History of the United States
Volume IV


Chapter XXVII
Harrison and Cleveland

Benjamin Harrison, twenty-third President of the United States, was born at North Bend, Ohio, on the 20th of August, 1833, and was the son of John Scott Harrison, a prominent citizen of his native State; grandson of President William Henry Harrison; great-grandson of Benjamin Harrison, signer of the Declaration of Independence. In countries where attention is paid to honorable lineage, the circumstances of General Harrison's descent would be considered of much importance; but in America little attention is paid to one's ancestry, and more to himself.

Harrison's early life was passed as that of other American boys, in attendance at school, and at home duties on the farm. He was a student at the institution called Farmers' College, for two years. Afterwards, he attended Miami University, at Oxford, Ohio, and was graduated therefrom in June, 1852. He took in marriage the daughter of Dr. John W. Scott, President of the university. After a course of study, he entered the profession of law, removing to Indianapolis, and establishing himself in that city. With the outbreak of the war, he became a soldier of the Union, and rose to the rank of Brevet Brigadier-General of Volunteers. Before the close of the war, he was elected Reporter of the decisions of the Supreme Court of Indiana.

In the period following the Civil War, General Harrison rose to distinction as a civilian. In 1876, he was the unsuccessful candidate of the Republican party for Governor of Indiana. In 1881 he was elected to the United States Senate, where he won the reputation of a leader and statesman. In 1884, his name was prominently mentioned in connection with the Presidential nomination of his party, but Mr. Blaine was successful. After the lapse of four years, however, it was found at Chicago the General Harrison, more than any other, combined in himself all the elements of a successful candidate; and the event justified the choice of the party in making him the standard-bearer in the ensuing campaign.

General Harrison was, in accordance with the usages of the Government, inaugurated President on the 4th of March, 1889. He had succeeded better than any of his predecessors in keeping his own counsels during the interim between his election and the inauguration. No one had discerned his purposes, and all waited with interest the expressions of his inaugural address. In that document he set forth the policy which he should favor as the chief executive, recommending the same general measures which the Republican party had advocated during the canpaign.

On the day following the inaugural ceremonies, President Harrison sent in the nominations for his Cabinet officers, as follows: For Secretary of State, James G. Blaine, of Maine; for Secretary of the Treasury, William Windom, of Minnesota; for Secretary of War, Redfield Proctor, of Vermont; for Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin F. Tracy, of New York; for Postmaster-General, John Wanamaker, of Pennsylvania; for Secretary of the Interior, John W. Noble, of Missouri; for Attorney-General, William H. H. Miller, of Indiana; and for Secretary of Agriculture--the new department--Jeremiah Rusk, of Wisconsin. These appointments were immediately confirmed by the Senate, and the members of the new administration assumed their respective official duties.

The Harrison administration was marked by the admission of six new States--North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming. The Census of 1890 had shown the population of hte country to be over sixty-two and a half millions. The McKinley tariff bill, a highly protective measure, became a law in 1890. The bill was formulated by William McKinley, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the lower House, in which branch of Congress he had served several terms.

Several other important measures were enacted into law within this same year. One was the Dependent Pension law, very similar to the one that President Cleveland had vetoed. By this law all Union soldiers and sailors were entitled to draw pensions from the government if from any cause they were unable to earn a living, and the benefits were extended to their widows, childten, and dependent parents.

Another noted law of this year was the Sherman Anti-Trust Law to protect trade and commerce from monopolies and unlawful restraint. It is a curious fact that after this law had lain unused for many years, it began to be enforced, and some of the great court decisions of the present time are based on it. Three or four additional laws of more or less importance date from this year of 1890. Among them are the Sherman Silver Law, the Original Package Law, and the Anti-Lottery Law, excluding lottery tickets and circulars from the mails of the United States.

Three international questions of more or less gravity arose during this administration. One was a dispute, which threatened war for a time, between the United States and Germany, over the Samoan Islands, which lie between our western coast and Australia. War vessels of the two countries were menacing each other in Samoan waters when nature's interference, in the form of a destructive typhoon, dismantled and ruined the ships of both countries, which served to bring to an end all warlike proclivities. The difficulties were settled by arbitration, Germany conceding the demands of the United States.

The "Chilean Affair," a state of bad feeling, brought to a crisis by an altercation between some American sailors and native ruffians and policemen, almost precipitated the two governments into a state of war, which was averted by a complete and humble apology on the part of Chili and indemnity to injured American sailors. The last big matter of the Harrison administration related to the Hawaiian Islands, and the issue reached into three administrations, covering the period from 1893 to 1900. The little monarchy of hte Pacific Isles had for many years been under the dominant rule of a constitutional succession of native kings. The islands were rich and beautiful, but many of the inhabitants were white descendants from American and English stock. In January, 1893, the Queen, Liliuokalani, was deposed by an organized revolution, and a provisional government was set up, with Sanford P. Dole as President. A treaty of annexation was sent to Washington and met with general approval. President Harrison sent the treaty to the Senate, intending to indorse the favorable action of that body. Just before final action was taken President Cleveland came into office and immediately withdrew the treaty from the Senate and preemptorily estopped further action pending an investigation. In 1898, after the termination of Cleveland's administration, these islands were formally annexed and made a territory of the United States.

In 1892 Grover Cleveland was nominated for the presidency for the third time, after being once elected and once defeated, a record in American politics peculiar to Cleveland alone. Adlai E. Stevenson was named for Vice-President. The opposition ticket was Harrison and Whitelaw Reid. The Democrats carried the election by a large majority. By a great portion of his followers Cleveland was looked upon with great favor, almost as an idol. He was endowed with a strong personality, and during his former administration had evinced qualities of remarkable strength and pwoer as a statesman. So-called "practical politics" had no place in his public life, but he gave his extraordinary ability to the service of the whole country freely, courageously, and conscientiously. The main issue in this campaign was the McKinley tariff, thought the silver question was looming up in the political horizon soon to be grappled with. The tariff, however, with the consequent industrial unrest and distrubances, was the chief issue.

The beginning of hte second Cleveland administration was menaced with a panic, which broke during the year 1893 like a tidal wave over the whole country. It was charged by the party in power chiefly to two causes, the McKinely tariff and the Sherman Silver act. Believing the quickest relief would come by the repel of this vicious Silver law, which required the government to purchase four and a half millions of silver per month, to be paid for in gold, Cleveland called an extra session of Congress in August, 1893. The gold reserve had dropped below a hundred million, the accepted safety point, and the condition was alarming. It was believed that the repeal of this law would relieve the Treasury and the general condition of the country. It was November before the joint action of the Senate and House could be secured, but the panic ere this had the financial and industrial interests of the nation in its viselike grip and it was years before the country recovered. Business of all classes suffered incalculable loss. Mercantile houses, banks, and credit concerns went crashing down to ruin in all parts of the country. In the West drouth and crop failure intensified the distress, and railroads furnished free transportation for trainloads of supplies sent from sympathizing citizens of th East to their suffering brethren of the West.

The most important legislation during this administration in addition to the repeal of the Silver act was the Gorman-Wilson tariff bill, which was so unsatisfactory to President Cleveland that he allowed it to become a law without his signature. This act reduced the McKinley tariff considerably, but in no sense was it a free trade measure.

Outside of political and legislative matters American history records for the year 1893 a most remarkable industrial enterprise, the Columbian Exposition, or World's Fair, held in Chicago, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America. This event may have since been rivaled, if not surpassed, but up to that time this stupendous undertaking had not been approached. Constructed at a total cost of nearly forty million dollars, this magical "White City" grown in a night, with its magnificent halls and parks and lagoons, its streets and lawns and gardens, presented a scene of grandeur and beauty beyond the poet's most extravagant imagination of the celestial city. The results of the highest human attainments in art and science and invention, the industries and manufactures from every part of the globe, were gathered here and exhibited before the astonished gaze of the millions of visitors from every nation of the world. The greatness of the United States, as well as of Chicago, was a revelation to our foreign visitors.

In the spring of 1894 during a serious indusstrial disturbance in the Pullman car works at Chicago, President Cleveland took it upon himself to send Federal troops into the State of Illinois to quell the riots and protect the United States mails. This action was bitterly resented by Governor John P. Altgeld, and was severely criticised in other circles for a time, but the wisdom and celerity of action in dealing with this crisis by President Clevelnd have been generally commended as one of his strong acts in dealing with important national affairs.

For many years the United States and Great Britain had enjoyed peaceful relations in their international dealings, but occurrences arose, now and then, which clarly indicated that the English nation had not yet taken the proper measurement of the United States in her estimate of nations. It fell to Cleveland to put the British right on the matter for all time. In 1893 the Behring Sea dispute, which had been of several years' standing was finally settled by arbitration. Another dispute had arisen concerning Venezuela, which for a time seriously threatened war between the kindred nationas. Venezuela had repeatedly requested the British to agree to arbitration in fixing the boundary line with British Guiana, but without avail. The United States expressed its approval of that method of settlement. In 1895 the Secretary of State, Olney, made a demand upon the Premier of Great Britian, Lord Salisbury, that the Government of the United States, in conformity with the Monroe Doctrine, must insist upon orbitrating the matter in dispute. Salisbury haughtily refused to comply or to recognize the Monroe Doctrine. President Cleveland now did one of the things in his public life which mark him as a statesman of great courage and character, and which alone would give him a place in history. He at once sent a message to Congress proposing to investigate the matter independently, and, if it were disclosed that Venezuela had just grounds, to espouse her cause. This meant war with England, unless she receded from the stand taken by Salisbury. This is exactly what she did; the matter was satisfactorily arranged and the Monroe Doctrine vindicated. For a few days excitement ran high and the feeling was intense. Party prejudices were entirely forgotten and there was unanimity of sentiment in support of the dignified and firm stand taken by the President.

Cleveland was a man of sound judgment, of high principles, and strong convictions, but he was unhappy in his method of dealing with his political associates, and unfortunate in the chain of circumstances which fell upon the closing period of his last administration. Added to other things charged against him, it became necessary to make a bond issue of sixty-three million dollars, the necessity for which had become apparent before Cleveland assumed office. His second inauguration had been like the triumph of a national hero, but circumstances seemed to conspire to cast a shadow over his remarkable career. Upon relinquishing public office he retired to private life, making his home at Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived in happiness with his family for more than a decade, respected, honored, and loved by all who knew him.

The country was now to pass through the agitation of another presidential election. For nearly forty years, excepting the two terms of Cleveland, the affairs of the country had been in the hands of the Republican party. It represented almost half a century of national growth, and marvelous progress in wealth and population in the various States of the Union. The Western States had heretofore been given but slight attention in national elections, but now, like a young giant, the West had risen in its strength and must be reckoned with.

In the campaign of 1896 new issues arose other than the tariff, the old bone of contention, and chief among these was the money question. It was obvious that a large faction would favor free silver, and that the party so delcaring itself in national convention would receive this important vote. When the Republicans held their convention at St. Louis in June, 1896, they adopted the gold standard as a part of the party platform, and nominated William McKinley, of Ohio, the author of the McKinely tariff bill, as their candidate, and Garrett A. Hobart, of New Jersey, for Vice-President.

The Democrats met at Chicago in July, and after a stormy session, the silver faction from the West and South captured the convention and nominated William Jennings Bryan, of Nebraska, for President, and Arthur Sewell, of Maine, for second place. The paramount issue was declared to be the free coinage of silver on a parity with gold at a ratio of sixteen to one. Bryan was a surpise to his party and to the nation. His dramatic nomination was the result of his masterful eloquence. In a noted speech he won the convention with his opening words and held the vast audience to the close. Pandemonium then reigned in that great throng of twenty thousand excited, shouting, screaming men. They had found their leader.

The action of the Democrats brought to their support the silver factions of other parties. There was a considerable secession from the Republican party, headed by such able men as Senators Stuart, of Nevada, and Teller, of Colorado. The new Populist party, which had aborbed the People's party, unanimously flocked to Bryan. The conservative Democrats put into the field as an independent candidate, John M. Palmer, of Illinois, on the gold platform, the design being to draw the vote away from Bryan, which had been conspicuously recognized in Congress, his magnetic personality, and his matchless oratory were alarming to his foes. He entered into a campaign unique in the country's experience, visiting all important points throughout the land, being heard by millions. He was a man of faultless life, modest and charming in manner, clean and respectful in all his campaign utterances, though he was often misrepresented in the opposition press. Mr. McKinley conducted his campaign at his home in Canton, Ohio, delivering many addresses to delegations which came from all parts of the country. McKinley was a most estimable gentleman of the old school, of kindly disposition, high moral character, and large ability. Both of these distinguished men were of pronounced religious convictions. It was a clean and dignified and honest campaign on the part of the candidates, and entirely free from mudslinging and personalities. There was doubt as to the outcome, and great apprehension on the part of many who believed that victory for the Democrats would mean ruin for the country. All the force that could be brought to bear upon the employees of some large industrial interests was used to carry the election against free silver. The results showed McKinley to be elevted by 271 lectoral votes to Bryan's 176. McKinley received a majority of 600,000 of the popular vote out of a total of thirteen and a half million.

After the election apprehensions were allayed and business affairs began to assume a more normal condition. The panic, which had been intensified during the campaign by the mysteries of "High Finance," began to wane, and the following year crops were good and the country was fast approaching a normal condition. The marvelous gold fields of the Klondike were discovered, the fertile fields poured out their bounty, prices were high during most years, and the localities blasted by panic and famine were rehabilitated, doubling their population, and also the value of lands.

It had been necessary to make a bond issue at the close of Cleveland's administration to strengthen the depleted treasury. McKinley upon assuming office recognized the necessity of action to relieve the situation, and immediately called a special meeting of Congress to provide needed revenue. This meant a new tariff law. The result was the Dingley Tariff bill, which became effective in July, 1897, and was undisturbed for over ten years. Like the McKinley bill, it was a highly protective measure.


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