The Issues of the National Campaign of 1892
THE PLAIN DUTY OF VOTERS
CLEARLY AND FORCIBLY OUTLINED BY MR. CARL SCHURZ.
THE ISSUES OF THE CAMPAIGN.
A GREAT PARTY THAT LOSING ITS SOLE ISSUE, HAS SOLD ITSELF TO THE MONEY POWER — WHAT DEMOCRACY OFFERS — A REVISION OF THE TARIFF WHICH MAY NOT GO FAR ENOUGH — MR. CLEVELAND'S GREAT STRENGTH WITH THE PEOPLE — MR. HARRISON'S RECORD.
Brooklyn, N.Y., Aug. 10, 1892.
To the Hon. Carl Schurz:
Sir: The undersigned, citizens of Brooklyn, heartily join in the invitation tendered you by the Cleveland and Stevenson campaign clubs of Kings County to address a meeting in this city on the present national political situation.
It has been your custom in our principal political campaigns, from that which resulted in the first election of Abraham Lincoln until the present time, to discuss public questions, not only with disinterested frankness, but with a sincere regard to the larger and enduring interests of the whole country rather than to the partisan exigencies of the moment. We have not always been in political accord with one another or with yourself; but, whatever the differences of opinion formerly or now between us, we are agreed that the interests of the Nation will be promoted by your public and early discussion of the important issues which the American people are now called upon to decide. Very respectfully yours,
Alexander E. Orr,
Worthington C. Ford,
To the Cleveland and Stevenson Clubs of Kings County and Alexander E. Orr, Alexander M. White, and Others, Citizens of Brooklyn:
Gentlemen: I highly appreciate and sincerely thank you for the great distinction you confer upon me by your request that I should publicly discuss the issues to be decided by the American people at the coming Presidential election. In compliance with your wish, I should be glad to deliver an address before a public meeting were I not, to my sincere regret, prevented from doing so by ill health. I shall, however, with great pleasure lay before you in writing what would have been the substance of my speech. You do me the honor to say that it has been my "custom to discuss public questions with a sincere regard to the larger and enduring interests of the whole country rather than to the partisan exigencies of the moment." Such has at least always been my endeavor, and I shall submit to you now with entire candor what I think the most important consequences will be, of the action of the people, one way or the other, at the coming election. And the terms of your letter assure me that I am addressing men who always conscientiously consider in what manner they can best serve the public interest before making up their minds as to how to vote.
We are told that the tariff is the chief issue of this campaign. I certainly do not underestimate the importance of any of its aspects, but I regard it as only a part of a far more comprehensive question which is not merely economic, but political in its nature, and concerns the general working, in fact the moral vitality, of our democratic system of government. And this is of far greater consequence than mere considerations of material interest. Let us look at our present political condition.
There is a school of pessimists growing up among us who, whenever anything goes wrong, are ready to declare democratic government a failure and to despair of the Republic. I do not mean that insignificant and ridiculous class of poor beings who affect to be ashamed of calling themselves Americans, ape the customs of foreign aristocracies and run after foreign titles. They are simply snobs. But I mean certain more serious persons whom the contemplation of the frequent mishaps in the conduct of popular government has made faint-hearted and gloomy. If their dismal state of mind only led them more sharply to find fault and criticise, it would do no harm, and might do good. But when it goes so far as to discourage every attempt at improvement as useless, it is harmful indeed. Let us remind these pessimists that if they apply the same methods of criticism and the same reasoning by which they make our democratic government a failure to aristocratic or to monarchial government, they will surely make them out failures likewise; and so every other kind of government, until at last they will reach the conclusion that all forms of government are failures, and that it is absolutely useless to try any. Only anarchy will remain, and they are not likely to make that out a success.
I, for my part, although being beyond the time of youthful illusions, believe that a democratic republic will prove the most excellent form of government, if administered, not necessarily by angels, but by a fairly virtuous, self-respecting, patient, self-restraining, sensible, industrious, liberty-, peace- and order-loving people; and that the Americans, in the same measure as they are and remain such a people, will successfully maintain such a government, and be strong and happy in its enjoyment. It must essentially be a government of public opinion expressed in the forms of law. Such a government will, of course, have its shortcomings and make its mistakes, perhaps serious ones and plenty of them. But as long as the growth and action of public opinion in the body-politic is free and genuine, the good sense of the people may be trusted to bring about in time the correction of errors and of existing evils — not completely, perhaps, nor perfectly, but measurably, sufficiently to make things in the end come out about right, to keep our system of government in steady working order, and to secure to our people more freedom and contentment than they would have in any other way. Paradoxical as it may sound, this is the country in which, so governed, things may go badly in detail, but yet well on the whole. This is, and will remain, true, provided always that we do not permit certain evil influences in politics, tending to obstruct the growth and to pervert the expression of an honest public opinion among the people, to continue and become stronger than they now are. The most obvious of the evil influences in politics I speak of are money and the machine.
I know there always has been, and always will be, some money used in elections for perfectly proper ends. But it is a notorious fact that sums are now spent in Presidential and even in State campaigns which a generation ago would have been thought fabulous; that the election of United States Senators by some legislatures occasions financial arrangements as large as those of the starting of a big bank; that in some Congressional districts and some municipalities the cost of a canvass is enormous; that much of that money is used for the purpose of bribery in a variety of forms; that not a few constituencies, not long ago pure, are thoroughly debauched, and that the evil has been growing and spreading of late from year to year. Indeed, we have reached the point where the raising of big sums for use in elections is officially recognized as a high political function deserving signal recognition. Look at Mr. John Wanamaker, whose only title to rank as a statesman, when he was made a Cabinet Minister, consisted in the collection of a large electioneering fund, to be spent where it would do the most good by his brother statesman, Matt Quay. And the frankness and gravity with which party managers nowadays discuss the statistics of purchasable voters — floaters, so called — and the methods of buying and watching them, shows this part of party warfare to have risen to the dignity of a recognized and important branch of the science of practical politics, and its masters are gratefully praised as "peerless leaders."
As to the machine, we are sometimes told by well-meaning persons that some sort of a party machine is necessary. Let us distinguish. Public-spirited citizens form a party because they have substantially the same objects of public interest in view; they seek to serve these objects by organized effort, and to that end form committees and clubs and whatever else an effective organization requires, all being composed of men animated with the desire of furthering the same public ends. This is a healthy, legitimate party organization. What is the machine? An organization within a party, composed of officeholders or officeseekers, or both, who ostensibly serve a public cause for the purpose of having that cause serve them; politicians clubbed together for mutual support and benefit; well disciplined under shrewd and energetic leaders; seeking, in the first place, to rule the party to which they belong, so as to make its victory their spoil; striving to control its caucuses and nominating conventions so that only such men be selected for public positions of power and emolument as can be depended upon to serve their interests, and caring little or nothing for any cause or any party or any candidate, unless their interest is served. They may sometimes support, with apparent zeal, a candidate of whom they can expect no service, but only because they would otherwise forfeit their party standing and lose future opportunities. This is the machine. Whether it operates only in municipalities or spreads its power over whole States, its spirit is the same. Nor is that spirit very different when the officeholding force of the National Government is called into political service to promote personal ends. On the whole, it may be said that the development of party organization has of late years been largely in the direction of machine methods.
What will be the effect of all this on our political life? Money wrongfully used in elections corrupts public opinion; the machine, as far as its influence reaches, strives by the action of selfish, well-drilled and disciplined organization to obstruct, override, falsify, enslave public opinion. Thus both tend to poison the very fountainhead of democratic government. They do more. They serve to raise up systematically a race of unprincipled, self-seeking, mercenary politicians, and to repel from public life men who with patriotic ambition wish to serve the public welfare according to their honest convictions. Wherever money and the machine are strong and successful, they teach the youth of the country that not ability, knowledge, honesty, public spirit, fidelity to duty, devotion to the country will keep them in public position, but that subserviency to a self-seeking organization, the willingness to sacrifice to it all higher aims, is necessary to political success; that the low arts of the political manipulator are worth more to the public man than true statesmanship; that those who are constantly troubled by principle and a high sense of duty are impracticable visionaries and dudes and Pharisees; that such fools may seem to get a start occasionally, but not for long; that he who wishes to prosper in politics must discard such squeamish notions; that, if he be rich, he must liberally shovel out his money without asking where it goes; or, if he has ability, he must place it at the service of the organization for weal or woe.
How this sort of politics practically works where money and the machine are strong, we know from the experience of municipalities and of States. What it would accomplish if it spread over the whole nation, we can well conjecture. These evils are not confined to any one party. Both of them have their sins to answer for. But a candid study of our recent political history and our present condition has forced the conclusion upon me that in the Republican Party these tendencies have, owing to peculiar circumstances, come to their most dangerous development.
I cannot say this of the Republican Party without a feeling of profoundest regret. As a political being I grew up in and with that party. During its great endeavors for human freedom I saw in it all that was noblest and best. In its struggles I enjoyed the glorious sunshine of a youthful enthusiasm undisturbed by doubt or misgiving. And whatever of honor and distinction in public life fell to my lot I had under its auspices. I clung to it with almost filial affection and devoted allegiance, and hoped to belong to it all the days of my life. But the citizen of a republic is not permitted to forget that the duty to his country must be more sacred to him than all party sentiment or obligation, and that he has no right to be swerved from that duty even by the impulse of gratitude. I know well convictions of duty are different and lead different men different ways. I have to walk the path that my conviction leads me, although it leads me away from grateful attachments and cherished memories.
The Republican Party has indeed a glorious past. It sprang into being at the call of the popular conscience, which rose up against the spread of slavery. This gave it its title of the party of freedom and of moral ideas. It conducted the Government during the war for the Union, and under its auspices the life of the Nation was saved. This made it in its time preeminently the party of National patriotism. Its aims were simple, clear and noble; its spirit that of patriotic devotion. But when its first great ends had been achieved, the civil war was ended, and the work of reconstruction begun, then the lust of power crept into its councils. While the life of the Union was still hanging in the balance of battle, the Republicans had felt, not unnaturally, that the ascendancy of the Republican party was necessary to the salvation of the Republic, and that, in maintaining that ascendancy, the end would justify the means. This belief became so firmly rooted in the minds of multitudes of Republicans that, even when the vital crisis was over, they continued to look upon any attempt to deprive the Republican Party of power as a heinous offense little short of treason; and they sanctioned even the most arbitrary measures adopted at that period to keep the late rebel States under Republican rule as measures absolutely required for the protection of the liberated slave and the preservation of the Union.
But the prejudices and passions of the civil war could not remain alive forever to demonstrate the necessity of Republican ascendancy. People would at last begin to think that the anti-slavery and Union-saving mission of the Republican Party was really fulfilled. Then the tariff question was advanced to the foreground. By the exigencies of the war, shrewdly taken advantage of by protectionists, the Republican Party had been drawn into a protective policy. The protective tariff, however, had at first been presented only as a "war measure," as a "temporary necessity." And after the war the continuation of the protective system had been advocated in a more or less apologetic way, with constant promises of revision in the direction of lower duties. In election campaigns it had figured only by the side of other more prominent issues upon which the Republican Party relied for success.
Even then, carried to that length, our tariff policy had begun to produce a very deleterious effect upon the ways of thinking and the character of the American people. The Americans had been in their daily life, in the employment of their energies, their enterprise, their struggle for success on every field of activity, the most independent, self-reliant, self -helping people in the world. This quality was the glory of American manhood. To it more than to anything else the American people owed their rapid progress, their prosperity, their greatness, aye, even the preservation of the vital element in their democratic institutions. But the protective system, in its more recent expansion over constantly widening fields, is teaching them, impelling them, seducing them — not a mere handful of manufacturers, but almost all classes of the people — to look to the government for aid and support and protection against loss in almost everything they do. I maintain, and I cannot lay too much stress upon it, any economic system that has the effect of weakening the spirit of self-reliance, self-help, individual responsibility among the people and of making them look to a paternal government for what they should look for to themselves — every such system will deteriorate our national character, will eventually undermine our free institutions, and is essentially an un-American system. That system is bringing forth a most characteristic fruit even now.
In 1884 something happened which by the Republican politicians had been represented as equivalent to the destruction of the country. The Republicans were defeated in a Presidential election. A Democratic President took the helm of the National Government. And still more, the country was not destroyed. The Democratic Administration proved eminently conservative, patriotic and safe. The old political capital upon which the Republican Party had successfully banked so many years was irretrievably gone. Something desperate had to be done to regain the lost power. And it was done. In its National Convention of 1888 the Republican Party gave itself over body and soul to the money-power interested in the protective tariff, expecting from it substantial aid in the election.
I know this is a grave assertion. But if you are not yet satisfied of its truthfulness, you need only study the history of the campaign of 1888 and what followed. There was not the slightest popular demand for higher tariff duties. The Republicans had till then substantially admitted the desirability of reductions, and only asked that they, as the friends of the system, be permitted to make the alterations themselves. But in 1888 the scene changed. With the most cynical frankness, Republican leaders notified the protected manufacturers, openly recognizing them as the beneficiaries of the tariff, that unless they permitted the "fat to be fried out of them" for the benefit of the Republican Party, they need not expect any further tariff favors — in fact, the tariff might be let go by the board — but that they would be well taken care of if they paid up. The Republican National Convention took extreme protection ground. A vista of indefinite increases of duties was opened. The fat-frying process proceeded vigorously. The beneficiaries of the tariff contributed with profusion. The Republican campaign fund received unprecedented sums of money to be expended by Mr. Matt Quay. Thus the victory was won. Then the helpful beneficiaries of productive duties demanded and received their reward, and that reward was the McKinley tariff. It is a notorious fact that for not a few of the new tariff rates scarcely any reason could be given, except that they had been asked for; and the demand for them was enforced by the argument that they had been earned.
I shall not discuss the economic, but only the political aspect of the McKinley tariff, which seems to me the most important. As has been truthfully said many a time the natural resources of this country are so enormous that in a sense it may prosper for a long period in spite of any economic system ever so vicious; or, if it suffers, it may speedily recover. The American people can endure being plundered by a favored few in this or any other way a while without danger of permanent injury. But, whether they are plundered — or, as the protectionists say, enriched by this system — what they cannot endure without danger of lasting detriment is the political demoralization which this sort of tariff policy inevitably brings with it. This is pollution of the blood.
Examine the case with care and candor. The Republican party, as the advocate of the protective tariff, is fond of calling itself the champion of American labor. The only pretext for this pretension lies in the fact that the Republican Party by its tariff policy enriches certain employers of labor and then trusts them with being so philanthropic as to pay their workingmen more than the market rate of wages — according to the well-known scheme of benevolence which consists in making the rich richer, so that they can take better care of the poor. In fact, the Republican Party is the champion of the capitalists deriving profit from the tariff duties protecting certain industries. The capital invested in these industries constitutes a gigantic money-power dependent for the magnitude of its profits on legislative favors, and therefore interested in influencing legislation for its own benefit. With this moneyed power, compacted by a common interest, the Republican Party has a sort of tacit partnership agreement — and not quite tacit either — to this effect: The party of the first part, the moneyed power, is to do all it can by way of furnishing campaign funds to be used in national elections, to keep the party of the second part, the Republican Party, in possession of the Government. The party of the second part, the Republican Party, is in return to do all it can by way of tariff legislation to keep the party of the first part, the moneyed power, in the enjoyment of large financial profits. And the larger these profits are, the more able and the more willing will be the party of the first part, the moneyed power, to furnish the party of the second part, the Republican Party, with a big corruption fund for buying the next election, expecting, of course, for itself again ample returns in the shape of still more profitably devised tariff laws. And so on.
It is true, the Republicans tell us that the McKinley tariff is the closing act, the final consummation of the protective policy, and that beyond it nothing will ever be asked. This is the old song. I know it well. This country never had a protective tariff in its whole history, before the enactment of which the people were not assured that this was the utmost measure of the demands that would be made, and after the enactment of which the clamor for more protection — higher duties — did not soon again begin. It is the experience not only of this country, but of the world, and it is in the nature of high protection. So it will be again with the McKinley tariff, if the Republicans are entrusted with full power. More will be asked for; more will be granted by the Republican party for more subsidy needed to keep the party in the possession of power. But even if the duties were not increased, the arrangement to preserve those now existing would be substantially the same.
But I hear some people answer: "Why, is it not perfectly natural that those who are profited by the tariff should contribute money for the success of the high-tariff party, and that this party should then do the best it can for the benefit of its supporters?" Quite natural? Yes! But just there is the rub! That there should be an economic policy followed by the Government which makes relations between a moneyed interest and a political party, involving the substantial purchase of legislation, appear entirely natural, in fact almost inevitable. Just that is the significant, the awful fact! That there are so many people finding such a bargain perfectly natural and talking about it with the utmost coolness as an ordinary business transaction — just that proves how far the dreadfully demoralizing influence of such a practice of corrupt bargaining has already done its work. Who was there in 1888 that dared to defend Colonel Dudley's famous circular about the buying up of purchasable voters in "blocks of five"? The Democrats indignantly denounced it, the Republicans blushingly quibbled about its genuineness or its meaning. Even Mr. Harrison, the beneficiary of the work done with the "fat fried out of the manufacturers," found it proper to banish Colonel Dudley from the grace of his countenance. And yet, would not the buying of the "blocks of five," and all that Colonel Dudley was charged with, if standing alone, unconnected with a far-reaching system, have been a very trifling incident compared with the grand bargaining of legislation for material support between the Republican Party and the moneyed power profiting by the tariff — a bargain of the execution of which Colonel Dudley's scheme was only a modest, although significant detail?
We are all agreed as to the enormous dangers to the vitality of free institutions flowing from the illegitimate use of money in elections. But can you find among all methods of raising money in elections, one that is farther reaching and threatening in the long run more pernicious results than the systematic investment of money by a great financial power in a political party, to obtain through that party legislation securing large pecuniary profits to the investor? Can you imagine a more effective machinery for the use of money in elections, and all that it implies, than a great political party lavishly subsidized by rich men and corporations who seek through it the enactment or continuance of laws to make them still richer? I say to you, the most fertile genius of evil in his most ambitious flights of fancy cannot invent a surer method fatally to demoralize the political life of a people governing themselves by universal suffrage, than a policy putting up a stake of untold millions of money in its general elections, that stake of untold millions to be won by a strong financial power through the victory of one of the political parties of the land. The result is inevitable.
You may object that after all there are many good men among the leaders and the rank and file of the Republican party. Unquestionably there are. Let me be clearly understood. I certainly do not mean to say that a man holding to the theory of protection may not be a perfectly honorable man, and that the rank and file of the protection party may not very largely consist of perfectly honest and patriotic people, meaning only to benefit the country by the policy they support. It is undoubtedly so. I do not mean to say that there has been no corruption and no use of money in elections on the Democratic side, for I believe there has been. I do not mean to say that the protective policy is the original source of corruption and of the use of money in elections, for I know a certain measure of both these evils has existed, and may still exist, without it. Neither do I mean to say that the plenipotentiaries of the Republican Party and the plenipotentiaries of the protected manufacturers bodily sat down together and formally drew up, signed, sealed and delivered a corrupt compact. What I do mean to say is that, the high-tariff policy having been adopted under the circumstances mentioned, the compact made itself and was mutually understood without being signed and sealed, but as well as if it had been; that the campaign funds were actually delivered by the moneyed power with the expectation of higher tariff duties yielding larger profits; that the higher tariff duties were actually delivered with the expectation of further and larger electioneering funds. What I do mean to say is, even admitting for argument's sake, the good of the country, as the Republicans understand it, to be their main object, and the money contributions of the beneficiaries of the tariff only a mere incident, that this incident will, as to the demoralization of our political life, have practically the same effect as if it were the main object. What I do mean to say is, that while the high-protective policy is not the only source of political corruption, it is, in its present development, the most insidious and most powerful promoter of it, and that it will inevitably, in the very nature of things, if continued, produce a state of political demoralization in the highest degree dangerous to the vitality of our free institutions. What I do mean to say is, that the Republican Party, however great its history, and however honest and well-meaning many of its leaders and the bulk of its rank and file may be, by the natural working of its high-tariff policy becomes the greatest engine of political corruption on a grand scale that this country has ever seen.
It is useless to point to the fact that Dudley was sent to the rear and that Quay, confronted with his record, had to give up the Chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, as an evidence of the power of virtuous influences. Do not indulge in delusions. So long as the Republican Party keeps that stake of untold millions of gain in our National elections, to be played for by a strong moneyed power; so long as the Republican Party is willing to be helped to victory by that power and then to do its bidding, so long it will need its Quays and Dudleys for the work to be done, and it will have them under whatever names; and its innocent good men will some day wake up and rub their eyes and wonder to what kind of work they have given their aid.
Two or three years ago the Republican Senator Ingalls expressed these political maxims: "The purification of politics is an iridescent dream. Government is force. Politics is a battle for supremacy. Parties are the armies. The Decalogue and the Golden Rule have no place in a political campaign. The object is success. In war it is lawful to hire Hessians, to purchase mercenaries, to mutilate, to kill, to destroy. The commander who lost a battle through the activity of his moral nature would be the derision and jest of history. This modern cant about the corruption of politics is fatiguing in the extreme." When confronted with the startling nature of his utterance, he is said to have answered that this was not an expression of his own sentiments, but a description of the actual condition of things. So it is, a truthful description of our political warfare as the Republican tariff policy has made it, a political warfare for a large money prize.
All this has convinced me that for reasons superior to any economic considerations the true interests of the country demand the defeat of the Republican Party and its candidate, Mr. Harrison, unless there be objections of an overshadowing nature to the candidate opposed to him, Mr. Cleveland.
As to the Democratic Party, I think I give myself to no illusions. It has its share of high-minded, patriotic and able men, and it has its bad elements. I do not overlook the dark spots in its history. It has had its period of stagnant partisanship. It has its weaknesses as a party long out of power, little used to the active responsibilities of government, and accustomed to the feelings and ways of an opposition. Even thus it might be looked upon as a convenient, perhaps as the only, available club with which to beat down a great iniquity. But it is now something more than that. It has not only a bad cause to fight against, but a good cause to fight for. It has again a living policy. Its best elements are inspired with new hope. It is drawing to itself the young intelligence of the country. Thoughtful men, old and young, in active sympathy with the best aspirations of the American people, are giving it their support, seeing in it great possibilities for good government. It is true it has its internal struggles; but with all its conflicts and waverings, it differs from the Republican Party in this essential point: the more strongly the Republican Party adheres to its leading principle and policy, the more corrupt it will become, and the more baneful its influence as an agency of political demoralization; while the Democratic Party, the more faithfully it clings to its leading principle, the stronger will it become morally, and the healthier its influence upon our political life. And it has a candidate who represents its best tendencies, and shows in his character, record and known opinions the best qualifications for high executive office. More than that, this candidate has been nominated in a manner which indicates a most healthy reaction against the worst tendencies in politics of our time, and which, for that reason alone, if there were no other, would make his election in a high degree advisable.
I certainly do not pretend that Mr. Cleveland is the ideal man or the greatest statesman of all times. He, no doubt, has his limitations, weaknesses and shortcomings. But he possesses in uncommon measure those qualities which are especially desirable in a public servant charged with great responsibilities. He has a conscience. He has a will. He has a patriotic heart. He has a clear head. He has a strong sense of right. He has a good knowledge of affairs. He is a party man, but not a party slave. He is true to duty regardless of personal interest. This is not only the judgment of his friends, but also of his opponents, who, in a campaign like this, wish they might not have to admit it. There is to-day no public man in America so widely and well known and so generally and sincerely respected as Mr. Cleveland is. Even those politicians of his own party who opposed his nomination had to respect him for those very qualities on account of which some of them thought him objectionable as a President.
I do not say that the "practical politicians" wish a President to have no conscience. But they do not wish him to have so much of a conscience that it will stand in their way. They do not wish a President to have no will, but they do not wish him to have a will stronger than theirs. They do not wish a President to have no good sense, but they do not wish his good sense to be so keen as to see through their schemes and motives. They prefer a nice, comfortable, amiable, pliable sort of a President, who will easily accept their view of the fitness of things, consider himself their agent, and readily under stand that taking care of the country means taking care of the party, and taking care of the party means taking care of them. In this respect Democratic politicians are not peculiar. The practical politician is the same in all parties.
Now, as Mr. Cleveland possessed the most essential qualities of a good President to an extent beyond their liking, and the qualities most acceptable to them only in a small degree, many of the active politicians in the Democratic Party, high and low, were opposed to Mr. Cleveland's nomination, and many others, frightened by this opposition, although appreciating Mr. Cleveland's eminent fitness, became doubtful about his availability. How, then, was his nomination brought about? By a spontaneous uprising of the bulk of the rank and file of the party against that opposition; by a demonstration of public opinion inside of the party so vigorous, so clear, so imperative, that the opposing politicians could not withstand it. What may well be called the people of that party, North and South and East and West, peremptorily demanded the nomination of Grover Cleveland, and they carried their point. There was no machinery in motion behind that movement. There was no work in it. Whatever there was of machinery and work was against him. So the district and State conventions pronounced in Cleveland's favor; so the National Convention was carried. As a gentleman who occupied the best post of observation wrote me about the Chicago Convention: "It was not a fight at all. We had not to swear fealty to one another. It was a grand enthusiastic rush over the whole field. You never saw anything like it."
What was it that produced among the people so strong a feeling for Grover Cleveland? Not magnetism of personality, for he cannot be said to be a magnetic man; not brilliancy of abilities, for he is more a solid thinker and worker than a brilliant man; not anything in his past life appealing to the popular imagination, for his past life has been rather prosy than interesting in the romantic sense. Nor can it be said that there was between Mr. Cleveland's political and economic views and the wishes of the people so inspiring a correspondence as to kindle a flame of enthusiasm for his person. To be sure, he was looked upon as the natural standard-bearer in the struggle against the high-tariff policy. But there was even a decided disagreement between him and many Democrats, especially in the South, on the silver question, which they believed to touch their interest even more directly than the tariff. And yet, even while they knew that he was conscientiously inflexibly opposed to their views and wishes, they joined with fervor in the demand for his nomination.
Nor was it mere party spirit, inspired by a general belief that of all possible Democratic candidates, Mr. Cleveland was the one most certain to carry the election; for the regular delegation from his own State loudly declared that he was the most likely to be defeated; in short, those influences which in this respect usually sway the judgment of parties and conventions were so strenuously exerted against him that the chances of his success might have been questioned even by his devoted friends.
What, then, was it that gave Mr. Cleveland his amazing popular support? More than anything else the impression produced upon the popular mind and heart by the moral qualities displayed by Mr. Cleveland as a public man. The plain people said to themselves: "Here is an honest patriot. He conscientiously studies his duty and he has the courage to do it, without fear or favor, without regard to his own interests. He is not afraid of his enemies and not afraid of his friends. He is no demagogue; with him public office is indeed a public trust. No matter whether he agrees with us on all points, he can be depended upon to speak what he thinks true and to do what he thinks right and for the best of the country. No matter whether he will get more votes than another candidate, he is our man, and we would rather be defeated with him than nominate a man less worthy."
This is the sentiment which nominated Grover Cleveland, aye, which with its irresistible strength accomplished a thing hitherto unheard of and deemed utterly impossible — the nomination of a candidate for the Presidency, not only without the support but against the emphatic protest of the regular delegation from his own State. He was nominated by the people over the heads of the politicians and against a kind of opposition hitherto deemed insuperable, for identically those qualities which many of the practical politicians regard as inconvenient.
I look upon Grover Cleveland's nomination under such circumstances as one of the most encouraging political events — aye, the most encouraging political event — since the close of the civil war. It means a vigorous assertion of public opinion in favor of conscientious, clean politics on the greatest scale. It means a decided reaction against machine principles and methods in the conduct of political parties. It means that the people really wish to see the best man they know at the head of affairs, and that they can find a way to make their will prevail against adverse influences ever so formidable. Consider what a lesson this event teaches the young men of the country! What does it say to them? "It is not true, as you may have been made to believe, that, in order to achieve success in politics, you must be rich enough to bribe people, or demagogue enough to flatter people, or unprincipled enough to pretend to be what you are not, and always to trim your sail to the wind; or mean-spirited enough to make yourself the tool of spoils-hunters and wirepullers. It is not true that in order to maintain your hold upon the support of the people and your chances in public life, you must be prepared to renounce your sense of duty and your standard of honor and your pride of manhood. Here you have the living proof that a public man may courageously and unflinchingly stand by his convictions of duty; may pronounce his honest opinions upon matters of public interest with defiant straight-forwardness, no matter whether they are shared by others or not; may refuse to stoop to the low arts by which, according to the current notion of the time, a following must be organized and support must be won; may not be everything to everybody, but may be himself in the best sense of the term; and may just because of all this be preferred to all others and chosen at the command of an overwhelming public opinion for the highest honor a party can bestow. Here is your example! Here is the road to public usefulness and distinction and success with honor!"
This is the true significance of Mr. Cleveland's nomination, and this will be the highest significance of his election by the people. Think out, I pray you, what such an object-lesson will be worth to the future of the Republic; what a new courage it will infuse into our political life; how it will clear away the miasma of demoralizing examples, impressions and experiences; how it will put to shame that pusillanimous despondency, that dreary pessimism that always despairs of the Republic, and hampers so many useful endeavors; how it will strengthen the confidence of the people in their own power for good; how it will lift up the spirit of the doubter, and ennoble the ambition of the aspiring; how it will elevate the ideals of our young generation, and attract again to political life so many who might be eminently useful but have turned away in disgust!
I repeat, since the end of the civil war there has been no event in our political history so full of good promise, hope and encouragement as Mr. Cleveland's nomination, and so it will stand in the annals of the Republic if ratified by the popular vote. That it be so ratified is indeed an essential condition of its effect; for if it could be said that the uprising of a healthy public opinion might perhaps be potent enough to bring about the nomination of a man on account of the metal of his character, but that such a man could, after all, not be elected, it would not only mean a great opportunity lost, but the new hope might be turned into deeper discouragement. His defeat might render the agencies of evil in our politics more daring and more powerful than they have ever been before.
I must confess, from this point of view, I look upon the election of Mr. Cleveland as so important to the future of the Republic, that, did I disagree with him on ever so many questions of policy, I should feel inclined to sacrifice all other considerations. And I trust, in fact I am confident there will be many patriotic and wise citizens, hitherto attached to the Republican side, who will recognize the importance of securing to the country the incalculable benefit of this consummation, break through the bonds of party and cast their votes for Grover Cleveland.
I know some Republicans will object and say: "Well, was not Mr. Harrison, too, nominated by his party in obedience to a healthy public opinion on account of his superior moral qualities, and will not his election be of the same service?" I should be sincerely happy could I answer "Yes"; but I cannot. I must most emphatically deny it. In the first place, he represents the party subsidized by the money-power of the protected interests in consideration of legislative favors, the party most strongly embodying the demoralizing political tendencies of our times. In the second place, the circumstances of Mr. Harrison's nomination were most essentially different from those attending the nomination of Mr. Cleveland.
We are all glad to acknowledge that Mr. Harrison's private character is excellent, and I would be the last man to attack it. Nevertheless, he had not been a popular man in his own party when his reëlection was thought of. Long ago it became evident that if he wished to be renominated he had to work for it; and he did. The office-holding machinery was set in motion for him all over the land. I know of no instance in the history of this country when the local caucuses and conventions in towns, districts and States, which had to elect delegates to the National Convention, were so largely and so ruthlessly invaded by postmasters and revenue officers and district attorneys and marshals, as they were this year in favor of President Harrison. Every Cabinet officer was expected to do his utmost, and to present to the President the delegation from his State with his compliments.
Still, this array of official influence would probably not have sufficed to secure Mr. Harrison's renomination, had some Republican statesman of high character and influence openly taken the field as a competitor. Mr. Harrison was lucky. The leadership of the opposition to him was usurped by some of the most disreputable machine politicians in the country, and they put forward as their candidate a man who, aside from other grave objections, could hardly have accepted the nomination without a breach of faith. Against this crowd Mr. Harrison's force in the National Convention appeared very respectable — which was not difficult — and his nomination looked like the victory of the conservative and decent element of his party over a lot of despicable freebooters.
But it is nevertheless true that Mr. Harrison's majority in the Minneapolis Convention had been got together by the most unsparing exertion of official influence in the election of delegates; that it consisted, with not very many exceptions, of officeholders and of delegates elected by officeholders; that our Consul-General in London, known as an adroit political manager, was summoned from his post of duty to take command of the Harrison forces at Minneapolis; that a crowd of Federal officers of high position were on the spot to work under him and to win votes for their chief; and that as the case of Crum of South Carolina and other indications show, the patronage of the government was unblushingly employed as a bribery fund to swell the Harrison vote.
Mr. Harrison's nomination was, therefore, not, as it has been called, a victory of public opinion over the machine; it was the victory of one machine over another — the victory of the officeholders machine over the machine of the disappointed office-seekers. And considering that every one of the countless placemen taking part in the local caucuses and conventions, and in and around the National Convention itself, was for the possession of his office dependent on the pleasure of the very man for whose continuance in office he was to vote and work, the renomination of Mr. Harrison has been one of the most scandalous exhibitions of the misuse of official power ever beheld in this country — the culminating triumph of a system corrupt in itself and tending to demoralize the whole body-politic.
The Republicans themselves feel the disgraceful character of this business. They do not even attempt to deny or to justify it. In the soreness of their embarrassment they resort to the childish expedient of trying to meet the charge with the counter-charge that some of Mr. Cleveland's former Cabinet Ministers took an active interest in promoting his nomination. Well, why should they not? For four years they have been private citizens, and so has Mr. Cleveland. There is no official relation between them. For four years they have not had any official influence to exercise. They have no power to appoint any one to office, nor to remove any one. They have absolutely nothing to do with the Government service. Was there even the faintest shadow of an impropriety in what they did as independent private citizens? No. If there ever was an excuse carrying with it a confessed consciousness of guilt, it is this pitiable quibble about gentlemen who some years ago were in Mr. Cleveland's Cabinet to cover the scandalous debauch of the public service, the barefaced misuse of official influence resorted to, to continue Mr. Harrison in office. And if the manner of Mr. Harrison's nomination proves anything, it is that, even for reasons other than his own merits, Mr. Cleveland should surely be elected.
"Granting all this to be true," I hear a timid business man say, "but if the Democrats, with their extreme doctrines on the tariff, come into power, will they not hurt our industries and cause injurious business disturbances? Are you not asking of us too great a sacrifice for the general good of the Republic?" No, I do not. In the first place, there is no sacrifice too great for the general good of the Republic. This is not the talk of an idealist, a visionary. I only do not think meanly of the American people. I remember the time, the time of the civil war, when the Americans showed themselves ready to sacrifice everything, their comfort, their wealth, their lives, for the general good of the Republic, and I do not think we have so degenerated that the spirit of self-sacrifice for the common good is dead.
But I do not ask for any sacrifice. You might, perhaps, call it natural that I should think so, because I am known to believe that the abandonment of the high protective system would be a great boon to this country, morally as well as economically — morally, because it would stop the most dangerous source of corruption and revive among our people the old spirit of self-reliance; and economically because, instead of destroying our industries, it would only put them upon a healthier footing by giving them cheap raw material and enabling them to conquer the markets of the world. Instead of lowering wages, it would raise and steady them by steadier employment; instead of unsettling business, it would only relieve it of the constant changes which every high-tariff policy brings with it, and give it that stability which is possible only with an economic system based upon just and rational principles. For these reasons I wish to see, not indeed a precipitate, but a systematic and steady advance toward a revenue tariff. But I will tell you candidly what I think will happen if the Democrats win this national election. I once apprehended, if the protectionists went to extremes, as they did in the McKinley tariff, there would be danger of some quick, radical revolution sweeping away the whole system with a suddenness threatening disastrous confusion. The Congressional election of 1890 pointed that way. But I must confess that the attitude of the Democratic majority brought by that election into the House of Representatives has entirely cured me of that fear, at any rate for the time being. Instead of there being danger that the Democrats in power will be too radical and energetic, I see more danger that they will not be radical and energetic enough. They are sound enough in theory, and sometimes brave enough in talk, as, for instance, in this year's platform. But as to action, the greatest danger which, as I think, the industries of the country have to fear from a Democratic victory, is not that the Democrats in power would ruin any of them by sweeping, violent, precipitate changes in the tariff laws, but that the changes which would redound to the great benefit of our industries will be too timidly planned, too narrowly circumscribed and too haltingly carried out to do all the good that might be accomplished. If the Republicans carry the election there will be constant changes in the direction of higher duties, and a restless economic condition in consequence; for no high protective tariff ever lastingly satisfied its beneficiaries. If the Democrats win, the utmost we may expect will be the removal of duties from most of the articles usually considered as raw material, and a corresponding reduction of duties on the finished product; and perhaps some reductions to prevent the formation of trusts and monopolies. This will be a movement in the right direction, but nothing like a sudden and violent revolution. This is my candid opinion, and I apprehend the record of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives bears me out. Of the economic side of our tariff I should like to speak at greater length, but I have to put off that pleasure to another time.
"But what about the free coinage of silver and a consequent financial crisis?" I hear another business man say. No man can be more anxious to secure and preserve to this country a sound monetary system than I am; and it is my candid conviction that the election of Mr. Cleveland will not only not endanger but greatly promote that end. The free-coinage movement is essentially not a partisan, but a sectional movement. In the silver-mining States, in some of the Western agricultural States and in the Southern States it swept into its current Republicans and Democrats alike. In the rest of the country Democrats and Republicans alike were opposed to it. In the Republican Senate of the United States Republican free-coinage men took the leadership and carried a free-coinage bill twice through that body. But free coinage was numerically strongest in the Democratic Party, simply because so large a number of Democratic Senators and Representatives hailed from the South. Still the energetic opposition of the Northern and Eastern Democrats, united with the Northeastern and some Northwestern Republicans, succeeded twice in defeating free coinage in the Democratic House of Representatives.
The fact is, it was the Republican Party that made the most dangerous political use of the silver question. It was the Republican party that began the deplorable policy of concession to the mining interest, which, bringing forth more and more extravagant demands, led us on the dangerous slope. It was the Republican Party which in its platform of 1888 formally denounced the Democrats for being hostile to silver. It was the Republican Party that, having thus stimulated the greed and excited the expectations of the mining interest, passed, without any necessity, the law of 1890, which, even without free coinage, threatens finally to sweep us over the precipice.
On the other hand, considering the fact that the free-coinage movement was numerically strongest among the Democrats, nothing has done more to weaken and practically to defeat it than Mr. Cleveland's influence with his party. When he, well knowing that a large portion of his party was clamoring for free coinage, boldly raised his voice against it, the spectacle of a man who seemed at that time to be sure of the nomination for the Presidency if he would only remain silent, but who threw to the winds his chances for the highest place in the Republic by antagonizing, in obedience to his convictions of the public good, so powerful an element in his party — that spectacle was so novel and so impressive that it powerfully staggered multitudes of free-coinage Democrats, who became convinced that a man who acted thus must be very sure of being right. From that time on, the reaction set in, and the free-coinage movement among the Democrats, especially in the South, lost not only in numbers but in spirit. Its aggressive force was gone. It made, on the Democratic side, thenceforth, only half-hearted fights in Congress, and accepted its defeats with perfect meekness. It could not prevent the adoption by the National Democratic Convention of an anti-free-coinage resolution much stronger than that of the Republican platform, and it would not resist the nomination of an anti-free-coinage candidate. And, more than to anything else, all this has been owing to Mr. Cleveland's moral influence with his party.
I regard the free-coinage movement as gradually dying out, on one condition. If Mr. Cleveland is elected to the Presidency, he will have much more prestige with his party as well as with Congress than he had during his first term; in fact, more than any President has had for the last twenty years. And all that influence will work vigorously in favor of sound finance. There is one service he will render to that cause which Mr. Harrison, be his financial principles and purposes ever so correct, will be incapable of rendering. Under Mr. Cleveland's leadership the free-coinage heresy will lose its foothold in the party in which it was numerically strongest. And thus the fight will indeed be decisively won and ended.
There is one thing, however, which may restore the free-coinage movement to new hope, life and strength. That is the removal of Mr. Cleveland from the leadership of the Democratic Party by his defeat in the election. He might die, and the moral influence of his teachings and example would survive. But if he is defeated, he is sent to the rear, and that powerful moral influence he exercised will be a thing of the past. For there is at present no other Democratic leader who can fill that place, as there is at present no public man who can exert such an influence in either party. I, therefore, cannot impress it too strongly upon those who are anxious as to the soundness of the financial policy of the Government, that they can serve that cause in no better way than by keeping Mr. Cleveland, under whose first Administration not a single objectionable financial measure was enacted, in the leadership of the Democratic Party; and that can be done only by electing him President again.
Or would any one be deterred from voting for Mr. Cleveland by the Republican complaint regarding the suppression of the negro vote in some of the Southern States? There again every consideration of sound statesmanship is in Mr. Cleveland's favor. That the means of force and of fraud employed to keep the negroes in certain States from voting were in themselves of evil, goes without saying — notwithstanding the circumstances adduced to excuse such practices. But the difficulty is now solving itself as well as it can be solved, and the only thing needed is that it be let alone. Every well-informed and candid man will admit: (1) that the efforts to suppress the negro vote arose mainly from the fear of negro domination; (2) that this fear was stimulated and in a certain sense justified by the unexampled profligacy of most of the so-called carpet-bag governments during the reconstruction period; (3) that the fear of negro domination subsides whenever the negroes cease to vote as a compact mass on the side of one party and divide their votes among the different parties controlling the elections. As soon as that is done, the different parties bid for the vote of the negro as they bid for the vote of any one else, and vie with one another in protecting him in the exercise of his rights. This process is now going on and will soon remove the trouble in a perfectly peaceable and orderly way.
The only thing that threatens to prevent the consummation of this salutary development is the desire of Republican politicians to reunite and secure the whole negro vote for the Republican Party again, and thus to capture some of the Southern States. This end is to be served by what is commonly called the force bill. Although this measure is nominally to provide only a machinery of control for Congressional elections, it is looked upon, not unnaturally, as another attempt to organize, with the aid of the national power, the negro vote again as a compact and obedient party engine for general party purposes. The inevitable effect of the enactment of the force bill or anything like it would be the revival of the fear of negro domination in the South, and, with it, a violent and disastrous disturbance of the relations between the two races, which in the course of time had shaped themselves in a friendly manner highly advantageous to the general prosperity.
Consider what this means. The South came out of the civil war impoverished and desolate. The sudden abolition of slavery put it through the throes of a tremendous social revolution. There was the defeated and humiliated Southern white man not knowing what to do with the new, unaccustomed system of labor, confronting the emancipated slave not knowing what to do with his newly acquired freedom. It was a fearful situation everywhere: distress, perplexity, convulsive efforts and collisions; society, utterly disorganized, staggering on the brink of a bloody war of races. The army, still present, kept something like order, but, under its protection, white adventurers, at the head of the ignorant negro voters, set up those carpet-bag governments from which some of the Southern States suffered almost as much spoliation as from the war itself. After long agony a ray of hope dawned. President Hayes withdrew the troops from the South. The Southern whites overcame the negro majorities, partly by violence, partly by stratagem — still a bad and deplorable state of things, indeed, but one under which the energies of society revived and its working forces got into fruitful activity again. The spirit of enterprise returned and a new prosperity followed. The relations between the white and the black races grew steadily more friendly and favorable to mutual cooperation. But the fear of a return of that negro domination from which the South had suffered so fearfully still hung like a dark, threatening cloud over society, as long as the colored people threw their vote compactly on the side of one political party. And that fear brought forth all sorts of sinister efforts to avert the danger.
At last this cloud is lifted too. The negro vote has actually begun to divide. If the process now going on continues, the fear of negro domination, and with it the greatest obstacle to a harmonious cooperation of the two races on the political field, as well as that of productive labor, will soon be a thing of the past. No true friend of the colored race can wish a happier solution of this difficulty, for the political rights of the negro will stand under the active protection of all political parties. No true friend of the Southern people will fail to hail it as a most auspicious event, for it will take a burden of dread from the minds of the Southern whites; it will powerfully promote peace and good will between the different elements of the Southern population; it will give the Southern people increased confidence in their future and inspire them with fresh courage and energy in the development of their prosperity. No good citizen who has the common interests of the whole country, North and South, at heart will fail joyfully to hail it as the removal of a source of irritation between the two sections, as a new bond of cordial feeling, as a new guarantee of material progress in the South, and of those advantages which come to every part of the country by the growing prosperity of every other part.
Into this hopeful situation the Force bill is to be thrust as a new brand of discord. No matter whether it be advocated by mere partisan lust of power or misguided zeal in behalf of a principle — the effect of the measure, if enacted, will be the same; an insidious stretch of governmental power, the incitement among the Southern negroes of unwarranted political ambitions and expectations by the reappearance of the Federal Government as a meddler with elections; the interruption of the salutary division of the negro vote between different parties; the revival among the Southern whites of the old dread of negro domination; new distrust and discord between the two races; the poor and ignorant negroes, for whom the Republican politician pretends to care so much, hurried into a hopeless contest with the numerically strong, intelligent and wealthy whites; the fruitful coöperation of the two races in the South again violently disturbed; the peace of society again endangered; enterprise again discouraged, the social energies again lamed, the progress of prosperity again impeded by the prospect of incalculable trouble — and all this at a time when, after long, long years of social convulsion and terrible suffering, the more threatening perplexities are sure to solve themselves, if only let alone.
In view of all this I must confess that whatever specious pretences may be put forward as to the objects of the measure, I look upon the Force bill as one of the most reckless, most cruel, most revolting partisan contrivances ever devised. I know the Republicans are artfully disclaiming that the Force bill is an issue in this campaign. Mr. Harrison himself tries to evade it in his letter of acceptance by an adroitly soft-spoken recommendation of a commission of inquiry. But no well-informed and prudent man will be deceived. The Republican platform substantially endorses the measure. Almost every prominent Republican of influence has been a strenuous advocate of it, among the most strenuous President Harrison himself. They have been made cautious by the obvious current of public opinion against it, but not one of them has openly, unequivocally declared that he will cease to favor it. No, you may be sure, the party, as it is led to-day, will do anything — it will recoil from nothing, however desperate, to keep itself in power. There is not the slightest shadow of a doubt in my mind that the Republican party, if it keeps the Presidency and gets sufficient strength in the two houses of Congress, will make the Force bill the law of the land, whatever the consequences may be. Only its defeat can surely save us from this fate.
I cannot, without unduly taxing your patience, discuss here the flagrant failures of Mr. Harrison to redeem his solemn pledges with regard to the reform of the civil service. Our lamented friend, George William Curtis, passed just judgment upon that in his last address to the Civil Service Reform League, an address which no candid man can read without admiration and profit. And Mr. Curtis then knew nothing of the shameful use of official influence in packing the Minneapolis Convention with officeholders and the representatives of officeholders for the dispenser of patronage. Nor can I permit myself here to review President Harrison's conduct of our foreign affairs, a careful study of which has forced the conclusion upon me that in some of the most important cases, of which President Harrison seems inclined to speak with especial self -appreciation, the established principles of international law as well as the good traditions of our own diplomatic history were disregarded with — to call things by their right names — a demagogic recklessness compatible neither with the dignity nor with the safety of the Republic.
I have said enough to show that I cannot but consider it my duty as an American citizen, having the present and future welfare of the Republic at heart, to support Mr. Cleveland's candidacy in this contest and to advise my fellow-citizens to do the same. I know we are always, in a degree, taking chances when casting our ballots. We can only form our judgment conscientiously as to where the chances for the public welfare are best, and we must, above all things, be careful to subordinate things of less moment to those of a higher order of importance. Doing this, we shall, I trust, unite in the confident expectation that by the election of Mr. Cleveland to the Presidency of the United States the country will be assured of a wise, honest, conservative and safe administration of public affairs; that its material interests will be promoted by a rational economic policy; and, what is of greater consequence, that the growth of demoralizing influences in our political life will be checked, and that our youth will be inspired with nobler ambitions and loftier conceptions of public duty, usefulness, success and distinction. I am, gentlemen, very truly yours,
Bolton, Lake George, Sept. 8, 1892.