CHAPTER X. EXTREME REPUBLICANISM
A contested election case was up for decision in the House. The roll was called and three less than a quorum of representatives answered. Scores of Democrats were present, but by merely refusing to answer to their names they could be officially absent. Unless the Republicans could provide a quorum - that is, more than half the total membership of the chamber of their own number, they were helpless. Clearly they could not muster their full force at all times and especially on questions upon which the party might be divided. On the other hand, the right to refuse to vote was a long-standing one and had been used over and over again by Republicans as well as Democrats. Reed, however, had made up his mind to cut the Gordian knot. Looking over the House he called the names of about forty Democrats, directed the clerk to make note of them and then declared a quorum present. The meaning of the act was not lost on the opposition. Pandemonium broke loose. Members rushed up the aisle as if to attack the Speaker, but Reed, huge, fearless and undisturbed, stood his ground. The Democrats hissed and jeered and denounced him with a wrath which was not mollified by the derisive laughter of the Republicans, who were surprised by the ruling, but rallied to their leader. Two days later, when a member moved to adjourn, the Speaker ruled the motion out of order and refused to entertain any appeal from his decision. He then firmly but quietly stated his belief that the will of the majority ought not to be nullified by a minority and that if parliamentary rules were used solely for purposes of delay, it was the duty of the Speaker to take "the proper course."
The rules committee then presented a series of recommendations designed to expedite business. One of the proposed changes provided that the chair should entertain no dilatory motions. Such motions, whose purpose was merely to obstruct action, had long been common. The Republicans were said to have alternated motions to adjourn and to fix a day for adjournment no less than one hundred and twenty-eight times in an attempt to defeat the Kansas-Nebraska bill in 1854. The second rule allowed the speaker to count members who were present and not voting in determining whether a quorum was present. Other rules systematized procedure and facilitated the passage of legislation. The Democrats raged, denounced Reed as a "Czar," fought against the adoption of the rules - all to no avail. The majority had its way; the Speaker dominated legislation.
The efficacy of the Reed reforms in expediting legislation was quickly demonstrated. One of the earliest proposals to pass the House was Henry Cabot Lodge's federal election law, which was intended to insure federal control at polling places. Theoretically the measure was applicable to the North as well as to the South, but no doubt existed that it was really designed to prevent southern suppression of the negro vote. The Democrats rallied to the opposition and denounced Lodge's plan as a "force act." Despite objections it passed the House, but it languished in the Senate and finally was abandoned. The generous expenditure policy which the new philosophy called for brought forth certain increases which were noteworthy. The dependent pension bill which Cleveland had vetoed was passed, and a direct tax which had been levied on the states during the Civil War was refunded. Another extreme party measure was the Sherman silver act which became law on July 14, 1890. By it, 4,500,000 ounces of silver were to be purchased each month. Its partisan character was indicated by the fact that no Republicans voted against it, and no Democrats for it. Since the amount of silver to be purchased was practically the total output of the country, it was evident that the western mine owners were receiving the same attention that was being accorded manufacturers who sought protective tariff laws. Indeed, western Republicans, who were opposed to the high tariff which eastern Republicans favored, were brought to support such legislation only by a bargain through which each side assisted the other in getting what it desired.
The tariff measure which was thus entwined with the silver bill was intended to carry out the pledge made in the party platform. Harrison had early called the attention of Congress to the need of a reduction of the surplus, had urged the passage of a new tariff law and the removal of the tobacco tax which, he declared, would take a burden from an "important agricultural product." The framing of the bill was in the hands of William McKinley, the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means. McKinley was a thorough-going protectionist whose attitude on the question had already been expressed somewhat as follows: previous Democratic tariffs have brought the country to the brink of financial ruin; without the protective tariff English manufacturers would monopolize American markets; under the protective system the foreign manufacturer largely pays the tax through lessened profits; under protection the American laborer is the best paid, clothed and contented workingman in the world; since it is necessary, then, to preserve protection, the surplus should be reduced by the elimination of the internal revenues; and protective tariff duties should be raised and retained, not gradually lowered and done away with.