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Life of Walter Quintin Gresham, 1832-1895 (Volume 2) online

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He claimed they had control of the Southern States, that
they had even secretly organized negro lodges in which
they controlled 1,800,000 negro voters. This organization,
united with that in the West, he said would control the
country, and the man to head the ticket was Judge Gresham.
My husband answered Mr. Duncan by saying that he would
not accept the nomination of the People's or any other party
if offered him.

Captain C. A. Power, a Union veteran of Terre Haute,
Indiana, as a delegate to the preliminary conference of the
People's party held at St. Louis, February 22, 1892, said
that the machinery would be put to work to nominate
Judge Gresham at the People's party convention to be held
three months later. To Captain Power Mr. Gresham wrote,
on the 1 6th of February, 1892, as follows:

I am out of politics and hav'e no political aspirations. While
I have said to a number of my Republican friends that I am not
willing my nam.e should go before the Minneapolis convention, I
have not felt called upon to make a public announcement of the

You are not mistaken in supj^osing that I am a firm believer
in popular government. The public welfare should be the aim
of all legislation. A man who does not love the human race


and desire the elevation of the masses is not to be trusted as a
friend of free institutions. I do not express these views in the
hope of recommending myself to you, and association with you
in political action, as a fit person to lead your movement; I am
not such a person.

And in similar strain letters were written to others,
including James L. Orr of Denver, the chairman of the
People's party committee after the St. Louis conference.

A movement was on foot to defeat President Harri-
son's renomination at the Republican Convention to be held
at Minneapolis. Senator Quay, ex-Senator Piatt, Major
William McKinley, then Governor of Ohio; ex-Governor
Foraker, and ex-Speaker Thomas B. Reed, still in Congress
from Maine, united in the plan. Quay was first in the
field. January 13, 1892, at Liberty Hall, on German-
town Avenue in Philadelphia, in the Fifth Congressional
District, Messrs. Martin and McKinle}' were elected del-
egates to the Minneapolis Convention over William R.
Leeds, who was the United States marshal for the
Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and Charles W. Henry,
collector of internal revenue for that district. Messrs.
Leeds and Henry were the administration candidates.
The election of Martin and McKinley was a great sur-
prise, apparently, to the country at large. Associated with
Senator Quay in this movement were John L. Elkins and
P. A. B. Widener of the Elkins- Widener Street Car Syn-
dicate, and Hamilton Disson, the Philadelphia manufac-
turer, who had been a Grant delegate in 18S0, an Arthur
delegate in 1884, and one of Quay's delegates in 1888.
Disson all along professed great friendship for Gresham.
Elkins and Disson became tw^o of the delegates-at-large
from Pennsylvania in 1892 to the Minneapolis Convention.

January 15, 1892, Mr. Widener wrote Judge Gresham
that if he would consent to be a candidate for the Presi-
dency, he and his friends would be glad to support him,
and that he thought Senator Quay and the senatorial


combine that would soon caucus in Washington would
take Gresham as a candidate. Mr. Widener was the man
Senator Quay sent to Joseph Medill in 1888. Promptly
a courteous letter was written Mr. Widener declining this

Soon after this Judge Gresham met Senator Quay
in New York. In response to questions the Senator ad-
mitted he had put Widener up to writing the letter just
referred to, and also conveyed his intention to prevent
President Harrison's renomination. Then Mr. Gresham
told Mr. Quay that never again would he permit his
name to be used in a National convention. He told ex-
Senator Piatt the same thing, and he said to each, "You
can not defeat President Harrison's renomination. With
practically no party in the South, only officeholders, any
Republican administration that will use its power can
renominate itself."

Quay proceeded with his work and rounded up practi-
cally all the Pennsylvania delegates. Piatt did likewise
in New York, while McKinley and Foraker had Ohio unan-
imous, and in the other Republican States the opposition
to the President was manifest by the returns. But in the
"rotten burroughs of the South " the President was supreme.

Again, on June 3, 1892, Mr. Widener sent a messenger,
John A. Glenn of Philadelphia, bearing a letter to Judge
Gresham, because he had no time to come himself, and,
as he wrote, it would not do to commit to paper what he
desired to communicate. The message was from Senator
Quay and stated that they would nominate Gresham if he
would be a candidate. The combine controlled the Repub-
lican National Committee, they would name a temporary
chairman who would rule that officeholders from the South
were not entitled to vote, and thus they would have a
majority of the disinterested delegates. Civil service rules
and all kinds of pretexts could be invoked. Quay had
boldly and openly killed President Harrison's pet measure,


"The Force Bill," to make the Southern States Repub-
lican. Why, then, should Quay let the delegates from
those "rotten burroughs" rule him when he had a Na-
tional Committee that would do his bidding? He had the
nerve to act, and now Piatt was the follower.

Judge Gresham's answer was spoken plainly: "Go
back and tell Mr. Widener my position is the same as I
stated it to Senator Quay three months ago, and the Sen-
ator should know better than to send me such a message."

This answer, when Glenn delivered it to Widener,
made him very angry at Senator Quay for causing him,
Widener, to write and send the letter. Widener declared
then that he and his Pennsylvania friends would show
Quay they were not puppets in his hands. And this is the
way they did it. Elkins, Widener's partner, Disson, most
of the other Philadelphia delegates and two outside of the
city, making nine in all out of sixty, voted for General
Harrison's renomination. Afterwards, Senator Quay said
that Judge Gresham's answer to Widener was one of the
worst jolts he ever received. The Elkins- Widener Syndicate,
Disson, and Daniel I. Martin continued their opposition
to Senator Quay, but were finally and completely defeated
in 1895, when they again acknowledged the Quay scepter.
June 4, 1892, Mr. Blaine resigned as Secretary of State.
Then Mr. Blaine, Major McKinley, and President Harri-
son were voted for in the convention, the President being
renominated. One thing Matthew Stanley Quay never did,
and that was to vote for James G. Blaine in a National
convention. Senator Quay and his Pennsylvania dele-
gates, except the Elkins- Widener Syndicate, voted for Ma-
jor McKinley. Piatt voted his New York delegates for
Blaine, while Senator Foraker voted Ohio for McKinley.

That Piatt and Quay might have compassed their pur-
pose to defeat the renomination of President Harrison is
probable. They named the temporary chairman of the
convention, one of Piatt's men, J. Sloat Fassett. Major


William McKinley was made permanent chairman. On
one preliminary proposition Major McKinley ruled that
an office-holding delegate whose seat was contested could
not vote. The adoption of that rule would have given
Theodore Roosevelt the control of the 191 2 convention and
would have renominated Roosevelt instead of Taft.

After demonstrating what they could do in making it
apparent that without his officeholders President Harrison
was in a hopeless minority, Senator Quay, on the floor of
the convention, said: "We will no longer prolong the con-
test on these lines."

The People's party assembled at Omaha July 4, and
although Judge Gresham had repeatedly, during the pre-
ceding three months, notified its leaders he could not
accept their nomination, they wanted to draft him. The
Vincents after the clean-up in Kansas had moved the Non-
conjormist to Indianapolis and were insisting that Judge
Gresham be nominated without his consent. Republicans
and Democrats, men of character and influence, practical
politicians of great influence east of the Mississippi, men
who never afterwards broke their party allegiance, came
forward and said, "If you take the nomination, we will vote
for you." Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll from the Repub-
licans and Senator D. W. Voorhees from the Democrats
said, "We will support you on the stump." Lawyers,
judges, newspaper men, including editorial writers, urged
him to say he would accept. T. V. Powderly, the head of
the Knights of Labor, and General J. B. Weaver of Iowa,
who was subsequently made the nominee of the People's
party at Omaha, united in a telegram with others asking
that the nomination be accepted. The final answer was
as it had been from the beginning: "While I agree with
the People's part}' on some questions, I do not on others
and can not accept."






T SAT with my husband on the platform when Calvin S.
-■- Brice called the Democratic Convention of 1892 to
order, and we witnessed many of its proceedings. The
convention was held in a wigwam built on the Lake Front,
Chicago. While the hall had a large seating capacity, it
was a monstrosity in every other way.

The sentiment of the masses of Chicago seemed to favor
the nomination of Grover Cleveland. The preliminary
work for the World's Fair was going on, and I saw many
men from all parts of the country, and heard much of
the talk that preceded the convention. Many of the rich
men, our neighbors, were opposed to Mr. Cleveland's
nomination. They made much of Calvin S. Brice, then
a Senator from Ohio and chairman of the Democratic
National Committee. They said Mr. Cleveland could not
possibly secure the nomination because the delegates from
his own State would be against him. My husband told
them that even with the New York delegates against him,
Mr. Cleveland's nomination could not be prevented. I was
greatly interested in the situation, and thus it was that
I insisted on attending the convention.

There was the New York delegation, led by Tammany
and supporting David B. Hill. Our friend Henry Wat-
terson was present, attempting to lead the Kentuckians
against Grover Cleveland. Governor Horace Boies of Iowa



was Watterson's candidate. William C. Whitney, Don
M. Dickinson of Michigan, and Senator William F. Vilas
of Wisconsin, who had been members of Mr. Cleveland's
cabinet, were in charge of Cleveland's forces. After the
preliminary organization, and after the Committees on
Credentials and the Platform had gone out, there were
speeches by a number of gentlemen. Senator John M.
Palmer spoke first, but as one old fellow who sat behind me
said, the general's eloquence did not set the prairies afire.

Congressman William L. Wilson of Viginia, who was
known to voice Mr. Cleveland's views, made a speech in
which he advocated a reduction of the tariff, but keeping
in mind the interests of the manufacturers that had been
fostered by the tariff, saying they should have time to
adjust themselves before putting into effect new schedules,
he attacked the McKinley tariff, but did not advocate Henry
Watterson's tariif for revenue only. This gave us the cue
to what the contest would be in the Committee on Resolu-
tions. There it waged long.

Finally, on the third day, after an all-night session,
Senator Vilas read the report of the Committee on Resolu-
tions, that is, the report of the majority of the committee.
There was a single dissent — Lawrence J. Neal of Ohio
made a minority report. The only difference was on the
tariff "plank," and to only part of that, as reported, was
objection made. As these planks had a bearing on my
husband's position I give them here, and the debate that
followed on the motion of Mr. Neal, seconded by Henry
Watterson, to substitute Mr. Neal's plank for that of the

We reiterate the oft-repeated doctrine of the Democratic party
that the necessities of the government are the only justification for
taxation, and whenever a tax is unnecessary it is unjustifiable.

That when custom taxation is levied upon articles of any
kind produced in this country, tlie diifercnce between the cost
of labor here and labor abroad, when such a difference exists.


fully measures any possible benefits to labor; and the enormous
additional impositions of the existing tariff fall with crushing force
upon our farmers and working men, and for the mere advantage
of the few whom it enriches exacts from labor a grossly unjust
share of the expenses of government; and we demand such a
revision of the tariff laws as will remove every iniquitous ine-
quality, lighten every oppression, and put them on a constitutional
and equitable basis.

But in making a reduction in taxes it is not proposed to injure
any domestic industries, but rather to promote their healthy
growth. From the foundation of this government taxes collected
by the Custom House have been the chief source of Federal revenue.
Such they must continue to be. Moreover, many industries
have come to rely upon legislation for successful continuance, so
that any change of law must be at every step regardful of the
labor and capital thus involved. The process of reform must
be subject in its execution to this plain dictate of justice.

We denounce the McKinley Law enacted by the Fifty-first
Congress as the enormity and atrocity of class legislation.

Lawrence T. Neal's proposed substitute was as follows:

We denounce Republican protection as a fraud — a robbery
of the great majority of the American people for the benefit of
the few. We declare it to be the fundamental principle of the
Democratic party that the Federal government has no consti-
tutional power to impose and collect tariff duties except for the
purpose of revenue only, and we demand that the collection of
such taxes shall be limited to the necessities of the government
when honestly and economically administered.

The debate was short and crisp. vSenator Vilas read
the majority plank and said not another word. Mr. Neal
read the substitute and spoke in its support. Henry Wat-
terson followed Mr. Neal. He asked the secretary to read
the tariff for revenue only plank of the platform of the Dem-
ocratic party of 1876. While it was being read Mr. Watter-
son stood silent, the admiration of friend and foe in the
convention. All he said was: 'T saw it confirmed in 1888.
The majority report is the platform of James G. Blaine."


Senator Vilas answered: "The majority report is the
Democratic platform of 1S84, and Henry Watterson helped
with the preparation of the '84 platform."

Mr. Watterson replied: "Since then we have had the
Morrison Bill and the Mills Bill and Cleveland's tariff mes-
sage of 1887, and are you now going back to the straddle
of 1884?" My husband said a lawyer would hardly have
cited Cleveland's message of 1887 in support of a tarifif for
revenue only.

Mr. Neal's motion prevailed by a vote of 564 to 342.

The Courier Journal's account of this debate is inter-
esting and illuminating:

As the young Hercules of Democracy'- stood on the platform
waiting for the cheers to subside, he presented the appearance
of a lion eager to jump on his prey. He faced 20,000 people, all
eyes upon him. He knew with whom he had to deal. He knew
that Cleveland himself was back of the assault upon tariff reform
which had been made by Cleveland's -own lieutenants in the

After what occiirred to-night, set on foot by the friends of
Grover Cleveland, and which resulted in their disaster, I feel
satisfied that if the convention had had another day without
making the nomination of the ex-President, he would have been
beaten, as he richly deser\'ed to be. This is not the first time
Cleveland had attempted to straddle on the tariff question, and
the magnificent Democratic victory to-night should be a lesson
to him and his followers.

And where stood Henry Watterson! Not with the Platform
Committee,, but on the floor among the boys in the trenches, and
you can bet he got on the committee with both feet when the
occasion required that he should resent a stinging insult to the
Star-eyed Goddess of Reform.

There was a single ballot. Mr. Cleveland received the
conventional Democratic two-thirds and was nominated.
The vote was: Cleveland 617, Hill 114, Boies 103, Gorman
36, Stevenson 16, CarHsle 14


In notifying Mr. Cleveland of his nomination, Mr. Wil-
son, as the spokesman of the Committee, ignored tariff for
revenue only, came out for a downward revision of the
tariff, and then Mr. Cleveland in his letter of acceptance
responded as follows:

Tariff reform is still our purpose. Though we oppose the
theory that tariff laws may be passed having for their object the
granting of discriminating and unfair governmental aid to private
ventures, we wage no exterminating war against any American
interests. We believe readjustment can be accomplished in
accordance with the principles we profess (taxation for the pur-
pose of maintaining the government), without disaster or demo-
lition. We believe that the advantages of freer raw material
should be accorded to our manufacturers, and we contemplate
a fair and careful distribution of necessary tariff burdens rather
than the precipitation of free trade.

We anticipate with calmness the misrepresentation of our
motives and purposes instigated by a selfishness which seeks to
hold in unrelenting grasp its unfair advantage under present
tariff laws. We will rely on the intelligence of our fellow-country-
men to reject the charge that a party comprising a majority of
our people is planning the destruction or 'injury of American
interests; we know they cannot be frightened by the specter of
impossible free trade.

After the publication of Mr. Cleveland's letter of accept-
ance, Joseph Medill said, "We will now be unable to dis-
tinguish Henry Watterson from an old Henry Clay Protec-
tionist Kentucky Whig until after the election. Ever since
1872, when 'Marse Henry' supported Horace Greeley, he
has had ague fits of protection just before election. He is
now for a tariff for revenue with incidental protection. He
will not recover until just after the 8th of November."

After Mr. Cleveland had been nominated my husband
said to W. C. Whitney and Thomas F. Bayard, "You will
carry Indiana certain, so instead of nominating Isaac P.
Gay. nominate some good man from Illinois and carry this
State." And Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois was nominated.



A FTER Walter Q. Gresham declined the People's party
-^^ nomination the Republicans seemed to take it as a
matter of course that his action was in their interest. Cor-
diality was manifest on every hand. It was announced
by a close friend of President Harrison that Judge Gresham
would be appointed to the first vacancy in the Supreme
Court, and several were not far off. At this time newspaper
comment in this connection became embarrassing, so it was
announced that a position in the Supreme Court, if offered
by President Harrison, could not under the circumstances
of that time be accepted. Soon the rumor was abroad
that Judge Gresham would vote for Mr. Cleveland. News-
paper men and personal friends importuned him to know
his position. Pressure was exerted to keep him quiet and
also to give the public the benefit of his views. Letters of
inquiry came by the hundreds. To his personal friends it
seemed best that he should disclose his position. Candor
required it. To W. B. Slemmons^ of Cory don. Indiana, the
son of our old family physician, the man he had offered a
place on his staff when before Atlanta in 1864, he wrote
October 6, 1892:

1 See pages 295-6.



I have your letter of yesterday. I have made no pubHc
announcement of how I shall vote this fall and it is not my inten-
tion to make any. I shall give no interviews; I have written no
letters. However, I will say to you, but not for publication, that
I expect to vote for Mr. Cleveland because I agree with him on
the tariff question. I supported the ticket in good faith in '88.
I fully realize the seriousness of the step I have resolved to take.
It will likely call down abuse, ridicule, and misrepresentation, and
it means the loss of many old and valued friends. I shall simply
be time to my convictions. I can gain nothing by such a course.
I am willing for others to think and act for themselves, and if I
am censured for exercising the same privilege, I must and can
stand it. If I did not disagree with the Republican party on
fundamental issues, I would vote its ticket, whatever I might
think of its candidates.

About this time I went with my husband to Indianapolis
to visit our friends, Mr. and Mrs. A. C. Harris. To Mr.
Harris, a lifelong Republican, and to C. W. Fairbanks,
afterwards Vice-President, my husband clearly made known
his support of tariff reduction and his purpose to vote for
Mr. Cleveland.

From Indianapolis Judge Gresham started for Spring-
field, Illinois, to sit with Judge Allen in some cases the judge
wanted him to hear with him. On the way he stopped at
Terre Haute to accept an invitation, w^hich Senator Voor-
hees, John E. Lamb, and Crawford Fairbanks had previ-
ously sent him, to visit them and see the horse races, which
were then a new feature of that growing and prosperous
city. On a beautiful afternoon they saw "Nancy Hanks"
lower the record for trotting horses from 2 : 08 to 2 104. In
the evening at dinner at Mr. Fairbanks' residence, there
was a full discussion of men and measures. Always a
Democrat, but for a tariff for revenue with at least inci-
dental protection, Senator Voorhees was glad that Judge
Gresham would vote for Cleveland, although he criticized
Cleveland .severely. His personal dislike for Cleveland,
like that of many of the men of his party, was very strong.


Crawford Fairbanks was of that practical type of man
who saw things clearly. When very young, he had gone
into the army in the middle of the war, but not too late to
earn a commission. Originally a Republican, he had long
been a Democrat; he had gone to the Democratic party on
account of his opposition to sumptuary legislation. That
the high schedules of the McKinley Bill fostered the trusts,
Mr. Fairbanks frankly avowed. As a business man and a
speculator, he grasped the opportunity the situation pre-
sented. Long before the Sherman Act was passed, Fair-
banks was in the business of assembling or putting together
competing manufacturing plants. The sale of his dis-
tillery to the trust released a lot of capital. Soon after the
Sherman Act was passed, he was a party to a combination
that was organized in the office of John W. Herron in Cin-
cinnati. Mr. Herron w^as simply doing what almost every
leading lawyer of that time did. He was the father-in-law
of WilHam H. Taft, who was still Solicitor-General. There
was a great contest among the mill owners as to w^ho should
be president of the new trust. One faction' wanted Craw-
ford Fairbanks to be the head of the new organization.
But "Banks," as everybody called him, said, "No, let me
be treasurer." After the organization was perfected, at
dinner in the old St. Nicholas Hotel, "Banks" told his par-
ticular friends why he wanted to be treasurer. "No matter
what the lawyers say about drawing the articles so as not
to conflict with the Sherman Act, some judge is likely to
come along and declare our organization an unla\vful com-
bine or trust. If so, and I am treasurer, I will be in a posi-
tion to hang onto my own money. And then the judge
might go farther and say, 'I w^on't soil my hands with this

Online LibraryMatilda GreshamLife of Walter Quintin Gresham, 1832-1895 (Volume 2) → online text (page 19 of 38)