Ill Fortune of the Democratic Party.
Springfield, Ill., February 27, 1896. — Governor Altgeld has some interesting things to say about the Democratic party in the following interview:
"Governor, according to the newspaper reports you take a gloomy view of the prospects for the Democratic party. What do you attribute this condition to? Are there fewer Democrats in the country now than formerly?"
"On the contrary, there are more men in America to-day who hold to Democratic principles and who are alarmed over the growing power and corrupting influences of concentrated wealth, who feel that our country is getting rotten at the core and is drifting toward destruction, than there ever were before; but many of them feel that our party no longer represents Democratic principles, and they are therefore against us. And then there is a large body of men who are discontented because the times are hard, and they want a change."
"Is there any ground for this loss of confidence you speak of?"
"Well, glance back a moment. In 1864 a New Yorker was nominated for President. In 1868 a New Yorker was nominated. In 1872 a New Yorker was nominated. In 1876 it was again a New Yorker. In 1880 it was a man born in Pennsylvania, but at that time a New Yorker. In 1884 it was a New Yorker, in 1888 a New Yorker, and in 1892 a New Yorker.
"Now see what the Republicans did during that time — beginning in 1860 with an Illinois man, in 1868 and in 1872 an Illinois man, in 1876 an Ohio man, in 1880 an Ohio man, in 1884 they went to Maine, and in 1888 an Indiana man, and in 1892 an Indiana man; and when they went to Maine in 1884 it was not the work of a small crowd of scheming politicians, but they went there because at that time Mr. Blaine was the most prominent man in their party, and even then they were defeated. They have succeeded every time they went West, except in 1892, and then they were defeated by what was called the ‘McKinley law.’ No matter about the merits of this law, the country sort of choked on it. It aroused active hostility, and as it was followed by the great strike and Homestead riots among Carnegie's workmen, the country determined to have a change. It was the McKinley law, the rapid growth of trusts, and Carnegie strikes which defeated Harrison.
"While the Republican party is the representative of Hamiltonism,
529and leans toward the theory of having the government help the powerful, and then let the powerful take care of the poor, and while that party is owned by the great trusts, still in their whole history they have not allowed a small clique of political schemers in one State to name their candidates and dictate their platform. The Republicans have recognized the fact that the great American republic lies mostly west of the Allegheny range, while we have gone on the theory that there is only one State in the Union. We have always gone there for our candidates, we have been defeated every time but twice, and when we did win we were worse off than when we were beaten.
"If you will look again you will see that it was not even the great Democratic party of New York that controlled, but a small body of schemers who seemed to hold everything by the throat. For a number of years they were known as the ‘Albany Regency,’ made up of corporation agents and speculators.
"If you remember, in 1884 it was Dan Manning, representing Wall street, and the agents of the Standard Oil Company who controlled the Chicago convention and nominated Cleveland. In 1888 Manning was dead, but the same influences went to St. Louis and renominated Cleveland. In 1892 it was the same influence led by Mr. Whitney that dominated the Chicago convention and gave Cleveland a third nomination. At all of our conventions these influences dictated platforms which meant nothing, which were intended to deceive, which were to receive one construction in one locality and another construction in another locality. In 1892 the convention rejected the platform which had been drawn by the Cleveland managers, and adopted a positive declaration in favor of tariff reform, but when the election was over this was practically disregarded.
"So you see that for a third of a century a small band of political schemers in New York, who have not a drop of Democratic blood in their veins, whose sympathies are entirely with the great corporations, who have not even a conception of a Democratic principle, but who treat the American republic as foraging ground in which to amass vast fortunes, and who want to control the American government for that purpose, have constantly labored to use our party as a convenience. Of course, in carrying out their schemes they have from time to time had the assistance of such Western men as were willing to overlook the interests of the great West and even the entire county, for the purpose of gaining a personal advantage.
"It is true that the Republican party has become a rich man's party, but in being so it is true to its principles, while we are false to ours. Then the present national administration, although called Democratic and placed in power by the Democratic party, has ruthlessly trampled into the mud every cardinal principle of Democracy and the great body of the American people are not only disgusted but are alarmed and are determined to have a change, and it is this disgust and determination, added to the discontent growing out of the hard times, which is creating the tidal wave that is running against our party; and the Republican party is being wafted toward victory, not because of anything it has done, but because the people have lost confidence in the men who assume to speak for Democracy and because the party in power always suffers when times are hard.
"If the Democratic party will free itself from the grasp of these political birds of prey and will stand for these great principles which run through the ages and upon which the greatness of this republic rests; if it will nominate real Democrats for office and will make a declaration of principles which can be held up to the sun, then it will be but a short time until it will again sweep the land and guide the destinies of this country."