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Mark Hanna seems to have been born and raised particularly for the purpose of exploiting these advantages. He loved McKinley as a man. He admired the politician. Whenever he had an enthusiasm, he could communicate it. He could make others believe in McKinley as he did. He could impart his own energy of affection and conviction to the whole movement on behalf of his friend's nomination. He himself was the kind of American citizen whom McKinley could represent only. He embodied in his own person the enterprising, homogeneous, uncritical Americanism of the Middle West which, with all its new organization and equipment, derived its vitality from the earlier economic nationalism of the pioneer. Americans of this type had always associated the American system with a generally diffused economic prosperity. Acute and widespread privation meant that the system was out of joint; and under the prevailing methods of stimulation by the government of all productive enterprise, the repair of the system became a political responsibility. The restoration of the Republican party to power and the election of McKinley assumed in his eyes the character of a patriotic mission.
His substantial successes in politics, including the nomination of William McKinley, were born of the fact that he remained an unspecialized American citizen, whose behavior awakened responsive approval among other Americans of the same kind. He expressed a phase of public opinion, which when aroused was all the more powerful, because it was only semiconscious and because it never could be completely expressed by lawyers or politicians. His ability to represent this element in the American political and economic life sharply distinguished him from the ordinary political professional. Just as in business he never became a dislocated financier, so in politics he never became the mere manipulator of a machine. He coöperated with the machine politicians. He used many of their methods. His standard of behavior in politics was not as high as his standard of behavior in business. When he supped with the Devil, he fished with a long spoon. But in these respects he was faithful to his type. The typical American has never been scrupulous about the means which he used in order to accomplish what seemed to him a worthy purpose. Mr. Hanna became more rather than less typical, because he used the professional politicians instead of fighting them. But he never became one of them; and if he had done so, he would have been as successful in nominating McKinley as Thomas C. Platt was in nominating Mr. Levi P. Morton. There is, I believe, no close parallel in American politics for the part which Mark Hanna played in the nomination of McKinley. Of course other men have labored faithfully and efficiently to make their friends or associates a presidential candidate. A state “boss” is always calculating whether or not he cannot force some favorite candidate on the Convention. Presidents have sometimes had a good deal to do with the naming of their successors. But when Mr. Hanna began to work first for Sherman and then for McKinley, he started with no leverage not possessed by hundreds of his fellow-citizens. He was merely a well-to-do business man with some small political experience. His special qualification for the task consisted merely in the fact that he wanted to do it. The will to nominate a President aroused in its possessor the abilities necessary for its accomplishment. After he had failed with Sherman, his ambition was sweetened and sanctified by a warm and loyal personal attachment to the new candidate himself. Mr. Hanna was aroused to still greater activity and still greater sacrifices, until the accomplishment of the task absorbed all his time and energy. He proved equal to one emergency after another. He selected good subordinates. He convinced and persuaded doubters. He converted to McKinley's support a whole section of the country. He worked upon public opinion quite as much as he did upon individuals and in the most effective way. Gradually the possible candidate was made probable and then irresistible. The task was achieved. William McKinley became the Republican nominee for the presidency; and Mark Hanna was no less responsible for the triumph than was the candidate himself.
By the first of May, 1896, Mark Hanna had every reason to believe that the nomination of Mr. McKinley was assured. A majority of the delegates were known to be favorable to his selection. It only remained to make assurance doubly sure by securing an organization of the Convention favorable to its prospective candidate. Such an organization was the more necessary because the fight in the South and elsewhere had resulted in the election of several contesting delegations, and it was important that those favorable to Mr. McKinley should be seated. As a matter of fact the greater victory included the less. His prospective triumph assured him the control of the National Committee. By virtue of this control definite plans were made for the organization of the Convention, the nomination for Vice-President and the several planks of the platform. A slate was prepared; and the candidate himself in coöperation with certain of his friends drew up a tentative draft of the statement of true Republican principles and policies.
The Convention assembled at St. Louis on Monday, June 15. So far as the slate was concerned, the program was carried through without a hitch. The temporary chairman was Mr. Charles W. Fairbanks of Indiana, the permanent chairman, Senator John M. Thurston of Nebraska. The Committee on Credentials paid no attention to any contesting delegations except those from Delaware and Texas, and in both cases the McKinley delegates were seated. Thus the result became more than ever a foregone conclusion, although a show of resistance continued. Thomas B. Reed, the only other serious candidate, was placed in nomination by Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, but considerable as Mr. Reed's services had been to his party and his country, he remained a sectional candidate. As it was, Mr. McKinley obtained almost as many votes in New England as Mr. Reed obtained in all the rest of the country. The two wealthiest and most populous states in the Union made their better citizens blush by presenting candidates who had less than no claims for consideration. The candidate from Iowa, Senator Allison, was negligible outside of his own state. Mr. McKinley's name was placed before the Convention by Senator-elect James B. Foraker in a speech which was the more impressive because of the source from which it came. Mr. McKinley received 661} votes on the first ballot against 84% for his closest rival, Mr. Thomas B. Reed. Sixty-two of the Reed delegates came from New England, and the rest chiefly from the South. Mr. McKinley had the Middle West and the West, with the exception of Iowa, almost solidly behind him, and he had made serious inroads upon the strength of his opponents in their own particular bailiwicks. His triumph was so decisive and overwhelming that no outsider could realize how much effort and contrivance had been spent upon making it irresistible. Inasmuch as Ohio had furnished the head of the ticket, the vice-presidential nomination, according to the prevailing practice, ought to go to some doubtful Eastern state. New York can usually claim the office under such conditions; but in the present instance sound reasons could be urged why its claims could be ignored with impunity. The bitter opposition which Mr. Thomas C. Platt had made to McKinley's nomination had created a good deal of personal ill-feeling; and as a consequence there was no candidate from New York upon whom Republicans from that state could agree. But the consideration which probably had most weight was the fact that with the word “gold” already inserted in the platform New York could hardly be called a doubtful state. On the other hand, the adjoining state of New Jersey submitted an eligible candidate in Mr. Garret A. Hobart, who had done much to strengthen the Republican party in his own neighborhood. Mr. Hobart was well known to Mr. Hanna, and in all probability his nomination had been scheduled for some time. It was practically announced early in June. He was a lawyer and a business man with an exclusively local reputation; and if he did little to strengthen the ticket he did nothing to weaken it. He proved to be a useful coadjutor both during the campaign and after the election; and he subsequently exercised more influence in the counsels of the administration than is usually the case with the occupant of the vice-presidential chair. In all the foregoing respects the Convention proved to be a perfectly manageable body, which submitted good-naturedly to the will of its conquerors. But in one essential matter it proved to be far less manageable, and its rebellious independence in this respect made havoc of all the carefully laid plans of Mr. McKinley and Mr. Hanna. Their hands were forced in relation to the most important plank in the platform. The candidate had to accept a new definition of Republican policy in respect to the currency — and one which in its effect might well change the whole nature of the campaign. The man who had been nominated as the High Priest of Protection found his favorite policy converted into comparative insignificance and himself forced to assume a precise and vigorous attitude in relation to a question which he had always preferred to leave vague and ambiguous. Instead of running on an issue with which his whole political career was associated, he was forced to run on an issue upon which his own record was equivocal, and which in his opinion gravely compromised the success of his candidacy. A great deal of controversy has arisen about the way in which the word “gold” was inserted in the currency plank of the Republican platform of 1896. A number of different claimants have insisted upon their individual responsibility for its insertion. Among others Mr. Thomas C. Platt asserts without blushing that the honor chiefly, if not exclusively, belongs to him. In his “Autobiography” (p. 310) he declares that “in 1896 I scored what I regard as the greatest achievement of my political career. That was the insertion of the gold plank in the St. Louis platform.” In his account of the matter he admits that Senator Lodge and certain friends of Mr. McKinley, such as H. H. Kohlsaat, Myron T. Herrick, Henry C. Payne and William R. Merriam, may also have contributed to the result, but if the assertion quoted above be taken as literally true, the real hero of the incident must be Mr. Thomas C. Platt. He has admitted it himself. On the other hand, Mr. Kohlsaat declares no less emphatically that he, more than any other single