THE REIGN OF KING CORN
THE hopes of the Radical Republicans after their spec. tacular triumph in 1872 for a long-continued lease of power were destined to be rudely shattered. They suffered a crushing defeat at the congressional elections of 1874, and during the next twenty-two years, as has been pointed out, there were only four during which the Republican party controlled all branches of the federal government. The Republicans did not poll a clear majority of the popular vote at any one of the presidential elections. They were strong enough to prevent the Democrats from dominating the government at Washington until the election of 1892, but they were not able to dominate it themselves. What were the causes of this surprising reversal of fortune, when the road to power seemed at last to have been cleared?
The explanation of the first defeat in 1874 is simple enough. The country suffered a severe commercial crisis in the preceding autumn, and the panic and ensuing depression irritated all classes of people. It alienated enough of the Republican majority from the party in power to put it temporarily in a minority. That is almost always the effect of a severe economic convulsion. The causes of such phenomena are not yet perfectly understood by the economists and in the nineteenth century were admittedly obscure. The politicians certainly did not understand them, and were helpless to effect a cure or even prevent a return of the malady, after one attack had passed. But human