Writing about the Election of 1896 was a turning point in American political history. Academic Help

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Background: The Election of 1896 was a turning point in American political history.

The decade of the 1890’s was filled with crises, upheaval and unrest. Americans believed this election would be an especially significant one. Both candidates took different political positions on the monetary question (gold v silver) , the tariff and trade.

Guidelines for post:
Pretend you are a voter in 1896.
1) Would you have voted for William Jennings Bryan or William McKinley for President of the US in 1896? Become a fictitious voter alive in 1896 . Pick the region of the nation where you live and what you do for an occupation. You could choose to be a female voter as women could vote in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho in 1896.
The textbook explains the voters who were attracted to each candidate.
2) Explain why you voted the way you did using facts and examples from the module Week 4.
View the chart on page 545, use my Content Comments and your text, videos concerning the election and other Canvas resources to use to write your posts.
No outside research beyond the resources in the text and Module Week 4. Your post must show understanding of the issues of Chapter 19.

Week 4 Content Comments from Professor Haber Chapter 19

Elections 1880-1896

See this election website to search by year and see maps of the electoral and popular vote by election.

Garfield assassination

Description of Garfield assassination–…Doctors were part of the poor treatment. Garfield died because of their inadequate care using dirty instruments.

Here is another interesting site on Garfield assassination. He was shot in early July and died in September 1881.

Garfield’s presidency was quite short.Garfield tried to bring all factions of the Republican party together during the election campaign.Both parties had similar positions except on the tariff. Garfield supported a high tariff.


Patronage was used by all Presidents. Back in 1828 Andrew Jackson began the practice of clearing out all office holders and awarding “supporters” with government jobs. Reformers of the patronage were in both parties. Patronage was supported as a reform to put people who were qualified in appointed government jobs or offices. The other reason for reform was to end the corruption. President Hayes complained that much of his time spent as President was in shifting through and listening to entreaties and demands from those seeking patronage positions; however this is not why he refused to run for another 4 year term.

James Garfield’s assassination was by a person who some claim was denied a patronage office appointment by Garfield. The assassin was declared insane. Garfield’s Vice President Chester A. Arthur (now President) surprised everyone by supporting reform.

Party affiliation

The political parties themselves were divided within themselves over stands on national issues. People’s affiliation to parties was determined more by region, religion and ethnicity than on policy. However, by the late 19th century the Democratic Party had the support of the new immigrants who tended to be Roman Catholic and Jewish or Eastern Orthodox.

Third parties developed but the third parties differed on what to do about monopoly, large corporations, low wages, depressions, farm issues and the economy in general.

Wabash Case

The text doesn’t go into the detail I desire on this topic. The states (especially those in the Midwest) were starting to begin to regulate the railroads. They passed laws promoted by the Grange to regulate the railroad, so we call these laws that did this “Granger laws”.

The Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific Railway Co. sued the state of Illinois saying its Granger law regulating the railroad was unconstitutional. It argued the states couldn’t regulate the railroads as they passed through states (interstate); They took it all the way to the Supreme Court which ruled in favor of the railroad. Therefore regulating the railroads which were interstate commerce fell to the federal government.

The railroad argued that since the railroad crossed state lines, the state could not regulate the railroad. Any law regulating a railroad that crossed state lines had to be passed by the federal government under its power to regulate interstate commerce.

Issues concerning the tariff

A tariff is a tax on imports. Around 1887 the tariff became more and more an issue in American political life.

High tariffs were passed by Congress to protect home industry against foreign competition and kept out foreign manufactured goods.

We are debating tariffs compared to free trade today.Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders n have taken positions more for protecting home products against free trade.

High tariffs would make it more difficult for foreign goods to compete if they had to pay a tax to get their goods into the country in order to sell them. In the late 19th century the business community favored a high tariff. They also urged workers to vote for the party who supported a high tariff to save their jobs.

By the second Grover Cleveland administration, the Democratic party favored lowering the tariff and the Republican party favored raising the tariff or keeping high tariff rates.

Farmers wanted to a lower tariff as they had to buy tools and equipment that would be less expensive, they reasoned if the high tariff rates were lowered. Eventually many workers came to favor a lower tariff since it would decrease the price of goods. It is also important to note that high tariffs were a major source of operating review for the federal government. Democrats led by President Cleveland maintained that the tariff created inefficiencies, helped the wealthy and brought higher prices.
Later an income tax became the new source of review for the federal government (Wilson’s administration) when the tariff was lowered significantly.

Sherman Anti Trust Act

*Courts and failure of the Sherman Act:
The vague wording of the legislation itself and interpretation by judges kept the intent of the law from becoming reality. The wording of the act said that combinations in restraint of trade in interstate commerce were illegal. This was under interpretation by the courts. What was “restraint of trade”? The courts also took a literal interpretation of the portion of the law that said “interstate commerce”. For example in 1895 there was a case that went to the Supreme Court. The E. C. Knight Company was a sugar trust, refining 95% of the sugar in the U.S.; however the court ruled it was not in violation of the Sherman Act. Why? The Supreme Court ruled the company engaged in manufacturing, thus it didn’t fall under the law. A dissenting justice argued, what does the company do after it manufactures it? Of course, it trades the sugar in interstate commerce; therefore the company did fall under the Sherman Act. The judges on the Supreme Court held the values of the culture in thinking that regulation of corporations was wrong

In the late 19th century a demand for reform was growing. Many in the public saw the inadequacies of the laissez-faire “hands off” approach to any government regulation of business. Even though it didn’t have “teeth” or “meat on it” the Sherman Anti-trust Act was a start in the direction of reform. Cutthroat competition and the monopoly takeover of entire industries was not free competition. We will see in Chapter 20 a debate on whether the trusts should be regulated or broken up.

McKinley and William Jennings Bryan

Make sure you review the platforms of both parties other than their positions on gold and silver.

The reason McKinley won in 1896 was only due in part to his well funded traditional and well managed campaign. By going to the voters and speaking often to the public Bryan clearly articulated his positions, some of which the voters did not approve. McKinley gave the same speech over and over again and didn’t travel to campaign.

Another reason Bryan lost the election was that he didn’t relate to many urban voters. (see map p. 545) His style and personality were from the Plains. He reflected a Protestant and evangelical speaking style. “He was called the Prairie Lawyer from the Platte” (that’s Platte River) and he was disliked by different classes of urban Americans. He might represent western and Midwest farmers but he didn’t relate to the needs of new immigrants or urban workers.

Also by adopting the more “radical” platform of the Populists such as silver and low tariffs the Democrats scared many businessmen as well as workers who feared the economy would falter and thought they would lose their jobs if Bryan was elected.

Turning Point 1896

One must understand the characteristics of party politics before 1896 in order to understand why the election of 1896 was a turning point in national politics. Yes it ended the Populist Party which was the most successful 3rd party in U.S. history. Most of the Populist program became law is some form later on. We will see the enactment of farm subsidies and loans in the first half of the 20th century as well as the graduated income tax, direct election of senators. These became part of legislation.

The amount of money used in the McKinley campaign and the style of Bryan certainly were factors concerning “new features” of the election of 1896. However the key reason the election was a turning point is it did foreshadow modern presidential campaigns with Bryan’s new style of campaigning. Also the electoral realignment called “a crossover” is very significant. This is another reason why the election of 1896 was a turning point.

People who normally voted Democratic (urban voters) realigned and voted for the Republicans in 1896. One must understand changes in party affiliation–which was very even in the country between 1876 and 1892. In 1896 as a contrast, parties took clear stands on issues in this election.

Also very significant was voters switched allegiances in this election. There was always a geographical component or strength to each party’s vote–what happens in 1896 is the Democrats fail to carry the large urban areas as they had in the past. This will be a trend until 1932

McKinley and Recovery

There was demand for farm products overseas which increased the demand for American farm products helping American farmers. Moreover new supplies of gold where discovered as well as new methods for extraction of gold increased the supply of gold; thus, the money supply was increased–what the farmers had wanted when they backed silver.

Open Door Proposal

The U.S. was firmly committed to retaining Chinese sovereignty–something the other nations didn’t care to do. We could have done what they wanted and grabbed a piece of China for ourselves. Yes we had commercial and strategic interests in China; however unlike the Europeans we supported Chinese sovereignty.

Newer Interpretations of President McKinley from the Miller Center on the Presidency from the University of Virginia:


“ For a long time, William McKinley was considered a mediocre President, a chief executive who was controlled by his political cronies and who was pressured into war with Spain by the press. Recent historians have been kinder to McKinley, seeing him instead as a decisive President who put America on the road to world power. McKinley’s difficult foreign policy decisions, especially his policy toward China and his decision to go to war with Spain over Cuban independence, helped the U.S. enter the twentieth century as a new and powerful empire on the world stage.”

Video segments

Please let me know if the video segments are helpful in understanding and retaining the information.

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