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13 January, 2012
Bryan or McKinley? The Present Duty of American Citizens.|
VIII. The Cost of a Blunder.
by North American Review, The
|There are several reasons why it is more important than usual
in Presidential elections that American citizens should vote right
next month. Ordinarily, the Democrat and the Republican,
recognizing the necessity of party alignment, can each vote his
cwn ticket conscientiously, with a reasonable assurance that he
is doing his duty to his country. Government by party is as
much a part of our American administrative system as if it were
embodied in the Constitution. No practical man can conceive
of a method of carrying on the affairs of the Federal, State and
municipal organizations without responsible heads, to whom the
people can look for efficiency and integrity.
Party organizations furnish the people with their only means
of enforcing this responsibility. That one of the two great
parties which happens to be in power can be punished by the citizens
for the misdeeds of its chosen representatives only by voting for
those of the Opposition party. In the same way, the party in
power can be rewarded for good service by continuing its chosen
representatives in office. These are the alternatives usually
presented in Presidential elections.
On November 7th, 1900, the electors of the United States
will have quite a different and a vastly more important problem
presented for their decision at the polls. The duty of American
citizens to put patriotism above politics at this time, and to vote
for the best interests of the whole country, seems to me to be
unusually clear. The considerations leading to this conclusion
it ought not to be difficult to state. The situation is an
extraordinary one. When a mans house is threatened by fire, he does
not stop the firemen to ask if they are members of his lodge, or
whether they entertain the same views as he does about the tariff
or the income tax. In the presence of the graver peril, minor
issues are lost sight of. Self-preservation is the first law of
nations as well as of individuals.
It is my firm conviction that the vast majority of the voters
of the United States will, within a year, have abundant and
unmistakable evidence, in their homes, shops, counting-houses
and offices, that their decision at the polls this fall gave the
United States the greatest impetus it has ever received toward its
goal; or, contrariwise, its greatest setback.
For, in the 124 years that have elapsed since the Declaration
of Independence, the two parties have never offered the voter so
startling a choice. In the face of approaching dissolution, a sick
man may contravene the precedents of a long life of well-being
and consent to the most critical experiment. But to a healthy
man, the suggestion of a desperate and radical departure from
all he holds sane and prudent must come as little short of the
The American nation is in the hey-day of life and usefulness.
It has just passed through a period of four years of absolutely
unexampled prosperity. Abroad, it has achieved a place among
the Powers of civilization, which surpasses the fondest aspirations
a reasonable American could have entertained, when McKinley
and Bryan first entered the political lists as antagonists. At
home, it has strengthened the confidence of industrious capital
and widened the horizon of remunerative labor to a point never
before attained. Now, it follows that a vote for McKinley and
Roosevelt is not only a vote of confidence in the men who, as the
agents of the people, have brought this prosperity about, but it is
also a declaration that this, of all others, is no time for dangerous
experiments with our national finances - the rock-bottom basis
of all our prosperity.
The ship of state is sailing along the high seas, in the
sunshine, with the Stars and Stripes floating proudly from her
topmost mast, with all the countries of the world welcoming her to
new havens, with McKinley at the helm, after four years of
honorable and successful experience. There are no clouds on the
horizon, no rocks on the chart, save such as he is best equipped
to steer clear of. The Bryanized Democracy is seeking to board
the ship of state, at this juncture, with the deliberate intention
of running her out of her course, out of the course of the worlds
commerce, to a quicksand of free silver on a desert island.
The commercial agencies of the world now rate the United
States "A1." She pays her debts at home and her debts abroad
in the same coin. Her rating is the result of a steadfast
adherence to the gold standard, to which the Republican party was
significantly committed in the St. Louis Convention in 1896.
Any doubts in the minds of reasonable men as to the wisdom of
this course, must have been long since resolved. The unqualified
adherence of the Republican party to commercial honor and
financial integrity has been its greatest achievement since it freed the
A vote for Bryan is a vote to haul down the gold standard
and hoist the white flag; to sail out of the path of international
prosperity into the dead waters of isolation; to call down the
noblest aspirations of patriotism and to proclaim our country a
coward and a shirk in the family of nations!
So much for our obligations to mankind in general. As to
our duty to ourselves - our obligations to be honest in our own
financial and industrial affairs; to provide for our own people;
to continue in our own land the conditions which have enabled
us to provide remunerative employment for labor, active and
increasing operations for capital, and a general support of and
respect for the tribunals of justice - that duty needs only to be
stated to stand out to the eyes of all men. The elections in
Vermont and Maine show that the citizens of New England abide by
their convictions, and favor, as they did four years ago, the
unflinching discharge of duties as well as debts. They refused to
be frightened by the bogie of Imperialism. They set an example
to their fellow-citizens, North, South, East and West. They
have heartened the strong and strengthened the weak. I have
every confidence that the voters of the United States, now fifteen
millions strong, will re-elect President McKinley. And not the
least interesting element in this deliberate exercise of the highest
duty and obligation of citizenship will be a disregard of party
lines. The best men in the Democratic party realize that the
interests of our common country would be seriously imperilled
by the election of Bryan.
The cost of a national blunder this fall would be inconceivable.
The paralysis of capital, the destruction of wages, the
suspension of payments, the cessation of business operations, would,
after all, be of minor moment, as compared with the profound
discouragement of our national aspirations and the world-wide
disgrace of our commercial name.
T. 0. PLATT.