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When Governor McKinley retired from the office of chief executive of the state of Ohio, in 1895, he returned to his home at Canton, there to live quietly. The great campaign of 1894 had brought him so close to the people, however, and so rilled them with confidence in his ability, that his name was soon mentioned everywhere throughout the land for the presidency. His modest home at Canton was filled with people seeking his advice, and with politicians who were planning events for the future.
There was a plethora of republican presidential timber in the country, but no name mentioned invoked the enthusiasm among the people that McKinley's did. Thomas B. Reed, of Maine, ex-speaker of the house, and one of the most prominent men in the party, not only because of his ability, but because of the notoriety acquired in his contest to dominate the democratic minority in the house, was a candidate. William B. Allison, United States Senator from Iowa, and a man of wide experience and great ability, had a following, and there were still those who asked that John Sherman, the old Roman from Ohio, be given a chance. Levi P. Morton, of New York, vice-president under Harrison, and Russell A. Alger, of Michigan, were also in the lists.
The conditions at that time were unusual. Not only was the tariff fight on again in all its intensity, but the democrats and a portion of the republicans had become imbued with the "silver craze" advocated by some of the leaders of both parties in the west. The doctrine that the people needed more money, and that more money meant higher prices of commodities, was preached widely. Before any effort was made by the Republicans to counteract this teaching, it had been spread all through the west and south by means of books and pamphlets. The silver mine owners wanted their silver coined, and their argument that this government could coin silver as freely as it did gold, without disturbing values, was a specious one, and caught the fancy of many people.
"Times were hard"—an old story, and any measure that promised relief was eagerly clutched at by those upon whom the burden of poverty rested. William McKinley had been before the people, not as a candidate for president, but as the ardent advocate of measures that intelligent persons thought more of national prosperity than of partisan politics. The quick-seeing people had heard and read of his plans for redeeming the country and casting off its burden of distress, "Hard Times," and this had brought the tide of public favor and endorsement. For weeks before the convention the republican public had been shouting McKinley, and in a tone that could not be ignored. The voice and the force of the people pressed hard upon the convention. The newspapers teemed with his praise, his face and record were constantly being presented; buttons bearing his portrait, and mottoes that epitomized his principles were seen everywhere, in city, town and country, and thousands who had been, theretofore, but little interested in politics became enthusiastic champions of the man from Ohio.
It was evident before the convention that a battle would have to be fought before any candidate was nominated. The "silver republicans," as they were called had determined to commit the party, if possible, to the free coinage of silver at the ratio of 16 to i. With the democrats, they had resurrected the cry of "the crime of '73," and were universally condemning the repeal of the Sherman act, which stopped the purchase of silver by the government.
The convention was held in St. Louis, Tuesday, June 16, 1896, the .gathering place being a huge auditorium, capable of seating many thousands of people. Hon. Thomas Henry Carter, chairman of the republican national committee, called the convention to order about 12:30 o'clock.
For the first time in the history of national conventions, the opening prayer was made by an Israelite, in the person of Rabbi Samuel Sale, pastor of the Shaare Emeth congregation. His invocation was devout, and, at its close, the secretary read the call issued by the national committee for the convention. Chairman Carter then presented the name of Hon. Charles W. Fairbanks of Indiana as temporary chairman. No voice was raised in opposition, and the tall, slender man, with closecropped beard and mustache, came forward and delivered an address that was frequently interrupted by applause. It was an arraignment of the democratic administration for its many shortcomings, and an argument that the prosperity of the country at large could be secured only by the adoption of the principles of the republican party. Sound currency, protection, sympathy for Cuba, and the certainty that the candidates about to be named would be the next president and vice-president of the United States, were the principal features of Chairman Fairbanks' speech, which was received with many expressions of approval. At its conclusion the necessary officials of the convention were appointed, the members of the various committees announced, and, after a session of less than two hours, an adjournment was had to 10 o'clock Wednesday.
Between the adjournment and the coming together on the morrow, much effective work was done. While the sentiment of the delegates was overwhelmingly in favor of "sound currency," or the single gold standard, there was a diversity of opinion in many quarters as to whether the word "gold" should be used in the platform. A considerable number thought the latter was sufficiently explicit without the word, but the insistence of others compelled a yielding of the point: it was decided that the all-potent word should appear. Since adjournment Mr. Hanna has asserted that the gold plank was agreed upon by him or his associates before the arrival of the delegates from the East, who were popularly credited with the formulation of the clause in question.
The convention reassembled at a quarter to eleven on Wednesday, and was opened with prayer by Rev. Dr. W. G. Williams, after which the real work began. The report of the committee on permanent organization presented the name of Senator J. N. Thurston, of Nebraska, as chairman, made the secretaries, sergeant-at-arms and other temporary officers permanent officers of the convention, and gave a list of vicepresidents, consisting of one from each state.
Awaiting the report of the committee on credentials the convention adjourned until 2 o'clock, and at 3 that afternoon Chairman Thurston called the body to order. Bishop Arnet of Ohio offered the opening prayer and Mr. M. B. Madden of Chicago presented to the chairman a gavel made from timber of a house in which Abraham Lincoln once lived. Another gavel, carved from the homestead of Henry Clay. ''The Father of Protection." was also presented.
The committee on credentials then presented majority and minority reports, the former of which favored the seating of the Higgins delegates and those at large from Delaware as against the Addicks dele gates, and the seating of the list of Texas delegates, which was headed by John Grant. After a warm discussion the majority report was adopted by the vote of 545^2 to 359^'- This vote was considered a test one between McKinley and his opponents and removed all doubts of the invincibility of the Ohio man.
The full committee on resolutions met at the Lindell Hotel in the evening and went into secret session. The proposed platform was read by paragraphs, the agreement being that each paragraph should be voted on separately. There was unanimous accord upon the tariff plank and the sugar plank was accepted. A strong declaration was formulated for a protective duty on wools and woolens and a demand made for the protection of American shipbuilding and the development of American commerce.
When the financial plank was reached Senator Teller of Colorado presented a minority report which declared in favor of thev free and unlimited coinage of silver at the ratio of 16 to i. Mr. Teller, with deep emotion, declared that the time had come when, if the single gold standard was adopted, he should be compelled to leave the party with which he had been associated for thirty-five years. There was much sympathy felt for this able leader, whose association with the republican party had earned for him the respect of political foes as well as friends. Mr. Cannon of Utah was hardly less agitated when he announced a decision similar to that of Teller, and Mr. Dubois of Idaho declared that, much as he regretted the step, he would follow Messrs. Teller and Cannon. Then, after earnest argument, Mr. Hartman of Montana said that he never would support a candidate upon the proposed platform.
The substitute of Senator Teller received ten votes, which included the delegates from Colorado, California, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina and New Mexico. The substitute was defeated by forty-one votes. After further discussion, the gold plank, as it appears in the platform, was adopted by a vote of yeas, 40, nays II, the member from Oklahoma having joined the silver men.
The convention came together on Thursday morning, only five minutes late, with all of the delegates in their seats, and the galleries packed to suffocation, many ladies being among the spectators. Rev. John R. Scott of Florida, a negro, opened with a brief and appropriate prayer.
The first order of business was the reception of the report of the committee on resolutions. Senator-elect Foraker of Ohio was cheered as he advanced to the platform and said: "As chairman of the committee on resolutions, I have the honor to report as follows:"
He then read the platform in a clear, ringing voice and with distinct enunciation. He emphasized the endorsement of President Harrison, and was applauded, and when, in a loud voice and with impressive manner, he declared: "The republican party is unreservedly for sound money," the applause was greater than ever, it rising to a still more enthusiastic pitch when the pledge to promote international agreement for free coinage of silver was read. Mr. Foraker was compelled to stop reading and the applause continued so long that the chairman rapped repeatedly for order.
The demand for American control of the Hawaiian Islands was warmly approved, but the convention remained mum over the proposed building of the Nicaragua canal by the United States and the purchase of the Danish Islands for a naval station. If any enthusiasm was felt' in that direction it did not manifest itself. But the sympathy of the people found ardent expression when the Cuban paragraph was read, dropping again to zero over the civil service plank. The negro delegates applauded noisily the demand for a free ballot and the condemnation of lynching.
It took twenty-five minutes for the reading of the platform, during which the convention gave close attention, breaking out again into cheers at the close. When the tumult had subsided, Mr.-Foraker moved the adoption of the report as the national platform for 1896.
As Mr. Foraker reached the closing paragraph of the report Senator Teller left his place with the Colorado delegation and took his seat on the platform. He was recognized by the chairman and sent to the secretary's desk and had read the following minority report: "We, the undersigned members of the' committee on resolutions, being unable to agree with that part of the majority report which treats of the subjects of coinage and finance, respectfully submit the following paragraph as a substitute therefor:
"The republican party favors the use of both gold and silver as equal standard money, and pledges its power to secure the free, unrestricted and independent coinage of gold and silver at our mints at the ratio of 16 part of silver to 1 of gold."
Senator Teller then advanced to the front of the platform to utter his "farewell." The universal respect felt for him was shown by the cordial greeting of the twelve thousand people, who saw that the distinguished gentleman was almost overcome with emotion. It may be doubted whether there was one in that immense assemblage who did not feel a sincere sympathy for the man who was taking the most painful step of his public career.
He asserted that we might as well have two flags in the nation, if the present money system is to be maintained, for the reason that two flags are not more important than this all-absorbing question of gold and silver money. He declared that he was not actuated by the fact that Colorado is a silver-producing state, but he had come to the earnest conclusion, after twenty years of study, that bimetallism is the only safe money doctrine for the United States and all other countries.
Senator Teller insisted that a protective tariff could not be maintained on a gold standard, and then, with uplifted hands, declared: "When God Almighty made these two metals, He intended them for use as money."
The senator said that the years of study which he had devoted to