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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 doubt. The result was that instead of a campaign carried on in a few dubious states, the field of action was enlarged to include half the country; and within this enlarged field of action an unprecedented amount of campaign work had to be accomplished.
The exigencies of the campaign necessitated certain departures from the customary methods of organization. For a number of reasons the work devolved to a much larger extent than usual upon the National Committee. The time was short. An enormous amount of properly correlated work had to be accomplished with the utmost possible efficiency. Since it was to be a campaign of instruction, the educational agencies had to be concentrated upon the areas in which they could do most good, and they had to be supplied with really instructive material. The State Committees could not be trusted with as much responsibility as they had been accustomed to exercise. The National Committee, instead of being a kind of central agency of the State Committees, became the general staff of the whole army. The State Committees carried out its orders. Such was the inevitable effect of a campaign which stirred public opinion as it had not been stirred since the war, and which raised an issue involving not merely the national prosperity, but the national honor and credit.
It was also a result of naming a man like Mark Hanna as the chairman of the Committee. He was not merely the nominal head of the campaign. He was the real leader of the Committee, the real architect of its plans, the real engineer of its machinery and to a certain extent the real source of its energy. In the work of the campaign no one was more intimately associated with him than the treasurer of the Committee, the late Mr. Cornelius N. Bliss, and no one testifies more cordially to his unremitting labor, his unflagging energy, his thorough grasp of the work in all its aspects, his quick insight into the different needs born of different situations and his fertility in meeting special needs with special measures.
As one necessary preliminary measure he reorganized the executive offices of the Committee. In the past its methods had not conformed to sound business standards. Mr. Hanna introduced a better system of bookkeeping and auditing, so that there would be a proper account kept of the way in which the funds of the Committee were spent. Another innovation was the establishment of two headquarters, one in New York and one in Chicago. In the beginning he anticipated that the Eastern office would be the more important, but the large amount of work which was necessitated in the West by the disaffection in that region demanded an independent organization. As the campaign developed, this double-headed organization was justified by the event. Chicago became the real centre of the educational part of the campaign, because of its proximity to the doubtful states.
Mr. Hanna had intended to divide his own attention about equally between the two headquarters, but as the campaign progressed his personal responsibility for raising money to pay the expense of the Committee kept him a large part of the time in New York. He needed, consequently, a peculiarly efficient local organization in Chicago, and he secured it by associating with him in the work unusually able men. The vice-chairman in charge of the office was Mr. Henry C. Payne of Wisconsin, who is said to be one of the most successful campaign managers of that period. With him was associated Charles G. Dawes, who had proved his abilities in the fight made by McKinley's friends for Illinois, Winfield T. Durbin of Indiana and Cyrus Leland, Jr., of Kansas. The subordinates were all men with whom Mr. Hanna had already worked and in whose abilities he had confidence. Major Charles Dick was secretary to the committee and the working head of the organization. William M. Hahn, formerly chairman of the Ohio State Committee, was in charge of the Bureau of Speakers, and Perry Heath took care of the press matter. In New York, besides Mr. Cornelius N. Bliss, the work was divided among Senator Quay, Joseph Manley of Maine, Powell Clayton of Arkansas and N. B. Scott of West Virginia.
One of the major necessities of the campaign as a whole was the adoption of some measure which would counteract the effect of Mr. Bryan's personal stumping tour, —a tour which covered a large part of the country and aroused great popular sympathy and interest. Of course the countermove was to keep Mr. McKinley's ingratiating personality as much as possible before