Paul Leland Haworth.

Reconstruction and union, 1865-1912 online

. (page 9 of 20)
Online LibraryPaul Leland HaworthReconstruction and union, 1865-1912 → online text (page 9 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the absence of secrecy in voting "opened a wide
door to bribery and intimidation." A party
worker would place a ballot in a man's hand,
march him to the polls, and watch him deposit
it; the worker could thus be certain of hav-
ing obtained "value received." Weak or non-
existent registration laws also rendered possible
the most flagrant "repeating." Gangs of men
would go from one polling place to another, voting
at each. The evil was particularly marked in
cities, where the legitimate voters were more or
less strangers to each other. The author once
knew personally a veteran of the Civil War who
confessed that while home on a furlough he voted
forty-nine times for Lincoln and Johnson. Just
prior to the election of 1888 Massachusetts
adopted the secret or "Australian" ballot, which
greatly diminished the grosser forms of election
corruption. Before the next presidential election
thirty-four other states adopted secret ballot laws


of varying merit. The laws did much to eliminate
election cheating and corruption, but proved less
successful than reformers had hoped. The inge-
nuity of unscrupulous politicians devised ways
of discovering whether a "floater" had held to
his bargain, while, particularly in the slums of
cities and in backward country districts, the
letter of the law was not always enforced by
election officers. Then, too, it is unfortunately
a trait of human nature that a man may be
dishonorable enough to sell his vote but "honor-
able" enough to abide by the terms of the corrupt

In New York Cleveland suffered from the
covert hostility of Tammany Hall and the open
hostility of certain newspapers, notably the New
York Sun, then edited by the vindictive Dana.
The opposition within the party centered around
David B. Hill, "the Sage of Wolfert's Roost,"
who was the Democratic candidate for governor.
Hill was accustomed to say proudly, "I am a
Democrat"; but he and his friends treacherously
arranged trades whereby Democratic support
for Harrison was bartered for Republican support
for Hill; flags bearing the inscription "Harrison
and Hill" were brazenly displayed all over the

A campaign coup whereby the English minister,
Sir Lionel Sackville-West, was tricked into ad-
vising a supposed naturalized fellow countryman
to vote for Cleveland as the candidate more
favorable to British interests also aided the
Republicans. The Republicans made much of
the letter, alleging that it convicted the Demo-


crats, with their tariff reform ideas, of playing
into the hands of foreign nations. Democratic
politicians were greatly exercised over the inci-
dent, fearing that it would lose them part of the
Irish vote. For once Cleveland lost his head and
foolishly demanded Sir Lionel's recall; when the
British ministry demurred, he sent the diplomatist
his passports.

But all such efforts were in vain. Harrison
carried both Indiana and New York by small
majorities and received 233 electoral votes to
168 for Cleveland. The Democratic treachery
in New York had succeeded, for Hill was elected
by about eighteen thousand, while Harrison would
have been defeated without the state's 36 elec-
toral votes.

The result occasioned great rejoicings among
the victors, for they believed that the only enemy
who had defeated them in many years was dis-
posed of forever. On the night before Harrison's
inauguration a crowd of Republicans of the baser
sort gathered close to the White House and sang
discordantly a ditty which had been popular
during the campaign:

" Down in the cornfield hear that mournful sound,
All the Democrats are weeping Grover 's in the cold, cold

Benjamin Harrison, the twenty-third president,
was an abler lawyer than his predecessor, but he
was not so striking a personality. In appearance
he was short, with a body abnormally long for
his legs, and with a custom of holding his chin down


upon a somewhat protuberant chest a man-
nerism that led his enemies to compare him to
a pouter pigeon. He was an unusually effective
public speaker and possessed acute intellectual
ability. To his family and to a few chosen friends
he was genial and warm-hearted, but the demands
made upon him by politicians caused him to adopt
towards them and others a cold, reserved de-
meanor. The late Senator Hoar wrote: "Blaine
would refuse a request in a way that would seem
like doing a favor. Harrison would grant a request
in a way which seemed as if he were denying it."
An American historian, not then well known,
once called at the White House in company with
the president's son Russell for the purpose of
ascertaining certain facts regarding the presi-
dent's grandfather, William Henry Harrison.
The president was excessively frigid and had
little to say until his son, losing patience, said
sharply: "Father, there's no politics in this!"
Thereupon the president's reserve melted, and
he became talkative and even genial. As a
result of such incidents, it was popularly said
that "Harrison sweats ice-water."

Harrison's attitude toward the civil service
was at first disappointing to reformers. To the
position of first assistant-postmaster-general he
called J. S. Clarkson of Iowa, a spoilsman whose
guillotine equaled "Adlai's axe." In a single
year the new "headsman" decapitated thirty thou-
sand officials. Harrison was also guilty of flagrant
nepotism, giving office to a large number cf
relatives by blood or marriage. He refused to
extend the civil service rules to the census office,


with the result that the superintendent complained
that he was "waist deep in congressmen." He
likewise failed to check the political activities
of office-holders; in the convention that renom-
inated him there were 142 Federal appointees.
On the other hand, within the classified list,
Harrison gave strength to the reform movement.
He rendered the cause of efficient government
inestimable service by appointing Theodore
Roosevelt to the civil service commission. Roose-
velt revivified the commission, and gave the
reform a standing with the public it had never
before enjoyed. "No longer was there an air of
apology; blow was given for blow." In a denunci-
ation of political assessments Roosevelt declared
that much of the money thus secured was retained
"by the jackals who have collected it." In a
public address he characterized an attack by
Clarkson upon the commission as "loose diatribe
equally compounded of rambling declamation
and misstatement." In the end Harrison dis-
missed Clarkson and broke with Senator Quay
and other leading spoilsmen.

Almost of necessity Harrison selected Blaine
as secretary of state. It was a post that admi-
rably suited the "Plumed Knight's" tastes,
for he enjoyed doing large things in a large way.
Prophets correctly predicted that under him the
country would have a vigorous foreign policy.

An opportunity for testing the new secretary's
diplomatic mettle was already at hand. At this
time Germany was entering upon a policy of
colonial aggrandizement and was searching the
seven seas for land that had not yet been seized


by other powers. The eyes of the German foreign
office fell upon the Samoan Islands in the southern
Pacific. Taking as a pretext a drunken brawl
between some German sailors and Samoans, the
Germans deposed and deported the native king,
Malietoa, and set up in his place a creature of
their own named Tamasese. The Samoans re-
mained loyal to Malietoa and defied the Germans.

Both England and the United States had com-
mercial interests in the islands that were opposed
to German absorption, and in 1872 the United
States had been granted the harbor of Pago Pago
for a coaling station. The consuls of both nations
protested against the German action. On one
occasion the commander of the American gunboat
Adams, a belligerent Irishman named Leary, went
so far as to run his vessel between the German ship
Adler and a native position which the Germans
were about to shell. Later an American news-
paper correspondent named Klein led a party of
Samoans who inflicted (December 18, 1888)
a severe defeat upon a German landing party.
The Germans thereupon shelled and burned in-
discriminately, regardless of American property,
and offered insults to the American flag.

In response to a request from the American
consul, the Cleveland government sent out an
American squadron under Admiral Kimberly.
A German squadron lay anchored off Apia.
Rumors of a clash between the two reached the
United States and roused great excitement.
In reality, there had been only a battle of the
elements. A terrific typhoon had swept over the
islands (March 16, 1889), destroying or disabling


every vessel in the two squadrons. All thoughts
of war were put aside, and Admiral Kimberly took
temporary possession of Apia to preserve order.
Chancellor Bismark now proposed that the
dispute be submitted to a conference, expecting
doubtless to gain his ends by the blustering
diplomacy for which he was famous. The United
States and Great Britain accepted, and such a
conference met in Berlin on the 29th of April.
Bismark was determined to gain a concession
of German predominance, and resorted to his
usual bullying tactics. The American representa-
tives reported to Washington that the chancellor
was very irritable. Blaine cabled back: "The
extent of the Chancellor's irritability is not the
measure of American rights." Ultimately Ger-
many modified her claims and consented to the
restoration of Malietoa and to the establishment
of a tripartite protectorate over the islands. A
decade later the agreement was rescinded, Eng-
land waived all claims, and the islands were divided
between the United States and Germany.

The American part in the Samoan imbroglio
' caused widespread comment abroad and was
particularly pleasing to England, which was
beginning to resent German aggressiveness. The
episode turned attention to the need of building
up the infant navy, and during Harrison's admin-
istration many new vessels were authorized.
The chief historical significance of the affair lies,
however, in the fact that the United States threw
aside old precedents and insisted upon her right
to participate in affairs outside what had hitherto
been regarded as the American sphere of influence.


Secretary Elaine was less successful in his at-
tempt to establish the principle of a closed sea for
Bering Sea. The primary object in contending
for such a principle was to enable the United
States to protect the diminishing herds of fur
seals against Canadian and other poachers. Great
Britain objected peremptorily to the seizure of
Canadian sealing vessels that ventured into the
sea, and the dispute, which had dragged on for
some years, was ultimately submitted to a mixed
tribunal, which refused to uphold the American
claim and held that the jurisdiction of the United
States in those waters ended "outside the ordi-
nary three-mile limit."

In a quarrel with Italy resulting from the lynch-
ing of eleven Italians in New Orleans for alleged
complicity in the assassination of the chief of
police, Blaine upheld the dignity of the United
States. He also emerged with credit from a quarrel
with Chili. The Chilean trouble arose out of a
revolution against the authority of President
Balmaceda. The American department of state
refused to recognize the rebels or Congression-
alists, and this aroused much indignation among
them. In May, 1891, a ship called the Itata,
which had been chartered by the Congressional-
ists, was seized at San Diego for violating neu-
trality laws by taking on munitions of war.
The crew overpowered the United States officers,
and the Itata escaped. The cruiser Charleston
was ordered in pursuit, and the Congressionalists
sent out a cruiser to protect the fleeing vessel.
A battle was expected, but peace was preserved,
for, though the Itata escaped to Chili, the Congres-


sionalists unwillingly surrendered her to the
United States. This episode bred bad blood
between the two peoples. The situation grew
yet more serious when the Congressionalist cause
triumphed and Santiago fell. Many of the
Balmacedists, to save their lives, took refuge in
the American legation. Their surrender was
demanded but firmly refused.

While popular feeling was thus inflamed a mob
of Chileans at Valparaiso fell upon a party of
American seamen on shore leave, and, aided
by the police, killed or wounded a score of them.
Blaine demanded an apology and an indemnity.
While the matter was still pending, the Chilean
minister of foreign affairs, Senor Matta, unwisely
made public a document in which he reflected
insultingly upon the president of the United
States and other American officers. President
Harrison was already in a belligerent mood but
had been held back by Blaine. Both now agreed
that the time had come for vigorous action.
They ordered a large squadron to Pacific waters
and dispatched (January 21, 1892) an ultimatum
demanding an indemnity, an apology for Matta's
indiscretion, and a safe conduct for the refugees
in the legation. Chili complied.

The only other diplomatic affair of much im-
portance during the Harrison administration had
to do with the affairs of the Hawaiian Islands.
These rich islands, first brought prominently to
civilized attention by Captain James Cook a
century before, now contained a considerable
foreign white population, largely American, while
the Kanakas themselves had attained a fair degree


of civilization. The queen, Liliuokalani, a woman
of education and charm but a stickler for divine
right, planned to subvert the existing liberal
constitution and promulgate another less favorable
to popular rights and to foreigners. The ministry
refused (January, 1893) to comply with her wishes
and issued a proclamation declaring the throne
vacant. A provisional government was formed,
headed by Sanford B. Dole, a justice of the
supreme court, and this body called upon the
American minister, John L. Stevens, for help
in preserving order. Sailors and marines landed
from the cruiser Boston, and Stevens formally
recognized the new republic and proclaimed it
under the protection of the United States. "The
Hawaiian pear is now fully ripe," Stevens re-
ported to Washington, "and this is the golden
hour for the United States to pluck it." The
administration partially disavowed Stevens's
course, but Harrison and John W. Foster, who
had succeeded Blaine, desired to annex the
islands. By the president's direction Foster
negotiated a treaty to that effect with a Hawaiian
commission that had come to Washington for
that purpose.

The American public generally favored the
treaty. It was apparent that the islands, lying
as they did in the heart of the Pacific, possessed
much commercial and strategic value and would
serve admirably as a half-way house on the way
to the Orient. But before the senate acted upon
the treaty, the Harrison government retired from
office. Grover Cleveland believed that the
Hawaiian monarchy had been subverted by the


active aid of the American minister and through
"the intimidation caused by the presence of an
armed naval force of the United States." The
heiress-apparent to the Hawaiian throne, Princess
Kaiulani, a charming dark-eyed girl, had appeared
in the United States to plead the cause of her
house and made a great impression upon the
president and Mrs. Cleveland. Cleveland not
only withdrew the treaty of annexation, but offered
to restore "Queen Lil," provided she would grant
an amnesty. This the vindictive woman refused
to do; she was determined to have the blood of
some of her enemies. Congress failed to support
the new policy, and ultimately Cleveland had to
recognize the republic, which was then firmly
established. The desire for union with the
United States still persisted in Hawaii, however,
especially among the ruling foreign class. In
July, 1898, in the midst of the war with Spain,
the islands were formally annexed by joint-
resolution of congress as in the case of Texas.

The first congress under Harrison was notable
for important legislation. The Republicans now
had a majority in both branches of congress, and
in the house, Speaker Thomas B. Reed of Maine,
who became known as the "Czar," repressed
Democratic filibustering with an iron hand.
A "Force Bill," designed to protect colored voters
in the South, served to revive sectional animosities
but failed to pass the senate. A dependent pen-
sion bill along the lines of the one vetoed by
Cleveland became a law (June 27, 1890). Under
its operation the annual pension outlay increased
in four years from eighty-eight millions to one


hundred and fifty-nine millions. An anti-lottery
law, aimed at the notorious Louisiana Lottery
Company, which had long misused the United
States mails in its nefarious operations despite
state laws against it, an original package law
regulating interstate shipments of liquors, and
a law forfeiting land grants made to railways that
had failed to fulfill the terms of the contract
were also enacted. But the measures that require
most attention were the Sherman Silver Act,
the Sherman Anti-trust Act, and the McKinley
Tariff Act.

The Sherman Silver Act, passed in 1890, was a
concession to the popular demand for the larger
use of silver as a circulating medium. It was so
called because Senator Sherman of Ohio was the
most active member of the joint committee that
framed it, though he gave the measure a reluc-
tant support. The law repealed the Bland-Allison
Act of 1878 and provided that each month the
government should purchase four and one-half
million ounces of silver and issue against it legal
tender notes redeemable on demand in "coin,"
either gold or silver at the discretion of the sec-
retary of the treasury. The ratio between the
two metals was fixed at sixteen to one, although
the market ratio was about twenty to one. The
measure did not go far enough to satisfy the
members of the Farmers' Alliance and the mine
owners of the West, but it alarmed conservative

The Anti-trust Act was designed to meet a
popular demand for the regulation of great trusts
and monopolies that were choking out competition.


The act was partly a result of an investigation
made by a congressional committee in 1888-89,
which had brought to light some startling facts
regarding the operations of the Sugar Trust,
the Standard Oil Trust, and the dressed meat
combination, at the head of which stood Armour
and Company of Chicago. Similar investigations
producing similar results had also been made
by certain state legislatures. Senator Sherman
introduced the bill, and it usually goes by his
name, but he probably introduced it by request,
and the judiciary committee radically recon-
structed it. It received strong popular support,
for thousands of business men had felt the heavy
hand of the various combinations, and millions
of people were paying monopoly prices. The
bill passed by a non-partisan vote, though many
sleek senators and representatives affected to
doubt its constitutionality. It held illegal and
provided penalties against combinations in the
form of trusts and conspiracies in restraint of
interstate trade.

The law proved for a considerable period little
more than mere lip service in the people's cause.
It did not have "teeth enough," and courts that
interpreted it too often displayed more regard for
private interests than for those of the public. For
more than a decade the law was allowed to lie
almost dormant. It is true that it helped to make
the "trust agreement" unfashionable, but "com-
munities of interest" and "holding companies"
chartered in complaisant states, particularly New
Jersey, took its place. The Standard Oil Trust,
for example, forsook the trust agreement in 1892;


a "community of interest" between nine control-
ling stockholders held the business together until
1899, when the device of a holding company was
resorted to.

The same congress that enacted the Sherman
law passed another act which, in the opinion of
tariff reformers, served to tighten the hold of blood-
sucking monopolies upon the people. This was the
McKinley Tariff Act, so named from the chairman
of the house committee on ways and means that
framed it, Representative William McKinley of
Ohio. The success of the Republicans in the
election of 1888 was interpreted by them as a
mandate to raise the duties on imports to a yet
higher point, and the bill was a very radical one.
It laid heavy duties upon necessities of life, com-
modities used in every household, and the aver-
age rate was upwards of 50 per cent. Its chief
redeeming feature was that it made sugar free,
but it provided for a bounty to home producers,
and levied a duty of one-tenth of a cent a pound
on sugar coming from countries that paid bounties
on sugar production.

Secretary Blame, who had never been accused
of being a free-trader, protested vigorously against
some of the bill's provisions. He declared that
there was "not a section or a line in the entire
bill that will open a market for another bushel of
wheat or another barrel of pork." He urged
trade concessions to foreign countries that would
admit our commodities on favorable terms, but
artfully described the plan as "reciprocity" in
order not to alarm protectionists. Most of his
protests went unheeded, and the reciprocity


clause that was finally grafted upon the bill was
of a negative character. Instead of authorizing
the president to reduce rates in return for con-
cessions, it empowered him to impose discrim-
inating duties in case reciprocity was withheld.

The bill was framed in fulfillment of the new
theory that high duties and high prices were a
distinct advantage to the country. It was justly
characterized as "protection run mad." Osten-
sibly it was designed primarily to aid the laboring
man, but it was soon seen that the chief benefi-
ciaries were the manufacturers. Organized com-
binations that already controlled a given com-
modity on which tariff rates were raised hastened
to increase the price, being safe in doing so be-
cause the tariff wall precluded competition from
abroad. In industries that had not yet entered
a trust, producers met together and over sumptu-
ous dinner tables agreed that on such and such
a date the price of their commodity should be
raised to such and such a price. Even before the
bill became a law prices advanced sharply. Arti-
cles that were not mentioned in the law were
sympathetically affected. Soon hundreds of
thousands of families began to feel the pinch of
a higher cost of living. The increase was felt
the more keenly because the manufacturers
usually forgot, while counting their increased
profits, to raise correspondingly or at all the wages
of the laborers in whose interests the measure was
supposed to have been passed.

The law proved, as Blaine had predicted, a
protection that would "protect the Republican
Party into a speedy retirement." Other causes


such as the Force Bill and congressional extrav-
agance played a part, but the McKinley Bill
was the chief factor in producing a political
cataclysm unequaled since the "Tidal Wave" of
1874. In the congressional election of 1890 only
88 Republicans were returned to the house, as
against 235 Democrats, while the Republican
majority in the senate was reduced from 14 to
six. McKinley himself was defeated for re-election
and was forced into temporary retirement.

A notable feature of this election was the ap-
pearance of a new party which elected nine repre-
sentatives and two senators. There had been
weak third parties before, such as the Green-
backers and the Prohibitionists, but the " People's
Party," as it later came to be called, developed
strength enough to carry states and cast electoral
votes. It was made up of Greenbackers, Gran-
gers, and Farmers' Alliance men, aided in some
instances by the Knights of Labor. Its strength
lay in the West and South, its chief center being
Kansas, the mother of radical movements. Its
grievances, though often fanciful, had a sub-
stratum of real justification; the remedies it

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryPaul Leland HaworthReconstruction and union, 1865-1912 → online text (page 9 of 20)