Times Were A-Changin’

All elections have many issues surrounding them. But none have had as many as the election of 1896. In my mind, the Depression was by far the largest issue in the election, but there were many other smaller issues, such as the gold vs silver standard, also played a major role in the candidates campaigns.

The prior president, Grover Cleveland, had only worsened the economic standing in the United States by focusing all his efforts on the Silver Purchase Act. By doing this he lost his democratic supporters. This gave republicans great hopes for the upcoming election. The republicans nominee for president was a man name William McKinley, who was a congressman and a two time governor of Ohio. The democrats surprisingly nominated a congressman named William Jennings Bryan. Most people did not see Bryan as presidential material. Although he surprised many people by giving one of the most famous speeches of all time, supporting silver and attacking the "Goldbugs".

McKinley’s campaign strategy was to reach voters through a sophisticated mass-media, which was financed by huge corporations, such as Standard Oil and major rail roads. McKinley was being advertised as the "advance agent of prosperity." McKinley also supported not only the business classes, but also the unemployed workers, promising them a "full lunch pail". Bryan’s strategy was to support the silver, which supported the lower classes, claiming free silver would lead to inflation and more disaster. Unlike McKinley, instead of staying at his home, Bryan traveled to twenty-seven states and speaking to three million people.

With the election in the near future, many influential easterners thought Bryan’s platform would disrupt social harmony. Others labeled Bryan as a "madman" or "anarchist". Because of the major interest in the election, record number of voters were expected. When the voting was in McKinley had won by a landslide margin, 271 electoral votes to Bryan’s 176.

In McKinley’s platform he had promised that the Republican rule meant prosperity, and he kept his promise. As soon as McKinley stepped into office, the economic crisis recovered. This was largely due to discoveries of huge amounts of gold, which increased the nations money supply. The industrial production also shot up to full capacity.

With the industrial production at full capacity, America was soon overwhelmed with by excess goods. Many businessmen wanted new markets, instead of cutting prices, which would redistribute wealth by allowing lower classes to buy excess goods or laying off workers, which in turn would only cause social unrest. With these reasons in mind, businessmen had to expand their business to the international level.

After expanding business by exporting goods to China, Central America and many countries in Europe, the United States went from fourth to first in the world in manufacturing. The U.S also led in technological production, such as farm machinery. The total value of exports tripled, from $434 million in 1866 to $1.5 billion in 1900 and kept increasing 67 percent over the next few years. The trade was mainly done with Asian countries and the countries in Europe. This major exporting of goods was the first small step in helping the United States to becoming a dominant power in the world.

More and more, Americans saw glory and greatness as legitimate motivation for expansionism. In the late 1890’s, a group led by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, felt that the official policy not be "continentalism", but what they called the "large policy". Along with Roosevelt, a man named Alfred Thayan Mahan, a naval strategist, greatly influenced the foreign policy. Mahan advocated colonies in both the Caribbeans and the Pacific. He thought that the strong nations had an obligation to dominate the weaker ones.

Mahan’s and Roosevelt’s ideas were soon spreading. The United States in general began believing their nation was the ideal country and should be the standard for other countries. Missionaries were sent to China to change the Chinese’s beliefs. The number of Christian converts increased from 5,000 in 1870 to 100,000 in 1900. Economic relations also grew with China, the number of American firms rose from 50 to 550 between the years of 1870 and 1930, while trade increased more than 1500 percent.

In 1895 the Cubans began to revolt against the harsh rule of the Spaniards. The Madrid government had once again failed to implement