« PreviousContinue »
settlers. In 1860, they advocated the passage of a free homestead law. In 1864 and 1868, the subject was not referred to in their platform, but their Senators and representatives were busy making immense and extravagant donations of land to corporations; and foreign syndicates were permitted to acquire vast areas of our most valuable domain. Then came a reaction; and the conventions since have pronounced against any further grants to corporations, and in favor of free homesteads.
The record of the Republican party on the money question has been generally consistent and direct. In 1868, when the payment of United States bonds with greenbacks was agitated, and the Democratic party committed itself to that policy, the Republicans insisted that good faith and the national honor demanded that the spirit of the law, and not the letter merely, should be observed in interpreting the contract under which the obligations were issued. They continued to declare that the national debt was inviolate, and to denounce all forms of repudiation. As the silver interest became more urgent for recognition, the convention of 1888 yielded to their appeals to the extent of declaring: "The Republican party is in favor of the use of both gold and silver as money, and condemns the policy of the Democratic administration in its efforts to demonetize silver." It is difficult to mildly characterize this resolution in view of the undeniable fact that silver was demonetized by the Republican Congress in 1873, and that the Democratic administration, which they condemned, was following the policy with respect to silver which had been inaugurated by the Republicans. Upon the question itself, this resolution was much more capable of a double construction than the one in the next platform, 1892, wherein the demand for bimetallism is made contingent upon "such restrictions and under such provisions as will secure the maintenance of the parity of
value of the two metals, so that the purchasing and debtpaying power of the dollar, whether silver, gold, or paper, shall at all times be equal." But the supreme test on this issue came in 1896, when the Republicans met it with as much courage and frankness as the Democrats showed in arraying themselves on the side of silver. They resolved that:
"We are unalterably opposed to every measure calculated to debase our currency or impair the credit of our country. We are, therefore, opposed to the free coinage of silver, except by international agreement with the leading commercial nations of the world, which we pledge ourselves to promote, and until such agreement can be obtained the existing gold standard must be preserved."
Whenever it has expressed any opinion on the question of internal improvements, the Republican party has advocated the constitutional power and the duty of the government to make suitable provision for improving the navigation of the rivers and the safety of the harbors. This may now be regarded as one of the dead issues, since all parties are committed to the system.
It is needless to consider the various resolutions upon other subjects which were passed by the different conventions; many of them being analogous, and none of them presenting issues upon which campaigns were conducted. Nor is it thought advisable to analyze and compare the different platforms of the various smaller political organizations. None of them has ever been entrusted with power, and it is impossible to say how their principles would stand the test of practical application. Radicalism on any subject, when irresponsible, often becomes conservative when clothed with authority, and when it may be called to account for its acts and not for its theories.
In 1896 the great mass of voters were arrayed against each other upon the economic questions; nothing else
distinguished or divided them. The tariff and the silver question were before the American people for their decision. The verdict was in favor of protection, and for the gold standard. But no one, observant of the political history of this country, can aver that the judgment pronounced was final and conclusive.
It was under a Republican administration that Alaska was purchased from Russia, and under a Republican administration the Hawaiian Islands were annexed. Under the same administration Porto Rico, the Philippines, and one of the Ladrone Islands were acquired as a result of the war with Spain. The value of these new possessions is a disputed and unsolved problem. The party in power deserves whatever of glory attaches to this extension of our domain, and it must bear whatever embarrassing responsibilities may result therefrom.
March 5, 1899.
1. Resolved, That the Federal Government is one of limited powers, derived solely from the Constitution, and the grants of power shown therein ought to be strictly construed by all the departments and agents of the Government, and that it is inexpedient and dangerous to exercise doubtful constitutional powers.
2. Resolved, That the Constitution does not confer upon the General Government the power to commence and carry on a general system of internal improvements.
3. Resolved, That the Constitution does not confer authority upon the Federal Government, directly or indirectly, to assume the debts of the several States, contracted for local internal improvements or other State purposes; nor would such assumption be just or expedient.
4. Resolved, That justice and sound policy forbid the Federal Government to foster one branch of industry to the detriment of another, or to cherish the interest of one portion to the injury of another portion of our common country; that every citizen and every section of the country has a right to demand and insist upon an equality of rights and privileges, and to complete and ample protection of persons and property from domestic violence or foreign aggression.
5. Resolved, That it is the duty of every branch of the Government to enforce and practice the most rigid economy in conducting our public affairs, and that no more revenue ought