1896 Dbq

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The 1896 United States presidential election is often classified as a realigning election– an election that results in the reorganization of the structure and policies of political parties. The Republican Party, dominant in the North and East, promoted “an activist national government” and industrial expansion, while the Democratic Party, dominant in the South, promoted a limited national government and opposed rapid industrialization that hurt those in rural areas–mainly farmers . The 1896 election was mainly an election of principles and the issues that played a central role in the election–tariffs and currency–were topics of intense political discussion for decades before the election, mainly as a result of industrialization and economic…show more content…
Supporters of hard money, the gold standard, believed that a strong currency with a stable value was needed for economic growth, while supporters of soft money, bimetallism, believed that silver would help American farmers and factory workers . Wall Street was a strong supporter of the gold standard, believing that soft money would only reduce foreign investment and prevent manufacturers from being able to compete with foreign producers and that the inflation accompanying soft money would weaken purchasing power . Wall Street preferred deflation, often a result of the gold standard, since it was advantageous to them as creditors; moreover, a strong US dollar, a byproduct of deflation, would be beneficial to Wall Street when participating in international trade . Bryan was a fierce supporter of bimetallism, mentioning in his infamous Cross of Gold speech that the currency debate was “a struggle between the holders of idle capital and the struggling masses” . Bryan believed that the free coinage of silver would help the struggling farmers in rural areas who were affected by the low prices that deflation from the gold standard brought. Meanwhile, McKinley was a supporter of hard money, viewing the issue as “a great moral principle” and believing that silver would bring a “debased dollar” and “debased labor” . The positions that the candidates held…show more content…
Historian R. Hal Williams argues this by mentioning that the prospect of Bryan becoming president scared Wall Street, and Hanna played on this fear by travelling “between Chicago and New York, warning financiers, bankers, manufacturers […] of the dangers of a Bryan victory” . Many prominent bankers and manufacturers, ranging from J.P. Morgan to John D. Rockefeller, supported McKinley and by the end of the election the McKinley campaign’s expenditures totaled to over $3.5 million, substantially less than Bryan’s $300,000 . The significant money advantage McKinley’s campaign had allowed them to effectively canvass, and Bryan’s campaign was completely unable to keep up with McKinley’s campaign, which was extremely effective at mobilizing traditional Republican voters and attracting new voters to the party. Hanna was undeniably important to the McKinley campaign, but the traditional view does not note that his success was only possible because of Wall Street’s strong disapproval of Bryan and the policies he would enact if elected. One revisionist viewpoint that diminishes Hanna’s role points out that some of the people who donated to McKinley’s campaign were not traditional Republican donors and only donated to stop the Free Silver movement. Political analyst Karl Rove
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