|The American Presidency Project|
|• Benjamin Harrison|
|Letter Accepting the Presidential Nomination|
|September 3, 1892|
|Hon. William McKinley, Jr., and Others,
I now avail myself of the first period of relief from public duties to respond to the notification which you brought to me on June 20 of my nomination for the office of President of the United States by the Republican national convention recently held at Minneapolis. I accept the nomination, and am grateful for the approval expressed by the convention of the acts of the administration.
I have endeavored without wavering or weariness, so far as the direction of public affairs was committed to me, to carry out the pledges made to the people in 1888. If the policies of the administration have not been distinctively and progressively American and Republican policies, the fault has not been in the purpose, but in the execution. I shall speak frankly of the legislation of Congress and of the work of the executive departments, for the credit of any successes that have been attained is in such measure due to others — Senators and Representatives and to the efficient heads of the several executive departments — that I may do so without impropriety.
A vote of want of confidence is asked by our adversaries, and this challenge to a review of what has been done we promptly and gladly accept.
The great work of the Fifty-first Congress has been subjected to the revision of a Democratic House of Representatives and the acts of the executive department to its scrutiny and investigation. A Democratic national administration was succeeded by a Republican administration, and the freshness of the events gives unusual facilities for fair comparison and judgment. There has seldom been a time, I think, when a change from the declared policies of the Republican party to the declared policies of the Democratic party involved such serious results to the business interests of the country. A brief review of what has been done and of what the Democratic party proposes to undo will justify this opinion.
The Republican party, during the civil war, devised a national currency, consisting of United States notes, issued and redeemable by the Government, and of national-bank notes, based upon the security of United States bonds. A tax was levied upon the issues of State banks, and the intended result, that all such issues should be withdrawn, was realized. There are men among us now who never saw a State-bank note.
The notes furnished directly or indirectly by the United States have been the only and the safe and acceptable paper currency of the people. Bank failures have brought no fright, delay, or loss to the bill-holders. The note of an insolvent bank is as good and as current as a Treasury note, for the credit of the United States is behind it. Our money is all national money — I might almost say international, for these bills are not only equally and indiscriminately accepted at par in all the States, but in some foreign countries.
The Democratic party, if intrusted with the control of the Government, is now pledged to repeal the tax on State-bank issues, with a view to putting into circulation again, under such diverse legislation as the States may adopt, a flood of local bank issues. Only those who, in the years before the war, experienced the inconvenience and losses attendant upon the use of such money, can appreciate what a return to that system involves.
The denomination of a bill was then often no indication of its value. The bank detector of yesterday was not a safe guide to-day as to credit or values. Merchants deposited several times during the day, lest the hour of bank closing should show a depreciation of the money taken in the morning. The traveler could not use in a journey to the East the issues of the most solvent banks of the West; and in consequence a money-changer's office was the familiar neighbor of the ticket office and the lunch counter. The farmer and the laborer found the money received for their products or their labor depreciated when they came to make their purchases, and the whole business of the country was hindered and burdened.
Changes may become necessary, but a national system of currency, safe and acceptable throughout the whole country, is the good fruit of bitter experiences, and I am sure our people will not consent to the reactionary proposal made by the Democratic party.
Few subjects have elicited more discussion or excited more general interest than that of a recovery by the United States of its appropriate share of the ocean carrying trade. This subject touches not only our pockets but our national pride. Practically all the freights for transporting to Europe the enormous annual supplies of provisions furnished by this country and for the large return of manufactured products have for many years been paid to foreign owners.
Thousands of immigrants annually seeking homes under our flag have been denied the sight of it until they entered Sandy Hook, while increasing thousands of American citizens, bent on European travel, have each year stepped into a foreign jurisdiction at the New York docks. The merchandise balance of trade which the Treasury books show is largely reduced by the annual tribute which we pay for freight and passage moneys.
The great ships — the fastest upon the sea — which are now in peace profiting by our trade, are, in a secondary sense, warships of their respective governments, and in time of war would, under existing contracts with those governments, speedily take on the guns for which their decks are already prepared and enter with terrible efficiency upon the work of destroying our commerce. The undisputed fact is that the great steamship lines of Europe were built up and are now in part sustained by direct or indirect government aid, the latter taking the form of liberal pay for carrying the mails or of an annual bonus given in consideration of agreements to construct the ships so as to adapt them for carrying an armament and to turn them over to the government on demand upon specific terms.
It was plain to every intelligent American that if the United States would have such lines a similar policy must be entered upon. The Fifty-first Congress enacted such a law, and under its beneficent influence sixteen American steamships of an aggregate tonnage of 57,400 tons and costing $7,400,000 have been built or contracted to be built in American shipyards.
In addition to this it is now practically certain that we shall soon have under the American flag one of the finest steamship lines sailing out of New York for any European port. This contract will result in the construction in American yards of four new passenger steamships of 10,000 tons each, costing about $8,000,000, and will add to our naval reserve six steamships, the fastest upon the sea.
A special interest has been taken by me in the establishment of lines from our South Atlantic and Gulf ports; and, though my expectations have not yet been realized, attention has been called to the advantages possessed by these ports, and when their people are more fully alive to their interests, I do not doubt that they will be able to secure the capital needed to enable them to profit by their great natural advantages.
The Democratic party has found no place in its platform for any reference to this subject, and has shown its hostility to the general policy by refusing to expend an appropriation made during the last administration for ocean mail contracts with American lines.
The patriotic people, the workmen in our shops, the capitalists seeking new enterprises, must decide whether the great ships owned by Americans which have sought American registry shall again humbly ask a place in the English naval reserve; the great ships now on the designers' tables go to foreign shops for construction, and the United States lose the now brightening opportunity of recovering a place commensurate with its wealth, the skill of its constructors and the courage of its sailors, in the carrying trade of all the seas.
Another related measure, as furnishing an increased ocean traffic for our ships, and of great and permanent benefit to the farmers and manufacturers as well, is the reciprocity policy declared by section 3 of the tariff act of 1890, and now in practical operation with five of the nations of Central and South America, San Domingo, the Spanish and British West India Islands, and with Germany and Austria, under special trade arrangements with each.
The removal of the duty upon sugar and the continuance of coffee and tea upon the free list, while giving great relief to our people by cheapening articles used increasingly in every household, was also of such enormous advantage to the countries exporting these articles as to suggest that in consideration thereof reciprocal favors should be shown in their tariffs to articles exported by us to their markets.
Great credit is due to Mr. Elaine for the vigor with which he pressed this view upon the country. We have only begun to realize the benefit of these trade arrangements. The work of creating new agencies and of adapting our goods to new markets has necessarily taken time, but the results already attained are such, I am sure, as to establish in popular favor the policy of reciprocal trade, based upon the free importation of such articles as do not injuriously compete with the products of our own farms, mines, or factories, in exchange for the free or favored introduction of our products into other countries.
The obvious efficacy of this policy in increasing the foreign trade of the United States at once attracted the alarmed attention of European trade journals and boards of trade. The British board of trade has presented to that government a memorial asking for the appointment of a commission to consider the best means of counteracting what is called "the commercial crusade of the United States."
At a meeting held in March last of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Great Britain, the president reported that the exports from Great Britain to the Latin-American countries during the last year had decreased $23,750,000, and that this was not due to temporary causes, but directly to the reciprocity policy of the United States.
Germany and France have also shown their startled appreciation of the fact that a new and vigorous contestant has appeared in the battle of the markets and has already secured important advantages.
The most convincing evidence of the tremendous commercial strength of our position is found in the fact that Great Britain and Spain have found it necessary to make reciprocal trade agreements with ns for their West India colonies, and that Germany and Austria have given us important concessions in exchange for the continued free importation of their beet sugar.
A few details only as to the increase of our trade can be given here. Taking all the countries with which such arrangements have been made, our trade to June 30, 1892, had increased 23.78 per cent; with Brazil the increase was nearly 11 per cent; with Cuba, during the first ten months, our exports increased $5,702,193, or 54.86 per cent, and with Porto Rico $590,959, or 34 per cent. The liberal participation of our farmers in the benefits of this policy is shown by the following report from our consul-general at Havana, under date of July 26 last:
During the first half year of 1891 Havana received 140,056 bags of flour from Spain and other ports of the island about an equal amount, or, approximately, 280,112 bags.
Partly by reason of the reciprocal trade agreement, but more largely by reason of the removal of the sanitary restrictions upon American pork, our export of pork products to Germany increased during the ten months ending June 30 last $2,025,074, or about 32 per cent.
The British Trade Journal, of London, in a recent issue, speaking of the increase of American coal exports and of the falling off of the English coal exports to Cuba, says :
It is another case of American competition. The United States now supply Cuba with about 150,000 tons of coal annually, and there is every prospect of this trade increasing as the forests of the island become exhausted and the use of steam machinery on the sugar estates is developed. Alabama coal, especially, is securing a reputation in the Spanish West Indies, and the river and rail improvements of the Southern States will undoubtedly create an important Gulf trade.
The Democratic platform promises a repeal of the tariff law containing this provision, and especially denounces as a sham reciprocity that section of the law under which these trade arrangements have been made. If no other issue were involved in the campaign this alone would give it momentous importance.
Are the farmers of the great grain growing States willing to surrender these new, large, and increasing markets for their surplus? Are we to have nothing in exchange for the free importation of sugar and coffee and at the same time to destroy the sugar planters of the South and the beet-sugar industry of the Northwest and of the Pacific coast, or are we to have the taxed sugar and coffee, which a "tariff for revenue only" necessarily involves, with the added loss of the new markets which have been opened?
As I have shown, our own commercial rivals in Europe do not regard this reciprocity policy as a "sham," but as a serious threat to a trade supremacy they have long enjoyed. They would rejoice — and if prudence did not restrain would illuminate their depressed manufacturing cities—over the news that the United States had abandoned its system of protection and reciprocity. They see very clearly that restriction of American production and trade and a corresponding increase of European production and trade would follow, and I will not believe that what is so plain to them can be hidden from our own people.
The declaration of the platform in favor of "the American doctrine of protection" meets my most hearty approval. The convention did not adopt a schedule, but a principle that is to control all tariff schedules. There may be differences of opinion among protectionists as to the rate upon particular articles necessary to effect an equalization between wages abroad and at home. In some not remote national campaigns the issue has been, or, more correctly, has been made to appear to be between a high and a low protective tariff, both parties expressing some solicitous regard for the wages of our working people and for the prosperity of our domestic industries.
But, under a more courageous leadership, the Democratic party has now practically declared that if given power it will enact a tariff law without any regard to its effect upon wages or upon the capital invested in our great industries. The majority report of the committee on platform to the Democratic national convention at Chicago contained this clause:
That when custom-house taxation is levied upon articles of any kind produced in this country the difference between the cost Of labor here and labor abroad, when such a difference exists, fully measures any possible benefits to labor, and the enormous additional impositions of the existing tariff fall with crushing force upon our farmers and working men.
Here we have a distinct admission of the Republican contention that American workmen are advantaged by a tariff rate equal to the difference between home and foreign wages, and a declaration only against the alleged "additional impositions" of the existing tariff law. Again, this majority report further declared : But in making a reduction in taxes, it is not proposed to injure any domestic industries, but rather to promote their healthy growth. * * * Moreover, many industries have come to rely upon legislation for successful continuance, so that any change of law must be at every step regardful of the labor and the capital thus involved.
Here we have an admission that many of our industries depend upon protective duties "for their successful continuance," and a declaration that tariff changes should be regardful of the workmen in such industries and of the invested capital.
The overwhelming rejection of these propositions, which had before received the sanction of Democratic national conventions, was not more indicative of the new and more courageous leadership to which the party has now committed itself than the substitute which was adopted. This substitute declares that protective duties are unconstitutional — high protection, low protection—all unconstitutional.
A Democratic Congress holding this view can not enact, nor a Democratic President approve, any tariff schedule the purpose or effect of which is to limit importations or to give any advantage to an American workman or producer. A bounty might, I judge, be given to the importer under this view of the Constitution, in order to increase importations, and so the revenue for "revenue only" is the limitation. Reciprocity, of course, falls under this denunciation, for its object and effect are not revenue, but the promotion of commercial exchanges, the profits of which go wholly to our producers.
This destructive, un-American doctrine was not held or taught by the historic Democratic statesmen whose fame as American patriots has reached this generation — certainly not by Jefferson or Jackson. This mad crusade against American shops, the bitter epithets applied to American manufacturers, the persistent disbelief of every report of the opening of a tin-plate mill or of an increase of our foreign trade by reciprocity are as surprising as they are discreditable.
There is not a thoughtful business man in the country who does not know that the enactment into law of the declaration of the Chicago convention upon the subject of the tariff would at once plunge the country into a business convulsion such as it has never seen; and there is not a thoughtful workingman who does not know that it would at once enormously reduce the amount of work to be done in this country by the increase of importations that would follow and necessitate a reduction of his wages to the European standard.
If any one suggests that this radical policy will not be executed if the Democratic party attains power, what shall be thought of a party that is capable of thus trifling with great interests? The threat of such legislation would be only less hurtful than the fact.
A distinguished Democrat rightly described this movement as a challenge to the protected industries to a fight of extermination, and another such rightly expressed the logic of the situation when he interpreted the Chicago platform to be an invitation to all Democrats holding even the most moderate protection views to go into the Republican party.
And now a few words in regard to the existing tariff law. We are fortunately able to judge of its influence upon production and prices by the market reports. The day of the prophet of calamity has been succeeded by that of the trade reporter.
An examination into the effect of the law upon the prices of protected products and of the cost of such articles as enter into the living of people of small means has been made by a Senate committee composed of leading Senators of both parties, with the aid of the best statisticians, and the report, signed by all the members of the committee, has been given to the public. No such wide and careful inquiry has ever before been made. These facts appear from the report:
First. The cost of articles entering into the use of those earning less than $1,000 per annum has decreased up to May, 1892, 3.4 per cent, while in farm products there has been an increase in prices, owing in part to an increased foreign demand and the opening of new markets.
In England, during the same period, the cost of living increased 1. 9 per cent. Tested by their power to purchase articles of necessity the earnings of our working people have never been as great as they are now.
Second. There has been an average advance in the rate of wages of .75 of 1 per cent.
Third. There has been an advance in the price of all farm products of 18.67 per cent, and of all cereals 33.59 per cent.
The ninth annual report of the chief of the bureau of labor statistics of the State of New York, a Democratic officer, very recently issued, strongly corroborates as to that State the facts found by the Senate committee. His extended inquiry shows that in the year immediately following the passage of the tariff act of 1890 the aggregate sum paid in wages in that State was $6,377,925 in excess, and the aggregate production $31,315,130111 excess of the preceding year.
In view of this showing of an increase in wages, of a reduction in the cost of articles of common necessity and of a marked advance in the prices of agricultural products, it is plain that this tariff law has not imposed burdens, but has conferred benefits upon the farmer and the workingman.
Some special effects of the act should be noticed. It was a courageous attempt to rid our people of a long-maintained foreign monopoly in the production of tin plate, pearl buttons, silk plush, linens, lace, etc. Once or twice in our history the production of tin plate had been attempted, and the prices obtained by the Welsh makers would have enabled our makers to produce it at a profit. But the Welsh makers at once cut prices to a point that drove the American beginners out of the business, and, when this was accomplished, again made their own prices.
A correspondent of the Industrial World, the official organ of the Welsh tin-plate workers, published at Swansea, in the issue of June 10, 1892, advises a new trial of these methods. He says:
Do not be deceived. The victory of the Republicans at the polls means the retention of the McKinley bill and means the rapidly accruing loss of the 80 per cent of the export American trade. Had there been no Democratic victory in 1890 the spread of the tin-plate manufacture in the United States would have been both rapid and bona fide. It is not yet too late to do something to reduce the price of plates. Put them down to 11 shillings per box of 100,14 by 20, full weight basis. Let the workmen lake half pay for a few months and turn out more. Then let the masters forego profits for the same time.
And again that paper says :
It is clearly the interest of both (employer and workmen) to produce tin plates, tariff or no tariff, at a price that will drive all competitors from the field.
But, in spite of the doubts raised by the elections of 1890 and of the machinations of foreign producers to maintain their monopoly, the tin-plate industry has been established in the United States, and the alliance between the Welsh producers and the Democratic party for its destruction will not succeed.
The official returns to the Treasury Department of the production of tin and terne plates in the United States during the last fiscal year show a total production of 13,240,830 pounds, and a comparison of the first quarter, 826,922 pounds, with the last, 8,000,000 pounds, shows the rapid development of the industry. Over 5,000,000 pounds during the last quarter were made from American black plates, the remainder from foreign plates.
Mr. Ayer, the Treasury agent in charge, estimates, as the result of careful inquiry, that the production of the current year will be 100,000,000 pounds, and that by the end of the year our production will be at the rate of 200,000,000 pounds per annum.
Another industry that has been practically created by the McKinley bill is the making of pearl buttons. Few articles coming to us from abroad were so distinctly the product of starvation wages.
But without unduly extending this letter I can not follow in detail the influences of the tariff law of 1890. It has transplanted several important industries and established them here, and has revived or enlarged all others. The act gives to the miners protection against foreign silver-bearing lead ores, the free introduction of which threatened the great mining industries of the Rocky Mountain States; and to the wool-growers protection for their fleeces and flocks, which has saved them from a further and disastrous decline. The House of Representatives, at its last session, passed bills placing these ores and wool upon the free list. The people of the West will know how destructive to their prosperity these measures would be.
This tariff law has given employment to many thousands of American men and women and will each year give employment to increasing thousands. Its repeal would throw thousands out of employment and give work to others only at reduced wages. The appeals of the free trader to the workingman are largely addressed to his prejudices or to his passions and not infrequently are pronouncedly communistic. The new Democratic leadership rages at the employer and seeks to communicate his rage to the employee. I greatly regret that all employers of labor are not just and considerate, and that capital sometimes takes too large a share of the profits. But I do not see that these evils will be ameliorated by a tariff policy, the first necessary effect of which is a severe wage cut, and the second a large diminution of the aggregate amount of work to be done in this country.
If the injustice of his employer tempts the workman to strike back he should be very sure that his blow does not fall upon his own head or upon his wife and children. The workmen in our great industries are as a body remarkably intelligent and are lovers of home and country. They may be roused by injustice, or what seems to them to be such, or be led for the moment by others into acts of passion; but they will settle the tariff contest in the calm light of their November firesides and with sole reference to the prosperity of the country of which they are citizens and of the homes they have founded for their wives and children.
No intelligent advocate of a protective tariff claims that it is able of itself to maintain a uniform rate of wages without regard to fluctuations in the supply of, and demand for the products of labor. But it is confidently claimed that protective duties strongly tend to hold up wages, and are the only barrier against a reduction to the European scale.
The Southern States have had a liberal participation in the benefits of the tariff law, and though their representatives have generally opposed the protection policy, I rejoice that their sugar, rice, coal, ores, iron, fruits, cotton cloths, and other products have not been left to the fate which the votes of their representatives would have brought upon them.
In the construction of the Nicaragua Canal, in the new trade with South and Central America, in the establishment of American steamship lines, these States have also special interests, and all these interests will not always consent to be without representation at Washington.
Shrewdly, but not quite fairly, our adversaries speak only of the increased duty imposed upon tin, pearl buttons and other articles by the McKinley bill, and omit altogether any reference to the great and beneficial enlargement of the free list. During the last fiscal year $458,000,772 worth of merchandise, or 55.35 per cent of our total importations, came in free (the largest per centage in our history); while in 1889 the per cent of free importations was only 34.42
The placing of sugar upon the free list has saved to the consumer in duties in fifteen months, after paying the bounties provided for, $87,000,000. This relief has been substantially felt in even' household upon every Saturday's purchase of the workingman. per cent.
One of the favorite arguments against a protective tariff is that it shuts us out from a participation in what is called with swelling emphasis "the markets of the world." If this view is not a false one, how does it happen that our commercial competitors are not able to bear with more serenity our supposed surrender to them of the "markets of the world?" And how does it happen that the partial loss of our market closes foreign tin-plate mills and plush factories that still have all other markets?
Our natural advantages, our protective tariff, and the reciprocity policy make it possible for us to have a large participation in the "markets of the world," without opening our own to a competition that would destroy the comfort and independence of our people.
The resolution of the convention in favor of bimetalism declares, I think, the true and necessary conditions of a movement that has, upon these lines, my cordial adherence and support. I am thoroughly convinced that the free coinage of silver at such a ratio to gold as will maintain the equality in their commercial uses of the two coined dollars would conduce to the prosperity of all the great producing and commercial nations of the world.
The one essential condition is that these dollars shall have and retain an equal acceptability and value in all commercial transactions. They are not only a medium of exchange, but a measure of values, and when two unequal measures are called in law by the same name commerce is unsettled and confused and the unwary and ignorant are cheated. Dollars of unequal commercial value will not circulate together. The better dollar is withdrawn and becomes merchandise.
The true interest of all our people, and especially of the farmers and working people, who can not closely observe the money market, is that every dollar, paper or coin, issued or authorized by the Government, shall at all times and in all its uses be the exact equivalent, not only in debt-paying, but in purchasing power of any other dollar.
I am quite sure that if we should now act upon this subject independently of other nations we would greatly promote their interests and injure our own. The monetary conditions in Europe within the last two years have, I think, tended very much to develop a sentiment in favor of a larger use of silver, and I was much pleased and encouraged by the cordiality, promptness, and unanimity with which the invitation of this Government for an international conference upon this subject was accepted by all the powers. We may not only hope for, but expect highly beneficial results from this conference, which will now soon assemble. When the result of the conference is known we shall then be able intelligently to readjust our financial legislation to any new conditions.
In my last annual message to Congress I said :
I must yet entertain the hope that it is possible to secure a calm, patriotic consideration of such Constitutional or statutory changes as may be necessary to secure the choice of the officers of the Government to the people by fair apportionments and free elections. I believe it would be possible to constitute a commission, nonpartisan in its membership and composed of patriotic, wise, and impartial men, to whom a consideration of the questions of the evils connected with our elections systems and methods might be committed with a good prospect of securing unanimity in some plan for removing or mitigating those evils.
It seemed to me that an appeal to our people to consider the question of readjusting our legislation upon absolutely fair non- partisan lines might find some effective response. Many times I have had occasion to say that laws and election methods designed to give unfair advantages to the party making them would some time be used to perpetuate in power a faction of a party against the will of a majority of the people.
Of this we seem to have an illustration in the recent State election in Alabama. There was no Republican ticket in the field. The contest was between white Democrats. The Kolb party say they were refused the representation guaranteed by law upon the election boards, and that when the courts by mandamus attempted to right this wrong, an appeal that could not be heard until after the election made the writs ineffectual. Ballot boxes were thrown out for alleged irregularities, or destroyed, and it is asserted on behalf of one-half, at least, of the white voters of Alabama that the officers to whom certificates have been given were not honestly elected.
There is no security for the personal or political rights of any man in a community where any other man is deprived of his personal or political rights. The power of the States over the question of the qualification of electors is ample to protect them against the dangers of an ignorant or depraved suffrage, and the demand that every man found to be qualified under the law shall be made secure in the right to cast a free ballot, and to have that ballot honestly counted, can not be abated.
Our old Republican battle-cry, "A free ballot and a fair count," comes back to us not only from Alabama but from other States, and from men who, differing with us widely in opinions, have come to see that parties and political debate are but a mockery if, when the debate is ended, the judgment of honest majorities is to be reversed by ballot-box frauds and tally-sheet manipulations in the interest of the party or party faction in power.
These new political movements in the States and the recent decisions of some of the State courts against unfair apportionment laws, encourage the hope that the arbitrary and partisan election laws and practices which have prevailed may be corrected by the States, the laws made equal and nonpartisan, and the elections free and honest. The Republican party would rejoice at such a solution, as a healthy and patriotic local sentiment is the best assurance of free and honest elections.
I shall again urge upon Congress that provision be made for the appointment of a nonpartisan commission to consider the subject of apportionments and elections, in their relation to the choice of Federal officers.
The civil-service system has been extended and law enforced with vigor and impartiality. There has been no partisan juggling with the law in any of the departments or bureaus, as had before happened, but appointments to the classified service have been made impartially from the eligible lists. The system now in force in all the departments has for the first time placed promotions strictly upon the basis of merit, as ascertained by a daily record, and the efficiency of the force thereby greatly increased.
The approval so heartily given by the convention to all those agencies which contribute to the education of the children of the land, was worthily bestowed and meets my hearty approval, as does also the declaration as to liberty of thought and conscience, and the separation of church and state.
The safety of the Republic is an intelligent citizenship, and the increased interest manifested in the States in education, the cheerfulness with which the necessary taxes are paid by all classes, and the renewed interest manifested by the children in the national flag, are hopeful indications that the coming generation will direct public affairs with increased prudence and patriotism.
Our interest in free public schools open to all children of suitable age is supreme, and our care for them will be jealous and constant. The public school system, however, was not intended to restrain the natural right of the parent, after contributing to the public school fund, to choose other educational agencies for his children.
I favored aid by the General Government to the public schools, with a special view to the necessities of some of the Southern States. But it is gratifying to notice that many of these States are, with commendable liberality, developing their school systems and increasing their school revenues, to the great advantage of the children of both races.
The considerate attention of the farmers of the whole country is invited to the work done through the State and Agricultural Departments in the interest of agriculture. Our pork products had for ten years been not only excluded by the great continental nations of Europe, but their value discredited by the reasons given for this exclusion. All previous efforts to secure the removal of these restrictions had failed, but the wise legislation of the Fifty-first Congress, providing for the inspection and official certification of our meats, and giving to the President power to forbid the introduction into this country of selected products of such countries as should continue to refuse our inspected meats, enabled us to open all the markets of Europe to our pork products. The result has been not only to sustain prices by providing new markets for our surplus, but to add fifty cents per one hundred pounds to the market value of the inspected meats.
Under the reciprocity agreements special favors have been secured for agricultural products, and our exports of such products have been greatly increased, with a sure prospect of a further and rapid increase. The Agricultural Department has maintained in Europe an agent whose special duty it is to introduce there the various preparations of corn as articles of food, and his work has been very successful.
The Department has also sent skilled veterinarians to Liverpool to examine, in connection with the British veterinarians, the live cattle from the United States landed at that port, and the result, in connection with the sanitary methods adopted at home, has been that we hear no more about our cattle being infected with pleuro-pneumonia. A judicious system of quarantine lines has prevented the infection of Northern cattle with the Texas fever.
The tariff bill of 1890 gives better protection to farm products subject to foreign competition than they ever had before, and the home markets for such products have been enlarged by the establishment of new industries and the development of others.
We may confidently submit to the intelligent and candid judgment of the American farmer whether in any corresponding period so much has been done to promote his interests, and whether, in a continuance and extension of these methods, there is not a better prospect offered to him than in the invitation of the Democratic party to give our home market to foreign manufacturers and to abandon the reciprocity policy, and better also than the radical and untried methods of relief proposed by other parties which are soliciting his support.
I have often expressed my strong conviction of the value of the Nicaragua Ship Canal to our commerce and to our Navy. The project is not one of convenience, but of necessity. It is quite possible, I believe, if the United States will support the enterprise, to secure the speedy completion of the canal without taxing the Treasury for any direct contribution, and at the same time to secure to the United States that influence in its management which is imperative.
It has been the purpose of the administration to make its foreign policy not a matter of partisan politics, but of patriotism and national honor, and I have very great gratification in being able to state that the Democratic members of the Committees of Foreign Affairs responded in a true American spirit. I have not hesitated to consult freely with them about the most confidential and delicate affairs, and here frankly confess my obligation for needed cooperation. They did not regard a patient but firm insistence upon American rights and upon immunity from insult and injury for our citizens and sailors in foreign ports as a policy of "irritation and bluster." They did not believe, as some others seem to believe, that to be a Democrat one must take the foreign side of every international question if a Republican administration is conducting the American side. I do not believe that a tame submission to insult and outrage by any nation at the hands of another can ever form the basis of a lasting friendship ; the necessary element of mutual respect will be wanting.
The Chilean incident, now so happily and honorably adjusted, will, I do not doubt, place our relations with that brave people upon a more friendly basis than ever before. This already appears in the agreement since negotiated by Mr. Egan for the settlement by a commission of the long unsettled claims between the two Governments. The work of Mr. Egan has been highly advantageous to the United States. The confidence which I refused to withdraw from him has been abundantly justified.
In our relations with the great European powers the rights of the United States and of our citizens have been insisted upon with firmness. The strength of our cause and not the strength of our adversary has given tone to our correspondence.
The Samoan question and the Bering Sea question, which came over from the preceding administration, have been the one settled and the other submitted to arbitration upon a fair basis.
Never before, I think, in a like period have so many important treaties and commercial agreements been concluded and never before, I am sure, have the honor and influence, national and commercial, of the United States been held in higher estimation in both hemispheres.
The Union soldiers and sailors are now veterans of time as well as of war. The parallels of age have approached close to the citadels of life and the end, for each, of a brave and honorable struggle is not remote. Increasing infirmity and years give the minor tones of sadness and pathos to the mighty appeal of service and suffering. The ear that does not listen with sympathy and the heart that does not respond with generosity are the ear and heart of an alien and not of an American. Now, soon again the surviving veterans are to parade upon the great avenue of the national capital and every tribute of honor and love should attend the march. A comrade in the column of the victors' parade in 1865, I am not less a comrade now.
I have used every suitable occasion to urge upon the people of all sections the consideration that no good cause can 1>e promoted upon the lines of lawlessness. Mobs do not discriminate, and the punishments inflicted by them have no repressive or salutary influence. On the contrary, they beget revenges and perpetuate feuds. It is especially the duty of the educated and influential to see that the weak and ignorant when accused of crime are fairly tried before lawful tribunals. The moral sentiment of the country should be aroused and brought to bear for the suppression of these offenses against the law and social order.
The necessity for a careful discrimination among the emigrants seeking our shores becomes every day more apparent. We do not want and should not receive those who by reason of bad character or habits are not wanted at home. The industrious and self-respecting, the lovers of law and liberty, should be discriminated from the pauper, the criminal and the anarchist, who come only to burden and disturb our communities. Every effort has been made to enforce the laws and some convictions have been secured under the contract-labor law.
The general condition of our country is one of great prosperity. The blessing of God has rested upon our fields and upon our people. The annual value of our foreign commerce has increased more than $400,000,000 over the average for the preceding ten years, and more than $210,000,000 over 1890, the last year unaffected by the new tariff. Our exports in 1892 exceeded those of 1890 by more than $172,000,000, and the annual average for ten years by $265,000,000. Our exports of breadstuffs increased over those of 1890 more than $144,000,000; of provisions over $4,000,000, and of manufactures over $8,000,000. The merchandise balance of trade in our favor in 1892 was $202,944,342.
No other nation can match the commercial progress which these figures disclose. Our compassion may well go out to those whose party necessities and habits still compel them to declare that our people are oppressed and our trade restricted by a protective tariff.
It is not possible for me to refer, even in the briefest way, to many of the topics presented in the resolutions adopted by the convention. Upon all that have not been discussed I have before publicly expressed my views.
A change in the personnel of a national administration is of comparatively little moment. If those exercising public functions are able, honest, diligent, and faithful, others possessing all these qualities may be found to take their places. But changes in the laws and administrative policies are of great moment. When public affairs have been given a direction and business has adjusted itself to these lines, any sudden change involves a stoppage and new business adjustments. If the change of direction is so radical as to bring the commercial turn-table into use the business changes involved are not readjustments, but reconstructions.
The Democratic party offers a programme of demolition. The protective policy — to which all business, even that of the importer, is now adjusted — the reciprocity policy, the new merchant marine, are all to be demolished, not gradually, not taken down, but blown up. To this programme of destruction it has added one constructive feature, the reestablishment of State banks of issue.
The policy of the Republican party is, on the other hand, distinctively a policy of safe progression and development—of new factories, new markets, and new ships. It will subject business to no perilous changes, but offers attractive opportunities for expansion upon familiar lines.
Very respectfully yours,
|Citation: Benjamin Harrison: "Letter Accepting the Presidential Nomination", September 3, 1892. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=76067.|
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