Recovery in 1898
In 1898 recovery was increasingly recognized as a reality. Never again was it such a subject for comment as when the significance of the wheat crop of 1897 first impressed itself upon the public mind. At the close of 1898 a major proof of the extent of recovery was that it was taken for granted. Also, the Spanish-American War had helped divert public attention away from economic affairs.
As the year 1897 ended, recovery had not been so widely apparent, particularly in the industrial East. 1 The cotton textile industry of New England, suffering severely from the new competition in the South, was especially depressed. 2 Business generally was still in a slump.
Perhaps the still rather dubious state of recovery caused President McKinley to tell the convention of the National Association of Manufacturers in January 1898:
The country is now emerging from trying conditions. It is only just beginning to recover from the depression in certain lines of business long continued and altogether unparalleled. Progress, therefore, will naturally be slow, but let us not be impatient. Rather let us exercise a just patience and one which in time will surely bring its own high reward. 3
He had spoken of recovery in even more general and veiled terms in his message to Congress of December 1897. Of the Dingley tariff McKinley had merely noted that "while its full effect has not yet been realized, what it has already accomplished assures us of its timeliness."4 His message was to a greater degree concerned with the problem of securing a stable currency. The president urged upon Congress a far-reaching currency reform plan outlined in the Annual Report of the new secretary of the Treasury, Lyman J. Gage. McKinley's attitude upon the question differed from the earnest, almost anguished, pleading of Cleveland: "If we are to have an