History of the United States eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 731 pages of information about History of the United States.
heavy taxes, now spoke cautiously on all these points.  The Republicans, conscious of the fact that they had been a minority of the voters in 1860 and warned by the early loss of the House of Representatives in 1874, also moved with considerable prudence among the perplexing problems of the day.  Again and again the votes in Congress showed that no clear line separated all the Democrats from all the Republicans.  There were Republicans who favored tariff reductions and “cheap money.”  There were Democrats who looked with partiality upon high protection or with indulgence upon the contraction of the currency.  Only on matters relating to the coercion of the South was the division between the parties fairly definite; this could be readily accounted for on practical as well as sentimental grounds.

After all, the vague criticisms and proposals that found their way into the political platforms did but reflect the confusion of mind prevailing in the country.  The fact that, out of the eighteen years between 1875 and 1893, the Democrats held the House of Representatives for fourteen years while the Republicans had every President but one showed that the voters, like the politicians, were in a state of indecision.  Hayes had a Democratic House during his entire term and a Democratic Senate for two years of the four.  Cleveland was confronted by a belligerent Republican majority in the Senate during his first administration; and at the same time was supported by a Democratic majority in the House.  Harrison was sustained by continuous Republican successes in Senatorial elections; but in the House he had the barest majority from 1889 to 1891 and lost that altogether at the election held in the middle of his term.  The opinion of the country was evidently unsettled and fluctuating.  It was still distracted by memories of the dead past and uncertain as to the trend of the future.

THE CURRENCY QUESTION

Nevertheless these years of muddled politics and nebulous issues proved to be a period in which social forces were gathering for the great campaign of 1896.  Except for three new features—­the railways, the trusts, and the trade unions—­the subjects of debate among the people were the same as those that had engaged their attention since the foundation of the republic:  the currency, the national debt, banking, the tariff, and taxation.

=Debtors and the Fall in Prices.=—­For many reasons the currency question occupied the center of interest.  As of old, the farmers and planters of the West and South were heavily in debt to the East for borrowed money secured by farm mortgages; and they counted upon the sale of cotton, corn, wheat, and hogs to meet interest and principal when due.  During the war, the Western farmers had been able to dispose of their produce at high prices and thus discharge their debts with comparative ease; but after the war prices declined.  Wheat that sold at two dollars

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History of the United States from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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