William L. Wilson and Tariff Reform, a Biography

By Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
A Campaign for a Principle [1892]

THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN OF 1892 was not only a campaign of measures rather than of men; it was so quiet and dignified that it gave to many a renewed confidence in the future of democratic government in America. With the tariff, free government, and the record of the "billion dollar Congress" as the main issues, the Democrats attacked all along the line of Hamiltonian ideology, while Republican leaders generally concentrated their fire on Democratic free trade and "wildcat" banking or busied themselves with the defense of Harrison's presidency and their policy of protection.1 As it will be seen, the unpopular McKinley Law had been made even more vulnerable by the tariff plank adopted by the Republican national convention that had been held at Minneapolis two weeks before the Democrats met at Chicago. And developments had conspired further to make Cleveland the Democratic candidate. Oddly enough, as he came in on the rising tide of radical tariff-reform sentiment, his opponents Arthur P. Gorman and David B. Hill were swept out to sea by a strong undertow of conservatism. According to Thomas F. Bayard, by their support of free silver Gorman and Hill had created the impression that not only wealth but the institution of private property would be unsafe in their hands; they had aroused the instinct of self-preservation so generally that the very people of competence and wealth they professed to represent felt compelled to turn to Cleveland's candidacy as the lesser of two evils.2

Cleveland had found a versatile field general in his former Secretary of the Navy, William C. Whitney of New York. A New York City traction magnate, a Wall Street millionaire, and an astute politician with

____________________
1
George Harman Knoles, The Presidential Campaign and Election of 1892, pp. 145, 211-13.
2
T.F. Bayard to Walter Q. Gresham, May 29, 1894, Gresham Papers.

-133-

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