William L. Wilson and Tariff Reform, a Biography

By Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
Democracy at Low Ebb [1894]

ALTHOUGH WILSON came from the House battle both physically and mentally exhausted, he went to New York two days later to address the annual dinner of the Board of Trade. His reception dramatized the intensity of the hostility of businessmen toward the Wilson Bill. Not only was he heckled as he entered the banquet hall at the Waldorf, but his nonpartisan address was made the occasion of a turbulent demonstration. The New York Sun described the incident as follows:

When he entered the room a lusty-lunged chap cried at the top of his voice: "Cuckoo!" After Mr. Wilson had taken his seat the word "Cuckoo" was shouted from various parts of the room, and some of the guests cried: "Shut up!" and "For shame!" If any one was in doubt, however, how those merchants stood on the tariff question his uncertainty was completely dispelled before the dinner was over. Throughout the evening the word "Cuckoo" was frequently heard, but Mr. Wilson seemed not to hear it, or, at least, he gave no heed of it. . . .

Nearly all the business men who were present were opposed--vigorously and aggressively--to the tariff bill of which Professor Wilson is the father, and when Mr. Charles Emory Smith, who followed Professor Wilson, remarked that there were some present who differed with the last speaker, all joined vociferously in the applause. . . .

Gray-haired merchants, trades people, hotel keepers, and bankers jumped to their feet and shouted themselves hoarse, waving their napkins in the air and pounding the table with their fists. One of them at the guests' table jumped up, leaned forward, opened his mouth, and let out a terrific, voluminous yell that must have penetrated the walls of the hotel. There was not an iota of doubt that the Board of Trade hated the Wilson Tariff bill. 1

____________________
1
New York Sun, February 4, 5, 1894. Although the Sun apologized for the "boorishness" of the hecklers, the Washington Post denounced the discourtesy to Wilson in the strongest terms: "The business men of the United States are free to disapprove the Wilson bill--they would be singularly blind if they did not, but the business men of New York have no right to make Mr. Wilson their guest then insult him." ( Washington Post, February 6, 1894).

-187-

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