William L. Wilson and Tariff Reform, a Biography

By Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
The Last Battle [1896]

WILSON'S APPOINTMENT as postmaster general had all the appearance of a move on the political checkerboard, his elevation to the Cabinet being commonly interpreted as giving notice that the Cleveland administration--still smarting from the stinging defeat of 1894--would revive its tariff policy and name a tariff-reform candidate in 1896. Indeed, along with other cabinet names, Wilson's frequently appeared in headlines as a real contender for the Democratic nomination. James Bryce once told a Washington correspondent that of his acquaintances among Cleveland men, Wilson best of all fitted his notion of presidential timber.1 His qualifications included geographical availability and he was one of the few Cleveland men better known as a statesman than as a politician. Wilson momentarily loomed as a presidential possibility in the summer of 1895 when John Sherman declared before the Ohio Republican state convention that the tariff would be the issue of 1896 and that McKinley would be the Republican candidate. In a presidential contest, he and Wilson would have been logical opponents. They had been born in neighboring states in 1843; both were college men, even belonging to the same fraternity; both had taught school; they had fought on opposite sides in the Civil War; both had served in the House of Representatives over a long period, and each, having been chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, had his name attached to a tariff bill.

Wilson had many friends who were prepared to press his candidacy. Charles R. Miller of the New York Times, who had rejected Carlisle because of the latter's alleged sugar trust connections, professed strong enthusiasm for Wilson and agreed to publish a trial article on his candidacy;2 Joseph Pulitzer settled early on Wilson for President, wrote

____________________
1
Matthew Page Andrews to author, July 15, 1939.
2
Isidor Straus to Clifton R. Breckinridge, September 27, 1895, Straus Papers.

-238-

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