The First Battle/Chapter 10
As the adoption of the platform was the rock upon which the convention split, I give below the names of the Committee on Resolutions:
From the first assembling of the Platform Committee it became evident that there could be no agreement. The differences between the delegates upon the money question were so radical and the convictions so deep that compromise was impossible. A large majority of the delegates had come instructed for a platform declaring for free and unlimited coinage at 16 to 1, while a minority of the delegates were instructed to oppose such a declaration. The majority prepared their money plank and the minority theirs, and the contest was transferred to the convention. Senator Jones, the chairman of the committee, presented the majority report, and the platform as read by him was adopted. As I shall set it forth in full in a subsequent chapter, I shall not quote from it here. The minority report was signed by Messrs. David B. Hill, William F. Vilas, George Gray, John Prentiss Poe, Irving W. Drew, C. V. Holman, P. J. Farrell, William R. Steele, Allen McDermott, Lynde Harrison, David S. Baker, Thomas A. E. Weadock, James E. O'Brien, John E. Russell, Robert E. Wright, and Charles D. Rogers. (Mr. Weadock, who signed the minority report, was replaced by Mr. Hummer, after the Michigan contest was decided. The latter supported the majority report.)
The report and substitute recommended read as follows:
To the Democratic National Convention: Sixteen delegates, constituting the minority of the Committee on Resolutions, find many declarations in the report of the majority to which they cannot give their assent. Some of these are wholly unnecessary. Some are ill considered and ambiguously phrased, while others are extreme and revolutionary of the well recognized principles of the party. The minority content themselves with this general expression of their dissent, without going into a specific statement of these objectionable features of the report of the majority; but upon the financial question, which engages at this time the chief share of public attention, the views of the majority differ so fundamentally from what the minority regard as vital Democratic doctrine as to demand a distinct statement of what they hold to as the only just and true expression of Democratic faith upon this paramount issue, as follows, which is offered as a substitute for the financial plank in the majority report:
"We declare our belief that the experiment on the part of the United States alone of free silver coinage and a change of the existing standard of value independently of the action of other great nations, would not only imperil our finances, but would retard or entirely prevent the establishment of international bimetallism, to which the efforts of the Government should be steadily directed. It would place this country at once upon a silver basis, impair contracts, disturb business, diminish the purchasing power of the wages of labor, and inflict irreparable evils upon our nation's commerce and industry.
"Until international co-operation among leading nations for the coinage of silver can be secured we favor the rigid maintenance of the existing gold standard as essential to the preservation of our national credit, the redemption of our public pledges, and the keeping inviolate of our country's honor. We insist that all our paper and silver currency shall be kept absolutely at a parity with gold. The Democratic party is the party of hard money and is opposed to legal tender paper money as a part of our permanent financial system, and we therefore favor the gradual retirement and cancellation of all United States notes and Treasury notes, under such legislative provisions as will prevent undue contraction. We demand that the national credit shall be resolutely maintained at all times and under all circumstances."
The minority also feel that the report of the majority is defective in failing to make any recognition of the honesty, economy, courage, and fidelity of the present Democratic administration. And they therefore offer the following declaration as an amendment to the majority report:
"We commend the honesty, economy, courage and fidelity of the present Democratic National Administration."
The debate was opened by Senator Tillman, who supported the platform reported by the majority; he was followed by Senator Jones. Senator Hill, Senator Vilas and ex-Governor Russell of Massachusetts supported the substitute offered by the minority. The debate was closed by myself. The speech is given below:
In view of the wide publication of this speech, I may be pardoned for making some reference to it. While a member of the Committee on Resolutions, I was prevented from attending the first sessions of the committee owing to our contest, and was not a member of the subcommittee which drafted the platform. As soon as our contest was settled, I met with the committee and took part in the final discussion and adoption of the platform. Just before the platform was reported to the convention, Senator Jones sent for me and asked me to take charge of the debate. In dividing the time I was to have twenty minutes to close, but as the minority used ten minutes more than the time originally allotted, my time was extended ten minutes. The concluding sentence of my speech was criticised both favorable and unfavorably. I had used the idea in substantially the same form in a speech in Congress, but did not recall the fact when I used it in the convention. A portion of the speech was extemporaneous, and its arrangement entirely so, but parts of it had been prepared for another occasion. Next to the conclusion, the part most quoted was the definition of the term, "business men." Since I became interested in the discussion of monetary questions, I have often had occasion to note and comment upon the narrowness of some of the terms used, and nowhere is this narrowness more noticeable than in the attempt to ignore the most important business men of the country, the real creators of wealth.
On the motion to adopt the substitute offered by the minority, the vote by States was as follows:
After the defeat of the substitute, the roll was called upon the following amendment offered by Senator Hill:
We commend the honesty, economy, courage and fidelity of the present Democratic National Administration.
Upon this, the vote by States was as follows:
Mr. Hill then offered the following amendments:
But it should be carefully provided by law at the same time that any change in the monetary standard should not apply to existing contracts.
Our advocacy of the independent free coinage of silver being based on belief that such coinage will effect and maintain a parity between gold and silver at the ratio 16 to 1, we declare as a pledge of our sincerity that, if such free coinage shall fail to effect such parity within one year from its enactment by law, such coinage shall thereupon be suspended.
Both amendments were defeated without roll call. Upon the motion to adopt the platform, the vote by states was as follows: