THE AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.
MR. McKINLEY has sustained a smashing defeat. It is possible to argue that the defeat will not have -the expected results, and the Protectionists are diligently so arguing ; but of the defeat itself, there can be no ques- tion whatever. The Republicans appealed to the country on the ground that their policy was Protection ; that Mr. McKinley's Bill, embodying Protection, had been a miracu- lous success • and that, consequently, for the safety of the protective theory, their candidate ought to be retained at the White House. They, in fact, raised no other issue ; Mr. Blaine, their "magnetic man," appealing even to Irishmen to turn Republicans, because Englishmen, their hereditary oppressors, so greatly disliked Protection. They had every advantage in their favour,—the possession of office ; the American prepossession against Free-trade as an English idea ; a candidate who was as popular as his rival ; the command of great sums for "election expenses," even those which are illegitimate ; and the gratitude of the scores of thousands of old soldiers and others upon whom they have squandered millions in needless pensions. Never- theless, they were beaten shamefully. The entire South, though manufactures are fast developing there, refused to listen to their voices. The doubtful States in the West rejected them by large majorities. New York pronounced decisively for their opponents. Ohio, though Republican ever since the war, and the home of Mr. McKinley, voted for the Democrats. Illinois failed men who were confident of carrying it ; and even California, where no Republican doubted, threw all its votes on the unaccustomed side. The evidence had, in fact, been too strong for the poorer voters. Hundreds of thousands of artisans recognised, reading rightly the object-lesson presented by the Carnegie quarrel, that the profits of Protection go to the protected capitalists, and to nobody else, and resolved that, as far as regarded themselves, the McKinley tariff was a fraud. The farmers everywhere took the same view. They are suffering terribly from low prices and a high rate of interest ; they find everything they buy, from hardware to books, made dear by Protection, and they themselves are the one class which neither are nor can be "protected." They are disgusted, too—a point not sufficiently noticed—by the extravagant expenditure fostered by the desire to make a high tariff unavoidable ; they read endless stories of the wealth of the protected manufacturers, wealth which they admire, yet which galls their poverty ; and they are specially sick of that preposterous pension list,—in which, it must not be forgotten, no man under thirty-nine can honestly be included. They have therefore revolted, and either elected the farmers' candidate, General Weaver, as happened in three Western States, controlling 32 votes in the Electoral College, or voted the Democrat "ticket." The total result throughout the Union is, that out of 444 mem- bers of the Electoral College, Mr. Cleveland has probably 277, or 54 more than a clear majority ; Mr. Harrison only 135; and General Weaver the remaining 32; while the mass-vote is believed to show a " plurality " for Mr. Cleveland of several hundred thousand. That is a far greater defeat than the defeat of Lord Salisbury in Great Britain, and operates for a far longer time ; for while Lord Salisbury may be restored within a year, Mr. Harrison, or Mr. Harrison's successor in the suffrages of his party, can- not be so much as a candidate for office for the next four years. The Union has, as a whole, emphatically repudiated McKi nley ism .
Owing to the peculiarities of the Constitution of the United 6States, the vote does not operate at once. Mr.
Cleveland does not assume office till March 4th, 1893; and after his election, there will be no Congress sitting until December of the same year. The framers of the Constitution were most anxious that new men should never act while the wave of opinion was running high, and that officials and voters alike should have time to reconsider themselves before they meddled with the laws, and though their plans failed on special points —the Electoral College, for example, was intended to be a selecting body, and is only a Post Office—they entirely succeeded in their policy of enforcing delay. By the beginning of 1894, however, the Democratic President will be fully seated, the plans for reducing, at once, the expenditure and the tariff will be ready, and the Executive will be in accord with the House of Repre- sentatives and the Senate. The former body, it is known, will be, as indeed it is already, Democratic, and though the latter is more uncertain, the best calculations give the Democrats a certain majority of two over all opponents, and a probable majority of seven over all Republicans ; the five Senators of the Alliance party, who are neither Democrats nor Republicans, being pledged up to the lips to reduce taxation, and especially taxation through the Tariff. The new Government, therefore, will be free within eighteen months, and its influence will be great almost from the day of Mr. Cleveland's election. In the first place, there will be no increase in the McKinley tariff, for fear of the result of that defiance upon the next elections. In the second place, the Custom-House officials, who have much in their power, will work the Tariff Bill in a very different spirit, all seeking to conciliate the coming Executive ; and in the third place, the Republican leaders and their Pre- sident, aware at last that they have gone too far, will all alike strive to soothe excoriated opinion. We shall not see the Tariff Bill repealed ; but we shall see articles wanted by the farmers, and articles needed in the South, taken out of the schedules. Congress will be chary of making any more preposterous grants, and the revenue will again be allowed to grow, so as of itself to suggest re- missions as it does in England. Above all, the effect of the change will be an immediate impact on opinion. Up to Tuesday, a kind of superstition prevailed in America that the Union would never tolerate a low tariff ; that wages, somehow, depended on Protection ; and that it was dangerous to make this the issue, for Protection was sure to win. We blow that this belief affected men who knew and confessed that the superstition was based on a delu- sion; but now it will disappear, and the two fiscal systems will be discussed like all other problems in economics. This means that by degrees a true Free-trading opinion will grow up, which will acknowledge not only that taxa- tion should not exceed the wants of the Treasury, but that low taxes often draw more than high taxes do, and that a trade can never be at its healthiest until it can live on its profits and without any bounty from the national wealth. Those ideas will pene- trate slowly in America, for they penetrate slowly every- where, and in the States you have not the big loaf and the little loaf to produce as object-lessons ; but they must filter down in the end, and then we shall see the Union try a true policy of Free-trade. Whether we shall like it, and the resulting competition with our goods in all the markets of the world, is a very different matter, but that we shall see it, we entertain little doubt. The mass of the American freeholders are the thriftiest of mankind, and economics will one day have for them the attraction they had for workmen in England while Cobden and. Bright were waging their apparently hopeless struggle.
The revolt towards Free-trade will be quickened by the vote for General Weaver. That will fairly frighten the Republican politicians, and a genuine American politician would begin to doubt the Decalogue, or the fifth proposi- tion of Euclid, if he knew that a majority of his country- men had rejected either. The Farmers' Alliance, of which that candidate was the nominee, not only carried three States previously Republican, but seriously diminished the Republican vote in a great many more. Many Republicans will trace to it alone their defeat, and the desire for a reconciliation will dominate the next four years. That desire cannot be gratified except by a lowered Tariff, for the American Third Party demands four concessions, of which the Republicans, if they refuse a low tariff, can grant none. These are a low tariff, a low national expendi- ture, a loan to the farmers of the amount of their mort- gages at 2 per cent., and a national Bill to fix a maximum of railway fares. The last request is contrary to the Con- stitution, the last but one is impossible, and the re- maining two are inter-dependent. The wit that could devise for the United States a scheme of low expenditure and high tariffs operating together, could settle any problem in the world, even the old one how to get more hay out of a field than there is grass in it.