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Bryan or McKinley? The Present Duty of American Citizens.
XI. What Ought a Gold Democrat to Do?
by North American Review, The


The unenviable position in which the Democratic party was left, after the adoption of the platform and the nomination of Mr. Bryan as a Presidential candidate foar years ago, made inevitable the withdrawal from affiliation with the organization as newly constituted, of a very large number of men who, until then, had been not only believers in the principles of the party, but staunch supporters of its candidates. They refused their support from neither political pique nor thwarted personal ambition, but wholly because they saw in the new order of things, proclaimed under the guise of Democracy, a perversion of all those teachings and practices for which the Democratic party had stood in the past. To them, the candidacy of Mr. Bryan for the executive office was not that of a Democrat, but of one who had nothing in common with the principles of the party. The movement to stand for something Democratic, which found its origin among a few men before the Chicago Convention adjourned, its development at Indianapolis, and its fruition in the defeat of Mr. Bryan at the polls, was a movement for conscience sake, and in the true order of things it ought not to end until Democracy and Bryanism are not thought of as synonymous terms, and the difference between them has become so clear that "he who runs may read."

The Democrats who stood sponsor for the protest against the Bryanized Democracy of 1896 did so both for the good of their country and the betterment of their party. They knew that in serving the best interests of the former they conld best serve those of the latter. The great majority of them had been Democrats always, making np in a large measure the membership of the directing force of the organization, and contributing the means of carrying on its campaigns. In refusing to indorse the vagaries of the Chicago platform and the candidate standing upon it, they did not become Republicans, nor accept as political truth Republican doctrines, nor approve of Republican candidates. They had in mind always that the first essential necessity, in saving the Democratic party, was the complete rout of those who had made it not only a reproach and a by-word, but an agency for evil to the best interests of the country.

In accepting Republican candidates now, they assume no other attitude than that which they took in the first instance. They justify their course now as they did then, believing that their highest duty, as citizens as well as party men, makes any other action impossible. They have not gone into, nor do they intend. to go into, the Republican party, because they cannot reconcile themselves to the tenets of that party, which stand in direct opposition to principles which they have long held to be essential to a true and safe system of governmental control. Many of them then supported and voted for President McKinley, in spite of an antagonism to a large number of things for which he had stood in the past, because they felt that there were elements of conservatism in the organization and following of his party which could minimize the harmful force of the things to which they objected, on the one hand, and maximize those of which they approved, on the other. Undoubtedly, some of the men who aided in the Gold-Democratic movement of the last Presidential campaign have been disappointed in the President and his party in both directions; bnt I believe an unbiased consideration of all that has been done by the Administration, taken by and large, will lead to the conclusion that their effort in that behalf was at least worth while, and that much has been accomplished of great benefit to the country in many of its varied and important interests. It has been successful at least in establishing the gold standard through enacted law, and in refunding much of the public debt.

It has maintained the public credit and accomplished something toward the improvement of the country's banking law. If it has not gone as far in this direction as the friends of better banking facilities wish, it at least gives promise of taking no backward step. If the country has not been fully satisfied with its administration of foreign affairs, that fact is not a new one in the history of administrations. The conduct of the State Department, acting in conjunction with that of the Executive, is always a subject of general criticism on the part of the political organization out of power. Things are never just right, so far as the public is concerned, for the reason that the very nature of the conduct of state affairs precludes the taking of the public into full confidence. And yet it can be truthfully said that the foreign affairs of each Administration have shown in their conduct much of wisdom and great patriotism. The Administration has been severely criticised more than once for many things growing out of the Spanish-American war, but the war was one for which all political parties in the country stand responsible, and for the consequences of which none is more to blame than the Democratic Presidential candidate himself. He urged his party into it, entered the ranks of the soldiery himself and when it was over made himself largely responsible for the ratifying of the Treaty of Peace which brought the Philippine Islands into our possession, with all the attendant troubles which have followed them.

The extravagances of which complaint is made in the matter of governmental expenditures have been the extravagances which too frequently accompany the carrying on of war. It is to be doubted, however, whether under the same circumstances Mr. Bryan and those who are associated with him would have made a record meriting greater approval. The spirit of militarism pointed to by the opponents of imperialism grew in large measure out of the war which the two great political parties vied with one another in bringing on, and to which Mr. Bryan went as a commissioned officer. There is nothing, in either past or present events, to create a fear that the people of this country, even though the standing army has been enlarged and new military undertakings have been entered upon, will ever either jeopardize its liberties or encroach upon them by such a departure. Militarism may bring extravagances and cause demoralization among those who become actively identified with army life in foreign fields; but it is beyond the range of possibilities that such a thirst for military glory and power can be fostered among those intrusted with the control of the army as to cause them to make an assault upon the peoples rights for personal aggrandizement.

Unfortunately for the country, and doubly unfortunately for the Democratic party, neither is rid of Mr. Bryan and his advocacy of the pernicious doctrine of which he is the leading champion. We are in the midst of another campaign, with a great number of Democrats again placed under the embarrassment of having to choose between an emasculated and tainted Democracy and a distasteful Republicanism. There is no middle ground, nor can any course be pursued by the independent Democrat or Republican other than to support Republican candidates, until the things which have made Mr. Bryan a possible factor in American public life are completely eradicated. It will not do simply to scotch his doctrines at each recurring election. They must be killed, and the country must be rid of teachings that are a disturbing element in its social and political life. The question which confronted Democrats after the action of the party's representatives at Chicago four years ago comes to them now only with greater emphasis, since the gathering at Kansas City. The ailment which then bade fair to be but a passing spasm now seems to have taken on the virulence and distressing evil of a deep-seated disease. If heroic measures seemed requisite then, they are more so now, if any vestige of Democratic principles worth the saving is to be preserved as an element of good to the people in the administration of the country's affairs. The answer to the question as to what a Democrat ought to do, in the light of the circumstances which surround his party, is not difficult to render. He ought to exert himself to defeat Mr. Bryan, and make impossible thereby a future Populistic Presidential candidate and Populistic platform, masquerading under a Democratic party name. The salvation of the Democratic party lies wholly in such a course. Any other course means a continuance in control of those who have wrought loss, dishonor and disorganization to it. The principles of the party, stricken nigh unto death by Altgeld, Tillman and Weaver in 1896, have not been restored to their former virtuous vigor by these same men in 1900, and they can never be. The thoughtful Democrat, who will have regard to an analysis of his partys condition as it is, under the manipulation of Mr. Bryan and his friends, will see nothing either in it or the condition of the country which warrants him in now sanctioning the things which were repugnant to his sense of public good and party loyalty four years ago. I cannot conceive of any lapse of time sufficiently great to make either economically or morally sound the vicious heresies announced as the embodiment of Democratic principles at the time of Mr. Bryans first nomination, and reaffirmed in subservience to his dictation when he is now again presented to the countrys electorate. The possibility of such a thing ranks with that never accomplished effort of the alchemist to transmute the basest into the finest of metals. Such a change cannot be brought about until a point is reached in the world's history when disapproval of the enforcement of law, repudiation of the sacred right of public and private contract and the nonintegrity of courts of justice are recognized as the cardinal principles in a properly adjusted system of governmental economy.

The actions of the Democratic party, without Mr. Bryan and his isms, despite its lapses at times, throughout a long number of years, made for the country's good. It had been a generous contributor to the list of great names which have added lustre to the nations history. Since the advent of Mr. Bryan as a leader, however, all this has changed, and the Democratic party has become the open advocate of discontent, strife and class prejudice. Its leaders to-day are men ill-acquainted with political history, arid strangers to a serious effort to ascertain the origin and basis of economic truth. They are mere declaimers, who, taking their cue from their accepted leader, have produced nothing from their superficial familiarity with the writers of political economy but rhetoric, none of which stands the test of analysis. It is due to the country that, once for all, it be rid of such leaders of political fractions and proponents of unwholesome ideas. The hope which Democrats indulge that, somehow and in some way, the party can outgrow Mr. Bryan and still tolerate his leadership is wholly illusive. Mr. Bryan and his views and the Democratic organization and its platform are interchangeable terms, as long as there is not direct and unequivocal repudiation of both by Democrats who have a care for their party's future. The same treatment must be accorded to Mr. Bryan, in a political sense, as was applied in a physical way by one of the early rulers of Persia to an unjust judge. This ruler flayed the despoiler and placed his skin over the chair of justice which he once occupied, so that every one who should sit therein in future might take warning from the fate of his iniquitous predecessor - a circumstance that led one of the great Bishops of England, centuries later, to declare in that country of certain leaders who wronged the people that "it will never be merry in England until we have the skins of such." So, too, it will never be merry in the Democratic party until we have the political skins of such as Mr. Bryan, to place in the seats of Democratic leadership, as a warning to all who, to advance the ends of personal ambition, willingly despoil the history, principles, traditions and standing of a great, political party.

As long as Mr. Bryan leads Democracy, it is hopelessly wedded to a money standard which means repudiation of the nations obligations and the impairment of the nations credit, if once it should be powerful enough to accomplish such a result. It will not do to lull ourselves into a supposed security from danger on this score because Mr. Bryan has seen fit to cease talking on the money question. The people must not flatter themselves that Mr. Bryan has changed his views on this subject. He has not, and he will not. His erroneous views are fixed. He has only found it politic for the present to conceal them, and Mr. Bryan is nothing, if not politic in his demagogy. He was the strenuous advocate of silver until he had gotten through with the Populist and Silver Conventions; but, once they were over, the advocacy of something else being necessary to bring votes and support, silver is made to give way to the issues of anti-imperialism and so-called anti-militarism. When it is once realized that Mr. Bryan is not a statesman but a charlatan and demagogue, who loves public applause and servile flattery, he will stand stripped of many of his supposed Spartan virtues. His craving is always for notoriety, and there is no means that is at hand that he will not avail himself of. He has never read beyond the elementary in his study of political economy; and, as a result, the consistency of his statements, one with the other, does not concern him. He is equally indifferent to the contradiction, by the course of events, of assertions which he has made and predictions which he has put forth.

It is urged that he is intellectually honest. The acceptance of this statement as truth by one who follows Mr. Bryan from day to day, in all his thousands of words, requires unbounded assurance as to either the simplicity of his nature or the density of his ignorance. Mr. Bryan has been regarded by many as belonging in sympathy to what is termed the common people. That is a false view. He has led too many of the common people into grievous error by the sophistry and eloquence of his speech, and that, too, for his own political advantage and not to their advancement as a class. The establishment of any close bond of union between the workmen of the country and their employers would mean the loss to Mr. Bryan of every vestige of the support of the workmen, and, therefore, we find him continually a sower of strife between capital and labor. Any considerable exhibition of fraternity of feeling between this and other nations, sanctioned by general consent, would deprive him of another means of appealing to prejudice, and always we find him scouting such relations with other peoples. He inveighs against everything that is, and applauds something which might be, always having in view the bringing to himself the benefit which might accrue in a political struggle from a situation based on discontent and a desire for change.

I do not believe such a man can make a safe Chief Executive of a nation whose population is as varied as is that of the United States. We have here elements which, under a careful, thoughtful and intelligent leadership, always can be depended upon to stand for conservatism, but which, once guided by a leader who depends for his following wholly upon the gifts of oratory and flattery, with whom political expediency is political duty, become elements of danger. The country may, at times, doubt the entire sincerity of a leader who is so frank as to confound frankness itself, and it may to-day well doubt Mr. Bryan. The friends of the Democratic Presidential candidate are wont to excuse him on the ground that, once intrusted with power, he would find the conserving influence of the great office to which he aspires sufficient to restrain him from undertaking to enforce the radical theory which he advocates. There is, undoubtedly, a conserving force in the responsibility of office, which would cause a man of ordinary thought and action to hesitate from pressing measures that might cause great disaster. But Mr. Bryan is not of this class. He is not a man who thinks deeply or who acts wisely. He is always radical, and a careful investigation of his utterances, both in public and private, would reveal that element as the predominant characteristic of his nature. It is as noticeable in his most carefully prepared addresses as it is in his extemporaneous ones. He has no intiniates but the radicals of his own party, and even they are not on such terms with him as are the leaders of the Populists and Silver Republicans. It would be impossible for him as President to construct a Cabinet made up of men of temperate views on any public question. Any Cabinet which he would form would be as much of a menace as Mr. Bryan himself, because the only difference in views between them would be in degree of radicalism and not in principle. Heretofore, Democracy has sometimes affiliated with other political organizations, but it has never before lost its identity. It has swallowed them, but Mr. Bryan, reversing this order of things, has aided and abetted the conspiracy which aims to have Democracy absorbed by the Populists and Socialists. Whatever isms have found lodgment in the party have been controlled in the past, but this is not now the case. They control the Democratic party entirely, with the full approval of its candidate. Many rallying cries are put forth to disguise their meaning and purpose; but, back of them all, when they stand revealed in their full nakedness, is a socialism which is at war with property interests, great and small.

It is because of this fact, shown in many ways, that all business elements, of every character, importance or location, are against Mr. Bryan and the party which he leads. They do not wish to evade any legal responsibility, to pay less than their just proportion of taxes, to treat unjustly their employees or to deal unfairly with the public. They want only stability in money, equity in law, and wisdom of word and action in the Executive. They distrust Mr. Bryan, because he has made it impossible for them to trust him through his advocacy of things which their business knowledge and experience have proven to them would be disastrous, if once they were enforced. They distrust him not because he is a Democrat, but because he is not one. They know that Democratic principles, rightly interpreted and enforced, are productive of good. So, too, they know equally well that Socialistic doctrines, presented and incorporated into governmental affairs by a demogogue intrusted with power, could not but work out widespread loss and ruin. If Mr. Bryan, then, is not a Democrat but a Populist, why should any Democrat aid in his election? That he was named by the machinery of the party, so long as that machinery was used simply to ratify the action of another convention and the principles of another party, means nothing. What possible good can come to the country by having Democracy, as now constituted and controlled, intrusted with power? What reform could it inaugurate and carry to a successful issue? It is impossible, in the very nature of its present organization, that Democracy could accomplish any remedial legislation that would benefit the people. On the other hand, it would, by its attempt to give the force of enacted law to the isms to which it is pledged, breed constant uncertainty and distrust. By the pronouncement of its own platform, it is against the gold standard and in favor of the silver one. It would, if given the power, abrogate the right of private contract, and thereby put a premium on dishonesty and evasion of just obligations. It does not believe in the enforcement of order by the lawfully constituted authorities, as against the will of mob law, if it speaks its true beliefs in its party preachment. It is against the country's courts of justice and the majesty of law, as that majesty finds expression in the Supreme Court, according to a platform once announced and many times reaffirmed. It has no use for a civil service which takes from the party worker the spoils of office, despite the fact that it gives to the tax-paying public a better return for the wage which the public provides. It means nothing on the question of a wisely adjusted tariff system, because it is swallowed up in the heresy of protection through its free silver doctrine. It has no force and effect when it speaks on the subject of class legislation, for Populism and Silver have made it wholly a party of special interest, promising each, through the be it enacted of legislation, special relief and privileges. Its denunciation of Trusts is a sham, branded so by placing the Trust- supporting and Trust-supported leaders of Tammany high in Democratic councils. In short, Mr. Bryan has brought the Democratic party to that unhappy condition where it can work injury to all and good to none.

As against all this, it is urged that Gold Democrats ought to support Mr. Bryan, because he does not believe in what is known as imperialism and militarism. There is nothing relative to the conduct of our colonial possessions that Mr. Bryan can possibly do within reason, that President McKinley will not do. The statement that Mr. Bryan makes that he will at once, if elected President, convene Congress to create a stable government for the Philippines and establish a Monroe doctrine protectorate over them, is wholly idle. He knows that it is impossible to do so, until conditions as to education, guarantee of property rights and as to safety of personal rights, warrant such action. However many the blunders made which wrought the condition that now presents itself, the country is not willing, off-hand and unpreparedly, to set adrift - though retaining a full protecting responsibility for their acts - any peoples who have come to us through the Spanish war. Mr. Bryan misjudges popular sentiment if he thinks that, upon such an issue, he can blind the electors to those things which, affecting our own country, are more paramount than any involved in the issue he is now attempting to create.

The Democrat who really wishes to serve his country best will serve it and his party by voting for President McKinley's re-election. He will not do so as a Republican advocate of Republican principles, but as a Democratic protestor against Bryanistic heresies. There is no half-way house, nor is any good to be accomplished by refraining from voting. It is a case where the surgeon must cut, and cut deeply. When Mr. Bryan is driven from power the patriotic Democrat can go back into a full fellowship with his party; for, when that time comes, the Democratic party will stand for something with the advocacy of which the patriotic Democrat will be glad to be associated. As long, however, as the present status is maintained, he can have neither part nor lot with those who map out the policies of the Democratic party and control its acts.

JAMES H. ECKELS.

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