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The New York Times/Free Silver and Annexation

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FREE SILVER AND ANNEXATION.

In his recent candid letter declining to speak in Ohio on “Imperialism,” even in a non-partisan manner, Mr. Schurz makes some interesting predictions. He is of the opinion that “if the Filipinos are not granted their independence, then imperialism will be made the main issue in the Presidential election next year, crowding all other issues into the background.” And to the statement that “free coinage represents a greater danger than annexation,” he declares: “I hold that imperialism is decidedly more dangerous, for it means the ruin of our free institutions.” He explains that he opposed the election of Col. Roosevelt in this State last year because he felt that his defeat “would have frightened the Administration in Washington from the annexation of the Philippines,” and in the same way he now believes that a Republican victory in the elections this Fall will encourage the Administration, and “unless unlooked-for events should intervene, the main question that will confront us next year will be imperialism.”

To those of us who do not think that what is called imperialism is more dangerous than is free coinage this is not a wholly disagreeable outlook. It is even possible to regard it in the light of a blessing that a Presidential election can be held in the United States within four years after the tremendous and costly struggle of 1896, in which the honor and credit of the Nation and the integrity of the standard of value, the sanctity of contracts, and the security of earnings are not made a subject of party dispute. One might take a very gloomy view indeed of the danger of so-called imperialism — though not quite so gloomy as that of Mr. Schurz — and still welcome a contest over it if it were sure to drive into the background the hateful and humiliating issue of a debased currency. So far as concerns the danger to our free institutions, it is a question which most men will not find it difficult to answer what could be at once more insidious and more surely destructive in its effect on our institutions than the exercise by a majority of the people of the arbitrary, despotic, oppressive, and corrupt power to change the standard of value in the interest of a class? And when we consider the injury inflicted, its wide scope, the misery it must involve to the innocent and helpless victims, and the long and painful process of recovery from the wrong thus done, it is not unreasonable to think that the exclusion of such a matter from a National election is cheaply purchased by the introduction of the issue of expansion.

Such a result is to be accepted with the more cheerfulness because it is plain that both the friends and the foes of free silver would be divided. Mr. Bryan represents the former, and he has already ranged himself and his following against annexation. Mr. Schurz represents the latter, and he has frankly avowed his intention to stand with the Bryan faction if the issue is imperialism. On the other hand there is a large part of the Democrats of 1896 who will not accept the lead of Bryan on this issue, and the immense majority of the supporters of McKinley in 1896 will certainly refuse to go with Mr. Schurz. As the only possible hope of the Democrats will be to draw as many as may be of the anti-McKinley voters to their camp, they will have to make the silver issue as little obtrusive as they can. Between these varying influences there is a fair prospect that the country will be pretty well rid of the risk and discredit involved in another contest over fundamental rights inherent in a sound standard of value. Worse things might happen.


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