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The Cleveland Era by Henry Jones Ford

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Morgan called his attention to the fact, that among the general
powers of the Secretary of the Treasury is the provision that he
"may purchase coin with any of the bonds or notes of the United
States authorized by law, at such rates and upon such terms as he
may deem most advantageous to the public interest." The President
was urged to proceed under this law to buy $100,000,000 in gold
at a fixed price, paying for it in bonds. This advice Cleveland
did not accept at the time, but in later years he said that it
was "a wise suggestion," and that he had "always regretted that
it was not adopted."

But apart from any particular error in the management of the
Treasury, the general policy of the Administration was much below
the requirements of the situation. The panic came to an end in
the fall of 1893, much as a great conflagration expires through
having reached all the material on which it can feed, but leaving
a scene of desolation behind it. Thirteen commercial houses out
of every thousand doing business had failed. Within two years,
nearly one fourth of the total railway capitalization of the
country had gone into bankruptcy, involving an exposure of
falsified accounts sufficient to shatter public confidence in the
methods of corporations. Industrial stagnation and unemployment
were prevalent throughout the land. Meanwhile, the congressional
situation was plainly such that only a great uprising of public
opinion could break the hold of the silver faction. The standing
committee system, which controls the gateways of legislation, is
made up on a system of party apportionment whose effect is to
give an insurgent faction of the majority the balance of power,
and this opportunity for mischief was unsparingly used by the
silver faction.

Such a situation could not be successfully encountered save by a
policy aimed distinctly at accomplishing a redress of popular
grievances. But such a policy, President Cleveland failed to
conceive. In his inaugural address, he indicated in a general way
the policy pursued throughout his term when he said, "I shall to
the best of my ability and within my sphere of duty preserve the
Constitution by loyally protecting every grant of Federal power
it contains, by defending all its restraints when attacked by
impatience and restlessness, and by enforcing its limitations and
reservations in favor of the states and the people." This
statement sets forth a low view of governmental function and
practically limits its sphere to the office of the policeman,
whose chief concern is to suppress disorder. Statesmanship should
go deeper and should labor in a constructive way to remove causes
of disorder.

An examination of President Cleveland's state papers show that
his first concern was always to relieve the Government from its
financial embarrassments; whereas the first concern of the people
was naturally and properly to find relief from their own
embarrassments. In the last analysis, the people were not made
for the convenience of the Government, but the Government was
made for the convenience of the people, and this truth was not
sufficiently recognized in the policy of Cleveland's
administration. His guiding principle was stated, in the annual
message, December 3, 1894, as follows: "The absolute divorcement
of the Government from the business of banking is the ideal
relationship of the Government to the circulation of the currency
of the country." That ideal, however, is unattainable in any
civilized country. The only great state in which it has ever been
actually adopted is China, and the results were not such as to
commend the system. The policy which yields the greatest
practical benefits is that which makes it the duty of the
Government to supervise and regulate the business of banking and
to attend to currency supply; and the currency troubles of the
American people were not removed until eventually their
Government accepted and acted upon this view.

Not until his message of December 3, 1894, did President
Cleveland make any recommendation going to the root of the
trouble, which was, after all, the need of adequate provision for
the currency supply. In that message, he sketched a plan devised
by Secretary Carlisle, allowing national banks to issue notes up
to seventy-five per cent of their actual capital and providing
also, under certain conditions, for the issue of circulating
notes by state banks without taxation. This plan, he said,
"furnishes a basis for a very great improvement in our present
banking and currency system." But in his subsequent messages, he
kept urging that "the day of sensible and sound financial methods
will not dawn upon us until our Government abandons the banking
business." To effect this aim, he urged that all treasury notes
should be "withdrawn from circulation and canceled," and he
declared that he was "of opinion that we have placed too much
stress upon the danger of contracting the currency." Such
proposals addressed to a people agonized by actual scarcity of
currency were utterly impracticable, nor from any point of view
can they be pronounced to have been sound in the circumstances
then existing. Until the banking system was reformed, there was
real danger of contracting the currency by a withdrawal of
treasury notes. President Cleveland was making a mistake to which
reformers are prone; he was taking the second step before he had
taken the first. The realization on the part of others that his
efforts were misdirected not only made it impossible for him to
obtain any financial legislation but actually fortified the
position of the free silver advocates by allowing them the
advantage of being the only political party with any positive
plans for the redress of popular grievances. Experts became
convinced that statesmen at Washington were as incompetent to
deal with the banking problems as they had been in dealing with
reconstruction problems and that, in like manner, the regulation
of banking had better be abandoned to the States. A leading organ
of the business world pointed out that some of the state systems
of note issue had been better than the system of issuing notes
through national banks which had been substituted in 1862; and it
urged that the gains would exceed all disadvantages if state
banks were again allowed to act as sources of currency supply by
a repeal of the government tax of ten per cent on their
circulation. But nothing came of this suggestion, which was,
indeed, a counsel of despair. It took many years of struggle and
more experiences of financial panic and industrial distress to
produce a genuine reform in the system of currency supply.

President Cleveland's messages suggest that he made up his mind
to do what he conceived to be his own duty regardless of
consequences, whereas an alert consideration of possible
consequences is an integral part of the duties of statesmanship.
He persevered in his pension vetoes without making any movement
towards a change of system, and the only permanent effect of his
crusade was an alteration of procedure on the part of Congress in
order to evade the veto power. Individual pension bills are still
introduced by the thousand at every session of Congress, but
since President Cleveland's time all those approved have been
included in one omnibus bill, known as a "pork barrel bill,"
which thus collects enough votes from all quarters to ensure

President Cleveland found another topic for energetic
remonstrance in a system of privilege that had been built up at
the expense of the post-office department. Printed matter in the
form of books was charged eight cents a pound, but in periodical
form only one cent a pound. This discrimination against books has
had marked effect upon the quality of American literature,
lowering its tone and encouraging the publication of many cheap
magazines. President Cleveland gave impressive statistics showing
the loss to the Government in transporting periodical
publications, "including trashy and even harmful literature."
Letter mails weighing 65,337,343 pounds yielded a revenue of
$60,624,464. Periodical publications weighing 348,988,648 pounds
yielded a revenue of $2,996,403. Cleveland's agitation of the
subject under conditions then existing could not, however, have
any practical effect save to affront an influential interest
abundantly able to increase the President's difficulties by abuse
and misrepresentation.


While President Cleveland was struggling with the difficult
situation in the Treasury, popular unrest was increasing in
violence. Certain startling political developments now gave fresh
incitement to the insurgent temper which was spreading among the
masses. The relief measure at the forefront of President
Cleveland's policy was tariff reform, and upon this the
legislative influence of the Administration was concentrated as
soon as the repeal of the Silver Purchase Act had been

The House leader in tariff legislation at that time was a man of
exceptionally high character and ability. William L. Wilson was
President of the University of West Virginia when he was elected
to Congress in 1882, and he had subsequently retained his seat
more by the personal respect he inspired than through the normal
strength of his party in his district. The ordinary rule of
seniority was by consent set aside to make him chairman of the
Ways and Means Committee. He aimed to produce a measure which
would treat existing interests with some consideration for their
needs. In the opinion of F. W. Taussig, an expert economist, the
bill as passed by the House on February 1, 1894, "was simply a
moderation of the protective duties" with the one exception of
the removal of the duty on wool. Ever since 1887, it had been a
settled Democratic policy to put wool on the free list, in order
to give American manufacturers the same advantage in the way of
raw material which those of every other country enjoyed, even in
quarters where a protective tariff was stiffly applied.

The scenes that now ensued in the Senate showed that arbitrary
rule may be readily exercised under the forms of popular
government. Senator Matthew S. Quay of Pennsylvania, a genial,
scholarly cynic who sought his ends by any available means and
who disdained hypocritical pretenses, made it known that he was
in a position to block all legislation unless his demands were
conceded. He prepared an everlasting speech, which he proceeded
to deliver by installments in an effort to consume the time of
the Senate until it would become necessary to yield to him in
order to proceed with the consideration of the bill. His method
was to read matter to the Senate until he was tired and then to
have some friend act for him while he rested. According to the
"Washington Star," Senator Gallinger was "his favorite helper in
this, for he has a good round voice that never tires, and he
likes to read aloud." The thousands of pages of material which
Senator Quay had collected for use, and the apparently
inexhaustible stores upon which he was drawing, were the subject
of numerous descriptive articles in the newspapers of the day.
Senator Quay's tactics were so successful, indeed, that he
received numerous congratulatory telegrams from those whose
interests he was championing. They had been defeated at the polls
in their attempt to control legislation, and defeated in the
House of Representatives, but now they were victorious in the

The methods of Senator Quay were tried by other Senators on both
sides, though they were less frank in their avowal. After the
struggle was over, Senator Vest of Missouri, who had been in
charge of the bill, declared:

"I have not an enemy in the world whom I would place in the
position that I have occupied as a member of the Finance
Committee under the rules of the Senate. I would put no man where
I have been, to be blackmailed and driven in order to pass a bill
that I believe is necessary to the welfare of the country, by
Senators who desired to force amendments upon me against my
better judgment and compel me to decide the question whether I
will take any bill at all or a bill which had been distorted by
their views and objects. Sir, the Senate 'lags superfluous on the
stage' today with the American people, because in an age of
progress, advance, and aggressive reform, we sit here day after
day and week after week, while copies of the census reports,
almanacs, and even novels are read to us, and under our rules
there is no help for the majority except to listen or leave the

The passage of the bill in anything like the form in which it
reached the Senate was plainly impossible without a radical
change in the rules, and on neither side of the chamber was there
any real desire for an amendment of procedure. A number of the
Democratic Senators who believed that it was desirable to keep on
good terms with business interests were, in reality, opposed to
the House bill. Their efforts to control the situation were
favored by the habitual disposition of the Senate, when dealing
with business interests, to decide questions by private
conference and personal agreements, while maintaining a surface
show of party controversy. Hence, Senator Gorman of Maryland was
able to make arrangements for the passage of what became known as
the Gorman Compromise Bill, which radically altered the character
of the original measure by the adoption of 634 amendments. It
passed the Senate on the 3rd of July by a vote of thirty-nine to

The next step was the appointment of a committee of conference
between the two Houses, but the members for the House showed an
unusual determination to resist the will of the Senate, and on
the 19th of July, the conferees reported that they had failed to
reach an agreement. When President Cleveland permitted the
publication of a letter which he had written to Chairman Wilson
condemning the Senate bill, the fact was disclosed that the
influence of the Administration had been used to stiffen the
opposition of the House. Senator Gorman and other Democratic
Senators made sharp replies, and the party quarrel became so
bitter that it was soon evident that no sort of tariff bill could
pass the Senate.

The House leaders now reaped a great advantage from the Reed
rules to the adoption of which they had been so bitterly opposed.
Availing themselves of the effective means of crushing
obstruction provided by the powers of the Rules Committee, in one
day they passed the Tariff Bill as amended by the Senate, which
eventually became law, and then passed separate bills putting on
the free list coal, barbed wire, and sugar. These bills had no
effect other than to put on record the opinion of the House, as
they were of course subsequently held up in the Senate. This
unwonted insubordination on the part of the House excited much
angry comment from dissatisfied Senators. President Cleveland was
accused of unconstitutional interference in the proceedings of
Congress; and the House was blamed for submitting to the Senate
and passing the amended bill without going through the usual form
of conference and adjustment of differences. Senator Sherman of
Ohio remarked that "there are many cases in the bill where
enactment was not intended by the Senate. For instance,
innumerable amendments were put on by Senators on both sides of
the chamber... to give the Committee of Conference a chance to
think of the matter, and they are all adopted, whatever may be
their language or the incongruity with other parts of the bill."

The bitter feeling, excited by the summary mode of enactment on
the part of the House, was intensified by President Cleveland's
treatment of the measure. While he did not veto it, he would not
sign it but allowed it to become law by expiration of the ten
days in which he could reject it. He set forth his reasons in a
letter on August 27, 1894, to Representative Catchings of
Missouri, in which he sharply commented upon the incidents
accompanying the passage of the bill and in which he declared:

"I take my place with the rank and file of the Democratic party
who believe in tariff reform, and who know what it is; who refuse
to accept the result 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 used 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 their hour of might."

The letter was written throughout with a fervor rare in President
Cleveland's papers, and it had a scorching effect. Senator Gorman
and some other Democratic Senators lost their seats as soon as
the people had a chance to express their will.

The circumstances of the tariff struggle greatly increased
popular discontent with the way in which the government of the
country was being conducted at Washington. It became a common
belief that the actual system of government was that the trusts
paid the campaign expenses of the politicians and in return the
politicians allowed the trusts to frame the tariff schedules.
Evidence in support of this view was furnished by testimony taken
in the investigation of the sugar scandal in the summer of 1894.
Charges had been made in the newspapers that some Senators had
speculated in sugar stocks during the time when they were engaged
in legislation affecting the value of those stocks. Some of them
admitted the fact of stock purchases, but denied that their
legislative action had been guided by their investments. In the
course of the investigation, H. O. Havemeyer, the head of the
Sugar Trust, admitted that it was the practice to subsidize party
management. "It is my impression," he said, "that whenever there
is a dominant party, wherever the majority is large, that is the
party that gets the contribution because that is the party which
controls the local matters." He explained that this system was
carried on because the company had large interests which needed
protection, and he declared "every individual and corporation and
firm, trust, or whatever you call it, does these things and we do

During the tariff struggle, a movement took place which was an
evidence of popular discontent of another sort. At first it
caused great uneasiness, but eventually the manifestation became
more grotesque than alarming. Jacob S. Coxey of Massillon, Ohio,
a smart specimen of the American type of handy business man,
announced that he intended to send a petition to Washington
wearing boots so that it could not be conveniently shelved by
being stuck away in a pigeonhole. He thereupon proceeded to lead
a march of the unemployed, which started from Massillon on March
25, 1894, with about one hundred men in the ranks. These
crusaders Coxey described as the "Army of the Commonweal of
Christ," and their purpose was to proclaim the wants of the
people on the steps of the Capitol on the 1st of May. The leader
of this band called upon the honest working classes to join him,
and he gained recruits as he advanced. Similar movements started
in the Western States. "The United States Industrial Army,"
headed by one Frye, started from Los Angeles and at one time
numbered from six to eight hundred men; they reached St. Louis by
swarming on the freight trains of the Southern Pacific road and
thereafter continued on foot. A band under a leader named Kelly
started from San Francisco on the 4th of April and by
commandeering freight trains reached Council Bluffs, Iowa, whence
they marched to Des Moines. There, they went into camp with at
one time as many as twelve hundred men. They eventually obtained
flatboats, on which they floated down the Mississippi and then
pushed up the Ohio to a point in Kentucky whence they proceeded
on foot. Attempts on the part of such bands to seize trains
brought them into conflict with the authorities at some points.
For instance, a detachment of regular troops in Montana captured
a band coming East on a stolen Northern Pacific train, and
militia had to be called out to rescue a train from a band at
Mount Sterling, Ohio.

Coxey's own army never amounted to more than a few hundred, but
it was more in the public eye. It had a large escort of newspaper
correspondents who gave picturesque accounts of the march to
Washington; and Coxey himself took advantage of this gratuitous
publicity to express his views. Among other measures, he urged
that since good roads and money were both greatly needed by the
country at large, the Government should issue $500,000,000 in
"non-interest bearing bonds" to be used in employing workers in
the improvement of the roads. After an orderly march through
parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, in the course of which
his men received many donations of supplies from places through
which they passed, Coxey and his army arrived at Washington on
the 1st of May and were allowed to parade to the Capitol under
police escort along a designated route. When Coxey left the
ranks, however, to cut across the grass to the Capitol, he was
arrested on the technical charge of trespassing. The army went
into camp, but on the 12th of May the authorities forced the men
to move out of the District. They thereupon took up quarters in
Maryland and shifted about from time to time. Detachments from
the Western bands arrived during June and July, but the total
number encamped about Washington probably never exceeded a
thousand. Difficulties in obtaining supplies and inevitable
collisions with the authorities caused the band gradually to
disperse. Coxey, after his short term in jail, traveled about the
country trying to stir up interest in his aims and to obtain
supplies. The novelty of his movement, however, had worn off, and
results were so poor that on the 26th of July he issued a
statement saying he could do no more and that what was left of
the army would have to shift for itself. In Maryland, the
authorities arrested a number of Coxey's "soldiers" as vagrants.
On the 11th of August, a detachment of Virginia militia drove
across the Potomac the remnants of the Kelly and Frye armies,
which were then taken in charge by the district authorities. They
were eventually supplied by the Government with free
transportation to their homes.

Of more serious import than these marchings and campings, as
evidence of popular unrest, were the activities of organized
labor which now began to attract public attention. The Knights of
Labor were declining in numbers and influence. The attempt, which
their national officers made in January, 1894, to get out an
injunction to restrain the Secretary of the Treasury from making
bond sales really facilitated Carlisle's effort by obtaining
judicial sanction for the issue. Labor disturbances now followed
in quick succession. In April, there was a strike on the Great
Northern Railroad, which for a long time almost stopped traffic
between St. Paul and Seattle. Local strikes in the mining regions
of West Virginia and Colorado, and in the coke fields of Western
Pennsylvania, were attended by conflicts with the authorities and
some loss of life. A general strike of the bituminous coal miners
of the whole country was ordered by the United Mine Workers on
the 21st of April, and called out numbers variously estimated at
from one hundred and twenty-five thousand to two hundred
thousand; but by the end of July the strike had ended in a total

All the disturbances that abounded throughout the country were
overshadowed, however, by a tremendous struggle which centered in
Chicago and which brought about new and most impressive
developments of national authority. In June, 1893, Eugene V.
Debs, the secretary-treasurer of the Brotherhood of Locomotive
Firemen, resigned his office and set about organizing a new
general union of railroad employees in antagonism to the
Brotherhoods, which were separate unions of particular classes of
workers. He formed the American Railway Union and succeeded in
instituting 465 local lodges which claimed a membership of one
hundred and fifty thousand. In March, 1894, Pullman Company
employees joined the new union. On the 11th of May, a class of
workers in this company's shops at Pullman, Illinois, struck for
an increase of wages, and on the 21st of June the officers of the
American Railway Union ordered its members to refuse to handle
trains containing Pullman cars unless the demands of the strikers
were granted. Although neither the American Federation of Labor
nor the Brotherhoods endorsed this sympathetic strike, it soon
spread over a vast territory and was accompanied by savage
rioting and bloody conflicts. In the suburbs of Chicago the mobs
burned numerous cars and did much damage to other property. The
losses inflicted on property throughout the country by this
strike have been estimated at $80,000,000.

The strikers were undoubtedly encouraged in resorting to force by
the sympathetic attitude which Governor Altgeld of Illinois
showed towards the cause of labor. The Knights of Labor and other
organizations of workingmen had passed resolutions complimenting
the Governor on his pardon of the Chicago anarchists, and the
American Railway Union counted unduly upon his support in
obtaining their ends. The situation was such as to cause the
greatest consternation throughout the country, as there was a
widespread though erroneous belief that there was no way in which
national Government could take action to suppress disorder unless
it was called upon by the Legislature, if it happened to be in
session, or by the Governor. But at this critical moment, the
Illinois Legislature was not in session, and Governor Altgeld
refused to call for aid. For a time, it therefore seemed that the
strikers were masters of the situation and that law and order
were powerless before the mob.

There was an unusual feeling of relief throughout the country
when word came from Washington on the 1st of July that President
Cleveland had called out the regular troops. Governor Altgeld
sent a long telegram protesting against sending federal troops
into Illinois without any request from the authority of the
State. But President Cleveland replied briefly that the troops
were not sent to interfere with state authority but to enforce
the laws of the United States, upon the demand of the Post Office
Department that obstruction to the mails be removed, and upon the
representations of judicial officers of the United States that
processes of federal courts could not be executed through the
ordinary means. In the face of what was regarded as federal
interference, riot for the moment blazed out more fiercely than
ever, but the firm stand taken by the President soon had its
effect. On the 6th of July, Governor Altgeld ordered out the
state militia which soon engaged in some sharp encounters with
the strikers. On the next day, a force of regular troops
dispersed a mob at Hammond, Indiana, with some loss of life. On
the 8th of July, President Cleveland issued a proclamation to the
people of Illinois and of Chicago in particular, notifying them
that those "taking part with a riotous mob in forcibly resisting
and obstructing the execution of the laws of the United States...
cannot be regarded otherwise than as public enemies," and that
"while there will be no hesitation or vacillation in the decisive
treatment of the guilty, this warning is especially intended to
protect and save the innocent." The next day, he issued as
energetic a proclamation against "unlawful obstructions,
combinations and assemblages of persons" in North Dakota,
Montana, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming, Colorado, California, Utah,
and New Mexico.

At the request of the American Railway Union, delegates from
twenty-five unions connected with the American Federation of
Labor met in Chicago on the 12th of July, and Debs made an ardent
appeal to them to call a general strike of all labor
organizations. But the conference decided that "it would be
unwise and disastrous to the interests of labor to extend the
strike any further than it had already gone" and advised the
strikers to return to work. Thereafter, the strike rapidly
collapsed, although martial law had to be proclaimed and, before
quiet was restored, some sharp conflicts still took place between
federal troops and mobs at Sacramento and other points in
California. On the 3rd of August, the American Railway Union
acknowledged its defeat and called off the strike. Meanwhile,
Debs and other leaders had been under arrest for disobedience to
injunctions issued by the federal courts. Eventually, Debs was
sentenced to jail for six months,* and the others for three
months. The cases were the occasion of much litigation in which
the authority of the courts to intervene in labor disputes by
issuing injunctions was on the whole sustained. The failure and
collapse of the American Railway Union appears to have ended the
career of Debs as a labor organizer, but he has since been active
and prominent as a Socialist party leader.

* Under Section IV of the Anti-Trust Law of 1890.

Public approval of the energy and decision which President
Cleveland displayed in handling the situation was so strong and
general that it momentarily quelled the factional spirit in
Congress. Judge Thomas M. Cooley, then, probably the most eminent
authority on constitutional law, wrote a letter expressing
"unqualified satisfaction with every step" taken by the President
"in vindication of the national authority." Both the Senate end
the House adopted resolutions endorsing the prompt and vigorous
measures of the Administration. The newspapers, too, joined in
the chorus of approval. A newspaper ditty which was widely
circulated and was read by the President with pleasure and
amusement ended a string of verses with the lines:

The railroad strike played merry hob,
The land was set aflame;
Could Grover order out the troops
To block the striker's game?
One Altgeld yelled excitedly,
"Such tactics I forbid;
You can't trot out those soldiers," yet
That's just what Grover did.

In after years when people talk
Of present stirring times,
And of the action needful to
Sit down on public crimes,
They'll all of them acknowledge then
(The fact cannot be hid)
That whatever was the best to do
Is just what Grover did.

This brief period of acclamation was, however, only a gleam of
sunshine through the clouds before the night set in with utter
darkness. Relations between President Cleveland and his party in
the Senate had long been disturbed by his refusal to submit to
the Senate rule that nominations to office should be subject to
the approval of the Senators from the State to which the nominees
belonged. On January 15, 1894, eleven Democrats voted with
Senator David B. Hill to defeat a New York nominee for justice of
the Supreme Court. President Cleveland then nominated another New
York jurist against whom no objection could be urged regarding
reputation or experience; but as this candidate was not Senator
Hill's choice, the nomination was rejected, fourteen Democrats
voting with him against it. President Cleveland now availed
himself of a common Senate practice to discomfit Senator Hill. He
nominated Senator White of Louisiana, who was immediately
confirmed as is the custom of the Senate when one of its own
members is nominated to office. Senator Hill was thus left with
the doubtful credit of having prevented the appointment of a New
Yorker to fill the vacancy in the Supreme Court. But this
incident did not seriously affect his control of the Democratic
party organization in New York. His adherents extolled him as a
New York candidate for the Presidency who would restore and
maintain the regular party system without which, it was
contended, no administration could be successful in framing and
carrying out a definite policy. Hill's action, in again
presenting himself as a candidate for Governor in the fall of
1894, is intelligible only in the light of this ambition. He had
already served two terms as Governor and was now only midway in
his senatorial term; but if he again showed that he could carry
New York he would have demonstrated, so it was thought, that he
was the most eligible Democratic candidate for the Presidency.
But he was defeated by a plurality of about 156,000.

The fall elections of 1894, indeed, made havoc in the Democratic
party. In twenty-four States, the Democrats failed to return a
single member, and in each of six others, only a single district
failed to elect a Republican. The Republican majority in the
House was 140, and the Republican party also gained control of
the Senate. The Democrats who had swept the country two years
before were now completely routed.

Under the peculiar American system which allows a defeated party
to carry on its work for another session of Congress as if
nothing had happened, the Democratic party remained in actual
possession of Congress for some months but could do nothing to
better its record. The leading occupation of its members now
seemed to be the advocacy of free silver and the denunciation of
President Cleveland. William J. Bryan of Nebraska was then
displaying in the House the oratorical accomplishments and
dauntless energy of character which soon thereafter gained him
the party leadership. With prolific rhetoric, he likened
President Cleveland to a guardian who had squandered the estate
of a confiding ward and to a trainman who opened a switch and
caused a wreck, and he declared that the President in trying to
inoculate the Democratic party with Republican virus had poisoned
its blood.

Shortly after the last Democratic Congress--the last for many
years--the Supreme Court undid one of the few successful
achievements of this party when it was in power. The Tariff Bill
contained a section imposing a tax of two per cent on incomes in
excess of $4000. A case was framed attacking the
constitutionality of the tax,* the parties on both sides aiming
to defeat the law and framing the issues with that purpose in
view. On April 8, 1895, the Supreme Court rendered a judgment
which showed that the Court was evenly divided on some points. A
rehearing was ordered and a final decision was rendered on the
20th of May. By a vote of five to four it was held that the
income tax was a direct tax, that as such it could be imposed
only by apportionment among the States according to population,
and that as the law made no such provision the tax was therefore
invalid. This reversed the previous position of the Court** that
an income tax was not a direct tax within the meaning of the
Constitution, but that it was an excise. This decision was the
subject of much bitter comment which, however, scarcely exceeded
in severity the expressions used by members of the Supreme Court
who filed dissenting opinions. Justice White was of the opinion
that the effect of this judgment was "to overthrow a long and
consistent line of decisions and to deny to the legislative
department of the Government the possession of a power conceded
to it by universal consensus for one hundred years." Justice
Harlan declared that it struck "at the very foundation of
national authority" and that it gave "to certain kinds of
property a position of favoritism and advantage inconsistent with
the fundamental principles of our social organization." Justice
Brown hoped that "it may not prove the first step towards the
submergence of the liberties of the people in a sordid despotism
of wealth." Justice Jackson said it was "such as no free and
enlightened people can ever possibly sanction or approve." The
comments of law journals were also severe, and on the whole, the
criticism of legal experts was more outspoken than that of the

* Pollock vs. Farmers' Loan and Trust Company, 157 U.S. 429.

** Springer vs. United States, 102 U.S. 586.

Public distrust of legislative procedure in the United States is
so great that powers of judicial interference are valued to a
degree not usual in any other country. The Democratic platform of
1896 did not venture to go farther in the way of censure than to
declare that "it is the duty of Congress to use all the
constitutional power which remains after that decision, or which
may come from its reversal by the court as it may hereafter be
constituted, so that the burdens of taxation may be equally and
impartially laid, to the end that wealth may bear its due
proportion of the expenses of the government." Even this
suggestion of possible future interference with the court turned
out to be a heavy party load in the campaign.

With the elimination of the income tax, the revenues of the
country became insufficient to meet the demands upon the
Treasury, and Carlisle was obliged to report a deficit of
$42,805,223 for 1895. The change of party control in Congress
brought no relief. The House, under the able direction of Speaker
Reed, passed a bill to augment the revenue by increasing customs
duties and also a bill authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury
to sell bonds or issue certificates of indebtedness bearing
interest at three per cent. Both measures, however, were held up
in the Senate, in which the silver faction held the balance of
power.* On February 1, 1896, a free silver substitute for the
House bond bill passed the Senate by a vote of forty-two to
thirty-five, but the minority represented over eight million more
people than the majority. The House refused, by 215 to 90, to
concur in the Senate's amendment, and the whole subject was then

* The distribution of party strength in the Senate was:
Republicans, 43; Democrats, 39; Populists, 6. Republicans made
concessions to the Populists which caused them to refrain from
voting when the question of organisation was pending, and the
Republicans were thus able to elect the officers and rearrange
the committees, which they did in such a way as to put the free
silver men in control of the committee on finance. The bills
passed by the house were referred to this committee, which
thereupon substituted bills providing for free coinage of silver.

President Cleveland had to carry on the battle to maintain the
gold standard and to sustain the public credit without any aid
from Congress. The one thing he did accomplish by his efforts,
and it was at that moment the thing of chief importance, was to
put an end to party duplicity on the silver question. On that
point, at least, national party platforms abandoned their
customary practice of trickery and deceit. Compelled to choose
between the support of the commercial centers and that of the
mining camps, the Republican convention came out squarely for the
gold standard and nominated William McKinley for President.
Thirty-four members of the convention, including four United
States Senators and two Representatives, bolted. It was a year of
bolts, the only party convention that escaped being that of the
Socialist Labor party, which ignored the monetary issue save for
a vague declaration that "the United States have the exclusive
right to issue money." The silver men swept the Democratic
convention, which then nominated William Jennings Bryan for
President. Later on, the Gold Democrats held a convention and
nominated John M. Palmer of Illinois. The Populists and the
National Silver party also nominated Bryan for President, but
each made its own separate nomination for Vice-President. Even
the Prohibitionists split on the issue, and a seceding faction
organized the National party and inserted a free silver plank in
their platform.

In the canvass which followed, calumny and misrepresentation were
for once discarded in favor of genuine discussion. This new
attitude was largely due to organizations for spreading
information quite apart from regular party management. In this
way, many able pamphlets were issued and widely circulated. The
Republicans had ample campaign funds; but though the Democrats
were poorly supplied, this deficiency did not abate the energy of
Bryan's campaign. He traveled over eighteen thousand miles,
speaking at nearly every stopping place to great assemblages.
McKinley, on the contrary, stayed at home, although he delivered
an effective series of speeches to visiting delegations. The
outcome seemed doubtful, but the intense anxiety which was
prevalent was promptly dispelled when the election returns began
to arrive. By going over to free silver, the Democrats wrested
from the Republicans all the mining States, except California,
together with Kansas and Nebraska, but the electoral votes which
they thus secured were a poor compensation for losses elsewhere.
Such old Democratic strongholds as Delaware, Maryland, and West
Virginia gave McKinley substantial majorities, and Kentucky gave
him twelve of her thirteen electoral votes. McKinley's popular
plurality was over six hundred thousand, and he had a majority of
ninety-five in the electoral college.

The nation approved the position which Cleveland had maintained,
but the Republican party reaped the benefit by going over to that
position while the Democratic party was ruined by forsaking it.
Party experience during the Cleveland era contained many lessons,
but none clearer than that presidential leadership is essential
both to legislative achievement and to party success.


Among general histories dealing with this period, the leading
authority is D. R. Dewey, "National Problems," 1885-97 (1907) in
"The American Nation"; but suggestive accounts may be found in E.
B. Andrews, "History of the Last Quarter of a Century in the
United States" (1896); in H. T. Peck, "Twenty Years of the
Republic" (1913); and in C. A. Beard, "Contemporary American
History" (1914).

The following works dealing especially with party management and
congressional procedure will be found serviceable: E. Stanwood,
"History of the Presidency" (1898); M. P. Follett, "The Speaker
of the House of Representatives" (1896); H. J. Ford, "The Rise
and Growth of American Politics" (1898); H. J. Ford, "The Cost of
our National Government" (1910); S. W. McCall, "The Business of
Congress" (1911); D. S. Alexander, "History and Procedure of the
House of Representatives" (1916); C. R. Atkinson, "The Committee
on Rules and the Overthrow of Speaker" Cannon (1911). The debate
of 1885-86 on revision of the rules is contained in the
"Congressional Record," 49th Congress, 1st session, vol. 17, part
I, pp. 39, 71, 87, 102 129, 182, 9,16, 216, 239, 304.

Of special importance from the light they throw upon the springs
of action are the following works: Grover Cleveland,
"Presidential Problems" (1904); F. E. Goodrich, "The Life and
Public Services of Grover Cleveland" (1884); G. F. Parker, "The
Writings and Speeches of Grover Cleveland" (1890; J. L. Whittle,
"Grover Cleveland" (1896); J. G. Blaine, "Political Discussions
(1887); E. Stanwood, "James Gillespie Blaine" (1905); A. R.
Conkling, "Life and Letters of Roscoe Conkling" (1889); John
Sherman, "Recollections of Forty Years in the House, Senate, and
Cabinet" (1895); G. F. Hoar, "Autobiography of Seventy Years"
(1903); S. M. Cullom, "Fifty Years of Public Service (1911); L.
A. Coolidge, "An Old-fashioned Senator: Orville H. Platt of
Connecticut" (1910); S. W. McCall, "The Life of Thomas Brackett
Reed" (1914); A. E. Stevenson, "Something of Men I Have Known"

For the financial history of the period, see J. L. Laughlin, "The
History of Bimetallism in the United States" (1897); A. D. Noyes,
"Forty Years of American Finance" (1909); Horace White, "Money
and Banking, Illustrated by American History" (1904).

The history of tariff legislation is recorded by F. W. Taussig,
"The Tariff History of the United States" (1914), and E.
Stanwood, "American Tariff Controversies in the Nineteenth
Century" (1903).

On the trust problem there is much valuable information in W. Z.
Ripley, "Trusts, Pools, and Corporations" (1905); K. Coman,
"Industrial History of the United States" (1905); J. W. Jenks,
"The Trust Problem" (1905).

The conditions which prompted the creation of the Interstate
Commerce Commission are exhibited in the report of the Senate
Select Committee on Interstate Commerce, "Senate Reports," No.
46, 49th Congress, 1st session.

Useful special treatises on the railroad problem are E. R.
Johnson, "American Railway Transportation" (1903); B. H. Meyer,
"Railway Legislation in the United States" (1903); and W. Z.
Ripley, "Railway Problems" (1907).

The history of labor movements may be followed in J. R. Commons,
"History of Labor in the United States" (1918); M. Hillquit,
"History of Socialism in the United States" (1903); "Report of
the Industrial Commission," vol. XVII (1901); and in the Annual
Reports of the United States Commissioner of Labor. Congressional
investigations of particular disturbances produced the House
Reports No. 4174, 49th Congress, 2d session, 1887, on the
Southwestern Railway Strike, and No. 2447, 52d Congress, 2d
session, 1893, on the Homestead Strike.

On the subject of pensions the most comprehensive study is that
by W. H. Glasson, "History of Military Pension Legislation in the
United States, Columbia University Studies," vol. XII, No. 3
(1900). Of special interest is the speech by J. H. Gallinger,
"Congressional Record," 65th Congress, 2d session, vol. 56, No.
42, p. 1937.

Other public documents of special importance are "Senate Report,"
No. 606, 53d Congress, concerning the sugar scandal, and "Senate
Documents," No. 187, 54th Congress, 2d session, concerning the
bond sales. "The Congressional Record" is at all times a mine of
information. Valuable historical material is contained in the
"New Princeton Review," vols. I-VI (1886-88), the New York
"Nation," the Political Science Quarterly," and other
contemporary periodicals.

A vivid picture of political conditions on the personal side is
given in Slason Thompson, "Eugene Field" (1901), vol. I, chap.
10; vol. II, chap. 8.

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