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THE POLITICAL SITUATION.
WHEN the history and the conduct of the Republican Party have been brought to the consideration of the people, it has become quite usual to reply: "The past is gone. You tell us often what you have done, but we wish to look forward and not backward, and wish to know what you now propose." This is very well and very practical, but, if any one of these querists were to consider to whom he would intrust his interest and his business for the future, his first inquiry would be in respect of the character and history of the candidate for employment. In the affairs of the world professions are cheap and protestations are plenty, and the value of professions and protestations must always largely depend upon the character of those who make them and the particular circumstances under which they are made. To intelligent people, therefore, it is almost a truism that an appeal to the public judgment and public confidence by either or both of the great political parties of the United States must rest, first, upon their history and character; secondly, upon the character of the measures of legislation or administration they have enacted, or propose for the consideration of the people; and thirdly, upon the intelligent belief of voters that such measures will be sincerely and vigorously carried into effect.
A statement of a few of the salient and principal points of
opposition in the history of the two great parties will be sufficient for the present purpose. With occasional brief intervals, the Democratic Party had full control of the government for a great many years prior to 1861. Its constant tendency, in respect of the business affairs of the country, was toward what is falsely called free trade, which means the increased consumption of articles of foreign production and a correspondingly diminished consumption of articles of home production, and consequently a corresponding diminution in the industrial employments of every character of the people of the United States. But the constant effort of the Whig Party and its successor, the Republican Party, was the protection and encouragement of the labor and production of the United States. The Democratic Party was almost universally devoted to the upholding and expansion of the system of slavery, while the Whig and Republican Parties were devoting their energies to restricting slavery within the limits of the States where it existed.
The constitutional election of Mr. Lincoln in 1860-61 was made the occasion of the Rebellion-a rebellion, so far as actual power was concerned, of the great body of the Democratic Party. Whatever of opposition existed in the free States to the vigorous prosecution of the war for suppressing the Rebellion was the opposition of the Democratic Party; and whatever of opposition -and there was much-existed in Congress, during the war, to measures calculated to sustain the credit of the country and to raise means and forces for overcoming the Rebellion, came from the Democrats and the Democratic Party. After the overthrow of the Rebellion the amendments to the Constitution and the laws of Congress to make perpetual the emancipation proclamation of President Lincoln, and to reconstruct the governments in the rebellious States upon the basis of the universality of liberty and equal political and civil rights, were opposed and resisted by the great body of the Democratic Party, in Congress and out of it. It was, and has been, the evident and unconcealed design of the Democratic Party to leave all questions of liberty and equal political and civil rights to the States themselves, and in the States themselves to hold the possession of political power in the hands of the white race of the Democratic
Party. At first we saw the reign of the Ku-klux and the shotgun policy, so called, which, later on, gradually and naturally changed, in the main, to methods of mere terror to repress voting, and of fraud in the false counting of votes and false returns; the purpose ever being to solidify and retain the political power in all its branches in the hands of the white aristocracy in those States. By every such success not only mere local control has been secured, and great bodies of citizens as really disfranchised as if they were in prison, but there has been a great augmentation of the strength of that party in the national House of Representatives, because the whole population in those States is now counted as a basis of representation, while before the abolition of slavery only three-fifths of the slave population were an element in representation.
The contrast between the two parties since the Rebellion, in respect of the business affairs of the government, has been equally marked. The Republican Party, in 1869, passed the act to strengthen the public credit, pledging the United States to the payment of its debt in coin, or its equivalent, except where it was otherwise provided by law. The passage of this act was opposed by the whole body of the Democratic Party in the Senate and House of Representatives. The Republican Party passed the act for the resumption of specie payments in January, 1875, against the votes of the whole body of the Democratic senators and representatives. By these two acts the credit of the United States was brought into a state of superiority to that of any other country on the globe, and the depreciated paper currency was brought to, and has since been maintained at, the par of coin.
In respect of questions of protection and "free trade," the course of the two parties has been in the same state of constant opposition. The great mass of the Republican members of the two Houses of Congress has continuously been, and still is, arrayed on the side of the protection of American labor and production through customs laws, and in favor of such legislation. as shall tend to the home production of things of home consump tion, as against the consumption of things of foreign production; while the great mass of Democratic members of Congress have been, and still are, in favor of increasing the consumption of
things of foreign production by such a diminution of customs duties as admittedly will increase importations for consumption, and, necessarily, by so much diminish the consumption of things produced in the United States.
In respect of the civil service and its administration in the great mass of its minor offices, as a matter of business, and without regard to the particular political opinions of the persons so employed in the public service, the contrast between the action of the two parties has been marked and obvious. The inordinate and unjust exercise of the power of executive patronage, with a view to the influencing of votes and the carrying of elections, has been for a long time the subject of serious concern with reflecting and patriotic men. If there was to be a change of political administration, based upon a difference of opinion respecting measures of legislation on internal or foreign policy supposed to be beneficial to the people, it could be well understood, and votes would be freely given one way or the other, according to the opinion of the citizens, in respect of such policy; but if, under color of such proposed policies, a change of political administration was to be resisted by a great army of officeholders manipulating primaries, and controlling or stimulating political activity to that end, the great interests and welfare of the people would become a mere stalking-horse of selfish considerations, and the executive power and the party power would be prostituted to objects of purely personal selfishness and ambition. The Republican Party inaugurated whatever there is of what, in principle, is justly called civil-service reform, and the system gradually grew in strength and favor.
What has been already said may be well illustrated, if not demonstrated, by a reference to the declarations of the respective national conventions of the two parties for many years. These declarations are too voluminous for insertion, but any reader of this article will find most interesting subjects for comparison of the professions of the two parties in the platforms of 1856, 1860, 1864, 1868, 1872, 1876, 1880, and 1884. After comparing these platforms, it will be interesting to examine the votes of the members of the two parties in Congress upon the same leading questions. How far the conduct of cach party in practical affairs
has conformed to its professions and promises, and how far it has been the reverse of its professions and promises, will be made clear by these comparisons. These declarations of the two parties certainly demonstrate that the course of the Republican Party has been uniformly consistent and progressive in the direction of accomplishing the objects and putting in practice the principles of that party which I have already stated; and demonstrate that the course of the Democratic Party has been either in hostility to those principles, and in opposition to that practice, or else (sometimes) so evasive as fairly to justify the inference that it was intending to capture votes on false pretenses. This is well illustrated by the present attitude of the Democratic Party in respect of the three great subjects of public concern. The Democratic Party came into power upon the assertion of three leading and, practically, highly important propositions: first, that Republican administrations had become thoroughly corrupt, and that, under a change of administration, this corruption would be exposed and corrected; second, that the Republican Party had professed a desire for the protection of American labor and manufactures, but that it had subjected the people to "an increasing flood of manufactured goods and hopeless competition with manufacturing nations," and that sufficient revenue for public purposes could be obtained from customhouse taxes on fewer imported articles; and third, that there should be "honest civil-service reform."
As to the first of these accusations, all the light possible has been let in upon the operations of previous administrations, and it has been found that there was no corruption, that the affairs of the government had been administered by Republican administrations with fidelity and uprightness, and that defalcations and losses had occurred in less proportion than in great private business operations of citizens of the country. It has not been found that salaries and compensations of public servants were too high; but, on the contrary, there has been a claim that in many instances they ought to be increased. It has not been found that there was any noticeable excess of persons employed in the public service.
As to the second of the above-cited accusations against the