Louis Jay Lang Thomas Collier Platt.

The autobiography of Thomas Collier Platt: with twenty portraits in sepia ... online

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as the safest Governor New York ever had. Re-
publicans and Democrats and Independents began
writing me almost from the day of Morton's in-
auguration in January, 1895, that if he were to
head the Presidential ticket, his election was a
certainty. They urged that having defeated
David B. ffiU by 156,000 plurality in 1894, after
the Democrats had carried the State almost con-

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stantly since 1881, he would be sure to carry it
for the Presidency in 1896.

I ST7PP0BT MOBTON FOB PBB8IDBNT

So xmiversal seemed the demand for Morton
that I finally formally declared myself in favor of
the nomination of the Governor for the Presi-
dency,

Almost immediately newspapers and other ad-
vocates of the nomination of McKinley turned
their batteries upon Morton and myself. Mark
A. Hanna started a campaign for his favorite in
New York State. Believing that New York pos-
sessed a right to express a preference for one of
her sons, we combated the invasion of the McKin-
ley champions. They seemed disposed to regard
Morton as an interloper, and refused to recognize
any claims New York might have to name the
Presidential candidate. When assaults upon the
choice of New York became intolerable, we con-
cluded that we would strike back. I stated my
objections to the nomination of Mr. McKinley as
clearly as I could in a public utterance, May 11,
1896. Here are the main points of it:

WHY I OPPOSED MCKINLEY

**My opposition to Governor McKinley proceeds
almost entirely from my belief that his nomination
would bring the Bepublican party into turmoil and

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The Autobiography of Thomas Collier Piatt

trouble. He is not a well-balanced man of affairs.
Governor McEanley is not a great man as Mr.
Beed (Thomas B.) is. He is not a trained and
educated public man as Senator Allison is. He
is not an astute political leader as Senator Quay
is. He is simply a clever gentleman, much too
amiable and mudi too impressionable to be safely
intrusted with great executive office; whose de-
sire for honor happens to have the accidental ad-
vantage of the association of his name with the
last Bepublican protective tariff.

^^ There are two qualities — ^resolution and cour-
age—which the people always require in their
chief magistrate. McEanley represents the most
radical and extreme view of protection. I fore-
see the greatest dangers to the Bepublican party
as the result of extreme tariff legislation.

** Fully as important as the tariff bill — ^yes, more
so — ^is the measure that must be devised to render
our currency system intelligible, safe and elastic.
If Major McE[inley has any real convictions on
the subject of the currency, they are not revealed
in his votes or his speeches.

HB VOTSD FOB A FIFTY-OSKT DOLLABI

**He voted once for free and unlimited coin-
age of silver. He voted to override the veto of
President Hayes of the Bland bill, and at times
he has voted in direct conflict with these votes.
He has described himself as a bi-metallist; as in

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favor of the free coinage of both metals. His Ohio
platform proposes another experiment in silver
coinage, such as the Bland-Allison act or the Sher-
man law, with the party between the metals en-
forced by legislation.

^^This should remove McKinley from the list of
Presidential possibilities. The people of this
country have had enough of the attempts to force
fifty cents worth of silver into circulation as a
dollar. They have suffered incalculable losses
as a result of twenty years of such politics."

Whether or not this declaration wielded any
influence in the outcome of the New York Repub-
lican State Convention, it is nevertheless the fact
that that convention instructed the delegation to
the National Convention at St. Louis to vote first,
last and all the time for Morton for the Presi-
dential nomination.

Our delegation went to St. Louis. Attacks upon
Morton, particularly from the McEanley camp,
continued. Hanna and his friends sought by every
means in their power to render null and void the
instructions of the New York State Convention.
Until the New York representatives reached the
convention city, there appeared to be a determined
disposition on the part of Hanna and others who
conducted the McEonley canvass to pledge the
party to a straddle on the currency question. New
York and the Eastern States generally made up
tiieir minds that the convention should declare

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unequivocally for the gold standard. Senator
Henry Cabot Lodge, of Massachnsetts ; the late
Joseph H. Manley, manager for Thomas B. Beed;
the late Samnel Fessenden, of Connecticut; My-
ron T, Herrick, of Ohio; H. H. Kohlsaat, of Dli-
nois; Governor Merriam, of Minnesota; Henry
C, Payne, of Wisconsin, afterward Postmaster-
General; Congressman Watson and State Chair-
man Gowdy, of Indiana; Senator Bedfield Proc-
tor, of Vermont and others, united with us in
seeking to point out the fatal blunder that would
be committed if we failed to put ourselves on
record for sotmd money against the debased cur-
rency plan which was being advocated by Senator
Henry M. Teller, of Colorado, and other devotees
of the white metal.

That the attitude of New York might be empha-
sized, the delegation was called into caucus on
June 15, one day prior to the assembling of the
convention. The McEanley managers sought at
the outset to capture the delegation by trying to
force the selection of former XJ. S. Senator War-
ner Miller for chairman and spokesman for the
delegation. Of course, that precipitated a stormy
contest. For the moment the money question was
forgotten in the strife provoked by the effort of
Hanna and other McKinley advocates to control
us.



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I HAD TO BEAT MILLSB AGAIK

Miller had himBelf formally presented for chair-
maiu Very relnotantly I consented that my name
also should be submitted. My friends nrged that
inasmuch as the battle seemed to be directed
against Morton, myself and the gold standard, I
onght to be the man about T!rhom the allies of Mor-
ton and a sound money plank must rally.

Chauncey M. Depew was chosen temporary
chairman. He did his best, in a diplomatic speech,
to produce harmony, but the McKinley men seemed
spoiling for a fight. Warner Miller delivered a
savage attack upon those delegates who still per-
sisted in supporting Morton. He had been chosen
delegate upon the express pledge that he would
be as loyal to Morton as any of the Governor's
adherents. What promise was made to Miller
by the McKinley managers as a reward for his
change, I do not know. Miller's speech enraged
all delegates who believed that promises were
made to be fulfilled and instructions to be obeyed.
Convinced that he could not be chosen chairman
of the delegation, Miller sought to effect a com-
promise by suggesting Depew. Depew declined
the honor. Miller renewed his strictures upon the
Morton men, and assailed me for my opposition
to McKinley. Perhaps as effective a reply as any
to him was made by Thurlow Weed Barnes when
he asked: **Who is entitled to the greater honor
— a man who comes out squarely and makes a

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fight, or a man who sneaked into this delegation
with a knife in his sleevet"

Senator John Baines fnrionsly shook his fist
in Miller's face, and hissed: **Yon are the chief
of the kickers in New York. Yon have been faith-
less in everything, faithfnl in nothing!*'

After a morning session, and another late in the
afternoon, I was elected chairman by a vote of
53 to 17 for Miller. That clinched the delegation
for Morton and the gold standard. There fol-
lowed the declaration of New York and its dele-
gates on the currency question. Lemuel Ely Quigg
offered the resolution. It ran as follows:

NEW YORK FOB A HUNDBBD-GBNT DOLLAB

Whereas, The New York delegation favors and
heartily supports the strongest system that can
be devised, it recognizes the imperative necessity
of maintaining the present gold standard of value
and condemning the free coinage of silver.

Eesolved, That the representative of the dele-
gation on the Committee on Besolutions be in-
structed to present to that committee the follow-
ing as the sense of the delegation and recommend
its adoption:

Resolved, That we favor the maintenance of
the present gold standard, and are opposed to
the free coinage of silver, except by international
agreement for bi-metallism, with the leading com-
mercial nations of the world.

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This was tinanimonsly adopted, Miller and other
McKinley men offering no opposition.

Bnt when Abraham Gruber submitted a resolu-
tion renewing the pledge of the New York con-
vention, that every delegate stick to Morton to
the finish, the McKinley supporters opposed it*
We carried it through by a vote of 56 to 13.

Edward Lauterbach, in obedience to the instruc-
tions of the delegation, submitted the gold reso-
lution to the committee. The influence of New
York was manifested when the Committee on
Besolutions approved, and later the convention
followed suit with the adoption of this genuine
gold plank:

THB PliANK WB FOBOSD

The Bepublican party is unreservedly for sound
money.

It caused the enactment of the law providing
for the resumption of specie payments in 1879.
Since then, every dollar has been as good as gold.
We are unalterably opposed to every measure
calculated to debase our currency or impair the
credit of our country. We are therefore opposed
to the free coinage of silver, except by interna-
tional agreement with the leading commercial na-
tions of the world, which we pledge ourselves to
promote. And until such an agreement can be
obtained, the existiag gold standard must be pre-
served All the silver and paper currency now

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in circnlation must be mamtained at parity with
goldy and we favor all measures designed to main-
tain inviolably the obligations of the United
States, and all money in coin or paper, at the
present standard of the most enlightened nations
on earth.

I doubt if I can better relate the accurate his-
tory of the struggle over the gold plank at St
Louis than by quoting from memoranda prepared
by Charles W. Hackett, chairman of the New
York Bepublican State Committee, 1896. He
was in the thick of the combat, and was invaluable
to us in securing the victory we achieved. Hack-
ett drew up the notes before his death, as an
answer to statements of certain Bepublicans, hos-
tile to our regular organization, who sought to
deprive the New York and New England delega-
tions of the credit of placing the party and its
candidates squarely on the gold standard
platform.

HANKA WOULD HAVB 8IBADDLBD

Hackett wrote:

**So far as the credit for what was done is
concerned, the friends of Mr. Piatt and Senator
Lodge are more than satisfied with the newspaper
reports that were printed at the time. They told
who did it. They showed the essential fact that
Mr. Hanna and those who were working with him

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came to St. Louis with a straddle. Below I give
the original Hanna plank, in contrast with the
plank that was finally adopted by the convention.

** Original Hanna plank:

**The Republican party is unreservedly for
sound money.

**It caused the enactment of the law pro-
viding for the resumption of specie payments
in 1879. Since then, every dollar has been as
good as gold. We are unalterably opposed to
every measure calculated to debase our currency
or impair the credit of our country. We are
therefore opposed to the free coinage of silver,
except by international agreement with the lead-
ing commercial nations of the world, and until
such agreement can be obtained the existing stand-
ard must be preserved. We favor the use of silver
in our currency to the extent only that its parity
with gold can be maintained, and we favor all
measures designed to maintain our money,
whether coin or paper, at the present standard,
the standard of the most enlightened nations of
the earth.

** Plank as adopted by the convention:

**The Republican party is unreservedly for

sound money.
**It caused the enactment of the law providing

for the resumption of specie payments in 1879.

Since then, every dollar has been as good as gold.

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We are unalterably opposed to every measure
calculated to debase our currency or impair the
credit of our country. We are therefore opposed
to the free coinage of silver, except by interna-
tional agreement with the leading commercial
nations of the world, which we pledge ourselves
to promote, and until such agreement can be ob-
tained, the existing Gold standard must be pre-
served. AU our silver and paper currency must
be maintained at parity with gold, and we favor
all measures designed to maintain inviolably the
obligations of the United States, and all our
money, whether coin or paper, at the present
standard, the standard of the most enlightened
nations of the earth.

A FIGHT FOB HONEST MONEY

**A comparison of these two planks shows ex-
actly what the fight of Senator Piatt and Senator
Lodge, backed by the New York and New England
delegations, accomplished for the cause of honest
money, for the credit of the Eepublican party and
for the good of the country. The two planks are
identical until the clause is reached in which the
possibility of an international agreement is men-
tioned, and in that clause we conceded the inser-
tion of the words * which we pledge ourselves to
promote,' and in return for that we obtained three
<K)ncessions. They were :

** First — The insertion of the world *gold' in
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the expression ^the existing standard,' so as to
make it read Hhe existing gold standard/

** Second — ^The striking ont of the clause: *We
favor the nse of silver in our currency, but to the
extent only that the parity with gold can be main-
tained/ and the substitution for that clause of
the following: *A11 our silver and paper cur-
rency must be maintained at parity with gold';
and

** Third— The insertion of the words *the obli-
gations of the United States' in the clause declar-
ing that all our currency must be maintained at
the present standard.

HOW WB DBFBATSD THB ^^STRADDLB"

**Mr. Piatt and his party arrived at St. Louis
on Thursday, June 11. They directed their at-
tention at once to the financial plank. They found
that the sentiment of such delegates as were then
on the ground was strongly in favor of what Mr.
Hanna was quoted as calling Hhe middle ground^
— ^in other words, a straddle. At Mr. Piatt's in-
stance, the New York delegates, as they arrived,
were urged to combat this idea at all points.
Not much was accomplished on Friday and Satur-
day. The contests that were going on in the Na-
tional Committee created a great deal of feeling
and distracted attention from the controversy
about the platform. But the National Committee
completed its work on Saturday night, and by

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that time the delegates had arrived from all
parts of the eomitry and fully four-fifths of the
members of the convention were present on the
ground. It was then that the struggle over the
platform began in good earnest

^^ Senator Lodge arrived on Sunday morning
and came immediately to Mr. Piatt's headquarters.
They found one another to be of the same mind
as to the kind of plank that must be adopted, and
as to their purpose to fight for it. Mr. Lodge
called upon Mr. Hanna and found him engaged
in reading and revising the speech of the tem-
porary chairman, Mr. Fairbanks. That was Sun-
day afternoon. Mr. Fairbanks' speech was given
to the press the next day. It did not contain the
word *gold.' It mentioned ^honest money' and
^ sound money' and ^ sound standard,' but the word
*gold,' which was the vital ;)oint of the whole
controversy, did not appear. This proves what
the intention of Mr. Hanna and his friends was
on Sunday afternoon, when they had completed
the revision of Mr. Fairbanks' speedi.

''Mr. Hanna told Mr. Lodge that while he was
as good a gold man as anybody else, he was not
in favor of driving away from the Eepublican
party those great numbers of Bepublicans in the
Soutii and West to whom the use of the word
'gold' in the platform would be offensive. Mr.
Lodge replied that he did not think there were
any such Bepublicans, except in the silver-produc-
ing States. He argued that the Republican party

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meant ^gold/ and onght to say so, and he said
plainly that nnless the word *gold* was in the plat-
form there wonld be a fight on the floor of the
convention. Mr. Hanna asked what delegation
wonld make the fight, and Mr. Lodge replied that
the Massachnsetts wonld, for one. Mr. Hanna
asked what delegations wonld snpport Massachn-
setts, and Mr. Lodge replied that the New York
delegation wonld. Mr. Hanna said that he was
otherwise informed, and Mr. Lodge left with the
impression that the nse of the word *gold' wonld
not be conceded.

AK INVINCIBLB COMBINATION FOB GOLD

**When Mr. Lodge informed Mr. Piatt of the
resnlts of his conversation with Mr. Hanna, a
conference was at once called by Mr. Piatt of the
sonnd money States. New York, New England,
Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, Wisconsin,
Washington, Tennessee, Minnesota and Illinois
were represented at this conference, and it was
determined to carry the fight on the floor of the
convention. A brief and simple gold plank was
adopted as embodying the sense of the conference.

**This was on Snnday night. The next day,
Congressman Qnigg had an interview with Gen-
eral Grosvemor and Mr. Herrick, of Ohio, and
Governor Merriam, of Minnesota. He showed
them the proposed gold plank, named the delega-
tions that wonld snpport it, and informed them

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that the fight would have to go into the convention
nnlesB an agreement could be reached which would
place the party squarely in favor of the gold
standard. Mr. Quigg was informed that there
was a disposition to meet the views of the New
York and New England delegations. All day
Monday the struggle went on, New York and New
England delegates visiting tiie delegations from
other States and reporting to Mr. Lodge and Mr.
Piatt as to the strength that could be commanded
in the convention in the event of a fight there. Be-
fore nightfall it was evident that we had a ma-
jority of the convention.

^^That night Oovemor Merriam came to Mr.
Piatt, and Mr. Kohlsaat went to Mr. Lodge, with
a draft of the original Hanna plank with the word
'gold' inserted, and with the statement that it
would be conceded. Mr. Piatt sent for Mr. Lodge,
and, upon his arrival — ^Mr. Lauterbach, Mr. Quigg
and Mr. Hackett being also present — ^the Hanna
plank was considered in detail. Mr. Lauterbach,
who had been appointed as^the New York repre-
sentative on the Conmiittee on Besolutions, de-
clared that he could not assent to any plank which
did not say distinctly that all the obligations of
the United States should be paid in gold. Objec-
tion was also made to the sentence *We favor the
use of silver as money, to the extent only that its
parity with gold can be maintained,' on the ground
that this would be considered as lending counte-
nance to further purchase of silver, because, in

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the view of the silver men, much more silver than
the sum now in use could be maintained. Mr.
Hannahs plank was revised at this conference and
put in the form in which it was finally adopted
by the convention, and with the distinct assurance
of Mr. Piatt and Mr. Lodge that nothing else
would be accepted.

HANKA CAPITULATBS

**When this conference was ended the fight was
ended. We knew before we went to bed that night
that our demands were acceded to. Nor can any
amount of post-mortem cavil take the credit of
this victory from the men whose courage and per-
tinacity earned it.

^^I do not myself think that the Ohio managers
were sentimentally opposed to the use of the word
*gold.* They simply did not want to magnify the
money issue or offend what they believed to be
a widespread Southern and Western opinion. The
statements of Southern and Western delegates,
however, showed that the Ohio managers were
mistaken in their idea of Bepublican opinion in
the South and West, and that the sound money
sentiment among Bepublicans in those sections
is almost as general and as earnest as it is with
us in the East.''



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'^PLATT MADB m'KINLEY's ELEOTIOK CSBTAIN''

General Clarkson again has kindly paid me this
compliment: "In virtually forcing gold into the
Bepnblican platform^ as by his skilfol organiza-
tion and the assembling of irresistible forces he
did, when McEinley, Hanna^ and the great mass
of party leaders with him were in fact opposed
to it, Senator Piatt succeeded and, in succeeding,
made McKinley's election possible. The cynics
said at the time that he did it to load McEinley
down and defeat him. The result proved that
McKinley would have been defeated without it.
In the campaign for election, Mr. Piatt, in supple-
ment to Mr. Hanna and his most masterful cam-
paign, contributed the final certainty of McKin-
ley's success — ^giving again with Hanna, as he
had done with Quay, the saving moiety of votes
without which the parfy and MeEinley would have
failed.''

M^KHHiEY KOMINATBD

Though Morton was defeated and McKinley
nominated, to New York and its band of delegates
must be ascribed the lion's share of the credit
for preventing the approval of a meaningless
money plank. We returned home and worked like
beavers for McKinley and Hobart, satisfied that
we had voiced the sentiment of our State on all
questions, and won on the one that, if Hanna and
other powerful leaders had had their way, would

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have resulted in defeat at the polls and a stain np-
on the escutcheon, not only of the party, but the
National Government.

BLACK HAMBD AKD SLBCTBD QOVEBNOB

We rolled up over a quarter of a million plu-
rality for the national ticket, and somewhat less
for our State nominees, headed by Frank S. Black,
the candidate for Governor.

Black was nominated after one of the most rous-
ing free-for-all State conventions the party had
had since war days. Speaker Hamilton Fish,
G^rge W. Aldridge, Lieutenant-Governor Qiarles
T. Saxton, Benjamin B. Odell, Jr., and others were
among the aspirants. The rivalry became so in-
tense that James J. Belden and a number of the
old Half-Breed combination importuned me to
settle it by taking the nomination myself. Belden,
while MilhoUand rooters outside my cottage were
singing **Hang Tom Piatt to a Sour Apple Tree !*'
purred to me — and Belden was a sly old political
fox:

**The boss of the party ought to be Ctovemor.
You are boss; therefore you should be Governor. '*

I scented another Madiiavellian trick to put me
under the sod. I caught the gleam of Half-breed
tomahawks and escaped them by replying:
"When tried and true friends ask me to run for
Governor, I may consider the proposition. No

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friends have yet urged it; therefore I shall not
permit my name to go before the convention/'

I declined also to express any preference as to
who should be nominated. After a three days'
contest, dnring which several ballots were taken
and Aldridge was in the lead, a conference of the
leaders was called. At first it developed a ma-
jority for Odell. So snre was Odell that he was
to head the ticket that he joyously rushed to a
telegraph office and wired his wife of his
happiness.



Online LibraryLouis Jay Lang Thomas Collier PlattThe autobiography of Thomas Collier Platt: with twenty portraits in sepia ... → online text (page 18 of 31)