All Rights Reserved.
Site last updated
13 January, 2012
Bryan or McKinley? The Present Duty of American Citizens.|
IX. The Paramount Issue.
by North American Review, The
|The welfare of the country is paramount in every political
contest. No political party can always be right; but one party or
the other must be trusted with the reins of government. It is
sometimes difficult to determine which party would be likely to
govern the country best. In the present contest the Republican
party stands for law, order, honor, progress, and good
government, while the Democratic party makes loyalty to rebels in arms
against the United States the paramount issue. Under these
circumstances, it is plain to every patriotic man that duty to our
country demands that the Republican party should be continued
Four years ago the silver question was the paramount issue.
I believed then, and I believe now, that the demonetization of
silver, whether ignorantly or corruptly accomplished, was the
greatest calamity of the nineteenth century. It reduced the supply of
money and enhanced its value fully one hundred per cent., and
the general range of prices fell in twenty years more than fifty
per cent. Property invested in bonds and other money futures
was doubled, while all other property lost one-half of its
exchangeable value. I believed that Mr. Bryan was earnestly in
favor of silver, and that he was an honest and sincere man, and
I believed that if the Democratic party could gain power on that
issue, it would do everything possible to restore the coinage of
silver. So strong was my conviction that the good of the country
required the mintage of silver equally with gold, that I left the
Republican party and labored zealously to elect Mr. Bryan.
But times have changed, and Mr. Bryan has changed. At all
events, he has developed characteristics incompatible with
patriotism or honor. The contention of the silver men that more money
would restore prosperity has been verified. A thousand million
dollars of new gold from the mines since 1896, a hundred million
dollars added to the bank currency, and the war expenditures have
raised prices, furnished employment for all, and created the good
times which the remonetization of silver would have produced.
The money question will not be considered by the people when
money is plentiful, and the advocates of silver must wait until the
bounteous flow of gold from the mines is diminished and falling
prices come again. The financial issue will then be paramount.
Any attempt to make the silver question an issue when money is
abundant will not advance the cause, but, on the contrary, will
create a prejudice in the minds of the people against the white
Under these circumstances, it was natural for Mr. Bryan to
seek some other issue. His success in creating what he terms the
paramount issue, and forcing the Democratic party to adopt
it, is an exhibition of genius and leadership without a parallel in
American politics. Imperialism is a myth. It does not exist,
and it can not exist in this country. Everybody in all parties is
opposed to it. No President has ever attempted to maintain a
larger army than was necessary to defend the honor of the
country and maintain law and order.
No one knows better than Mr. Bryan that there is no real
issue of imperialism, because he virtually admits that there would
have been no imperialism to fight if he had not secured the
ratification of the treaty with Spain, by which we acquired the
Philippines. Nearly all orhis two hours speech of acceptance at
Indianapolis was devoted to imperialism as growing out of the
acquisition of these islands. He even congratulates himself on
having secured the ratification of the treaty, and points to the result
as justifying the means. He says:
"I believe that we are now in a better position to wage a success-
ful contest against imperialism than we would have been had the
treaty been rejected."
Very true. If the treaty had been rejected, Mr. Bryans two
hours speech against the acquisition of the islands would have
been inapplicable, and he might have been unable to discover any
other mirage with which to deceive the Democratic convention.
The conduct of Mr. Bryan in securing the ratification of the
treaty to create the issue of imperialism is crafty, and would be
harmless in a person not the candidate of a great party for
President of the United States.
The most remarkable part of Mr. Bryans scheme is his
assumption that expansion and imperialism are one and the same
thing. The Democratic party is responsible for every foot of
expansion previous to the purchase of Alaska by Johnsons
administration, and every acre of territory acquired since the adoption
of the Constitution has been acquired against the protest and
generally against the sanguinary opposition of the inhabitants.
The consent of the people has never in any case been given or
asked. The few inhabitants of the land embraced in the Louisiana
purchase, who knew what was taking place, protested, but the
great mass of the people in that territory have continued their
opposition in bloody wars for nearly a century, and still regard
themselves as independent tribes or nations. The Florida
purchase brought on the Seminole war, which lasted seven years.
Both Mexicans and Indians occupying Texas, New Mexico,
California, and Arizona were bitterly hostile to the change of
sovereignty. The language of all cessions to the United States is
precisely the same. The Philippines were acquired, so far as
manner, form and substance are concerned, just as all other territory
has been acquired by the United States.
Mr. Bryans contention that the acquisition of the Philippines
is imperialism stamps Presidents Jefferson, Monroe, Jackson,
Polk, and Pierce as imperialists, and makes the establishment of
free institutions and the erection of great states in newly
acquired territory the very essence of imperial dominion.
Every act of Mr. McKinleys administration in dealing with
the Filipinos has been based upon and modelled after the
precedents of the great Democratic Presidents, whom the American
people love to honor. The audacity of Mr. Bryans charge of
imperialism against President McKinley for following in the
footsteps of Democratic Presidents in the acquisition and
government of territories has taken the country by surprise.
If the contention of Mr. Bryan be right, then President
Cleveland was the only occupant of the White House who was a real
anti-imperialist. His refusal to accept Hawaii makes him the
only Democratic model worthy of imitation, and distinguishes
him as the only true patriot whose administration conformed to
the Declaration of Independence. It is unfortunate that the
greatest Jeffersonian Democrat who ever occupied the Executive
chair should be unable to endorse Mr. Bryans candidacy for
President, with anti-imperialism as the foundation of mutual
The motives of Mr. Bryan in taking sides with Aguinaldo and
his rebellious followers are not as well understood by the Filipinos
as they are by our own people. The inhabitants of Luzon do not
know that Mr. Bryan invented imperialism, or that he has
taken sides witim them against his own Government, solely for the
purpose of gaining votes. They do not know that an honest,
successful administration and great prosperity are persuasive
arguments in favor of the re-election of Mr. McKinley, and that the
encouragement which the rebels in the archipelago are receiving
from Mr. Bryan is a part of the great drama of legerdemain by
which he hopes to hypnotize the American people, and induce
them to jump out of the frying pan into the fire.
Mr. Bryan seems utterly heedless of the consequences of the
aid and comfort he is extending to rebels in arms. He pays no
attention to the accumulation of evidence that the guerilla
warfare in Luzon is prolonged in anticipation of immediate
independace in case of his election. The shooting of American
soldiers and the murder and robbery of natives friendly to the
United States, in order to keep up a show of resistance until the
Democratic candidate becomes President, count for nothing when
weighed in the balance against Mr. Bryans ambition. I call upon
all fair-minded citizens to read Mr. Bryans speech of acceptance,
delivered at Indianapolis on the 8th of August, 1900, and
compare his utterances with the statutes of the United States against
aiding and encouraging rebellion. It seems to me that section
5,334 of the Revised Statutes is applicable to his case. it is as
" Sec. 5334. Every person who Incites, sets on foot, assists, or
engages In any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the
United States, or the laws thereof, or gives aid and comfort thereto,
shall be punished by imprisonment not more than ten years, or by
a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars; or by both of such
punishments, and shall, moreover, be incapable of holding any office
under the United States."
Mr. Bryan evidently fears that the paramount issue of imperialism
which he has created will fade if kept too constantly in
the focus of public opinion. His acrobatic qualities are brought
into service nearly every day in mounting a new stalking-horse.
If is recent rough-riding of Trusts puts to shame the cowboys on a
thousand hills. He proposes to destroy Trusts by creating a
federal trust to control all other trusts, He says:
" Let Congress provide that, whenever any corporation organized
in any State wants to do business outside of the State, it must go to
the federal government and obtain a license which will enable it to
do such outside business."
He does not say to which department of the Government
he would assign this duty, but the presumption is that he would
organize a Department of Trusts, in which only trusted favorites
would be appointed. He says in his letter of acceptance:
" I shall select an attorney general who will without fear or favor
enforce existing laws."
He does not say which party passed those laws. The only
effective law against Trusts was recommended by President
Harrison and passed by a Republican Congress in 1890. This law has
been upheld and enforced by the Supreme Court of the United
States. Under it, the Supreme Court of the United States held
that a traffic agreement between thirty-one different railroad
companies was illegal, and the court enjoined its further
execution. Judge Taft, in the Circuit Court of Appeals, held, in the
case of the Addystone Pipe and Steel Company vs. the United
States, that a combination between six corporations not to com-
pete with each other was illegal.
What law against Trusts was passed during either the first or
the second term of Mr. Clevelands administration? What efforts
were made by Clevelands Attorneys-General, Garland, Gluey or
Harmon, to prosecute trusts?
Mr. Bryan, in his Wheeling speech, says:
" I want to destroy every private monopoly in the United States."
Mr. Bryans election would, therefore, sweep out of existence
all patent rights, close the Patent Office, and destroy many other
private rights which are of necessity exclusive and, consequently,
monopolies. It would put an end to the marvellous development
of the mechanical skill of the American people, which has made
the United States conspicuous throughout the world. It would
deprive genius of both the incentive to exertion and the means of
subsistence, and turn back indefinitely the tide of progress. Mr.
Bryan's undigested views, wild assertions, and disastrous
remedies for Trusts are undoubtedly the result of want of time to
consider thoroughly any one subject, on account of the multiplicity
of issues he seeks to utilize in order to be elected President.
In view of the prosperity of the country and the general
increase of wages since 1896, the coal miners will naturally inquire
whether their grievances result from McKinleys administration
or are the work of a New York syndicate of heartless speculators,
who miss the bond deals and the plunder of wrecked fortunes
which they enjoyed under the Cleveland administration. When
they discover, as they must, that the policy of the Administration
has created general prosperity, and that extortion and oppression
are inspired by private greed, they will not gratify the malice or
desire for plunder of their real oppressors; nor will they listen to
the cry of stop thief from those who rob their dinner pails,
although that cry is echoed by the melodious voice of the Democratic
candidate for the Presidency.
Mr. Bryan is a great orator, but he can hardly maintain the
charge that the Republican party is responsible for all the evils,
real and imaginary, that flesh is heir to. The assumption that all
monopolies are created by legislation of Congress, and that the
President of the United States is responsible for all disagreements
and conflicts between employers and employees will not commend
itself to sensible men. Mr. Bryan will learn that the American
people do not live on hate alone, and that his efforts to array
neighbor against neighbor, class against class, and to embitter the
masses against the owners of accumulated wealth will not increase,
but will diminish, his following.
I believe that a great majority of the people of the United
States are beginning to regard Mr. Bryan as an able, adroit, and
plausible sophist, possessed of wonderful magnetism and will
power, but an unsafe man to be trusted in the high office of
President of the United States.
WILLIAM M. STEWART.