The Cause of Democratic Defeat in November, 1894.
Springfield, Ill., Nov. 8.
In reply to the question: "Governor, to what do you attribute the great Democratic reverse at the late election?" Governor Altgeld today replied as follows:
It was not due to local causes. The causes that produced it operated all over the country and, I think, were largely due to the widespread
455dissatisfaction with the course pursued by the federal administration. It first wore out the patience and destroyed the confidence of business interests, and then it turned around and literally drove away those men who toil with their hands. In the spring of 1893 Cleveland was urged to convene Congress at once, for the purpose of considering the tariff question. At that time a fair tariff reform bill could have been passed in six weeks. The country had spoken upon the subject, the sentiment of the American people was nearly unanimous, and even the corrupt and corrupting agents of the protected monopolies were ready to surrender.
Had this course been taken the great business and manufacturing interests of the country would have adjusted themselves to the new conditions and gone to work, and the country would have again settled down and there would have been no tariff discussion in this last campaign. No man in the country would have cared to hear McKinley talk. But, instead of listening to the voice of the American people, Cleveland was accessible only to the foreign and eastern money manipulators. He refused to act upon the subject upon which the country had spoken and proceeded to act on a subject upon which the country had not spoken and on which there was a divided sentiment. The result was that the conditions growing out of the panic were intensified, and the business and manufacturing interests of the country were practically kept at a standstill for eighteen months, during which time thousands of laborers were compelled to beg bread. The result was not only dissatisfaction but disgust. Never before in the history of this republic has such a gigantic blunder been committed by a President.
Second, while the causes which I have enumerated did not produce the conditions which gave rise to the great coal strike and the great railroad strike of last summer, they did intensify these conditions. In fact, there is a doubt whether we would have had either strike if the tariff question had been settled in the spring of 1893, and after having thus helped to produce these great disturbances, the federal administration then turned its face against the great laboring classes of the country and placed all the powers of the government under the control of the corporations.
In Chicago during the railroad strike, before there had been any rioting, before there had been any destruction of property and before anything had happened to indicate that the local authorities could not maintain law and order, and before the State authorities were called
456on for assistance, the federal government, in violation of the constitution and in violation of those principles of local self-government which the Democratic party had advocated for a hundred years, interfered, both through the federal judiciary and by the use of federal troops. This was done by the direction of the attorney general and of the President.
The country then discovered that we had a corporation lawyer, a corporation manipulator, for attorney general, and, although there was in Chicago the complete machinery for the administration of justice, yet so eager was the federal administration to serve the corporations the usual machinery for administering justice in Chicago was not trusted. A man was appointed to directly represent the government as prosecutor, and the country was amused at the selection that was made. There were then in Chicago several thousand able and conscientious lawyers who were not directly or personally interested in the troubles, but they were not wanted. There were in Chicago hundreds of able Democrats who were capable of filling any position, from that of President down, but they were not trusted.
The administration selected a man who was not only a Republican, but who was one of the most prominent corporation lawyers in the country, and who was at that time the attorney for some of the railroads involved in this trouble, and had therefore a direct personal interest in the outcome. Yet he was put in charge of the machinery of justice, and he brought to the service of his clients, without any expense to them. United States marshals, United States grand juries and United States courts, and the United States army. All the powers of the United States government were placed at the disposal of a corporation lawyer and used by him for the benefit of his clients against the men who toil with their hands. And all this under an administration that had been placed in power by the Democratic party.
Hundreds of honest and industrious men who had violated no statute and transgressed no law were thrown into prison on the mere charge of being guilty of contempt of court, and the toiling masses became alarmed, not simply for their material welfare, but for the liberty of themselves and their children, and they seized the first opportunity to deliver a body blow to that administration which was fraudulently claiming to be Democratic while violating every known principle of Democracy. They joined hands with the dissatisfied business men of the country and the result is universal disaster to that party which has been twice deceived and twice betrayed by one man.