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History of the United States by Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard
» PART VI. NATIONAL GROWTH AND WORLD POLITICS
» CHAPTER XIX

«·CHAPTER XIX · The Currency Question·»


DOMESTIC ISSUES BEFORE THE COUNTRY (1865-1897)

For thirty years after the Civil War the leading political parties, although they engaged in heated presidential campaigns, were not sharply and clearly opposed on many matters of vital significance. During none of that time was there a clash of opinion over specific issues such as rent the country in 1800 when Jefferson rode a popular wave to victory, or again in 1828 when Jackson’s western hordes came sweeping into power. The Democrats, who before 1860 definitely opposed protective tariffs, federal banking, internal improvements, and heavy taxes, now spoke cautiously on all these points. The Republicans, conscious of the fact that they had been a minority of the voters in 1860 and warned by the early loss of the House of Representatives in 1874, also moved with considerable prudence among the perplexing problems of the day. Again and again the votes in Congress showed that no clear line separated all the Democrats from all the Republicans. There were Republicans who favored tariff reductions and “cheap money.” There were Democrats who looked with partiality upon high protection or with indulgence upon the contraction of the currency. Only on matters relating to the coercion of the South was the division between the parties fairly definite; this could be readily accounted for on practical as well as sentimental grounds.

After all, the vague criticisms and proposals that found their way into the political platforms did but reflect the confusion of mind prevailing in the country. The fact that, out of the eighteen years between 1875 and 1893, the Democrats held the House of Representatives for fourteen years while the Republicans had every President but one showed that the voters, like the politicians, were in a state of indecision. Hayes had a Democratic House during his entire term and a Democratic Senate for two years of the four. Cleveland was confronted by a belligerent Republican majority in the Senate during his first administration; and at the same time was supported by a Democratic majority in the House. Harrison was sustained by continuous Republican successes in Senatorial elections; but in the House he had the barest majority from 1889 to 1891 and lost that altogether at the election held in the middle of his term. The opinion of the country was evidently unsettled and fluctuating. It was still distracted by memories of the dead past and uncertain as to the trend of the future.


«·CHAPTER XIX · The Currency Question·»