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Bryan or McKinley? The Present Duty of American Citizens.
Support of Mr. Bryan by Sound-Money Democrats.
by North American Review, The

The greater number - I believe much the greater number - of citizens who before 1896 had acted with the Democratic party, but in that year opposed its Presidential candidate, will this year support him. They will do this, though he has not recanted his silver heresy, and though now, no less than in 1896, they condemn his error. Their course in 1900 is not only right in itself - and that is the principal thing - but it consists with the whole frame of their political belief. Any other course would be inconsistent with that belief, and with the principle which determined their vote in 1896.

The Indianapolis platform upon which in that year some of the Sound-Money Democrats nominated Senator Palmer was a fine declaration of faith in democratic self-government. It demanded a gold standard of value. But to those who wrote or supported that platform, and to the far greater number who believed in it, the gold standard was no more than one practical result or illustration of a creed broader and deeper than any rule of coinage. They did not make of it a political deity; that would have been no better than its personification as a tyrant. The gold standard was for the time critically important; but it was important, nevertheless, as a detail or result, not as a principle. Its temporary rank in the politics of 1896 was due to a condition then, but not now, existing. Although modern business had then moved steadily and irresistibly towards the gold standard, and although modern industrial welfare clearly required it, nevertheless it was not yet clearly founded in our legislation, but was the subject of immediate and practical political difference, made acute by the fall in the price of silver. During the four years since 1896, financial changes the world over have, even more firmly and more plainly, established the gold standard; it has been adopted in American statute; and political opposition to it in the United States has died away into subordinate and tepid statements which are no longer practical, but are, though never so sincere, made chiefly out of regard for the jewel of consistency so much preached and so often forgotten by statesmen. The Gold Democrats were, in 1896, neither more nor less than men of generally Democratic faith dealing with a specific and temporary question, upon the basis of their general hostility to interference with economic laws by governmental fiat. In 1900 they remain Democrats, having little practical call to deal with that question, but having every call to deal with one vastly larger and deeper. Tn 1900, they are concerned, not with a detail or illustration of the principl0s enunciated at Indianapolis in 1896, but with their very foundation. Shall this people reverse their supreme rule of government with the consent of the governed, that rule in assertion of which they have, during a century and a third, struggled to a greater and greater result of world-reforming beneficence and domestic prosperity? Shall we substitute military and Mohammedan ideals for those of industrial righteousness and peace, which we have thus far kept steadfastly before our eyessweeping away one by one obstructions and exceptions which have tormented or disgraced our nation, and from decade to decade more and more nearly reaching full realization? Sound Money Democrats, if their faith in self- government remain - and without that faith they were never Democrats - are bound in 1900 to vote with a regard to the Philippine policy of the President as controlling as was their regard in 1896 to the fallacious and dangerous silver proposal.

Is not this clear? Sound Money Democrats in 1896 did not abate hostility to the system of special privilege for small and rich interest, the greater wealth of a few at the cost of the many, for which the Republican party then stood and now stands. Nor did they permanently abandon their own party because it had once and lamentably adopted, and then defended, an economic illusion which the Republican party had adopted, and which in itself was not as widely or permanently corrupting as the Republicans belief in a paternal government. Indeed, every political party, at one time or another, preaches some illusion, economic or social; probably no great political party is ever free from such illusion. Hardly a political platform can be quoted which has on every article commanded the support of the majority of a great party, or escaped the condemnation of an important minority. When questions of slavery were uppermost, very many Democrats acted with the Republican party, although hostile to a protective tariff and to much else for which the majority of the Republican party seemed to stand. Precisely the same happened in 1896, when free coinage was uppermost. Surely illusion about coinage was in itself no worse than illusion about protective tariffs, nor as bad. The illusions were equally venerable and lamentable, but the corruption of the latter far deeper and wider and more difficult of treatment. The silver illusion had before 1896 found its most dangerous support among Republicans and its most resolute opposition among Democrats. During the concern of our politics with the money question for twenty years before 1896, President McKinley had dedicated his gift of pleasing eloquence to the cause of free coinage at the ratio of 16 to 1; that cause then seemed to be popular. From President Clevelands entrance into national politics in 1884 until he last left the Presidency, he dedicated his gift of resolute and courageous honesty to the cause of sound money; that cause then seemed to he unpopular. Each of the statesmen found much support and much opposition within his own party. It is only ten years ago that a Republican President and Congress (Mr. McKinley voting for the bill) enacted the Sherman Silver Law - the most dangerous of the victories of the free silver forces. The same administration admitted to the Union territories which, though their populations were then meagre for statehood, were at least ready to contribute to the Senate several and perhaps decisive votes for free silver.

In 1896, the business depression created exceptional temptation to political vagary. The Republican administration of 1889- 1893 not only surrendered to silver, but increased the protective advantage to favored interests beyond the extremest point of former Republican legislation, and enormously increased pensions for a war which had ended almost thirty years before. No doubt in l893 other conditions of business distress had long been gathering; but these acts of national improvidence and unwisdom helped to prepare for that year its widespread financial disaster and industrial distress. To others belonged the causes; but President Cleveland had to meet the result, and he did meet it as befitted leadership of a democracy. He used no smooth words; he did not pretend that laws could take the place of harvests, or industry or thrift. He offered no nostrum or panacea. Instead, he applied all the powers which, for a few months, are the property of a newly inaugurated President, to something really within the power of law makers - a reversal of the free silver victory accomplished by Messrs. Allison and McKinley and their associates. It was a fine display of civic courage and unselfish skill, and like that of the earlier Democratic President who, in 1837, in spite of the outcry of business distress, refused to add new folly to follies which had already produced the distress, and instead drove through the Sub-Treasury a bill which brought to an end - at least for a time - the corrupting partnership between the government and the banks. The fundamental proposition of both Presidents was, that all the people should support the government rather than that the government should support some of the people at the cost of the rest. But post hoc propter hoc is the easiest, as it is the shallowest, of reasoning in politics. If business depression followed President Clevelands inauguration, did he not, therefore, produce it? The last thing which had happened was sufficient for careless or untrained minds, whether of Democrats or Republicans. The real cause, however, was something further back and more truly dynamic than a change of Presidents. If for nothing else, the Republican party deserves defeat for the shallow demagogy with which in 1900 it refers the business distresses of 1893- 1896 to the slight reductions of tariff made by the Wilson bill, and to the incoming of President Cleveland. For this proposition the Philadelphia Convention and its chief supporters have declared that every vote for President McKinley shall be counted. It was wrong for Republicans to ascribe hard times to trifling tariff reductions, which were made a year after the hard times began, and the business effect of which had hardly begun when the hard times ended. So it was wrong, but no more wrong, for the Democratic Convention of 1896 to ascribe hard times to the sound money policy in which President Cleveland had been steadfast, whether when, during his first term, he prevented legislation such as his Republican successor approved, or when, in his second term, he procured the repeal of that legislation. There was, in truth, less folly in the belief that the sound money policy had produced hard times, than in the belief that Democratic tariff reductions had produced them. For it needs no Adam Smith to perceive that hard times must have been caused by a serious and long continuing cause; and the sound money policy was - as the Wilson tariff bill clearly was not - a serious and long continuing cause, which had doubtless produced economic results real, though different from, and more wholesome than, those ascribed to it by the silver advocates. If Republicans do not desert Mr. McKinley and their party for his and its long coquetry with silver, and for their immoral and shallow charge of hard times upon the Cleveland administration and the Wilson bill, surely Democrats need not feel bound, after the silver issue is practically past, to desert their party because of their candidates devotion to the same policy, and the declaration of the Chicago Convention of 1896 that hard times had been due to the success of the sound money cause.

In 1896, Republicans demanded more protection to favored and special interests as the true cure for hard times; and a majority of Democrats as their cure demanded free silver coinage at the old ratio. With the Republican party controlled by this chronic belief in making men rich by legislation, and with another form of the same belief in temporary control of the Democratic organization, the Sound Money Democrats had to determine their duty. They could not then support Mr. Bryan without stultification. He had, with a courageous frankness which shone in comparison with the neutral platitudes about money and the glorification of protection by the statesman of Canton, declared free coinage to be the first issue. The people, ignoring all other issues, declared it to be the all-paramount and present issue. The Sound Money Democrats came out of the campaign of 1896 with no spoils of office, but with the entire moral victory. For they had not, like President McKinley and his party, opposed Mr. Bryan with vague and insincere promises of bi-metallism. They meant gold and they said gold. To them, whether those who voted for Senator Palmer, or those who, not daring of two evils to choose neither, voted for President McKinley, more than to any equal body of citizens, was due the character, the emphasis and the final decisiveness of the result.

The Democratic party remains. Like the Republican party and all other parties, it has, from time to time, made its mistakes and had its vagaries. But they are less deeply seated in its essential philosophy, and, therefore, less chronic, than those of the Republican party. And surely if, four years ago, good citizens adhered to the latter when they believed it to be right on a present and paramount issue, they need not scruple to adhere to the Democratic party when in 1900 it is right on that other and greater issue, which for 1900 has become present and paramount.

The American people are to-day little concerned with what the Republican administration has done willingly about the tariff, or has done unwillingly about the currency. They are seriously concerned with its policy in the Philippines and Porto Rico. They may praise, or they may condemn. But whether they praise or condemn, their concern is deep and vital. Some admire the Presidents policy as an inspiring departure from a career hitherto parochial, or piously see in it a surrender to Gods own leading. Others condemn it as a betrayal of democracy. But all alike, including both candidates, recognize that policy as the chief and controlling feature of his administration. If the sound political rule for a country governed, like ours, by two great parties, is to be followed, the campaign should turn on that policy. If the programme invented and carried on by the President or by those who act through him, be right, then he should be re-elected that he may carry it to a conclusion. If it be wrong, then he should be defeated, and a President should be chosen who will reverse that policy. This would and should be tbe rule, if the question were no more important than the tariff or silver coinage or the Isthmian canal. The rule is rigorously imperative when the question concerns the fundamental proposition of American government and civilization.

Is such a question, then, practically presented? It is President McKinleys expressly declared policy to complete the military conquest of the Philippines, and thereafter, and for such time as we think fit, to hold in military subjugation the eight million Filipinos. For this purpose the President maintains and, if re-elected, he will continue to maintain, an army of 75,000 men, in addition to those otherwise needed. For this purpose he has inflicted and, if re-elected, he will continue to inflict, death, disease and desolation upon thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Filipinos. For this purpose he compels the peaceful labor of his countrymen to contribute annually not less than $100,000,000, with a return in profit to a score of American traders of less than two per cent. of this cost. Here is the practical side of the question; and it is sufficiently serious. But it is the lesser part of the issue. Dollars and lives, no doubt, may be justly spent for a great cause of humanity. The President proposes (nor can his fair phrases or audacious references to Abraham Lincoln, without daring to quote him, conceal his intention, or that of the strong men behind him), as the result of our final military success in the Orient, that the American people shall adopt the policy of holding alien and distant races in permanent and military subjection, without share in their own government except as the American people choose to accord it, and also without share, as matter of right, in the American Constitution. We now call this policy Imperialism. The name is not of moment; but it fits the thing. Disraeli chose the title "Empress" for the Queen when exercising that arbitrary dominion of Great Britain over India which we are to emulate.

It is for this Imperialism that the dollars are to be spent and the death, disease and desolation to be inflicted, and all the long hatreds and corruptions of war to be incurred. Nor is it a new topic for Americans. Again and again and again, from the outcry against the Stamp Act in 1776 to the adoption, more than a century later, of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, has the whole scheme been deliberately considered and condemned by the American people. In that condemnation, we have found our supreme and characteristic political glory. Every solemn, responsible and undiscredited declaration of our statesmen, all the teaching of our town meetings, our churches and our schools have joined in the condemnation. If our practice have not equalled our preaching - if in the treatment of Indians or of Negroes within our borders our principle has been violated, - we have not, therefore, denied the principle, but have profoundly regretted that calamitous and inconsistent exceptions should have been imposed upon us by the presence of these inferior races in the midst of our population before the Declaration of Independence. These we have declared an evil to be escaped or ended where practicable, never a good to be preserved and extended. We have opposed and dreaded the addition of any like difficulty. Never before - unless in Ostend manifestoes rejected by the people with disgust - has it been proposed that our Republic should conquer another land or another race, or acquire any land or people unless to dower them with the civil rights of Americans. One by one, and sometimes at cruel cost, we have reduced the exceptions within our domain to the universality of the American principle. We have, until now, moved steadily nearer and nearer - though God knows we may still be distant - to the ideal of that Declaration, which extorts from even President McKinley a formal and reluctant reverence. The issue, therefore, is not only of blood and treasure and Imperialism, but of reversal of what we have made the fundamental proposition of our New World civilization. And more. There is in the issue this, whether we shall reverse this proposition at the very time when its fruits are more splendid than ever before, and its success, moral and material, are known of all men to be vastly greater than any achieved by empire. Out of the buoyancy, energy, courage which are born of that orderly liberty, in which every one is jealous of the rights of others, as involving for the future the safeguard of his own rights, has come the marvellous productiveness of American labor. The wealth of the rich, never before so great, the order and safety of life and property, never so great throughout so extended a field, the well-being of labor, the wonderful reach and growth of all these in our land are due, so far as human effort or wisdom has produced them, to our translation into politics of the sacred rule of Christianity - to our supreme dedication to the doctrine that, in their rights as citizens, all men are created free and equal, and that God "hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth."

President McKinley and his supporters will not and dare not directly argue the question. They evade its merits by collateral and subordinate objections, criticisms, defenses. But it will not down. They threaten a panic, as if their Secretary of the Treasury before campaign necessities constrained him, and Mr. Russell Sage, who, perhaps, of all Mr. McKinleys supporters, may be deemed most expert in panics, have not pointed out that there can be none, as if the threat were not a silly imputation upon nearly if not quite one-half of the American people. They tell us that Mr. Bryan, if President, would set up the silver standard, as if the gold law, according to the Republican platform itself, did not make this impossible without violation of his oath of office, or as if he had not made clear that he is no perjurer, but courageous, honest, law-abiding. They tell us the gold law itself will be in danger, when they know that neither a Senate nor a House can be found during the next Presidency to pass a free-coinage bill, and that a large, and perhaps the larger, part of the Democratic party are to-day hostile to free coinage. President McKinley cynically points out that, in the suppression of the negro vote, the South is doing what he is trying to do in the Philippines, as if that were a reason for, rather than a telling reason against, his course; or as if the enormous difficulties inflicted upon us by the crime committed centuries ago against the negro race ought to be matched by like difficulties assumed in Asia; or as if wise Southerners, like wise Northerners, do not hate the new departure, because it will bring upon us more of the inconsistency-breeding difficulties from which the South suffers. They point out the Chicago heresies of four years ago and their nominal re-adoption at Kansas City, as if there were no paramount issue overshadowing them all, or as if citizens voting for a candidate must vote for the entire platform, or as if they did not know that President McKinley himself can be elected only by inducing a sufficient number of his countrymen to forget assertions in the Philadelphia platform which are to them false and unrighteous. They give us garbled accounts of how the President got into his difficulties, as if the question were how we came to the Philippines, rather than what we have done and shall do with them and their people. They tell us that England has had both liberty and Imperialism, as if the American Declaration and the American Constitution or their splendid fruits belonged to her, or as if her prosperity and glory had arisen from her arbitrary extensions of power by the sword rather than from her vigorous extirpation of everything imperial at home, and from her self-governing and non-imperial colonies across the seas.

I cannot here argue these or other objections. Not one touches or begins to touch the question, whether or not, on the Asiatic coast, eight thousand miles from our nearest shores, the Republic shall pursue a career of conquest of foreign peoples, to hold them, not as citizens or with rights under our Constitution, but as subjects. Nor does President McKinley dare to argue or even explicitly to mention the question. To promote the wrong of it naturally assemble all who believe that might makes right, that the stronger should crowd the weaker, and that, as Senator Hanna argued, the American should find his sole creed and his sole glory in his "dinner pail."

It is a true battle for the dignity of American manhood and for the everlasting rights of the masses of men. Surely, no Democrat ought to doubt on which side he will stand. EDWARD M. SHEPARD.


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