William L. Wilson and Tariff Reform, a Biography

By Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER VII
Spokesman of Free Government [1889-1890]

As BENJAMIN HARRISON'S term got under way, Republican leaders made it clear that the Republican party had relented nothing of the policy of economic nationalism it had followed since the Civil War. "The danger in a free country," declared Thomas B. Reed, soon to be Speaker of the House, "is not that power will be exercised too freely, but that it will be exercised too sparingly."1 In an article entitled "Are the Republicans in to Stay?,SenatorGeorge F. Hoar, of Massachusetts, declared that the temper of the Republican party"leads it to be always on the lookout for new legislation, new improvements, and to use the vast legislative forces of the country in all constitutional and practical ways in aid of its material and moral progress and welfare." The Republican party, he boasted, was on "the growing side of political issues"; it had positive policies; it was the party that stood for something. As the capitalist knew where to look for security to his property, so did the laborer for good wages, and the patriot for the safety and honor of his country. In the new society which the party of Hamilton was building, he asserted, "the Free-trader will forget his theory, and the scholar his dream."2 If the protective tariff was not the key to Republican policy, certainly it exemplified some of its challenging manifestations--centralization of power, paternalistic government, strong government by the few, and the subsidization of acquisitiveness, which Cleveland was so bluntly to term "the communism of pelf."

Having already become the "scholar in politics" on the Democratic side of the House of Representatives, Wilson was now to become the intellectual spokesman of the reform Democracy in the contest which

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1
Thomas B. Reed, "Rules of the House of Representatives," Century Magazine, XV ( March, 1889), 795.
2
George F. Hoar, "Are the Republicans in to Stay?" North American Review, CXLIX ( November, 1889), 616-24.

-93-

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