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1889

First Pan-American Conference:
Organized by Secretary of State James Blaine, the First International Conference of the American States met in Washington, D. C., from October 1889 into April 1890.  Blaine chaired the delegation of representatives from 18 Western Hemisphere nations, which discussed numerous economic and political issues.  Although little of substance was produced, this conference was the forerunner of the present-day Organization of American States (1948).


1890 Dependent and Disability Pensions Act:
In 1887, President Grover Cleveland vetoed the Dependent and Disability Pensions Act.  The next year, Republicans gained control of both houses of Congress and the presidency.  The bill was passed again in 1890 and signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison.  It granted a pension to every disabled veteran—whether disability was traceable to military service or not—and to dependent family members of deceased Union veterans.

Sherman Anti-Trust Act:
Drafted by Senator John Sherman of Ohio, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act passed Congress in June 1890 with only one dissenting vote and was quickly signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison.  Its sweeping but vague language banned any “restraint on trade,” and subjected violators to fines or prison. 

Sherman Silver Purchase Act:
Sponsored by Senator John Sherman of Ohio, the law obligated the federal government to buy nearly all the nation’s monthly production of silver in return for federal notes redeemable in gold or silver coin.  Most note holders chose to redeem in gold, drastically reducing the federal gold reserve.  Republicans had supported the legislation in order to gain the support of pro-silver Westerners for the McKinley Tariff Bill.

McKinley Tariff Act:
Sponsored by Congressman William McKinley of Ohio, the protectionist law raised tariff rates to an average 48%, the highest peacetime level in American history to that date.  It provoked a popular backlash resulting in the Republican loss of the House of Representatives that November, including McKinley’s seat.  He recovered politically, however, to win the governorship in 1891 and 1893, and the presidency in 1896.

Ocala Demands:
In December, the national convention of the Farmers Alliance in Ocala, Florida, passed resolutions that became the basis for the People’s (or Populist) Party.  The document called for a federal warehouse-loan system (called “sub-treasury”), the free coinage of silver, an end to trade protectionism, a progressive income tax, and other reforms.


1891 Forest Reserve Act:
This law gave presidents the authority to set aside forests as federally preserved land.  Before his term ended in March 1893, President Harrison used the act to establish 15 forest reserves encompassing over 13 million acres of timberland.

The Judiciary Act of 1891:
Increased litigation in the post-Civil War decades clogged the federal court system.  Senator William Evarts of New York, a former U.S. attorney general (1868-1869), sponsored legislation creating a tier of appellate courts in the federal judicial system.  The law (passed in March) established one U.S. Court of Appeals in each of the nation’s nine judicial district, and it limited the type of cases that could be appealed to the Supreme Court.  As a result, the High Court’s caseload fell dramatically from 623 in 1890 to 379 in 1891 to 275 in 1892.
 

The Baltimore Affair:
On October 16, a saloon brawl in Valparaiso, Chile, between American sailors assigned to the U .S. S. Baltimore and Chilean nationals resulted in two American sailors killed, 17 wounded (five seriously), and many arrested.  The incident sparked a diplomatic crisis that lasted for months, occasionally threatening war between the two countries.  In February 1892, a Chilean court indicted three Chileans, and in July the Chilean government agreed to pay the United States $75,000 in reparations.


1892 Homestead Strike:
When a new contract at Andrew Carnegie’s steel mill in Homestead, Pennsylvania, reduced wages by up to 18%, the union went on strike.  Subsequent violence resulting in the deaths of three guards and seven workers prompted the state’s National Guard to restore order.  On July 23, manager Henry Clay Frick was shot by an anarchist, who was not associated with the strikers.  Despite pressure from Republicans, Frick refused to settle.  In mid-November, after the presidential election, some of the strikers voted to return to work and the strike was broken.

 

Geary Act:
Sponsored by Congressman Thomas Geary of California, the law extended for another decade all federal regulations related to Chinese immigration.  It also required all Chinese residents in the United States to apply for and carry a certificate of residence.  Furthermore, bail was denied to Chinese residents in America who were involved in habeas corpus proceedings, and Chinese witnesses were prohibited from testifying in court.  The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Geary Act in 1893.
 

Republican National Convention:
Meeting in Minneapolis on June 7-10, Republicans nominated President Benjamin Harrison for reelection over the half-hearted challenge of his former secretary of state, James Blaine, and a respectable showing for Governor William McKinley of Ohio, who was not officially a candidate.  Delegates then chose journalist Whitelaw Reid to replace Vice President Levi P. Morton on the ticket.  The party platform supported trade protectionism.

Democratic National Convention:
Gathering in Chicago on June 21-23, Democrats gave Grover Cleveland, the former president (1885-1889), a commanding first-ballot victory over Governor David Hill of New York and Governor Horace Boies of Iowa.   Adlai Stevenson, a former Illinois congressman, was selected for the vice-presidential spot.  The party platform criticized Republican tax-and-spend policies, endorsed tariff for revenue only, and condemned the Sherman Silver Purchase Act.
 

Populist National Convention:
Convened on July 4 in Omaha, Nebraska, the Populists nominated James B. Weaver of Iowa, a former Union general and Greenback congressman, for president and James G. Field of Virginia, a former Confederate officer and state attorney general, for vice president.  The party platform demanded a sub-treasury system, “free and unlimited coinage of silver and gold” at a ratio of 16 to 1, a graduated income tax, and other reforms.
 

Presidential Election:
On November 8, Democrat Grover Cleveland was elected president with an Electoral College victory over Republican Benjamin Harrison and Populist James Weaver, 277-145-22.  For the third consecutive presidential election, Cleveland won the popular vote, 46%-43%-9%, the largest in 16 years.


 

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