The Cleveland Era - A Chronicle of the New Order in Politics, Volume 44 in The - Chronicles of America Series
by Henry Jones Ford
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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" (1909).

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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