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About The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923 | View Entire Issue (Sept. 1, 1911)
WILLIAM J. BRYAN, EDITOR AND PROPRIETOR
VOL. II, NO. 34
Lincoln, Nebraska, September 1, 1911
Whole Number 554
The Balance Sheet
The special session of congress has adjourned. Its record is made
up and upon that record the country will form its judgment as to
the party's capacity for constructive legislation. That judgment
ought to be favorable, for, on the whole, the democrats have
acquitted themselves well.
The country should not expect perfection. Governments are
administered by frail human beings and allowance must be made
for their weaknesses. The democrats have made a far better record
than the republicans have made in any recent congress and it is by
comparison that they should be judged.
First The democrats elected Champ Clark speaker. He is a
great improvement over Speaker Cannon.
Second The democrats changed the rules of the house so. as to
take from the speaker the appointment of committees. The substi
tution of selection by caucus, each party selecting its quota, is a
step in advance.
Third The house began its legislative program by passing the
resolution submitting the amendment providing for election of
United States senators by direct vote. This is an epoch-making
reform. Reference will be made later to conference actions on this
Fourth The house passed a bill requiring the publication, before
the election, of the names of contributors to national campaign
funds. This is an important measure and carries out the last demo
cratic national platform. This measure was broadened and improved
in the senate and the president has signed it. This is a distinct
f victory for the party. Mr. Taft emphatically opposed the idea in
the last campaign.
Fifth The democrats kept faith with the president and almost
unanimously supported the reciprocity agreement. While it was
' not wholly acceptable to democrats they regarded it as a step in the
direction of tariff reduction and were justified in supporting it.
. Sixth The wool bill, vetoed by the president, would have given
the people a large measure of relief. It would have given more
relief had it become a law in the form in which it passed the house.
It would have been still more satisfactory had it been framed on the
basis of free wool.
Seventh The farmers' free list was a very meritorious measure.
The president's reasons for vetoing it were lamentably weak. The
farmers ought to remember that in this matter the president
deliberately surrendered them to the greed of the protected interests
and cast in his lot with those who furnished his campaign fund.
The cotton reduction bill was good and the senate amendments
made it better. The president's veto of this measure will furnish
further evidence of his subserviency to the exploiting class. No real
relief is to be hoped for from him.
The house deserves credit for the way jt dealt with the question
of statehood for Arizona and New Mexico. The first resolution
PERMITTED Arizona to vote out the recall of judges and per
mitted New Mexico to change her constitution so as to make
it more easily amendable. When the president vetoed this, congress
wisely, changed the resolution to. compel the elimination of the
recall of judges (the provision can be reinstated by the state) and
thus secured statehood for both territories.
Now, having stated the creditable things done by the democratic
house, let us look at the few mistakes made:
First It was a mistake to make Mr. Underwood chairman of the
committee on ways and means. He is not a thorough-going tariff
reformer and his environment is against progressive democracy.
The party had a right to expect that a positive and aggressive
opponent of the whole protective policy would be placed at the
head of the ways and means committee. The mistake has already
cost the party dearly. It has led to a surrender of the democratic
doctrine of free wool and to the surrender to the senate of tho
honor of introducing the bill reducing the tariff on iron and steel
a humiliation that the other members of the committee ought to f eeL
The second mistake of the session has already been mentioned
the putting of a tariff on wool. The tariff on wool is the keystone
of the protectionist arch and those who do not know it have yet to
learn the A B C of the tariff question. Every speaker on the
tariff will be confronted by the tariff on wool if he attempts to
attack the PRINCIPLE of protection, and he must criticise con
gress, or, if he defends congress, he must do so at the expense of
party principle. The mistake can be corrected at the regular
session by a new measure making free wool the basis of the reduc
tion, but this is not likely so long as Mr. Underwood's influence is
paramount in the committee.
The third mistake was in allowing the session to adjourn without
the submission of the amendment for the election of United States
senators by direct vote. The democrats naturally desire to win a
partisan victory in connection with the amendment but when tho
senate objected (quite as naturally desiring a partisan victory also)
the house should have sought an agreement by eliminating the
partisan issue. The people want the direct election of senators and
are much less concerned than the politicians about the partisan
issue that now divides the two houses on the subject. The house
will err fatally if it allows the regular session to pass without
submitting this important constitutional amendment.
The fourth mistake was in not passing an anti-trust bill. The
decision of the supreme court in the Standard Oil and tobacco cases
so impaired the present anti-trust law that additional legislation is
imperatively necessary. This subject ought to have been taken up
at once. It causes uneasiness among the rank and file of the party
to see so many democratic leaders in Washington apparently in
different to the appalling depredations of the trusts. The regular
session will doubtless take up this subject and the party will be
greatly disappointed if the house fails to propose some radical
measure for the relief of the public.
The fifth mistake made by the house was in permitting a secret
caucus to control legislation. Representatives of the people must
act in the open. Caucuses should be public, at least the decisions
arrived at should be a matter of record and there is no reason
' why the proceedings should not be reported. There are signs of
a change in this respect and it is to be hoped that democrats will
remove this serious cause of criticism by abolishing the secret
Here is the balance sheet and it makes a most excellent showing
for one session. May the next session be even better.
HARMON FALLING BEHIND
From the poll of democratic senators and
members of congress made by the Chicago Tri
bune at the close of congress (it will be found
on another page) it is evident that Governor
Harmon is falling behind in the race for the
presidential nomination. According to the poll
the Ohio governor has nine friends amqng the
democrats of the senate, Senator Pomerene from
Ohio, two from Maryland, two from West Vir
ginia, one from North Carolina, one from Ken
tucky, one from Louisiana and one from Texas,
The one from Kentucky is Senator Paynter who
gives place to Ollie James; the one from Texas
is evidently Senator Bailey. Not a progressive
in the senate is for Governor Harmon, except
the senator from his own state. In the house
Governor Harmon has forty-three friends six
teen, more than two-thirds of them, coming from
Ohio. Outside of Ohio New York furnishes
eight, South . Carolina four, Texas three and
Georgia, New Jersey and Mississippi two each.
Arkansas, Louisiana, Maryland and West Vir
ginia furnish four more, one each. It will be
seen that Governor Harmon has no votes in the
. close states, except in his own state unless
New York is counted a close state.
Champ Clark, on the contrary, has fifty votes
outside pf, JKIs, own state and they come from
twenty-onstMes. Governor Wilson has forty
flve, from sixteen states. Ex-Governor Folk has
thirteen votes from Missouri and Governor
Marshall fourteen votes from Indiana.
This showing indicates that Governor Har
mon Is practically out of tho race. Clark, Wil
son, Folk and Marshall all represent progressive
democracy and the four together havo a total
of 122 to 52 for Harmon. It must be remem
bered, too, that Governor Harmon Is stronger
With the politicians at Washington than among
the rank and file of the party. Some of tho
Clark strength may be credited to personal
friendship. The seventy-five non-committals In
the, senate and house can be counted aB largely
aga'insjk Harmon, for, as he stands out pre
eminently as the representative of the reactlon
aryjelement of the party, the seventy-five non
committal democrats would be for him If they
favored a reactionary policy. If Governor
Harmon withdraws from the race it will become
a friendly contest between progressives.
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