Charles Ramsdell Lingley

The most significant legislative act of President Cleveland's administration was due primarily neither to him nor to the great political parties. It concerned the relation between the government and the railroads, and the force which led to its passage originated outside of Congress. The growth of the transportation system, therefore, the economic benefits which resulted, the complaints which arose and the means through which the complaints found voice were subjects of primary importance.

The reelection of Wilson in November, 1916, could hardly be interpreted in any other light than as an approval of his patient foreign policy. Nevertheless, for the ensuing five months the problem of our international relations, and especially the question whether we ought to enter the World War, continued to divide the American people into hostile camps.

That the election of 1888 differed from its predecessors since 1865 was due chiefly to the independence, courage and political insight of President Cleveland. Hitherto campaigns had been contested with as little reference to real issues as conditions rendered possible. Neither party had possessed leaders with sufficient understanding of the needs of the nation to force a genuine settlement of an important issue. That 1888 saw a clear contest made it a memorable year in recent politics.

About the time the Sherman Anti-trust law was being passed, in 1890, Henry D. Lloyd was writing his book Wealth Against Commonwealth, in which occurred a memorable passage:

In view of the fact that Harrison had been successful in 1888 and that Cleveland had been the most able Democratic leader since the Civil War, it seemed natural that their parties should renominate them in 1892. Yet the men at the oars in the Republican organization were far from enthusiastic over their leader. It is probable that Harrison did not like the role of dispenser of patronage and that he indicated the fact in dealing with his party associates; at any rate, he estranged such powerful leaders as Platt, Quay and Reed by his neglect of them in disposing of appointments.

After the international issues arising from the Civil War were settled, and before foreign relations began to become more important late in the nineties, our diplomatic history showed the same lack of definiteness and continuity that stamped the history of politics during the same years. Eleven different men held the post of Secretary of State during the thirty-four years from 1865 to 1898, one of them, Blaine, serving at two separate times.

In their handling of the labor problem, the governments of the states and the nation showed greater ignorance and less foresight than characterized their treatment of any of the other issues of the quarter century following the Civil War. Yet the building of the railroads and their consolidation into great systems, the development of manufacturing and its concentration into large concerns, and the growth of an army of wage earners brought about a problem of such size and complexity as to demand all the information and vision that the country could muster.

The critical monetary and financial situation during Cleveland's second administration is understandable only in the light of a series of acts which were passed between 1878 and 1893. It will be remembered that in the former year the Bland-Allison act had provided for the purchase and coinage of two million to four million dollars' worth of silver bullion per month, and that the force behind the measure had been found chiefly among westerners who wished to see the volume of the currency increased and among mine owners who were producing silver.

To write an account of the history of the United States since the Civil War without bias, without misstatements of fact and without the omission of matters that ought to be included, would be to perform a miracle. I have felt no wonder-working near me. I can claim only to have attempted to overcome the natural limitations of having been brought up in a particular region and with a traditional political, economic and social philosophy.

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