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The Great Republic by the Master Historians|
Public Events and Presidential Elections
by Bancroft, Hubert H.
|[Political affairs assumed various startling phases during the decade here
glanced at. New questions of vital importance to the welfare of the nation, both
domestic and international, were taken up by the government with marked vigor,
and popular, discussion rose to fever heat on several occasions. Our epitome is
taken from chapters written by Joseph M. Rogers, in the work, "The World's
History and Its Makers."]
In 1882 factional politics in New York became bitter once more. The
administration candidate for Governor, Secretary Folger, was nominated after a
bitter struggle. The Democratic nominee was Grover Cleveland, of Buffalo, who
had made a reputation as a courageous reform mayor. The Blaine faction of the
Republicans was incensed at what they considered the domination of the
Convention by President Arthur and Mr. Conkling, and many refused to vote. As a
result, Cleveland was elected by the unprecedented majority of nearly 200,000,
and he became the logical candidate of his party for President in 1880.
The campaign that ensued was the most delporable in our history. The
personalities indulged in have never been exceeded. The private life of each of
the leading candidates was assailed, and the general conduct of the campaign in
this respect was so indecent that it shocked public sentiment, and has never
since been indulged in. And now the result of the old Blaine-Conkling feud was
fully shown. While every effort was made to heal the breach, it was not finally
closed. The pivotal State was New York, and this was carried for Cleveland by
slightly over 1,000 votes, though the Republicans claimed a fraudulent count in
New York City of Butler votes for Cleveland, which would have elected Blaine.
Butler, in his memoirs, also makes this claim. It took several days to complete
the count, and a repetition of the contest of 1876-7 was feared, but Cleveland
got the State and the Presidency. Blaine's managers made a number of tactical
mistakes. A few days before the election Mr. Blaine was met by a party of
clergymen with an address delivered by Dr. Burchard, who spoke of the Democracy
as the party of "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion." It is said Blaine did not
understand the second term, but supposed it to be "Mormonism." At any rate he
did not correct the statement, which angered many Roman Catholics, and is
believed to have cost him the election. Mr. Cleveland had the support of many
former Republicans, because they admired his conduct as Mayor and Governor, and
for his professed devotion to civil service reform. These Republicans were
called "Mugwumps," and the term was considered one of reproach. Since then
independence in politics has become much more general, and the term has been
The electoral vote stood: Cleveland, 219; Blaine, 182. The popular vote was:
Cleveland, 4,911,017; Blaine, 4,848,-334; St. John, 151,809; Butler, 133,826;
Grover Cleveland was the first Democrat to occupy the Presidency after the
retirement of Buchanan, twenty-four years before. The House elected with him was
Democratic, but the Senate was Republican, and this prevented any partisan
legislation during his term of office. The Senate, however, confirmed nearly all
of his appointments. The struggle for office at the opening of his term was the
greatest in history. Democrats expected to get all the offices, but found the
President very conservative. During the first two years his removals from office
were comparatively few, and he extended the scope of the civil service law. In
general, he allowed the Republicans in prominent offices to serve out their
four-year terms, but the diplomatic and consular offices were generally filled
with Democrats. Later in his term he was less faithful to his promises, and
greatly disappointed the Independents, who looked upon him as the chief apostle
of this reform. For his Cabinet, Mr. Cleveland chose: Thomas F. Bayard, of
Delaware, Secretary of State; Daniel Manning, of New York, Secretary of the
Treasury; Wm. C. Endicott, of Massachusetts, Secretary of War; William C.
Whitney, of New York, Secretary of the Navy; L. Q. C. Lamar, of Mississippi,
Secretary of the Interior; Augustus S. Garland, of Arkansas, Attorney-General,
and W. F. Vilas, of Wisconsin, Postmaster-General.
General Grant died on July 25, 1885, of cancer of the throat, after a lingering
illness. After his return from his tour he settled in New York City, and
unwisely invested all his savings, as a silent partner, in the brokerage firm of
Grant & Ward, the former being his son. The fraudulent failure of the firm
through Ward's roguery swept away every dollar Grant possessed and left him in
debt $150,000 to William H. Vanderbilt for money borrowed at the request of
Ward. To pay this last debt he turned over all his swords, medals, and gifts to
Mr. Vanderbilt, who deposited them in the National Museum in Washington. General
Grant was seriously ill and his condition appealed to the country. Congress made
him once more a General, and retired him with full pay. During his illness he
wrote his memoirs, which had an enormous sale.
In 1887 Congress passed the Inter-State Commerce law, designed to prevent
discriminations between shippers engaged in inter-state commerce. The Commission
has acted as a court, and has made many notable decisions, but it lacks certain
powers necessary to carry out the real needs of the country. It has prohibited
pooling, and in many cases forbidden unjust rates. In ten years freight rates
were greatly reduced.
Mr. Cleveland's administration was generally successful. There was no partisan
legislation possible. His marriage to Miss Frances Folsom, in 1886, greatly
increased his popularity. He aroused more antipathy by his vetoes of special
pension bills than by any other acts of his term. Instead of allowing these to
go as a matter of course, as his predecessors had done, he investigated each
case and, when convinced of their impropriety, he wrote veto messages which by
their wording greatly offended many old soldiers and others. In 1887 he
determined to make the tariff an issue and, in his annual message, made a
terrific assault upon the principle of protection to American industries. This
was done against the advice of many of his friends. The House passed a low
tariff measure, known as the Mills Bill, but it was not acted on by the Senate.
He was unanimously renominated at the Democratic Convention, which met at St.
Louis June 5, 1888, with Allen G. Thurman, of Ohio, for Vice-President, Mr.
Hendricks having died. The platform indorsed Mr. Cleveland's views on the
tariff. Benjamin Harrison, of Indiana, was the Republican candidate, and was
elected, with Levi P. Morton as Vice-President. The electoral vote stood:
Harrison, 233; Cleveland, 168. The popular vote was: Harrison, 5,444,053;
The tariff act known as "the McKinley Bill" was prepared and put through the
House. It provided for an average of higher duties than had ever been laid, but
also greatly increased the free list. In the Senate the bill met opposition,
where a bill to put Congressional and Presidential elections under Federal
control had aroused the Southern Democrats, who professed to see in it a return
of negro domination. By skilful manoeuvring Senator Quay made an arrangement by
which the election law was dropped and the tariff bill passed.
Foreign matters had a serious aspect during this administration. In New Orleans
an Italian society, known as the "Mafia," had long secured immunity from
punishment for crime by means of political influence. A number of particularly
foul murders had been committed and no one convicted. On March 14, 1891, a mob
gathered, broke open the jail, and shot down seven Italian prisoners who were
awaiting trial, and hanged two others. Italy at once demanded an apology and
reparation. Mr. Blaine replied that it was a matter for Louisiana and not the
United States to settle. The relations between the two countries became
strained. The Italian Minister went home, and ours left Rome. Eventually the
matter was healed over, $25,000 recompense given the families of the murdered
men, and friendly relations were restored.
A more serious incident was that with Chile. In 1891, during one of the
periodical revolutions, the existing government was overthrown. Our Minister
granted asylum to the deposed President, and he escaped the fate common in South
American revolutions. This greatly angered the successful revolutionists, who
soon took an opportunity to wreak their vengeance. The revolutionary steamer
Itata was seized by the United States, but sailed away suddenly. She was
followed, and surrendered at Iquique. This made matters worse. The United States
cruiser Baltimore lay in Valparaiso harbor and some of her crew (October 16th)
went ashore as usual. A mob collected and drove the blue jackets back to the
boats, killing two and wounding several. This was an insult not to be brooked.
President Harrison demanded an immediate apology and indemnity. Chile at first
was not disposed to agree to this, whereupon rapid preparations were made for
war. At this Chile backed down and made the reparation demanded, though not with
very good grace. The sum paid was $75,000. The body of the killed boatswain's
mate, Charles W. Riggin, was disinterred, taken to his home in Philadelphia, and
lay in state in Independence Hall, and was buried with military and popular
In 1889 Dom Pedro was driven from his throne as Emperor of Brazil and a republic
A dispute with Great Britain was submitted to arbitration. Claiming the sole
right to catch seals in Bering Sea, the United States government had seized some
Canadian vessels engaged in shooting seals on the high seas. Our contention was
that we owned the seals. The matter was decided against us, and we paid the
Various political and personal reasons explain the return of Mr. Cleveland to
power in 1892. The electoral vote was: Cleveland, 277; Harrison, 145. The
popular vote was: Cleveland, 5,556,562; Harrison, 5,162,874.
A modification of the McKinley tariff act was enacted, the President refusing to
sign the measure as altered by the Senate.
There was no partisan legislation during the rest of Cleveland's administration.
In both of his terms Mr. Cleveland largely extended the scope of the civil
service law, for which he was criticised by Republicans, who claimed that he
first allowed departments to be filled with Democrats. Much dissatisfaction also
was caused by the fact that the bonded indebtedness was increased $262,000,000.
Part of this was to pay expenses, but most of it to maintain gold payments
during the silver excitement. One contract made by the administration with a
Wall street syndicate for bonds at a low price which the latter sold at a high
price, caused great dissatisfaction. It was necessary, however, to get gold, as
the "endless chain" worked rapidly.
The important foreign episode of the administration was a controversy with Great
Britain over the Venezuela boundary. For many years there had been a dispute
between Great Britain and Venezuela as to the boundary line between the latter
and British Guiana. The matter came to a crisis when gold was found in the
disputed country. Great Britain finally laid down a line as its minimum boundary
and brought matters to a crisis by offering to arbitrate only over a small
amount of territory in dispute. In this situation, invoking the Monroe Doctrine,
Mr. Cleveland sent an ultimatum, with an implied threat of war, that the whole
subject must be arbitrated. The ultimatum admitted of no compromise, and was so
brusque that war seemed inevitable if Great Britain refused, as seemed likely,
to accede to our demands. She did accede, and the matter was submitted to
arbitration. The message to Congress, sent December 17, 1895, caused a small
panic in financial circles, as it was believed that war was inevitable.
Populism and free silver had much to do with the campaign of 1896. Mr. McKinley
was the Republican candidate. The Democratic Convention nominated William J.
Bryan, of Nebraska, a brilliant orator and former Congressman, who had hardly
been mentioned for the place, but who carried the Convention by storm in an
eloquent speech for free silver. Arthur Sewall, of Maine, a prominent ship-
builder and capitalist, got second honors. McKinley won in November, with Garret
A. Hobart, of New Jersey, as Vice-President. The electoral vote was: McKinley,
271; Bryan, 176. The popular vote was: McKinley, 7,107,822; Bryan, 6,288,866.
Esteeming the tariff question of prime necessity, an extra session of Congress
was called. Mr. Dingley prepared a new high protective measure, which passed
both houses after many amendments, and became a law in 1897. Manufactories once
more became busy, and a sudden rise in the price of wheat, due to an unusual
foreign demand, aided powerfully in restoring prosperity. In the year 1898 the
foreign trade balance was more than $600,000,000 in our favor, the domestic
trade was the greatest ever known, while railroads and other enterprises largely
increased their earnings.
Several conflicts with Indians had occurred subsequent to the Civil War. A
massacre of settlers in Minnesota was followed by severe punishment and the
tribes migrated to Dakota. In 1866 a two years' war broke out because of attacks
on gold-seekers who passed through the Sioux reservation. In 1876 the movement
against the Sioux resulted in the massacre of General Custer and his force of
two hundred and fifty cavalry. Other encounters have periodically occurred, but
the educational efforts with young Indians at the Carlisle school are having
excellent results and promise still better.
The unexampled prosperity of the country has been demonstrated to the world from
time to time, the first notable exhibition being that of 1876.
In the last year of Grant's term was held the exhibition at Philadelphia, to
celebrate the Centennial of American liberty. Philadelphia was selected because
the Declaration of Independence was signed there. It was by far the greatest
world's fair that had been held up to that time. The city set aside a large
portion of Fairmount Park for the purpose, and here were erected six large
buildings and hundreds of smaller ones. The expense was borne largely by local
enterprise, but the Government loaned $1,500,000, which was repaid. The total
expense was $8,500,000, part of which was defrayed by the city, and part by the
State. The rest was raised by subscription to stock in the enterprise, a portion
of which was repaid. The total number of visitors was just under 10,000,000, and
the largest on any one day was 274,919. The exposition was open from May 10 to
November 10, except Sundays, a total of 159 days. It was opened with appropriate
ceremonies by President Grant and Emperor Dom Pedro, of Brazil.
The exhibits came from all parts of the world, and for the first time in our
history our people had an opportunity to compare their own products with those
of other nations. The visitors likewise came from all over the world, and the
result was most gratifying. While it was discovered that in the useful arts,
particularly in machinery, our own country was in the lead, it was found that in
the decorative arts we were far in the rear. It is impossible to estimate the
effect of this exhibition upon the refinement and culture of the great masses of
the people. Heretofore most of our energies had been directed towards getting
the necessaries and comforts of life and developing our great resources; there
was a natural pride over our accomplishments in many walks of life that led us
to underestimate the rest of the world; but when the people beheld what the
older nations accomplished, their respect grew, and many valuable lessons were
learned. The decoration of houses has proceeded rapidly since that time, and the
uses of color have been extended. Our artists and artisans got new ideas, and
originality was stimulated so that our fabrics and artistic designs of all kinds
are in most cases equal to any in the world and very often far superior. It is
in teaching such lessons as these, and in educating those who have few
advantages of travel, that such exhibitions are of the highest value. Thirty-
eight foreign governments took part in the exhibition.
The great World's Fair was held at Chicago in 1893, celebrating the four
hundredth anniversary of the landing of Columbus. It was a magnificent advance
on the famous Centennial of 1876. Costing over $20,000,000, its ideal edifices
satisfied all standards of taste and beauty. Enormous buildings were erected,
but instead of being merely useful, the most elaborate pains were taken with
their architecture. The exterior was a white composition known as staff, being
principally plaster of paris, which looked like marble. The decorations, mural
and of statuary, were elaborate and artistic. The grounds were laid out with
lagoons, fountains, and all that landscape gardening could produce. The whole
was a veritable fairyland. At night the buildings and lagoons were lighted up by
electricity and the artistic effect was magnificent. The exhibits were complete
and comprehensive, showing all that the world could offer in the arts and
sciences. Foreigners were amazed at the display, and Americans no less. In the
seventeen years which had passed since the Centennial, progress had been
wonderful. Whereas in 1876 much of our showing contrasted poorly with foreign
exhibits, now the comparisons were almost all in our favor. The exhibition was
open six months, during which time there were 27,500,000 visitors, and total
receipts of over $33,000,000. The Government gave directly $1,500,000, besides
its own exhibit, and further aid by allowing the coinage of special designs of
subsidiary coin, which commanded a premium. One interesting feature of the Fair
was the Parliament of Religions, at which were gathered representatives of
nearly every known religious creed in the whole world.
The Charleston earthquake of August 31, 1888, was the most destructive known on
this continent. The damage, estimated at $10,000,000, was equalled by the terror
and sufferings of the people. A year later the Johnstown flood added its horrors
to the unusual list of vast disasters. The Conemaugh dam suddenly gave way, the
city and several villages were demolished in an hour, several thousands were
drowned or crushed to death, and the money loss was reckoned at many millions.
The hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas, Sept. 8, 1900, is said to have cost
seven thousand lives, and the property loss is inestimable in its magnitude.
Joseph M. Rogers