[May 23, 2018 Update]

FARM AND CITY, 1865-1900

Man is a political animal, said Aristotle, an animal whose characteristic it is to live in a “polis” (a city-state)--to live in close association with other human beings.  There is a tendency for people to want to gather together in cities, and a great city attracts people like a magnet.  Why?  Because that’s where they action is.  The cities have the great works of art and architecture, the cathedrals and palaces, the schools, bookstores, hospitals—and the jobs!  The very word civilization comes from the Latin civitas, city, and one could argue that, without cities, there is no civilization.  

But life in the city is not altogether good.  Aristotle himself believed that the ideal man was not the city-dweller but the farmer, and the Bible too tends to side with the rural/pastoral life rather the city-dweller.  It's Cain that establishes the first city!

America began, not as a nation of cities, but as a nation of farmers.  “By the rude bridge that arched the flood, their flag to April’s breeze unfurled, here once the embattled farmer stood, and fired the shot heard round the world,” said Emerson in his Concord Hymn.  When our country was established, only 5% of Americans lived in towns larger than 2500—and leaders like Thomas Jefferson thought this was a mighty good thing:

Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts He has made His peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.

Jefferson believed that a rural economy dominated by farmers was the key to a truly democratic society.  What would happen if America ceased to be a nation of farmers?  Then, said Jefferson, we would be like Europe where the rich devoured the poor:

 When we get piled upon one another in large cities, we shall become corrupt as in Europe, and go to eating one another as they do there.

When one looks at what went on in America during the 1865-1900 period, it’s clear that Jefferson was right to be worried.  Generalization: Both city dwellers and farmers struggled with enormous problems as America transformed itself into an urban society in the 19th century.  There were, however, many attempts at reform--some fairly successful, others rather disappointing.

Growth of U.S. cities to 1900

Up until the Civil War, America was still a mostly rural country, with only 20% of Americans in towns bigger than 2500.   By 1900, though, 40% of Americans lived in towns bigger than 2500, with most of them in growing cities like New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

Here are some numbers illustrating urban growth from 1850-1900

City                1850 Population            1900 Population

New York         1,200,000                  3,000,000
Philadelphia          560,000                  1,300,000
Pittsburg                67,000                     450,000
Chicago                 30,000                   1,700,000
Denver                          0                     134,000
Minneapolis             2,500                     200,000
Los Angeles            5,000                      100,000

Rapid growth is great for some things—ideal for a businessman looking for opportunities, for example.  But rapid growth brought with it problems:

•    Housing (Where do you put all those people?)
•    Waste (How do you deal with garbage, sewage—and dead horses!)
•    Disease (Typhoid, etc.)
•    Social breakdown: crime, theft, prostitution
•    Major disasters (e.g., the Chicago Fire of 1871 and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906)

Unfortunately,  city government was often less than effective in dealing with these problems because those in office were more concerned about their own profits and power than anything else. The most infamous example: the Tammany Society in New York.

The Tammany society had been founded in the 1780’s a social organization.  It was named for a Delaware Indian chief, Tammanend.  The leader of the society had an Indian title “Sachem.”  While officially a charitable organization, the Tammany society had close ties to the Democratic party, and Tammany’s support was essential for New York Political candidates.

The Tammany society was especially powerful because of its immigrant base.  Cities like New York and Chicago were 75% foreign-born during this period.  Immigrants came with not money, no language skills, no homes, no jobs—and they needed help.  The Tammany society provided that help for many, many immigrants—but they wanted something in return: votes.  Controlling such a huge voting block made the Tammany Society the decisive voice is just about every New York Election.

A typical Tammy product: William Marcy “Boss” Tweed.  With Tammany support, Tweed won office as an alderman and U.S. congressman.  But he wanted a more powerful position: Sachem of Tammany Hall, a position he gained in 1868.

Tweed continued the Tammany policy of helping immigrants, finding them jobs, housing and legal help.  But he also made himself a fortune in politics.  How?  Well, he controlled government contracts, and how much those getting those contracts would be paid.  He operated very much like the Carpetbaggers and Scalawags in the South.  He once made sure a plasterer was paid $138,000 for two days work!  Naturally enough, he got major kickbacks, making $200 million for himself.

Why didn’t people protest?   Well, Tweed had ways of dealing with you if you did.  No, not a visit from a hit man.  A visit from the tax assessors office!

Tweed himself was finally convicted, Thomas Nast’s cartoons playing a major role here.  But it’s interesting that, even while under indictment, he had enough clout to get himself elected to the New York State senate!

Because city government was so often corrupt, reform through the governmental process was difficult.  But there were still some potential sources for reform outside the government.

One such was the Salvation Army.  This organization, started by William and Catherine Booth in England, extended its work into American cities in the 1880’s.  The Salvation Army started:

•    Food and shelter depots
•    Rehabilitation centers for disabled workers
•    Rescue homes for converted prostitutes
•    Hospitals for unwed mothers
•    Halfway houses for released criminals
•    Orphanages and day-care centers

All very impressive.  But perhaps most impressive of all, the constant message of hope.  The Salvation Army always considered its primary mission to be the saving of souls, and hundreds of thousands of people got a new start in life thanks to the Salvation Army.

Similarly successful, the YMCA.  The YMCA aimed primarily at reaching young men, a group particularly vulnerable to the temptations of crime and vice as they left the rural areas for the cities.  The YMCA attracted young men though sponsoring activities these men would enjoy—athletic events, etc.  

One of those affected by the YMCA was a Chicago businessman, Dwight L. Moody.  Moody had been very successful in the shoe business, but his involvement in the YMCA led him to full-time evangelism.  He was an extraordinarily effective speaker, speaking to huge crowds all over the United State and (eventually) in London and other overseas areas.  He started the Chicago Bible Institute (now Moody Bible College) to train Bible teachers. He started would became Moody Press, one of the most important Christian publishing companies in America.  

In the days before radio and television, publican speaking was especially important, and Moody was generally regarded as the finest speaker in America—and certainly the best known.  Just about every American history textbook mentions Moody, but the textbook authors have a hard time explaining his importance.

I think this is because Moody is important primary for a negative: what *didn’t* happen in American because of men like him.  The slums and tenements of American cities were crime-ridden disasters waiting to happen—and yet the great cataclysm never came: partly, perhaps, because Moody and groups like the YMCA and Salvation army turned so many hundreds of thousands of people toward a better life and better treatment of each other.  For immigrants in particular, the preaching of men like Moody, regardless of what it might mean spiritually, meant incorporation into the American religious tradition and into therefore into the mainstream of American cultural life.

Another important reform organization at the time was the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union started by Frances Willard.  Willard called for reform in many areas of American life:

“No sectarianism in religion, no sectionalism in politics, no sex in citizenship.”

Her greatest concern, however, was to end alcohol abuse and the problems it created.  She adopted a very successful three-fold approach:

“Mental suasion for the man who thinks, moral suasion for the man who drinks, but legal suasion for the drunkard-maker.”

The WCTU added many new temperance songs: “I’ll Marry No Man if he Drinks,” “The Saloon Must Go,” and “Lips that Touch Liquor will Never touch Mine.”  Rather than the maudlin songs or the earlier temperance movement, the WCTU tried to make their songs (and meetings) fun: you can have more fun without liquor than with it.

Also furthering the cause of reform, the influence of Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps.  Sheldon’s book, which continues even today to be a best-seller, asks the reader to imagine what things would be like if, before taking any action, Christians would ask themselves, “What Would Jesus Do?” and then committing themselves to follow up appropriately.  One sees the influence of Sheldon today with people wearing the WWJD bracelets and, presumably, still trying to follow Sheldon’s advice.

One of those influenced by Sheldon was Walter Rauschenbusch.   Rauschenbusch thought that the WWJD question ought to be extended to society as a whole.  How would Jesus organize society?  Rauschenbusch pushed what he called the “Social Gospel,” advocating political, economic, and social changes as important to the success of Jesus’ message.  Rauschenbusch had a major effect on many seminaries and churches—and, in some ways to a parting of the ways between Christians.

For some Christians (following Sheldon), the WWJD question remained first of all a person decision: social change follow on individual conversion.  For others, it was first a social change: individual lives improve when society changes first.   

[Is this perhaps a major problem, a disappointing side-effect of 19th century attempts to reform?]

In addition to the various Christian reform efforts, there was another important voice for reform: the media.  Newspapers and journals of the 19th century launched crusade after crusade against one injustice or another, attacking crime and corruption wherever they found it.  Thomas Jefferson said that, if one had the choice between government and no newspapers and newspapers and no government, he would choose the latter, and journalism in the late 19th century suggested that there was some merit to this idea.  Magazines like the Ladies Home Journal, Harper’s, Atlantic, Scribner’s, the Century and Cosmopolitan (a very different magazine from what it is today!) led campaigns for cleaning up the cities, eliminating patent medicines, etc.

Oh, and, incidentally, they managed to pick up a few bucks on the side.  Daily newspaper circulation exploded from less than 3,000,000 daily issues in 1870 to more than 24 million in 1899.  Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World began 1883 with a daily run of 20,000 papers.  By 1884, circulation was up to 100,000, and by 1888, 250,000.  

Flamboyant, lurid stories sold papers, and this led to the rise of Yellow Journalism: the exploitation of a cause to build circulation.  The problem is that too much sensationalized news eventually leaves people in a position where, will they might react with outrage to the latest scandal, makes them eventually less likely to actually do anything about it.  Media-led reform is an excellent example of both the somewhat successful attempt at reform (the papers did bring down Boss Tweed after all), but also of the disappointing nature of some reform attempts.

Farm growth/problems

Farmers too faced formidable problems in the late 19th century.  This was a period of tremendous growth in farming.  In 1870, 408 million acres were farmed.  By 1900, the acreage had more than doubled to more than 839 million acres.  Production of hogs, corn, wheat, etc. more than doubled during this period.  Farmers invested in new farm implements that allowed the individual farmer to produce far more than ever before.

But as production increased, prices dropped dramatically.  Wheat went from $.95 per bushel in 1880 to $.50 per bushel in 1895.   Prices for hogs, butter, cheese, etc. all went down.  A farmer had to produce twice as much in 1900 as he had in 1870 just to stay even.
It could be done, but other problems threatened his well being.  Reliance on the tariff meant that farmer’s (indirectly) paid a disproportionate share of the cost of government.  Also, the farmer had to deal with middlemen: the railroads, grain elevator operators who often charged exorbitant rates.  And then there were the friendly neighborhood bankers charging interest rates of up to 40% and foreclosing at the drop of a hat.

The tremendous success of American farming meant riches for John Deer, International Harvester, the bankers, the barbed wire companies, and the railroads—but not usually for the farmers.  The average Connecticut farmer was clearing only $181 a year, while Massachusetts farmers made $326.  A hired man would make more!  Many farmers went out of business, and ended up going to the city where they could make $1.25 a day.

But farmers weren’t quite as powerless as factory workers, and managed to push for some important changes.  The most successful of their reform organization for a time was what’s called the Grange.

The Grange was founded in 1867 by Minnesota farmer Oliver H. Kelly.  It was first a semi-secret society like that Knights of Labor, but it soon became a major rural-area social organization.  Within a few years, Grange membership reached 1.5 million!  

Naturally enough, talk at Grange meetings frequently drifted to the problems farmers shared and to possible solutions to these problems.  Grangers began pushing into politics, lobbying for (and sometimes getting) regulation of railroad rates, grain elevators, etc.

The Grangers also tried to start co-ops: cooperative grain elevators, for instance.  But when they tried to set up their own farm implement manufacturing (trying to replace John Deere and International Harvester), they fared badly—and, eventually, the Grange drifted back to being mostly a social organization.

Reformers of the Country, Unite!

No single labor union or farmer’s group seemed to have enough clout to bring about the more major political/economic reforms the country may have needed, and, in the 1880’s, there was a major attempt to bring the various reform movements together into a single organization, the People’s Party, better known as the Populists.  The Populists challenged both the Democrats and the Republicans, and were just about as successful as third parties ever get in America.

The Populists agreed to a far-reaching set of reforms at what’s called the Omaha Convention.  Measure called for included the following:

1.  Direct election of senators
2.  Nationalization of banks
3.  Government ownership of rails and utilities
4.  Prohibitions on foreign ownership of land
5.  A single term for the president
6.  The secret ballot for all elections
7.  Free coinage of silver at the ratio of 16 ounces of silver to one ounce of gold
8.  Shifting away from the tariff, and replacing the revenues with an income tax

Election of 1892

The Populists ran James Weaver (a former union general) and James Field (a former confederate general) for the presidency and vice-presidency.  Note that putting sectional differences aside might aid in other reforms.  

The Republicans re-nominated President Harrison.  Harrison had earned enthusiastic support from the GAR by signing a huge increase in the number of people receiving veteran’s pensions and in the amount of those pensions.  This bill ate up the government surplus—a happy event for those who wanted to justify keeping the tariff high.

But Harrison had some bitter enemies in those who were hurt by high tariffs and saw the pension bill as essentially a bribe.  The obvious Democrat candidate to run on these issues was former president Cleveland.

Once again, Cleveland prevailed in the popular vote—and, this time, in the electoral college as well.   
The Populists did surprisingly well, getting 1,000,000 popular votes and carrying six Midwestern states.

Cleveland’s 2nd term

It’s a rare sequel that matches up to the original, and Cleveland’s 2nd term was a near disaster.  The deficit left over from the previous administration was tough to deal with.  Further, 1893 saw the beginnings of a recession, with 600 banks failing and 15,000 businesses going under.  The Sherman Silver purchase Act had given the populists what they wanted: free coinage of silver.  But now people began turning in their silver for gold, and U.S gold reserves were disappearing—replaced by the silver that many people distrusted.  Labor unrest (e.g. the Pullman strike) increased.

Cleveland blamed the country’s economic problems on the tariff, and tried to push through a measure decreasing the tariff and imposing a 2% income tax on those making over $4,000 a year (about 10 times the average wage).  But the eventual bill did so little, Cleveland didn’t even sign it.

Further, Cleveland, worried about declining gold reserves, commission J.P. Morgan to buy up $65 million in gold.  Morgan got a nice $7 million commission on the deal.  In a time of economic hardship, this seemed outrageous.  

With both the Democrats and the Republicans looking like tools of big business, the Populists perhaps had a chance to capture the grand prize—the presidency of the United States—should they play their cards right.

1896 Election

The Republicans stuck with their pro-business inclinations, nominating William McKinley.  McKinley had the backing of Marcus Alonzo Hanna, an Ohio businessman who had spent $100,000 getting McKinley out of debt and in a position to run for office.

And the Democrats?  Well, the Democrats had a dilemma. They couldn’t very well put up  the now-unpopular Cleveland nor anyone associate with him.  They went into their convention disheartened and directionless.  But then a 36-year-old Nebraskan named William Jennings Bryan stepped to the platform.  In addressing the issue of free silver, Bryan gave one of the most dramatic speeches in American political history.

“You come to us and tell us that the great cities are in favor of the gold standard.  We reply that the great cities rest upon our broad and fertile prairies.  Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic.  But destroy our farms, and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.”

Hear was the voice of the embattled farmer: the farmers are the backbone of the nation, said Bryan.  But did the farmer’s have a chance?

“The humblest citizen of all the land, when clad in the armor of a righteous cause is stronger than all the hosts of Error.”

Yes—there was a chance!  Righteousness would triumph over the political machines and corrupt businessmen.

Bryan concluded his speech with thunderous words:

“You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns.  You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

As strong a metaphor as Bryan could possibly find—maybe a bit too strong.  Comparing the gold standard to the crucifixion of Christ is going a bit far.  

But the convention loved it.  With this speech, Bryan made himself the leader of the Democrats, and the next day he received the Democratic nomination for the presidency.

But what kind of man had the Democrats nominated?  While a Democrat himself, Bryan was virtually a populist on every sing issue.  He wanted a low tariff, an income tax on the wealthy, free silver, regulation of the rails.  And so, what were the Populists themselves to do?  Well, they decided that they too would nominate Bryan!!!

And so William Jennings Bryan was the 1896 candidate of both the Populists and the Democrats.  A sure winner?  Don’t count on it.

Bryan did have some things going for him.  He was the finest political speaker in the country in an age when such things really made a difference.  The poet Vachel Lindsay remembered how Bryan had impressed him when Lindsay himself had been a 16 year old boy:

     The Campaign of Eighteen Ninety-Six, as Viewed at
     The Time by a Sixteen-Year-Old, etc.

In a nation of one hundred fine, mob-hearted, lynching, relenting, repenting, millions,
There are plenty of sweeping, swinging, stinging, gorgeous things to shout about,
And knock your old blue devils out.

I brag and chant of Bryan, Bryan, Bryan
Candidate for president who sketched a silver Zion,
The one American Poet who could sing outdoors,
He brought in tides of wonder, of unprecedented splendor,
Wild roses from the plains, that made hearts tender,
All the funny circus silks
Of politics unfurled,
Bartlett pears of romance that were honey at the cores,
And torchlights down the street, to the end of the world.

There were truths eternal in the gab and tittle-tattle.
There were real heads broken in the fustian and the rattle.
There were real lines drawn:
Not the silver and the gold,
But Nebraska's cry went eastward against the dour and old,
The mean and cold.

It was eighteen ninety-six, and I was just sixteen
And Altgeld ruled in Springfield, Illinois,
When there came from the sunset Nebraska's shout of joy:
In a coat like a deacon, in a black Stetson hat
He scourged the elephant plutocrats
With barbed wire from the Platte.
The scales dropped from their mighty eyes.
They saw that summer's noon
A tribe of wonders coming
To a marching tune.

Oh, the longhorns from Texas,
The jay hawks from Kansas,
The plop-eyed bungaroo and giant giassicus,
The varmint, chipmunk, bugaboo,
The horned-toad, prairie-dog and ballyhoo,
From all the newborn states arow,
Bidding the eagles of the west fly on,
Bidding the eagles of the west fly on.
The fawn, prodactyl and thing-a-ma-jig,
The rakaboor, the hellangone,
The whangadoodle, batfowl and pig,
The coyote, wild-cat and grizzly in a glow,
In a miracle of health and speed, the whole breed abreast,
The leaped the Mississippi, blue border of the West,
From the Gulf to Canada, two thousand miles long:-
Against the towns of Tubal Cain, too cunning for the young,
The longhorn calf, the buffalo and wampus gave tongue,.

These creatures were defending things Mark Hanna never dreamed:
The moods of airy childhood that in desert dews gleamed,
The gossamers and whimsies,
The monkeyshines and didoes
Rank and strange
Of the canyons and the range,
The ultimate fantastics
Of the far western slope,
And of prairie schooner children
Born beneath the stars,
Beneath falling snows,
Of the babies born at midnight
In the sod huts of lost hope,
With no physician there,
Except a Kansas prayer,
With the Indian raid a howling through the air.

And all these in their helpless days
By the dour East oppressed,
Mean paternalism
Making their mistakes for them,
Crucifying half the West,
Till the whole Atlantic coast
Seemed a giant spiders' nest.

And these children and their sons
At last rode through the cactus,
A cliff of mighty cowboys
On the lope,
With gun and rope.
And all the way to frightened Maine the old East heard them call,
And saw our Bryan by a mile lead the wall
Of men and whirling flowers and beasts,
The bard and the prophet of them all.
Prairie avenger, mountain lion,
Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan,
Gigantic troubadour, speaking like a siege gun,
Smashing Plymouth Rock with his boulders from the West,
And just a hundred miles behind, tornadoes piled across the sky,
Blotting out sun and moon,
A sign on high.

Headlong, dazed and blinking in the weird green light,
The scalawags made to moan,
Afraid to fight.


When Bryan came to Springfield, and Altgeld gave him greeting,
Rochester was deserted, Divernon was deserted,
Mechanicsburg, Riverton, Chickenbristle, Cotton Hill,
Empty: for all Sangamon drove to the meeting-
In silver-decked racing cart,
Buggy, buckboard, carryall,
Carriage, phaeton, whatever would haul,
And silver-decked farm-wagons gritted, banged and rolled,
With the new tale of Bryan by the iron tires told.

The State House loomed afar,
A speck, a hive, a football,
A captive balloon!
And the town was all one spreading wing of bunting, plumes, and sunshine,
Every rag and flag, and Bryan picture sold,
When the rigs in many a dusty line
Jammed our streets at noon,
And joined the wild parade against the power of gold.

We roamed, we boys from High School,
With mankind,
While Springfield gleamed,
Oh, Tom Dines, and Art Fitzgerald,
And the gangs that they could get!
I can hear them yelling yet.
Helping the incantation,
Defying aristocracy,
With every bridle gone,
Ridding the world of the low down mean,
Bidding the eagles of the West fly on,
Bidding the eagles of the West fly on,
We were bully, wild and wooly,
Never yet curried below the knees.
We saw flowers in the air,
Fair as the Pleiades, bright as Orion,
-Hopes of all mankind,
Made rare, resistless, thrice refined.
Oh, we bucks from every Springfield ward!
Colts of democracy-
Yet time-winds out of Chaos from the star-fields of the Lord.

The long parade rolled on. I stood by my best girl.
She was a cool young citizen, with wise and laughing eyes.
With my necktie by my ear, I was stepping on my dear,
But she kept like a pattern, without a shaken curl.

She wore in her hair a brave prairie rose.
Her gold chums cut her, for that was not the pose.
No Gibson Girl would wear it in that fresh way.
But we were fairy Democrats, and this was our day.

The earth rocked like the ocean, the sidewalk was a deck.
The houses for the moment were lost in the wide wreck.
And the bands played strange and stranger music as they trailed along.
Against the ways of Tubal Cain,
Ah, sharp was their song!
The demons in the bricks, the demons in the grass,
The demons in the bank-vaults peered out to see us pass,
And the angels in the trees, the angels in the grass,
The angels in the flags, peered out to see us pass.
And the sidewalk was our chariot, and the flowers bloomed higher,
And the street turned to silver and the grass turned to fire,
And then it was but grass, and the town was there again,
A place for women and men.


Then we stood where we could see
Every band,
And the speaker's stand.
And Bryan took the platform.
And he was introduced.
And he lifted his hand
And cast a new spell.
Progressive silence fell
In Springfield,
In Illinois,
Around the world.
Then we heard these glacial boulders across the prairie rolled:
�The people have the right to make their own mistakes....
You shall not crucify mankind
Upon a cross of gold.�

And everybody heard him-
In the streets and State House yard.
And everybody heard him
In Springfield,
In Illinois,
Around and around and around the world,
That danced upon its axis
And like a darling broncho whirled.


July, August, suspense.
Wall Street lost to sense.
August, September, October,
More suspense,
And the whole East down like a wind-smashed fence.

Then Hanna to the rescue,
Hanna of Ohio,
Rallying the roller-tops,
Rallying the bucket-shops.
Threatening drouth and death,
Promising manna,
Rallying the trusts against the bawling flannelmouth;
Invading misers' cellars,
Tin-cans, socks,
Melting down the rocks,
Pouring out the long green to a million workers,
Spondulix by the mountain-load, to stop each tornado
And beat the cheapskate, blatherskite,
Populistic, anarchistic,
Deacon- desperado.


Election night at midnight:
Boy Bryan's defeat.
Defeat of western silver.
Defeat of the wheat.
Victory of letterfiles
And plutocrats in miles
With dollar signs upon their coats,
Diamond watchchains on their vests
And spats on their feet.
Victory of custodians,
Plymouth Rock,
And all that inbred landlord stock.
Victory of the neat.
Defeat of the aspen groves of Colorado valleys,
The blue bells of the Rockies,
And blue bonnets of old Texas,
By the Pittsburgh alleys.
Defeat of the alfalfa and the Mariposa lily.
Defeat of the Pacific and the long Mississippi.
Defeat of the young by the old and silly.
Defeat of tornadoes by the poison vats supreme.
Defeat of my boyhood, defeat of my dream.


Where is McKinley, that respectable McKinley,
The man without an angle or a tangle,
Who soothed down the city man and soothed down the farmer,
The German, the Irish, the Southerner, the Northerner,
Who climbed every greasy pole, and slipped through every crack;
Who soothed down the gambling hall, the bar-room, the church,
The devil vote, the angel vote, the neutral vote,
The desperately wicked, and their victims on the rack,
The gold vote, the silver vote, the brass vote, the lead vote,
Every vote?...

Where is McKinley, Mark Hanna's McKinley,
His slave, his echo, his suit of clothes?
Gone to join the shadows, with the pomps of that time,
And the flame of that summer's prairie rose.

Where is Cleveland whom the Democratic platform
Read from the party in a glorious hour,
Gone to join the shadows with pitchfork Tillman,
And sledge-hammer Altgeld who wrecked his power.

Where is Hanna, bulldog Hanna.
Low-browed Hanna, who said: �Stand pat�?
Gone to his place with old Pierpont Morgan.
Gone somewhere... with lean rat Platte.

Where is Roosevelt, the young dude cowboy,
Who hated Bryan, then aped his way?
Gone to join the shadows with mighty Cromwell
And tall King Saul, till the Judgment day.

Where is Altgeld, brave as the truth,
Whose name the few still say with tears?
Gone to join the ironies with Old John Brown,
Whose fame rings loud for a thousand years.
Where is that boy, that Heaven-born Bryan,
That Homer Bryan, who sang for the West?
Gone to join the shadows with Altgeld the Eagle,
Where the kings and the slaves and the troubadours rest.

But big business hated Bryan even more than they had hated Cleveland, and the Republicans easily raised $16,000,000 for McKinley’s campaign, while the Democrats could only raise $1,000,000 in support of Bryan.  The Republicans distributed tens of millions of pamphlets, tracts, leaflets, and posters attacking Bryan.  They translated their attacks into dozens of immigrant languages, and sent out hundreds of speakers to attack Bryan.

Big business had dirtier tricks to play.  Republican business placed contracts with the proviso, “contingent on the election of McKinley.”  Factory owners told workers they’d be paid with 50 cent pieces instead of dollars if Bryan won.  

Well, Bryan didn’t win: enormously disappointing to reform-minded men like Ignatius Donnelly (author of the anti-Plutocrat/conspiracy book “Caesar’s Column.”).

“We had a splendid candidate and he had made a gigantic campaign; the elements of reform were fairly united; and the depression of business universal.  And yet, in spite of it all, the bankrupt millions voted to keep the yoke on their own necks.  I tremble for the future.”

“The people are too shallow and too corrupt to conduct a republic.  It will need a god come on earth with divine power to save them.  And are they worth saving?  Will they stay saved?”

Donnelly might have been gratified is the in his view foolish vote of 1896 had led to ruin: economic collapse, revolution, and chaos.  But that’s not what happened.  The country did reasonably well under McKinley.  The economy bounced back, and America was more prosperous overall than ever before.  And Bryan himself would rise to fight again….