William L. Wilson and Tariff Reform, a Biography

By Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
Farewell to Reform [1894]

EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND NINETY-FOUR was the darkest year of the depression, the year of "those elements of dynamic discontent" which, as Harry Thurston Peck wrote, "loomed upon the political horizon with the black and sullen menace of a swelling thunder-cloud."1 It was the year of deepest misery for the farmer, the laboring man, the merchant, and the manufacturer; the year which sent General Coxey on his way to Washington, and witnessed the Pullman Strike debacle and the summary suppression of Debs and Altgeld. With the plight of the country attributed by protectionists to that "spasm of economic experimentalism" called tariff reform, it was inevitable that the Democratic party must answer to the opposition for conditions for which it was only doubtfully responsible. In May 1894, the indomitable Republican George F. Hoar remarked with characteristic reference:

Congress came together the 7th of August. It has had fourteen months of administration and eight months for legislation. In this brief period Democratic statesmanship and the dread of Democratic statesmanship have had their full effect. The workman has left the mill for the highway. The farmer and the merchant and the manufacturer are alike unemployed. The statesmanship that lighted the furnaces has been succeeded by the statesmanship that builds soup houses. The sturdy demand of organized labor, proud, defiant, and hopeful, demanding better wages, and more leisure, and better opportunity, has given place to the whine of the mendicant or the sneaking footstep of the thief. The furnace fire goes out, the incendiary fire is lighted. The hum of the factory is succeeded by the humbug of the Democratic platform. Rebellion, disunion, slavery, baffled, discomfited, trampled down, come into power once more, and seek to revenge themselves and take vengeance on the victorious patriotism of the country by a stab at the country's prosperity. 2

____________________
1
Reprinted by permission of Dodd, Mead & Company from Barnes, John G. Carlisle: Financial Statesman, p. 320, Copyright, 1931.
2
Congressional Record, 53d Cong., 2d Sess., pp. 4474-75; London Times, October 4, 1894.

-209-

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