“Whatcha got ain’t nothin new. This country’s hard on people, you can’t stop what’s coming, it ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.” – Ellis, No Country for Old Men (2007)
Grover Cleveland’s reelection made him the first and still the only President to win two nonconsecutive terms in office. He campaigned to reduce the Mckinley Tariff, and won in a landslide. He triumphantly returned to the White House with his young wife and new daughter, but economic disaster would soon strike.
The Panic of 1893
Similar to the Panic of 1873, the Panic of 1893 ( lasting from May to November) was marked by the collapse of railroad overbuilding and shaky railroad financing which set off a series of bank failures. The great industrial bubble of the 19th century burst, and resulted in the worst economic depression in the nation’s history. At this time, there was virtually no social safety net.
This was a protest march by unemployed workers from the United States led by Ohio businessman Jacob Coxey. They left Massillon, Ohio on March 25, 1894 (Easter Sunday) for Washington marching in protest for government aid. Grover Cleveland had them arrested for trespassing. He just did not think it was the government’s responsibility to provide jobs or help of any kind during a depression. This line of thinking was par for the course at this time.
The Populist movement was a revolt by farmers in the South and Midwest against the Democratic and Republican Parties for ignoring their interests and difficulties. For over a decade, farmers were suffering from crop failures, falling prices, poor marketing, and lack of credit facilities.
The monetary debate was the central political issue of the 1890s, and was representative of a deeper disagreement over public policy, finance, and the equitable distribution of wealth. Eastern industrialists wanted gold as the standard for they controlled the supply. Farmers, westerners and Populists supported bimetalism which allowed both a silver and gold standard.
Cleveland opposed bimetalism claiming the gold standard would end the depression. This made him look like a pawn of industrialists, and his popularity with the masses quickly faded.
Cleveland was unable to heal economic crisis and seemed out of touch with the call for government reform. He was dropped from ticket, and marked that last of the laid back 19th century presidents. He hoped to passively sheer the ship of state to the future by maintaining the status quo, but instead found himself unable to deal with the dynamic changes that were quickly pushing the country into the 20th century.
Grover Cleveland Returns
We have an economic depression due to the failing of corporate finance leading to unrest amongst the unemployed, and a general questioning of the relationship between government and business. That doesn’t sound like right now does it? Furthermore, the development of a growing divide between urban and suburban citizens sees two different Americas emerging.
Benjamin Harrison preceded him
William Mckinley would follow him.
It all started with George Washington.