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POLITICAL FRIENDS AND ENEMIES
The defeat in the Convention of 1888 of the presidential candidacy of John Sherman was a severe disappointment to Mark Hanna and a source of the utmost personal exasperation. He had labored long and well for a worthy and practicable political object — only to fail at the last moment from an apparently unnecessary cause. The experience made a deep impression upon him. It constituted, as we have seen, the foundation of life-long political friendships and enmities. Thereafter his career in politics assumed, not a new direction, but a new emphasis, which proved to be salutary and edifying.
The idea of nominating and electing William McKinley to the presidency of the United States was born of those exasperating days at the Chicago Convention. There is no documentary proof of the truth of this statement, but his intimate friends date from this moment the conception of the idea, and the supposition is confirmed by a sufficient array of circumstantial corroboration. The circumstances and results of John Sherman's defeat both cleared the path for an exclusive devotion to the political advancement of William McKinley and made such an expenditure of his time and energy look eminently practicable. Mark Hanna had made up his mind to nominate, if possible, a political leader from Ohio as the Republican candidate for the presidency. He was a man distinguished by great tenacity of purpose. The defeat of Sherman did not make him abandon the idea; but it taught him that John Sherman could never be the vehicle of its fulfilment. Thereafter that statesman had joined in Mr. Hanna's mind the majority of his fellow-countrymen in becoming a presidential impossibility. But the same series of exciting incidents which had extinguished the fires of Mr. Sherman's candidacy had unexpectedly made McKinley an obvious presidential possibility. A great name, a long and eminent career and a lot of hard work had not availed to place Sherman much nearer the nomination than McKinley had been with no work at all and a comparatively modest career and reputation. The contrast and the lesson were obvious. They became a matter of frequent contemporary comment in the newspapers, and Mark Hanna had more reason than any one else to have them stamped on his mind.
Just at the moment when Sherman's star was paling and McKinley's waxed brighter, Mr. Hanna had broken the only personal tie in politics which might have interfered with an interest in McKinley's career. James B. Foraker was transformed from a friend into an opponent under conditions which, erroneously or not, persuaded Mr. Hanna to place a higher value on McKinley's friendship than on Mr. Foraker's. McKinley took the place both of Sherman and Foraker in the hierarchy of Mr. Hanna's political and personal relationships. He became both the intimate friend with a political future of great promise and the available presidential candidate. Thereafter the determination to make Mr. McKinley President of the United States and in the meantime to promote his political advancement in every possible way became Mark Hanna's dominant interest in politics.
The friendship between the two men had grown slowly and naturally. Whatever the occasion of their first meeting, they had become intimate very gradually. During the years of Mr. Hanna's association with Mr. Foraker, he and Mr. McKinley, although coming from the same part of the state, had a different set of political associates and different candidates for important state offices. I have quoted a letter of Mr. Hanna's to the Governor, in which he complains of what he considers the exorbitance of the "Major's" demands for recognition. But Mr. Hanna's increasing activity in politics brought them into more and more frequent relations, and it may be that before the Convention the process of substituting McKinley for Foraker as the most valued of Mr. Hanna's political friends had already made headway. The Governor and the Congressman were in some measure political rivals, because they were the two rising Republican leaders of Ohio whose careers might conflict; and in any event a strong interest in the political career of one of
them would have interfered with any but a subordinate interest in the career of the other. The close political and personal association which began after the convention of 1888 between Mr. Hanna and Mr. McKinley blossomed suddenly, but its roots had been slowly growing for a period of over ten years.
The startling and unforced growth of McKinley's presidential candidacy in the Convention of 1888 was due probably to his prominence as an advocate of high protection. His amiable disposition and his winning demeanor undoubtedly contributed to his popularity, and the fact that he hailed from a centrally situated state like Ohio contributed to his availability. But the chief reason why a certain number of Republicans turned almost instinctively towards him was due to his association with the policy of protecting American manufacturers to the limit. President Cleveland's message in December, 1886, and his renomination had made it certain that the campaign of 1888 would be fought and decided on the tariff issue. The Republicans were glad to accept the challenge and turned naturally towards the man who was considered to be the ablest advocate of the party's policy.
Major McKinley had been a Representative in Congress from the Mahoning Valley district since 1877, one term only excepted. He had gradually secured the confidence of his party associates by his tact, his attractive personality, his industry and his ability as a speaker. His congressional reputation had been associated almost from the start with an advocacy of high protection. When Garfield retired from the Ways and Means Committee, before his nomination to the presidency, McKinley became the member of that body from Ohio. He had a good deal to do with framing the tariff act of 1883, and increased his reputation during the debates on that measure. In the Republican Convention of 1884 he was chairman of the Committee on Resolutions and was associated with the writing of the party platform. During the succeeding years he added to his fame by his able opposition to the several proposals introduced by Democrats, looking towards tariff revision. He became in fact the leading Republican protectionist debater, and when the Republican Convention assembled in 1888 with a fight on the tariff ahead, McKinley had become the inevitable man for the chairmanship of the Committee on Resolutions. The definite establishment of the tariff issue as the dividing line between the two parties was bound to increase the political prestige of the man who had earned recognition as the most conspicuous exponent of the high protectionist idea. If Mr. Hanna had not possessed a hundred other reasons for a peculiar interest in McKinley, the latter's association with protectionism might in itself have been sufficient to create it.
A coalescence can be plainly traced at this point between Mark Hanna's dominant personal political interest and his dominant impersonal political interest. He had always represented in politics the point of view of a business man; and now for the first time a national campaign was about to be waged on an issue involving in his opinion the business prosperity of the country. The appearance of such an issue was a challenge to him to become more than ever interested in active political work — particularly in view of the fact that every victory of protection was a contribution towards the possible victorious candidacy of his personal friend, Major McKinley.
Previous to the campaign of 1888 the issue between the parties had never been definitely made on the tariff. The Democrats had shown a strong leaning towards tariff reform, but there had always been a minority of protectionist Democrats. The great majority of Republicans had been extreme protectionists, but until the secession of the independents in 1884, there had always been a minority of tariff reform Republicans. President Cleveland's message in 1886 had established the issue; and his plea for revision was based upon arguments which could not be ignored. Quite apart from any economic theory for or against protection, the existing tariff was piling up a surplus in the Treasury which for various reasons could no longer be used, as in the past, to reduce the national debt. Its accumulation was an embarrassment to the money market and an unnecessary drain on the economic resources of the country. Some revision of the tariff was necessary, and a revision in the direction of lower duties looked like the only possible way of getting rid of the surplus. The Democrats, however, advocated lower duties, not merely to reduce the income of the government, but because they proposed to destroy protectionism
as the American fiscal policy. While none of the measures of revision introduced by them were framed on the basis of a tariff for revenue only, their arguments were based upon the intrinsic desirability of free trade and the iniquity of protectionism.
Business men in any way associated with protected manufacturing industries rallied with enthusiasm and determination to the fiscal policy of the Republican party. Among them Mark Hanna was not the least enthusiastic and determined. He had never known any but a protectionist fiscal system. He accepted it as the foundation, not merely of American industrial expansion, but of industrial safety. Depending as he always did upon his personal experience as his guide, he identified protectionism with the traditional American fiscal system — the system which sought to give the American producer exclusive control of the home market, and which practically allowed the beneficiaries of the tariff to draw up the schedules. The serious attack made upon the system seemed to give him as a representative in politics of the business interest a new duty to perform. Certain conditions which he considered essential to business prosperity were being threatened by political agitation. He and other business men must rally to their defence.
Thus the campaign of 1888 first brought clearly to light an underlying tendency in American political and industrial development which until then had remained somewhat obscure. Since the Civil War the national economic system had been becoming relatively more industrial and relatively less agricultural. The increasing proportion of the population dependent on industry lived, not merely in New England and in the Middle States, but throughout the Middle West. The rapid growth of industry had been partly dependent upon legislative encouragement. It had given to the people interested in the protected industries a reason for demanding helpful legislation and a reason for fearing adverse legislation. This encouragement, moreover, had not taken the form merely of protecting manufacturers against foreign competition. The large business interests of the country had been encouraged, also, by the utmost laxity in the granting of corporate privileges and the utmost freedom from state and national administrative regulation.