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Friday, August 22, 2014

Presidential Backfire- The Election of 1900

     Before I speak of the election of 1900 I need to go back four years to the election of 1896. The country was not in a good place. There was essentially a depression from 1893 onwards(finally ending in 1897) caused by railroad failures the European investment withdrawal in certain U.S. markets. This lead to a fall in stocks across the board and a run on the banks. This in turn caused many more banks to become insolvent. There was a shortage of gold to back up the currency at the time and the U.S. government needed to issue bonds to satisfy the demand...albeit at a slow pace. As with most troubling economic times, there was large political instability. By the time the next election came along the Democratic party saw a HUGE populist uprising backed by those most affected by the economy of the time(unskilled laborers, family farmers, poor immigrants). They demanded the use of silver in addition to gold to back up the paper money as well as more regulation of big business.

    The Panic of 1893 had however happened under a Democratic president, so the Republican party saw it as an opportunity in 1896 to return to the White House. However, the populist uprising in the Democratic party concerned many of the rich industrialists of the era. Famous titans of industry such as J.P. Morgan, John Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie were afraid of what would happen if the populist candidate of the Democratic Party won the general election. William Jennings Bryan was a well respected orator and was able to motivate his base well. So, using their vast collective fortunes the titans of American industry backed William McKinley. The amazing amount of funding McKinley received was able to win him the election. German immigrants, skilled workers, people in the financial industries, and the affluent urbanites all backed the GOP due to fear of populism.

    The election of 1900 saw William Jennings Bryan return to face McKinley again. McKinley's running mate and eventual vice president died in office the year before. And the powers that put McKinley in office four years prior saw the opening as a perfect opportunity to put New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt in the VP slot. Why Teddy Roosevelt you might ask? Because he was a threat to the establishment of the time. You see, the vice presidency, while prestigious, holds very little true power or authority. Teddy Roosevelt was outspoken against monopolies and was pro regulation. These views made people like John D Rockefeller of Standard Oil very very nervous. In order to get rid of the troublesome Governor, they made him vice president when McKinley won again in 1900.

     Of course all was going to plan at the time. McKinley was in power and the status quo looked like it would continue. The vice president, no longer in any real office of authority, was effectively neutralized politically. There was no chance the party would back him if he ran for president in 1904. Then something happened...an anarchist named Leon Frank Czolgosz shot the president in Buffalo New York at the Pan American Exposition. Eight days later President McKinley died of an infection from the gun shot wound. That day the former governor of that state when from being a powerless vice president to being the most powerful politician of his day. It was an ultimate backfire of the plan of the elite industrialists that put Roosevelt on the ballot the year before. In his presidency, Roosevelt would bring down the monopolies that tried to neutralize him. Standard Oil, the Northern Securities Company, and 48 other corporate trusts and monopolies saw the Roosevelt administration come after them vigorously.





The election of 1900- He got the last laugh

A publicity photo from his 1912 campaign where he started his own party when his old one would not nominate him again.

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