Chapter 28 ~ The Revolt of the Debtor ~ 1889 – 1900
I. The Republicans Return Under Harrison
New president Benjamin Harrison was inaugurated on a rainy March 4
He was brusque and abrupt, but also honest and earnest.
After four years out of the White House, the Republicans were eager to return to power, especially those seeking
James G. Blaine became the Secretary of State.
Theodore Roosevelt was named to the Civil Service Commission.
iii. However, the Republicans had troubles, for they only had three more members than was necessary for a quorum,
and Democrats could simply not answer to the roll and easily keep Congress from working.
iv. The new Speaker of the House, Thomas B. Reed, was a large, tall man, a tremendous debater, and very critical
and quick man.
To solve the problem of reaching a quorum in Congress, Reed counted the Democrats who were present yet
didn’t answer to the roll call, and after three days of such chaos, he finally prevailed, opening the 51
“Billion Dollar” Congress—one that legislated many expensive projects.
II. Political Gravy for All
Harrison, a former Civil War general, appointed a Civil War amputee as commissioner of pensions, and that man
practically used up the federal surplus to give out pensions.
The Pension Act of 1890 gave pensions to Union Civil War veterans who had served at least 90 days in the
army and could not do manual labor now.
Thus, from 1891 to 1895, the bill for pensions rose from $81 million to $135 million.
This gained the Republican support of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), whose members were
grateful to the GOP (Grand Old Party) for its handouts.
The Sherman Anti-Trust Act, passed in 1890, was a pioneering yet weak law that tried to break up the new
corporations and monopolies that existed.
iii. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 appealed to those who had hated the old Bland-Allison Law of 1878
because it allowed the Treasury to buy 4.5 million ounces of silver monthly and pay for it in notes redeemable in
silver or gold.
iv. The McKinley Tariff Bill of 1890 boosted rates up to 48.4%—the highest level yet.
The farmers lost the most from this tariff, as tin peddlers in the Midwest dishonestly cited rising prices due to
Republicans; as a result, in the election of 1890, Democratic seats in the House rose to 235, while
Republicans only had 88 representatives.
Nine members of the Farmers’ Alliance, an organization of southern and western farmers, were also elected to
the House of Representatives.
Thus, 1890 was an important year in several unrelated ways…
Pension Act for veterans.
Sherman Anti-Trust Act against big-business.
Sherman Silver Purchase Act for farmers and debtors.