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.

It will be remembered that the tariff act of 1883 had been satisfactory only to a minority in Congress, because it retained the high level of customs duties that had been established during the Civil War. The congressional election of 1882 had resulted in the choice of a Democratic House of Representatives and had offered another opportunity for downward revision. Early in 1884, therefore, William R. Morrison presented a bill making considerable additions to the free list and providing for a "horizontal" reduction of about twenty per cent. on all other duties as levied under the act of 1883. The measure was defeated by four votes. Opposed to it were substantially all the Republicans and forty-one Democrats, most of them from the industrial states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The Democratic tariff plank of 1884, as has been seen, was practically meaningless, but the election of Cleveland, and the choice of a Democratic House gave another opportunity for revision. Again Morrison attempted a reduction, and again he was defeated by Samuel J. Randall and the other protectionist Democrats.

The entire matter, however, was about to receive a new and important development at the hands of President Cleveland and John G. Carlisle, who was the Speaker of the House during the four years from 1885 to 1889. Carlisle was a Kentuckian, a man of grave bearing, unflagging industry and substantial attainments. His tariff principles were in accord with those of the President, and his position as Speaker enabled him to determine the make-up of the Committee on Ways and Means, which would frame any tariff legislation. Cleveland had expressed his belief in the desirability of tariff reduction in his messages to Congress of 1885 and 1886, basing his recommendations on the same facts that had earlier actuated President Arthur in making similar suggestions. His recommendations, however, had received the same slight consideration that had been accorded those of his Republican predecessor. He therefore determined to challenge the attention of the country and of Congress by means of a novel expedient.

Previous presidential messages had covered a wide variety of subjects - foreign relations, domestic affairs, and recommendations of all kinds. Departing from this custom, the President made up his mind to devote an entire message to tariff reform. His project was startling from the political point of view, for his party was far from being a unit in its attitude toward reduction, a presidential campaign was at hand, and the Independents, who had had a strong influence in bringing about his success in 1884, sent word to him that a reform message would imperil his chances of re-election. This type of argument had little weight with Cleveland, however, and his reply was brief: "Do you not think that the people of the United States are entitled to some instruction on this subject?"

On December 6, 1887, therefore, he sent to Congress his famous message urging the downward revision of the tariff. The immediate occasion of his recommendation, he declared, was the surplus of income over expenditure, which was piling up in the treasury at a rapid rate and which was a constant invitation to reckless appropriations. The portion of the public debt which was payable had already been redeemed, so that whatever surplus was not expended would be stored in the vaults, thus reducing the amount of currency in circulation, and making likely a financial crisis. The simplest remedy for the situation seemed to Cleveland to lie in a reduction of the income, and the most desirable means of reduction seemed to be the downward revision of the tariff, a system of "unnecessary taxation" which he denominated "vicious, inequitable, and illogical." Disclaiming any wish to advocate free trade, he expressed the hope that Congress would turn its attention to the practical problem before it:

    Our progress toward a wise conclusion will not be improved by 
    dwelling upon the theories of protection and free trade. This 
    savors too much of bandying epithets. It is a condition which 
    confronts us, not a theory.

The effect of the message was immediate. Men began at once to take sides as if everybody had been waiting for a leader to speak his mind; and the parties adopted the definite principles to which they adhered for many years afterwards. The Democrats very generally rallied to the support of their champion; gaps in the ranks were closed up; and doubtless the usual pressure was applied to obstinate members who were disinclined to follow the leader. The Republican attitude was well expressed in the phrase of one of the politicians: "It is free-trade, and we have 'em!" The most prominent Republican, James G. Blaine, was in Paris, but true to his instinctive recognition of a good political opportunity he gave an interview which was immediately cabled to America. In it Blaine maintained that tariff reduction would harm the entire country, and especially the South and the farmers, and urged the reduction of the surplus by the abolition of the tax on tobacco, which he termed the poor man's luxury. The "Paris Message" was generally looked upon as the Republican answer to Cleveland, and as pointing to Blaine as the inevitable candidate for the ensuing campaign. On one point, most men of both parties were agreed - that the President had displayed great courage. "The presidential chair," declared James Russell Lowell, "has a MAN in it, and this means that every word he says is weighted with what he is."

The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives, Roger Q. Mills, promptly presented a bill which conformed to the principles for which the President had argued. The discussion of the Mills bill was long known as the "Great Tariff Debate of 1888." The House seethed with it for more than a month. Mills and Carlisle on one side and William McKinley and Thomas B. Reed on the other typified the new leadership and the new positions which the parties were taking. Senator Morrill's idea that the war tariff was a temporary one, President Arthur's advice that the tariff be revised, the recommendations of the Tariff Commission of 1882 that reductions were necessary, - all these were no longer heard. Instead, the Republicans upheld the protective system as the cause of the unexampled prosperity of the nation. It is not to be supposed that protectionist or reductionist converts were made by the endless discussion, but the initial prejudices of each side were undoubtedly deepened. Each telling blow on either side was applauded by the partisans of each particular speaker, so that "applause" fairly dots the dull pages of the Congressional Record. McKinley enlivened his colleagues by pulling from his desk and exhibiting a suit of clothes which he had purchased for $10.00, a figure, he asserted, which proved that the tariff did not raise prices beyond the reach of the laboring man. Mills tracked down the cost of the suit and the tariff on the materials composing it, and further entertained the House by an exhibit showing that it cost $4.98 to manufacture the suit and that the remainder of the price which the laborer paid was due to the tariff. In the end, the Mills bill passed the House with but four Democrats voting against it. Randall was so ill that he was unable to be present when the final vote was taken, but a letter from him declaring his opposition to the bill was greeted with great applause on the Republican side. Randall's day was past, however, and leadership was passing to new men.

Meanwhile the Republicans in the Senate, where they were in control, had prepared a tariff bill which was designed to give evidence of the sort of act which would be passed if they were successful in the campaign. Senator Allison and Senator Aldrich were influential in this connection. The passage of leadership in tariff matters to Senator Aldrich and men of his type was as significant as the transition in the House. Aldrich was from Rhode Island, an able man who had had experience in state affairs, had served in the federal House of Representatives and had been in the Senate since 1881. He had already laid the foundations of the great financial and industrial connections which gave him an intimate, personal interest in protection and which later made him an important figure in American industry and politics. Since neither party controlled both branches of Congress, it was impossible to pass either the Mills bill or the Senate measure; but the proposed legislation indicated what might be expected to result from the election. Each side had thoroughly committed itself on the tariff question.

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.[1]

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."

That Quay was able to tap a new source of supply was due to a combination of circumstances. It will be remembered that the Pendleton civil service act of 1883 had forbidden the assessment of office-holders in political campaigns, and had made it necessary to procure funds elsewhere. In the campaign of 1888, business men who believed that the success of Cleveland would hurt their interests, and manufacturers who profited directly by the protective tariff rallied to the defence of Harrison and contributed heavily to his campaign fund.[2]

The use to which the funds thus contributed were put was revealed in a letter written apparently by W.W. Dudley, treasurer of the National Republican Committee, and sent to party leaders in Indiana. The latter were directed to find out who had the "Democratic boodle" and force them, presumably by competition, to pay big prices for their own men. The leaders were also instructed to "divide the floaters into blocks of five and put a trusted man with the necessary funds in charge of these five, and make him responsible that none get away, and that all vote our ticket."

On the other hand the most wholesome feature of the campaign was its educational aspect. Hundreds of societies, tons of "literature," thousands of stump speeches attacked and defended the tariff. Schoolboys glibly retailed the standard arguments on one side or the other. Attention was centered, as it had not been since the war, on an important issue.

At the close of the campaign the Republicans played a trick which was reminiscent of the Morey letter of Garfield's day. A letter purporting to be from a Charles F. Murchison, a naturalized American of English birth, was sent to the British minister in Washington, Lord Sackville-West. Murchison requested the minister's opinion as to whether President Cleveland's hostile policy in a recent controversy with Canada had been adopted for campaign purposes and whether after election the President would be more friendly toward England. Lord Sackville indiscreetly replied that he believed President Cleveland would show a conciliatory spirit toward Great Britain. The correspondence was held back until shortly before the election and was then published in the newspapers and on hand bills. Republicans triumphantly declared that Cleveland was the "British candidate." The President was at first inclined to overlook the incident but eventually gave way to pressure and dismissed the minister, whereupon the English government refused to fill the vacancy until there was a change of administration.

In the ensuing election the vote cast was unusually heavy; the protectionists felt that a supreme effort must be made to preserve the tariff system, and the Democrats, having experienced the joys of power, were determined not to loosen their grip on authority; the Prohibitionists increased their vote over that of 1884 by 100,000, while the Labor party cast 147,000, almost as many ballots as the Prohibitionists had numbered in the earlier year. Cleveland received somewhat over 100,000 more votes than Harrison, but his support was so placed that his electoral vote was sixty-five less than his opponent's.

From the standpoint of political history the result was unfortunate. The tariff question had been sadly in need of a definite answer, the people had been educated upon it and had given a decision, but the electoral system placed in power the party pledged to the theories of the minority. Aside from the unusual effect of our machinery of election, many small elements entered into the Republican victory. Some of the Independents had become disaffected since 1884 and had returned to the Republican fold. Disgruntled office-seekers opposed a President who did not reward his workers. In New York, which was the decisive factor, Hill was a candidate for re-election as governor and was elected by a small majority, while Cleveland lost the state by 7,000 votes. This gave color to charges that the enemies of the President had made a bargain with the Republicans by which the latter voted for Hill as governor and the Democrats for Harrison as President.

Benjamin Harrison, veteran of the Civil War in which he had attained the rank of brevet brigadier-general, and senator from Indiana for a single term, was hardly a party leader when he was nominated for the presidency. Although he was by no means unknown, he had been sufficiently obscure to be unconnected with factional party quarrels, and his career and character were without blemish. At the time of his accession to the executive chair he was fifty-six years of age, a short man with bearded face, and with head set well down between his shoulders. Accounts of his characteristics, drawn by his party associates, did not differ in any essential detail. As a public speaker, the new President was a man of unusual charm - felicitous in his remarks, versatile, tactful. In a famous trip through the South and West in 1891, he made speech after speech at a wide variety of places and occasions, and created a genuine enthusiasm. His remarks were widely read and highly regarded. Nevertheless there seems to have been some truth in the remark of one of his contemporaries that he could charm ten thousand men in a public speech but meet them individually and send every one away his enemy. His manner, even to senators and representatives of his own party, was reserved to the point of frigidity. When he granted requests for patronage he was so ungracious as to anger the recipients of favor. Although his personal character and integrity were as unquestioned as those of Hayes, and although he was a man of cultured tastes, well-informed, thoughtful and conscientious, it must be admitted that he lacked robust leadership and breadth of vision, and that he did not understand the real purposes of the policies which his party associates were embarking upon, or if he did that he tamely acquiesced in them. The party leaders were soon engaged in initiating practices and passing legislation which would strengthen the organization with certain groups of interested persons. Harrison, conscientious but aloof, provided no compelling force to turn attention toward wider and deeper needs.

Two appointments to the cabinet were important. Since Blaine was the foremost leader of the party and had done much to bring about the election of Harrison, it was well-nigh impossible for the latter to fail to offer him the position of Secretary of State. The appointment was so natural that popular opinion looked upon it as the only possibility, yet the natures of the two men were so diverse and their positions in the party so different that friction seemed likely to result. Even before the administration began it was freely predicted that Blaine would "dominate" the cabinet, a prophecy that might well create a feeling of restraint between the two. The invitation to John Wanamaker to become Postmaster-General was regarded as significant. Wanamaker was a wealthy merchant of Philadelphia, who had organized an advisory campaign committee of business men which contributed and expended large sums of money during the canvass. Critical reformers like the editor of The Nation were not slow to connect Wanamaker's large contribution to the campaign fund with his elevation to the cabinet, and to suggest that the business interests were being brought into close relations with the administration. T.C. Platt, expectant of a return for his campaign assistance, in the form of a cabinet position, and in fact understanding that a pledge had been made that he would be appointed, found himself superseded by William Windom of Minnesota in the Treasury and became a bitter opponent of the President.[3]

It was an odd turn of the fortune of politics that brought Benjamin Harrison face to face with the responsibility for furthering the cause of civil service reform - the same Harrison who, as a senator, had sneered at Cleveland for surrendering to difficulties. The party platform had urged the continuation of reform, which had been "auspiciously begun under the Republican administration" and had declared that the party promises would not be broken as Democratic pledges had been; and Harrison had announced his adherence to the party statement. In some respects real progress was made. Secretary of the Navy Tracy introduced reform methods in his department. The appointment of Theodore Roosevelt to the Civil Service Commission was productive of good results. The work of reform was defended forcefully and successfully; its opponents were challenged to substantiate their charges. When Senator Gorman declared that in an examination for letter carriers in Baltimore the candidates were asked to tell the most direct route from Baltimore to China, Roosevelt at once wrote asking him to state the time and place of the examination himself or to send somebody to look over the papers, copies of which were in the commission's office. The senator did not reply.

The removal of office holders, however, proceeded with amazing rapidity. The First Assistant Postmaster-General was J.S. Clarkson, who had been vice-chairman of the Republican National Campaign Committee. The speed with which he cleared the service of Democrats earned him the title "headsman" and is indicated by the estimate that he removed one every three minutes for the first year. When the force of clerks was increased for the taking of the census of 1890, the superintendent of the census office found himself "waist deep in congressmen" trying to get places for friends. The Republican postmaster of New York who had been continued by Cleveland was not re-appointed. It was soon discovered, also, that the President was placing his own and his wife's relatives in office and giving positions to large numbers of newspaper editors, thus indirectly subsidizing the press. The Commissioner of Pensions, Corporal James Tanner, distributed pensions so freely as to arouse wide-spread comment and was soon relieved of his position.[4]

Curtis, addressing the National Civil Service Reform League, flayed the President because he had despoiled the service. A Republican newspaper, he declared, had said that the administration whistled reform down the wind "as remorselessly as it would dismiss an objectionable tramp." Prominent members of the party went to the President in person to urge on him the redemption of the platform promises.

Although progress was not general, nevertheless there were particular reforms that commended themselves. The offensive Clarkson gave way to hostile criticism and retired. During the last half of the administration, the civil service rules were amended so as to add a considerable number of employees to the classified service, especially in the post office department. Quay and Dudley found their methods condemned by public opinion and resigned their positions on the National Republican Committee.[5]

Aside from his choice of subordinates, Harrison contributed little to the political history of his administration, for the leadership was seized by a small coterie of extreme Republicans in the House of Representatives, of whom the chief figure was the Speaker, Thomas B. Reed. The House which had been elected with Harrison contained 159 Democrats and 166 Republicans. The Republican majority was too slight for safety, for the questions which were coming before Congress were such as to arouse party feeling to a high pitch. The Republicans felt themselves commissioned, by a successful election, to put the party program into force, but so powerful a minority could readily block any legislation under the existing parliamentary rules. Only Reed knew what expedient would be resorted to in the attempt to put through the party program, and not even he could guarantee that the adventure would be successful.

Thomas B. Reed had long represented Maine in the House of Representatives. He was a man of huge bulk, bland in appearance, imperturbable in his serenity, caustic, concise and witty of tongue, rough, sharp, strong, droll. In the cut-and-thrust of parliamentary debate and manoeuvre, as well as in his knowledge of the intricacies of procedure, Reed was a past master. He worsted his adversaries by turning the laugh on them, and his stinging retorts, which swept the House "like grapeshot," made him a powerful factor in partisan contests.[6]

The political and economic philosophy of Reed and his associates was unusually important, because it controlled their action during the time when they dominated the House and determined the character of the legislation passed during Harrison's time. When President Cleveland's tariff message welded the Democrats together to demand reduction, it likewise influenced the Republicans to adopt the other extreme. That is not to say, of course, that the Republican attitude was due solely to Cleveland, for the party was already committed to protectionism. Nevertheless, many of its prominent leaders, including its presidents, had urged revision. That recommendation was now no longer heard. Such men as McKinley in the House fairly apotheosized the protective system. The philosophy of the party leaders received full exposition in a volume edited by John D. Long, ex-governor of Massachusetts, and composed of articles written by sixteen of the most prominent Republicans. It had been published during the campaign. The attitude of the party toward its chief tenet was expressed in the phrase, "The Republican party enacted a protective tariff which made the United States the greatest manufacturing nation on earth"; and its conception of the Democratic party in the statement that the Democrats were mainly old slave-holders, liquor dealers and criminals in the great northern cities. In the field of national expenditure, also, the party reacted from Cleveland's frugality. Senator Dolph frankly urged the expenditure of the surplus revenue rather than the reduction of taxation. McKinley took the position that prices might be too low. "I do not prize the word cheap," he said; "cheap merchandise means cheap men and cheap men mean a cheap country." Harrison remarked that it was "no time to be weighing the claims of old soldiers with apothecary's scales." This philosophy was now to have its trial, but first the obstructive power of the minority must be curbed. Reed's plan for accomplishing this result appeared late in January, 1890.

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.[7]

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.[8]

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.

The Committee early proceeded to hold public hearings at which testimony was taken, and to which manufacturers came from all over the country to make known what duties they thought they ought to have. The bill which was finally presented to the House proposed a level of duties which was so high that it has generally been considered the extreme of protection. McKinley himself justified the high rates only on the ground that without them the bill could not be passed. With the help of the Reed rules and the western Republicans the McKinley tariff reached the President and was signed by him on October 1, 1890. It went into effect at once.

The more prominent features of the measure sprang from the tariff creed which had been advocated through the campaign. In order to conciliate the farmers, the protective principle was applied to agricultural products, and tariffs were laid on such articles as cereals, potatoes and flax. On the cheaper grades of wool and woolens and on carpet wools there was a slight rise over even the rates of 1883. On the higher grades of woolen, linen and clothing the increase was marked. The duty on raw sugar was removed and one-half cent per pound retained on the refined product, but domestic sugar producers were given a bounty of two cents a pound in order to protect them against the free importation of the raw material. As the sugar duty had been productive of large amounts of revenue, its remission reduced the surplus by about sixty to seventy millions of dollars. In order to encourage the manufacture of tin-plates, a considerable duty was imposed, which was to cease after 1897 unless domestic production reached specified amounts. As the result of Blaine's urgency, a reciprocity feature was introduced. The usual plan had been to reduce duties on certain products in case concessions to American goods were given by the exporting countries, but in the McKinley act the Senate inserted a novel provision. Instead of being given power to lower duties in case reciprocal reductions were made, the President was authorized to impose duties on certain articles on the free list when the exporting nation levied "unjust or unreasonable" customs charges on American products. It was expected that this plan would be applied to Latin-American countries and would increase our exports to them in return for sugar, molasses, tea, coffee and hides. In general, the McKinley act was the climax of protection. Under the impetus of President Cleveland's reduction challenge, the Republican party had recoiled to the extreme.

The high rates levied by the new tariff act were quickly reflected in retail prices and caused immediate and wide-spread discontent. The benefits which the farmer had been led to expect did not put in their appearance. Unhappily for McKinley and his associates the congressional elections occurred early in November, scarcely a month after the new law went into effect, and when the dissatisfaction was at its height. The result was a stinging defeat for the Republicans. The 159 Democrats were increased to 235, and the 166 Republicans dwindled to 88. Even in New England the Democrats gained eleven members, in New York eight, and in Iowa five. In Wisconsin not one Republican survived, and among the lost in Ohio was McKinley himself.

Although the Republicans retained control of the Senate after 1890, the Democratic House brought an end for a time to the domination of Reed and the primacy of the lower chamber in the government. Such extreme legislation as had characterized the first half of the Harrison regime stopped abruptly. The role played in all this by Harrison himself seems to have been a minor one. Many of his recommendations lacked the solid character of those made by Hayes, Arthur and Cleveland, and he did not make his influence felt in connection with the silver legislation, of which he probably disapproved. It is significant that the one piece of legislation which had the most enduring results was not a partisan act. This act, the Sherman Anti-Trust law, demands attention in detail.


In addition to the general and special works already mentioned, C. Hedges, Benjamin Harrison: Speeches (1892), provides useful material; Cleveland's tariff message of Dec. 6, 1887 is in J.D. Richardson,Messages and Papers of the Presidents, VIII, 580-591.

On the administration, and particularly the ascendancy of the House of Representatives under Reed, consult: De A.S. Alexander, History and Procedure of the House of Representatives (1916); Mary P. Follett, Speaker of the House of Representatives (1896); C.S. Olcott, William McKinley (2 vols., 1916); J.G. Cannon in Harper's Magazine (Mar., 1920); Annual Cyclopaedia, 1890, pp. 181-191; S.W. McCall, Thomas B. Reed (1914), well written, although adding little to what was already known; H.D. Croly, Marcus A. Hanna (1912); W.D. Foulke, Fighting the Spoilsman (1919), on Harrison and the civil service; G.W. Curtis, Orations and Addresses (2 vols., 1894), summarizes the administration's attitude toward civil service; T.B. Reed, Reed's Rules, A Manual of General Parliamentary Law(1894), gives a concise summary of parliamentary conditions from Reed's standpoint; H.B. Fuller, The Speakers of the House (1909), excellent on the personal side. The tariff is well treated in Stanwood, Taussig and Tarbell. On pensions consult W.H. Glasson, History of Military Pension Legislation in the United States (1900), or better, the same author's Federal Military Pensions in the United States(1918).

       * * * * *

[1] The vice-presidential candidate was Allan G. Thurman of Ohio, affectionately known as the "noble old Roman," one of whose titles to fame was the ownership of a large red bandanna handkerchief which he nourished on all occasions.

[2] A party worker who realized the opportunity which this fact presented complained that Pennsylvania manufacturers who made fortunes under protection did not contribute to the Republican campaign fund, and remarked: "If I had my way about it I would put the manufacturers of Pennsylvania under the fire and fry all the fat out of them."

[3] The remaining members of the cabinet were: Redfield Proctor, Vt., Secretary of War; W.H.H. Miller, Ind., Attorney-General; B.F. Tracy, N.Y., Secretary of the Navy; J.W. Noble, Mo., Secretary of the Interior; J.M. Rusk, Wis., Secretary of Agriculture.

[4] Corporal Tanner is commonly supposed to have been so anxious to have a hand in the generous distribution of government revenue among the old soldiers that he declared one morning as he seated himself at his desk, "God help the surplus." This is a mistake, although the Corporal seems to have been more ready than the President to act quickly and generously on claims.

[5] The open character of the financial corruption of the campaign also gave impetus to the movement for the secret or Australian ballot which was first introduced in Louisville, Ky., on Feb. 28, 1888, and in Massachusetts on May 29, of the same year. Another reform movement was that which resulted in the destruction of the Louisiana lottery. Cf. A.K. McClure, Recollections, 173-183, and Peck, Twenty Years, 215-220.

[6] An incident which occurred when he was not speaker may serve to illustrate the manner in which he routed his opponents. Representative Springer, of Illinois, who had a reputation for loquacity and insincerity, once asked for unanimous consent to correct a statement which he had previously made in debate. "No correction needed," shouted Reed. "We didn't think it was so when you made it."

[7] In his Manual of General Parliamentary Law, Reed declared that the House prior to 1890 was the most unwieldy parliamentary body in the world. Three resolute men, he asserted, could stop all public business. A few years later, when the Democrats were in power, they adopted the plans which Reed had so successfully used.

[8] These acts were part of the general financial history of the period and in that connection demand fuller discussion at a later point. Cf. Chap. XV.