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Miis Congress. That was the free coinage of silver. It bobbed up at every turn to annoy the Democratic majority. The failure of silver producers to realize their expectations under the Sherman act of 1890, the growing desire on the part of the dissatisfied to change industrial and trade conditions in the South and West, had given the silver question a new and decidedly party turn. Democratic State Conventions had almost unanimously declared in favor of "free and unlimited coinage of silver." This was but an echo of the Greenback doctrine, now on its wane. Mr. Bland, recognized leader of the silver agitation, formulated his "Free Silver Coinage Bill " and urged it with his tremendous ability. The belief that it could fail in a Democratic House was not to be entertained. But what was his surprise to find that the eastern Democrats had turned in with the Republicans, and that the vote on his bill was a tie. Though the Speaker, Mr. Crisp, broke the tie in favor of the bill, it was afterwards defeated by dilatory motions.
In comparison with the fifty-first Congress the fiftysecond passed into history as the "do-nothing Congress." It was frequently driven to protest against itself for fili bustering tactics. Owing its existence largely to " Tin Billion Dollar " extravagance of its predecessor, it ex ceeded that extravagance by a total of $44,000,000.
Campaign Op 1892.
The Republican party held its National Convention at Minneapolis, June 7, 1892, and renominated President Harrison on a platform favoring American Protection, bimetalism with legislative restrictions, free ballot and honest count, extension of foreign commerce, enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine, separations of church and state: efficient protection to railroad employees, reduced postage and extension of free mail delivery, Civil Service, Nicaragua canal, admissions of Territories as States, the World's Fair, pensions; and opposing southern outrages, pauper immigration, trusts, and intemperance.
The Democrats met at Chicago, June 21, 1892, and renominated Grover Cleveland on a platform pledging the party to the principles of Jefferson, to opposition to the "Force Bill;" denouncing protection as a fraud and unconstitutional; the McKinley act as the "culminating atrocity of class legislation;" reciprocity as a fraud; declaring opposition to trusts; to giving away of public lands to railroads; to the coinage act of 1890; to State banks; to Republican foreign policy; to pauper immigration; to Harrison's administration; favoring Mississippi improvements, Nicaragua canal, popular education, admission of new States, protection of railway employees, abolition of the "sweating system."
The Prohibitionists met in National Convention at Cincinnati, June 30, 1892, and nominated General John Bidwell, for president, on an elaborate platform expressive of the party's views.
The People's Or Populist Party.
A new party had been for some time in process of quiet growth, formed of those who thought that the Government had not been sufficiently mindful of the welfare of the industrial classes. It had formulated its doctrines at a meeting at Ocala, FJa., and was sufficiently advanced to take its place in the campaign of 1892. This it did in National Convention at Omaha on July 4, 1892, by the nomination of General James B. Weaver, of Iowa, for president. The party was recruited from both the leading parties, and gave as reasons for its existence, those found in the preamble to its platform, to wit;—that corruption dominates the ballot box, the legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench. The people arc demoralized, newspapers largely subsidized or muzzled, public opinion silenced, business prostrated, homes mortgaged, labor impoverished, lands concentrated in the hands of capitalists, workmen denied right of organization, imported pauperized labor beating down wages, [the fruits of toil stolen to build up colossal fortunes, the national power to create money appropriated to enrich bond holders, a vast public debt funded into gold-bearing bonds, silver demonetized, the currency abridged to fatten usurers, bankrupt enterprise and enslave industry.
The preamble further charged both political parties with grievous wrongs and inability to right them, with engaging in sham political battles over tariffs for the sake of plunder, and with proposing to sacrifice homes, lives and children on the altar of Mammon. The platform which followed contained a belief that a union of the labor forces of the country was necessary to its salvation, that wealth belonged to him who created it, and that the time had come when the Government should own and operate the railroads, telegraphs and telephones. On the question of finance the demand was for a safe, sound and flexible legal tender currency, for free and unlimited coinage of silver at a ratio of sixteen to one, for a graduated income tax, for limitation of State and National revenues, for postal savings banks, for an eight hour law, for civil service regulations.
These plain charges and broad demands sufficed to touch deeply an immense contingent of both parties in the far western States, and one of the curiosities of the campaign of 1892 was a coalition of Democrats and Populists in many States with a view to securing Democratic electors. The growth of this new party in the Southern States was phenomenal. In more than one of these States it swept away old regimes and installed itself in the Governor's chairs and legislatures.
The result of the national campaign of 1892 was a surprise to both the leading parties. There had been but little excitement, and nothing more than a quiet confidence manifested. But it was found that the labor vote had revolted against its employers, and that the Populist strength had proved enormous beyond all calculation, having swept several Republican states of the northwest from their political moorings. Ex-president Cleveland was elected, and with him a large majority of Democrats in the fifty-third Congress, the strength of parties being two hundred and twenty-one Democrats, one hundred and twenty-five Republicans, ten. Populists. The Senate was also Democratic, the party strength being forty-three Democrats, thirty-seven Republicans, and five Populists.
This was really a greater political revolution than that of 1884 had been. The Democratic party found itself in possession of all branches of the Government for the first time in thirty-two years, and it could apply its principles at will. But though a triumphant, it was to be by no means a happy, party. Its alliances with Populists encouraged the free silver sentiment in its ranks, and out of fusion was to come confusion, as so often happens in party history.
A feeling of discontent rested heavily on the country and a sense of danger haunted commercial centres. Gold went abroad rapidly. The Treasury reserve became depleted. Exports fell off. Expenditures exceeded receipts. The Secretary of the Treasury intimated the probability of redeeming silver certificates in silver. At once solid dread fell on the banksand capitalists. Credits shrivelled, banks closed, corporations and firms went to the wall, business demoralization became well-nigh universal, mills closed, labor went idle. The period was one of panic, or rather of that awful suspension of faith and credit which is usually worse than panic, because it is less treatable by remedies and of longer duration. It was to rest like an incubus on the entire second administration of Mr. Cleveland.
It was thought that the Sherman Silver Act of 1890 had something to do with the disastrous times. Congress was called in special session, August 7, 1893, and the purchasing clause of the bill was repealed, but not without strenuous opposition by the free silver coinage men. Credit was somewhat fortified, but the industrial panic still prevailed and even assumed more disastrous forms. It was evident that the cause had not been rightly guessed.
Amid this gloom the fifty-third Congress met in regular session, December 4, 1893. Its meeting was rendered more sombre by the fact that a counter political revolution had set in, in 1893, less diffused but more emphatic than that of 1892 had been. Democratic States, like New York, were swept by the Republicans, by large majorities. It was evident that the country was in violent reaction. Still the Congress went actively about the work of substituting a new Tariff act for that of 1890. The bill, which became known as the " Wilson Bill," was framed very far along the approaches to free trade, so much so indeed that the Democrats in the Senate forced into it many material amendments so as to make it secure more