« AnteriorContinuar »
No. CXLII.- DECEMBER 1888.
THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN
THE UNITED STATES.
The Presidential Election of the 6th of November was the most important which has taken place in the United States since that of Lincoln in 1864. It involved clear and distinct issues, which must have an important influence upon the future industrial prosperity of that great nation, and will exercise, by reflex action, a direct influence upon the United Kingdom. The election was especially interesting because the people of the United States have been discussing the question of a tariff revision with a concentrated intensity very rare indeed among large masses of men.
The Republican candidates were General Harrison for the office of President, and Mr. Levi Morton for that of Vice-President. General Harrison belongs to the State of Indiana, and is grandson of a former President. His family has long held an honoured position in Virginia, and the candidate himself is universally acknowledged to be a man of ability, of uprightness, and of honour. He is not, however, the true leader of the Republican party. Mr. Blaine, of the State of Maine, holds that distinguished position, though he declined to be nominated as candidate at the Republican Convention. He has great popularity among the people, but is distrusted by a large number of independent voters, who formed a party called the · Mugwumps' to defeat his election in 1884. Nevertheless he would then have been elected President but for an untoward accident. Shortly before that election Blaine received a deputation of ministers of various denominations, one of whom stated that the Democratic VOL. XXIV.-No. 142.
party rested on three R’s–Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion. This alliterative collocation of words was not repudiated by Blaine, and gave grave offence to the Catholics of the Irish party, many of whom transferred their votes to Cleveland. Thus Blaine's 'magnetism,' as the Americans call his power of attracting the masses, failed him on the critical day of the election. The strong personality of Blaine must not be forgotten. The Mugwumps and many other independent voters feared that if General Harrison became President he would be a nominal Mikado, with an active Tycoon reigning at Washington. Mr. Levi Morton, of New York, the candidate for the office of Vice-President, has scarcely been seen or heard during the campaign. He was formerly American Minister at Paris, and discharged his diplomatic duties to the satisfaction of his countrymen.
The Democratic candidates have much more personality than those of the Republicans. Grover Cleveland, now President, and adopted by the Democratic Convention as their nominee for a new term of years, was scarcely known beyond his own State as a politician till the election of 1884. During his term of office he has shown much independence, ability, and honesty. He has pursued an even path, with little regard to his popularity among politicians, and though he has disappointed the hopes of Civil Service reformers, his conduct has imposed respect. His bold letter last year
the dangers of the surplus revenue was the manifesto of a true statesman. He could have insured his election this year without difficulty bad he said nothing in his election address as to a reduction of the tariff; but he preferred the bolder course of making this the flag of the Democratic party, which hitherto has been divided in its convictions upon that subject. The least creditable act of Cleveland was the issue of his famous Message to Congress of the 23rd of August, in which he asks for power to make a retaliatory war upon the industry of Canada in consequence of the rejection of the Fisheries Treaty by the Senate. War is still an acknowledged right between nations, but retaliation in peace has ceased to exist in international relations. Congress tried to re-establish it by an Act during the time of the Fenian plots in Ireland, with the view of protecting American citizens from arrest. Last year Congress passed an Act empowering retaliation with Canada if it continued its aggressions on American fishermen. This is Cleveland's justification for his Message, because the rejection of the Treaty threw him back on the Act of 1887. That Act was practically aimed at the prohibition of Canadian fish, with the view of protecting the industry of New England fishermen, although only 25 per cent. of them are Americans, the rest being chiefly from New Brunswick and other Canadian provinces. The Message of Cleveland had several purposes, which we must infer, as they were not expressed. The Treaty made at Washington was rejected by the Senate with the aid of the Western senators, who thought that they
had no immediate interest in the question. It is a controversy of small dimensions. Fresh fish imported from Canada are on the free list, and though the Senate Bill for revising the tariff continues nominally this exemption from duty, they are virtually prohibited by a clause excluding fish kept fresh by ice. That, however, is not the law yet, so the duty levied on salt fish from Canada amounts only to about 360,000 dollars on a declared value of 2,000,000 dollars. Probably not one dollar of this small duty reaches the Treasury, for its collection entails a line of custom-houses and a service of naval vessels of war on the coast. The removal of this small duty upon a food mainly used by the poorer classes, among whom the Irish Roman Catholics are the chief consumers, would secure from Canada all the privileges which the New England fishermen desire; but reciprocity of this kind is against the spirit of protection. The retaliatory Message of Cleveland asked for power to suspend the laws or regulations permitting the transit of all kinds of merchandise in bond through the United States to Canada. No overt act of hostility to American fishermen on the part of Canada had occurred for two years, and the modus vivendi suggested by Chamberlain and his colleagues at Washington was working without friction. The Message was thunder in a clear sky. The power asked was immense, because it enabled the Executive Government of Washington to seize the throat of the Canadian railways at Maine, and cut off through communication to ports like New York and Boston. This was a heavy blow to the new railway system of Canada, though it struck almost as severely the farmers in the Western States of the Union, by severing their important connections with Canadian railways. This was a lesson to Western senators that they had some interest in the settlement of the Fisheries Treaty. The great political effect of the President's Message was that it prevented the Fisheries question being made the battleground of contention of the two great political parties during the election campaign. The twist given to the tail of the British lion by this threat of retaliation gratified the anti-English feeling of the Irish party. As a political move it was wholly successful. Perhaps we should ascribe to Cleveland a higher motive, and believe that one of his purposes was to prevent bad blood being engendered between the two countries, had the campaign turned upon the discussion of an international controversy. It practically vanished from view, and would never have been heard of except for the cunning trap laid for our late excellent and popular British Minister at Washington. The private and confidential letter which he wrote to an assumed English gentleman, referred to the proposed retaliation of the President, and said : But there is every reason to believe that, if elected, while he will uphold the position he has undertaken, he will manifest a spirit of conciliation in dealing with the question involved in his Message. No
words could be more moderate or prudent from a private correspondent in an unofficial position ; but their improper publication raised a storm which affected Lord Sackville's position, although he only stated in guarded language the universal belief of the whole country. The retaliatory Message of the President produced an unexpected and serious evil, because the Republican party, in order to overtrump it, raised, through Senator Sherman, a discussion in the Senate as to the desirability of annexing Canada. It has been only owing to the good sense of the American people that the threats of retaliation and annexation have been discounted at their proper value as electioneering cries. Nevertheless the cry for annexation of Canada will again arise as a serious political question, because as long as protection continues, vast as is the territory of the United States, it is too small for such a policy. I show further on that it produces over-production in the home market, to which the manufacturers are practically restricted, and there is need of more consumers, who are looked for in the developing population of Canada.
Judge Thurman, of Ohio, is the candidate of the Democratic party for the office of Vice-President. He is generally called the Old Roman,' as a term of affection, and, in spite of his age, he has been a power in the campaign, from what he himself calls his stump oratory,' which deserves a better name, as it is singularly terse and vigorous.
We now pass to the chief subject matter of the campaign. The accumulation of a surplus in the treasury, beyond the needs of the country, is a condition of finance which has startled the nation and made urgent the cry for the reduction of taxation. This accumulation proceeds at a rate of about two millions sterling each month. On the 31st of August, after every effort had been made to pay off available debts, the surplus stood at about 133 million dollars. The 4 per cent. debt stands at 25 premium, so it is best to wait till it falls due at par in a few years. In the mean time the surplus, or part of it, is deposited on full security at various banks, with the view of not disturbing too much the circulating medium. The amount of the surplus is estimated at one-tenth of the money in circulation. At the rate of several hundred thousand dollars, every day and every night, the money of the people, which they need in their business, is being poured into the public treasury, where it is not needed. All parties agree that this must be stopped. In the mean time it has led to public plunder and reckless extravagance. Both the Republican and Democratic parties are afraid to investigate the condition of the
Grand Army'in relation to pensions for veterans in the war. They are voters, and, if offended, might turn the scale in the election. Since 1861 the number of claimants for pensions, either on the grounds of past services or having lost relations in the civil war, has
been 737,200, while the amount paid to them has reached the enormous sum of 198 millions of pounds sterling. No one doubts that there must be fraud, but it requires an independent executive to defeat it. President Cleveland has been bold in exercising his veto on pensions, and this was one of the active cries against his reelection. Widows of soldiers must have a marvellous longevity, for I observe that there are still 10,787 pensioned widows whose husbands died in the war of 1812. Last year the pension list amounted to nearly 15} million pounds, or about half as much more as the whole cost of the United States' army and navy. Still this is charged in the annual expenditure, and the large surplus remains. The Democrats propose to reduce it by abolishing duties on raw materials, and by lowering those on imports. The Republicans, even in the campaign of 1884, advocated well-considered reduction of the tariff, in regard to manufactures, but now they cry, 'Non possumus,' and have unfurled the banner of protection. They acknowledge the need of lessening the surplus, though they chiefly look to the excise duties on tobacco and whiskey. Sugar, a large source of revenue, will be cut down to one-half its duty, and the protectionists will be compensated for this reduction by raising those on some raw materials, such as wool, as well as upon some manufactures, even to the point of prohibition. If the reductions thus effected do not suffice to diminish the surplus, Republican politicians are prepared to erect fortifications for the protection of the extensive sea-board, and to enlarge the navy. Before considering these proposals in relation to measures actually before Congress, it will be convenient to refer to some subjects of legislation which both parties have promised to the nation.
The first in importance is the future regulation of emigration. In order to understand the demand for new rules, the conditions of labour must be understood. The internal policy of the United States is one of absolute free trade; the foreign policy is that of protection. The thirty-eight States and eleven Territories, containing more than sixty million people, enjoy free trade under the constitution. Perhaps in no other country have the benefits of free trade so manifested themselves. Since slave labour was abolished in the Southern States as the result of the war, they have sprung into a position of industrial prosperity, and this in spite of their devastation by war, and of the entire absence of inherited aptitudes for manufactures. They are now important manufacturing centres of industries connected with iron, cotton, leather, clothing, carriages and other industries. The moment, however, that inter-State relations are met by an international line, free-trade principles are trampled under the heel of protection. The result, which could have been predicted, has actually come. Stimulated by internal free trade, manufactures have sprung into existence beyond the wants of the sixty millions of people. They form a