Page images
PDF
EPUB

MY CONNECTION WITH SILVER QUESTION BEGINS.

75

As soon as I saw this bill I concluded that the next move of the opponents of free coinage would be to secure the unconditional repeal of the Sherman law, thus leaving no provision for an increase in silver coinage. Taking a copy of the bill with me throughout my District I pointed out the probable attempt which would be made and pledged myself to resist it to the extent of my ability. My fears proved well founded, since it was only a little more than a year afterward that Mr. Wilson introduced the Administration bill for unconditional repeal at the opening of the extraordinary session of the Fifty-third Congress. His bill will also be found in the speech above referred to.

From a comparison of these two bills it is evident that they come from the same source; they were identical in purpose and almost identical in language.

I did not go out of my District during the campaign of 1892 and took no further part in the discussion of the silver question until the matter came up in the House of Representatives during the closing days of the second session of the Fifty-second Congress.

CHAPTER II.

UNCONDITIONAL REPEAL.

N February 9th, 1893, the House having under consideration the following resolution:

Resolved, That immediately upon the adoption of this resolution the House proceed to consider H. R. 10143, "A bill to increase the circulation of national banks and for other purposes," and if such bill shall not be disposed of on said day, then the consideration thereof shall be continued during the next legislative day.

I made my first speech against unconditional repeal. It is given below:

First Speech Against Unconditional Repeal.

Mr. Speaker: We oppose the consideration of this bill because we oppose the bill, and we oppose the cloture which is asked in order to secure its passage, because the Democratic party dare not go before the people and tell them they refused cloture for free coinage-which is consistent with the history of the party; for the tariff bills which we promised to pass, and for the bill for the election of United States Senators by the people, and only yielded to it at the dictation of the moneyed institutions of this country and those who want to appreciate the value of a dollar.

I call attention to the fact that there is not in this bill a single line or sentence which is not opposed to the whole history of the Democratic party. We have opposed the principle of the national bank on all occasions, and yet you give them by this bill an increased currency of $15,000,000. You have pledged the party to reduce the taxation upon the people, and yet, before you attempt to lighten this burden, you seek to take off one-half million of dollars annually from the national banks of the country; and even after declaring in your national platform that the Sherman act was a "cowardly makeshift," you attempt to take away the "makeshift" before you give us the real thing for which the makeshift was substituted.

What is a makeshift? It is a temporary expedient. And yet you tell us you will take away our temporary expedient before you give us the permanent good. You tell a man who is fighting with a club that it is a miserable makeshift and that he ought to have a repeating rifle; and yet you tell him to throw away his club and wait until his enemy gives him the rifle. We do not like the present law. It did not come from us. The Sherman law is the child of the opponents of free coinage. But they have given it to us, and we will hold it as a hostage until they return to us our own child, "the gold and silver coinage of the Constitution." They kidnaped it twenty years ago, and we shall hold their child, ugly and deformed as it is, until they bring ours back or give us something better than the makeshift which we now have.

Mr. Speaker, consider the effect of this bill. It means that by suspending the purchase of silver we will throw 54,000,000 ounces on the market annually

and reduce the price of silver bullion. It means that we will widen the difference between the coinage and bullion value of silver, and raise a greater obstacle in the way of bimetallism. It means to increase by billions of dollars the debts of our people. It means a reduction in the price of our wheat and our cotton. You have garbled the platform of the Democratic party. You have taken up one clause of it and refuse to give us a fulfillment of the other and more important clause, which demands that gold and silver shall be coined on equal terms without charge for mintage.

Mr. Speaker, this cannot be done. A man who murders another shortens by a few brief years the life of a human being; but he who votes to increase the burden of debts upon the people of the United States assumes a graver responsibility. If we who represent them consent to rob our people, the cotton-growers of the South and the wheat-growers of the West, we will be criminals whose guilt cannot be measured by words, for we will bring distress and disaster to our people. In many cases such a vote would simply be a summons to the sheriff to take possession of their property.

This was the first effort made to secure unconditional repeal, and there was coupled with it a proposition to allow banks to issue notes up to the par value of their bonds and to reduce the tax on circulation. It is significant that in recent years the effort to degrade silver has gone hand in hand with the effort to increase the control of national banks over the issue of paper money.

A little later in the same month, February 27th, an effort was made to secure authority for the issue of short time, low rate bonds. This I believed to be a part of the general plan to secure a legislative declaration favorable to gold and I therefore opposed the measure.

From what had already taken place I felt sure that the great contest over the money question was approaching and after the adjournment of Congress devoted myself to preparation for it. I was not surprised, therefore, when the President called Congress together in extraordinary session on the 7th day of August, 1893. Mr. Wilson of West Virginia, chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, introduced the Administration measure, to which I have heretofore referred, and the great parliamentary struggle began. I then asserted, and still believe, that the debate over the repeal bill was the most important economic discussion which ever took place in our Congress. On the 16th day of August, 1893, near the close of the debate, I delivered the following argument in opposition to unconditional repeal.

Principal Speech Against Unconditional Repeal.

The House having under consideration the bill (H. R. 1) to repeal the purchasing clause of the Sherman act.

Mr. Speaker: I shall accomplish my full purpose if I am able to impress upon the members of the House the far-reaching consequences which

may follow our action and quicken their appreciation of the grave responsibility which presses upon us. Historians tell us that the victory of Charles Martel at Tours determined the history of all Europe for centuries. It was a contest "between the Crescent and the Cross," and when, on that fateful day, the Frankish prince drove back the followers of Abderrahman he rescued the West from "the all-destroying grasp of Islam," and saved to Europe its Christian civilization. A greater than Tours is here! In my humble judgment the vote of this House on the subject under consideration may bring to the people of the West and South, to the people of the United States, and to all mankind, weal or woe beyond the power of language to describe or imagination to conceive.

In the princely palace and in the humblest hamlet; by the financier and by the poorest toiler; here, in Europe and everywhere, the proceedings of this Congress, upon this problem will be read and studied; and as our actions bless or blight we shall be commended or condemned. The President of the United States, in the discharge of his duty as he sees it, has sent to Congress a message calling attention to the present financial situation, and recommending the unconditional repeal of the Sherman law as the only means of securing immediate relief. Some outside of this hall have insisted that the President's recommendation imposes upon Democratic members an obligation, as it were, to carry out his wishes, and over-zealous friends have even suggested that opposition to his views might subject the hardy dissenter to administrative displeasure. They do the President great injustice who presume that he would forget for a moment the independence of the two branches of Congress. He would not be worthy of our admiration or even respect if he demanded a homage which would violate the primary principles of free representative govern

ment.

Let his own language rebuke those who would disregard their pledges to their own people in order to display a false fealty. In the message which he sent to Congress in December, 1885, he said, in words which may well be our guide in this great crisis: "The zealous watchfulness of our constituencies, great and small, supplements their suffrages, and before the tribunal they establish every public servant should be judged." Among the many grand truths expressed felicitously by the President during his public career none show a truer conception of official duty or describe with more clearness the body from which the member receives his authority and to which he owes his responsibility.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, it is before the tribunal established by our constituencies, and before that tribunal only that we must appear for judgment upon our actions here. When we each accepted a commission from 180,000 people we pledged ourselves to protect their rights from invasion and to reflect their wishes to the best of our ability, and we must stand defenseless before the bar if our only excuse is "he recommended it." And remember, sir, that these constituencies include not bankers, brokers, and boards of trade only, but embrace people in every station and condition of life; and in that great court from whose decision there is no appeal every voter has an equal voice. That the Democratic party understands the duty of the Representative, is evident from the fact that it found it necessary to nonconcur in a similar recommendation made by the President in 1885.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »