Letter to the Editor

The election of 1896

Friday, September 1, 2023

EDITOR’S NOTE: Helen Ruth Arnold was a retired teacher and long-time contributor to the Gazette’s Open Forum columns, even after she moved into a Trenton nursing home. After her death on June 17, 2023, at the age of 91, we received 16 letters from her. We will publish them as time and space allow in honor of her memory.

Dear Editor,

Reading "Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters" by Karl Rove, published in 2015 by Simon and Schuster, caused my brain to be overloaded.

Key players were William McKinley (1843-1901) and William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925)

Nebraskans remember Bryan, the Democratic candidate, as a former editor of the Omaha World-Herald and "silver-tongued orator."

Bryan was an attorney who came to Nebraska from Illinois. He made 600 speeches and traveled to 27 states while campaigning.

Republican candidate McKinley, campaigned from his front porch in Canton, Ohio.

A financial depression in 1894-95 continued to exist in 1896. Farmers, small business owners and factories suffered. Farms were abandoned, factories closed and business people went bankrupt.

Bryan said that coining more silver would expand the U.S. money supply. There were arguments about free silver coinage and printing more money or paper currency.

McKinley said tariffs would keep other countries from underpricing us with the products they manufactured.

McKinley won the election. Bryan, who won support of the South and states west of the Mississippi, said McKinley "stole the election and favored business interests."

Sept. 5, 1901, Leon Czlogosz, an anarchist, shot McKinley twice. McKinley died nine days later, on Sept. 14, 1901.

He is one of four U.S. presidents who were assassinated. They include Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy.

McKinley is credited with creating a new political system.

Teddy Roosevelt, who became McKinley's vice president, said that McKinley based his campaign on big issues like the Gold Standard.

Helen Ruth Arnold,

Trenton, Neb.

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