ePub 版

been peculiarly gratifying to a man like Mr. Hanna, whose better life was composed so essentially of personal ties. The dinner was private, but a version of the speech with which Mr. Hanna responded to the congratulations of his friends was published the next day. All agree that in making his short reply he was almost overpowered by his feelings. “He said that to him the greatest recompense for years of hard work was to know that his friends indorsed that work. He had acted simply as an American citizen and not as a politician or ‘Boss.’ He was not a politician or ‘Boss,’ never desired to be one, never would be one. He responded to the voice of the American people, and felt that in his final success in the nomination of William McKinley his work was to a great degree accomplished. When the question of the candidacy of his friend was broached, McKinley had said in his conversation with him that he would not accept the nomination subject to a single pledge to any man of office or remuneration. Mr. Hanna told his friends that the conversation had made of him a better man and had changed the current of his thought.”

[ocr errors]


WHEN Mr. Hanna was selected as chairman of the Republican National Committee, no one anticipated how grave and difficult his task would be. As I have said, the action of the Democratic Convention took the country by surprise and completely upset the calculations and plans of the Republican leaders. They had never suspected that the currency issue, even if made decisive, would entirely supersede the tariff issue. They never anticipated that by virtue of the currency issue the Democrats would be able to make political capital out of a period of economic privation, which had been appropriated for the political benefit of the Republicans and particularly of Mr. McKinley. A few weeks before the Republican Convention it looked like plain sailing for the Republican nominee. A week after the Democratic Convention it looked as if by sheer audacity and misguided enthusiasm the Democrats had obtained the right of way, and that the Boy Orator would be carried into the White House on a flood of popular discontent.

In July, 1896, no one could gauge accurately the actual range and force of this discontent. No one could estimate how far its ignorance could be enlightened or its impetus diverted. No one could tell with any confidence what effect Mr. Bryan's gallant and strenuous appeal to the American people would have upon the actual vote. But the extreme gravity of the situation was manifest. Many of the men most familiar with the situation believe that if the election had been held in August, or even in September, the Democratic candidate would have triumphed. Mr. Hanna himself inclined to this opinion. Mr. McKinley was gravely concerned, and chided certain of his friends for their participation in the decisive definition of the currency issue. In order to save the situation enormous exertions would be required, as well as a plan of campaign for which there was as little precedent as there was for the situation itself. What took the Republican leaders by surprise was the peculiar effect on popular sentiment of the prevailing hard times. For some reason the business depression, coincident with Mr. Cleveland's second administration, stirred the American people more deeply and had graver political consequences than had any previous economic famine. The panics of 1837, 1873 and perhaps even of 1857 had caused as much, if not more, suffering and privation as did the panic of 1893. The effect, for instance, of the panic of 1873 upon the prevailing rate of wages was more depressing than was the effect of the panic of 1893. But in the earlier years the political consequences were not serious or dangerous. The result in 1837 was the subsequent election of a Whig in place of a Democratic administration. The result in 1873 was the subsequent capture by the opposing party of the House of Representatives and Democratic plurality of the popular vote in the presidential campaign of 1876. On each of these occasions, also, local economic heresies jumped to the surface in the Middle and Far West. But in neither case did these local economic heresies wax into a national issue and become a grave national peril. In neither case did it result in a campaign in which one of the great political parties declared that the effect of the prevailing economic system was to discriminate in favor of the possessor of loanable capital, and against the borrower, the wage-earner and the producer. The fact that so threatening an economic issue could be nationalized indicated the ebullition of unsuspected forces in American public opinion. The public opinion of the time, confused and ill-informed as it was, saw one truth very plainly, which was that the cause of the trouble lay deeper than the administration of a Democratic President and the passage of the Wilson Bill. It turned in the beginning instinctively toward Mr. Bryan because he provided the people with an apparently better reason for their privations and a more immediately effective cure. They felt vaguely that some essential economic force was operating to deprive them of the share of economic goods to which they were accustomed; and it was both plausible and comforting to attribute that malevolent power to the men who controlled the money of the country. Thus it came to pass that Mr. Bryan's speeches inevitably assumed more and more the character of appeals to a class interest, and this was just the aspect of the matter which so puzzled and alarmed his adversaries. Not since the campaign against the National Bank, had any issue arisen which encouraged loose talk about the “Money Power” and which made the poor feel that the rich were becoming fat at their expense. Fortunately, however, Mr. Bryan was appealing to and representing, not merely a class, but a sectional interest. For reasons already indicated, the economic dearth had caused the utmost suffering and privation among the farmers of the second tier of states west of the Mississippi. These people had gone heavily into debt upon the basis of expectations which had been frustrated by poor crops, low prices and the disturbed condition of credit. They turned willingly towards a change in the currency system which might provide them with cheaper money. But there was no reason why the desire for cheaper money should appeal either to farmers who were relatively prosperous, or to the wage-earners in the industries of the country. After the first burst of enthusiasm had been spent over a candidate and a platform which made a strong bid for popular sympathy, there was a fair chance that the more prevalent interests opposed to cheap money would assert themselves. The one thing necessary was to establish clearly and to popularize the real meaning of the demand for the free coinage of silver and the real necessity of an assured standard of value. It would be the fault of the Republicans themselves in case a purely sectional interest were allowed to obtain a national following without having its false pretensions exposed. The manifest duty of the Republican National Committee was that of explaining fully to the voters the meaning of the Democratic platform and convincing them of its palpable error. It was confronted, that is, literally and exclusively, by a campaign of education, or better of instruction. We hear a great deal about campaigns of education, in many of which the people who need and get the education are the people who run the campaign. But in this particular case a confused and hesitating mass of public opinion merely needed elementary instruction. The prevailing popular discontent was receiving a well-intentioned but erroneous economic expression. A sectional economic interest was demanding a change in the currency system, which from the point of view of sound economics was entirely and inexcusably wrong. Unlike the controversy between free trade and protection, it was not a matter of two divergent economic policies, each of which expressed under certain conditions a valid political interest and a sound economic truth. It was a matter of undermining by thorough discussion and explanation the foundations of a dangerous and obvious mistake. Mark Hanna and the other Republican leaders soon understood the kind of campaign work which the situation demanded. They decided to oppose Mr. Bryan's personal appeal to the American people with an exhaustive and systematic educational canvass of the country. There was no hesitation and doubt as to the kind of strategy needed. The difficulty consisted in collecting, organizing, equipping and distributing among its proper fields of action a large enough army to carry out the strategic plan. The prevalence of the heresy, the confusion of public opinion, the uncertainty as to the actual force of the Democratic candidate's personal appeal, and the general obliteration of the usual sign-posts and land-marks made it necessary to cover an enormously extended territory with operations devised to meet both the local and the general needs of the situation. In previous campaigns the National Committee could count upon certain states as indubitably Republican and certain other states as indubitably Democratic. Only the appearance of a fight had to be made in such neighborhoods. The real work was done in half a dozen doubtful states, and the Committee could plan with some assurance the methods necessary to secure the best results within these areas. In 1896 all this was changed. Of course some states could still be placed indubitably in one column or the other, and there were a few states, ordinarily doubtful, which were sure to cast their vote either for the golden-mouthed or the silver-tongued candidate. But no one knew where certain parts of the West stood. The Middle West, the Far West and the Pacific Coast were all more or less in

« 上一頁繼續 »