,000,000 of woolen goods was transferred to
Europe. For the fiscal year of 1894, the last full year under the Mc-
Kinley law, the exports of manufactures amounted to $183,718,484 in
value. For the calendar year 1895, the first full official year under
the Wilson law, the exports of manufactures were $201,152,771, an
increase of $17,434,287. But the exports of agricultural products in
the corresponding period showed a net decline of $82,648,663. Hence
the country gained in the exports of manufactures $17,434,287, and it
lost in the exports of agricultural products $82,648,663, or a net loss
of $65,214,356 in the exports of these two classes in a single year. In
the total exports there was a net loss of $69,000,000 in the first calen-
dar year of the new tariff as compared with the last fiscal year of the
old tariff. But when the imports are taken also into consideration the
difference is still greater. Under the McKinley tariff in the period
mentioned the imports were $654,994,622. Under the Wilson tariff
they were $801,663,490, showing a net increase of imports of $146,-
668,868. Add that amount to the net loss in exports and it shows a.
change in the trade balance of the United States of $215,000,000 on
the wrong side of the balance sheet. The House came to the Presi-
dent's rescue with a provisional tariff bill designed to increase the
customs revenue, but this could not be passed in the Senate owing
to the attitude of parties in that body. An administration that began
in gloom w r as ending in disaster.

It was under these conditions that the political parties began to
prepare for the campaign of 1896,



Free Coinage of Silver a Party Menace Bolt of Free Silver Pro-
hibitionists Popularity of William McKinley Republican
National Convention at St. Louis Opposition to McKinley
The Platform Mr. Foraker's Nominating Speech The Ballot
Analysis of the Vote The Gold Plank Garret A. Hobart for
Vice-President Democratic National Convention Silver Men
Reject Hill for Temporary Chairman Senator Daniel Chosen-
Contest Over the Platform Free Silver Triumphs Mr. Bryan's
Speech Candidates The Ballots Bryan and Sewall Nomi-
nated The Campaign Mr. McKinley at Canton Bryan's Tours
and Speeches The Candidates Contrasted Mark Hanna Dem-
ocratic and Populist Fusion Result of the Elections.

S the time approached for the meeting of the National Con-
ventions of 189G the sentiment in favor of the free coinage
of silver, which the Populists had made a feature of their
platform in 1892, but which had been a subject of discus-
sion and agitation ever since 1878, presented a menacing front to
both political parties. In the Southern and Western States it had
become a pervading influence in the Democratic party. The Demo-
crats stood in awe of it because they had coquetted with it and
encouraged it to secure the election of a President whose adminis-
tration outraged and repudiated it. It threatened the allegiance to
the Republican party of many Republicans in the mining States, but
it was not a serious menace even in these, because the more important
principle of Protection served to modify and thwart it. But it sought
to obtrude itself upon all companies and to force itself into every
platform. - Its advocates, calling themselves " broad-gaugers,"
appeared even at the Prohibition Convention held at Pittsburg, May
27, 1896, demanding recognition of the free coinage of silver as one
of the tenets of the party, and mustered a strength of 387 to 427 in
support of their demand. When they failed they seceded from the
Convention, and organized another party for the Presidential contest.
It was understood that the friends of free silver contemplated a sim-
ilar policy for the Republican National Convention, and a " bolt "
was actually attempted, the success of which would have been
pathetic had not its failure turned out to be dismal. Neither the


device nor the demand could hope to succeed, because the Republi-
can masses in 1896 had a candidate whom they regarded as the
exponent and embodiment of the principles of the party.

There was hardly a time between 1892 and 1896 when Republican
sentiment did not point to Major McKinley as a Presidential neces-
sity. There were other aspirants for the nomination, all well
equipped for the place, and enjoying the respect and confidence of the
Republican party, but no name inspired the masses with such hope
and enthusiasm as that of McKinley. As the State Conventions met
in their order to choose delegates to the National Convention at St.
Louis, it became manifest that the popular tide was running irre-
sistibly in his favor. No such uprising of the people in behalf of a
candidate had been witnessed since Lincoln had been named for a
second term. The mighty uprising sprang from the eager, passionate
determination of the people to retrieve the stupendous mistake of
1892, with its blight of panic and depression, and to restore the prin-
ciples and policies of which McKinley was the foremost representa-
tive. His whole congressional career had been a series of courageous
battles for protection. In 1888 he had led the opposition to the Mills
bill. After the reverses of 1890 and 1892 he upheld the banner of
protection on a thousand platforms all over the land, and McKinley
and protection w<ere everywhere associated in the public mind. His
pleasing voice, practical arguments, persuasive address and indefatig-
able effort, had made him the pre-eminent exponent of the cause
which appealed so loudly to the industrial and business elements of
the country.

Nearly a week before the time fixed for the meeting of the Republi-
can National Convention, the eleventh in the history of the party, the
National Committee met at St. Louis to arrange the preliminaries.
It was soon found that McKinley's strength in the Committee was
overwhelming 38 to 7 in a test vote. The Convention met on Tues-
day, June 16, 1896, C. W. Fairbanks, of Indiana, being made tempo-
rary chairman. The next day the permanent organization was
effected, with John M. Thurston, of Nebraska, as President of the
Convention. Major McKinley's nomination being conceded, the inter-
est centered on the money plank of the platform. Although it was
known that a few delegates from the mining States would insist upon
a free-silver coinage plank, it was not their demands that had the
first place in the controversies that engaged the attention of the dele-
gates and the members of the Committee. Major McKinley's oppo-
nents alleged that he was in favor of a " straddle " that he would
prefer an ambiguous declaration on the currrency question to a
straightforward acceptance of a gold standard. When the Platform


was reported it was found to have the true Republican ring. It was
emphatic on the cardinal principles of the party a tariff so levied as
to protect American industries and a currency redeemable in gold or
its equivalent. It was adopted by 812$ votes to 110$, the latter repre-
senting the silver strength in the Convention. After its adoption the
silver men, headed by Senator Teller, of Colorado, withdrew, thus
making the second bolt in the national conventions of 1896.

When the time came for the formal nomination of candidates for
President of the United States five names were placed before the
Convention William B. Allison of Iowa, Thomas B. Reed of Maine,
Levi P. Morton of New York, Matthew S. Quay of Pennsylvania, and
William McKinley of Ohio. The nominating speech in Mr. McKin-
ley's behalf was made by Senator Foraker. " No other name," Mr.
Foraker said, after the tumult that attended the mention of William
McKinley had subsided, " so completely meets the requirements of
the occasion, and no other name so absolutely commands all hearts.
The shafts of envy and malice and slander and libel and detraction,
that have been aimed at him, lie broken and harmless at his feet. The
quiver is empty, and he is untouched. That is because the people
know him, trust him, believe in him, love him, and will not permit any
human power to disparage him unjustly in their estimation. They
know that he is an American of Americans. They know that he is
just and able and brave, and they want him for President of the
United States. They have already shown it not in this or that State,
nor in this or that section, but in all the States and in all sections
from ocean to ocean, and from the Gulf to the Lakes. They expect of
you to give them a chance to vote for him. It is our duty to do it. If
we discharge that duty we will give joy to their hearts, enthusiasm to
their souls, and triumphant victory to our cause. And he, in turn,
will give us an administration under which the country will enter on
a new era of prosperity at home and of glory and honor abroad. By
all these tokens of the present and all these promises of the future,
in the name of the forty-six delegates of Ohio, I submit his claim to
your consideration."

There was only one ballot, the vote being: McKinley, 661$; Reed,
84$; Quay, 61$; Morton, 57; Allison, 35$, and J. Donald Cameron, 1.
The surprising thing about the vote was the ostentatious weakness
of all the candidates opposed to McKinley. Allison held the
twenty-six votes of his own State intact, but apart from the personal
loyalty of Iowa he had only half a vote from Louisiana, one vote re-
spectively from New York, the District of Columbia, and Oklahoma,
and three votes each from Texas and Utah. Morton's showing was
equally unsatisfactory. He held only fifty-four votes out of the



seventy-two in his own delegation, seventeen going to McKinley and
one to Allison. Quay did better with the Pennsylvania delegation,

Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 57 of 61)