Victor Gillam suggests a lack of patriotism on the part of Grover Cleveland and his running mate, Adlai E. Stevenson, for buying two clownish substitutes to serve in their places during the Civil War. In contrast, Benjamin Harrison and his running mate, Whitelaw Reid, both got to the battlefield: Harrison as an officer and Reid as a war correspondent.
During the Civil War, if conscripted by the Union Army, it was legal to pay $300 for a substitute. Army pay, at the time, was $500 a year or less. This rule tipped the balance in favor of affluent men, who could choose to avoid service, leaving the poorer ones, usually immigrants, with no choice but to serve. Draft riots protesting the low pay and inequity of this substitution rule occured in a number of cities, most notably in New York, in 1863. Contributing to the rioters anger and their lack of enthusiasm for the war effort were racist fears of economic competition from freed slaves. Although labor was better organized in 1892
, as compared to 1863, unions were not successfully integrated until much later; employers could and did take advantage of this, often using African-Americans as scab labor when white unions tried to strike.
Once in office, Cleveland was urged to do nothing to restrict or, as suggested here, 'prune,' with congressional regulation, the growth of industry. The start of Cleveland's second term coincided with the start of a deep economic depression (1893). Right:
By 1896, the economy had not yet recovered, and the Democratic presidential nominee was indeed the tattered orphan Gillam depicts. The country wanted change, and no Democratic hopeful in April of 1896 appeared able to challenge what was sure to be, and was, a victory for the Republican candidate, William McKinley. Running as a Populist, William Jennings Bryan tried, and lost.
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