Terms in this set (45)

The political seesaw was delicately balance throughout most of the ___ (a sarcastic name given to the thee-decade-long post-Civil War era by Mark Twain in 1873). The majority party in in the House of Representatives switched six times in the eleven sessions between 1869 and 1891. In only three sessions did one party control the House, the Senate, and the White House. Few significant economic issues separated the major parties. Democrats and Republicans saw very nearly eyes to eye on questions like the tariff and civil-service reform, and majorities in both parties substantially agreed even on the much-debated currency question. Yet despite their rough agreement on these national matters, the two parties were ferociously competitive with each other. Republican voters tended to adhere to those creeds that traced their lineage to Puritanism. They stressed strict codes of personal morality and believed that government should play a role in regulating both the economic and moral affairs of society. Democrats, among whom immigrant Lutherans and Roman Catholics figured heavily, were more likely to adhere to faiths that took a less stern view of human weakness. Their religions professed toleration of differences in an impact world, and they spurned government efforts to impose a single moral standard on the entire society. These differences in temperament and religious values often produced raucous political contests at the local level, where issues like prohibition and education loomed large.
Clash or compromise was the stark choice. Frantically laboring statesmen gradually hammered out an agreement in the Henry Clay tradition - the ____. The election deadlock itself was to be broken by the Electoral Count Act, which Congress passed early in 1877. It set up an electoral commission consisting of fifteen men selected from the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court. In February 1877, about a month before Inauguration Day, the Senate and House met together in an electric atmosphere to settle dispute. The roll of the states was tolled off alphabetically. When Florida was reached - the first of the three southern states with two sets of returns - the disputed documents were referred to the electoral commission, which sat in a nearby chamber. After prolonged discussion the members agreed to accept the Republican returns (vote of 8 Republicans to 7 Democrats). Renewed deadlock was avoided by the rest of the complex compromise. The Democrats reluctantly agreed that Hayes may take office in return for his withdrawing intimidating federal troops from the two states in which they remained, Louisiana and South Carolina. Among various concessions, the Republicans assured the Democrats a place at the presidential patronage trough and support for a bill subsidizing the Texas and Pacific Railroad's construction of a southern transcontinental line. Not all of these promises were kept in later years, including the Texas and Pacific subsidy. But the deal held together long enough to break the dangerous electoral standoff. The Democrats permitted Hayes to receive the remainder of the disputed terms - all by the partisan vote of 8 to 7. CHANGE?
Military pensions gave Cleveland some of his most painful political headaches. The politically potent GAR routinely lobbied hundreds of private pension bills through a compliant Congress. Benefits were granted to deserters, to bounty jumpers, to men who never served, and to former soldiers who in later years had incurred disabilities in no way connected with war service. A Democrat and a non-veteran, Cleveland was in an awkward position when it came to fighting pension-grabbers. But the conscience-driven president read each bill carefully, vetoed several hundred of them, and then laboriously penned individual veto messages for Congress. He also risked his neck by prodding the hornet's nest of the tariff issue. During the Civil War, tariff schedules had been jacked up to new high levels, partly to raise revenues for the insatiable military machine. The high duties continued to pile up revenue at the customshouses, and by 1881 the Treasury was running an annual surplus amounting to an embarrassing $145 million. Congress could reduce the vexatious surplus in two ways. One was to squander it on pensions and "pork-barrel" bills and thus carry favor with veterans and other self-seeking groups. The other was to lower the tariff - something the big industrialists vehemently opposed. Cleveland had known little and cared less about the tariff before entering the White House. But as he studied the subject, he was much impressed by the arguments of downward revision of the tariff schedules. Lower barriers could mean lower prices for consumers and less protection for monopolies. Most important, they would mean an end to the Treasury surplus, a standing mockery of Cleveland's professed belief in fiscal orthodoxy and small-government frugality. After much hesitation Cleveland saw his duty and overdid it. He tossed an appeal for lower tariffs like a bombshell in the lap of Congress in late 1887. Democrats were deeply depressed at the obstinacy of their chief. Republicans rejoiced at his apparent recklessness. For the first time in years, a real issue divided the two parties as the 1888 presidential election loomed.