Annexation of Hawaii Rejected:
In early 1893, American business interests, with the help of a contingent of U. S. marines, overthrew Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani and requested that the United States annex the island chain.  The outgoing administration of Republican Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) sent an annexation treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification, but upon taking office President Grover Cleveland rescinded it.   

Economic Panic/Depression:
When Grover Cleveland assumed the presidency in March 1893, he faced the beginning of an economic depression that would last his entire term.  A drain on gold reserves and the bankruptcy of Pennsylvania Steel in April helped provoke a panic on Wall Street.  On May 4, the most actively traded industrial stock, National Cordage, plummeted from $140 to $20 a share and then went into receivership.  By July, the entire stock market had lost 35% of its value from early 1893, and by the end of the year almost 30% of the railroad system had gone bankrupt, 500 banks had closed, and 15,000 businesses had failed.  Employment reached over 20% in the industrial sector.  The national economy finally revived in 1897. 

Repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act:
In August, President Cleveland called Congress into special session to repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act.  He believed the law had caused a dangerous reduction in the nation’s gold reserves, which led to the economic depression.  The bill was intensely debated and particularly divided the Democratic Party, with opposition led by Congressman Richard Bland of Missouri and William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska.  With crucial votes from the Republican congressional minority, the bill became law in October 1893.


March of Coxey’s Army:
In March, Jacob Coxey, an Ohio businessman and Populist, organized a march of unemployed laborers, known as Coxey’s Army, to Washington, D.C., to demand an increased money supply and federal public works programs.  Beginning with 100 followers, he expected to attract 100,000 for a May Day demonstration.  Instead, 500 marchers arrived on April 30.  Coxey was arrested for trespassing on the Capitol lawn, and Congress ignored his agenda. 

Pullman Strike:
During the economic depression, George Pullman fired one-third of the Pullman Palace Car Company workforce, reduced the remaining employees’ wages by 30 percent, and kept prices high at stores in the company town outside Chicago.  Eugene Debs, president of the American Railway Union, called a strike in June when management refused to negotiate.  The strike spread to other railroad companies, interrupted the nation’s transportation system, and erupted into violence.  At the request of railroad executives, but against the wishes of Governor John Atgeld of Illinois, President Cleveland secured an injunction against the strikers and sent federal troops to Illinois, thereby ensuring shipment of commerce and the U.S. mails.  Debs was jailed for violating the injunction and the strike was broken.

Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act:
Hoping to reduce the nation’s high import duties enacted under the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890, President Cleveland worked with Congressman William Wilson of West Virginia to introduce a tariff reform bill in December 1893.  The Wilson Tariff, which would have lowered the overall tariff rate by 15%, passed the House in February 1894.  Senator Arthur Pue Gorman of Maryland transformed the legislation into a high-tariff bill.  The final compromise version cut overall rates by only 7% and actually increased duties on many items.  It passed in July and became law without the president’s signature.


Supreme Court Decisions:
The U.S. Supreme Court handed down three controversial decisions in 1895.  In U. S. v. E. C. Knight Co. (January), it ruled that the American Sugar Refining Company, which controlled 98% of sugar refineries in the United States, was not in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.  In Pollack v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co. (May), the High Court declared that the federal income tax enacted the previous year was unconstitutional.  Finally, justices ruled unanimously (May) against a writ of habeas corpus to Eugene Debs, president of the American Railway Union, who had been arrested for participating in the Pullman Strike.  In re Debs had the effect of approving the use of court injunctions against strikers. 

Cuban Rebellion:
Cuban nationalists first rebelled against Spanish colonial rule in the Ten Years’ War (1868-1878), which ended with Spain agreeing to minimal reforms only.  The situation remained tense, and a second revolt erupted in 1895.  There was much sympathy in the United States for an independent Cuba, with American volunteers and munitions aiding the cause.  In June, however, President Cleveland declared the United States officially neutral and condemned American military assistance to the rebels.  The situation later culminated in the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Venezuela Border Dispute:
The Cleveland administration intervened in a longstanding dispute between Britain and Venezuela over the border of British Guiana.  The colony’s boundaries had never been set precisely, and the two countries made overlapping claims to the disputed land.  Fearing British expansion in South America, Secretary of State Richard Olney issued a note in late July arguing that Britain was violating the Monroe Doctrine, that the United States was “practically sovereign on this continent,” and insisting on arbitration.  After much controversy, negotiations began in 1896 and the border was settled, largely in Britain’s favor, in 1899.


Republican National Convention:
Meeting in St. Louis on June 16-18, Republicans nominated Governor William McKinley of Ohio for president on the first ballot by a wide margin over Congressman Thomas B. Reed of Maine, Senator Matthew Quay of Pennsylvania, and others.  Delegates then chose Garret Hobart, a businessman and state politician from New Jersey, for vice president.  The party platform blamed Democratic policies for the economic depression, rejected the free coinage of silver, and endorsed high tariffs to protect American business.

Democratic National Convention:
Delegate in favor of free silver controlled the assembly in Chicago on July 7-11.  Although there was no clear presidential frontrunner, William Jennings Bryan, a former congressman from Nebraska, attracted attention with his spellbinding “Cross of Gold” speech.  Congressman Richard Bland of Missouri, another free-silver leader, led in the early voting before Bryan won on the fifth ballot.  At 36, he was the youngest person nominated for president by a major party.  For vice president, delegates chose Arthur Sewall, a pro-silver businessman from Maine.  The party platform endorsed the free coinage of silver and criticized federal intervention in local affairs (e.g., the Pullman Strike and Southern elections).

Populist National Convention:
Gathering in St. Louis on July 24-26, Populists endorsed Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan for president.  However, delegates bypassed Democrat Arthur Sewall (considered anti-labor) in the vice-presidential position for Thomas Watson of Georgia, a prominent Populist and former congressman.  The party platform called for the unlimited coinage of silver, a graduated income tax, postal savings banks, government ownership of railroad and telegraph systems, a new homestead act, ballot initiative and referendum, direct election of U.S. senators (rather than by state legislatures), and other reforms.

National (Gold) Democratic Convention:
Meeting in Indianapolis on September 2, delegates nominated Senator John Palmer of Illinois for president and Simon Bolivar Buckner, a former governor of Kentucky (1887-1891), for vice president.  The platform endorsed the gold standard and tariff reform.

Presidential Election:
On November 3, Republican William McKinley decisively defeated Democrat/Populist William Jennings Bryan, 276-176 in the Electoral College and 51%-46% in the popular vote, the largest margin of victory since President Ulysses S. Grant’s reelection in 1872.  Republicans retained control of both houses of Congress, which they had won in 1894, and became the majority party in national politics until the onset of the Great Depression in 1929.

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