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Bryan or McKinley? The Present Duty of American Citizens.
President McKinley or President Bryan?
by North American Review, The

The American people have come to know that each of the candidates for the Presidency is a man of strong and forceful personality. The notion that either is a man of weak intelligence, or uncertain will, controlled by some stronger nature, has gone by. President McKinley has not only been Chief Executive of the United States for nearly four years, but he has been Chief Executive in his own mind. I was told - what I do not doubt in the least - by an eminent Senator who was at one time popularly supposed to make up the Presidents mind for him every morning, that he had been to the White House to talk politics with the President but twice during the whole winter, except on such local matters as all Senators are consulted about, and that, in many of his visits to the President in leisure hours, politics or public affairs were not mentioned at all. President McKinley has exerted a large personal force, concealed in a quiet courtesy of manner, and tempered by great kindness of heart and considerate respect for other men, ever since he entered the public service as a young soldier during the War of the Rebellion.

It is but the idlest folly to deny that Mr. Bryan, who, in a single speech, took by storm the National Convention of a great party then full of an exultant, though vain, hope of triumph, compelled it to discard all its old leaders and to adopt him and his theories, and who, after one signal defeat, has maintained himself not merely as a leader, but a dictator, in spite of the remonstrances of the wisest, ablest and most popular of the party chieftains, is possessed of a strong will, a vigorous understanding, and an earnest and steadfast purpose. Without being President, he has twice compelled the Democratic party to take him as a candidate, and dictated a platform setting forth his own opinions, or the doctrines he thinks will command success for him in his political aspirations. If he shall be President, he will compel his party to renominate him again on such a platform as he shall think fit. There have been Presidential elections in which the personal quality of the candidate made little difference, except as he might happen to have more or less the gift of attracting votes. Pierce would have done pretty much the same thing as Buchanan did, and Buchanan as Pierce did. Monroe would have done pretty much the same thing as Madison. Sherman would have done pretty much the same thing as Harrison. Seymour would have done pretty much the same thing as McClellan. But each of the candidates this year not only means to be elected President if he can, but means to be President himself after he is elected.

There are two classes of men whose minds are made up. I will not say that all argument will be thrown away upon them. But all arguments I can make would be thrown away upon them. One is the zealous partisan, who follows party wherever it leads. To him the party and its President, or its candidate for the Presidency, are what the Holy Father and the Church are to the devout Catholic. He has no opinion of his own. He looks to his party to furnish his platform and political leader, as the zealous devotee of the Church looks to it alike for doctrine and for spiritual guide.

The other class comprehends a great variety of men - Populists, Socialists, Anarchists - men who think the free coinage of silver a panacea for all sorrows; men who have a special crotchet which they think will reconstruct society. To neither of these, nor to the thorough Democratic partisan, is it worth while to address political discussion now.

There are two classes of men open to argument. Many of them are still undecided. If they unite to support Mr. McKinley, it will make his election sure.

First, there is the conservative Democrat. He is probably a free-trader, unless, as is quite apt to be the case, he is himself engaged in a protected industry. He has no faith in the National authority to protect the negro, or to secure fair elections. He has been a Democrat always, as was his father before him, unless possibly he may be the son of a Hunker Whig who opposed the war and the Constitutional amendments. He has a general dislike of Republican ways and Republican leaders. But he believes in public honesty, in sound finance, in the authority of the Supreme Court; and he has no sort of respect for Mr. Bryan, for Populism, or Socialism, and does not wish to risk the safety of his investments, or the value of his comfortable property. He is doubting whether it is not better to continue Republican power for another term, and calmly bear the ills we have, than to fly to those we know not of, under Mr. Bryan. He hopes, also, that if Bryan be thoroughly defeated once more, the Democratic party may be purified, and be fit again for his support. I think he will vote for McKinley, or he will not vote at all. But he will not look to me for counsel, and I have nothing in the way of argument adapted to persuade him.

The other man in doubt is the Anti-Imperialist Republican. He has been saying all his life that all men are created equal in political rights, and that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. He thinks the United States have no right to hold vassals or subjects. He is a great expansionist; but the expansion he believes in is the extension of the country by adding new States and enlarging the population of freemen. He believes there is such a thing as Imperialism, in spite of the disclaimer of his Republican friends. When anybody says the Philippine Islands are ours, he understands that to be Imperialism, and he replies, "The Philippine Islands belong to the Philippine people." When anybody says, "We will estab- lish for them such good government as we think they are fit for," he answers, "That is Imperialism. They are entitled to establish for themselves such government as they think good and fit for themselves." That he calls Anti-Imperialism. He is considering just now, painfully and sorrowfully, whether he will vote the Republican ticket or no. Perhaps he will listen to a few suggestions before he decides. To him I wish to appeal.

First. Either William McKinley or William J. Bryan is to be the next President. Unless you vote for one or the other, you will vote in the air. You may as well leave your vote with the census officer, or with the grocer, as with the election officer, unless you vote for one or the other of these two men.

Now, some things have happened in the past which, however you regard them, cannot be helped now. The treaty with Spain has been ratified. We have had eighteen months of war in the Philippine Islands. Instead of another Japan, taking its high rank among the powers of the earth; instead of Cuba, sending its youth to our shores, grateful to us as their liberators from centuries of oppression, to sit docile learners at our feet, we have a sullen, angry and shattered people. Whatever has caused all this, whether it was a mistake, or whether it was the inevitable cost of the discharge of a great duty, we cannot help it now. We have to deal with the future.

Now, the only question for the Republican Anti-Imperialist is, whether the chance that Mr. Bryan and the Democrats will do what the Republican Anti-Imperialist thinks should be done in the future, which will not be done by Mr. McKinley and the Republicans, is worth the price he is to pay for it if he votes for Mr. Bryan. It is not whether we should instantly withdraw from the Philippine Islands; it is not whether the abandonment of our claim to hold them in subjection be worth accomplishing at the cost of national bankruptcy, or financial distress, at the cost of free trade and the ruin of our manufactures, at the cost of repeating again the nightmare of Democratic administration. If we concede that we are willing to go through with that, if we can only get back to the Declaration of Independence again, still that is not the important question now. The important question now is: Is there anything that Mr. Bryan can be trusted to do about it that is worth the cost of giving him the power to do what he will do, if he can, in other matters?

Now, let us understand exactly the price we are asked to pay, and then let us understand exactly what reasonable hope there is that Mr. Bryan can or will accomplish anything for the independence of the Philippine people, if he be elected. You agree, my friend, that the free coinage of silver at 16 to 1 means national dishonor, great injury to business, the reduction by half of all savings, the destruction of the standard of value making all business transactions gambling transactions, and a great reduction, not only of the savings of the wage-earner, but of the wages he is to earn hereafter. Now, can Mr. Bryan put us on a silver basis, and will he? He says he will, and he says he can.

At Knoxville, Tenn., Sept. 16, 1896, he said: "If there is any one who believes the gold standard is a good thing, or that it must be maintained, I warn him not to cast his vote for me, because I promise him it will not be maintained in this country longer than I am able to get rid of it."

And at Topeka, when he accepted the Populists nomination the other day, he told them:

" No Populist, however sanguine, believes it possible to elect a Populist President at this time, but the Populist party may be able to determine whether a Democrat or a Republican will be elected.

"If the fusion forces win a victory this fall, we shall see the reform accomplished" - he was speaking of monetary reform - before the next Presidential election, and with its accomplishment the people will find it easier to secure any remedial legislation which they may desire."

He means to do just that thing. He believes he can do it by Executive power, and believes, as he says, that with its accomplishment the people will find it easier to secure any remedial legislation which they may desire. Monetary reform first, remedial legislation next, is what he promises to do.

Mr. Secretary Gage says he can do it, and that he can do it by the exercise of the lawful power now lodged in the Executive. Some people think Mr. Gage is mistaken in his conception of the extent of the Executive power under existing laws. But whether he be mistaken or no, have you any doubt that Mr. Bryan agrees with him, and that he will not hesitate to do what he now promises to do, what he has the great authority of the Republican Secretary of the Treasury for saying that he can lawfully do? You think to do it means national dishonor and business ruin. So you are to pay national dishonor and business ruin as part only of the cost of getting a President who now professes to agree with you about the Philippine Islands.

Now, in four Southern States, by an ingenious device, they have undertaken to legalize the disfranchisement of the negro, and to overturn all the Constitutional amendments. Two other States are about doing the same thing. If they succeed, there can be no question that the same thing will be done in every other Southern State, with one or two possible exceptions. Now, with that accomplished, there will be disfranchised ten million American citizens at home. It will give the Southern white Democrats fifty or sixty Representatives, and the same number of votes in the Electoral College, not dependent upon numbers, and representing sheer usurpation. It will not only disfranchise ten million American citizens in the Southern States, whose numbers are, of course, to increase with every census, but it will disfranchise to that extent the free white citizens of the North. In every future election, the Republican party of the North is to play against Tammany Hall and the Southern Democracy, and the latter will hold these loaded dice. It may be that we cannot baffle the purpose which has already been so far accomplished. But the express mandate of the Constitution is that in such case the representation of the offending States shall be proportionately diminished. I am not now waving the bloody shirt. I am not now reviving the old issues. I am not now talking about election laws, or laws for the suppression of violence. I am simply calling your attention to the question, whether you mean to be disfranchised yourselves, and to have fifty or sixty Southern Democratic Representatives in the national House of Representatives to vote you down for the indefinite future. Now, nobody will dream for a moment that, if Bryan and the Democratic party shall come into power, this Constitutional mandate will be obeyed. And you, a Republican; you, a friend of equality; you, who believe that governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed; you, who believe that all men are equal in political rights; you, who mean that your government, at least, shall rest on your own consent, and that you are yourself equal in political rights to the best Southern Democrat that ever trod the countrys soilare asked to sustain this thing in the next Presidential election by your vote, because Mr. William J. Bryan says he is in favor of justice and freedom and independence in the Far East.

Another thing: I agree that it is not equal in importance to the two considerations I have stated. You have believed that the prosperity of the American workman, and of the American employer, the prosperity of labor and capital alike, the comfort of the workman's home, the independence of American manufacture, depend on our protective system for which you have been working and voting ever since you came to manhood. Will Mr. Bryan and his party have learned anything by experience? They are pledged to overthrow that if they can, and they ask you, without disguise of their purpose, to help them to overthrow that, if they can.

Another thing: Mr. Bryan stands in 1900 on the platform of 1896. He will, if he can, fill the Supreme Court of the United States, whose membership is now largely composed of old men, with judges of his way of thinking. You are to commit to him that august tribunal, which has been our rock of defense and our ark of safety so often. When you bring a President into power, you bring with him into power, as his counsellors, the men who have been his political companions and advisers, and who have contributed most to his elevation. I will not name names. But the intelligent Republican who is hesitating as to his duty now, knows very well who are the active and efficient Bryan men, South and North, East and West. Whom will he consult in Massachusetts? Whom will he consult in New York city and State? Whom will he consult, whose advice will he take, in the West, and in the South? Mr. Tillman, of South Carolina, of whom I have no word of disrespect, reported the Democratic platform to the Convention at Kansas City. He is, I think, an honest, manly and able statesman. He has a marvellous gift of racy speech. He has become the dominant power in his own State and section, where he overthrew the old Democratic leaders, like Hampton and Butler, with one hand, and put the Republican majority of his State under his feet with the other. This is what he said last winter in the Senate. The terrible, tragic meaning of his words is almost forgotten in our admiration for the manly frankness of the avowal.

We took the government away. We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed of it. The Senator from Wisconsin would have done the same thing. I see it in his eye right now. He would have done it. With that system - force, tissue ballots, etc - we got tired ourselves. So we called a constitutional convention, and we eliminated, as I said, all of the colored people whom we could under the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments.

I want to call your attention to the remarkable change that has come over thc spirit of the dream of the Republicans; to remind you, gentlemen from the North, that your slogans of the past - brotherhood of man and fatherhood of God - have gone glimmering down the ages. The brotherhood of man exists no longer, because you shoot negroes in Illinois, when they come in competition with your labor, as we shoot them in South Carolina, when they come in competition with us in the matter of elections. You do not love them any better than we do. You used to pretend that you did; but you no longer pretend it, except to get their votes.

You deal with the Filipinos just as we deal with the negroes, only you treat them a heap worse. [Congressional Record, February 26, 1900, pp. 2,347-2348.]

Now, if you elect Mr. Bryan, the one most powerful force in Mr. Bryans counsel at the South will be Mr. Tillman, the rising young leader of the powerful Democracy of that section, as in New York it will be Richard Croker, who has been faithful to Mr. Bryan and to his principles from the beginning, and who is the political despot of the Empire State. There are twenty million human beings, whose rights as freemen are at stake ten million at home and ten million abroad. Will you consent to put your heel on the ten million at home, and, standing on their prostrate liberties, proclaim liberty to the nations of the world? You believe Mabini and Aguinaldo fit for self-government. So do I. You believe that Booker Washington is fit for self-government: So do I. Shall we - as Mr. Bryan and the Democratic party do, as Mr. Bryan and his Mugwump and Independent supporters do - strangle Booker Washington with one hand, and wave the flag over the head of Aguinaldo with the other?

This is the price, or a part of the price, you are to pay. You are to commit all the unknown questions of the unknown future to Mr. Bryan and his Democratic allies, if you elect him to power. What sort of statesmanship do you think they will furnish, to deal with great questions that now confront us?

Abraham Lincoln said in 1864 that it was not a good plan to swap horses while crossing the stream. Is it a good plan to swap horses while crossing the dangerous and stormy Chinese sea in a typhoon? What are you to get in the way of an equivalent for the terrible price you are asked to pay? You remember Dr. Franklins story - trite as the a-b-c or the multiplication table; yet we may well repeat it, since the wit of man cannot improve it - of the boy who paid too dear for his whistle. Will you get anything from Mr. Bryan, except a whistle?

It is said by some of our friends that we wish to punish President McKinley and the Republican party for the great wrong they have committed. Which deserves being punished the more, President McKinley and the Republicans who made the treaty, and who voted for it, believing that the Philippine people were semi-civilized, incapable of self-government, sure to fall an easy prey to the ambition or greed of foreign nations, or wear themselves out in domestic strife, or Mr. Bryan, who, thinking as we do, by his personal influence caused the treaty to be ratified? You and I think Mr. McKinley and the Republicans who supported the treaty were all wrong in their belief. But the President negotiated the treaty, and the Senate gave its consent. Now, what did Mr. Bryan do? He thought the people of the Philippine Islands were entitled to govern themselves. He thought we had no Constitutional power to govern them. He thought that to undertake that government was to convert this Government into an Empire. He thought it was to do infinite mischief to our citizenship, and infinite wrong to the people we were to subjugate. Now, so believing, Mr. Bryan came to Wash- ington and stabbed the cause of Anti-Imperialism in the back in the hour of its assured victory. The treaty would have been beaten, almost by a majority; at any rate, with a very large vote to spare. Mr. Bryan put forth all his power as a great political leader - the last candidate of his party for the Presidency, certain to be its next candidate - to secure the adoption of this treaty which contained and wrought, as he believed, all these evils. I will not discuss his motive. But I cannot think of any good rational explanation, except that, knowing very well that he was more likely to be beaten on them in a time of prosperity, he wished to keep this question alive for the campaign.

The Senate was the West Point of the resistance to Imperialism. It could not be captured unless the forces of one side outnumbered the forces of the other two to one. It was as if some great General and great political leader in the Revolution had surrendered West Point to the British enemy, and had induced the Continental Congress to declare by vote that George III. was the lawful sovereign, and the British Parliament the lawful legislature for the American Colonies. That vote made it the Constitutional duty of the President to reduce the Philippine Islands to subjection, and to restore order and peace. From that duty he could be relieved only by an act of Congress, requiring the assent of Senate and House, and his own Constitutional approval an assent and approval which Mr. Bryan then knew full well it was utterly preposterous to expect.

Mr. Justice Grier, giving the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States, in the Prize Cases, 2 Black, 665, declared that although the President cannot initiate or declare war, he is bound to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and that by the acts of Congress of February 28, 1795, and March 3, 1807, he is authorized to call out the military and naval forces of the United States to suppress insurrection against the Government of the United States; and that although he does not initiate war, he is bound to accept the challenge without waiting for any special legislative authority, and must himself decide whether, in fulfilling his duty in suppressing an insurrection, he is met with such armed resistance as will compel him to give them the character of belligerent, and that this is a question to be decided by him.

Mr. Justice Nelson adds: The whole military and naval power of the United States is put under the Presidents control to meet such an emergency. There was some dissent as to other parts of the opinion. But in this opinion the Court was unanimous. These two judges were distinguished Democrats, and upon the Court sat at the time Taney and Catron and Clifford.

In American Insurance Co. v. Canter, 1 Peters, 511, Chief Justice Marshall says: "The Constitution confers absolutely on the government . . . the power of acquiring territory, either by conquest or by treaty. . . . If it be ceded by treaty, the acquisition is confirmed, and the ceded territory becomes a part of the nation to which it is annexed, either on the terms stipulated in the treaty of cession, or on such as its new master shall impose."

The treaty, whose adoption Mr. Bryan procured, by putting forth his whole power to secure it, declared the people of the Philippine Islands subjects of the United States. It made their warfare insurrection against the Government of the United States. It made it the Constitutional duty of the President to put that insurrection down. It also affirmed and exercised the power of the United States to purchase sovereignty over ten million people for money, pledged the faith of the country for payment and promised that Congress, and not the people concerned, should dispose of their future. All these things Mr. Bryan helped to do. He is more responsible for them than any other man in the country, since the treaty left the hands of the Executive. When you punish President McKinley and the Republican party for what they did, you punish the country and you punish yourself. Do you not think Mr. Bryan and his seventeen followers who voted for the treaty deserve a little punishment also? You can inflict that by saving and benefiting the country, without endangering it in any degree.

Mr. Bryan says he thought the mischief would be cured by the passage of the Bacon resolution affirming our purpose to give that people self-government hereafter. Mr. Bryan, it seems to me, must have known that the passage of such a resolution was quite improbable, and that, if it had passed the Senate, it would have been of no vigor or effect whatever, a mere idle resolve, without any Constitutional potency, unless it were agreed to by the House and approved by the President. The treaty became the law of the land by the express terms of the Constitution. A treaty is greater than a common statute, because it not only is the law of the land, but it pledges the faith of the American people. Now, how idle for a gentleman aspiring to the great office of the Presidency to say: Oh, yes, I made it the law of the land that it was the duty of Congress to govern the people of the Philippine Islands; I bought them and paid for them; I pledged the faith of the Government that this thing should be done, and that this thing should be done in this way, and I trusted to the chance hereafter that one House of Congress alone might pass a resolution that they did not mean to keep on in that policy.

But Mr. Bryan says he wanted to get the matter out of the hands of the President, and into the hands of Congress. Now, in the first place, his whole theory was and is that the Philippine Islands is a matter with which Congress has rightfully or Constitutionally nothing to do; and, in the second place, the method he took was not calculated to take the matter out of the hands of the President or to put it into the hands of Congress.

But he says he wanted to get peace with Spain, and he did. not want to run the risk of making amendments to the treaty to which Spain might not consent. But he knew very well then that the war with Spain was over. Her fleets were shattered, her armies were captive, she had sued for peace, and her Commissioners had said to the people of the United States in express words, "We are in your power, and Spain is compelled to accede to any terms you may dictate." How idle is any suggestion that Spain would not gladly have acquiesced in an amendment of the treaty which put the Philippine Islands on the same footing with the people of Cuba. A cable dispatch would have brought the eager consent of Spain to such an amendment in twenty-four hours.

But Mr. Bryan says that if the treaty had been defeated, then the President would have called, after the next 4th of March, an extra session of the Senate, in which the Republican majority would have been larger, and would have secured its ratification then. I do not believe it. That would have required a delay of several months, and if Mr. Bryan had exercised his influence as a political leader against the treaty, instead of in its favor, the two-thirds majority would never have been commanded for it.

But, talking of what the Senate would have done at its extra session, can Mr. Bryan doubt that if he had got through his resolution, which failed, that it would have been repealed in six weeks? A treaty is the law of the land, as I have said, and pledges the faith of the Government. The Senate cannot abrogate it, if it would; and it will be a rare case when Congress and the President will undertake to abrogate it, if they can. But this empty resolution of Brother Bryans, if a majority had been for it, and not against it, as it was, he knows as well as I do, and his supporters know as well as you do, would have been doomed to a life of less than six weeks, if it had ever been adopted.

If you look at Mr. Bryans promises as to silver, you will not find them vague and unmeaning. He does not say, when he talks about his financial schemes, that he shall call an extra session of Congress, and hopes they will do something. He says the thing will be done. He means business.

If you analyze Mr. Bryans assurances in regard to the Philippine Islands, they do not differ much, practically, as to the future, from those of the present Administration. In everything else we have got the same Mr. Bryan and the same Democratic party. If the Democratic campaign of 1896 was, as we all believed and styled it then, a passionate crusade of dishonor, is it any less a passionate crusade of dishonor now? Will the policy which would have overthrown the public credit then not overthrow it now? Will the policy which bronght suffering into the homes of the American workingman in 1892 fail to accomplish the same result in 1900? Will the ring of a dishonest dollar, or the outcry against the disgrace of a broken promise, please the ear any better in the new century than in the old?

Have the laws of trade, and the maxims of fiumee, and the Constitutional rights of American citizens; has the authority and supremacy of law; has the character of Tammany Hall; have the purposes of the old Democratic leaders - changed in four years?

My zealous friend, the old story will repeat itself again. The Southern Democrat will hold you as fish to his hook as long as he wants you, and then he will toss you back, half dead, into the sea.

You and I think that the Republican party, whatever mistakes it has made, has been true to freedom and justice and righteousness in the past. The men who have composed it, and who still compose it, have wrought everything for justice and righteousness and freedom that has been wrought in this country for half a century.

It has made, in my judgment, one great mistake. But with these two parties standing side by side, promising justice and good government to this Oriental people, I trust the party that has made but one mistake, rather than the party whose sole existence has been a mistake. I prefer the Government which the Republican party has established at home, to the Governments which the Democratic party has established and has sought to establish at home. I prefer freedom and justice and equality and local self-government after the pattern of New England and Massachusetts, rather than after the pattern of Mississippi and South Carolina. I like the gospel according to McKinley better than the gospel according to Bryan. I do not believe that Mr. Bryan or his associates will do better for ten million people of another race in the Philippine Islands than they have done and mean to do for ten million American citizens in the United States. I have an assured hope, and an assured and confident faith, that this matter, in spite of the mistakes of the past, will yet be wrought out in accordance with the old principles of the American people and the old principles of the Republican party. I thought we ought to deal with the people of the Philippine Islands as we dealt with the people of Cuba. It was a mistake not to do so. But that having been done which was done, the war having gone on, the next thing to do is to establish peace; and peace being established, if that people prove intelligent and fit for self-government, actually governing themselves in freedom and in honor, and if they desire independence, they have the right to independence; and if I know the American people, if I know the Republican party, the people of the Philippines will find no obstacle to their independence in the power of the American Republic.



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