CHAPTER X. EXTREME REPUBLICANISM
In the meanwhile, great interest attached to the question of leaders for the campaign. Opposition to Cleveland was not lacking. His efforts in behalf of civil service reform had not endeared him to the office-seekers, and the hostility of the Democrats in the Senate was shown by their feeble support of him. The West did not relish his opposition to silver coinage, while his vetoes of pension legislation were productive of some hostility, even in his own party. Nor was the personality of the President such as to allay ill-feeling. Indeed, Cleveland was in a position comparable to that of Hayes eight years before. He was the titular party leader, but the most prominent Democratic politicians were not in agreement with his principles, and any step taken by him was likely to arouse as much hostility in some Democratic quarters as among the Republicans. Opposition to his nomination focused upon David B. Hill, Governor of New York, a man who was looked upon as better disposed towards the claims of party workers for office. Other leaders like Bayard, Thurman and Carlisle aroused little enthusiasm, and the gradual drift of sentiment toward Cleveland became unmistakable. If the politicians did not accept him with joy, they at least accepted him; for he was master of the party for the moment at least, and his hold on a large body of the rank and file was not to be doubted. When the Democratic convention met in St. Louis in June, 1888, his nomination was made without the formality of a ballot.
The platform was devoted, for the most part, to the question of revenue reform, indorsing the President's tariff message and urging that the party be given control of Congress in order that Democratic principles might be put into effect. Resolutions were also adopted recommending the passage of the Mills bill, which was still under discussion when the convention met.
Among the Republicans the choice of a candidate was a far more difficult matter. The probable choice of the party was Blaine, but his letter from Italy, where he was travelling early in the convention year, forbade the use of his name and opened the contest to a great number of less well-known leaders. Publicly it was stated that Blaine refused for reasons which were "entirely personal," but intimate friends knew that he would accept a nomination if it came without solicitation and as the result of a unanimous party call. Although the demand for him still continued, there were smaller "booms" for various favorite sons, and as his ill health continued he made known his irrevocable decision to withdraw. Except for Blaine, the most prominent contender was Senator Sherman, whose candidacy reached larger proportions than ever before. The Ohio delegation was unitedly in his favor and considerable numbers of southern delegates were expected to vote for him. On the other hand, his lack of personal magnetism was against him and his career had been connected with technical matters which did not make a popular appeal. On the first ballot in the nominating convention his lead was considerable, although not decisive, but no fewer than thirteen other leaders also received votes. One of these was Senator Benjamin Harrison of Indiana whom Blaine had suggested as an available man and whom the New York delegation considered a strong candidate because he was poor, a reputable senator, a distinguished volunteer officer in the war and a grandson of William H. Harrison of Tippecanoe fame. Further voting only emphasized the lack of unanimity until the eighth ballot, when the delegates suddenly turned to Harrison and nominated him.
The platform was long and verbose. It devoted much attention to the protective tariff which, in imitation of Henry Clay, it entitled the "American system"; it advocated the reduction of internal revenue duties, if necessary to cut down the surplus; and it urged civil service reform, liberal pensions and laws to control oppressive corporations.
Two factions of the Labor party, as well as the Prohibitionists, nominated candidates and urged programs to which no attention was paid, but which were later taken up by both the great parties, such as arbitration in labor disputes, an income tax, the popular election of senators, woman suffrage and the prohibition of the manufacture of alcoholic beverages.
The campaign deserves attention because of the unusual elements that entered into it. A spectacular feature which, although not new, was developed on a large scale, was the formation of thousands of political clubs, which paraded evenings with flaming torches. In this type of organization the Republicans were more successful than the Democrats and thus steered many young men into the party at a time when they were looking forward to casting their first ballot. The most unwholesome feature was, as before, the methods used to finance the campaign. In this connection both parties were guilty, but the Republicans were able to tap a new source of supply. The campaign was in the hands of Matthew S. Quay, a Pennsylvania senator whose career as a public official left much to be desired. Quay's political methods were vividly described at a later time by his friend and admirer Thomas C. Platt, whose account lost none of its delightfulness in view of the fact that Platt obviously felt that he was complimenting his friend in telling the story. Believing in the "rights" of business men in politics, Platt declared, Quay was always able to raise any amount of money needed, although when funds were raised by business interests against him, he lifted the "fiery cross" and virtuously exposed his opponents before the people. Having calculated with skill the number of votes needed for victory, he found out where he could get them - "and then he got them."