Abbildungen der Seite

plank at Kansas City was a concession to consistency, a ruse to forestall carping criticism of the inevitable candidate. The protective tariff was not an issue, having received at Kansas City only three lines. In the minds neither of laymen, business men nor laborers did Prosperity seem to be in jeopardy because of a prospective attempt to debate our future relations to the Philippines.

The people were undoubtedly prepared to make Expansion the paramount issue, for they were still imbued with the notion that momentous national decisions are made only after honest debate and deliberate judgment.

The Philadelphia convention did not dispel the expectation that Expansion would be the paramount issue. The administration press could not withhold expressions of dissatisfaction that the platform was cut and dried, and made such meagre mention of the all-important questions forced upon us by the Spanish War. The hoisting of the flag of the Gold Standard and Prosperity was understood to be pure stratagem and an attempt to force the opposition to a defensive campaign.

At the time the Kansas City convention met, the following discontented elements were ready to vote and work against McKinley's endorsement: the Populist-Democratic party, which polled 6,300,000 votes in 1896; the Populist party, which polled 246,000 votes in 1896; the Prohibitionists, who polled 145,000 in 1896 and 262,000 in 1892; the two Socialist parties, who had cast 100,000 votes in the gubernatorial contests of 1898 and 1899; the Gold Democrats, who in 1896 had cast 134,000 independent votes. In addition there was within as well as without the party vigorous and bitter opposition to the canteen, to the civil service record of McKinley, to the laissez faire trust policy, and to the so-called capitalistic tendencies of the party, and finally a very general opposition to the Porto Rican tariff and the Philippine policy. Against the administration were arrayed on some one of these counts such men as Boutwell, Harrison, Cleveland, Reed, Harmon, Wellington, Godkin, Schurz, Hoar, Hale, Heatwole, and Presidents Eliot, Hadley, Rogers, etc., and such influential organs as the Chicago Times-Herald, the Boston Herald, the Philadelphia Ledger and the Springfield Republican.

The Kansas City convention named as paramount the one issue on which all of these opposition elements were united. Bryan's Indianapolis speech appeared to cement the union. Briefly he called attention to those inconsistencies and mistakes of the Republican party which the opposition elements in turn condemned. He appealed to the consciences of Americans and pleaded for a people which was fighting now, as we in 1776 fought, for independence. He invoked the noble traditions of our nation; he appealed to our sense of fairness; he quoted from the fathers of the Republican party the declaration which awakes a sympathetic response-"Selfgovernment is the natural government of man." He held up to view as our destiny "a republic applying in practice and proclaiming to the world the self-evident truth that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” His speech was accepted with enthusiasm as designating in masterly manner the paramount issue of the campaign.

But the supremacy of “ Expansion ” was brief. “ Prosperity" soon took its place. The procedure by which the substitution was made is most instructive. First, the fact of Prosperity was demonstrated and elaborated; secondly, the fact of apathy as to the fate of Prosperity was shown; thirdly, the danger to Prosperity was shouted; fourthly, the paramountcy of Prosperity was proved; and finally the dependence of Prosperity upon the return of McKinley was established.

The first step was easy. So general was Prosperity and so strikingly obvious, that the administration propaganda from convention to election day, in the platform, on the stump, and through the pamphlet and official statistical publications was successfully carried on in the language of superla

[ocr errors]

tives. Trade, imports, exports, balances, money supply, manufactures, population, safety deposits, insurance, mortgages discharged, capital ready to invest, coal and iron production, prices and wages-everything was the biggest it had ever been.

Nor was it difficult to prove that there was universal apathy. The Republican party could tell from the campaign contributions; it could prove it further by a long list of statesmen, scholars, business men and labor leaders who were hesitating whether to give the party a half-hearted support or whole-hearted opposition. This apathy was not as to the fate of the Philippines, the Porto Rican tariff, the theory that the constitution follows the flag or the future of American ideals. It was apathy as to the fate of Prosperity. The Republican press proved what everybody knew that in July the people were not afraid that Prosperity was jeopardized by the paramountcy of Expansion.

The fact that Prosperity was in imminent danger was next established. It was pointed out between June and September that the commission to the Republican party to make ' "every American dollar a gold dollar or its equivalent" had been only partially executed. A Democratic executive could undo the work of the administration. Bryan would certainly take advantage of the omission or oversight or failure of the Gold Standard act of March, 1900.

Whereas the menace in 1896 was only to a prospective prosperity, the menace in 1900 was to a universally existent prosperity.

So vividly was the danger presented that the Republican National Committee alone was able to collect over $5,000,000 to teach the public that the election of Bryan would shatter Prosperity. So earnestly was this taught that many large

1 Secretary Gage, July 12: “I am satisfied that the new law establishes the gold standard beyond assault, unless it is deliberately violated.” Compare with statements of August 25, and the succeeding debate with Mr. Schurz.—Daily papers, September 13.

* Platform.

manufacturing establishments gave notice to their employees that operations would be suspended the morning after Bryan's election. Contracts were made conditional upon the rejection of the candidate of the forces of chaotic evil at the polls. So universal was the opposition that Democratic orators and journals were compelled to assume the defensive on the paramount proposition of their opponents.

The paramountcy of Prosperity was never in question after Bryan and his party turned from the issue on which they could unite all of the opposition elements, to debate the issues on which the administration was strongest. As was to be expected, there was defection in the opposition ranks and a cementing of the various discontented elements with the party of Prosperity. It is not improbable that the Democratic party lost votes with every speech made after the Indianapolis meeting. Certain it is that Expansion or Imperialism degenerated from a paramount issue involving the future of our political ideals, to a subsidiary theme in a chorus of captious criticisms upon the party in power. Indianapolis, Bryanism scorned to discuss the dollar. In Madison Square, Bryanism in affiliation with Crokerism, discussed the dollar as at Washington Park economic questions began and closed an hour's talk. On questions of dollars and cents Democracy should have known that people welcome economic experiments, not when on the flood tide of prosperity, but rather when business conditions invite to change.'

It was not Bryan, it was not Bryanism, nor was it any gross materialism of the American people which, at this time of momentous crisis, shifted the issue from Expansion to Prosperity. All the conditions were present so far as the people were concerned, to justify and compel a free and full

1 Governor Roosevelt, St. Paul Speech.

· Dr. F. A. Cleveland, of the University 'of Pennsylvania, has worked out an interesting diagram in which is shown the remarkable coincidence since 1820 of business depressions and administration reverses, and business buoyancy and

discussion of the desirability of an Asiatic colonial policy. This discussion was averted, perhaps for all time, perhaps only temporarily, by the operation of the machinery of party organization, which in the interest of party, took from the American people the opportunity to decide its future attitude toward colonization in general, and toward the Philippine Islands in particular.

Two organizations, two armies of rival politicians, were struggling for the privilege of naming the paramount issue. Just as in war, the probabilities of success lay with the best equipped, and best organized. In equipment and organization the Republican party was in every respect superior. Within the party there was unanimity of thought and action; all endorsed without qualification the stratagem of the leaders as expressed in the Philadelphia platform. Within the Democratic ranks there were schisms and jealousies, chronic objectors and “traitors."

traitors." The stratagem of the leaders at Kansas City was at the outset discredited by the debate over the silver plank. It was an aggregation of elements differing in party traditions, and holding in common only the belief that Expansion or Imperialism must be made the paramount issue.

The Republican party represented the moneyed interests of the country. The fear of an unsettling of the currency, and of injury to large corporations from Bryan's proposed anti-trust legislation, brought out liberal contributions to its campaign fund, giving the Republican National Committee plenty of ready money for all legitimate means of advancing its cause such as paying traveling expenses of speakers, printing and circulating campaign literature, and making preliminary polls, not to mention the passes supplied by railroad corporations for sending home to vote men living in closely contested states.

The Democratic party, on the other hand, represented the interests of the "middle and lower" classes, and was compelled to seek its campaign contributions from these poorer

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »