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1904 Democratic Party Platform

July 06, 1904

The Democratic party of the United States, in National Convention assembled, declares its devotion to the essential principles of the Democratic faith which bring us together in party communion.

Under these principles local self-government and National unity and prosperity were alike established. They underlaid our independence, the structure of our free Republic, and every Democratic expansion from Louisiana to California, and Texas to Oregon, which preserved faithfully in all the States the tie between taxation and representation. They yet inspirit the masses of our people, guarding jealously their rights and liberties, and cherishing their fraternity, peace and orderly development. They remind us of our duties and responsibilities as citizens and impress upon us, particularly at this time, the necessity of reform and the rescue of the administration of Government from the headstrong, arbitrary and spasmodic methods which distract business by uncertainty, and pervade the public mind with dread, distrust and perturbation.

Fundamental Principles

The application of these fundamental principles to the living issues of the day constitutes the first step toward the assured peace, safety and progress of our nation. Freedom of the press, of conscience, and of speech; equality before the law of all citizens; right of trial by jury; freedom of the person defended by the Writ of Habeas Corpus; liberty of personal contract untrammeled by sumptuary laws; supremacy of the civil over military authority; a well-disciplined militia; separation of Church and State; economy in expenditures; low taxes, that labor may be lightly burdened; prompt and sacred fulfillment of public and private obligations; fidelity to treaties; peace and friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; absolute acquiescence in the will of the majority, the vital principle of Republics—these are doctrines which Democracy has established as proverbs of the Nation, and they should be constantly invoked, and enforced.

Economy of Administration

Large reductions can easily be made in the annual expenditures of the Government without impairing the efficiency of any branch of the public service, and we shall insist upon the strictest economy and frugality compatible with vigorous and efficient civil, military and naval administration as a right of the people, too clear to be denied or withheld.

Honesty in the Public Service

We favor the enforcement of honesty in the public service, and to that end a thorough legislative investigation of those executive departments of the Government already known to teem with corruption, as well as other departments suspected of harboring corruption, and the punishment of ascertained corruptionists without fear or favor or regard to persons. The persistent and deliberate refusal of both the Senate and House of Representatives to permit such investigation to be made demonstrates that only by a change in the executive and in the legislative departments can complete exposure, punishment and correction be obtained.

Federal Government Contracts With Trusts

We condemn the action of the Republican party in Congress in refusing to prohibit an executive department from entering into contracts with convicted trusts or unlawful combinations in restraint of inter-State trade. We believe that one of the best methods of procuring economy and honesty in the public service is to have public officials, from the occupant of the White House down to the lowest of them, return, as nearly as may be, to Jeffersonian simplicity of living.

Executive Usurpation

We favor the nomination and election of a President imbued with the principles of the Constitution, who will set his face sternly against executive usurpation of legislative and judicial functions, whether that usurpation be veiled under the guise of executive construction of existing laws, or whether it take refuge in the tyrant's plea of necessity or superior wisdom.


We favor the preservation, so far as we can, of an open door for the world's commerce in the Orient without unnecessary entanglement in Oriental and European affairs, and without arbitrary, unlimited, irresponsible and absolute government anywhere within our jurisdiction. We oppose, as fervently as did George Washington, an indefinite, irresponsible, discretionary and vague absolutism and a policy of colonial exploitation, no matter where or by whom invoked or exercised. We believe with Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, that no Government has a right to make one set of laws for those "at home" and another and a different set of laws, absolute in their character, for those "in the colonies." All men under the American flag are entitled to the protection of the institutions whose emblem the flag is; if they are inherently unfit for those institutions, then they are inherently unfit to be members of the American body politic. Wherever there may exist a people incapable of being governed under American laws, in consonance with the American Constitution, the territory of that people ought not to be part of the American domain.

We insist that we ought to do for the Filipinos what we have done already for the Cubans, and it is our duty to make that promise now, and upon suitable guarantees of protection to citizens of our own and other countries resident there at the time of our withdrawal to set the Filipino people upon their feet, free and independent, to work out their own destiny.

The endeavor of the Secretary of War, by pledging the Government's endorsement for "promoters" in the Philippine Islands to make the United States a partner in speculative exploitation of the archipelago, which was only temporarily held up by the opposition of Democratic Senators in the last session, will, if successful, lead to entanglements from which it will be difficult to escape.


The Democratic party has been, and will continue to be, the consistent opponent of that class of tariff legislation by which certain interests have been permitted, through Congressional favor, to draw a heavy tribute from the American people. This monstrous perversion of those equal opportunities which our political institutions were established to secure, has caused what may once have been infant industries to become the greatest combinations of capital that the world has ever known. These special favorites of the Government have, through trust methods, been converted into monopolies, thus bringing to an end domestic competition, which was the only alleged check upon the extravagant profits made possible by the protective system. These industrial combinations, by the financial assistance they can give, now control the policy of the Republican party.

We denounce protectionism as a robbery of the many to enrich the few, and we favor a tariff limited to the needs of the Government economically, effectively and constitutionally administered and so levied as not to discriminate against any industry, class or section, to the end that the burdens of taxation shall be distributed as equally as possible.

We favor a revision and a gradual reduction of the tariff by the friends of the masses and for the common weal, and not by the friend of its abuses, its extortions and its discriminations, keeping in view the ultimate end of "equality of burdens and equality of opportunities," and the constitutional purpose of raising a revenue by taxation, to wit: the support of the Federal Government in all its integrity and virility, but in simplicity.

Trusts and Unlawful Combinations

We recognize that the gigantic trusts and combinations designed to enable capital to secure more than its just share of the joint product of capital and labor, and which have been fostered and promoted under Republican rule, are a menace to beneficial competition and an obstacle to permanent business prosperity.

A private monopoly is indefensible and intolerable.

Individual equality of opportunity and free competition are essential to a healthy and permanent commercial prosperity; and any trust, combination or monopoly tending to destroy these by controlling production, restricting competition or fixing prices and wages, should be prohibited and punished by law. We especially denounce rebates and discriminations by transportation companies as the most potent agency in promoting and strengthening these unlawful conspiracies against trade.

We demand an enlargement of the powers of the Interstate Commerce Commission, to the end that the traveling public and shippers of this country may have prompt and adequate relief from the abuses to which they are subjected in the matter of transportation. We demand a strict enforcement of existing civil and criminal statutes against all such trusts, combinations and monopolies; and we demand the enactment of such further legislation as may be necessary effectually to suppress them.

Any trust or unlawful combination engaged in inter-State commerce which is monopolizing any branch of business or production, should not be permitted to transact business outside of the State of its origin, whenever it shall be established in any court of competent jurisdiction that such monopolization exists. Such prohibition should be enforced through comprehensive laws to be enacted on the subject.

Capital and Labor

We favor the enactment and administration of laws giving labor and capital impartially their just rights. Capital and labor ought not to be enemies. Each is necessary to the other. Each has its rights, but the rights of labor are certainly no less "vested," no less "sacred" and no less "inalienable" than the rights of capital.

We favor arbitration of differences between corporate employers and their employees and a strict enforcement of the eight hour law on all Government work.

We approve the measure which passed the United States Senate in 1896, but which a Republican Congress has ever since refused to enact, relating to contempts in Federal courts and providing for trial by jury in cases of indirect contempt.

Constitutional Guaranties

Constitutional guaranties are violated whenever any citizen is denied the right to labor, acquire and enjoy property or reside where interest or inclination may determine. Any denial thereof by individuals, organizations or governments should be summarily rebuked and punished.

We deny the right of any executive to disregard or suspend any constitutional privilege or limitation. Obedience to the laws and respect for their requirements are alike the supreme duty of the citizen and the official.

The military should be used only to support and maintain the law. We unqualifiedly condemn its employment for the summary banishment of citizens without trial, or for the control of elections.


We favor liberal appropriations for the care and improvement of the waterways of the country. When any waterway like the Mississippi River is of sufficient importance to demand the special aid of the Government, such aid should be extended with a definite plan of continuous work until permanent improvement is secured.

We oppose the Republican policy of starving home development in order to feed the greed for conquest and the appetite for national "prestige" and display of strength.

Reclamation of Arid Lands and Domestic Development

We congratulate our Western citizens upon the passage of the measure known as the Newlands Irrigation Act for the irrigation and reclamation of the arid lands of the West—a measure framed by a Democrat, passed in the Senate by a nonpartisan vote, and passed in the House against the opposition of almost all the Republican leaders by a vote the majority of which was Democratic. We call attention to this great Democratic measure, broad and comprehensive as it is, working automatically throughout all time without further action of Congress, until the reclamation of all the lands in the arid West capable of reclamation, is accomplished, reserving the lands reclaimed for homeseekers in small tracts and rigidly guarding against land monopoly, as an evidence of the policy of domestic development contemplated by the Democratic party, should it be placed in power.

The Isthmian Canal

The Democracy when entrusted with power will construct the Panama Canal speedily, honestly and economically, thereby giving to our people what Democrats have always contended for—a great inter-oceanic canal, furnishing shorter and cheaper lines of transportation, and broader and less trammeled trade relations with the other peoples of the world.

American Citizenship

We pledge ourselves to insist upon the just and lawful protection of our citizens at home and abroad, and to use all proper measures to secure for them, whether native born or naturalized, and without distinction of race or creed, the equal protection of laws and the enjoyment of all rights and privileges open to them under the covenants of our treaties of friendship and commerce; and if under existing treaties the right of travel and sojourn is denied to American citizens or recognition is withheld from American passports by any countries on the ground of race or creed, we favor the beginning of negotiations with the governments of such countries to secure by new treaties the removal of these unjust discriminations.

We demand that all over the world a duly authenticated passport issued by the Government of the United States to an American citizen shall be proof of the fact that he is an American citizen and shall entitle him to the treatment due him as such.

Election of Senators By the People

We favor the election of United States Senators by direct vote of the people.

Statehood for Territories

We favor the admission of the Territory of Oklahoma and the Indian Territory. We also favor the immediate admission of Arizona and New Mexico, as separate States, and territorial governments for Alaska and Porto Rico.

We hold that the officials appointed to administer the government of any Territory, as well as the District of Alaska, should be bona-fide residents at the time of their appointment of the Territory or district in which their duties are to be performed.

Condemnation of Polygamy

We demand the extermination of polygamy within the jurisdiction of the United States, and the complete separation of Church and State in political affairs.

Merchant Marine

We denounce the ship subsidy bill recently passed by the United States Senate as an iniquitous appropriation of public funds for private purposes and a wasteful, illogical and useless attempt to overcome by subsidy the obstructions raised by Republican legislation to the growth and development of American commerce on the sea.

We favor the upbuilding of a merchant marine without new or additional burdens upon the people and without bounties from the public treasury.


We favor liberal trade arrangements with Canada, and with peoples of other countries where they can be entered into with benefit to American agriculture, manufactures, mining or commerce.

Monroe Doctrine

We favor the maintenance of the Monroe Doctrine in its full integrity.


We favor the reduction of the Army and of Army expenditures to the point historically demonstrated to be safe and sufficient.

Pensions: Our Soldiers and Sailors

The Democracy would secure to the surviving soldiers and sailors and their dependents generous pensions, not by an arbitrary executive order, but by legislation which a grateful people stand ready to enact.

Our soldiers and sailors who defend with their lives the Constitution and the laws have a sacred interest in their just administration. They must, therefore, share with us the humiliation with which we have witnessed the exaltation of court favorites, without distinguished service, over the scarred heroes of many battles, or aggrandizement by executive appropriations out of the treasuries of prostrate peoples in violation of the act of Congress which fixes the compensation of allowance of the military officers.

Civil Service

The Democratic party stands committed to the principles of civil service reform, and we demand their honest, just and impartial enforcement.

We denounce the Republican party for its continuous and sinister encroachments upon the spirit and operation of civil service rules, whereby it has arbitrarily dispensed with examinations for office in the interest of favorites, and employed all manner of devices to overreach and set aside the principles upon which the Civil Service is based.

Sectional and Race Agitation

The race question has brought countless woes to this country. The calm wisdom of the American people should see to it that it brings no more.

To revive the dead and hateful race and sectional animosities in any part of our common country means confusion, distraction of business, and the reopening of wounds now happily healed. North, South, East and West have but recently stood together in line of battle from the walls of Pekin to the hills of Santiago, and as sharers of a common glory and a common destiny, we should share fraternally the common burdens.

We therefore deprecate and condemn the Bourbon-like selfish, and narrow spirit of the recent Republican Convention at Chicago which sought to kindle anew the embers of racial and sectional strife, and we appeal from it to the sober common sense and patriotic spirit of the American people.

The Republican Administration

The existing Republican administration has been spasmodic, erratic, sensational, spectacular and arbitrary. It has made itself a satire upon the Congress, courts, and upon the settled practices and usages of national and international law.

It summoned the Congress in hasty and futile extra session and virtually adjourned it, leaving behind in its flight from Washington uncalled calendars and unaccomplished tasks.

It made war, which is the sole power of Congress, without its authority, thereby usurping one of its fundamental prerogatives. It violated a plain statute of the United States as well as plain treaty obligations, international usages and constitutional law; and has done so under pretense of executing a great public policy which could have been more easily effected lawfully, constitutionally and with honor.

It forced strained and unnatural constructions upon statutes, usurping judicial interpretation, and substituting for congressional enactment executive decree.

It withdrew from the Congress its customary duties of investigation which have heretofore made the representatives of the people and the States the terror of evildoers.

It conducted a secretive investigation of its own, and boasting of a few sample convicts, it threw a broad coverlet over the bureaus which had been their chosen field of operative abuses, and kept in power the superior officers under whose administration the crimes had been committed.

It ordered assault upon some monopolies, but paralyzed by a first victory, it flung out the flag of truce and cried out that it would not "run amuck"; leaving its future purposes beclouded by its vacillations.

Appeal to the People

Conducting the campaign upon this declaration of our principles and purposes, we invoke for our candidates the support not only of our great and time-honored organization, but also the active assistance of all of our fellow citizens who, disregarding past differences, desire the perpetuation of our constitutional Government as framed and established by the fathers of the Republic.

APP Note: The American Presidency Project used the first day of the national nominating convention as the "date" of this platform since the original document is undated.

Democratic Party Platforms, 1904 Democratic Party Platform Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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