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Pictures and Illustrations.

John P. Altgeld.


The Election of 1896.

Chicago, Nov. 4, 1896.

To the Democrats of Illinois: Although defeated I desire to thank you for the loyal support you have given me and I congratulate you on the heroic fight you have just made. Consider that only six months ago our great party lay prostrate. It had been betrayed into the hands of jobbers and monopolists by President Cleveland; it had been robbed of everything democratic except a name. It stood for no great principle, and its flesh was being torn by political birds of prey. It was loaded with political deadheads, men who never did anything for the party except to ride it, and it was infested by political vermin of both the smooth and rough and dusty variety; yet under these sore conditions the party broke the cords with which the Lilliputians had tied it; it rose with new energy, it cut loose from the domination of trusts and syndicates, it repudiated the men who betrayed it, it threw off the load of deadheads, it drove out the political vermin and with a new inspiration it again proclaimed democratic principles and espoused the cause of toiling humanity. Although it was obliged to reform while under the fire of the enemy, it has made the most heroic political fight ever seen in this country. It was confronted by all the boodle that could be scraped together on two continents; it was confronted by all the banks, all the trusts, all the syndicates, all the corporations, all the great papers. It was confronted by everything that money could buy; that boodle could debauch or that fear of starvation could coerce. It was confronted by the disgust which the majority of the American people felt towards the national administration for which they held us responsible. It was confronted with the unfounded charge of being partly responsible for the hard times. It was confronted by a combination of forces such as had never been united before and will probably never again be, and worse still the time was too short to educate the public. While we are defeated our party is more vigorous and in better condition generally than it has been for a third of a century. I call your attention to the utter insignificance as shown by the returns of those men who, after having helped to ruin our party, were either driven out or left it in this campaign. Two years ago these men were with us and always insisted on occupying front seats and wanted to lead; then we were not confronted with any powerful opponent and we lost the State by upwards of one hundred and fifty thousand majority. This year these men opposed us and we had to meet all the forces I have named. We had no news of


war, we had all the power of corrupt wealth against us, we had to reform under the fire of the enemy and the time was too short to make a proper campaign, yet we reduced the adverse majority of two years ago by about one-third; these men are at last where they belong. While we are defeated we have dug the grave of the British gold standard. One more campaign of education will forever bury the palsied form of that curse which has blighted prosperity and happiness of mankind. My fellow Democrats, on account of my health I welcome the retirement which is now assured and which I have long-wished for, but let me say in parting that if you cherish republican institutions then your country will need your services. Two years ago several States were carried by the same forces that have triumphed this year, and in every one there followed a saturnalia of corruption and rottenness. Now these conditions are to be spread over the whole country, and it will devolve upon the Democratic party to ultimately stop them. The shadow of the man and the influences that will control the coming administration is already on the land. Republicans tell us that the newly elected President is weak; that he allowed the manufacturers to frame his tariff bill, and that as Governor of Ohio he was very weak. We may assume that the coming administration will be controlled by the men who have been so prominent in securing this election. Look at some of them: Mr. Hanna, Mr. Carnegie, Mr. Depew, Mr. Pullman, Mr. Huntington, Mr. Payne, Mr. Thurston, of Pacific Railroad fame, and a number of others of the same character. Many of them have long been regarded as corruptionists, as men who have helped to spread a moral leprosy over this country, and who use the government as a convenience to make money for corporations. There will be some bond issues and all manner of government jobs, and although we have no enemy on either side of us an effort will be made to give this country a standing army because plutocracy demands this. An effort will be made to advance the doctrine that local self-government does not go hand in hand with federal supremacy, but that the President shall have the same power to use the army that the Czar of Russia has to use his army. Efforts will be made to perpetuate government by injunction and destroy trial by jury, because plutocracy demands these things. An effort will be made to still further tighten the grip of the money power on the throats of the people and to gradually convert the republic into a plutocratic oligarchy, and it will devolve upon the Democratic party to save free institutions. I believe that at the next general election of the people the Democrats will triumph.

Remember, it was Jefferson who led the way in freeing us from


British domination in 1776. It was again Jefferson who saved free institutions in 1800. It was Jackson who freed the people from the clutches of the money power in 1832. It was the great common people of America and not the rich who saved our institutions in 1861, and it will devolve on the great common people of this country to save free government in 1900.