1896

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

OVERVIEWS & CHRONOLOGIES: 1896

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

OVERVIEW

Election Year: 1896

Election Day Date: November 3, 1896

Winning Ticket: William McKinley (53, Methodist), Garret Hobart (52, ), Republican 7,112,138 51.02% 271 60.6%

Losing Ticket(s):

  • William Jennings Bryan (36, Presbyterian), Arthur Sewall (61, Swedenborgian), Democratic 6,510,807 46.71% 176 39.4%
  • John Palmer (79), Simon Buckner (73, Episcopalian), National Democrat 133,537 0.96% 0 0.0%
  • Joshua Levering (51, Baptist), Hale Johnson (49), Prohibition 124,896 0.90% 0 0.0%
  • Charles Matchett (53), Matthew Maguire (46), Socialist Labor 36,359 0.26% 0 0.0%
  • Other (+) – – 20,937 0.15% 0 0.0%

Voter Turnout: 79.3% (eligible voters)

Central Forums/Campaign Methods for Addressing Voters:

  • Stumping, Front Porch campaign

Incumbent President and Vice President on Election Day: Stephen Grover Cleveland Adlai E Stevenson, Democratic, 1893-1897

Population: 1896: 71,188,000

GNP/GNP (% gain or loss): GDP: 100

Nominal GDP (billions of dollars): $15.5 Real GDP (billions of 2005 dollars): $333.6
GDP Deflator (index 2005=100%) 4.64 Nominal GDP per capita (current dollars): $218 Real GDP per capita (year 2005 dollars): $4,687

Number of Daily Newspapers: 1900 2,226

Average Daily Circulation: 1900 15,102,156

Method of Choosing Electors: Popular Vote (mostly General Ticket/Winner Take All)

Method of Choosing Nominees: National Party Conventions

Central Issues (Nomination/Primaries):;

  • Panic of 1893: 15,000 business bankrupted, including 493 banks
  • Monetary policy: the Battle of the Standards: Should currency be backed by Gold or Silver too?
  • high unemployment;
  • social unrest: Coxey’s “Army” of Unemployed, 1894
  • 1894 Midterm Election: Democrats lost 125 House seats, Republicans gained 130 seats, the greatest midterm election victory in American history.

Leading Candidates (Nomination/Primaries):

Democratic Party Nomination

  • William Jennings Bryan
  • Richard P. Bland
  • Robert E. Pattison
  • Horace Boies
  • Joseph C. S. Blackburn
  • John Roll McLean

Republican Party Nomination

  • William McKinley
  • Thomas B. Reed
  • Matthew S. Quay
  • Levi P. Morton
  • William B. Allison

National Democratic Party (Gold Democrats)

  • John M. Palmer
  • Edward S. Bragg
  • William Vilas
  • Grover Cleveland
  • John G. Carlisle
  • Julius Sterling Morton
  • William Lyne Wilson
  • Henry Watterson

Main Controversies (Nomination/Primaries):

Battle of the Standards: Republicans had some silverites, but mostly “Gold-Standard” Democrats: Deeply divided: Cleveland as Gold Standard Democrat but powerful, populist Silverite forces are furious

Major Personalities (Nomination/Primaries):

Democrat Richard “Silver Dick” Bland, former Missouri Congressman, leading silverites

Turning Points (Nomination/Primaries):

  • In July 1894, Democratic President Grover Cleveland’s deployed troops to break the Pullman Strike. Unions were furious, but the press and public opinion mostly supported the President, even as Americans worried about the loss of “law and order.”
  • Discovery that Bland’s wife was Catholic hurt Bland with conservative Democrats
  • William McKinley’s 12,000 mile tour to 16 states in 1894 solidified his Republican Party support

Conventions (Dates & Locations):

  • Democratic National Convention: July 7-11, 1896, Chicago Coliseum, Chicago, Illinois
  • Republican National Convention: June 16-18, 1896, the lawn south of City Hall, St. Louis, Missouri

Convention Turning Points:

Republican National Convention:

  • Senator Henry Teller of Colorado and Twenty-four Western delegates walked out of the convention when their minority plank calling for the free coinage of gold and silver was defeated by a margin of 16-to-1

Democratic National Convention:

  • Delegate William Jennings Bryan determined to have silver plank included the platform
  • William Jennings Bryan’s electrifying “Cross of Gold” speech helped him secure the nomination, most memorable address at a political convention
  • Bryan was nominated on the fifth ballot
  • Bryan refuse to choose a Vice Presidential running mate, let the delegates make the decision; 16 candidates vied for the position on the first ballot
  • Arthur Sewell of Maine won the Vice Presidential nomination the fifth ballot

Number of Ballots to Choose Nominees:

Democratic Party Nomination:

5 ballots each for President and Vice-President.

Presidential Ballot:

  • William Jennings Bryan 137, 197, 219, 280, 652
  • Richard P. Bland 235, 281, 291, 241, 11
  • Robert E. Pattison 97, 100, 97, 97, 95
  • Joseph C. S. Blackburn 82, 41, 27, 27, 0
  • Horace Boies 67, 37, 36, 33, 0
  • John R. McLean 54, 53, 54, 46, 0
  • Claude Matthews 37, 34, 34, 36, 0
  • Other 43, 27, 10, 9, 10

Vice Presidential Ballot:

  • Arthur Sewall 100, 37, 97, 261, 602
  • Joseph C. Sibley 163, 113, 50, 0, 0
  • John R. McLean 111, 158, 210, 298, 32
  • George F. Williams 76, 16, 15, 9, 9
  • Richard P. Bland 62, 294, 255, 0, 0
  • Walter M. Clark 50, 22, 22, 46, 22
  • John W. Daniel 11, 1, 6, 54, 36
  • Other 97, 35, 20, 12, 32

Republican Party Nomination:

Presidential 1st Ballot

  • William McKinley 661½
  • Thomas Brackett Reed 84½
  • Matthew S. Quay 61½
  • Levi P. Morton 58

Vice Presidential 1st Ballot

  • Garret Hobart 523.5
  • Henry Clay Evans 287.5
  • Morgan Bulkeley 39
  • James A. Walker 24
  • Charles Lippitt 8
  • Thomas B. Reed 3
  • Chauncey Depew 3
  • John M. Thurston 2
  • Frederick Grant 2
  • Levi P. Morton 1

Third Party Candidates:

  • National Democratic Party (Gold Democrats): Presidential Ballot, John M. Palmer 757.5, 769.5; Edward S. Bragg 130.5, 118.5
  • Populist Party: Endorsed/nominated Democrat William Jennings Bryan for President and Thomas E. Watson for Vice President (Electoral votes for Watson: Arkansas 3, Louisiana 4, Missouri 4, Montana 1, Nebraska 4, North Carolina 5, South Dakota 2, Utah 1, Washington 2, Wyoming 1)
  • Nevada’s Silver Party endorsed the Democratic ticket

Party Platform/Issues:

  • Republican Party: Gold standard; the existing gold standard must be preserved;” endorsed acquiring Hawaii, Danish West Indies (today’s Virgin Islands), favored a Central America canal, naval expansion, sympathy for Cuba and Armenia, illiterate immigrants exclusion, “equal pay for equal work,” “National Board of Arbitration”; high protective tariffs; denounced lynching
  • Democratic Platform: Free silver (to the dismay of Gold Standard Cleveland Democrats), tariff reduction, graduated income tax, stricter railroad and trust regulations; condemnation of court injunctions against strikers; disapproval of the bond issues.

General Election Controversies/Issues: Monetary Policy; (bimetallism, gold standard, Free Silver, tariff); Economy

Campaign Innovations (General Election): Stumping (national speaking tour by train)

Mark Hanna built a campaign on “business principles”:

  • Organized different bureaus appealing to different constituencies Germans, blacks, wheelmen, women
  • deployed hundreds of speakers across the country
  • distributed hundreds of millions of pamphlets in different languages
  • Sophisticated Fundraising – no campaign spent so much money until 1920

Campaign Tactics:

Republican Party:

  • Front Porch campaign: Republican McKinley stayed home in Canton, Ohio, speaking over 300 times to an estimated 750,000 visitors from 30 states.
  • Francis Loomis: “The desire to come to Canton has reached the point of mania.”
  • Mark Hanna’s Republican orators denounced Bryan as a “radical.” Labeled Bryan a “socialist, anarchist, communist, revolutionary, lunatic, madman, rabble-rouser, thief, traitor, murderer.”

Democratic Party:

  • Stumping: Democrat William J. Bryan traveled over 18,000 miles and gave 600 speeches to 5 million people in 27 states.

Major Personalities (General Election): Mark Hanna (Republican campaign manager);  Theodore Roosevelt

Turning Points (General Election):

  • Banks and employers threatened workers that they might lose their jobs if they voted for Bryan.

Popular Campaign Slogans:

Republicans:

  • “Patriotism, Protection, and Prosperity.”
  • “The Temple of Prosperity: This Door will be Opened Nov 3, 1896, Wm McKinley.”
  • “Protection, Sound Monday, Prosperity.”
  • “We Will Maintain Our Nation’s Honor: Sound Money, Protection, Reciprocity.”
  • “McKinley and the Full Dinner Pail.”
  • “Advance agent of prosperity.”

Democrats:

  • “Free Coinage 1896: 16 to 1/Tariff for Revenue Only.”
  • “No Crown of Thorns/No Cross of Gold.”
  • “The Poor Man’s Candidates.”

Campaign Song:

  • Republicans: “The women they adore it/While the men try hard to store it/There is not a better thing in life than/Gold, gold, gold.”
  • Republicans: “Get down the empty dinner pail, Let’s polish it once more. Ah, good old friend, come off the nail, For work will reach our door/as soon as we get Grover out And Bill McKinley in.”
  • (William McKinley) Marching with McKinley

Influential Campaign Appeals or Ads:

  • Democrat: “NO CROWN OF THORNS! NO CROSS OF GOLD!” “16-to-1”
  • Republican: “IN GOD WE TRUST…FOR THE OTHER 53 CENTS”

Money Spent (Each Campaign/Party/Overall):

  • Republican Party: $3.5 million; 5-to-1 more than the Democrats

Defining Quotations (Winning Candidate):

  • “Good money never made times hard”;
  • “Our currency today is good — all of it is as good as gold,”
  • “We want good prices and good wages, and when we have them we want them to be paid in good money.” William McKinley
  • “If I took a whole train, Bryan would take a sleeper; if I took a sleeper, Bryan would take a chair car; if I took a chair car, he would ride a freight train.” William McKinley

Defining Quotations (Losing Candidate):

  • “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” William Jennings Bryan
  • “. . . I would rather have it said that I lacked dignity than . . . that I lack backbone to meet the enemies of the Government who work against its welfare in Wall Street.” William Jennings Bryan

Campaign Quotations:

  • “It was a fanaticism like the Crusades.” Kansas Republican journalist William Allen White
  • “McKinley isn’t a silver-bug, McKinley isn’t a gold-bug, McKinley is a straddle-bug.” Republican Speaker of the House “Czar” Thomas B. Reed
  • Hanna “advertised McKinley as if he were a patent medicine.” Theodore Roosevelt
  • “I am a Democrat still, very still,” David B. Hill.
  • re: Bryan: “He is begging for the Presidency as a tramp might beg for a pie, with no idea that it is a matter of any more importance.” Lincoln’s  Secretary, John Hay

Further Reading:

  • Glad, Paul W. McKinley, Bryan, and the People.  (1964).

Lasting Legacy of Campaign:

  • The currency question polarized the country, and helped the Republicans dominate for much of the next three decades.
  • Bryan at 36 was the youngest man ever nominated for President by a major party.

 

CHRONOLOGY

  • February 23, 1893: Philadelphia and Reading Railroad goes bankrupt, Panic of 1893 commences; 15,000 business bankrupted, including 493 banks
  • April 22, 1893: U.S. Treasury gold reserve goes below $100 million.
  • August 8, 1893: Congress debates silver monetary issue and tariffs.
  • August 16, 1893: William Jennings Bryan gives a speech supporting free silver.
  • August 28, 1896: Houses votes to repeal the Sherman Silver Act.
  • November 1, 1893: Sherman Silver Purchase Act is repealed.
  • February 1, 1894: House passes tariff revision bill.
  • May-July, 1894: Pullman strike; Eugene Debs, president of the American Railway Union, organizes a strike of all the workers at the Pullman railway company over wage decreases, without cost of living decreases. The strike occurs throughout the west paralyzing railroad service.
  • July 3, 1894: Cleveland sends troops to end the strike, and Debs and strike organizers are arrested.
  • August 28, 1894: Wilson-Gorman Tariff Bill becomes law, with Cleveland’s signature or veto.
  • November 1894: Midterm Elections, Democrats lose 125 House seats; Republicans gain 130 seats, the greatest midterm election victory in American history.
  • February 8-20, 1895: “A third treasury bond sale to a syndicate headed by J.P. Morgan restores gold reserves and validates the credit of the government.”
  • May 27, 1895: The Supreme Court rules in Debs v. the United States that the government had the right to arrest Eugene Debs for initiating and planning the strike. Injunctions are legal to end strikes.
  • 1894: Coxey’s “Army” of Unemployed; high unemployment rate.
  • Battle of the Standards: Republicans have some silverites, but mostly “Gold-Standard” Democrats: the Democratic party and country is deeply divided: Cleveland is a Gold Standard Democrat, but the powerful, populist Silverite forces are furious
  • July 1894: Democratic President Grover Cleveland’s deploys troops to break the Pullman Strike. Unions are furious, but the press and public opinion mostly support the President, even as Americans worry about the loss of “law and order.”
  • Discovery that Bland’s wife is Catholic hurt Blands with conservative Democrats.
  • 1894: William McKinley’s 12,000 mile tour to 16 states solidified his Republican Party support
  • January 29, 1896: Silver Party leaders arrange for a national convention to be held in St. Louis in July.
  • May 28, 1896: Prohibition Party National Convention convenes in Exposition Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and nominates unanimously Joshua Levering (Maryland) for President and Hale Johnson Illinois for Vice President.
  • May 28, 1896: National Prohibition Convention convenes in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania nominates Charles Eugene Bentley (Nebraska) for President and James H. Southgate North Carolina for Vice President. It is comprised of 200 silver delegates who bolted from the Prohibition Party national convention. Two hundred free silverites for the new party, after leaving in protest the Prohibition Party convention when they would not include a silver plank in the platform.
  • June 16-18, 1896: Republican National Convention convenes on the lawn south of City Hall in St. Louis, Missouri/ Senator Henry Teller of Colorado and Twenty-four Western delegates walk out of the convention when their minority plank calling for the free coinage of gold and silver is defeated by a margin of 16-to-1.
  • July 10, 1896: Socialist Labor Party National Convention convenes in Grand Central Palace, in New York City and nominates on the first ballot Charles Horatio Matchett for President, and unanimously nominates Matthew Maguire (New Jersey) for Vice President.
  • July 7-11, 1896: Democratic National Convention convenes in the Chicago Coliseum in Chicago, Illinois. Delegate William Jennings Bryan is determined to have silver plank included the platform. William Jennings Bryan’s electrifying “Cross of Gold” speech helps him secure the nomination, most memorable address at a political convention. Bryan is nominated on the fifth ballot; Bryan refuses to choose a Vice Presidential running mate, and instead asks the delegates make the decision. Sixteen candidates vie for the position on the first ballot, Arthur Sewell of Maine wins the Vice Presidential nomination the fifth ballot.
  • July 25, 1896: Second Populist Party Convention convenes at the Auditorium in St. Louis Missouri and endorses/nominates Democrat William Jennings Bryan for President, but nominates Thomas E. Watson (Georgia) for Vice President.
  • July 25, 1896: Silver Party Convention convenes in the Music Hall of the Exposition Building, Nevada’s Silver Party endorses the Democratic ticket with William Jennings Bryan for President.
  • August 8, 1896: McKinley formally accepts the Republican nomination in a speech made from his “front porch” in Canton, Ohio.
  • 1896: Front Porch campaign: Republican McKinley stayed home in Canton, Ohio, speaking over 300 times to an estimated 750,000 visitors from 30 states.
  • 1896: Francis Loomis: “The desire to come to Canton has reached the point of mania.” 1896: McKinley’s campaign manager Mark Hanna builds a campaign on “business principles.” He organizes different bureaus appealing to different constituencies Germans, blacks, wheelmen, women deployed hundreds of speakers across the country; distributed hundreds of millions of pamphlets in
  • different languages; Sophisticated Fundraising – no campaign spent so much money until 1920.
  • August 12, 1896: “Bryan formally accepts the Democratic nomination in a speech at Madison Square Garden, New York City.”
    August 26, 1896: “McKinley issues his letter of acceptance for the Republican nomination, outlining his views on the Republican platform.”
  • September 3, 1896: National Democratic Party Convention (Gold Democrats) convenes at Tomlinson Hall in Indianapolis, Indiana and nominates John McAuley Palmer for President and Simon B. Buckner (Kentucky) for Vice President.
  • September 8, 1896: Election day in Arkansas and Vermont.
  • 1896: Mark Hanna’s Republican orators denounced Bryan as a “radical.” Label Bryan a “socialist, anarchist, communist, revolutionary, lunatic, madman, rabble-rouser, thief, traitor, murderer”
  • September 11 to November 1, 1896: Democrat William J. Bryan stumps and travels over 18,000 miles and gives 600 speeches to 5 million people in 27 states, with an emphasis on the battleground states of Michigan, Illonois, Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin.
  • September 27, 1896: New York Times publishes an editorial “Is Mr. Bryan Crazy?” questioning Bryan’s mental health and sanity, based on the message in his speech. Article creates a flurry of psychologists questioning Bryan’s stability to run the country.
  • October 6, 1896: Election Day in Florida.
  • Banks and employers threaten workers that they might lose their jobs if they vote for Bryan.
  • October 31, 1896: “Responding to a call from Republican chairman Mark Hanna, Republican’s celebrate the Saturday before the election as “Flag Day,” declaring Republicanism the only “partiotic” choice. At the request of their party leaders, Democrats and Populists also celebrate “Flag Day,” arguing that the flag should not be the property of one party.”
  • November 3, 1896: Election day, Republicans William McKinley is elected President, Garret Hobart is elected Vice President.
  • January 11, 1897: Presidential Electors meet to cast the electoral vote in their state capitols.
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