Thursday, December 20, 2012
Was Dondero involved?
1896 election, employers accused of firing employees who strayed from voting Republican by Clifford F. Thies In the election of 1896, the Lion of Nebraska, the Great Orator himself, William Jennings Bryan, was the nominee of the Democratic Party. "You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold," he thundered, to the approval of crowds unrivaled in American history until Barack Obama's campaign of 2008. Those who favored the gold standard, the free market system in general, and who opposed redistribution of the wealth were in fear. In order to gauge public sentiment, people were polled in various ways, such as by post card surveys. In a then popular form of polling, "straw votes" were conducted at work places. These straw votes tended to indicate that industrial workers were going to favor the Republican, William McKinley. The Democrats were aghast. How could this be? Then, they hit upon an explanation. Employers were intimidating their workers. Even, firing those who expressed a preference for Bryan. The St. Paul, MN, Broad Axe, a Democratic paper, said that Dugold Crawford, "a St. Louis millionaire dry goods merchant" (those evil millionaires!) had dismissed twelve workers for supporting Bryan. And, the Omaha, NE, World-Herald, another Democratic paper, said that sixteen laborers on the Illinois Central Railroad, at Cobdin, Illinois, were discharged for advocating Bryan, "and replaced by Italians." (those evil Italians!) In my study of electoral history, I had considered these stories to fabrications. But, today, I wonder. Was Dondero involved? Dr. Thies is a professor of economics at Shenandoah Univ. in VA.