One hundred and twelve years ago things were a bit different in this nation of ours. Women couldn’t vote, some states were still territories, Hawaii had only been annexed recently, Poll Taxes were still all the rage, child labor was an accepted standard throughout the land. The nation was very different indeed. Before I posit you some nuggets from the platforms of the two parties, let us take a look at what the administration and Congress were busy with leading up to the turn of the century and our first election year.
1898 – Spanish American War
Both houses of Congress majority led Republican in the 55th Congress.
Senators were still selected by State senate’s rather than direct vote; this would not change until the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1913.
These are the key facts leading to the creation of the Democratic and Republican Platforms of 1900. Key legislation enacted by the 55th Republican led Congress were the following:
Dingley Tariff, imposed duties on woolens, hides, silks, china and sugar. The Dingley Tariff remained in effect until 1909 when the Payne-Aldrich Tariff was passed. During its effective period average tariffs on items it covered were 47%.
Erdman Act provided for mediation between railroads and workers. The most significant provision of the Erdman Act was the section prohibiting railroads from demanding workers not join a union as a condition of their employment. The act covered workers who on moving trains because of the interstate clause but not those who worked in the yards or offices.
Annexation of Hawaii, statehood would come later but this was the first step.
Rivers and Harbors Act, made it illegal to dump refuse in any harbor or navigable water. While the act goes much further than this the River and Harbors Act is the oldest environmental law in the United States.
Bankruptcy Act, provided corporations protection from creditors.
Gold Standard Act, established the value of a dollar at 23.22 grains of gold at 20% purity and as the only standard redemption value for paper money. This established the Gold Standard and stopped bimetallism.
Now to the platforms of the election year, I think if will be fun to post some of the key platform issues from each of party. I am not going to tell you which party they come from, you guess.
Corporations should be protected in all their rights and their legitimate interests should be respected, but any attempt by corporations to interfere with the public affairs of the people or to control the sovereignty which creates them, should be forbidden under such penalties as will make such attempts impossible.
We favor an amendment to the Federal Constitution, providing for the election of United States Senators by direct vote of the people, and we favor direct legislation wherever practicable.
We are opposed to government by injunction; we denounce the blacklist, and favor arbitration as a means of settling disputes between corporations and their employees.
We are proud of the courage and fidelity of the American soldiers and sailors in all our wars; we favor liberal pensions to them and their dependents, and we reiterate the position taken in the Chicago platform of 1896, that the fact of enlistment and service shall be deemed conclusive evidence against disease and disability before enlistment.
In the interest of American labor and the uplifting of the workingman, as the cornerstone of the prosperity of our country, we recommend that Congress create a Department of Labor, in charge of a secretary, with a seat in the Cabinet, believing that the elevation of the American laborer will bring with it increased production and increased prosperity to our country at home and to our commerce abroad.
We denounce the failure of the <someone> to carry out its pledges to grant statehood to the territories of Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma, and we promise the people of those territories immediate statehood and home rule during their condition as territories, and we favor home rule and a territorial form of government for Alaska and Porto Rico.
We recognize the necessity and propriety of the honest co-operation of capital to meet new business conditions and especially to extend our rapidly increasing foreign trade, but we condemn all conspiracies and combinations intended to restrict business, to create monopolies, to limit production. or to control prices; and favor such legislation as will effectively restrain and prevent all such abuses, protect and promote competition and secure the rights of producers, laborers, and all who are engaged in industry and commerce.
We renew our faith in the policy of Protection to American labor. In that policy our industries have been established, diversified and maintained. By protecting the home market competition has been stimulated and production cheapened. Opportunity to the inventive genius of our people has been secured and wages in every department of labor maintained at high rates, higher now than ever before, and always distinguishing our working people in their better conditions of life from those of any competing country. Enjoying the blessings of the American common school, secure in the right of self-government and protected in the occupancy of their own markets, their constantly increasing knowledge and skill have enabled them to finally enter the markets of the world. We favor the associated policy of reciprocity so directed as to open our markets on favorable terms for what we do not ourselves produce in return for free foreign markets.
In the further interest of American workmen we favor a more effective restriction of the immigration of cheap labor from foreign lands, the extension of opportunities of education for working children, the raising of the age limit for child labor, the protection of free labor as against contract convict labor, and an effective system of labor insurance.
The Nation owes a debt of profound gratitude to the soldiers and sailors who have fought its battles, and it is the Government’s duty to provide for the survivors and for the widows and orphans of those who have fallen in the country’s wars. The pension laws, founded in this just sentiment, should be liberally administered, and preference should be given wherever practicable with respect to employment in the public service, to soldiers and sailors and to their widows and orphans.
We favor home rule for, and the early admission to statehood of the Territories of New Mexico, Arizona, and Oklahoma.
We congratulate the women of America upon their splendid record of public service in the volunteer aid association and as nurses in camp and hospital during the recent campaigns of our armies in the East and West Indies, and we appreciate their faithful co-operation in all works of education and industry.
Okay, you guess whose platform for the election year 1900 was #1 and whose was #2? No cheating, no peeking! I didn’t take all of them and you might note some were interestingly close in their intent. They were also civil in their writing of their party platforms, very focused on the business of governing. While each take a couple of small potshots at the other, within the body of the platform there is nothing like you see today.
One thing you will not see is any mention of God! No mention of Church or of taking our nation back.