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The Great Speech of Senator J. N. Thurston at the St. Louis
Convention, June 17, 1896.
THE NATION'S MAN. Who can best lead the republican party back to power-grandly, triumphantly back to power?
We have in mind one man who combines all the qualities of American greatness; who has gathered renown upon every field of American achievement; who wears upon his breast the cross of valor, won in the forefront of his country's battles, and on his brow the laurel of many victories earned in the arena of national statesmanship. This man has so far outgrown the environments of state and locality that he stands the acknowledged representative of every section of the Union; he has so long and so ably championed the American protective system that he is today the one accredited representative and accepted spokesman of our toiling masses. His public service has been continuous, diversified and splendidly successful; while his home life, wherein is typified the truest character of the man, is an epic poem of domestic devotion.
And this man upon whose burnished shield malice can find no blemish and slander place no stain; this man, whose whole life has been consecrated to his God, his country and his home; this man whose intense loyalty and devotion to American interests make him the ideal leader for a supreme hour; this man of the people, this uncompromising friend of those who toil, a soldier, a statesman, patriot, without fear and without reproach, our candidate for the presidency of the United States, is William McKinley.
Who is William McKinley? A soldier of the republic, a boy volunteer, knighted by his country's commission for conspicuous gallantry on desperate fields. When Sheridan, summoned by the rising roar of doubtful battle, rode madly down from Winchester and drew nigh to the shattered and retreating columns of his army, the first man he met to know was a young lieutenant, engaged in the heroic task of rallying and reforming the Union lines, ready for the coming of the master, whose presence and genius alone could wrest victory from defeat. That young lieutenant was a private in 1861, a major in 1866. The years that others gave to educational pursuits he gave to his country. His Alma Mater was the tented field. He graduated in a class of heroes. His diploma bears the same signature as does the emancipation proclamation.
This is a good time for a soldier candidate, for one whose experience in war has been supplemented by more than a quarter of a century of diversified service and success in the affairs of state. A few more years and the youngest participant in the war of the rebellion will have passed from active life, and all too soon the last survivor will cease to bless us with his living presence. This is perhaps our only remaining opportunity to nominate for the presidency a man who combines the distinguished qualities of proven valor and ripe statesmanship.
There are other, graver reasons why a soldier should head the ticket. We are at peace with all the world, and yet within the last few days prophetic ears have almost heard the clash of resounding arms. This country may be confronted during the next administration with the gravest international complications. Foreign greed for dominion and territorial extension may hold much of menace to our honor and our peace.
The Monroe doctrine may never be accepted as international law except through the arbitrament of arms. The people of this country are looking anxiously and seriously to the future. Nothing can so certainly relieve their anxiety; nothing can so thoroughly satisfy them that peace, with hanor, will be preserved as the election to the presidency of a man who is not only a successful statesman, but who was also a successful soldier. They knew that the lieutenant who held the wavering lines for Sherman in the Valley of the Shenandoah will hold the honor of his country as paramount to all other considerations, and that under his administration no American principle will ever be surrendered to any foreign demand.
But the history of McKinley is not all of war. For two decades he served his country as a representative in the congress of the United States, rising to no sudden prominence, attempting no eagle fight, but mounting gradually and steadily, year after year, until he became the recognized leader upon its floor. As chairman of its most important committee he formulated, championed and pressed to passage the most perfect protective tariff act ever framed, under the beneficent operation of which this country reached its greatest prosperity, and with whose repeal came its most terrible industrial and commercial disaster.
The McKinley tariff of 1890 has been criticised and maligned, but under it there was no deficit in our revenues; there was no dissipation of the gold reserve; there was no panic, no business depression, no millions of unemployed. On the contrary, stimulated by its protective provisions, every industry in the country grew apace. While it remained upon our statute books there were more factories in operation, more men at labor, more money in circulation, more wages paid, more business activity and more universal and diversified prosperity than in any other period of the nation's life. The republican party may not stand for the precise re-enactment of every schedule of the McKinley act, but it does stand, and it must stand, by the broad principle of protection, so splendidly exemplified therein.
It has been said that the McKinley tariff was repudiated by the people in 1890 and 1892, but the phenomenal republican victories of 1894 and 1895 can be attributed to no other cause than their readoption of the protective features of that act. Its repeal was attended by all the disasters which its author has so vividly predicted, and the people have been educated on the tariff question since 1892. The demand for the reenactment of a protective tariff has made a republican camp of every labor community in the United States; and the men, whose votes have swung the pendulum of majorities back and forth, are today the men whose voices are uplifted and whose hearts are throbbing for the nomination of William McKinley.
What does the name of William McKinley not mean to the men of toil? It means a higher-priced dinner pail, but it means a dinner pail abundantly filled and proudly carried by each sturdy toiler of the land, in whose brawny hand it is the badge of America's truest nobility.
What does the name of McKinley not mean to the vast army of the unemployed, to the deserted factories and workshops? What does it not mean to the farmers of the United States ? They at last understand that the decline in the price of every American agricultural product kept pace with the downfall of American manufacturers and the attendant decrease in the earnings of the labor classes.
No other man, no other name can arouse such enthusiasm in all parts of our country. He is the logical candidate of New England, for he has proven himself the stalwart friend of all her vast enterprises and interests. He is the logical candidate of the mighty West, which looks to him, and to the policies which his candidacy would represent, to stay that steady current of depreciation in all their products which set in so strongly from the very hour of the repeal of the McKinley act. He is the logical candidate of the new South, that section which is breaking away from the traditions and limitations of the past; that new South which stands ready, under protective legislation, for such a new development of resources and such a phenomenal industrial activity, as will contest for supremacy with those of the richest and most highly developed portions of the Union.
Who is opposed to the nomination of William McKinley? We do not question the sincerity or patriotism of the followers of other great party leaders, but there may be some whose local pride in local candidates blinds them to the overwhelming demand of the republican masses; there may be some whose desire makes 'them indifferent to the welfare of the people; there may be some whose lust for patronage is greater than their love of country.
Let all such take heed. Politicians have defeated the popular will in more than one national convention, but this time the tide is too strong, the demand toc great, the enthusiasm too spontaneous to be ignored.
William McKinley has not a personal enemy in the United States. Every man who served with him in all his congressional life grew not only to respect and honor him for his private and public worth, for his sincere convictions and his courageous, consistent and patriotic course, but each and all held for him a measure of affection greater than the love of friends. No man has ever been called upon to apologize for anything he ever did, for any word he ever spoke. His record is as white and clean as the driven snow. The sincerity of his convictions has never been questioned even by political foes, and the courage and eloquence with which he has advocated and maintained them have won for him the admiration of all mankind.
He has addressed the people in every section of the country, and his words have carried greater conviction and secured more converts to republican principles than those of any other living man. His public experience and service have been rounded; his character strengthened and seasoned; his executive ability demonstrated; his fitness for power more clearly shown by his administration of the great state of Ohio. And today, in the prime of life, in the full vigor of health and strength, he stands foremost among the distinguished leaders and statesmen of his time; pre-eminent in all the qualities that make a man; equipped with every weapon of experience and statecraft; a gigantic figure in American politics; the man toward whom the people instinctively turn to lead them from the wilderness back into the promised land.
He will be nominated and elected; yea, it is written in the stars! And what a grand, patriotic, overwhelming chorus of rejoicing will greet him as he inaugurates a new American administration. Every ponderous waterwheel, weakened by the rush and roar of captive waters; every glad spindle, whirling to the impulse of restored activity ; every shrill whistle calling impatient millions once again to labor, will thunder and sing and scream for joy, for the beneficent bow of a regained prosperity will span the American heavens when William McKinley is President of the United States.