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26 June, 2013
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 diabolical.

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 slaves.

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.

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