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Born u. Kenton co., Ky., September 5, 1835; educated in common schools and as teacher; admitted to bar, 1858; member of Kentucky State Legislature, 1859-61; elected to State Senate, 1866 and 1869; elected Lieutenant-Governor of State, 1871; elected to 45th, 46th, 47th, 48th, 49th, 50th and 51st Congresses; presided as Speaker of House in 48th, 49th and 50th Congresses; a dignified officer and skilled parliamentarian; elected to United Slates Senate, as Democrat, to succeed Senator Beck, deceased, May 17, 1890; member of Committees on Finance, Territories, Canadian Relations, Indian Depredations and Woman's Suffrage; resigned his seat in the Senate to accept Secretaryship of Treasuary in President Cleveland's Cabinet; confirmed March 6, 1893, and entered upon duties of office March 9, 1893.
to win support for it. Of course there had been no abatement of the anti-protection sentiment, but there was reluctance in surrendering to the terms of the Sugar Trust. However, the dilemma was to pass with the passage of the bill by the Senate, July 3, 1894, by a vote of thirtynine yeas to thirty-four nays, the Populists voting with the Democrats.
It was carried back to the House, where an understanding already existed that it should not be opened to debate, but should be referred at once to a Committee of Conference. It was also understood in the House, by this time, that with the Sugar Trust it was to be either the Senate legislation or no legislation, while with the party in power it was to be a tariff bill, no matter how incongruous, nor what confession of inability to legislate it contained, or else a violation of all the party's pledges and promises to the country, and perhaps its ultimate ruin.
The bill, metamorphosed in form as well as name, for it was now not improperly dubbed the Gorman Brice bill, was duly referred to a Conference Committee, after a speech on a motion to non-concur with the Senate, by Mr. Wilson, in which he said that the bill had come back to the House with six hundred and thirty-four amendments to it, and that it no longer represented the principle that revenue taxes under a tariff should be levied on finished products and not on raw materials. Only wool and lumber came back undisturbed by the Senate. The bill had been rendered further unsatisfactory by numerous changes from ad valorem to specific or compound rates of duty.
The Democratic members of the Conference Committee took hold of the bill to the exclusion of the Republicans. In the contention over the departure from ad valorem rates the Senate members proved the stronger, for it was supported by the fact that nearly every civilized government had adopted the principle of specific rates. Aside from the question of general principles the Committee found grounds for agreement in many of the schedules, and work progressed slowly but satisfactorily for a time. It, however, became manifest that a serious hitch was to occur over the sugar schedule, and the items of coal and iron ore, all of which were free in the House bill, as a matter of party pledge and economic principle, but which had been made dutiable in the Senate bill on the plea that thus only could its passage be secured in that body, yet under the general charge of the Republicans and of the ablest representatives of the Democratic press that the changes had been made in pursuance of campaign promises to protect the interests of the Sugar Trust.
The bill had now reached one of the most critical points in its history, and the developments which marked its progress from this time on were the most interesting in connection with economic legislation, even if they did not indicate a permanent schism of the dominant party. What startled most the moral sense of the country was the fac' that the criminations and re criminations of the Democratic factions helped to confirm the suspicion that th* till was by no means a reflex of a majority sentiment of the party, but a mere measure of expediency, framed or rather adopted, on the principle that something must he done rather than nothing; and further, that the schedules over which differences were most irreconcilable and bitter had been dictated by the trusts and syndicates in pay for past and prospective favors.
On July 19, the committee of conference reported a disagreement to both the Houses of Congress. In the House, Mr. Wilson deprecated this disagreement in strong, but sad, terms. He said the committee on the part of the House could not accede to the Senate's demands without further instruction. He pointed out the difference between the rates of duty as originally fixed in the House hill and as found in the Senate bill. In the course of his speech he said:—"If it be true, as stated by the gentle man from Ohio (Mr. Johnson)—of which I have seen my self some confirmation in the press—if it be true that the great American Sugar Trust has grown so strong and powerful that it says that no tariff bill can pass the American Congress in which its interests are not adequately guarded; if, I say, that be true, I hope this House will never consent to adjournment. I hope, whatever the result of the general tariff bill is, that this House will not consent to an adjournment until it has passed a single bill putting refined sugar on the free list." In conclusion Mr. Wilson eulogized President Cleveland, and then, to the astonishment of the House, read a letter from him dated July 2, 1894, and before the passage of the bill in the Senate. The letter was addressed to Mr. Wilson and had been in his private keeping ever since its receipt. Mr. Wilson now made it public with President Cleveland's consent. It was such a remarkable letter, and led to such serious consequences, that it came to be regarded as one of the most momentous chapters in the history of the Wilson Tariff bill, if not one of the boldest of executive attempts to influence legislation. No just and impartial history of the tariff bill nor even of the times would be complete without an opportunity to read it. It ran:
"My Dear Sir:—The certainty that a conference will be ordered between the two Houses of Congress for the purpose of adjusting differences on the subject of tariff legislation makes it also certain that you will be again called on to do hard service in the cause of tariff reform.
"My public life has been so closely related to the subject, I have so longed for its accomplishment, and I have so often promised its realization to my fellow countrymen as a result of their trust and confidence in the Democratic party, that I hope no excuse is necessary for my earnest appeal to you that in this crisis you strenuously insist your party honest}', good faith and a sturdy adherence to Democratic principles. I believe these are absolutely necessary conditions to the continuation of Democratic existence.
"I cannot rid myself of the feeling that this conference will present the best, if not the only hope, of true Democracy. Indications point to its action as the reliance of those who desire the genuine fruition of Democratic effort, the fulfilment of Democratic pledges and the redemption of Democratic promises to the people. To reconcile differences in the details comprised within the fixed and well defined lines of principle, will not be the sole talk of the conference; but, as it seems to me, its members will also have in charge the question whether Democratic principles themselves are to be saved or abandoned.
"There is no excuse for mistaking or misapprehending the feeling and the temper of the rank and file of the Democracy. They are downcast under the assertion that their party fails in ability to manage the Government, and they are apprehensive that efforts to bring about tariff reform may fail; but they are much more downcast and apprehensive in their fears that Democratic principles may be surrendered.
"In these circumstances they cannot do otherwise than to look with confidence to you and those who with you