Grover Cleveland

Remarks to Members of the Notification Committee of the Democratic National Convention Accepting the Presidential Nomination

July 20, 1892

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen—The message you deliver from the National Democracy arouses within me emotions which would be well nigh overwhelming if I did not recognize here assembled the representatives of a great party who must share with me the responsibility your mission invites. I find much relief in the reflection that I have been selected merely to stand for the principles and purposes to which my party is pledged, and for the enforcement and supremacy of which all who have any right to claim Democratic fellowship must constantly and persistently labor.

Our party responsibility is indeed great. We assume a momentous obligation to our countrymen when, in return for their trust and confidence, we promise them a rectification of their wrongs and a better realization of the advantages which are due to them under our free and beneficent institutions.

But, if our responsibility is great, our party is strong. It is strong in its sympathy with the needs of the people, in its insistence upon the exercise of governmental powers strictly within the constitutional permission the people have granted, and in its willingness to risk its life and hope upon the people's intelligence and patriotism.

Never has a great party, intent upon the promotion of right and justice, had better incentive for effort than is now presented to us.

Turning our eyes to the plain people of the land, we see them burdened as consumers with a tariff system that unjustly and relentlessly demands from them in the purchase of the necessaries and comforts of life, an amount scarcely met by the wages of hard and steady toil—while the exactions thus wrung from them build up and increase the fortunes of those for whose benefit this injustice is perpetuated.

We see the farmer listening to a delusive story that fills his mind with visions of advantage, while his pocket is robbed by the stealthy hand of high protection.

Our workingmen are still told the tale, oft repeated in spite of its demonstrated falsity, that the existing protective tariff is a boon to them, and that under its beneficent operation their wages must increase, while, as they listen, scenes are enacted in the very abiding place of high protection that mock the hopes of toil and attest the tender mercy the workingman receives from those made selfish and sordid by unjust governmental favoritism.

We oppose earnestly and stubbornly the theory upon which our opponents seek to justify and uphold existing tariff laws. We need not base our attack upon questions of constitutional permission or legislative power. We denounce this theory upon the highest possible grounds when we contend that in present conditions its operation is unjust and that laws enacted in accordance with it are inequitable and unfair.

Ours is not a destructive party. We are not at enmity with the rights of any of our citizens. All are our countrymen. We are not recklessly heedless of any American interests, nor will we abandon our regard for them; but invoking the love of fairness and justice which belongs to true Americanism, and upon which our constitution rests, we insist that no plan of tariff legislation shall be tolerated which has for its object and purpose a forced contribution from the earnings and income of the mass of our citizens, to swell directly the accumulations of a favored few; nor will we permit a pretended solicitude for American labor, or any other specious pretext of benevolent care for others, to blind the eyes of the people to the selfish schemes of those who seek, through the aid of unequal tariff laws, to gain unearned and unreasonable advantages at the expense of their fellows.

We have also assumed, in our covenant with those whose support we invite, the duty of opposing to the death another avowed scheme of our adversaries, which, under the guise of protecting the suffrage, covers, but does not conceal, a design thereby to perpetuate the power of a party afraid to trust its continuance to the untrammeled and intelligent votes of the American people. We are pledged to resist the legislation intended to complete this scheme, because we have not forgotten the saturnalia of theft and brutal control which followed another Federal regulation of State suffrage; because we know that the managers of a party which did not scruple to rob the people of a President would not hesitate to use the machinery created by such legislation to revive corrupt instrumentalities for partisan purposes; because an attempt to enforce such legislation would rekindle animosities where peace and hopefulness now prevail; because such an attempt would replace prosperous activity with discouragement and dread throughout a large section of our country, and would menace, everywhere in the land, the rights reserved to the States and to the people, which underlie the safe-guards of American liberty.

I shall not attempt to specify at this time other objects and aims of Democratic endeavor which add inspiration to our mission. True to its history and its creed, our party will respond to the wants of the people within safe lines and guided by enlightened statesmanship. To the troubled and impatient within our membership we commend continued, unswerving allegiance to the party whose principles in all times past have been found sufficient for them, and whose aggregate wisdom and patriotism, their experience teaches, can always be trusted.

In a tone of partisanship which befits the occasion, let me say to you, as equal partners in the campaign upon which we to-day enter, that the personal fortunes of those to whom you have intrusted your banners are only important as they are related to the fate of the principles they represent and to the party which they lead.

I cannot, therefore, forbear reminding you and all those attached to the Democratic party or supporting the principles which we profess that defeat in the pending campaign, followed by the consummation of the legislative schemes our opponents contemplate, and accompanied by such other incidents of their success as might more firmly fix their power, would present a most discouraging outlook for future Democratic supremacy and for the accomplishment of the objects we have at heart.

Moreover, every sincere Democrat must believe that the interests of this country are deeply involved in the victory of our party in the struggle that awaits us. Thus patriotic solicitude exalts the hope of partisanship, and should intensify our determination to win success.

This success can only be achieved by systematic and intelligent effort on the part of all enlisted in our cause. Let us tell the people plainly and honestly what we believe and how we propose to serve the interests of the entire country, and then let us, after the manner of true Democracy, rely upon the thoughtfulness and patriotism of our fellow countrymen.

It only remains for me to say to you, in advance of a more formal response to your message, that I obey the command of my party, and confidently anticipate that an intelligent and earnest presentation of our cause will insure a popular endorsement of the action of the body you represent.

Grover Cleveland, Remarks to Members of the Notification Committee of the Democratic National Convention Accepting the Presidential Nomination Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project