The United States Since The Civil War
Charles Ramsdell Lingley

Part 6 out of 9

Further to complicate the financial trials of the burdensome mid-nineties,
the depletion of the gold reserve demanded immediate attention. During
the closing months of President Harrison's administration, in fact, the
Secretary of the Treasury had ordered the preparation of plates for
engraving an issue of bonds by which to borrow sufficient gold to
replenish the redemption fund. By a personal appeal to New York bankers,
however, he was able to exchange paper for gold and so keep the level
above the one hundred million mark, and when Cleveland succeeded to
the chair, the reserve was $100,982,410. In the meantime the scarcity
of gold continued, and the combination of large expenditures and
slender income severely embarrassed the government in its attempts to
obtain a sufficient supply of gold to keep the reserve intact. The
administration, indeed, was all but helpless. Paper presented for
redemption in gold had to be paid out to meet expenses and was then
turned in for gold again. Hence, as Cleveland ruefully reminded
Congress, "we have an endless chain in operation constantly depleting
the Treasury's gold and never near a final rest." On April 22, 1893,
the reserve fell momentarily below $100,000,000 and later in the year
it was apparent that the reduction was likely to become permanent.
By January, 1894, the reserve was less than $70,000,000, while
$450,000,000 in paper which might be presented for redemption were in
actual circulation. Only one resource seemed available--borrowing gold.
The treasury therefore sold bonds to the value of $50,000,000. Even
this, however, did not remedy the ill. Bankers obtained gold to
purchase bonds by presenting paper currency to the government for
redemption. Relief was temporary. On the last day of May the reserve
amounted to only $79,000,000; in November, to $59,000,000. Another
issue of bonds was resorted to in November, but the results were not
better than before. At the same time the Pullman strike during the
summer months, the Wilson-Gorman tariff fiasco and an unfortunate
harvest seemed to indicate that man and nature were determined to make
1894 a year of ill-omen.

By February, 1895, the treasury found itself confronted with a reserve
of only $41,000,000. It seemed useless to attempt borrowing under the
usual conditions, and Cleveland therefore resorted to a new device. A
contract was made with J.P. Morgan and a group of bankers for the
purchase of 3,500,000 ounces of gold to be paid for with United States
four per cent. bonds. In order to protect the reserve from a renewed
drain, the bankers agreed that at least half the gold should be
obtained abroad, and they promised to exert all their influence to
prevent withdrawals of gold from the treasury while the contract was
being filled. The terms of the contract were favorable to the bankers,
but the President defended the agreement on the ground that the
promise to protect the reserve entitled the bankers to a favorable
bargain. The fact, however, that the Morgan Company was able to market
the bonds with the public and make a large profit, increased the
demand that the administration sell directly to the people and make
the profit itself. In January, 1896, occurred a fourth sale--to the
public, this time--and 4,640 bids were received, for a total several
times greater than the $100,000,000 called for. By this time, business
conditions were improving, confidence was restored among the financial
classes and gold again began to flow out of hiding and into the
treasury. The endless chain was broken.

The denunciation which Cleveland received for the untoward monetary and
industrial events of his administration was unusual even for American
politics in the middle nineties. Such extreme silver men as Senator
Stewart of Nevada declared that Cleveland's second administration was
probably the worst administration that ever occurred in this or any
other country; that he was a bold and unscrupulous stock-jobber; that
he deliberately caused the panic of 1893 and that he sent the Venezuela
message in order to divert the attention of the people from the silver
question. The New York _World_ described the transaction between the
government and the Morgan Company as a "bunco" game, and charged that
Cleveland had dishonest, dishonorable and immoral reasons for bringing
about the transaction and that he did it for a "consideration."
Representative W.J. Bryan, who belonged to the President's party and
who ordinarily was chivalrous to his opponents, declared that Cleveland
could no more escape unharmed from association with the Morgan
syndicate than he could expect to escape asphyxiation if he locked
himself up in a room and turned on the gas. The Democratic party, he
thought, should feel toward its leader as a confiding ward would feel
toward a guardian who had squandered a rich estate, or as a passenger
would feel toward a trainman who opened a switch and precipitated a


The standard works, mentioned under Chapter V, by Dewey, Hepburn and
Noyes continue valuable. The attitude of Hayes and of succeeding
Presidents is found in J.D. Richardson, _Messages and Papers of the
Presidents_; F.W. Taussig, _The Silver Situation in the United States_
(1892), is concise; _Political Science Quarterly_, III, 226, discusses
the surplus revenue; _Quarterly Journal of Economics_, III, 436, on the
direct tax; W.H. Glasson, _Federal Military Pensions_, has already been
mentioned. W.J. Lauck, _Causes of the Panic of 1893_ (1907), lays the
blame for the industrial distress of 1893 wholly on the silver law of
1890. On the gold reserve, consult Grover Cleveland, _Presidential
Problems_; D.R. Dewey, _National Problems_ (1907); _Political Science
Quarterly_, X, 573; and _Quarterly Journal of Economics_, XIII, 204.
"The Silver Debate of 1890," in _Journal of Political Economy_, I, 535,
contains a detailed account of the discussion in Congress. W.J. Bryan,
_First Battle_ (1897), should be consulted.

* * * * *

[1] According to the principle known as Gresham's law, bad money tends
to drive out good; or overvalued money to drive out undervalued money.
If the face value of a coin is more than its worth as bullion, it is
"overvalued." Thus, if coins of equal face value, but of different
bullion value, circulate side by side, there will be a tendency for the
possessors of the coins to pass on the currency with the smaller
bullion value and to withdraw the others for sale as bullion and for
use in the arts.

[2] Above, p. 164.

[3] Above, pp. 238-240.

[4] The law remained in force about three years. During that interval
nearly $156,000,000 worth of silver bullion was purchased with the new
treasury notes. The government began retiring these notes in 1900.

[5] The call for the extra session, together with news of the
suspension of free-coinage in India, sent the bullion price of silver
down twenty-one cents per ounce in two weeks. The President was
seriously handicapped at this time by a cancerous growth in the jaw,
necessitating an operation, news of which was withheld from the public
for fear of its ill effect on the financial situation. Cf. _Saturday
Evening Post_, 22 Sept., 1917.

[6] Above, p. 274.



The political situation in 1896, when the parties began to prepare for
the presidential election, was more complex than it had been since
1860. The repeal, in 1893, of the purchase clause of the Sherman silver
act had divided the Democrats into factions; the financial and
industrial distress in the same year had been widely attributed to fear
of Democratic misgovernment; the Wilson-Gorman tariff act of 1894 had
discredited the party and aroused ill-feeling between the President and
Congress; the Pullman strike and the use of the injunction had aroused
bitterness in the labor element against the administration; the income
tax decision of 1895 had done much to shake popular confidence in the
Supreme Court; the Hawaiian and Venezuelan incidents had caused minor
dissent in some quarters; and the bond sales had made Cleveland
intensely unpopular in the West and South. The Democratic party was
demoralized and leaderless. The Republicans were better off because
they had been out of power during the years of dissension and panic,
but they had been without a leader since the death of Blaine in 1893
and were far from united in regard to the most pressing issues. Indeed,
the sectional differences in both parties, and the unexpected strength
of the Populist movement caused no little anxiety among the political
leaders. And finally, the volume and character of the currency was
still undetermined. The Democrats had divided on the question. The
Republicans were almost as little united; they had played politics in
passing the Sherman silver act and three years later had assisted a
President of the opposite party in accomplishing the repeal of its most
important provision. From the standpoint of the silver supporters
neither party organization was to be trusted. The outstanding political
questions of 1896, therefore, were whether the supporters of silver
could capture the machinery of one of the parties and whether the other
unsettled issues could ride into the campaign on the strength of the
financial agitation. The answers to these questions gave the campaign
and election its peculiar significance.

The background of 1896 is to be found in the South and West, where the
farmers' alliances and the Populist party continued their success in
arousing and directing the ambitions of the discontented classes. In
1892, it will be remembered, the Populists had cast more than a million
ballots and had chosen twenty-two presidential electors, two senators,
and eleven representatives. In 1894, at the time of the congressional
election, they had increased their voting strength more than forty per
cent., and had elected six senators and six members of the House,
besides several hundreds of state officials. In the Senate it happened
that the two great parties had been almost equally strong, after the
election of 1894, so that the Populist group had held the balance of
power. The insistence of the South and West that Congress do something
further for silver had not lessened. A measure providing for the
coinage of a portion of the silver bullion in the treasury had been
defeated in 1894 only through the President's veto. Indeed the only
hope of the East and of the supporters of the gold standard was the
unflinching determination of the head of a party to which the East and
the gold supporters were, in the main opposed.

The growing enthusiasm for silver which was sweeping over the South and
West and rapidly developing into something resembling frenzy was
difficult for the more stolid East to comprehend. Not merely the
politician, but the man on the street and in the store, the
school-teacher, the farmer and the laborer, in those portions of the
country, fell to discussing the virtues of silver as currency and the
effect of a greater volume of circulating medium upon prices and
prosperity. The two metals became personified in the minds of the
people. Gold was the symbol of cruel, snobbish plutocracy; silver of
upright democracy. Gold deserted the country in its hour of need;
silver remained at home to minister to the wants of the people. Such
arguments as those presented in _Coin's Financial School_, published in
1894, brought financial policy within the circle of the emotions of its
readers even if they did not satisfy the more critical student of
monetary problems. This influential little volume, written by W.H.
Harvey, acted as a hand-book of free coinage, cleverly setting forth
the major arguments for the increased use of silver and bringing
forward objections which were triumphantly demolished. Simple
illustrations enforced the lessons taught by its pages: a wood-cut of a
cripple with one leg indicated how handicapped the country was without
the free coinage of two metals; in another, Senator Sherman and
President Cleveland were depicted digging out the silver portion of the
foundations of a house which had been erected on a stable basis of both
gold and silver; in a third, western farmers were seen industriously
stuffing fodder into a cow which capitalists were milking for the
benefit of New York and New England.[1] With the enthusiasm and the
sincerity of the early crusaders, the people assembled in ten thousand
schoolhouses to debate the absorbing subject of the currency. Indeed
the South and West had become convinced that the miseries inflicted
upon mankind by war, pestilence and famine had been less "cruel,
unpitying, and unrelenting than the persistent and remorseless
exaction" which the contraction of the volume of the currency had made
upon society. Low prices, the stagnation of industry, empty and idle
stores, workshops and factories, the increase of crime and
bankruptcy--all were laid at the door of the gold standard.

The East looked upon the rising in the West at first with amusement,
and was quite ready to accept the diagnosis of a western newspaper man,
quoted by Peck in his _Twenty Years of the Republic_:

What's the matter with Kansas?

We all know; yet here we are at it again. We have an old
moss-back Jacksonian who snorts and howls because there is a
bath-tub in the State House. We are running that old jay for
Governor.... We have raked the ash-heap of failure in the State
and found an old human hoop-skirt who has failed as a business
man, who has failed as an editor, who has failed as a preacher,
and we are going to run him for Congressman-at-large.... Then we
have discovered a kid without a law practice and have decided to
run him for Attorney-General.

Later the East looked upon tendencies in the West with more concern:
Roosevelt, although admitting the honesty of the Populists, characterized
their ignorance as "abysmal"; others were more inclined to doubt their
sincerity; their conventions were supposed to be made up of cranks and
unsexed women; and their principles were looked upon as "wild and crazy

In fact it was no simple task to distinguish between the legitimate
grievances and ambitions of the westerners, and their eccentricities
and errors. Nor was this difficulty lessened by the reputation with
which some of the proponents of silver were justly or unjustly
credited. "Sockless Jerry" Simpson and Mrs. Lease were among them--the
Mrs. Lease to whom was ascribed the remark "Kansas had better stop
raising corn and begin raising hell!"[2] Benjamin R. Tillman was
another--a rough, forceful character, leader of the poor whites and
small farmers of South Carolina, organizer of the "wool hats" against
the "silk hats" and the "kid gloves"--Governor of the state and later
member of the federal Senate. Although a Democrat, he was thoroughly at
odds with Cleveland, and publicly declared it was his ambition to stick
his pitchfork into the President's sides.[3] Richard P. Bland, of
Missouri, had the disadvantage of having been one of the earliest of
the silver supporters, since he had initiated the bill which resulted
in the Bland-Allison act, and was looked upon in the East as a
thorough-going, free-silver radical. Governor Altgeld, of Illinois,
leader of the Democrats of that state from 1892 to 1896, was a
successful lawyer who was looked upon by his friends as a
liberal-minded humanitarian, the friend of

The mocked and the scorned and the wounded,
the lame and the poor,

whose sympathies with the laboring classes had given him the support of
the reformers and the wage earners. But his pardon of the Haymarket
anarchists and his attitude during the Pullman strike had led the East
to regard him as a dangerous revolutionist and an enemy to society.[4]

The free-silver movement nevertheless continued to gather momentum. For
some years influential silver advocates had been associated in the
Bimetallic League, an organization which supported the free coinage
of both gold and silver. Among its members were prominent Democrats,
Republicans and Populists, especially from the western states, and some
of the foremost labor leaders. At one of its meetings in 1893 it was
determined to invite every labor and industrial organization in the
country to send delegates. A few experts, even in the East, gave some
scientific support to the argument for the greater use of silver.
Eastern Republicans like Senator Henry Cabot Lodge proposed free coinage
of both metals by an international agreement, which, they thought,
might be brought about through threats of tariff discrimination against
nations refusing to adhere to the arrangement. A silver convention in
Nebraska in 1894 was attended by a thousand delegates. From the point of
view of party harmony the subject was a nuisance. Democratic state
conventions were badly divided. Thirty of them adopted resolutions
distinctly favorable to free coinage and fourteen opposed. Ten of the
latter committed themselves definitely to the gold standard. The
fourteen included all the northeastern states, together with Michigan,
Wisconsin and Minnesota. Such gold Democrats as President Cleveland
sought to stem the tide, but Cleveland's control over his followers was
rapidly dwindling, and it seemed likely that the silver element of the
party might reach out to seize the organization and displace the former

The Republican professional politicians were as ignorant of technical
monetary problems as the Democrats, and moreover did not wish to risk
popular disapproval in any section by utterances which might be
offensive to that part of the country. The first Republican state
convention during 1896 was that in Ohio. Its financial plank was
awaited with interest, because of the early date of the meeting and
because its proceedings were in the hands of friends of the most
prominent candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. The
convention dodged the issue by demanding that all our currency be
"sound as the Government and as untarnished as its honor," and that
both metals be used as currency and kept at parity by legislative
restrictions. The New York _Tribune_ thought that this could mean
nothing but a gold standard; the _Times_ was fearful that it would lead
to silver; the _Springfield Republican_ condemned it as "chock full of
double-dealing." Its ambiguity, however, was in line with the purposes
and ambitions of two men who were actively preparing for the campaign
of 1896--Marcus A. Hanna and Major William McKinley.

Marcus A. Hanna, or "Mark" Hanna as he was universally known, was an
Ohioan, born in 1837.[5] As a young man he entered upon a business
career in Cleveland, first in a wholesale grocery company, later in a
coal and iron firm and finally in a variety of industrial and
commercial enterprises which his energy and ability opened to him. The
expansion of industrial America after the Civil War was coincident with
the greater part of Hanna's career and he was a typical product of that
period in his political, economic and social philosophy. After he had
attained a degree of business success he became actively interested in
politics and took a prominent part in placing Joseph B. Foraker in the
governor's chair in Ohio in 1885. Strained relations between the two
turned Hanna's attention to the fortunes of John Sherman. When it
became apparent in 1888 that the presidential campaign would turn upon
President Cleveland's tariff principles, Hanna, who looked upon the
protective tariff as synonymous with industrial expansion and even of
industrial safety, threw his weight upon the side of Sherman, who was
again seeking the Republican nomination. The failure of Sherman was a
blow to Hanna, but it called to his attention the pleasing personality
of a more prominent protectionist, William McKinley. He was an
important agent in McKinley's successful campaign for the governorship
of Ohio in 1891. Two years later the Governor met serious financial
reverses, and again Hanna proved to be a firm friend. Aided by other
men of means he rescued McKinley from bankruptcy. Between the two there
sprang up a mutual admiration of unusual strength, and finally, in
1894-1895, Hanna withdrew from his business enterprises in order to
devote his entire time to the political fortunes of his friend.

Mark Hanna had extraordinary capacity for leadership. Sociable,
open-handed, full of energy, direct, aggressive, shrewd, daring, a hard
fighter, a loyal friend, an organizer and a man of his word, he was
essentially a man of action. In politics he was practical and
straight-forward. He wanted results, not reforms, and results meant
accepting the prevailing methods and using them. When he wished a
street-railway franchise in Cleveland, he bought enough influence with
the city government to get what he wanted, as others of his day did. He
was a strict party man; good government and safety to industry, he
believed, were dependent upon Republican control. Patriotism therefore
demanded his utmost energy in getting Republicans elected. In political
campaigns his counsel, his energy and his money were always available.
A protective customs tariff, a "sound" currency system and a free hand
in the conduct of business were the things which he most desired from
the government.

William McKinley would have been a formidable competitor for the
presidential nomination in 1896 even without the assistance of his
rugged friend. His personality was attractive, in a pleasing, soothing,
tactful, ingratiating way. His military career had been honorable even
if not famous. For most of the time from 1877 to 1891 he had been a
member of the House of Representatives, becoming identified
particularly with the high protective tariff and acting as sponsor for
the McKinley act of 1890. After being defeated for re-election, just
subsequent to the passage of the tariff law, he had become Governor of
Ohio for two terms. The panic of 1893 and the ill-fated Wilson-Gorman
tariff act during the time when he was Governor caused the tide of
popular favor to swing away from the Democrats; McKinley, as the
apostle of protection, appeared in a more favorable light; and his
partisans began to press him forward as the logical nominee for 1896
and as "the advance agent of Prosperity." The fact that his home was in
a populous state in the Middle West was also in his favor, because the
Republicans had frequently chosen their candidate from this debatable
ground rather than from the Northeast, where success was to be had
without a struggle.

Hanna's first care upon determining to devote himself to the interests
of McKinley was to keep the candidate before the people as the one man
who could rescue the nation from industrial depression. To that end he
widely circulated the Cleveland _Leader_, a strong McKinley organ, for
eighteen months at his own expense; he rented a house in Georgia,
entertained Governor McKinley there and brought numbers of southern
politicians to meet the candidate; and experienced political workers
were sent all over the country and especially to the South to prepare
the way for the election of delegates to the nominating convention.
Hanna himself went to the East to discover on what terms the support of
some of the states in that section could be obtained. On his return he
reported that aid would be assured by a guarantee that the patronage of
the administration would go to certain powerful politicians; Hanna
thought the bargain a desirable one, but the candidate objected and
Hanna acquiesced. The campaign of publicity and of personal canvass for
delegates and influence continued. First and last, it is estimated,
Hanna contributed over $100,000 for this purpose, urging his assistants
always to use funds only for legitimate ends, although promising
McKinley partisans who aided in the work that they would be "consulted"
in the disposition of patronage.

Two difficulties stood in the way of completely ensuring the choice of
McKinley as the candidate by the convention. Several states had
"favorite sons" whom they would be sure to present, and if so many of
these should appear as to prevent McKinley's nomination on the first
ballot or at least on an early one, there might be a stampede to an
unknown man--a "dark horse"--and then Hanna's ambitions would be
frustrated. Thomas B. Reed of Maine was an especial source of anxiety
as he possessed considerable strength throughout New England. To guard
against such a danger, Hanna sedulously cultivated the popular demand
for Governor McKinley and also fought in the state conventions for
delegates even against favorite sons. A crucial state was Illinois,
where Senator Cullom was powerful. The Senator says that a
representative of McKinley offered him "all sorts of inducements" to
withdraw, but McKinley's biographer mentions no such attempt at a
bargain. Eventually Cullom made the fight and was defeated, and from
then on, the nomination of McKinley seemed sure unless he should be
tripped by the currency issue.

The silver question was the second obstacle in the way of success. Not
only was the party divided, but McKinley's record on the subject was
far from consistent. He had voted for the Bland free-silver bill in
1877, for the Bland-Allison act in 1878 and for the passage of that act
over President Hayes's veto. In 1890 he had urged the passage of the
Sherman silver purchase law, intimating that he would support a free
coinage measure if it were possible to pass it. Hardly more than a year
later he was campaigning for the governorship of Ohio, and there he
denounced the free coinage of silver and advocated international
bimetallism. In 1896 McKinley feared that a definite public utterance
on the one side or the other of the question would widen the division
in the party, prevent his nomination and lose the election. Hence the
ambiguous currency plank in the Ohio state convention and hence, also,
the refusal of the candidate to commit himself openly. Nevertheless he
commissioned a friend to go to the East and explain his attitude
privately to certain leaders and prominent business men, urging them
not to force a declaration for gold before the convention met. In this
way, he thought, the currency issue might be subordinated, the tariff
emphasized and the party held together. In this state of uncertainty
the currency situation was allowed to rest until the convention met at
St. Louis on June 16.

The platform adopted was, for the most part, of the usual sort. It
urged popular attention to the matchless achievements of thirty years
of Republican rule and contrasted that period of "unequalled success
and prosperity" with the "unparalleled incapacity, dishonor, and
disaster" of Democratic government; it promised the "most ample
protection" to the products of mine, field and factory; generous
pensions, American control of Hawaii, a Nicaragua canal, the Monroe
doctrine, restricted immigration and the arbitration of labor disputes
affecting interstate commerce received the support of the party.

It was the currency plank, however, that differentiated the platform of
1896 from that of other campaigns. Many Republican leaders and business
men, particularly in the East, were disposed to call for a definite
party statement in favor of a gold standard and had reached the point
where they could not be put off by the usual meaningless straddle.
Thomas C. Platt, Henry Cabot Lodge, Joseph B. Foraker, Charles W.
Fairbanks and other party chiefs were among them. Hanna was ready to
declare for gold after he had been assured of the nomination of his
candidate. McKinley was willing to stand for gold, although he
preferred not to mention that word in the plank and hoped to make the
contest on the tariff. Moreover so many silver delegates had already
been elected to the Democratic convention, which was soon to be held,
that a definite utterance from that party seemed a certainty. The
Prohibitionists had already divided into halves over the dominant
issue. It was almost imperative, therefore, for the Republican
convention to be more explicit than it had hitherto ventured to be. As
leader after leader arrived who was insistent upon a gold standard, it
became increasingly evident to Hanna that he must proceed with caution.
If McKinley committed himself to gold, the silver advocates would balk
at his candidacy, and perhaps unite on somebody else; if he committed
himself to silver, he would lose the eastern leaders. The astute Hanna
therefore allowed sentiment in favor of the gold plank to gather force,
although holding the discussion as far as possible under cover, and
kept McKinley from making a definite statement. Then at the last
minute, when the McKinley delegates were numerous enough to ensure the
nomination of the Major and when it was too late for the silver forces
to agree upon an opposition candidate, Hanna gave way to the pressure
for gold and agreed to the plank which he had always favored.[6]

Despite the canny management of Hanna a defection took place over the
decision on the currency issue. As soon as the platform was read,
Senator Henry M. Teller, of Colorado, moved to replace the gold plank
by one advocating the free coinage of silver. The earnestness with
which Teller urged the adoption of the substitute was an indication of
the sincerity of the western wing of the party. He had been a strict
Republican since the formation of the party in the mid-fifties, yet he
now found himself forced to accept a policy which he believed to be
pernicious or break the political bonds which had held him for forty
years. The majority of the convention, however, was determined to adopt
the gold plank and overwhelmingly defeated the Teller amendment,
whereupon the Senator and thirty-three other silver supporters solemnly
withdrew from the hall.

The way was now clear for the nomination of a candidate. Thomas B.
Reed, Senator Quay and other favorite sons received but scant support,
and McKinley was nominated by an overwhelming majority on the first
ballot. Garrett A. Hobart, a lawyer and business man whose reputation
was confined to New Jersey, his home state, was nominated for the
vice-presidency. The platform and the candidate were generally hailed
with favor in the East. To be sure, critical newspapers were inclined
to look askance upon McKinley's past. The New York _Evening Post_, for
example, favored a gold standard but decried the candidate's "absence
of settled convictions about leading questions of the day, and his want
of clear knowledge on any subject." Yet on the whole, the platform and
the candidate were popular, and, in view of the serious factional
disputes among the Democrats, the Republicans seemed likely to make
good their boast that victory would be so easy that they could nominate
and elect a "rag baby" if they chose. The redoubtable Hanna was
appointed chairman of the National Republican Committee, from which
office he was to direct the campaign. McKinley still believed that the
contest would be of the old-fashioned sort and that it would turn on
the tariff, despite the platform utterance of the party. And so it
might have proved had it not been for an important change of purpose
and leadership in the opposition.

The friends of free silver coinage went to the Democratic convention at
Chicago on July 7 with the same determination to get a definite
statement on the currency question that had characterized the eastern
leaders at the Republican convention. Without the loss of a moment they
wrested the control of the organization from the former leaders by
defeating Senator Hill of New York, a gold Democrat, for the temporary
chairmanship and electing Senator Daniel of Virginia, a recognized
proponent of free silver. Hill's support came mainly from the
Northeast; Daniel's, from the West and South. Senator White of
California, a representative of the silver wing, was then chosen
permanent chairman and the convention was ready for the contest over
the platform. While it awaited that document, however, it listened to
several favorite leaders, of whom Senator Tillman and Governor Altgeld
of Illinois were the best known. From the sentiments expressed by these
men it was clear that the radical Democrats believed that they were
speaking for the masses of the people and that they were bent upon
making far-reaching changes both in the organization and the creed of
the party.

A disquieting feature was a degree of turbulence beyond that which
usually characterizes our nominating conventions. The official
proceedings record the following, for example, while Senator Tillman
was addressing the delegates:

I hope that when this vast assembly shall have dispersed to its home
the many thousands of my fellow-citizens who are here will carry
hence a different opinion of the pitchfork man from South Carolina
to that which they now hold. I come to you from the South--from the
home of secession--from that State where the leaders of--(the
balance of the sentence of the speaker was drowned by hisses). Mr.
Tillman (resuming): There are only three things in the world that
can hiss--a goose, a serpent, and a man....

In the last three or four or five years the Western people have come
to realize that the condition of the South and the condition of the
West are identical. Hence we find to-day that the Democratic party
of the West is here almost in solid phalanx appealing to the South,
and the South has responded--to come to their help.... Some of my
friends from the South and elsewhere have said that this is not a
sectional issue. I say it is a sectional issue. (Long prolonged

At length, the platform was presented. It was a summary of the
complaints against the East which had been forming in the West and
South ever since the days of the Greenbackers and the "Ohio idea." It
recognized first that the money question was paramount to all others;
laid hard times at the door of the gold standard, which it denounced as
a British policy; and demanded the free coinage of both metals at the
existing legal ratio, under which sixteen parts of silver by weight
were declared equivalent to one part of gold in minting coins. Nor
would the party wait for the consent of any other nation. It opposed
the issuance of interest-bearing bonds in time of peace, condemned the
bond transactions of the Cleveland administration and denounced the
national bank-note system. The McKinley tariff was declared a prolific
breeder of trusts which enriched the few at the expense of the many.
The plank concerning the income tax, which had so recently been
declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, excited much
condemnation among Republicans and conservative Democrats, who
denounced it as an attack on the Court. It noted that the Court had
uniformly sustained income taxes for nearly a hundred years and
declared it to be 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.

The reaction of the party on the labor disputes of recent years and
especially the Pullman strike was clearly in evidence. Arbitration of
such controversies was called for; "interference" by federal
authorities in local affairs was condemned; government by injunction
was objected to; and the passage of such laws was demanded as would
protect all the interests of the laboring classes.

A minority of the platform committee now presented the opposing point
of view. It objected to many of the planks; complained that some were
ill-considered, others revolutionary; and offered two amendments,
one advocating the gold standard, the other expressing commendation
of Cleveland's administration. The contest was then on. Tillman
excoriated Cleveland and declared that the East held the West and
South in economic bondage; Hill denounced the currency, income tax and
Supreme Court planks as furiously as any Republican could have wished.
The currency plank, he thought, was unwise, that on the income tax
unnecessary, that on the Court assailed the supreme tribunal, and the
entire program was "revolutionary."

As yet, nobody had quite expressed the feelings of the convention.
Tillman was too crude; Hill had no remedy for long-standing ills. At
this juncture William J. Bryan stepped upon the platform. He was a
young man--only thirty-six years of age--and known but slightly as a
representative from Nebraska who possessed many of the arts and
abilities of an orator. Bryan began with a modest and tactful
declaration that his opposition to the gold wing of the party was
based solely on principles and not at all on personalities. The
convention had met, he insisted, not to debate but to register a
judgment already rendered by the people. Old leaders had been cast
aside because they had refused to express the desires of those whom
they aspired to lead. Briefly he outlined the reply of the radicals
to the objections made by Hill and the gold wing to the proposed
platform. The conservatives, Bryan declared, had complained that
free silver coinage would disturb business:

We say to you that you have made the definition of a business man
too limited in its application. The man who is employed for wages is
as much a business man as his employer; the attorney in a country
town is as much a business man as the corporation counsel in a great
metropolis; the merchant at the cross-roads store is as much a
business man as the merchant of New York; the farmer who goes forth
in the morning and toils all day--who begins in the spring and toils
all summer--and who by the application of brain and muscle to the
natural resources of the country creates wealth, is as much a
business man as the man who goes upon the board of trade and bets
upon the price of grain; the miners who go down a thousand feet into
the earth, or climb two thousand feet upon the cliffs, and bring
forth from their hiding places the precious metals to be poured into
the channels of trade are as much business men as the few financial
magnates who, in a back room, corner the money of the world. We come
to speak for this broader class of business men.

The time was at hand, Bryan insisted, when the currency issue must be
squarely met:

We have petitioned, and our petitions have been scorned; we have
entreated, and our entreaties have been disregarded; we have
begged, and they have mocked when our calamity came. We beg no
longer; we entreat no more; we petition no more. We defy them.

The radical wing of the Democracy had now found its orator. Every word
was driven straight to the hearts of the sympathetic hearers. The income
tax law had been constitutional, Bryan complained, until one of the
judges of the Supreme Court had changed his mind; the tariff was less
important than the currency because "protection has slain its thousands,
the gold standard has slain its tens of thousands." Fundamentally, he
insisted, the contest was between the idle holders of idle capital and
the struggling masses who produce the capital:

If they come to meet us on that issue we can present the history of
our nation. More than that; we can tell them that they will search
the pages of history in vain to find a single instance where the
common people of any land have ever declared themselves in favor of
the gold standard. They can find where the holders of fixed
investments have declared for a gold standard, but not where the
masses have....

You come to us and tell us that the great cities are in favor of the
gold standard; we reply that the great cities rest upon our broad and
fertile prairies. Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your
cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and
the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country....

Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world,
supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests, and
the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a gold
standard by saying to them: You shall not press down upon the brow
of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a
cross of gold.

The frenzy of approval which this brief speech aroused was proof that
the West and South had found a herald. Whether wisely or not, the
radicals acclaimed their leader and the party was embarked upon a
program that made the campaign of 1896 a memorable one. Without further
ado, the amendments of the conservatives were voted down--the vote
being sectional, as before. Proposals that changes in the monetary
standard should not apply to existing contracts and that if free
coinage should not effect a parity between gold and silver at a ratio
of 16 to 1 within a year, it should be suspended, were both voted down
without so much as a division. The platform was then adopted by an
overwhelming majority and radical democracy had the bit in its teeth.
In the East the platform was viewed with amazement. The New York
_World_, a Democratic newspaper, expressed the opinion that the only
doubt about the election would be the size of McKinley's victory. The
Republican _Tribune_ thought that the party was afflicted with
"lunacy"; that it had become the "avowed champion of the right of
pillage, riot and trainwrecking"; that the platform was an anarchist
manifesto and a "call to every criminal seeking a chance for outrage."

Before Bryan's speech it had been impossible to foretell who the party
candidate for the presidency would be, although the veteran free silver
leader, Richard P. Bland, had been looked upon as a logical choice in
case his well-known principles should become those of the convention.
After the speech, however, it was clear that Bryan embodied the
feelings of many of his colleagues and on the fifth ballot he was
chosen as the candidate. The vice-presidential choice was Arthur
Sewall, of Maine, a shipbuilder and banker who believed in the free
coinage of silver.

The gold Democrats were now in a quandary. Many of them had refrained
from voting at all in the convention after the silver element had
gained control. Strict partisans, however, adopted the position of
Senator Hill who was asked after the convention whether he was a
Democrat still. "Yes," he is said to have retorted, "I am a Democrat
still--very still." Some frankly turned toward the Republican party,
while others organized the National Democratic party and adopted a
traditional Democratic platform, with a gold plank. After considering
the possibility of nominating President Cleveland for a third term, the
party chose John M. Palmer for the presidency and Simon B. Buckner for
the vice-presidency. Soon after the Democratic convention, the People's
party and the Silver party met in St. Louis. Both nominated Bryan for
the presidency, and thereafter the Democrats and the Populists made
common cause.

At the opening of the campaign, then, it was evident that class and
sectional hatreds would enter largely into the contest. The Populists
and the radical Democrats felt that they were fighting the battle of
the masses against "plutocracy"--the subtle and corrupting control of
public affairs by the possessors of great fortunes; they thought that
they saw arrayed against them the forces of wealth and the
corporations, seeking to enslave them. The conservative Democrats and
the gold Republicans saw in their opponents an organized attempt to
carry out a program of dishonesty and socialism. The one side believed
that the creditor class desired to scale debts upward; the other, that
the debtor class wished to scale them down. The radicals believed that
the Supreme Court was in the control of the wealthy; the conservatives,
that their opponents sought to assail the highest tribunal in the land.
The peculiar circumstances preceding the year 1896, however, focussed
attention on the monetary standard rather than upon the other demands
of the Populist-Democratic fusion.

Each candidate adopted a plan of campaign that was suited to his
individual situation. Bryan was relatively unknown and he therefore
decided to appeal directly to the people, where his powers as a speaker
would have great effect. The usual "notification" meeting was held in
Madison Square Garden, in New York City, so as to carry the cause into
the heart of "the enemy's country." During the few months of the
campaign the Democratic candidate travelled 18,000 miles, made 600
speeches and addressed nearly five million people. The effect was
immediate. The forces of social unrest, hitherto silent in great
measure, were becoming vocal and nobody could measure their extent.
McKinley had prophesied that thirty days after the Republican
convention nothing would be heard about the currency. When the thirty
days had passed, on the contrary, scarcely anything was heard except
that very question. Whatever his personal wishes, McKinley must meet
the problem face to face, and in alarm, Hanna and the Republican
campaign leaders put forth unparalleled efforts to save the party from

The share of McKinley in these efforts was a novel one. Instead of
going upon the stump, he remained at his home in Canton, Ohio. A
constant stream of visiting delegations of supporters from all points
of the compass came to hear him speak from his front porch. Some of the
delegations came spontaneously; the visits of others were prearranged;
but in all cases the speeches delivered were looked over beforehand
with great care. The candidate memorized or read his own remarks and
carefully revised those which the spokesman of the visitors planned to
offer. In this way, any such untoward incident as the Burchard affair
was avoided and the accounts of the front-porch speeches which went out
through the press contained nothing which would injure the chances for
success. The effectiveness of the plan was attested on all sides.

In addition, extraordinary attempts were put forth to instruct the
people on various aspects of the currency question. A small army was
organized to distribute literature and address rallies; 120,000,000
documents were distributed from the Chicago and New York headquarters;
newspapers were supplied with especially prepared matter; posters and
buttons were scattered by the carload. At the dinner-table, on the
street corner, in the railroad train, in store, office and shop, the
people gave themselves over to a heated discussion of the merits of
gold and silver as currency and to the feasibility of free coinage at a
ratio of 16 to 1. The amount of money which these efforts required was
unusually large. Business men and banking institutions, especially in
New York, contributed liberally. The Standard Oil Company gave
$250,000; large life insurance companies helped freely, although the
fact was well concealed at the time. Business men were fearful that
Bryan's election would mean a great shrinkage in the value of their
properties. Many feared that the Democrats would assail the Supreme
Court and that their leader would surround himself with advisors of a
reckless and revolutionary character. Funds therefore poured into the
Republican war-chest to an amount estimated at three and a half million

Before the close of the campaign a feeling akin to terror swept over
the East; contracts were made contingent upon the election of McKinley;
employees were paid on the Saturday night before election day and
notified that they need not return to work in the event of Democratic
success. Although caution and good manners characterized the utterances
of the two candidates, their supporters were hardly so restrained. The
following, for example, is typical of the editorial utterances of the
New York _Tribune_:

Let us begin with the Ten Commandments. "Thou shalt not take the
name of the Lord thy God in vain." The Bryan campaign from beginning
to end has been marked with such a flood of blasphemy, of taking
God's name in vain, as this country, at least, has never known
before. "Thou shalt not steal." The very foundation of the Bryan
platform is wholesale theft. "Thou shalt not bear false witness."
In what day have Bryan and his followers failed to utter lies,
libels and forgeries? "Thou shalt not covet." Why, almost every
appeal made by Bryan, or for him, has been addressed directly to
the covetousness, the envy, and all the unhallowed passions of
human nature. A vote for Bryan is a vote for the abrogation of
those four Commandments.

At the close of the campaign _The Nation_ sagely observed, "Probably no
man in civil life has succeeded in inspiring so much terror, without
taking life, as Bryan."

The result of the election was decisive. McKinley and a Republican
House of Representatives were elected, and the choice of a Republican
Senate assured. The successful candidate received seven million
votes--a half million more than his competitor. All the more densely
populated states, together with the large cities--where the greatest
accumulations of capital had taken place--were carried by the
Republicans. Not a state north of the Potomac-Ohio line and east of
the Mississippi was Democratic, and even Kentucky, by a narrow margin,
and West Virginia crowded their way into the Republican column. On
the other hand Bryan's hold on the South and West was almost equally
strong. Never before had any presidential candidate received so great a
vote and not for twenty years did a Democratic candidate surpass it.
Moreover, although the Democratic vote on the Atlantic seaboard was
less than that received by Cleveland in 1892, Bryan's support in the
Middle West showed considerable gains over the earlier year, while
Kansas, Nebraska and all the mining states except California were
carried by the silver cause. On the whole the election seemed to
indicate that the voters of the country, after unusual study of the
issues of the campaign, clearly distrusted the free-silver program, but
that class and sectional discontent had reached large proportions.

The Presidential Election of 1896--the shaded states
gave Bryan pluralities]

The political results of the election of 1896 were important. It
definitely fixed the attitude of the Republican party on the currency
question; it gave the party control of the executive chair and of
Congress at an important time; and it ensured the domination of the
propertied classes and the _laissez faire_ philosophy in the party
organization. On the other hand, the Democratic party had incurred the
suspicion and hostility of the East, with hardly a compensating
increase of strength in the West; its principles had become radical for
that day and had abruptly changed from those of previous years; its
membership included more of the discontented classes than before; and
its leadership had been snatched from the hands of an experienced and
conservative leader and placed in the care of an untried radical. It
remained to be seen whether the victors would attempt to study and meet
the complaints of the farmer and the wage earner; whether the new
Republican leaders would be able to preserve the _laissez faire_
attitude toward the railroads and the corporations; and whether the
forces of dissent represented in Populism and radical Democracy had
received a death blow or only a rebuff.


Peck contains one of the most illuminating accounts of the rising in
the West, together with the campaign of 1896. H. Croly, _Marcus A.
Hanna_ (1912), is one of the few critical biographies of leaders who
have lived since the Civil War. W.J. Bryan, _The First Battle_ (1897),
is indispensable; C.S. Olcott, _William McKinley_ (2 vols., 1916), is
uncritical and eulogistic, but makes important material available; C.A.
Beard, _Contemporary American History_ (1914), contains a good chapter;
W.H. Harvey, _Coin's Financial School_ (1894), is mentioned in the
text; Carl Becker's clever essay in _Turner Essays in American History_
(1910), throws light on Kansas psychology; S.J. Buck, _Agrarian
Crusade_ (1920), is excellent. Consult also D.R. Dewey, _National
Problems_ (1907); J.A. Woodburn, _Political Parties and Party Problems_
(1914); _Quarterly Journal of Economics_, X, 269; and F.E. Haynes,
_Third Party Movements_ (1916). The files of _The Nation_, and the New
York _Tribune_ and _Sun_ well portray eastern opinion. The references
to the rise of the populist movement under Chap. XII are also of

* * * * *

[1] I have drawn at this point upon Peck, _Twenty Years of the
Republic_, 453-456.

[2] Peck, 451-453.

[3] For brief accounts of Tillman, see Leupp, _National Miniatures_,
117; N.Y. _Times_, July 4, 1918; N.Y. _Evening Post_, July 3, 1918.

[4] Cf. Whitlock, _Forty Years of It_, 64 ff.; Altgeld, _Live
Questions_ and _The Cost of Something for Nothing_.

[5] In connection with the following pages, consult Croly, _Marcus A.
Hanna_, one of the few satisfactory biographies of this period.

[6] As finally adopted, the gold plank asserted: "We are unalterably
opposed to every measure calculated to debase our currency or impair
the credit of our country. We are, therefore, opposed to the free
coinage of silver, except by international agreement with the leading
commercial nations of the world, which we pledge ourselves to promote,
and until such agreement can be obtained the existing gold standard
must be preserved. All our silver and paper currency must be maintained
at parity with gold, and we favor all measures designed to maintain
inviolably the obligations of the United States and all our money,
whether coin or paper, at the present standard, the standard of the
most enlightened nations of the earth." Several leaders claimed to
have been the real author of the gold plank. It seems more nearly true
that many men came to the convention prepared to insist on a definite
statement and that each thought himself the originator of the party



The ceremonies attendant upon the inauguration of William McKinley on
March 4, 1897, were typical of the care-taking generalship of Mark
Hanna. The details of policing the crowds had been foreseen and
attended to; the usual military review was effectively carried out to
the last particular; "the Republican party was coming back to power as
the party of organization, of discipline, of unquestioning obedience to

The political capacity, the characteristics and the philosophy of the
new President were sufficiently representative of the forces which were
to control American affairs for the next few years to make them matters
of some interest. McKinley was a traditional politician in the better
sense of the word. As an executive he was patient, calm, modest, wary.
Ordinarily he committed himself to a project only after long
consideration, and with careful propriety he avoided entangling
political bargains. His engaging personality, his consummate tact and
his thorough knowledge of the temper and traditions of Congress enabled
him to lead that body, where Cleveland failed to drive it. As a speaker
he seldom rose above an ordinary plane, but he was simple and sincere.
His messages to Congress breathed an atmosphere of serenity and of
deferential reliance upon the wise and judicious action of the
legislative branch. Their smug and genial tone formed a sharp contrast
with his predecessor's anxious demands for multifarious reforms; while
Cleveland inveighed against narrow partisanship and selfish aims,
McKinley benignantly observed: "The public questions which now most
engross us are lifted far above either partisanship, prejudice, or
former sectional differences."

The political philosophy of McKinley typified that of his party. The
possibilities which he saw in protective tariffs, which occupied the
foremost position among his principles, were well set forth in his
message to Congress on March 15, 1897. Additional duties should be
levied on foreign importation, he asserted,

to preserve the home market, so far as possible, to our own
producers; to revive and increase manufactures; to relieve and
encourage agriculture; to increase our domestic and foreign
commerce; to aid and develop mining and building; and to render
to labor in every field of useful occupation the liberal wages
and adequate rewards to which skill and industry are justly

Like most American presidents, McKinley was a peace-lover, pleasantly
disposed toward the arbitration of international difficulties and
prepared to welcome any attempt to further that method of preserving
the peace of the world. His conception of the presidential office
differed somewhat sharply at several points from that of his
predecessor. Like Cleveland he looked upon himself as peculiarly the
representative of the people, but he was far less likely either to lead
public opinion or to attempt to hasten the people to adopt a position
which he had himself taken. This fact lay at the bottom of the
complaints of his critics that he always had his "ear to the ground" in
order that he might be prepared to go with the majority. On the other
hand, although he was aware of constitutional limitation upon the
functions of the executive, he was not so continually hampered by the
strict constructionist view of the powers of the federal government as
Cleveland had been. McKinley's attitude toward Congress was far more
sagacious than Cleveland's. He distributed the usual patronage with
skill; he approached Congressmen individually with the utmost tact; he
appointed them to serve on commissions and boards of arbitration, and
later, when matters upon which the commissions had been engaged came
before Congress in the form of treaties or legislation, these men found
themselves in a position to lead in the adoption of the principles
which the President desired. All this indicated an ability to "touch
elbows" with Congress that has rarely been exceeded. When coupled with
the organizing power of Hanna, the harmonizing sagacity of the
President soon brought about a notable degree of party solidarity. As a
political organization, the Republican party reached a climax.

McKinley was hardly an idealist, and distinctly not a reformer.
Although sensitive to pressure from the reform element, he was not
ahead of ordinary public opinion on matters of economic and political
betterment. Leaders in federal railroad regulation found the President
cold toward projects to strengthen the Interstate Commerce law; the
Sherman Anti-trust Act was scarcely enforced at all during McKinley's
administration, and the parts of his messages which relate to the
regulation of industry are vague and lacking in purpose. One searches
these documents in vain for any indication that the Republican leader
had either vigorous sympathy with the economic and social unrest which
had made the year 1896 so momentous or even any thorough understanding
of it. Even if he had possessed both sympathy and understanding,
however, it is doubtful whether he could have made real progress in the
direction of economic legislation and the enforcement of the acts
regulating railroads and industry, in view of his long-continued and
close affiliation with business leaders of the Mark Hanna type and his
deep obligation to them at the time of his financial embarrassments in

McKinley's cabinet was composed of men whose advanced age and
conservative characteristics indicated that his advisers would commend
themselves to the business world and would instinctively avoid all
those radical proposals that were coming to be known as "Bryanism." The
dean of the cabinet in age and experience as well as in reputation and
ability was John Sherman, who was now almost seventy-four years of age
and had been occupying a position of dignity and honor in the Senate.
Two reasons have been given for his appointment to the post of
Secretary of State. In the first place, important diplomatic affairs
were on hand, in the settlement of which his long experience as a
member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations would be of obvious
advantage. The second reason was the ambition of Hanna to enter the
Senate. Since Sherman and Hanna were both from Ohio, it was possible to
call the former to the cabinet and rely upon the Governor of the state
to appoint the latter to the Senate. The propriety of this course of
action depended somewhat on the question of Sherman's physical
condition. Rumor declared that he was suffering from mental decay, due
to his age, but McKinley believed the rumor to be baseless, summoned
him to the cabinet, and Hanna was subsequently appointed to the Senate.
When Sherman took up the duties of his office it appeared that the
rumor had been all too true, and a serious lapse of memory on his part
in a diplomatic matter forced his immediate replacement by William R.
Day. Somewhat more than a year later Day retired and John Hay assumed
the position. Many critics have asserted that McKinley was aware of the
precise condition of Sherman and that he made the choice despite this
knowledge, but it now seems likely that he was guilty only of bad
judgment and carelessness in failing to inform himself about Sherman's
infirmities. Another error of judgment was made in the choice of
Russell A. Alger as Secretary of War. Alger failed to convince popular
opinion that he was an effective officer and he resigned in 1899. As in
the case of Sherman, McKinley then somewhat retrieved his mistake by
appointing a successor of undoubted ability, in the person of Elihu
Root.[2] It thus came about that the political and economic theories
which had been characteristic of the leaders of both parties during the
seventies and eighties, but more particularly of the Republican party,
were again in the ascendancy. The President and his cabinet were
uniformly men who had grown up during the heyday of _laissez faire_,
and Hanna, who would inevitably be regarded as the mouthpiece of the
administration in the Senate, was the embodiment of that philosophy.

McKinley's experience with the distribution of the offices emphasized
the progress that had been made since civil service reform had been
inaugurated. One of the steps which President Cleveland had taken
during his last administration, it will be remembered, was to increase
the number of positions under control of the Civil Service Commission.
The immediate result, of course, was to increase the demand for places
in the unclassified service. John Hay picturesquely described the
situation in the State Department a few years later:

All other branches of the Civil Service are so rigidly provided
for that the foreign service is like the topmost rock which you
sometimes see in old pictures of the Deluge. The pressure for a
place in it is almost indescribable.

Both in his inaugural address and in his message to Congress on
December 6, 1897, McKinley expressed his approval of the prevailing
system, but suggested the possibility of exempting some positions then
in the classified service. President Cleveland had, indeed, admitted
to the Civil Service Commission that a few modifications might be
necessary. The Senate promptly ordered an investigation and discovered
10,000 places which it believed could be withdrawn, but because of
other events further action was delayed. In 1899 the President returned
to the subject and promulgated an order authorizing the withdrawal of
certain positions from competitive examination and the transfer of
others from the Commission to the Secretary of War--a total of somewhat
less than 5,000 changes.[3] It appeared, in view of the circumstances
under which the change had occurred, that a retrograde step had been
taken, and McKinley received the condemnation of the reformers.

The first legislation undertaken by the administration was that
relating to the tariff. The election of 1896, to be sure, had been
fought out on the silver issue, but it was not deemed feasible to
proceed at once to legislation on the subject, because of the strong
silver contingent within the party. Several other considerations
combined to draw attention away from the currency question and toward
the tariff. The Wilson-Gorman Act of 1894 had been passed under
circumstances that had caused the Democratic President himself to
express his shame and disappointment; the period of industrial
depression following the panic of 1893 had been attributed so widely to
Democratic tariff legislation that a Republican tariff act could be
hailed as a harbinger of prosperity; and the annual deficit which had
continued since 1893 indicated a genuine need of greater revenue, if
the current scale of expenditures was to be continued. The President
and the party leaders in Congress were men who were prominently
identified with the protective system, and it was not likely that the
business interests which profited from protection, which believed in
its beneficent operation, and which had contributed generously to the
Republican war-chest would remain inactive in the presence of an
opportunity to revise the tariff.

Immediately after his succession to office, therefore, McKinley called
a special session of Congress to legislate upon the chosen subject. His
message urged an increase in revenue to be brought about by high import
duties which, he suggested, should be so levied as to be advantageous
to commerce, manufacturing, agriculture, mining, building and labor.
The projected bill was already in hand. Republican success in the
election had insured the return of Thomas B. Reed to the speaker's
chair and Nelson Dingley to the Committee on Ways and Means. The latter
was as devoted to the high-tariff cause as the Speaker and the
President, and had laboriously constructed a bill which was distinctly
protective. The legislative history of the Tariff Act of 1897--more
commonly known as the Dingley act--was in several respects much like
that of similar measures of earlier years. Its passage through the
House was expedited by the masterful personality and vigorous tactics
of the Speaker--a process which consumed less than a fortnight. In the
Senate, bargain and delay ruled procedure; a few of the silver
Republicans held the balance of power and demanded a _quid pro quo_ for
their support; and the Secretary of the Wool Manufacturers' Association
preserved a suggestively close connection with the Finance Committee
which had charge of the bill. After amending the House draft in 872
particulars, the Senate entrusted its interests to the usual conference
committee, and there, as had happened before, the rates were in many
cases raised above those desired by either the Senate or the House. The
bill became law in July, 1897.

The Dingley act added little to the settlement of the tariff problem.
The ordinary consumer was as little able as before to present his
demands effectively and at the time and place at which the rates were
really determined. The requirements of the silver Republicans were met
by the imposition of high duties on wool. For one reason or another,
duties were restored or raised upon hides, silks and linens, although
those on cotton goods were slightly lowered. The duty on sugar was
retained at a point favorable to the trust. In brief, then, the Act of
1897 was aggressively protectionist. An abortive section of the act
empowered the President to conclude treaties providing for reductions,
as great as twenty per cent., in return for commercial concessions from
other countries. Such reciprocity arrangements, however, must be made
within two years of the passage of the law and might not remain in
force more than five years, and each treaty must be ratified by the
Senate. The President was favorable to reciprocal adjustments and
several were arranged but were uniformly rejected in the Senate.

Business was prosperous after the enactment of the Dingley tariff and
little agitation for a change was observable for a decade. Prosperity,
being world wide, was doubtless not due in its entirety to the American
tariff, yet the coincidence of protection and good times gave the
Dingley act a pleasant reputation. For many years enthusiastic stump
speakers placed the beneficence of Providence and the tariff of 1897 on
an equality as causes of American well-being.

The President's first message to Congress had extended congratulations
upon the fact that peace and good will with all the nations of the
earth continued unbroken. Nevertheless it was necessary for him to
devote much attention to the relations between Spain and its most
valuable American possession--the island of Cuba.

American interest in Cuba was by no means of recent growth. The
situation of the island--dominating the narrowest point of the waterway
between the Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico--insured the
importance of Cuba as a strategic position. The traditional attitude of
Spain toward her colony had been one of exploitation, a policy which
was sure to be looked upon with suspicion by a nation which had itself
revolted from oppression. Riots and rebellions in the island, having
their origin in Spain's colonial policy, had long engaged American
sympathy and attention. American statesmen--Jefferson, John Quincy
Adams, Clay and Webster--had pondered upon the wisest and most
advantageous disposition of Cuba. In 1859 the Senate Committee on
Foreign Relations had even concluded that "The ultimate acquisition of
Cuba may be considered a fixed purpose of the United States." From 1868
to 1878 the "Ten Years' War" between Cuba and Spain had raised American
feeling to a high pitch. The struggle was characterized by a barbarity
that rivalled mediaeval warfare; islanders who escaped to the United
States sent ships to Cuba laden with arms and men; American trade
rights were interfered with and American citizens seized by the
Spaniards and shot; the _Virginius_ was captured--a ship carrying the
American flag--and many of her crew were executed. Indignation meetings
were held, the navy was put in order and war was in sight. Cautious
diplomatic negotiations delayed hostilities, however, and subsequently
exhaustion caused the restoration of peace between Spain and her
distracted colony.

With the recurrence of insurrection in 1895, interest in the United
States was renewed, and this time circumstances combined to bring about
a climax in American relations with Spain. On both sides the contest
between Spain and her colony was carried on with unutterable cruelty.
The island leader, Maximo Gomez, conducted guerrilla warfare,
devastating the country, destroying plantation buildings and forcing
laborers to cease work, in order to exhaust the enemy or to bring about
American intervention. Spanish procedure was even more barbaric. A
"reconcentration" order, promulgated by Valeriano Weyler,
Governor-general of the island and General-in-chief of the army,
compelled the rural population to herd together in the garrisoned
towns. Their buildings were then burned and their cattle driven away or
killed; hygienic precautions were disregarded and the people themselves
were insufficiently clothed and fed. The extermination of the
inhabitants proceeded so rapidly as to promise complete devastation in
a short time.

President Cleveland had been deeply affected by the Cuban situation.
His last annual message to Congress had noted the $30,000,000 to
$50,000,000 of American capital invested in the island, the volume of
trade amounting yearly to $100,000,000, the use of American soil by
Cubans and Cuban sympathizers for raising funds and purchasing
equipment, and the stream of claims for damages done to American
property in Cuba. In spite of his well-known disinclination to share in
the internal affairs of other peoples, he had voiced a suggestive
warning that American patience could not be maintained indefinitely.

The succession of McKinley seemed likely to result in a change in the
attitude of America toward the Cuban problem. He was more responsive to
public opinion than his predecessor had been, public opinion was more
and more coming to favor intervention, and his party had committed
itself in its platform to Cuban independence through American action.
Moreover, two events early in 1898 greatly irritated the United States.

On February 9 a New York newspaper published a letter written by Señor
Enríque Dupuy de Lôme, Spanish minister to the United States, to a
personal friend in Havana. It referred to President McKinley as a
"would-be politician who tries to leave a door open behind himself
while keeping on good terms with the jingoes of his party." It further
revealed the intention of the Minister to carry on a propaganda among
senators in the interest of a commercial treaty. On all sides it was
seen that the usefulness of Señor de Lôme was at an end and his
government immediately recalled him. On February 15 the whole world was
shocked by the destruction of the United States battleship _Maine_ in
Havana harbor, with the loss of 260 officers and men. News of the
disaster was accompanied by the appeal of Captain Sigsby, commander of
the vessel, that popular judgment of the causes of the disaster be
suspended until a court of inquiry could investigate and report.
Nevertheless on March 9, Congress placed $50,000,000 at the President's
disposal for the purposes of national defence and the navy prepared for
a conflict that seemed inevitable. Both the Spanish and American
authorities conducted examinations. The American court reported that
the ship had been destroyed by the explosion of a submarine mine, which
had caused the partial explosion of two or more of her magazines. No
evidence could be found which would fix the responsibility on any
individual. The Spanish court came to the conclusion that the
catastrophe was due solely to an explosion of the ship's magazines.
American opinion naturally supported the findings of the American
court, and feeling ran high; newspapers demanded war; "Remember the
_Maine_" summarized much of popular discussion.[4]

Under such circumstances, diplomatic negotiations looking toward peace
were difficult, and resulted only in disagreements and delay.
Accordingly on April 11 the President laid before Congress a succinct
account of Cuban affairs and earnestly called for forcible
intervention. The grounds for this action he found in the sufferings of
the people of Cuba, the injuries to Americans and to American property
and trade, and the menace to American peace which was entailed by
continuous conflict at our very threshold.[5] The transfer of the Cuban
question from the hands of the President to those of Congress was
equivalent to a decision in favor of war. On April 19 the Senate and
House resolved that the people of Cuba were and ought to be
independent, demanded that Spain withdraw from the island and directed
the President to use the force of the nation to achieve the results
desired. The approval of the Executive on the following day completed
the severance of peaceful relations with Spain. At daylight on April 22
Admiral Sampson and his fleet were crossing the narrows between Florida
and Cuba, on the way to establish a blockade of the greater part of the
island. Within three days more, Commodore George Dewey, who was in
command of a fleet at Hong-Kong, had been instructed to proceed at once
to the Philippine Islands and capture or destroy the Spanish fleet
there. On April 25 Congress formally declared war upon the kingdom of

It was not by mere chance, of course, that Admiral Sampson and
Commodore Dewey were prepared to act with such celerity. Authorities in
the Navy Department had long felt that a collision with Spain was
inevitable and had been preparing for such an eventuality. With as
little publicity as possible the Department completed and commissioned
ships that were already under construction; it hastened the repair of
vessels which were in any way defective; it ordered target practice and
fleet manoeuvres; and it prepared plans for the conduct of a naval war.
Commanders of squadrons were instructed to keep in service men whose
terms of enlistment were about to expire; supplies of ammunition were
procured and shipped to points where they would be needed; the
_Oregon_, which had been stationed on the Pacific coast, was ordered to
return to Key West by way of the Straits of Magellan and so began a
voyage whose closing days were watched with interest by a whole nation.
A Northern Patrol Squadron was organized to guard New England; a Flying
Squadron was assembled at Hampton Roads for service on the Atlantic
coast or abroad; and a formidable array gathered at Key West under
Rear-Admiral Sampson for duty in the West Indies. Foreign shipyards
were scoured for vessels in process of building and several were
purchased, completed and renamed for American service. Greater
additions were made through the purchase of merchantmen and their
transformation into auxiliary cruisers, gunboats and colliers. In these
ways the attempt was made, with some success, to improvise a navy on
the eve of war.

The people of the country had scarcely become accustomed to the thought
that war with Spain had actually come to pass when word was received in
Washington of the exploit of Commodore Dewey in the Philippine Islands.
Attention for the moment was focussed on the Far East, and the press
dilated upon the first test of the new American Navy.

The story of the test proved to have points of interest and importance.
When Commodore Dewey received the orders already mentioned, on April
25, he finished immediately the preparations for conflict which had
been initiated and turned his flagship, the _Olympia_, in the direction
of Manila. His available force consisted of four protected cruisers,
two gunboats, a revenue cutter, a collier and a supply ship. The city
of Manila is on Manila Bay, a body of water twenty miles or more wide,
and is reached only through a narrow entrance. Dewey judged that the
channel was too deep to be mined successfully except by trained experts
and that both contact and electrical mines would deteriorate so rapidly
in tropical waters as to be effective only for a short time. He
therefore decided to steam through the channel at night, disregarding
the mines, and to attack the Spanish fleet which lay within. The plans
worked out even better than he had hoped. With all lights masked and
the crews at the guns, the squadron moved silently through the passage
with no other opposition than three shots from a single battery. Once
within the Bay Dewey steamed slowly toward the city of Manila and then
back to a fortified point, Cavite, where he found his quarry arranged
in an irregular crescent and awaiting the conflict. Oblivious of the
hasty and inaccurate fire from the batteries on shore, he deliberately
moved to a position within two and a half miles of the Spanish ships
and said to the Captain of the _Olympia_, "You may fire when you are
ready, Gridley."

The Philippines]

Three times westward and twice eastward the American squadron ran
slowly back and forth, using the port and starboard batteries in turn,
and in a short time the shore batteries and the Spanish fleet were
masses of ruins. Of the American forces, only eight were injured, and
they only slightly, while 167 of the Spanish were killed and 214
wounded. News of the victory was as unexpected as it was welcome in the
United States. President McKinley appointed Dewey an acting
Rear-Admiral and on all sides discussion began of the situation and
possibilities of the Philippines.

In the meantime, the position of the American squadron was far from
secure. To be sure, all resistance from the batteries in and around
Manila was quickly suppressed by a threat to destroy the city;
nevertheless Admiral Dewey was in command of too slight a force to
enable him to occupy both the town and its environs. He accordingly
notified Washington that more troops were necessary if it were intended
to seize and retain Manila, and expeditionary forces were despatched,
the first of which arrived on June 30. Indeed it was high time that
assistance be forthcoming, for new possibilities of conflict had
appeared in the presence of a powerful force of German warships.

As soon as the defeat of the Spanish squadron had been effected,
Admiral Dewey established a blockade of Manila Bay and, according to
custom, the war vessels of interested nations went thither to observe
the effectiveness of the blockade and to care for the well-being of
their nationals. Among the early arrivals were the British, the French
and the Japanese, all of whom observed the formalities of the situation
and reported to the American Admiral before venturing into the harbor.
The Germans, however, omitted the proprieties until sharply reminded by
a shot across the bow of the _Cormoran_. By mid-June five German
men-of-war under command of Vice Admiral von Diedrichs were in the
Bay--a force nearly if not quite the match of the American squadron.
When the Germans continued their disregard of the regulations
controlling the blockade, indicating a potential if not an actual
hostility, it became necessary for Admiral Dewey to have done with the
Teutonic peril at once. He sent a verbal message to von Diedrichs which
effectually ended all controversy. Admiral Dewey has not disclosed the
exact phraseology of the message, nor did he send a record of it to the
Navy Department. A newspaper correspondent who was acting as one of the
Admiral's aides asserted that the protest was against von Diedrich's
disregard of the usual courtesies of naval intercourse and that it
closed with the words, "if he wants a fight he can have it right now."
The disclosure by Captain Edward Chichester, in command of the English
force, that he had orders to comply with Admiral Dewey's restrictions
and that his sympathies were with the Americans, together with the
arrival of the expeditionary force, assured American supremacy and a
peaceful blockade. On August 13 a joint movement of the naval forces
and the infantry under General Wesley Merritt resulted in the speedy
surrender of the city of Manila. The Americans were now in control of
the capital of the Philippine Islands and would, perforce, face the
question of the ultimate disposition of the archipelago in case of the
eventual defeat of Spain. In the meanwhile, popular attention turned
toward stirring events which were taking place in the Caribbean Sea.

On April 28--a week after Admiral Sampson started for Cuba--the Spanish
Admiral Cervera left the Cape Verde Islands. His force was a
considerable one; his goal was unknown, although naturally believed to
be some point in the Spanish West Indies. On the assumption that this
hypothesis was a correct one, Sampson patrolled the northern coast of
Cuba, extending his movement as far as Porto Rico, and scouts were
placed out beyond Guadeloupe and Martinique. The entire nation
anxiously awaited the outcome of the impending encounter.

The Spanish-American War in the West Indies]

On May 19 Cervera slipped into Santiago, a town on the eastern end of
Cuba which had rail connection with Havana, the capital of the island.
Commodore W.S. Schley who was in command of a squadron on the southern
coast soon received information of the enemy's whereabouts and
established a blockade of the city, while Sampson hastened to the scene
and assumed command of operations. The American force now included four
first-class battleships, one second-class battleship and two cruisers.
They were arranged in semi-circular formation facing the harbor, and at
night powerful search-lights were kept directed upon the channel which
Admiral Cervera must take in case of an attempt to escape. The main
part of Santiago Bay is between four and five miles long and is reached
through a narrow entrance channel. Elevated positions at the mouth of
the channel rendered the vigorous defence of the harbor a matter of
some ease. Early in the progress of the blockade the Americans
attempted to sink a collier across the entrance, but fortunately, as it
turned out, this daring project failed, and Admiral Sampson settled
down to await developments.

It was apparent that the capture of Santiago, and the destruction of
the fleet could be brought about only through a joint movement of the
army and navy. Hitherto the war had been entirely on the sea.
Nevertheless over 200,000 volunteers had been called for, in addition
to somewhat over 50,000 regular troops and the "Rough Riders"--the last
a regiment of volunteer cavalry which had been raised by Colonel
Leonard Wood and Theodore Roosevelt and which was largely composed of
cowboys, ranchmen, Indians and athletes from eastern colleges. The
regulars, together with a few volunteers and the Rough Riders, were
sent to Tampa, Florida, while most of the volunteers were trained at
Chicamauga Park, in Georgia. It had been expected that the important
military operations would take place around Havana and for that reason
the officer commanding the army, General Nelson A. Miles, with most of
the regular troops, were retained for the larger service. The command
of the expedition to Santiago fell to General William E. Shafter.
Sixteen thousand eight hundred and eighty-seven officers and men set
sail from Tampa on June 14 and began to disembark eight days later at
Daiquiri, sixteen miles to the east of Santiago.

Advancing from this point General Lawton, commanding a division of
infantry, moved parallel to the shore and seized Siboney. General
Wheeler, a former Confederate who was now in command of the cavalry,
met and defeated a Spanish force at Las Guasimas. Further advance met
difficulties that were more serious. On the left of the American line
was San Juan Hill, an eminence which commanded the country toward the
east; on the right was El Caney, a fortified village held by a small
force of Spaniards. The country between the two points was a jungle,
the roads hardly better than trails, where troops frequently had to
go in single file. The fight at El Caney was severe, the enemy being
well-entrenched, well-armed and protected by wire entanglements and
block houses, and General Lawton suffered a loss of more than 400
killed and wounded before driving the Spaniards out of their position.
San Juan Hill was still more stubbornly defended, and an American
advance was impeded by the heat, the tropical growth and the uneven
character of the country. Under these circumstances officers became
separated from their men and victory was gained through the
determination and resourcefulness of the individual. The Spaniards then
fell back upon Santiago.

Campaign about Santiago]

The continued success of the Americans compelled the Spanish
authorities to make an immediate decision in regard to the fleet. To
remain in the harbor seemed to mean being encircled and starved; to go
out through the narrow channel seemed to lead to sure destruction. Yet
the latter venture appealed to the commander-in-chief of Cuba,
Captain-General Blanco, as the more honorable one and on July 2 orders
were sent to Admiral Cervera to make the attempt. Early next morning,
while Admiral Sampson was away at a conference with General Shafter,
lookouts on the American battleships descried the _Infanta Maria
Teresa_ feeling her way out of the harbor, followed by the remainder
of the Spanish fleet, three armored cruisers and two torpedo-boat
destroyers. The Americans instantly closed in, directing their fire
first against the _Teresa_ and later against the rest of the fleet as
they tried to follow their leader out to safety. Once out of the harbor
the entire Spanish fleet dashed headlong toward the west, parallel to
the coast, while the Americans kept pace, pouring a gruelling fire from
every available gun. The Spaniards returned the fire and thus "the
action resolved itself into a series of magnificent duels between
powerful ironclads." One by one the enemy's vessels were sunk or forced
to run ashore--the _Cristobal Colon_ last, at two o'clock in the
afternoon. The Spanish losses, besides the fleet, were 323 killed and
151 wounded; the Americans lost one killed and one wounded. The city of
Santiago, deprived of its fleet, found itself in a desperate plight and
surrendered on July 16. Shortly afterwards General Miles led an
expedition into Porto Rico, but operations were soon brought to a close
because of the suspension of hostilities, and from a military point of
view the importance of the campaign was negligible.

The succession of overwhelming defeats drove home to Spain the futility
of further conflict. The despatch of American troops to the Philippines
and to Porto Rico, moreover, indicated that Spain would soon suffer
other losses. Hence the Spanish government, acting through Jules
Cambon, the French ambassador to the United States, sought terms for
the settlement of the war. The President's reply of July 30 made the
following stipulations: Spain to relinquish and evacuate Cuba and to
cede Porto Rico and one of the Ladrone Islands; the United States to
occupy the city and bay of Manila, pending the conclusion of peace and
the determination of the final disposition of the Philippines. Spain
wished to restrict negotiations to the Cuban question, but was forced
to accept the conditions laid down by the victor. A preliminary
agreement or protocol was therefore signed, which provided for a
conference at Paris concerning peace terms.

The uniform success of the American arms could not obscure the popular
belief that the Department of War had been guilty of many shortcomings.
It will doubtless be always a subject for dispute as to whether the
major portion of the blame is to be laid at the door of the traditional
American disinclination to be prepared for warfare, or upon Secretary
Alger and his immediate advisors. That the conduct of the military
affairs was inexpert, however, is admitted on all sides. The facilities
for taking care of the troops at Tampa were inadequate. When transports
reached Tampa to take the troops to Santiago, officers wildly scrambled
to get their men on board. The Rough Riders, for example, made their
way into a transport intended for two other regiments, one of regulars
and the other of volunteers, with the result that the volunteers and
half of the regulars were left on shore. The clothing supplied for the
Cuban campaign was better suited to a cold climate than to summer in
the tropics. The health of the troops during the Santiago campaign was
such that the general officers expressed the opinion that the army must
immediately be removed from Cuba or suffer severe and unnecessary
losses from malarial fever. When the men were removed, however, they
were taken to Montauk Point on Long Island, where the climate was too
cool and bracing. Unsanitary conditions in the training camps within
the borders of the United States were the cause of fatalities estimated
at several times the number killed in battle. A controversy over the
quality of the beef supplied to the troops led to an executive
commission of investigation. Both unnecessary and unfortunate was the
Sampson-Schley controversy, which originated in a difference of opinion
about the proportion of credit which each of these officers should have
for the success of Santiago and which was continued in charges that the
latter had made serious mistakes in the conduct of his share of the
operations. Subsequently a Court of Inquiry investigated the
accusations and made a decision which did not completely satisfy either

Despite these minor mistakes, however, the war increased the strength
of the administration. The most lasting effects of the conflict on
constitutional and political history demand detailed discussion at a
later point, but the immediate results can be briefly stated.[6] The
successful prosecution of a popular war, combined with widespread
prosperity and the demoralization of the opposition party greatly
heightened the prestige of the Republicans. McKinley appeared to have
been in truth, the "advance agent of prosperity"; and his party
obtained a dominating control of public policy.


H. Croly, _Marcus A. Hanna_ (1912), and C.S. Olcott, _William McKinley_
(2 vols., 1916), discuss the politics of the period, subject to the
limitations already mentioned. W.D. Foulke, _Fighting the Spoilsman_
(1919), describes the relation of the administration to the civil
service; for the Dingley tariff, Stanwood, Tarbell and Taussig.

The literature on the Spanish war is extensive. Most detailed and
reliable is F.E. Chadwick, _Relations of the United States and Spain_;
I, _Diplomacy_, II, III, _The Spanish War_ (1909, 1911). J.H. Latané,
_America as a World Power_ (1907), has several good chapters; H.E.
Flack, _Spanish-American Diplomatic Relations Preceding the War of
1898_ (1906), and E.J. Benton, _International Law and Diplomacy of the
Spanish-American War_ (1908), take up the diplomatic side. On naval
preparations, J.D. Long, _New American Navy_ (2 vols., 1903), is by
McKinley's Secretary of the Navy; see also E.S. Maclay, _History of
the United States Navy_ (rev. ed., 3 vols., 1901-1902). Good
autobiographical accounts are: C.E. Clark, _My Fifty Years in the Navy_
(1917); George Dewey, _Autobiography_ (1913); Theodore Roosevelt,
_Autobiography_; and W.S. Schley, _Forty-five Years under the Flag_
(1914). See also A.T. Mahan, _Lessons of the War with Spain_ (1899).

* * * * *

[1] Cf. Peck, 518.

[2] Other members of the cabinet were: Lyman J. Gage, Ill., Secretary
of the Treasury; Joseph McKenna, Calif., Attorney-General; J.A. Gary,
Md., Postmaster-General; J.D. Long, Mass., Secretary of the Navy, C.N.
Bliss, Secretary of the Interior; James Wilson, Ia., Secretary of

[3] The National Civil Service Reform League estimated the changes at

[4] In 1911 the wreck of the _Maine_ was raised and examined. The
evidence found was such as to substantiate the findings of the American
court of inquiry. _Scientific American_, January 27, 1912.

[5] It has commonly been felt among certain classes in the United
States since 1898 that the business interests whose property and trade
were mentioned by President McKinley had an undue share in bringing
about the declaration of war. While it can not be doubted that the
President was swayed more by business interests than most of our
executives since the Civil War have been, yet it is also true that the
sufferings of the Cubans aroused genuine sympathy in the United States.
The President himself was anxious to delay war as long as possible.

[6] Below, Chap. XVIII.



"The guns of Admiral Dewey did something more than destroy a Spanish
fleet in the harbor of Manila. Their echo came back to us in a
question new in the history of our government." The new problem was
Imperialism--was it wise policy and was it constitutional to annex and
govern territories outside the limits of continental North America? In
colonial problems the United States had had no experience; and if the
Philippines, Cuba or Porto Rico were annexed, it would be necessary
to administer the affairs of peoples whose languages, racial
characteristics and forms of government were utterly strange. Such
objections arose in the minds of many Americans as the conference
assembled at Paris on October 1 to settle the terms of peace.[1]

The chief controversies between the Spanish and the American negotiators
related to Cuba and the Philippines. The Spanish commissioners early
proposed to transfer Cuba to the United States, the latter to turn it
over to the Cuban people in due time. With the sovereignty of Cuba was
to go the debt of the island. On the refusal of the Americans to accede
to this, the Spanish commissioners urged the transfer of Cuba to the
United States without any promise as to its future. Instructions from
Washington both on possession and on debt, however, were explicit and
in the end Spain had to relinquish all claim to Cuba and assume
responsibility for its indebtedness. The proper disposition of the
Philippines presented far greater difficulty. Not only was there a
difference of opinion between the two groups of commissioners, but the
American government was in doubt about the wisest course to pursue, and
grave diversity of opinion existed among the people and in the peace
commission itself. Moreover the capture of the city of Manila had taken
place after the protocol had been signed and after hostilities had been
ordered suspended, but before news of these facts had reached Admiral
Dewey. The original instructions of President McKinley to the peace
commissioners were to the effect that the outcome of the war had placed
new duties and responsibilities on the United States, that the
commercial opportunity which possession of the Philippines would present
could not be overlooked and that the island of Luzon at least must be
ceded. So little was known about the people and the possibilities of the
islands that the American commission was compelled to go far afield to
obtain information from writers and investigators in regard to questions
of defence, the political capacity of the inhabitants, the danger that
another nation might step in if the United States should evacuate,
commercial prospects, and so on. President McKinley soon came to the
opinion that the proper course was to take the entire archipelago. To
give them back to Spain seemed "dishonorable"; to turn them over to our
commercial rivals, France or Germany, seemed "bad business"; to leave
them to themselves would be to leave them to "anarchy and misrule";
hence there was nothing to do but to take all of them and attempt to
spread American civilization among the Filipino people. The American
commissioners therefore demanded the Philippines, but realizing the
defect in their case, since the conquest of Manila had taken place after
the conclusion of the protocol, agreed to pay Spain $20,000,000. The
Spanish commissioners thereupon yielded to necessity and reluctantly

As finally signed, the treaty of December 10, 1898, contained the
following points: Spain agreed to relinquish Cuba, and the United
States was to protect life and property during its occupancy of the
island; Spain also ceded Porto Rico and the other Spanish West Indies,
Guam in the Ladrones, and the Philippines on payment of $20,000,000;
the United States agreed to return to Spain, at its own cost, all
Spanish prisoners taken at the time of the capture of Manila; the
civil and political rights of the inhabitants of the ceded territories
were to be determined by Congress; and freedom of religion was

The reference of the treaty to the Senate for ratification elicited
many divergences of opinion, the ablest opposition being presented by
members of the President's own party. In particular, the position
taken by Senator Hoar, a rigid Republican and a close friend of
President McKinley, made a strong impression. That there can be no
just government without the consent of the governed, he asserted, was
the central doctrine of the Declaration of Independence. Moreover, the
acquisition of foreign lands, he believed, would lead us into
competition with European powers for territory, and thus tempt us away
from the international policy which had been laid down by the
"fathers" and followed by the nation ever since. Most of the Democrats
held similar views, but some of them heeded the advice of Bryan, who
urged that the treaty be ratified in order to end the war, and that
the ultimate disposition of the new possessions be decided in the next
presidential campaign. The point of view which seems to have prevailed
with most Republicans was that the United States, being a sovereign
nation, possessed power to acquire territory and to determine its
future status, and that as a matter of expediency it was better to
take the Philippines than to risk the dangers which lay in leaving
them alone. Shortly before the final vote was taken, an insurrection
broke out in the Philippines against American control, which may have
influenced some senators to accept the President's settlement. Even
with this aid, however, ratification was brought about by the narrow
margin of one vote more than the required two-thirds majority.[2]

Within the field of politics, the Republicans increased the advantage
which they had gained in 1896. The congressional and state elections
of 1893 continued their control of the House and strengthened it in
the Senate; the world-wide prosperity which has already been mentioned
and in which the United States shared, was in striking contrast with
the business depression of the recent Democratic administration;
discoveries of gold deposits in the Klondike and the improvement of
methods of extracting the metal from the ore greatly increased the
currency supply and assisted in raising the level of prices, thereby
giving greater prosperity to the western farmer and lessening his
complaints. The gold standard act of March 14, 1900, pleased the
financial interests, for it fixed the standard of value, set the
amount of the gold reserve at $150,000,000, and specified adequate
means by which the Secretary of the Treasury could maintain other
forms of money on a parity with the precious metal. Within the
Republican organization, the President's soothing personality and
Hanna's meticulous attention to the details of the party machinery
continued undiminished the momentum which had been gathered.
Defections on the imperialism issue, while affecting important party
leaders, were numerically unimportant. Among the financial and
industrial classes, therefore, confidence in President McKinley and
his advisors was thoroughgoing. There was a strong bond of interest,
moreover, between territorial expansion and industrial expansion,
between Imperialism and the expansion of foreign markets. The primacy
of business was assured.

The renomination of McKinley at the Republican Convention in
Philadelphia, on June 19, 1900, was unanimous. The vice-presidency,
contrary to tradition, occupied the center of interest. Several men of
prominence were mentioned in this connection but the name which evoked
most enthusiasm was that of Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt's career
during the war with Spain had been a prominent factor in making him
Governor of New York. As Governor he had shown energy and independence,
especially in connection with measures for taxing street railway and
other franchises, and had come into conflict with Senator Thomas C.
Platt, the boss of the state. Senator Platt, therefore, desired to
divert the vigorous Governor into the vice-presidency, an office which
usually casts a "species of political oblivion" over its occupant.
McKinley was opposed to the plan and so were Hanna and Roosevelt
himself. The latter desired to put into effect further plans which he
had made as Governor, and the attempt to shelve him aroused his
fighting spirit. In the convention, however, sentiment in behalf of
Roosevelt, especially from the West, was so strong as to over-rule
both the administration and the wishes of the Governor. McKinley sent
emphatic word that he was neither for nor against any man, but would
accept the decision of the delegates. Hanna then withdrew his
objections and Roosevelt was nominated without opposition.

The Republican platform emphasized the prosperity which had resulted
from the accession of the party to power; it pointed out the danger
which would ensue if the opposition were allowed to conduct public
affairs; and it dwelt upon the growth of the export trade, and the
beneficence of the Dingley tariff. An antitrust plank deprecated
combinations designed to create monopolies, and promised legislation
to prevent such abuses. Imperialism was briefly dismissed: "No other
course was possible than to destroy Spain's sovereignty throughout the
West Indies and in the Philippine Islands. That course created our
responsibility before the world ... to provide for the maintenance of
law and order, and for the establishment of good government and for
the performance of international obligations."

The dissension which had existed within the Democratic party since the
second administration of Cleveland was still the important fact about
the organization. Having been out of power, the party could take only
the negative position of hostile criticism; there had been no
reorganization and clarification of purposes, and no new leader had
appeared who combined the personal prestige of Bryan with those
qualities of conservatism and solidity which the East demanded, so
that from the beginning there was no doubt that Bryan would again be
the candidate and that he would take the lead in framing the platform.
The convention met in Kansas City, on July 4. The platform placed most
emphasis upon three issues. The first, which was declared the
"paramount" one, was imperialism. The reasons given for opposing
territorial expansion were mainly those brought forward by Senator
Hoar at the time when the peace treaty was under discussion.

We declare again that all governments instituted among men derive
their just powers from the consent of the governed; that any
government not based upon the consent of the governed is a tyranny;
and that to impose upon any people a government of force is to
substitute the methods of imperialism for those of a republic.

The second issue, the evils of big business, received renewed
attention, although an old complaint, because of the many industrial
consolidations of the years immediately preceding. The "trusts" were
condemned for appropriating the fruits of industry for the benefit of
the few, and the Republican party was charged with fostering them in
return for campaign subscriptions and political support. The Dingley
act was denounced as a "trust-breeding" measure. The remedies proposed
were severely definite in comparison with the vague plank which had
been offered by the Republicans: they included publicity as to the
affairs of corporations doing an interstate business; the prohibition
of stock-watering and attempts at monopoly; and the use of all the
constitutional powers of Congress over interstate commerce and the
mails for the enactment of comprehensive and effective legislation.
That the silver issue was mentioned was due to the insistence of Bryan,
who believed that the stand which had been taken by the party in 1896
was a right one. Notwithstanding the objections of many influential
leaders, therefore, a free silver plank was inserted, although in brief
terms and in an inconspicuous place.

As a political contest, the campaign of 1900 lacked life in comparison
with that of 1896. Interest in anti-imperialism was difficult to
arouse, and waned visibly as the weeks wore on. Prosperity and the
increased money supply sapped the strength of earlier discontent with
the currency situation, so that the choice presented to the voters
simmered down to imperialism and Bryan. A bit of vigor was infused into
the campaign through the energetic speaking tours of Roosevelt and the
Democratic leader. Hanna, as Chairman of the Republican National
Committee, organized everything with his usual skill, and raised, his
biographer tells us, $2,500,000 from the important business men of the
country--one-fifth of it from two companies. The result of the election
was the choice of McKinley, whose plurality over Bryan exceeded 860,000
in a total vote of less than 14,000,000; Bryan received less support
than had been accorded him in 1896.

While imperialism as a political issue was being discussed and decided,
the history of American control in Cuba, Porto Rico and the Philippines
was rapidly being written. Economic conditions in the first of these
islands at the time of the American occupation were little short of
appalling. The streets, houses and public institutions were filthy and
in disrepair; anarchy ruled, for lack of any stable and recognized
government; and the people were half-clothed, homeless and starving. At
noon on January 1, 1899, the Spanish flag was hauled down in Havana,
the American flag was hoisted in its place, and representatives of the
former government relinquished all rights to the sovereignty and public
property of the island. General John R. Brooke, and later General
Leonard Wood controlled affairs as military governors.

The first task was to feed the hungry, and care for the sick and dying.
The customs service was revived under command of Colonel Tasker H.
Bliss and began to supply needed revenue. The penal institutions were
investigated--noisome holes in which were crowded wretched prisoners,
many of whom had been incarcerated for no ascertainable reason.
Education was reorganized, equipment provided, teachers found, and
schools repaired or rebuilt. Most remarkable, was the work of
sanitation. Heaps of rubbish were cleared away; houses washed and
disinfected; sewers were opened and streets cleaned. Scientific
investigation disclosed the fact that the mosquito disseminated the
yellow fever and steps were taken to prevent the breeding of these
pests. So successful were the efforts that in a few years the fever had
become a thing of the past.

It was seen that the economic rehabilitation of Cuba must come about
mainly through the production of sugar, and since the United States was
the chief purchaser of the product, the tariff schedule was of vital
importance. In 1901 Congress was urged to reduce the tariff on imports
from Cuba, but the opposition was formidable. The American Beet Sugar
Association complained that their industry, which had been recently
established, would be ruined by allowing reductions to Cuban growers;
the cane-sugar planters of Louisiana were allied with them; and the
friends of protection feared the effect of any break in the tariff
wall. On the other hand, the American Sugar Refining Company, popularly
called the "Sugar Trust," merely refined raw sugar and desired an
increase in the supply. Lobbyists of all descriptions poured into
Washington to influence committees and individuals, and General Leonard
Wood, then the Governor of Cuba, even expended Cuban funds in the
spread of literature favorable to a reciprocal reduction of duties. In
the meantime, a reciprocity treaty was made and submitted to the
Senate, where it hung fire for somewhat more than a year, and was
finally ratified on December 16, 1903. It provided for the admission of
Cuban products into the United States at a reduction of twenty per
cent., and a reciprocal reduction on American goods entering Cuba of
twenty-five to forty per cent.

The establishment of a policy in regard to permanent relations between
the United States and Cuba was brought about in 1901-1902. When
Congress had demanded the withdrawal of Spain from the island in 1898,
its action had been accompanied by the Teller Resolution, disclaiming
any intention of keeping Cuba and asserting a determination to leave
the control of the island with its people. After the close of the war
President McKinley and his closest advisors in Congress had determined
that the pledge should be kept, and public sentiment had been in
agreement with them. As soon, therefore, as American control was an
established fact, plans were formulated for relinquishing Cuba to the
people of the island. A constitutional convention was held, and a form
of government, modelled on that of the United States, was framed and
adopted on February 21, 1901.

While the Cuban convention was deliberating, it became apparent that
the constitution would not include any statement of a policy in regard
to future relations with the United States. The American Senate,
therefore, under the leadership of Senator O.H. Platt, passed the
so-called "Platt Amendment." Its several provisions were as follows:
the Cuban government shall never enter into agreements with other
powers which tend to impair the independence of the island; it shall
not contract public debts of such size that the ordinary revenues would
be inadequate to pay interest charges and provide for a sinking fund;
it shall permit the intervention of the United States when needed to
preserve Cuban independence and the maintenance of an adequate
government; and it shall sell or lease necessary coaling stations to
the United States. When satisfied that the purpose of the Amendment was
not to enable the United States to meddle in affairs in Cuba, but
merely to secure Cuban independence and set forth a definite
understanding between the two nations, the convention incorporated it
in the final constitution. On May 20, 1902, the control of Cuba was
formally relinquished to the people of the island, with the good wishes
of the people of the United States. Only once since that time has the
United States intervened. During the summer of 1906, an insurrection
against the Cuban government took place during which the president of
the Republic requested American assistance. A small army was
despatched, which remained until March, 1909, when quiet was restored
and an orderly election was held.

The task of the United States in Porto Rico was far simpler than in
Cuba. The island was small; the people homogeneous, predominantly
white, and well-disposed toward American occupation; and only slight
damage had been done by the troops during the war because of the
cessation of hostilities at the outset of the Porto Rican expedition.
The development of a system of education, therefore, the improvement of
roads and the betterment of health conditions through vaccination and
the control of yellow fever presented a problem which was relatively

On October 18, 1898, United States officials assumed control of the
island, and until May 1, 1900, the government was in the hands of the
War Department. On the latter date a civil government was established
under the "Foraker Act," an organic law or constitution passed by
Congress on April 12, 1900. Under the provisions of the Act a governor
was to be appointed by the President of the United States, to be the
chief executive officer of the island. The people of Porto Rico were
allowed a voice in the government through the power to elect the lower
house of the legislature; but control by the United States was assured
by giving the President authority to choose the members of the upper
house, and by giving both the governor and Congress a veto on
legislation passed by the island legislature. In the course of time the
Porto Ricans desired larger self-government. This was granted by the
act of March 2, 1917, which made the islanders citizens of the United
States and gave them power to elect both houses of the legislature.[3]

The first difficulty met by the United States in the Philippines was an
inheritance from Spanish rule. In 1896 the Filipinos, led by Aguinaldo,
had risen against the government in order to secure more liberal
treatment and to eliminate the influence of the Catholic friars from
politics. The "embers of dissatisfaction" were still aglow when the
American war intervened. Relations between the revolutionists and the
United States forces became strained when the former were not allowed
to cooperate with the Americans against the Spanish, and in February,
1899, open warfare followed. Not until July, 1902, was quiet restored,
and during the process enough cruelties were practiced by American
soldiers to make the anti-imperialists doubly fearful of military

McKinley and his Secretary of War--at this time Elihu Root--desired to
supplant military government with civil rule as quickly as possible and
to this end the President appointed the first Philippine Commission on
January 20, 1899, with Jacob G. Schurman, of Cornell University, as
Chairman. It was instructed to investigate the situation in the islands
and to recommend any action that seemed wise. The unsettled condition
of affairs seriously hampered the work of the Commission but it
gathered a fund of information which it later published. A second
Commission was sent out in 1900, with Judge William H. Taft at the
head. The instructions given to the Commission by President McKinley
embodied an enlightened colonial policy, the core of which was that the
government being established was "designed not for our satisfaction, or
for the expression of our theoretical views, but for the happiness,
peace, and prosperity of the people of the Philippine Islands." The
Commission wielded such large powers that gradually the area controlled
by the civil government increased at the expense of the military
authorities, and by 1902 only the wild Moros were under military

By this time a definite form of government could be planned for, built
upon the labors of the second Commission. The Philippine Act of July 1,
1902, provided for a governor appointed by the President, with the
advice of the Senate, executive departments, and a legislature, the
lower house of which was elected by the people. From the beginning the
Filipinos, like the Porto Ricans, have desired a greater range of
self-government, and in 1916 long steps were taken in the direction
desired by them. The Jones act of that year materially increased the
powers of the Philippine government and gave the Filipinos power to
elect the upper as well as the lower house of the legislature. The
passage of the law met with enthusiastic approval in the islands.

The purpose of American rule in the Philippines has been to fit the
people for self-government, although opinions have differed as to how
soon the final outcome could be brought about. An early and bothersome
problem was found in the friars' lands, which consisted of about
425,000 acres, for the most part in the vicinity of Manila. The
possession of so great an area, together with the religious power and
the considerable political authority which the friars exercised under
Spanish rule, gave the Church a domination which might threaten trouble
after the American occupation. The solution of the problem was found in
the purchase of the lands for about $7,000,000 by the United States.
Efforts have been made to introduce a complete system of
education--physical and industrial, as well as academic--with such
success that when the Jones bill was being discussed in Congress in
1916 it was asserted that every member of the Philippine legislature at
that time was a college graduate. In 1917 the Filipino student body
numbered 647,256, with 11,822 teachers. Political education has also
been a part of the American idea. Elementary self-government was
gradually introduced, starting in the more civilized local
municipalities and provinces and confining the suffrage to the educated
people, the official classes and property owners. The preservation of
order has been more and more entrusted to a Philippine constabulary;
civil service officers and school teachers have been increasingly
chosen from the Filipinos; and the courts have been partly manned with
native judges. Work in sanitation has followed the lines marked out in
Cuba and Porto Rico. First and last over 10,000,000 vaccinations were
performed before 1914; small-pox has been controlled; attention has
been paid to the building of highways and railroads, water supply, the
disposal of sewage and allied problems. The precise time, if ever, when
independence should be granted to the Philippines is the one great
question remaining.

The first attempt to revise the customs laws in the Philippines was
made by the Commission during the governorship of William H. Taft.
These schedules were revised in Washington in such a way as to
discriminate against Philippine interests, but they had remained in
force only a short time when Congress passed the act of March 8, 1902,
allowing goods grown or produced in the Philippines to enter the United
States under a twenty-five per cent. reduction. In 1909, the tariff
makers were induced to relent to the extent of allowing the free
importation of goods grown, produced or manufactured in the
Philippines, except that only a specified annual amount of Philippine
sugar and tobacco might be brought in. In 1913 the wall was entirely
removed on all trade between the United States and the Philippines in
articles made or grown in either of the two countries.

While Congress and the President were concerning themselves with the
practical problems of military control, sanitation and the like, the
Supreme Court was laboriously considering the less tangible but equally
perplexing question of the constitutionality of the several acts which


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