Politics, Reform, and Expansion, 1890-1900

By Harold U. Faulkner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Billion-Dollar Politics

ON NOVEMBER 6, 1888, the American people went to the polls to decide whether Grover Cleveland or Benjamin Harrison should be entitled to occupy the White House during the next four years. The result was curious; an observer not familiar with the American democratic process would have found it thoroughly baffling. When the votes were counted it was discovered that Cleveland had received a bare plurality--5,540,050 votes to Harrison's 5,444,337. About 100,000 more American citizens preferred Cleveland than preferred Harrison. Yet Harrison, strangely enough, was declared to be the new President because his votes, as it happened, were cast in places like Binghamton, New York, or Terre Haute, Indiana, instead of in Atlanta, Nashville, or Baton Rouge. Victory in certain populous states of the North, and particularly in New York and Indiana, gave Harrison an electoral total of 233 to a mere 168 for Cleveland. The strangest thing of all was that nobody questioned the justice of a system which could produce such a bizarre triumph of geography over numbers. Nobody proposed overthrowing it by force.

Many Democrats did protest that Harrison owed his victory in New York to illegal means; his managers, they said, had traded the state government to Tammany in return for Democratic support in the presidential election. They also called attention to wholesale bribery in Indiana. Many people did not find it difficult to believe these charges, although they were never conclusively proved; but in the end everybody acquiesced cheerfully enough in the decision of the minority.1

____________________
1
Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer, A History of the United States since the Civil War ( 5 vols., New York, 1917- 1937), V, 71-73. Cleveland himself did not believe the charges of corruption in New York; he said in 1906 that he had no

-94-

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Politics, Reform, and Expansion, 1890-1900
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Editors' Introduction ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Chapter 1 - The Restless Decade 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Revolt of the Cities 23
  • Chapter 3 - The Decline of Agriculture 48
  • Chapter 4 - Progress and Poverty 72
  • Chapter 5 - Billion-Dollar Politics 94
  • Chapter 6 - The Election of 1892 119
  • Chapter 7 - Depression, Bonds, and Tariffs 141
  • Chapter 8 - 1894 163
  • Chapter 9 - The Bryan Campaign 187
  • Chapter 10 - The Drums of War 212
  • Chapter II - The War with Spain 235
  • Chapter 12 - End of a Decade 260
  • Bibliography 281
  • Index 305
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