The withdrawal of Blaine from the list of presidential candidates in 1888 left the Republican Convention at Chicago to choose from a score of "favorite sons." Even his repeated statement that he would not accept the nomination did not prevent his enthusiastic followers from hoping that the convention might be "stampeded." But on the first ballot, Blaine received only thirty-five votes while John Sherman led with 229. It was anybody's race until the eighth ballot, when General Benjamin Harrison, grandson of "Tippecanoe," suddenly forged ahead and received the nomination.
The defeat of the Democratic party at the polls in the presidential election of 1888 was less emphatic than might have been expected from its sorry record. Indeed, it is quite possible that an indiscretion in which Lord Sackville-West, the British Ambassador, was caught may have turned the scale. An adroitly worded letter was sent to him, purporting to come from Charles Murchison, a California voter of English birth, asking confidential advice which might enable the writer "to assure many of our countrymen that they would do England a service by voting for Cleveland and against the Republican system of tariff." With an astonishing lack of astuteness, the British minister fell into the trap and sent a reply which, while noncommittal on particulars, exhibited friendly interest in the reelection of President Cleveland. This correspondence, when published late in the campaign, caused the Administration to demand his recall. A spirited statement of the case was laid before the public by Thomas Francis Bayard, Secretary of State, a few days before the election, but this was not enough to undo the harm that had been done, and the Murchison letter takes rank with the Morey letter attributed to General Garfield as specimens of the value of the campaign lie as a weapon in American party politics.
President Cleveland received a slight plurality in the total popular vote; but by small pluralities Harrison carried the big States, thus obtaining a heavy majority in the electoral vote. At the same time, the Republicans obtained nearly as large a majority in the House as the Democrats had had before.
CHAPTER VIII. THE REPUBLICAN OPPORTUNITY
The Republican party had the inestimable advantage in the year 1889 of being able to act. It controlled the Senate which had become the seat of legislative authority; it controlled the House; and it had placed its candidate in the presidential chair. All branches of the Government were now in party accord. The leaders in both Houses were able men, experienced in the diplomacy which, far more than argument or conviction, produces congressional action. Benjamin Harrison himself had been a member of the ruling group of Senators, and as he was fully imbued with their ideas as to the proper place of the President he was careful to avoid interference with legislative procedure. Such was the party harmony that an extensive program of legislation was put through without serious difficulty, after obstruction had been overcome in the House by an amendment of the rules.
In the House of Representatives, the quorum is a majority of the whole membership. This rule enabled the minority to stop business at any time when the majority party was not present in sufficient strength to maintain the quorum by its own vote. On several occasions, the Democrats left the House nominally without a quorum by the subterfuge of refusing to answer to their names on the roll call. Speaker Reed determined to end this practice by counting as present any members actually in the chamber. To the wrath of the minority, he assumed this authority while a revision of the rules was pending. The absurdity of the Democratic position was naively exposed when a member arose with a law book in his hand and said, "I deny your right, Mr. Speaker, to count me as present, and I desire to read from the parliamentary law on the subject." Speaker Reed, with the nasal drawl that was his habit, replied, "The Chair is making a statement of fact that the gentleman from Kentucky is present? Does he deny it?" The rejoinder was so apposite that the House broke into a roar of laughter, and the Speaker carried his point.
Undoubtedly, Speaker Reed was violating all precedents. Facilities of obstruction had been cherished by both parties, and nothing short of Reed's earnestness and determination could have effected this salutary reform. The fact has since been disclosed that he had made up his mind to resign the Speakership and retire from public life had his party failed to support him. For three days, the House was a bedlam, but the Speaker bore himself throughout with unflinching courage and unruffled composure. Eventually he had his way. New rules were adopted, and the power to count a quorum was established.* When in later Congresses a Democratic majority returned to the former practice, Reed gave them such a dose of their own medicine that for weeks the House was unable to keep a quorum. Finally, the House was forced to return to the "Reed rules" which have since then been permanently retained. As a result of congressional example, they have been generally adopted by American legislative bodies, with a marked improvement in their capacity to do business.
* The rule that "no dilatory motion shall be entertained by the Speaker" was also adopted at this time.
With the facilities of action which they now possessed, the Republican leaders had no difficulty in getting rid of the surplus in the Treasury. Indeed, in this particular they could count on Democratic aid. The main conduit which they used was an increase of pension expenditures. President Harrison encouraged a spirit of broad liberality toward veterans of the Civil War. During the campaign he said that it "was no time to be weighing the claims of old soldiers with apothecary's scales," and he put this principle of generous recognition into effect by appointing as commissioner of pensions a robust partisan known as "Corporal" Tanner. The report went abroad that on taking office he had gleefully declared, "God help the surplus," and upon that maxim he acted with unflinching vigor. It seemed, indeed, as if any claim could count upon being allowed so long as it purported to come from an old soldier. But Tanner's ambition was not satisfied with an indulgent consideration of applications pending during his time; he reopened old cases, rerated a large number of pensioners, and increased the amount of their allowance. In some cases, large sums were granted as arrears due on the basis of the new rate. A number of officers of the pension bureau were thus favored, for a man might receive a pension on the score of disability though still able to hold office and draw its salary and emoluments. For example, the sum of $4300 in arrears was declared to be due to a member of the United States Senate, Charles F. Manderson of Nebraska. Finally, "Corporal" Tanner's extravagant management became so intolerable to the Secretary of the Interior that he confronted President Harrison with the choice of accepting his resignation or dismissing Tanner. Tanner therefore had to go, and with him his system of reratings.
A pension bill for dependents, such as Cleveland had vetoed, now went triumphantly through Congress.* It granted pensions of from six to twelve dollars a month to all persons who had served for ninety days in the Civil War and had thereby been incapacitated for manual labor to such a degree as to be unable to support themselves. Pensions were also granted to widows, minor children, and dependent parents. This law brought in an enormous flood of claims in passing, upon which it was the policy of the Pension Bureau to practice great indulgence. In one instance, a pension was granted to a claimant who had enlisted but never really served in the army as he had deserted soon after entering the camp. He thereupon had been sentenced to hard labor for one year and made to forfeit all pay and allowances. After the war, he had been convicted of horse stealing and sent to the state penitentiary in Wisconsin. While serving his term, he presented a pension claim supported by forged testimony to the effect that he had been wounded in the battle of Franklin. The fraud was discovered by a special examiner of the pension office, and the claimant and some of his witnesses were tried for perjury, convicted, and sent to the state penitentiary at Joliet, Illinois. After serving his time there, he posed as a neglected old soldier and succeeded in obtaining letters from sympathetic Congressmen commending his case to the attention of the pension office, but without avail until the Act of 1890 was passed. He then put in a claim which was twice rejected by the pension office examiners, but each time the decision was overruled, and in the end he was put upon the pension roll. This case is only one of many made possible by lax methods of investigating pension claims. Senator Gallinger of New Hampshire eventually said of the effect of pension policy, as shaped by his own party with his own aid:
"If there was any soldier on the Union side during the Civil War who was not a good soldier, who has not received a pension, I do not know who he is. He can always find men of his own type, equally poor soldiers who would swear that they knew he had been in a hospital at a certain time, whether he was or not—the records did not state it, but they knew it was so—and who would also swear that they knew he had received a shock which affected his hearing during a certain battle, or that something else had happened to him; and so all those pension claims, many of which are worthless, have been allowed by the Government, because they were 'proved.'"
* June 27, 1890.
The increase in the expenditure for pensions, which rose from $88,000,000 in 1889 to $159,000,000 in 1893, swept away much of the surplus in the Treasury. Further inroads were made by the enactment of the largest river and harbor appropriation bill in the history of the country up to this time. Moreover, a new tariff bill was contrived in such a way as to impose protective duties without producing so much revenue that it would cause popular complaint about unnecessary taxation. A large source of revenue was cut off by abolishing the sugar duties and by substituting a system of bounties to encourage home production. Upon this bill as a whole, Senator Cullom remarks in his memoirs that "it was a high protective tariff, dictated by the manufacturers of the country" who have "insisted upon higher duties than they really ought to have." The bill was, indeed, made up wholly with the view of protecting American manufactures from any foreign competition in the home market.
As passed by the House, not only did the bill ignore American commerce with other countries but it left American consumers exposed to the manipulation of prices on the part of other countries. Practically all the products of tropical America, except tobacco, had been placed upon the free list without any precaution lest the revenue thus surrendered might not be appropriated by other countries by means of export taxes. Blaine, who was once more Secretary of State, began a vigorous agitation in favor of adding reciprocity provisions to the bill. When the Senate showed a disposition to resent his interference, Blaine addressed to Senator Frye of Maine a letter which was in effect an appeal to the people, and which greatly stirred the farmers by its statement that "there is not a section or a line in the entire bill that will open the market for another bushel of wheat or another barrel of pork." The effect was so marked that the Senate yielded, and the Tariff Bill, as finally enacted, gave the President power to impose certain duties on sugar, molasses, coffee, tea, and hides imported from any country imposing on American goods duties, which, in the opinion of the President, were "reciprocally unequal and unreasonable." This more equitable result is to be ascribed wholly to Blaine's energetic and capable leadership.
Pending the passage of the Tariff Bill, the Senate had been wrestling with the trust problem which was making a mockery of a favorite theory of the Republicans. They had held that tariff protection benefited the consumer by the stimulus which it gave to home production and by ensuring a supply of articles on as cheap terms as American labor could afford. There were, however, notorious facts showing that certain corporations had taken advantage of the situation to impose high prices, especially upon the American consumer. It was a campaign taunt that the tariff held the people down while the trusts went through their pockets, and to this charge the Republicans found it difficult to make a satisfactory reply.
The existence of such economic injustice was continually urged in support of popular demands for the control of corporations by the Government. Though the Republican leaders were much averse to providing such control, they found inaction so dangerous that on January 14, 1890, Senator John Sherman reported from the Finance Committee a vague but peremptory statute to make trade competition compulsory. This was the origin of the AntiTrust Law which has since gone by his name, although the law actually passed was framed by the Senate judiciary committee. The first section declared that "every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is hereby declared to be illegal." The law made no attempt to define the offenses it penalized and created no machinery for enforcing its provisions, but it gave jurisdiction over alleged violations to the courts—a favorite congressional mode of getting rid of troublesome responsibilities. As a result, the courts have been struggling with the application of the law ever since, without being able to develop a clear or consistent rule for discriminating between legal and illegal combinations in trade and commerce. Even upon the financial question, the Republicans succeeded in maintaining party harmony, notwithstanding a sharp conflict between factions. William Windom, the Secretary of the Treasury, had prepared a bill of the type known as a "straddle." It offered the advocates of free coinage the right to send to the mint silver bullion in any quantity and to receive in return the net market value of the bullion in treasury notes redeemable in gold or silver coin at the option of the Government. The monthly purchase of not less than $2,000,000 worth of bullion was, however, no longer to be required by law. When the advocates of silver insisted that the provision for bullion purchase was too vague, a substitute was prepared which definitely required the Secretary of the Treasury to purchase 4,500,000 ounces of silver bullion in one month. The bill, as thus amended, was put through the House under special rule by a strict party vote. But when the bill reached the Senate, the former party agreement could no longer be maintained, and the Republican leaders lost control of the situation. The free silver Republicans combined with most of the Democrats to substitute a free coinage bill, which passed the Senate by forty-three yeas to twenty-four nays, all the negative votes save three coming from the Republican side.
It took all the influence the party leaders could exert to prevent a silver stampede in the House when the Senate substitute bill was brought forward; but by dexterous management, a vote of non-concurrence was passed and a committee of conference was appointed. The Republican leaders now found themselves in a situation in which presidential non-interference ceased to be desirable, but president Harrison could not be stirred to action. He would not even state his views. As Senator Sherman remarked in his "Recollections," "The situation at that time was critical. A large majority of the Senate favored free silver, and it was feared that the small majority against it in the other House might yield and agree to it. The silence of the President on the matter gave rise to an apprehension that if a free coinage bill should pass both Houses, he would not feel at liberty to veto it."
In this emergency, the Republican leaders appealed to their free silver party associates to be content with compelling the Treasury to purchase 4,500,000 ounces of silver per month, which it was wrongly calculated would cover the entire output of American mines. The force of party discipline eventually prevailed, and the Republican party got together on this compromise. The bill was adopted in both Houses by a strict party vote, with the Democrats solidly opposed, and was finally enacted on July 14, 1890.
Thus by relying upon political tactics, the managers of the Republican party were able to reconcile conflicting interests, maintain party harmony, and present a record of achievement which they hoped to make available in the fall elections. But while they had placated the party factions, they had done nothing to satisfy the people as a whole or to redress their grievances. The slowness of congressional procedure in matters of legislative reform allowed the amplest opportunity to unscrupulous business men to engage, in the meantime, in profiteering at the public expense. They were able to lay in stocks of goods at the old rates so that an increase of customs rates, for example, became an enormous tax upon consumers without a corresponding gain to the Treasury; for the yield was largely intercepted on private accounts by an advance in prices. The Tariff Bill, which William McKinley reported on April 16, 1890, became law only on the 1st of October, so there were over five months during which profiteers could stock at old rates for sales at the new rates and thus reap a rich harvest. The public, however, was infuriated, and popular sentiment was so stirred by the methods of retail trade that the politicians were both angered and dismayed. Whenever purchasers complained of an increase of price, they received the apparently plausible explanation, "Oh, the McKinley Bill did it." To silence this popular discontent, the customary arts and cajoleries of the politicians proved for once quite ineffectual.
At the next election, the Republicans carried only eighty-eight seats in the House out of 332—the most crushing defeat they had yet sustained. By their new lease of power in the House, however, the Democratic party could not accomplish any legislation, as the Republicans still controlled the Senate. The Democratic leaders, therefore, adopted the policy of passing a series of bills attacking the tariff at what were supposed to be particularly vulnerable points. These measures, the Republicans derided as "pop-gun bills," and in the Senate they turned them over to the committee on finance for burial. Both parties were rent by the silver issue, but it was noticeable that in the House which was closest to the people the opposition to the silver movement was stronger and more effective than in the Senate.
Notwithstanding the popular revolt against the Republican policy which was disclosed by the fall elections of 1890, President Harrison's annual message of December 9, 1891, was marked by extreme complacency. Great things, he assured the people, were being accomplished under his administration. The results of the McKinley Bill "have disappointed the evil prophecies of its opponents and in large measure realized the hopeful predictions of its friends." Rarely had the country been so prosperous. The foreign commerce of the United States had reached the largest total in the history of the country. The prophecies made by the antisilver men regarding disasters to result from the Silver Bullion Purchase Act, had not been realized. The President remarked "that the increased volume of currency thus supplied for the use of the people was needed and that beneficial results upon trade and prices have followed this legislation I think must be clear to every one." He held that the free coinage of silver would be disastrous, as it would contract the currency by the withdrawal of gold, whereas "the business of the world requires the use of both metals." While "the producers of silver are entitled to just consideration," it should be remembered that "bimetallism is the desired end, and the true friends of silver will be careful not to overrun the goal." In conclusion, the President expressed his great joy over "many evidences of the increased unification of the people and of the revived national spirit. The vista that now opens to us is wider and more glorious than before. Gratification and amazement struggle for supremacy as we contemplate the population, wealth, and moral strength of our country."
Though the course of events has yet to be fully explained, President Harrison's dull pomposity may have been the underlying reason of the aversion which Blaine now began to manifest. Although on Harrison's side and against Blaine, Senator Cullom remarks in his memoirs that Harrison had "a very cold, distant temperament," and that "he was probably the most unsatisfactory President we ever had in the White House to those who must necessarily come into personal contact with him." Cullom is of the opinion that "jealousy was probably at the bottom of their disaffection," but it appears to be certain that at this time Blaine had renounced all ambition to be President and energetically discouraged any movement in favor of his candidacy. On February 6, 1892, he wrote to the chairman of the Republican National Committee that he was not a candidate and that his name would not go before the convention. President Harrison went ahead with his arrangements for renomination, with no sign of opposition from Blaine. Then suddenly, on the eve of the convention, something happened—exactly what has yet to be discovered—which caused Blaine to resign the office of Secretary of State. It soon became known that Blaine's name would be presented, although he had not announced himself as a candidate. Blaine's health was then broken, and it was impossible that he could have imagined that his action would defeat Harrison. It could not have been meant for more than a protest. Harrison was renominated on the first ballot with Blaine a poor second in the poll.
In the Democratic convention, Cleveland, too, was renominated on the first ballot, in the face of a bitter and outspoken opposition. The solid vote of his own State, New York, was polled against him under the unit rule, and went in favor of David B. Hill. But even with this large block of votes to stand upon, Hill was able to get only 113 votes in all, while Cleveland received 616. Genuine acceptance of his leadership, however, did not at all correspond with this vote. Cleveland had come out squarely against free silver, and at least eight of the Democratic state conventions—in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina, and Texas—came out just as definitely in favor of free silver. But even delegates who were opposed to Cleveland, and who listened with glee to excoriating speeches against him forthwith, voted for him as the candidate of greatest popular strength. They then solaced their feelings by nominating a free silver man for Vice-President, who was made the more acceptable by his opposition to civil service reform. The ticket thus straddled the main issue; and the platform was similarly ambiguous. It denounced the Silver Purchase Act as "a cowardly makeshift" which should be repealed, and it declared in favor of "the coinage of both gold and silver without discrimination," with the provision that "the dollar unit of coinage of both metals must be of equal intrinsic and exchangeable value." The Prohibition party in that year came out for the "free and unlimited coinage of silver and gold." A more significant sign of the times was the organization of the "People's party," which held its first convention and nominated the old Greenback leader, James B. Weaver of Iowa, on a free silver platform.
The campaign was accompanied by labor disturbances of unusual extent and violence. Shortly after the meeting of the national conventions, a contest began between the powerful Amalgamated Association of Steel and Iron Workers, the strongest of the trade-unions, and the Carnegie Company over a new wage scale introduced in the Homestead mills. The strike began on June 29, 1892, and local authority at once succumbed to the strikers. In anticipation of this eventuality, the company had arranged to have three hundred Pinkerton men act as guards. They arrived in Pittsburgh during the night of the 5th of July and embarked on barges which were towed up the river to Homestead. As they approached, the strikers turned out to meet them, and an engagement ensued in which men were killed or wounded on both sides and the Pinkerton men were defeated and driven away. For a short time, the strikers were in complete possession of the town and of the company's property. They preserved order fairly well but kept a strict watch that no strike breakers should approach or attempt to resume work. The government of Pennsylvania was, for a time, completely superseded in that region by the power of the Amalgamated Association, until a large force of troops entered Homestead on the 12th of July and remained in possession of the place for several months. The contest between the strikers and the company caused great excitement throughout the country, and a foreign anarchist from New York attempted to assassinate Mr. Frick, the managing director of the company. Though this strike was caused by narrow differences concerning only the most highly paid classes of workers, it continued for some months and then ended in the complete defeat of the union.
On the same day that the militia arrived at Homestead, a more bloody and destructive conflict occurred in the Coeur d'Alene district of Idaho, where the workers in the silver mines were on strike. Nonunion men were imported and put into some of the mines. The strikers, armed with rifles and dynamite, thereupon attacked the nonunion men and drove them off, but many lives were lost in the struggle and much property was destroyed. The strikers proved too strong for any force which state authority could muster, but upon the call of the Governor, President Harrison ordered federal troops to the scene and under martial law order was soon restored.
Further evidence of popular unrest was given in August by a strike of the switchmen in the Buffalo railway yards, which paralyzed traffic until several thousand state troops were put on guard. About the same time, there were outbreaks in the Tennessee coal districts in protest against the employment of convict labor in the mines. Bands of strikers seized the mines, and in some places turned loose the convicts and in other places escorted them back to prison. As a result of this disturbance, during 1892 state troops were permanently stationed in the mining districts, and eventually the convicts were put back at labor in the mines.
Such occurrences infused bitterness into the campaign of 1892 and strongly affected the election returns. Weaver carried Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, and Nevada, and he got one electoral vote in Oregon and in North Dakota; but even if these twenty-two electoral votes had gone to Harrison, he would still have been far behind Cleveland, who received 277 electoral votes out of a total of 444. Harrison ran only about 381,000 behind Cleveland in the popular vote, but in four States, the Democrats had nominated no electors and their votes had contributed to the poll of over a million for Weaver. The Democratic victory was so sweeping that it gained the Senate as well as the House, and now for the first time a Democratic President was in accord with both branches of Congress. It was soon to appear, however, that this party accord was merely nominal.
CHAPTER IX. THE FREE SILVER REVOLT
The avenging consequences of the Silver Purchase Act moved so rapidly that when John Griffin Carlisle took office as Secretary of the Treasury in 1893, the gold reserve had fallen to $100,982,410—only $982,410 above the limit indicated by the Act of 1882—and the public credit was shaken by the fact that it was an open question whether the government obligation to pay a dollar was worth so much or only one half so much. The latter interpretation, indeed, seemed impending. The new Secretary's first step was to adopt the makeshift expedient of his predecessors. He appealed to the banks for gold and backed up by patriotic exhortation from the press, he did obtain almost twenty-five millions in gold in exchange for notes. But as even more notes drawing out the gold were presented for redemption, the Secretary's efforts were no more successful than carrying water in a sieve.
Of the notes presented for redemption during March and April, nearly one-half were treasury notes of 1890, which by law the Secretary might redeem "in gold or silver coin at his discretion." The public was now alarmed by a rumor that Secretary Carlisle, who while in Congress had voted for free silver, would resort to silver payments on this class of notes, and regarded his statements as being noncommittal on the point. Popular alarm was, to some extent, dispelled by a statement from President Cleveland, on the 23rd of April, declaring flatly and unmistakably that redemption in gold would be maintained. But the financial situation throughout the country was such that nothing could stave off the impending panic. Failures were increasing in number, some large firms broke under the strain, and the final stroke came on the 5th of May when the National Cordage Company went into bankruptcy. As often happens in the history of panics, the event was trivial in comparison with the consequences. This company was of a type that is the reproach of American jurisprudence—the marauding corporation. In the very month in which it failed, it declared a large cash dividend. Its stock, which had sold at 147 in January, fell in May to below ten dollars a share. Though the Philadelphia and Reading Railway Company, which failed in February, had a capital of $40,000,000 and a debt of more than $125,000,000, the market did not break completely under that strain. The National Cordage had a capital of $20,000,000 and liabilities of only $10,000,000, but its collapse brought down with it the whole structure of credit. A general movement of liquidation set in, which throughout the West was so violent as to threaten general bankruptcy. Nearly all of the national bank failures were in the West and South, and still more extensive was the wreck of state banks and private banks. It had been the practice of country banks, while firmly maintaining local rates, to keep the bulk of their resources on deposit with city banks at two per cent. This practice now proved to be a fatal entanglement to many institutions. There were instances in which country banks were forced to suspend, though cash resources were actually on the way to them from depository centers.*
* Out of 158 national bank failures during the year, 153 were in the West and South. In addition there went down 172 state banks, 177 private banks, 47 savings banks, 13 loan and trust companies, and 6 mortgage companies.
Even worse than the effect of these numerous failures on the business situation was the derangement which occurred in the currency supply. The circulating medium was almost wholly composed of bank notes, treasury notes, and treasury certificates issued against gold and silver in the Treasury, coin being little in use except as fractional currency. Bank notes were essentially treasury certificates issued upon deposits of government bonds. In effect, the circulating medium was composed of government securities reduced to handy bits. Usually, a bank panic tends to bring note issues into rapid circulation for what they will fetch, but in this new situation, people preferred to impound the notes, which they knew to be good whatever happened so long as the Government held out. Private hoarding became so general that currency tended to disappear. Between September 30, 1892 and October 31, 1893, the amount of deposits in the national banks shrank over $496,000,000. Trade was reduced to making use of the methods of primitive barter, though the emergency was met to some extent by the use of checks and clearinghouse certificates. In many New England manufacturing towns, for example, checks for use in trade were drawn in denominations from one dollar up to twenty. In some cases, corporations paid off their employees in checks drawn on their own treasurers which served as local currency. In some Southern cities, clearing-house certificates in small denominations were issued for general circulation—in Birmingham, Alabama, for sums as small as twenty-five cents. It is worth noting that a premium was paid as readily for notes as for gold; indeed, the New York "Financial Chronicle" reported that the premium on currency was from two to three per cent, while the premium on gold was only one and one half per cent. Before the panic had ended, the extraordinary spectacle was presented of gold coins serving as a medium of trade because treasury notes and bank notes were still hoarded. These peculiarities of the situation had a deep effect upon the popular attitude towards the measures recommended by the Administration.
While this devastating panic was raging over all the country, President Cleveland was beset by troubles that were both public and personal. He was under heavy pressure from the office seekers. They came singly or in groups and under the escort of Congressmen, some of whom performed such service several times a day. The situation became so intolerable that on the 8th of May President Cleveland issued an executive order setting forth that "a due regard for public duty, which must be neglected if present conditions continue, and an observance of the limitations placed upon human endurance, oblige me to decline, from and after this date, all personal interviews with those seeking office."
According to the Washington papers, this sensible decision was received with a tremendous outburst of indignation. The President was denounced for shutting his doors upon the people who had elected him, and he was especially severely criticized for the closing sentence of his order stating that "applicants for office will only prejudice their prospects by repeated importunity and by remaining at Washington to await results." This order was branded as an arbitrary exercise of power compelling free American citizens to choose exile or punishment, and was featured in the newspapers all over the country. The hubbub became sufficient to extract from Cleveland's private secretary an explanatory statement pointing out that in the President's day a regular allotment of time was made for congressional and business callers other than the office seekers, for whom a personal interview was of no value since the details of their cases could not be remembered. "What was said in behalf of one man was driven out of mind by the remarks of the next man in line," whereas testimonials sent through the mails went on file and received due consideration. "So many hours a day having been given up to the reception of visitors, it has been necessary, in order to keep up with the current work, for the President to keep at his desk from early in the morning into the small hours of the next morning. Now that may do for a week or for a month, but there is a limit to human physical endurance, and it has about been reached."
Such were the distracting conditions under which President Cleveland had to deal with the tremendous difficulties of national import which beset him. There were allusions in his inaugural address which showed how keenly he felt the weight of his many responsibilities, and there is a touch of pathos in his remark that he took "much comfort in remembering that my countrymen are just and generous, and in the assurance that they will not condemn those who by sincere devotion to their service deserve their forbearance and approval." This hope of Cleveland's was eventually justified, but not until after his public career had ended; meanwhile he had to undergo a storm of censure so blasting that it was more like a volcanic rain of fire and lava than any ordinary tempest, however violent.
On the 30th of June, President Cleveland called an extra session of Congress for the 7th of August "to the end that the people may be relieved through legislation from present and impending danger and distress." In recent years, the fact has come to light that his health was at that time in a condition so precarious that it would have caused wild excitement had the truth become known, for only his life stood in the way of a free silver President. On the same day on which he issued his call for the extra session, President Cleveland left for New York ostensibly for a yachting trip, but while the yacht was steaming slowly up the East River, he was in the hands of surgeons who removed the entire left upper jaw. On the 5th of July they performed another operation in the same region for the removal of any tissues which might possibly have been infected. These operations were so completely successful that the President was fitted with an artificial jaw of vulcanized rubber which enabled him to speak without any impairment of the strength and clearness of his voice.* Immediately after this severe trial, which he bore with calm fortitude, Cleveland had to battle with the raging silver faction, strong in its legislative position through its control of the Senate.
* For details, see New York "Times," Sept. 21, 1917.
When Congress met, the only legislation which the President had to propose was the repeal of the Silver Purchase Act, although he remarked that "tariff reform has lost nothing of its immediate and permanent importance and must in the near future engage the attention of Congress." It was a natural inference, therefore, that the Administration had no financial policy beyond putting a stop to treasury purchases of silver, and there was a vehement outcry against an action which seemed to strike against the only visible source of additional currency. President Cleveland was even denounced as a tool of Wall Street, and the panic was declared to be the result of a plot of British and American bankers against silver.
Nevertheless, on the 28th of August, the House passed a repeal bill by a vote of 240 to 110. There was a long and violent struggle in the Senate, where such representative anomalies existed that Nevada with a population of 45,761 had the same voting power as New York with 5,997,853. Hence, at first, it looked as if the passage of a repeal bill might be impossible. Finally, the habit of compromise prevailed and a majority agreement was reached postponing the date of repeal for twelve or eighteen months during which the treasury stock of silver bullion was to be turned into coin. Cleveland made it known that he would not consent to such an arrangement, and the issue was thereafter narrowed to that of unconditional repeal of the Silver Purchase Act. The Senators from the silver-mining States carried on an obstinate filibuster and refused to allow the question to come to a vote, until their arrogance was gradually toned down by the discovery that the liberty to dump silver on the Treasury had become a precarious mining asset. The law provided for the purchase of 4,500,000 ounces a month, "or, so much thereof as may be offered at the market price." Secretary Carlisle found that offers were frequently higher in price than New York and London quotations, and by rejecting them he made a considerable reduction in the amount purchased. Moreover, the silver ranks began to divide on the question of policy. The Democratic silver Senators wished to enlarge the circulating medium by increasing the amount of coinage, and they did not feel the same interest in the mere stacking of bullion in the Treasury that possessed the mining camp Senators on the Republican side. When these two elements separated on the question of policy, the representatives of the mining interests recognized the hopelessness of preventing a vote upon the proposed repeal of the silver purchase act. On the 30th of October, the Senate passed the repeal with no essential difference from the House bill, and the bill became law on November 1, 1893.
But although the repeal bill stopped the silver drain upon the Treasury, it did not relieve the empty condition to which the Treasury had been reduced. It was manifest that, if the gold standard was to be maintained, the Treasury stock of gold would have to be replenished. The Specie Resumption Act of 1875 authorized the sale of bonds "to prepare and provide for" redemption of notes in coin, but the only classes of bonds which it authorized were those at four per cent payable after thirty years, four and a half per cent payable after fifteen years, and five per cent payable after ten years from date. For many years, the Government had been able to borrow at lower rates but had in vain besought Congress to grant the necessary authority. The Government now appealed once more to Congress for authority to issue bonds at a lower rate of interest. Carlisle, the Secretary of the Treasury, addressed a letter to the Senate committee of finance, setting forth the great saving that would be thus effected. Then ensued what must be acknowledged to be a breakdown in constitutional government. Immediately after a committee meeting on January 16, 1894, the Chairman, Senator Voorhees, issued a public statement in which he said that "it would be trifling with a very grave affair to pretend that new legislation concerning the issue of bonds can be accomplished at this time, and in the midst of present elements and parties in public life, with elaborate, extensive, and practically indefinite debate." Therefore, he held that "it will be wiser, safer and better for the financial and business interests of the country to rely upon existing law." This plainly amounted to a public confession that Congress was so organized as to be incapable of providing for the public welfare.
Carlisle decided to sell the ten-year class of bonds, compensating for their high interest rate by exacting such a premium as would reduce to three per cent the actual yield to holders. On January 17, 1894, he offered bonds to the amount of fifty millions, but bids came in so slowly that he found it necessary to visit New York to make a personal appeal to a number of leading bankers to exert themselves to prevent the failure of the sale. As a result of these efforts, the entire issue was sold at a premium of $8,660,917, and the treasury stock of gold was brought up to $107,440,802.
Then followed what is probably the most curious chapter in the financial history of modern times. Only gold was accepted by the Treasury in payment of bonds; but gold could be obtained by offering treasury notes for redemption. The Act of 1878 expressly provided that, when redeemed, these notes "shall not be retired, canceled, or destroyed, but they shall be reissued and paid out again and kept in circulation." The Government, as President Cleveland pointed out, was "forced to redeem without redemption and pay without acquittance." These conditions set up against the Treasury an endless chain by which note redemptions drained out the gold as fast as bond sales poured it in. In a message to Congress on January 28, 1895, President Cleveland pointed out that the Treasury had redeemed more than $300,000,000 of its notes in gold, and yet these notes were all still outstanding. Appeals to Congress to remedy the situation proved absolutely fruitless, and the only choice left to the President was to continue pumping operations or abandon the gold standard, as the silver faction in Congress desired. By February 8, 1895, the stock of gold in the Treasury was down to $41,340,181. The Administration met this sharp emergency by a contract with a New York banking syndicate which agreed to deliver 3,500,000 ounces of standard gold coin, at least one half to be obtained in Europe. The syndicate was, moreover, to "exert all financial influence and make all legitimate efforts to protect the Treasury of the United States against the withdrawals of gold pending the complete performance of the contract."
The replenishing of the Treasury by this contract was, however, only a temporary relief. By January 6, 1896, the gold reserve was down to $61,251,710. The Treasury now offered $100,000,000 of the four per cent bonds for sale and put forth special efforts to make subscription popular. Blanks for bids were displayed in all post-offices, a circular letter was sent to all national banks, the movement was featured in the newspapers, and the result was that 4635 bids were received coming from forty-seven States and Territories, and amounting to $526,970,000. This great oversubscription powerfully upheld the public credit and, thereafter, the position of the Treasury remained secure; but altogether, $262,000,000 in bonds had been sold to maintain its solvency.
Consideration of the management of American foreign relations during this period does not enter into the scope of this book, but the fact should be noted that the anxieties of public finance were aggravated by the menace of war.* In the boundary dispute between British Guiana and Venezuela, President Cleveland proposed arbitration, but this was refused by the British Government. President Cleveland, whose foreign policy was always vigorous and decisive, then sent a message to Congress on December 17, 1895, describing the British position as an infringement of the Monroe Doctrine and recommending that a commission should be appointed by the United States to conduct an independent inquiry to determine the boundary line in dispute. He significantly remarked that "in making these recommendations I am fully alive to the responsibility incurred and keenly realize all the consequences that may follow." The possibility of conflict, thus hinted, was averted when Great Britain agreed to arbitration, but meanwhile, American securities in great numbers were thrown upon the market through sales of European account and added to the financial strain.
* See "The Path of Empire," by Carl Russell Fish (in "The Chronicles of America").
The invincible determination which President Cleveland showed in this memorable struggle to maintain the gold standard will always remain his securest title to renown, but the admiration due to his constancy of soul cannot be extended to his handling of the financial problem. It appears, from his own account, that he was not well advised as to the extent and nature of his financial resources. He did not know until February 7, 1895, when Mr. J. P. 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 passage.
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.
CHAPTER X. LAW AND ORDER UPHELD
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 accomplished.
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 Senate.
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 chamber."
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 thirty-four.
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 them."
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 failure.
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 politicians.
* 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 dropped.
* 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.