« PreviousContinue »
purpose of electing a presiding officer. It preserves intact the law as our forefathers made it, and executes with certainty their purpose, and that of the law itself. It avoids the dangerous step taken by the present bill, which takes away from the people of the country, in whom all power resides, the right to fill a vacancy in the presidency in a certain contingency, that contingency being the death or removal of both president and vice-president of the United States. I would leave that power with the people, where it properly belongs. I am opposed to any step in the opposite direction. My substitute follows the pathway of the founders of the government, which, in my judgment, is the pathi of safety.”
Major McKinley's substitute was defeated, but the bill passed. Was it fate that he should be the first president whose successor should be inducted into the high office under the provisions of that bill?
In the fiftieth and fifty-first congresses, Major McKinley was chiefly engaged in the handling of tariff measures, which will be considered in another chapter. It was in 1890 that he was finally defeated for congress. In the fifty-first congress he had succeeded in securing the enactment of the protective tariff bill that bore his name, and as a result had been made the target for all sorts of vile abuse by opponents throughout the country. The free traders of Ohio clamored for his defeat, and to accomplish it another gerrymander was resorted to. Stark county was put into a district with Wayne, Medina and Holmes counties, and Ex-Lieutenant Governor Warwick, a popular democrat, was nominated against Major McKinley. One year before the counties comprising the new district had given Campbell, the democratic candidate for governor, 2,90o majority, but, despite this fact and the combination against him of all the power democracy could bring to bear, he was defeated by only 363 votes. The largest vote ever cast in the district was brought out, and the Major polled 2,500 more votes than had been given Benjamin Harrison for president in 1888.
When in congress Mr. McKinley served on the committee of the revision of laws, the judiciary committee, the committee of expenditures of the postoffice department and the committee on rules; and when General Garfield was nominated for the presidency, McKinley was assigned to the committee on ways and means in his place, and he continued to serve on the last named committee until the end of his congressional career.
His Last Term in Congress. Record on the Tariff.
Major McKinley rounded out his congressional career in the 51st congress with the passage of the protective tariff law known as the McKinley bill. The remarkable wisdom displayed in handling that measure indicated, probably, that he had fulfilled his destiny as a legislative factor, and thenceforth his work for the people was to be in executive channels. No greater fame could have come to him than the shaping of that law, which pledged his party to a principle, and which proved of such benefit to the nation. In considering his final services in the house, it may be well to take a backward glance at his record, especially as related to the tariff question, and give an idea of the cause of the power he wielded.
The tariff question was not a new one in the history of American legislation when William McKinley took his place in the house of representatives at Washington. It had been thrashed over by the colonists, who objected to and sought to evade exactions of the mother country long before the declaration of independence was written. How to protect the people, to develop the country and to prevent suffering among the producing classes, were questions that the colonists and the continental congress struggled with, and that their successors in administrative affairs found great difficulty in settling. Some of the states, before the adoption of the constitution, passed laws for the express purpose of protecting home industries against the better organized and cheaper manufacturers of Europe. Pennsylvania in the preamble to her tariff law, said:
"Whereas, although the fabrics and manufactures of Europe and other foreign parts imported into this country in times of peace, may be afforded at cheaper rates than they can be made here, yet good policy. and a regard for the well-being of divers useful and industrious citizens, who are employed in the making of like goods in this state, demand of us that moderate duties be laid on certain fabrics and manufactures imported, which do most interfere with, and which (if no relief be given) will undermine and destroy the useful manufactures of the like kind in this country.”
At that early day it was clearly seen that industries could not be built up in this country if they had to compete with foreign manufactures on equal terms. But the protective idea, in its full efflorescence, had not yet come into being. The school of political economists then holding sway-Richards, Adam Smith, Say and others—favored free trade. In theory that is as beautiful as socialism in its essence—and as impractical. But the fact was not appreciated then, nor for years afterward. When the constitution was adopted the subject of raising revenue for the expenses of government was discussed and congress was given power to "regulate commerce." What that meant was long a subject of debate, and while the proponents of protection declarel it meant a tariff for the protection of American industries, the opponents were as sure as they could be of anything that it meant that congress should only "regulate commerce," so far as to provide revenues for the government. Though the question has been discussed ever since, there are still those who hold to the belief that all protective laws are unconstitutional, and do violence to the intent of the framers of our organic law.
Major McKinley was one of those who held to the broader meaning of the fathers of the republic. He followed Daniel Webster, who in a speech in Albany, N. Y., in 1847, said:
“Now, in the early administration of the government, some trusts and duties were conferred upon the general government, about which there could not be much dispute. It belonged to the general government to make war and peace, and to make treaties. There was no room for dispute as to these powers; they were liable to no great diversity of opinion. But then comes the other power, which has been, and is now, of the utmost importance—that of regulating commerce. What does that import? On this part of the constitution there has sprung up in our day a great diversity of opinion. But it is certain that when the constitution had been framed, and the first congress assen)bled to pass laws under it, there was no diversity of opinion on it, 110 contradictory sentiments. The power of regulating commerce granted to congress was most assuredly understood to embrace all forms of regulation belonging to those terms under other governments—all tile meaning implied in the terms, in the same language, employed in all laws, and in the intercourse of modern nations. And I consider it as capable of mathematical demonstration—as capable of demonstration as any problem in Euclid, that the power of discriminating in custom house duties for the protection of American labor and industry, was understood, not by some, but by all, by high and low, everywhere, as included in the regulation of trade.”
Rufus Choate and other eminent men held similar views, but congress thrashed the question over and over again, until the year 1893, when, after the passage of the Wilson bill, which repealed the McKinley act, the country came to the conclusion that the protective theory was, if not absolutely right, at least productive of greater good to the people than the free trade theory.
In the controversies leading up to this conclusion from 1878, Major McKinley bore a conspicuous part. He did not gain a foremost place as a matter of chance, nor because there were no leaders of consequence on his side. When he made his first speech in congress on the subject of tariff, he was in company with those veterans, Morrill, of Vermont, and Judge William D. Kelley, of Pennsylvania. They were masters of all the arguments to be used on the subject of protection of American industries, yet they listened to this youth from the west, and admired the logical manner in which he presented the subject, his wonderful knowledge of the facts, and the splendid manner in which he drove home his arguments. It was no fortuitous combination of circumstances which thus branded him as a leader among leaders. It was hard, systematic work, such as he had all his life been accustomed to do. When a young lawyer in Canton, it is said, an able and cunning lawyer of an adjacent town, knowing that Major McKinley was a protectionist, proposed to debate the question with him. The major agreed, but the opponent was too strong for him. A bright intelligence, sophistry, and long practice enabled the elder man to win a victory. The incident galled Major McKinley. He recognized his unpreparedness for the contest, and said to a friend: "Hereafter no man shall overcome me so; I know that I am right in this matter, and I know that I can show that I am right by and by.” From that time on he studied assiduously. Books, and men, and conditions, were scrutinized, and everything in the way of knowledge they had to impart was absorbed by the major. It is said that those who traveled with him, or who met him away from home, were amazed at his persistent inquiry respecting material things which might suggest a lesson in American prosperity. The railways, their mileage, their traffic, their dividends, their proposed extensions; the mills, what they produced, how many hands they employed, how the working people lived; what comforts and luxuries they were able to enjoy; the distinctive trade of any city in which he happened to stop; whether it was on the increase, or was decreasing, and why. Of the agricultural interests of the country it was said he could tell the husbandmen more than they knew, and yet he drew them out on all occasions. Add to these facts the further statement that his youth was spent within sound of the roar of iron furnaces, and that the greatest industrial development the world ever saw was going on during his congressional career, and it is easy to see that no man could have been better equipped than he to lead his party in the matter of legislation, and ultimately to become, through its agency, the chief executive of the nation. No man ever had a stronger sense of duty, or a more steadfast adherence to principle than Major McKinley, and when he stood up in the house, April 15, 1878, to speak on the Wood tariff bill, he said:
"I am opposed to the pending bill from a high sense of duty—a duty imposed upon me by the very strong convictions which I entertain after an examination of its several features, and from the conviction that should the proposed measure become a law, it will be nothing short of a public calamity.”
He discussed the general features of the bill, and declared that if enacted into law it would decrease the national revenues, lower wages and impoverish the working classes. After he had, with masterly skill, dissected the measure and shown its weaknesses, he concluded:
“Mr. Chairman, the proposed bill is a piece of patchwork, and abounds in inconsistencies. It is an attempt to conciliate two schools of political science and pleases neither. It has marched out into the broad field of compromise and come back with a few supporters, it is true, who are opposed to the original bill as reported. It is neither free trade, tariff reform, nor protective tariff. It has none of the virtues of either, but the glaring faults of all systems. It is an attempt to change a law which 'does not improve the old one. It is an experiment opposed by all experience. It introduces uncertainty into the business of this country, when certainty is essential to its life. I can not better characterize it than by quoting the language of the distinguished gentleman from New York (Mr. Wood) in speaking of a tariff bill pending in June, 1864, in this house. Speaking of that bill (and his words seem prophetic as applied to his own), he said: “The committee has given us a bill which I regard as an exceedingly crude andi improper measure;' and that is what the country has already said of the pending bill, and it is what I believe will be the verdict of this house when a vote is reached.
“What the country wants above all else at this critical period is rest -rest from legislation, safety and security as to its basis of business, certainty as to the resources of the government, immunity from legislative tinkering. None of these are afforded by the present bill.
"Mr. Chairman, there never was a time in the history of this country, more inauspicious than the present for the dreamer and the theorist to put into practical' operation his impracticable theories of political science. The country does not want them; the business men of the