BECK index

United States & Harrison 1889-93

by Sanderson Beck

Benjamin Harrison to 1889
United States & Harrison in 1889
US, Oklahoma Territory & Wounded Knee
United States & Harrison in 1890
United States & Harrison in 1891
Harrison & United States Elections in 1892
US, Harrison & Hawaii in Early 1893

Benjamin Harrison to 1889

United States & Cleveland 1885-89

      Benjamin Harrison V was a planter and merchant who became a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress and presided over the final debate on the Declaration of Independence and signed it on 4 July 1776. He was Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates 1778-81 and Governor of Virginia 1781-84. His son William H. Harrison governed the Indian Territory in 1801-12, and he defeated the Shawnee in the battle of Tippecanoe in November 1811 and the British at the battle of Thames River in October 1813. He was elected President as a Whig and inaugurated on 4 March 1841, but he died of pneumonia 31 days later. His son John Scott Harrison was a farmer who married Elizabeth Ramsey and became a member of Ohio’s House of Representatives 1853-57.
      Their son Benjamin Harrison was born in Ohio on 30 August 1833, and he was raised as a strict Presbyterian. He liked to read history and biographies, and his mother made him read Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Tutors helped educate the children, and in 1847 Benjamin went to Farmer’s College near Cincinnati. Robert H. Bishop was a Presbyterian minister who taught him history and political economy with lessons from Congressional reports he got from his former students. In an essay Benjamin wrote that women are superior and angels when viewed “through the telescope of love.”1 In Cincinnati he met Caroline Lavinia Scott. When she went to a girls school in Oxford, Ohio, Benjamin transferred there to attend Miami University and graduated in the fall of 1850. He admired Henry Clay and the Compromise he worked out that year. Harrison studied political economy and favored trade, and he believed that American manufacturing needed to be built up. At a religious revival he answered the call and joined the Presbyterian Church. He believed that politics should have moral energy and purpose.
      At his graduation in June 1852 he gave a lecture on “The Poor of England.” Carrie Scott heard this, and they became engaged. She taught piano and nursed her ill piano teacher. They were married on 20 October 1853, and they decided to live in Indianapolis. While his father was in the legislature, Benjamin studied law and became a partner with William Wallace in the spring of 1855. Although his father decided to join the anti-immigrant “Know Nothing” American Party, Benjamin became an anti-slavery Republican and supported John C. Frémont for President in 1856. In the spring of 1857 he was elected the Indianapolis city attorney and was paid $400 per year. He became the secretary of the Republican state committee, and in the 1858 elections the Republicans won a majority in the state legislature and seven of the eleven Congressional seats. In 1860 he ran for the position as the reporter for the state supreme court and also campaigned for Lincoln while his father worked for John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party. Benjamin won the election, and Lincoln carried Indiana.
      In July 1862 President Lincoln called for 300,000 more troops. Benjamin Harrison agreed to recruit, enlisted, and was made colonel of the 70th Indiana Volunteer Regiment. In the next 18 months they had garrison duty in Kentucky and Tennessee while he studied military strategy and trained his men with strict discipline, banning liquor from the camp. Some complained that he held religious services. They joined the Army of Cumberland for General Sherman’s Atlanta campaign. Harrison in May 1864 led an assault at Resaca that captured a Confederate battery, and he was put in command of four more regiments. In the drive to Atlanta that summer they fought many battles. After Atlanta’s fall in September he was ordered to report to Indiana’s Governor Oliver P. Morton to recruit soldiers and campaign for Republicans. He criticized the Democrats’ state sovereignty as “a deadly poison to the national life.” He supported the Emancipation Proclamation and praised black soldiers. After the election in November he rejoined his men in Georgia, and they defended Nashville and then marched to the sea with Sherman’s army. Harrison got scarlet fever and was given a furlough. He was promoted to a brigadier general in February 1865. When he returned to his regiment in April, he learned that Lincoln had been assassinated.
      Harrison worked as a supreme court reporter and also practiced law, increasing his annual income to over $10,000 by 1867. He defended military commissioners in 1871 trials at the request of President Grant. In 1872 Harrison attempted to get the Republican nomination for governor, but the powerful US Senator Oliver P. Morton favored another candidate. His law work prospered even during the depression that began in 1873, and he and his wife had a spacious house built in a fashionable district for over $21,000. Harrison agreed with Grant’s veto of an “inflation bill” that would have put $44 million in retired greenbacks back into the economy, saying,

It is better to have a little less currency than we need
than it would be to have more;
for whenever we have an excess,
speculation is stimulated to an excessive degree,
and the currency becomes depreciated.2

      During the Whiskey Ring scandal in early 1876 Harrison led the defense of the internal revenue officer Hiram Brownlee by discrediting the testimony of the distiller John Bingham who was alleged to have given Brownlee a $500 bribe. In August the Republicans in Indiana needed to replace their nominee for governor, and Harrison agreed to run; but he lost by 1% to the Democrat James D. Williams, a rural congressman. After the October election the Republican National Committee asked Harrison to go on a speaking tour for the presidential candidate Rutherford Hayes. Harrison was a skillful and popular speaker, and he helped the Hayes campaign.
      During the great railroad strike in July 1877 Harrison worked on the Committee of Arbitration, but he criticized the strikers for “destroying property by stopping the movement of freight.” Oliver P. Morton died on November 1, and Harrison became the leader of many Indiana Republicans. President Hayes appointed him to the Mississippi River Commission in 1879. In March 1880 he spoke to young Republicans and called their party “the moral conscience” of the American people for aiding the efforts of men who strive to improve their conditions. During the Republican National Convention in June he persuaded the Indiana delegation to switch most of their votes from Blaine to Garfield, and in the campaign he gave speeches for the nominated Garfield.
      In January 1881 the Indiana legislature elected Harrison their US Senator. He said he supported civil service reform, but he also believed that Federal employees have a right to contribute money to their political party. He supported Federal aid to primary schools, and he voted against the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Yet the next year he acquiesced with the US Supreme Court’s invalidating the 1875 Civil Rights Act interpreting that the 14th amendment outlawed state discrimination but not that of individuals.
      His Republican rival in Indiana was Walter Q. Gresham who was appointed Postmaster General in 1883. Harrison attended the 1884 Republican convention as a delegate-at-large, and he helped James G. Blaine get the nomination. Harrison in the US Senate criticized President Cleveland for vetoing so many pensions for veterans and their families. In 1885 Democrats used gerrymandering to regain a majority in the Indiana Assembly, and in 1886 they defeated Harrison’s re-election by one vote. He supported high tariffs to protect American industries.
      At the Republican convention in June 1888 their platform favored eliminating internal taxes to reduce the surplus while keeping tariff rates high to reduce imports. In the South they called for “effective legislation to secure the integrity and purity of elections,” though this would have very little influence where most black Republicans were unable to vote. Although Senator John Sherman of Illinois was the leading candidate, Harrison’s convention manager Louis T. Michener persuaded delegates that Harrison had more strength in the critical states of New York and Indiana. Harrison took the lead on the seventh ballot, and he was nominated on the next ballot with 544 votes. As a compromise candidate he was the second choice of most delegates. He was notified by telegraph. Hundreds gathered outside his house, and he gave four speeches that day from his front porch.
      Blaine’s touring campaign in 1884 had failed, and Harrison followed the tradition of staying home; but he gave over 90 speeches there. A stenographer took down his words, and copies were sent to the Associated Press for national distribution. General Lew Wallace, author of the novel Ben-Hur, wrote a campaign biography for Harrison. Some formed Tippecanoe Clubs in memory of his grandfather who was elected President in 1840, and Benjamin accepted their support. On October 25 he gave a long speech in a large auditorium at Indianapolis, and he asked,

If someone tells me that labor
is not sufficiently rewarded here,
does he hope to have its rewards increased
by striking down our protective duties
and compelling our workmen
to compete with the underpaid labor of Europe?3

After the corrupt Republican campaign led by the chairman Matthew W. Quay, Republicans responded to the charges by noting that black Republicans in the deep South were systematically kept from voting which accounted for Cleveland winning the popular vote but not the electoral college vote. In the 1888 election Harrison won the key swing states of New York by only 14,373 votes out of 1,319,748 and Indiana by a mere 2,348 out of 536,949. He lost Connecticut, Virginia, and West Virginia by less than one percent. He won in 20 states that were north and west of the 18 states Cleveland had, giving him an Electoral College victory 233-166. In the US Senate the Republicans retained a 38-37 advantage, but in the House of Representatives the Republicans turned a 15-seat deficit into a 27-seat majority.
      President-elect Harrison believed he had not made any promises or bargains that obligated cabinet appointments, and he would be accountable for his selections. James Blaine expected to be Secretary of State again, but Harrison did not appoint him until 17 January 1889. They agreed to have confidence in each other. The New York boss Thomas C. Platt thought he was owed the Treasury Department, but Harrison’s advisor Michener denied that. Harrison chose Benjamin F. Tracy of New York as Navy Secretary, and they became friends. The former Senator William Windom of Minnesota had been Treasury Secretary briefly for President Garfield, and Harrison named him after an interview in February 1889. Harrison knew John W. Noble in college, and he practiced law in Missouri; Harrison made him Interior Secretary. Redfield Proctor had led the Vermont delegation that supported Harrison at the convention, and he became Secretary of War. Harrison appointed his law partner William Henry Harrison Miller as Attorney General, knowing he could trust him. The Philadelphia department store magnate John Wanamaker had helped raise about $3 million for the campaign and was made Postmaster General. The new Department of Agriculture was to be run by Wisconsin’s Gov. Jeremiah Rusk whose third term had ended on January 7.

United States & Harrison in 1889

      On March 4 Inauguration Day rain fell on Washington DC continuously. Cleveland kindly held an umbrella over Harrison as he gave his inaugural address. Learning from his grandfather’s mistake, Benjamin Harrison dressed for the weather and gave a speech only half as long. He considered the oath of office a “mutual covenant” and asked for

the favor and help of Almighty God—
that He will give to me wisdom, strength, and fidelity,
and to our people a spirit of fraternity
and a love of righteousness and peace.4

      He noted how the nation had grown westward in the century since its government was inaugurated, and living had become more comfortable. He affirmed the protection of domestic industries as defense of the working people against competition with low wages from abroad. In regard to the South he asked,

Shall the prejudices and paralysis of slavery
continue to hang upon the skirts of progress?
How long will those who rejoice that slavery no longer exists
cherish or tolerate the incapacities
it put upon their communities?5

      He urged the great corporations to “observe their legal limitations.” He asked for the improvement of naturalization laws so that new citizens will understand their duties. He affirmed not interfering with European affairs and advised diplomacy to promote peace, and he expected Europeans to respect independent American nations. He said the government will “enforce the civil-service law fully and without evasion.” He considered the Treasury’s annual surplus “serious” but “not the greatest evil.” He called for the construction of modern war ships to continue for the Navy to support trade with steamship lines. His favoring more adequate pension laws for veterans and their families stimulated the loudest applause. He welcomed the admission of new states from western territories. He promised to protect “freedom of the ballot.” He concluded that they should “honor the state that has most promoted education, virtue, justice, and patriotism among its people.”6
      Then in the rain President Harrison and Vice President Morton watched the parade for four hours. About 11,000 people attended the Inaugural Ball. Harrison did not approve of alcohol or dancing, and the Marine Band led by John Philip Sousa played mostly marches.
      On March 5 the US Senate met for 23 minutes to confirm all eight of Harrison’s cabinet officers before adjourning until December.
      President Harrison allowed the families of his children to live in the White House. He selected the journalist Elijah Halford to be his private secretary. He worked with his cabinet secretaries actively and knew their business well. He refused to appoint a list of men given him by the Republican National Chairman Matthew Quay until he had more information about them. To many Harrison seemed cold and detached in political business, though he had warm feelings in personal relationships. In his first year and a half he spent about five hours a day on patronage matters that were difficult because most applicants had to be rejected. He ended up replacing about as many Federal employees as his Democratic predecessor Cleveland who had replaced Republicans.
      The US Congress on March 2 had authorized the President to declare American rights and jurisdiction in the Bering Sea. On the 21st Harrison warned that anyone who hunted fur-bearing animals unlawfully could be arrested as their vessels were seized. The US Navy would capture eight Canadian ships in 1889.
      US Supreme Court Justice Stanley Matthews died on March 22, and Harrison nominated the conservative Circuit Court Judge David J. Brewer whose uncle Stephen J. Field was already on the court. The President did not send Brewer’s name to the US Senate until December 4, and he was confirmed two weeks later. The two relatives would serve together until Field retired in December 1897.
      Cleveland on March 3 had approved the Indian appropriations bill that set aside nearly two million acres in the middle of the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) for settlement. On March 23 Harrison proclaimed that eligible settlers would have access to that land which had belonged to 75,000 Indians from 22 tribes. At noon on April 22 the first Oklahoma land rush was called “Harrison’s Horse Race.” About 50,000 people entered that territory to make claims, and on that day the new town of Guthrie had about 10,000 residents. Those who entered the territory early were called “Sooners,” and fights broke out over their premature claims. The United States jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Territory would be proclaimed on 2 May 1890.
      Harrison went to New York to celebrate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration there on April 30. The Episcopal Bishop Henry Potter gave a sermon that described the political degeneration from the dignity of Washington to Jefferson’s simplicity, Jackson’s vulgarity, and then to materialism and practical politics. Harrison also spoke and said,

Those who would associate their names with events
that shall outlive a country
can only do so by high consecration to duty.
Self-seeking has no public observance or anniversary.7

      Harrison in May appointed the former governor Hugh S. Thompson of South Carolina and young Theodore Roosevelt to join Charles Lyman on the Civil Service Commission. Roosevelt complained that the President ignored his recommendations especially in the Post Office where Harrison usually took the side of Postmaster General Wanamaker and his first assistant James S. Clarkson of Iowa. Clarkson had appointed about a thousand Negroes to rural post offices and hundreds more as letter carriers and mail clerks.
      Blaine wanted his son Walker to be First Assistant Secretary of State, but Harrison would not agree to that. They worked together on Samoan issues that involved the interest there of Britain and Germany. On March 15 US, British, and German warships confronted each other in the Apia harbor, and a cyclone destroyed all the ships except the British Calliope. Robert Louis Stevenson later wrote,

Both had time to recognise that
not the whole Samoan Archipelago was worth
the loss in men and costly ships already suffered.8

The German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck had invited the other two powers to a conference at Berlin on April 29, and on June 14 they created a shared protectorate over Samoa. They claimed they were respecting the independence of Samoa. Yet the three powers appointed the chief justice, the president of the Apia municipal council, and other officials, though they reinstated King Malietoa Laupepa as the titular sovereign.
      The great flood at Johnstown, Pennsylvania started on May 31. The death toll of 2,208 was the largest in the US up to that time, and 1,600 homes were destroyed. Harrison visited the scene and offered Federal assistance and led the effort to raise a relief fund and contributed $300 himself. Clara Barton with 50 volunteers of the Red Cross arrived on June 5, and she stayed there for over five months working on the disaster relief.
      On July 1 Harrison appointed the 72-year-old Frederick Douglass the US Resident Minister and Consul General to Haiti, and in September he was also made the Chargé d’Affaires to Santo Domingo. The Federal surplus from the fiscal year that had just ended was $105 million.
      On July 20 the range detective George Henderson accused the rancher Ella Watson of stealing cattle from Albert John Bothwell in the Powder River region of Wyoming, and this escalated to the Johnson County range war that killed about thirty people and lasted until May 1893.
      Blaine had health problems, and during the summer he left hot Washington to go home to Maine. He invited Harrison to visit him there for ten days in August. Then Harrison went to Indianapolis for a Soldiers’ and Sailors Monument celebration on August 22, and he spoke to a crowd of 40,000 people.
      Harrison had appointed as commissioner of pensions the popular Corporal James Tanner who had lost both legs in the second battle at Bull Run, but Interior Secretary John Noble in July complained that Tanner stretched the rules and refused to cooperate. Noble in September finally said he would resign unless Tanner was removed. Harrison replaced Tanner with Green B. Raum who was also popular but more compliant.
      The United States on October 2 hosted a conference in Washington for Latin American diplomats from every independent country in the western hemisphere except the Dominican Republic. Also attending were Andrew Carnegie, Clement Studebaker, the bankers Cornelius Bliss and Thomas J. Coolidge, and the shipping mogul Charles Flint. Secretary of State Blaine opened the first business session, and in his speech he said,

We believe that standing armies,
beyond those which are needful for public order
and the safety of internal administration,
should be unknown on both American continents.
We believe that friendship and not force,
the spirit of just law and not the violence of the mob,
should be the recognized rule of administration
between American nations and in American nations.9

      After the Latin American envoys were taken on a tour of US manufacturing for six weeks, they met from November until 19 April 1890. A proposed customs union was rejected, but they approved negotiating reciprocity agreements. They also designed a plan for arbitrating disputes, but the governments declined to ratify that. They formed the International Bureau of the American Republics that would eventually become the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1948.
      During a power struggle in Haiti the US helped General Florvil Hyppolite get control in October 1889 by not recognizing the naval blockade proclaimed by General François Légitime. Harrison and Blaine wanted Le Mole St. Nicolas for a coaling station, and Frederick Douglass arrived as minister to Haiti in November; but the US Navy would spoil his negotiation in 1891.
      On October 15 Carl Schurz spoke to the Forestry Associations on the future of American forests and the need for conservation based on his experience in Germany. When he was Secretary of the Interior 1877-81, he urged President Hayes to preserve the nation’s forests so that they could continue to be useful as building materials and places for recreation. To do this they needed to prevent soil erosion. In his lecture he predicted,

The more study and thought I have given the matter,
the firmer has become my conviction that
the destruction of the forests of this country
will be the murder of its future prosperity and progress.10

He warned that careless tourists, hunters, and mining prospectors leave fires without extinguishing them, resulting in many square miles of forest being destroyed. He said,

I observed a most lively export trade going on
from Gulf ports as well as Pacific ports,
with fleets of vessels employed in carrying timber
stolen from the public lands to be sold in foreign countries,
immense tracts being devastated
that some robbers might fill their pockets.11

Yet he found that Congressmen dismissed his warnings at first but eventually brought some violators to justice for the stolen timber. Then they passed new laws that favored the taking of timber from public lands. He thanked the Forestry Associations for their effort to bring about a rational forestry system. He concluded that mountain forests must be preserved because once they are destroyed, they cannot be renewed.
      On November 2 Harrison signed the proclamation admitting North Dakota and South Dakota as states, followed by Montana on the 8th and Washington on the 10th. Republicans dominated these four states which resulted in eight more Republican Senators and all five of the new House members with South Dakota having two representatives and the others one.
      In his First Annual Message to Congress on December 3 President Harrison described his ambitious legislative agenda. The document was sent to news organizations throughout the nation, and clerks read its 15,000 words to a joint session of the Congress. He wanted tariffs revised to preserve protection, a silver law that would not cause inflation, railway regulation to ensure worker safety, increased veteran pensions, aid to schools, internal improvements, expanding the merchant marines, and more Navy ships. The US Attorney General William Miller in 1889 had ordered southern states to prosecute those interfering with Federal elections; but this was resisted, or juries failed to convict violators. Harrison had praised the efforts of black people in the South, and he wanted a strong law to protect the right of black Americans to vote in the South. He noted,

In many parts of our country where the colored population
is large the people of that race are by various devices
deprived of any effective exercise of their political rights
and of many of their civil rights.
The wrong does not expend itself
upon those whose votes are suppressed.
Every constituency in the Union is wronged.
   It has been the hope of every patriot
that a sense of justice and of respect for the law
would work a gradual cure of these flagrant evils….
When and under what conditions
is the black man to have a free ballot?
When is he in fact to have those full civil rights
which have so long been his in law?
When is that equality of influence
which our form of government was intended
to secure to the electors to be restored?
This generation should courageously
face these grave questions,
and not leave them as a heritage of woe to the next….
I earnestly invoke the attention of Congress
to the consideration of such measures
within its well-defined constitutional powers as will secure
to all our people a free exercise of the right of suffrage
and every other civil right under the Constitution
and laws of the United States.12

      At first Democrats obstructed voting on issues by refusing to provide a quorum. They did this by not answering the roll call.
      The state of Mississippi instituted a poll tax, literacy tests, and other restrictions to prevent black people from voting. This example would be followed by other southern states creating similar Jim Crow laws.
      On December 9 President Harrison attended the opening of the Chicago Auditorium seating 3,500 to hear Adelina Patti sing “Home Sweet Home” in the 17-story building that architect Louis Sullivan was constructing.
      Jacob Riis published the article “How the Other Half Lives” in the December issue of Scribner’s magazine illustrated by his photographs. He criticized the tenements in New York as shanties that nurtured the evils of epidemics, poverty, and crime. He described the Italians on the lower east side, the Irish in the west, and the Jews in the middle. Brooklyn, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia also had many immigrants. Andrew Carnegie calculated that the immigrants added $1 billion to the US economy each year.
      On December 18 the influenza pandemic from Europe arrived in the United States and would reach a lethal peak in January 1890.

US, Oklahoma Territory & Wounded Knee

Cleveland, Indians & the West

      President Harrison on 10 February 1889 proclaimed,

This commission was specially instructed to present to
the Sioux Indians occupying the Great Sioux Reservation
for their acceptance thereof and consent thereto
in manner and form as therein provided the act of Congress
approved on March 2, 1889, entitled
“An act to divide a portion of the reservation
of the Sioux Nation of Indians in Dakota
into separate reservations and to secure
the relinquishment of the Indian title to the remainder,
and for other purposes.”13

Thus the US Government opened to settlement by its citizens 11 million acres of land that had been ceded by the Sioux the previous year.
      President Cleveland on March 2 had signed another Indian Appropriation Act that created the Cherokee Commission and opened unassigned land to white settlers. The five civilized tribes asked for a Sequoyah state next to an Oklahoma state, but the US Congress rejected that. Instead they opened two million acres, and on April 22 about 50,000 people competed in the land rush for 12,000 land tracts. On May 2 Congress passed the Organic Act which created the Oklahoma Territory that consolidated Oklahoma and Indian Territories.
      On December 15 the US Indian Agent James McLaughlin ordered the arrest of the Lakota Chief Sitting Bull. Lt. Bullhead led 39 police that included Lakota. Those near Sitting Bull were aroused, and the Lakota Catch-the-Bear with his rifle mortally wounded Bullhead who shot Sitting Bull in the chest. After the police officer Red Tomahawk shot Sitting Bull in the head, killing him, Lakota warriors killed six policemen and mortally wounded another.
      On December 19 General Nelson Miles sent a telegram to General John Schofield in Washington complaining that the US Congress was not fulfilling its treaty obligations to the Indian tribes who had been “coerced into signing” them. They lacked supplies and had only reduced rations. Crops in the region had failed for two years. The Sioux were dissatisfied, and the Cheyenne were starving. On the 28th the half-Sioux interpreter John Shangreau advised Major Samuel Whiteside and the US 7th Cavalry not to try to disarm the Sioux.
      The troops escorted Spotted Elk and about 350 Lakota to Wounded Knee Creek where they camped. That night Col. James Forsyth arrived, increasing the number of troops to about 500. At dawn on December 29 Forsyth ordered the Indians to turn over their weapons and leave the “zone of military operations.” The old men were not armed, and Yellow Bird began the Ghost Dance. Deaf Black Coyote did not give up his rifle. When two soldiers attacked him, his rifle went off. Yellow Bird threw dust in the air, and about five Lakota men began shooting their rifles at the troops. In the fighting about 90 Lakota warriors were killed, and four were wounded. The troops lost 25 killed and had 33 wounded. The battle became a massacre with about 200 Lakota women and children killed while 46 were wounded. On December 30 Lakota and Brulé Sioux on the Pine Ridge Reservation ambushed the 7th Cavalry led by Forsyth and Guy Henry, and the cavalry lost one killed and seven wounded. General Miles then had 3,500 troops surround the hostile Sioux. On 15 January 1891 the Sioux formally surrendered at White Clay Creek.
      President Harrison ordered an investigation, and Commissioner of Indian Affairs Thomas J. Morgan reported that the Indians have a right to expect sympathy, help, and justice. Harrison regretted the massacre and dismissed the Pine Ridge Indian agent. General Miles suspended Forsyth, but Harrison reinstated him. He believed the Indians needed to be civilized, and he met with Sioux leaders and urged them to take the allotments of land offered and learn how to earn a living. Harrison’s views were similar to those in the Indian Rights Association which was founded in 1882 by non-Indians whose aim was to help Indians to develop civilization and become citizens. Commissioner Morgan was one of their advocates. Wounded Knee was the last major Indian battle. Railroads reduced the need for so many forts in the West which declined from 82 in 1889 to 62 by 1891. The US Army had 25,582 enlisted men in 1889 with a high desertion rate of 11%. According to the US Census reports the number of Native Americans had decreased from 400,764 in 1850 to 248,253 in 1890.
      The Oklahoma Territory ceded lands of the Sauk, Fox, and Potawatomie to the United States which opened 900,000 acres to white settlers in September 1890.

United States & Harrison in 1890

      On 29 January 1890 the Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Thomas B. Reed of Maine, had the clerk recognize the Democrats who were present but refused to answer to their name or vote. When they complained, he ruled their motions out of order. The House confirmed Reed’s rules on February 14.
      Republican Senator Henry W. Blair of New Hampshire had been trying for several years to pass his bill for Federal aid to schools, but it was not going well. In January the Afro-American League at Chicago endorsed Blair’s bill that would help fund for eight years public schools that did not discriminate between white and black children, though they did not have to be integrated. The Senate debated the bill from February 5 to March 20. The Nation magazine called it a “Bill to Promote Mendicancy,” and it was defeated 36-42.
      On March 3 the US Supreme Court in Louisville, New Orleans & Texas Ry. Co. v. Mississippi decided 7-2 that the Mississippi constitution could require railroads to have segregated and equal carriers. Justice John Marshall Harlan in dissent argued that the statute was an unconstitutional regulation of interstate commerce.
      On March 24 the US Supreme Court in Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul Railroad v. Minnesota overruled the 1877 Munn v. Illinois decision by denying the state of Minnesota’s right to regulate a railroad company’s rates if they were obstructing their right to make a “reasonable profit.”
      The Republicans passed the Dependent Pension Act, and Harrison signed it on June 27. During his presidency pension spending increased from $81 million per year to $144 million. By 1893 the US would have 966,012 pensioners, and between 1890 and 1907 the US would spend $1 billion on the Pension Act. At this time the US Army had only 28,000 men while Germany had over 500,000 soldiers. Some southern states had granted pensions or benefits to a few Confederate veterans.
      The Republicans worked on their bills in committees, and Chairman William McKinley’s Ways and Means Committee held hearings for weeks. He proposed duties on wool and other agricultural products that Harrison recommended. McKinley put sugar on the free list to please consumers and the Sugar Trust that had been incorporated in 1887 and was making large profits. Secretary of State Blaine opposed this because he wanted to use sugar duties to negotiate reciprocal agreements for US wheat and hogs with Cuba and other Latin Americans. A duty of two cents per pound was put on refined sugar to aid the American Sugar Company and cane producers in Louisiana. The McKinley bill increased duties on articles that competed with US products, and it was introduced in April. After a two-week debate the House passed the McKinley Tariff bill 164-142 on 21 May 1890. Blaine and Harrison hoped that the Senate version would include reciprocity.
      Both major parties in 1888 had advocated controlling trusts and combinations, and Senator John Sherman introduced the influential Anti-Trust Act. The Sherman Antitrust Act, which is still considered important in 2022, outlawed every contract, combination, trust, or conspiracy that restrained trade or commerce in the states or with foreign nations with the penalty up to $5,000 and one year in prison. Sherman warned that they must respond to popular appeals “or be ready for the socialist, the communist, the nihilist.” Harrison’s friends, Senators Edmunds of Vermont and Hoar of Massachusetts, had written most of the bill which the Senate passed 52-1, and President Harrison signed it on 2 July 1890. In a few months the Justice Department with a small budget managed to prosecute coal companies in Tennessee for price fixing, and others brought three criminal and four civil suits during Harrison’s term.
      Also on July 2 the Convention Relative to the Slave Trade and Importation into Africa of Firearms, Ammunition, and Spiritous Liquors was signed in Brussels, and the United States became a party to this agreement. Idaho was admitted as a state on July 3 followed by Wyoming one week later.
      A special House committee led by Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts had drafted the Federal Elections bill in March that focused on the election of representatives in Congress allowing a US Federal judge who received a petition signed by 500 voters in a congressional district to order Federal officials to manage a pending election for the representative. The Lodge bill authorized Federal circuit courts to arbitrate election disputes only in congressional races, and Federal troops and marshals were not mentioned. Harrison invited several senators to the White House and suggested providing Federal supervision of all phases of the election, and that was added to the bill. The US judge in each state was to appoint a Federal board of canvassers to declare the winners. Southern Democrats fought furiously against this, calling it the “Lodge Force Bill” while Harrison considered it a “civil rights bill.” On July 2 the House passed it 155-149, but the US Senate used a filibuster to defeat the bill in February 1891.
      Harrison advocated preserving the gold standard, but westerners wanted more silver coins in circulation. Treasury Secretary William Windom advised buying silver with new Treasury certificates. Senator Henry M. Teller of Colorado complained about that to Harrison who warned him that he would veto a free-coinage bill. The Republican House had approved a version of Windom’s plan on June 7 that allowed for purchasing silver for $4.5 million each month, but only what was needed for redemption was to be in silver coins. Senators called “silverites” passed 42-25 a free-coinage amendment with a 16 to 1 silver-gold ratio, but the House rejected that 135-152. In the conference Senator Sherman worked out a compromise with the 4.5 million ounces of silver paid for by certificates, and Republicans passed it without any Democrats’ votes in both houses. Harrison signed Silver Purchase Act into law on July 14. The ratio of silver to gold was less than 20 to 1 in 1890, and by 1893 it climbed to 26.5 to 1. The Senate authorized buying 12 million more ounces of silver in 1891.
      On July 29 President Harrison sent a special message to Congress asking for legislation to remove anything related to a lottery in the mail which he justified by writing,

It is not necessary, I am sure, for me to attempt to portray
the robbery of the poor and the widespread corruption
of public and private morals which are
the necessary incidents of these lottery schemes.14

      European nations were banning the importing of American meat because of disease, and in August the US Congress passed the Meat Inspection Act to be administered by the Agriculture Department. The President was authorized to stop imports from nations that discriminated against US products. The Congress authorized six new ships for the Navy for $6 million each.
      Republicans promised to take up that bill at the start of the new session, and they passed McKinley’s Tariff bill on September 10. Tariffs on average were raised nearly 50%, and Harrison signed it into law on October 1. The black leader Frederick Douglass complained, “What if we gain the tariff and many other good things if in doing it the soul of the party and nation is lost?”15 A difficult financial situation in England caused a tight money market, and Harrison had the Treasury inject $50 million into the economy by purchasing bonds and early payment on their interest and by dispersing pensions. Within a week this relieved the economy.
      The United States established in California the Sequoia National Park on September 25 and Yosemite National Park on October 1. Before adjourning on that day the Congress had authorized the President to negotiate trade agreements and to modify tariff duties.
      Salesmen in the rural US asked for higher prices on tin goods and blamed them on the new protective tariff. Many women urged their husbands and fathers to vote against Republicans in the 1890 elections. The public did not like the increasing prices, and the sugar price was not reduced until after the elections. Canada’s government wanted to negotiate reciprocity; but Harrison and Blaine realized that Canadian agriculture would compete with American farmers while Canadians would continue to buy manufactured goods from Britain instead of the US. Blaine also warned that Canada might ask to join the United States, and Harrison opposed its annexation.
      On June 30 the Republican Congress passed the Naval Act, approving three new battleships.
      During the election campaigning the Democrats condemned the Republicans for its “billion-dollar Congress.” They criticized the Lodge bill that failed to pass because the Democrats voted for the silver bill in exchange for westerners’ help in defeating the Force Bill. Democrats in Ohio, Kentucky, Maryland, and Tennessee had vigorously gerrymandered their congressional districts. The fall elections shocked Republicans as Democrats gained a 238-86 advantage over them in the House of Representatives while eight new Populists were elected. With the four new western states Republicans increased their advantage to 47-39 in the Senate.
      A few days after the November election the Barings Bank in England collapsed from losing investments in Argentine debts. This triggered a financial panic that caused a severe recession. The New York Clearing-House eased this some by providing loan certificates to endangered banks. The Harrison administration once again responded to the crisis by purchasing bonds and increasing pension payments.
      The US Supreme Court Justice Samuel F. Miller had died on October 13. President Harrison nominated the 54-year-old District Court Judge Henry Billings Brown on December 23, and the US Senate confirmed the moderate conservative six days later.
      Mississippi revised their constitution that resulted in disenfranchising most blacks and poor people. Frederick Douglass visited President Harrison and pleaded with him to get anti-lynching legislation passed.
      The US Census counted 62,979,766 people in 1890 up from 50,189,209 in 1880. The 1890 Census showed that the greatest increase of foreigners in the previous decade was from Hungary, Russia, Italy, Austria, and Poland. The nine states with more than 2 million people were New York (6,003,174), Pennsylvania (5,258,113), Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Massachusetts, Texas, Indiana, and Michigan. The only cities with more than 300,000 were New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, St. Louis, Boston, and Baltimore. The population of Los Angeles increased from 11,183 in 1880 to 50,395. Most of the 1890 Census data was destroyed by a fire in the Commerce Department Building in January 1921.

United States & Harrison in 1891

      President Harrison wanted the US Congress to vote on Lodge’s civil rights bill for black voters in the South, but the Democrats were blocking that with filibusters and criticizing the massacre at the last Indian battle at Wounded Knee. Democrats wanted a vote on free coinage so that they could trade their votes for that to help the westerners in exchange for their aiding to defeat the elections bill, a legislative tactic called “logrolling.” On 5 January 1891 Senator Stewart of Nevada proposed taking up the silver coinage bill, and the Senate agreed to do that by a 34-29 vote. After debating it for over a week the Senate passed the silver bill. Harrison made it known that he would veto it even if it were part of an appropriation bill. On January 29 Treasury Secretary Windom told an audience in New York that free coinage would be “extremely disastrous,” and at the end of the speech he collapsed and died. During his last year in office Windom had bought 1,145,577 acres from a railroad for 3 cents an acre while others had to pay $5 per acre. Windom’s portrait was engraved on the $2 silver certificates from 1891 to 1896. Harrison appointed the former Gov. Charles Foster of Ohio as Treasury Secretary because he also opposed the silver coinage.

      On January 16 Vice President Morton broke a tie so that the Senate could start to discuss the civil rights bill, but on the 22nd four silver-state Republicans and two others helped Democratic senators block the elections bill 34-35. Senator Stewart accused Harrison of trying the pass the Force bill that would put “the colored population” in power in the South. In an unusual newspaper interview Harrison said,

That the majority shall rule
is an underlying principle of our institutions….
It will not do for the people of any section
to say that they must be let alone,
that it is a local question to be settled by the States
of whether we shall have honest elections or not.16

Harrison became the first US President to criticize severely the lynching that was being used to prevent black people from voting, and he said they “shame our Christian civilization.” He asked the Congress to pass strong legislation to end the practice, but Democrats were set against that. Frederick Douglass defended Harrison’s effort to pass the elections bill saying, “To my mind we never had a greater President.”17
      Grover Cleveland wrote a letter on February 10 to E. Ellery Anderson, chairman of the Reform Club, expressing his opposition to the “dangerous and reckless experiment of free, unlimited, and independent silver coinage.”
      The New Orleans Police Chief David M. Hennessey had been murdered on October 15 for having investigated and arrested the Mafia leader Giuseppe Esposito in 1881 and for refusing to accept bribes. Before dying the next day he was asked who shot him, and he replied, “The Dagos.” Nineteen Italians were arrested and indicted for murder. The trial began on 16 February 1891, and during it charges against ten defendants were dismissed. On March 13 the jury found six not guilty and could not agree on the others, and the judge declared a mistrial. The next day about 8,000 people gathered and stormed the prison. Two Italians were taken outside and lynched while nine others were shot or clubbed to death in the prison. The frightened consul wired Baron Fava, the Italian ambassador, in Washington. He appealed to Secretary of State Blaine who discussed the crisis with Harrison. He disseminated his regret to the US Minister Albert Porter in Rome and to others. Italian-Americans in Chicago threatened violence. The press spread the story and the war talk. The rumor of an Italian squadron coming alerted Americans that the Italian navy had 19 armored ships compared to the US which had only three. On June 30 the Republican Congress passed the Naval Act, approving three new battleships. In New Orleans a US Treasury agent explained that it is easy to go “from the killing of Negroes to the killing of Dagos.” Harrison and Blaine negotiated an indemnity payment of 125,000 francs ($25,000) to Italy, and diplomatic relations were resumed.
      On February 13 Admiral David Dixon Porter died, and the next day General William Tecumseh Sherman also passed on. Sherman had retired in 1883, but Porter remained the top Navy officer until his death. Harrison had served under Sherman in Georgia and sent a brief eulogy of him to the Congress.
      On March 3 a major Judiciary Act sponsored by Senator Evarts of New York created nine United States Circuit Courts of Appeal to relieve the burden on the US Supreme Court of traveling to hear those cases, reducing their case load by about half. The Supreme Court could still hear appeals from these new courts. On the same day Congress created a Superintendent of Immigration, and the next day they accepted the International Copyright Act that protected foreign authors from pirate editions by American publishers.
      The United States also transferred the Weather Bureau from the Department of War to the Agriculture Department and funded improving the Mississippi River channel that had been promised to farmers and shipping interests. This Congress passed a record 531 public laws which would not be surpassed until the second term of Theodore Roosevelt.
      The US Congress passed a bill to subsidize steamships carrying mail overseas. Harrison also persuaded them to designate public land as national forests, and during his administration 13 million acres became forest reserves. The Congress approved the Land Revision Act on March 3 before adjourning that day. Forest reserves were created in Wyoming, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and California as well as in the territories of Arizona and New Mexico, and 14 more reserves in Alaska which would increase them to 22 million acres. On March 30 after a two-year campaign by the American Forestry Association the United States established 1.2 million acres as the Yellowstone Timberland Reserve adjacent to the Yellowstone National Park.
      On April 14 Harrison and his wife with Postmaster General Wanamaker in a party of 15 left on a five-week journey by railway through the South to the Pacific Coast and back that covered 9,232 miles during which the President gave 140 speeches. Wire-service reporters sent these to newspapers around the country. He gave a long speech at Galveston, Texas where a federal subsidy had improved the harbor. At San Francisco his wife Caroline christened the USS Monterey, and Harrison spoke about how new Navy ships would protect American commerce. His administration would make eleven contracts for mail service which was enhanced by subsidies for 41 mail steamers.
      The minister Frederick Douglass was negotiating a naval base with Haiti; but Navy Secretary Benjamin Tracy was influenced by New York businessmen with commercial interests, and Harrison agreed to send Rear Admiral Bancroft Gherardi as a special commissioner. He commanded nine ships that intimidated the Haitians who then refused to lease the US a base.
      Secretary of State Blaine on May 7 collapsed while visiting Andrew Carnegie in New York, and he was convalescent until the end of October. During that time President Harrison supervised the work of the State Department. He also did work for Interior Secretary Noble while he was ill.
      On October 16 the USS Baltimore at Valparaiso, Chile put on leave 117 sailors who got into a bar-room fight that left two Americans dead, over a dozen wounded, and 36 arrested. Many believed that this quarrel was caused by Americans supporting Chile’s authoritarian President Balmaceda who in September had been defeated in the Chilean civil war. An investigation discovered that some sailors had been wounded by bayonets, indicating that police had been fighting them. Harrison’s government demanded reparations, and the US Navy prepared for war; but Chileans considered it a drunken brawl. On 21 January 1892 Harrison threatened to break off diplomatic relations unless Chile apologized. After several months the Chilean government paid a $75,000 indemnity to the injured men and relatives of the dead sailors. This incident damaged relations with Latin American nations that had been improved by the Blaine meeting.
      Some Republican leaders such as Thomas Platt of New York and Matthew Quay of Pennsylvania still resented Harrison’s rejecting them for the jobs they wanted, and they were favoring Blaine for President. Quay quit as party chairman in July, and Harrison accepted another Blaine supporter James S. Clarkson as his replacement. Harrison sought reconciliation by agreeing to appoint the Blaine partisan Stephen B. Elkins to replace Secretary of War Proctor who had resigned because Vermont had elected him as their US Senator.
      In his long Third Annual Message to Congress on December 9 Harrison reported that imports increased by over 20%, and during his tenure the US Navy launched 25 new vessels. The US Congress approved a charter with the private Maritime Canal Company which got a concession from Nicaragua and had begun work in 1889. He recommended how to finance the canal. He noted that their meat inspections of cattle and pork had persuaded Germany, Denmark, Italy, Austria-Hungary, and France to repeal their prohibition of imported pork from the United States, and the US canceled the new duty on German beet sugar. Agriculture Secretary Jeremiah Rusk had calculated that the European restrictions of the pork had cost the US $20 million annually. Because control of the US Congress by Democrats prevented passing Republican legislation, this message was mostly about foreign policy. Harrison discussed the incident with the US Navy at Valparaiso, Chile, Chinese laborers, a treaty with Mexico, trade with Hawaii and Queen Liliuokolani, concern about the persecution of Jews in Russia, trade with Latin America, and the European international copyright agreement. He boasted that the total US imports and exports in the year ending on 30 September 1891 was the largest ever at about $1,750 million of which imports were $824,715,270.
      In regard to the US Army the President reported that the number of desertions was decreasing. He admitted that many Chinese laborers had entered the US from Canada and Mexico despite efforts to prevent this. About 8,000 more miles of railroads were improving the postal service, and overseas mail was using German steamers. He urged the building of more ships with improved steel.
      Harrison praised the schools for Indian children, and he hoped to see a change in the situation of the Five Civilized Tribes in the Indian Territory. He hoped that the Cherokee Commission would open an additional 800,000 acres for settlement in Oklahoma. He wrote,

Since March 4, 1889, about 23,000,000 acres
have been separated from Indian reservations
and added to the public domain for the use of those who
desired to secure free homes under our beneficent laws.
It is difficult to estimate the increase of wealth
which will result from the conversion
of these waste lands into farms,
but it is more difficult to estimate the betterment
which will result to the families that have found
renewed hope and courage in the ownership of a home
and the assurance of a comfortable subsistence
under free and healthful conditions.18

      In creating new legislative districts after the census Harrison warned against the baneful influence of the “gerrymander.”

      William A. Peffer of Kansas was a populist and became a US Senator in March 1891. That year he reviewed the development of farmers’ organizations in The Farmer’s Side. The Grange had begun in 1867, and in 1875 a Farmers’ Alliance was started in Texas to oppose land speculators because land was being given away to wealthy corporations. A Northern Alliance began in Illinois about 1877. In the years 1889 to 1893 more than 11,000 farm mortgages were foreclosed in Kansas. Farmers in Kansas and Nebraska on loans had to pay interest ranging from 18% to 30%. An Alliance in Kansas led to the founding in 1890 of a People’s Party called “Populists” which went national with representatives from 32 states and two territories at the National Union Conference in Cincinnati on 19 May 1891. By then the Colored Farmers’ National Alliance and Cooperative Union had 1,250,000 members with organizations in twelve states.
      Harrison and Blaine sent John Watson Foster to negotiate reciprocity treaties. The first one with Brazil was signed on 5 February 1891 and became effective on April 1. There followed treaties with Spain signed on July 31, with the Dominican Republic on August 1, and a provisional treaty with El Salvador on December 31.
      Harrison paid for improvements to the White House and got Congress to cover the installation of electricity. Because Harrison would not touch the switch, an employee was responsible for turning on the lights each evening and then turning them off in the morning.
      Following the example of Mississippi, the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Tennessee enacted Jim Crow laws of racial segregation and voter suppression.
      The US Congress passed the Ocean Mail Subsidy Act to aid the US merchant marines.
      During 1891 the Barge Office processed 430,884 immigrants to New York City including 74,496 Germans, 65,084 Italians, 51,022 Russians, and 32,426 Swedes.

Harrison & United States Elections in 1892

      In January 1892 Harrison supporters were selected for the Indiana state party, and two weeks later Secretary of State Blaine wrote to Republican chairman Clarkson that he would not be a candidate at the national convention.
      The United States declared February 12, the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, as a national holiday.
      The US made reciprocity treaties with the British West Indies on 1 February 1892, and Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala signed those between March and May 1892. Tariffs were imposed on three Latin American countries that would not cooperate.
      The United States and the British argued over the hunting of seals in the Bering Sea off the Pribilof Islands that are part of Alaska. In March 1890 the US had granted a 20-year lease to the North American Company to hunt seals on the islands. Stephen Elkins owned the corporation and would became Secretary of War on December 17. Americans claimed that the seals’ rookeries were on American land, but the British negotiating for Canada claimed that the US could not ban seal hunting in international waters. Harrison wanted to protect the seals but agreed to arbitration on the facts but not on the monetary liability. The arbitrators in Paris decided against the US while Harrison had his language accepted in the treaty signed on 29 February 1892.
      On April 19 President Harrison proclaimed that 3 million acres which had belonged to the Arapaho and Cheyenne in the Oklahoma Territory would be opened to settlers.
      In May a Democratic newspaper in New York published that Harrison’s son Russell had said that Blaine should not be nominated because he was “completely broken down mentally and physically.” He and his father denied the story, but the Blaines’ resentment against the Harrisons increased. On May 23 Harrison decided to run for re-election. Again he appointed Louis Michener to run his campaign, and he persuaded party leaders to go to Minneapolis before the convention to lobby delegates there and to raise money for the convention. Blaine sent his resignation to Harrison on June 4, and the President accepted it immediately.
      The Republican national convention began at Minneapolis on June 7. William McKinley had been elected governor of Ohio in 1891, and his name was being mentioned as a candidate. Michener and his allies got McKinley named as the convention chairman. On June 10 Senator Wolcott of Colorado gave the nominating speech for Blaine that was cheered. The former Navy Secretary R. W. Thompson made the main nominating speech for Harrison that was followed by several seconding speeches amidst much cheering. On the first ballot Harrison got a majority with 536 votes to Blaine’s 183, and McKinley got 182. Harrison wanted Vice President Morton to continue on the ticket; but in the evening New Yorkers offered the former New York Tribune editor Whitelaw Reid for Vice President, and he was accepted by acclamation. Reid’s only political experience was that he had been the minister to France for nearly three years prior to his resignation in March 1892. Harrison was concerned that Reid’s battle against the typographical union at the Tribune would lose votes among organized labor, and the Labor Educational Bureau of New York put out a pamphlet against Reid called The Arch Enemy of Labor.
      On June 22 the Democratic convention in Chicago easily nominated Grover Cleveland for the third time. He got 617 votes to 114 for New York’s Senator David B. Hill and 103 for Governor Horace Boies of Iowa. They nominated the First Assistant US Postmaster General Adlai Stevenson of Illinois for Vice President over Isaac P. Gray, the former governor of Indiana.
      Cleveland accepted the nomination by making a speech in July at Madison Square Garden to 20,000 people. His former Navy Secretary William C. Whitney became his campaign manager and began by working on winning in New York. Compared to the dirty tricks of 1884 the 1892 campaign was fairly clean. With two experienced Presidents running, most people realized that either candidate would be acceptable. Cleveland wrote many letters to political leaders asking them to support his campaign.
      Chauncey Depew declined Harrison’s nomination as Secretary of State advising that as head of the New York Central Railroad he might alienate farmers. Harrison then selected his friend John W. Foster who had experience in the State Department. The party chairman Clarkson stepped aside but remained on the executive committee and campaigned for Harrison who replaced him on July 16 with Thomas H. Carter of Montana. He was commissioner of the Land Office and might get western support as a backer of the free coinage of silver. Harrison was seriously preoccupied with caring for his very ill wife Caroline who had been stricken again in April. In early July they went to a cottage by Loon Lake, New York in the Adirondacks. Harrison felt that his life had become a burden and his ambition a delusion. He went back to Washington until Congress adjourned on August 5 and then returned to his wife. He met with Thomas Platt at the end of the month, and they were reconciled.
      An outbreak of cholera was threatening New York, and Harrison went quickly to Washington and ordered the mandatory quarantine of ships for twenty days. The Treasury Department persuaded steamship companies to stop immigration from European ports. To get support from Republicans on the west coast Harrison changed his position on Chinese immigration. On May 5 he had signed the Geary Act to exclude Chinese workers for ten more years. He had also approved the Immigration Act in March 1891 that excluded aliens who had contagious diseases or were convicted criminals, paupers, polygamists, and those needing to be assisted by others during the passage.
      The Farmers’ Alliance supported the Populist Party or People’s Party which at Omaha on July 4 nominated James B. Weaver of Iowa for President and James G. Field of Virginia for Vice President. Their platform included in the “Expression of Sentiments” the following resolutions:

2. That the revenue derived from a graduated income tax
should be applied to the reduction of the burden of taxation
now levied upon the domestic industries of this country.
5. That we cordially sympathize with the efforts
of organized workingmen to shorten the hours of labor,
and demand a rigid enforcement
of the existing eight-hour law on Government work,
and ask that a penalty clause be added to the said law.
7. That we commend to the favorable consideration
of the people and the reform press the legislative system
known as the initiative and referendum.
8. That we favor a constitutional provision limiting
the office of President and Vice President to one term,
and providing for the election of Senators
of the United States by a direct vote of the people.
9. That we oppose any subsidy or national aid
to any private corporation for any purpose.19

They advocated unlimited coinage of silver at a 16-1 ratio to gold. When Harrison opposed this at the opening of Congress, the Colorado Republican Senator Henry Teller accused the President of protecting Wall Street and the rich in that region. In the West some Democrats combined with Populists. Democrats claimed that the protective tariff was unconstitutional, and some opposed reciprocity agreements.
      The Populist Weaver published A Call to Action denouncing monopolies and the creditor class. He noted that in Chicago 13,000 people manufactured clothing; over half were women, and 2,100 were children. He wrote,

We must expect to be confronted by a vast
and splendidly equipped army of extortionists, usurers,
and oppressors marshaled from every nation under heaven.
Every instrumentality known to man—
the state with its civic authority,
learning with its lighted torch,
armies with their commissions to take life, instruments
of commerce essential to commercial intercourse,
and the very soil upon which we live,
move, and have our being—
all these things and more are being perverted and used
to enslave and impoverish the people.
The Golden Rule is rejected
by the heads of all the great departments of trade,
and the law of Cain, which repudiates the obligations
that we are mutually under to one another, is fostered
and made the rule of action throughout the world.
Corporate feudality has taken the place of chattel slavery
and vaunts its power in every state….
   But thanks to the all-conquering strength
of Christian enlightenment,
we are at the dawn of the golden age of popular power.
We have unshaken faith in the integrity
and final triumph of the people.20

      Harrison replied that he supported the free coinage of silver as long as it was equally acceptable as the gold coins. He also defended the McKinley Tariff Act and used statistics to argue that workers’ pay had gone up while prices for wage earners went down. Harrison spoke at the annual conference of the National Educational Association in Saratoga, New York on July 14 and responded to the bloodshed at Homestead by calling for obedience to law and deference to public authority which he described as “a self-sacrificing purpose to stand by established and orderly administration of government.”
      The US Supreme Court Justice Joseph P. Bradley had died on January 22. Harrison did not appoint the corporate attorney George Shiras Jr. until July 19, and the Senate confirmed him one week later.
      During the summer there were several labor disputes. Andrew Carnegie hired Henry C. Frick to manage his Steel Company at Homestead, Pennsylvania. Frick had made $1 million by the age of 30 by processing coke, but unlike Carnegie he only cared about profits. He reduced their pay to $22 a month, and they demanded $24. Frick would not go above $23, and the contract expired on June 30. Frick had barbed wire strung around the buildings, shut down the plant, and hired deputized sheriffs. The Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers union had 800 members go on strike, and they were joined by about 3,000 unskilled workers. They persuaded the sheriffs to leave, and Frick brought in 300 Pinkerton agents who arrived by way of the Monongahela River on a barge during the lockout on July 6. The strikers behind steel barricades attacked them in a 12-hour battle that killed five agents and nine striking steelworkers. The Pinkertons surrendered and were abused as they left.
      On July 12 Gov. Robert E. Pattison sent 8,500 Pennsylvania militia to Homestead. General George R. Snowden believed the strikers were communists and wanted to suppress them. Strikebreakers called “scabs” began arriving the next day, but union men got many of them to leave. As more came, the steel production was done by nonunion workers. Conflicts in the mills between the new white and black workers became violent, and in November a mob of whites attacked the blacks’ homes. After almost five months the strikers called off the strike on November 20 and returned to their 12-hour shifts. Carnegie’s income that year fell by $300,000, but he still made $4 million. This failed strike against the Carnegie Steel Company turned many workers against Harrison. Cleveland’s comment on the Homestead conflict compared the “hardships of the nation’s laborers” to “those made selfish and sordid by unjust governmental favoritism.”
      The Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers had 24,000 members in 1891, but after the Homestead strike the membership decreased within two years to less than 10,000.
      The strike in the silver mines at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho started from a wage reduction from $3.50 to $3 a day in 1889. A strike eventually led to the discovery of Pinkerton agents in 1890 and the dynamiting of a mill and a takeover of the mines. Fighting on July 11 killed three people on each side. Harrison had avoided sending soldiers, but he changed his mind and sent in Federal troops. The governor declared martial law, and 600 miners were imprisoned. On July 23 the miners were sent back to work without the restoration of their 15% pay cuts.
      In northeastern Tennessee Coal Creek miners began protesting convict labor in 1891. The conflict escalated in the middle of August 1892 when 27 people were killed, and about 500 were arrested.
      Railway switchmen in Buffalo, New York went on strike for two weeks in August. On the 13th and 14th rail cars were set on fire. The next day Gov. Roswell Flower sent 8,000 New York State Guard troops. An explosion on an unmanned train killed three soldiers. The railroad companies sent in hundreds of strikebreakers. Strike leaders met on August 23, and they ended the strike on the 25th.
      The Republican Senate had passed the Stewart Free Coinage bill, but the Democrats in the House of Representatives had defeated it on July 13.
      A threatening cholera epidemic overshadowed the campaign, and the first boxing title-match using padded gloves on September 7 between John L. Sullivan and Jim Corbett was a distraction from Harrison’s letter accepting the nomination. He wrote that 6,000-word document appealing to workers and farmers while he was nursing his wife Caroline. He believed that his policies would bring new factories, markets, and ships, and he called Cleveland’s views on the protective tariffs “destructive and un-American.” He also defended the reciprocity treaties that Cleveland opposed. He claimed that he had increased the honor and influence of the United States. On the same day that letter came out, Blaine published his letter defining issues much differently than the President.
      After doctors diagnosed that Caroline Harrison had tuberculosis on September 14, they received many telegrams. When Cleveland learned of her illness, he announced in a letter that he would not campaign either. The Harrisons went back to the White House on September 21.
      On October 12 schoolchildren recited the pledge of allegiance to the United States for the first time.
      On October 15 about 1.8 million acres of land in Montana, which had belonged to the Crow people, was opened to white settlers.
      October 21 was the proclaimed date, adjusted for the calendar change, for the 400th anniversary of Columbus arriving in America, and two days later the World Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago. Vice President Morton welcomed 100,000 people at Jackson Park. George W. G. Ferris had invented a great wheel 250 feet in diameter that cost $300,000 to build and gave people a ride in 36 cars holding 40 passengers up to that height and back down.
      In October the former US Attorney General Wayne McVeagh and Judge Walter Q. Gresham endorsed Cleveland even though they were Republicans. Michener wanted Harrison to make speeches, but he refused to leave his wife who died on October 25. After a simple funeral in the White House on the 27th he went with her body to Indianapolis for the burial. He stayed there until election day.
      About 12 million Americans voted on November 8. The Democrat Cleveland got 46%, Republican Harrison 43%, and the Populist James B. Weaver 8.5%. Cleveland won in the Electoral College with 277 to 145 for Harrison and 22 for Weaver. Cleveland had all the southern states again, but this time he also won New York, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and all but one of California’s electors. Weaver won in Kansas, North Dakota, Colorado, Idaho, and Nevada. In the US Senate the Republicans lost 10 seats, and the Democrats gained 4 giving them a 43-37 advantage. Also added were one Populist and one Silver Republican. In the House of Representatives the Democrats lost 20 seats from their huge advantage while Republicans gained 38; but the Democrats still had a 218-124 majority. There were also 3 Populists, 2 Independents, and one Silver.
      In his Fourth Message to Congress on December 6 Harrison once again reviewed the accomplishments of his administration. He claimed that the total wealth in the United States had increased from about $16,160 million in 1860 to $62,610 million in 1890 while railroad mileage went from 30,626 to 167,741 miles. The census of 1890 showed that manufacturing capital grew from $1,232,839,670 in 1880 to $2,900,735,884. He reported that US imports increased by over 20%, and during his tenure the US Navy launched 25 new vessels. He presented many more statistics to show how much progress had occurred in various ways. He argued that the “protective system” of tariffs aided this. He reviewed foreign policy again, and he gave a detailed financial report. His Navy Department had increased the number of modern steel ships from 3 to 19. He concluded his last message by warning, “Retrogression would be a crime.” During his four years the Harrison Administration reduced the national debt by about $73 million. Since then the only Presidents who reduced the US debt would be Warren Harding in 1921-23 and Calvin Coolidge 1923-29.

US, Harrison & Hawaii in Early 1893

      On 4 January 1893 the US Government granted amnesty to polygamists who in the future respect the laws against the practice. Utah statehood would follow in exactly three years.
      The United States Supreme Court Justice Lucius G. C. Lamar died on January 23. US President Benjamin Harrison appointed the US Circuit Appeal judge Howell Edmunds Jackson on February 2. With only a month of his term remaining Harrison hoped that by selecting a southern Democrat from Tennessee, the Senate would confirm him before Cleveland’s second inauguration. The Senate did so on the 18th, and he took his seat on the Supreme Court on March 4. The former Secretary of State James G. Blaine died on January 27.
      President Harrison in his last message to Congress had advised the Congress to plan the improvement of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. American sugar planters and descendants of missionaries had gained control of Hawaiian land and the economy. Americans had brought to the Hawaiian islands syphilis, measles, tuberculosis, typhoid, smallpox, mumps, and liquor, and by the end of the 19th century the native Hawaiians lost 80% of their people. Because of suffrage restrictions the white aliens dominated the elections. In 1893 there were in Hawaii only about 2,000 Americans of which 637 were voters. Even though they were not citizens, they had 90% of the private property.
      The Hawaiian cabinet resigned on January 12, and two days later Queen Liliʻuokalani proclaimed a new constitution that would restore Hawaiian control; but she announced that all white men would be disenfranchised except those who were married to native women. At this time Hawaii had about 40,000 Hawaiians and half castes, almost 30,000 Chinese and Japanese, 9,000 Portuguese, and less than 2,000 Americans. The Annexation Club formed a 13-member Committee of Safety as a provisional government that overthrew the Queen on January 14.
      The new US minister John Leavitt Stevens was on the USS Boston, but he returned to Honolulu and landed with Captain G. C. Wiltse and 162 marines on January 16 to protect the US legation and consulate. Stevens met with Sanford Ballard Dole, who was a son of missionaries, and Lorrin Thurston to plan the United States takeover of Hawaii. The next day the American rebels proclaimed a new government led by Dole. The US minister Stevens sent three dispatches to Harrison on February 1 writing, “The Hawaiian pear is now fully ripe, and this is the golden hour to pluck it.”21 The message had to go by ship to California where it could be telegraphed to Washington DC. Stevens recognized the provisional government, and on February 1 he proclaimed an American protectorate and raised the American flag over the government buildings.
      The revolutionary government sent commissioners who reached San Francisco on January 28 and Washington DC on February 3. Dole with the Hawaiian commissioners and the US Secretary of State Foster signed a treaty annexing Hawaii to the United States on February 14. The next day Harrison sent it to the US Senate, but the Republicans did not have two-thirds of the votes needed for ratification. Queen Liliʻuokalani’s representative claimed that Stevens aided her removal, but Harrison denied that and told the Senate that her restoration was “undesirable.” The Nation editor E. L. Godkin criticized Harrison’s policy as “rash imperialism and colonialism.” The incoming Senate would have a Democratic majority, and President Cleveland would withdraw the treaty and cancel the annexation proposal on March 9.
      On February 23 the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad with a $125 million debt declared bankruptcy, and this was soon followed by the Northern Pacific, Union Pacific, Erie, and Santa Fe railroads as the stock market and the price of silver both plummeted.
      On March 1 the US Congress passed the Diplomatic Appropriations Act which authorized funds of varying amounts for envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary in 35 nations and for ministers resident and consuls-general in 5 nations.

      After his presidency Benjamin Harrison went back to practicing law. He blamed the financial panic on the impending reduction of tariffs, and he predicted that repealing the Sherman Silver Purchase Act would not resolve the crisis. He did little campaigning in 1893 and 1894, but he called the Republican rebounding victories “the most extraordinary political revolution the country has ever witnessed.”
      Stanford University paid Harrison $25,000 for six lectures on law which he gave in the spring of 1894. They were also published in his Views of an Ex-President. In 1895 he won a will case for a client and was paid $25,000. He was paid $5,000 for nine articles on the working of national government for the Ladies’ Home Journal that in 1897 he worked into the book This Country of Ours. In April 1896 he married Mary Lord Dimmick, the 37-year-old niece of his first wife, whom he had known well for many years. He declined to be a candidate for President in 1896, but he gave some speeches denouncing the Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan for his free-silver policy. In 1898 Harrison criticized the US intervention in the Philippines as a violation of the Monroe Doctrine not to interfere with other parts of the world.
      The Republic of Venezuela hired Harrison as their lawyer in a boundary dispute with British Guiana. He wrote an 800-page brief and presented the case at Paris in 1899, arguing before the Tribunal of Arbitration for 25 hours over five days in September. They unanimously gave most of the disputed territory to the British whom he accused of always wanting to extend their dominion. President McKinley named Harrison as an honorary member of the new International Court of Justice at The Hague, and he attended the first peace conference there in 1899.
      In 1900 Harrison dissented when the Republicans passed a tariff on Puerto Rican goods because it treated them unequally. He was concerned about the “canker of greed” that was spoiling this generation of Americans, and he hoped that the teachings of Jesus would deliver them from their selfishness. He condemned the corporations that exploited workers while the wealthy avoided paying taxes. In January 1901 he hoped that people would “realize that those only keep their liberties who accord liberty to others.”22 Benjamin Harrison died of pneumonia at his home in Indianapolis on 13 March 1901.


1. Benjamin Harrison by Charles W. Calhoun, p. 11.
2. Ibid., p. 30.
3. The Presidency of Benjamin Harrison by Homer E. Socolofsky and Allan B. Spetter, p. 12.
4. Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1789-1908 ed. James D. Richardson, Volume 9, p. 6.
5. Ibid., p. 8.
6. Ibid., p. 14.
7. Benjamin Harrison Hoosier President: The White House and After by Harry J. Sievers, p. 68.
8. A History of American Foreign Policy by Alexander DeConde, p. 322.
9. Benjamin Harrison Hoosier President, p. 110.
10. The Annals of America, Volume 11, p. 200.
11. Ibid., p. 201.
12. Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1789-1908 ed. James D. Richardson, Volume 9, p. 55-56.
13. Ibid., p. 61.
14. Ibid., p. 81.
15. Benjamin Harrison by Charles W. Calhoun, p. 104.
16. Ibid., p. 116.
17. Ibid., p. 117.
18. Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1789-1908 ed. James D. Richardson, Volume 9, p. 203.
19. Documents of American History ed. Henry Steele Commager, p. 595.
20. The Annals of America, Volume 11, p. 373.
21. The Presidency of Benjamin Harrison by Homer E. Socolofsky and Allan B. Spetter, p. 205.
22. Benjamin Harrison by Charles W. Calhoun, p. 165.

Copyright © 2022 by Sanderson Beck

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