Page:Memoirs of Henry Villard, volume 2.djvu/384

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360
[1891–2
HENRY VILLARD

most Washington, representing a total investment in cash and bonds of not far from $30,000,000, which together hardly earned operating expenses. The acquisition and building of these disappointing lines had in a few years absorbed the large amount of consolidated bonds set aside for construction purposes, which had been assumed to be sufficient for all needs in that direction for a long time. Under these circumstances, Mr. Villard came back to New York with increased apprehension as to the future of the Northern Pacific.

In his mind, there was but one way of saving the country and the road from a ruinous catastrophe, viz., by the earliest possible repeal of the Sherman Act, and the election of a President in 1892 who could be relied upon to exert executive influence for the repeal of the Act as well as for the establishment of the gold standard. All through the winter of 1891 and 1892, he devoted most of his time and his best energy to the pursuit of those two aims. He made several stays in Washington, and by incessant efforts with the leaders of both parties helped to bring about the introduction, reference, and report to the House of a repeal bill which failed to pass by only a few votes, owing to the jealousy entertained by certain Western Republican members towards Speaker Reed, who favored the measure. Mr. Villard had obtained promises from nearly two dozen New York political leaders, lawyers, and financiers to respond at any time to a summons from him to Washington to bring their personal influence to bear upon members in favor of the repeal. Of all these prominent men only one—Mr. William Brookfield—kept his word and appeared; so little even then did the elite of the professional and business community recognize the perils of the situation.

Although Mr. Villard had always taken an active interest in civil-service and tariff reform for he had belonged to the Manchester School ever since he had read Adam Smith, Bastiat, and John Stuart Mill he had never had anything to do with active party politics. His resolution to do