A Republican Estimate Of Party Problems In 1892

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A Republican Estimate of Party Problems in 1892(Article begins on page 2 below.)This article is copyrighted by History Nebraska (formerly the Nebraska State Historical Society).You may download it for your personal use.For permission to re-use materials, or for photo ordering information, se-nshs-materialsLearn more about Nebraska History (and search articles) raska-history-magazineHistory Nebraska members receive four issues of Nebraska History /membershipFull Citation: John Higham, ed., “A Republican Estimate of Party Problems in 1892,” Nebraska History 33(1952): 54-57Article Summary: A confidential letter from the chairman of the Republican State Central Committee to aChicago editor analyses the prospects of Nebraska Republicans at a time when Populists were attempting to forma coalition with Democrats.Cataloging Information:Names: Samuel D. MercerKeywords: Samuel D Mercer, Farmers’ Alliance:

A REPUBLICAN ESTIMATE OJ/ PARTYPROBLEMS IN 1892EDITED BY JOHN HIGHAM1892 the Nebraska Republicans regained much of theground they had lost to their angry agrarian foes twoyears earlier. It was the only victory in a general electionthat the traditionally dominant party in the state securedduring the whole stormy decade of the nineties, and it wasfar from an assured one. For fifteen years a mounting demand for railroad control had racked the state. In 1890, thistogether with an unmanageable burden of mortgages andan unprecedented drouth delivered Nebraska into thehands of the Democrats and the new Independent Partysired by the Farmers' Alliance. By early 1892 the Allianceforces were creating the Populist Party on a national scalewhile locally they were reaching out for some kind of coalition with the Democrats. 1 Although weather conditions hadIN1 John D. Hicks, The Populist Revolt: A History of the Farmers'Alliance and the People's Party (Minneapolis, 1931), passim;John D. Barnhart, "Rainfall and the Populist Party in Nebraska,"American Political Science Review, XIX (August, 1925), 527-540;Frank Haigh Dixon, "Railroad Control in Nebraska," PoliticalScience Quarterly, XIII (December, 1898), 617-647.[54]

PARTY PROBLEMS IN 189255improved greatly in the previous year, the political sky wasstill overcast when the chairman of the Republican StateCentral Committee sat down in March, 1892, to write a confidential estimate of his party's prospects to a sympatheticChicago editor.Samuel D. Mercer, a leading Omaha surgeon and businessman, was one of the principal participants in the Republican victory in the fall election. His distinguishedmedical career, begun in the Union Army, included theestablishment of Omaha's first hospital, the position of chiefsurgeon of the Union Pacific Railroad, and finally in 1886,the vice-presidency of the American Medical Association.Thereafter he left medicine for business enterprises such asreal estate promotion and the consolidation of Omaha'sstreetcar system. In 1891, following an unsuccessful bid forthe Republican gubernatorial nomination, Mercer becamechairman of the Republican State Central Committee. 2 Hisfear that the Populists would reach a firm alliance with theDemocrats proved to be mistaken, and in the end the division between them was an essential factor in the Republicans' success. 3 Nevertheless, Mercer's appraisal of the situation seven months before the election casts a revealing lighton political and economic conditions and on the mind of anastute business politician as weli.42 Arthur C. Wakely, Ornaha: The Gate City and Douglas County:A Record of Settlernent, Organization, Progress and Achievement(2 vols., Chicago, 1917), II, 879-881; J. Sterling Morton and AlbertWatkins, IHustrated History of Nebraska (3 vols., Lincoln, 1905-13),III, 242.3Appletons' Annual Cyclopaedia, 1892, pp. 485-486.4 This letter is contained in the files of the National Civic Federation in the Manuscript Division of the New York Public Library.Easley left the newspaper business in 1893 to organize the CivicFederation of Chicago, which he later enlarged into the NationalCivic Federation. This letter is published with the kind permissionof Mrs. Gertrude Easley.

56NEBRASKA HISTORYNebraska Republican State Central CommitteeOmaha, NebraskaMch. 28th, 1892R. M. Easley, Esq.,Editor Politico-Economic Department,Inter-Ocean,Dear Sir:Answering yours of March 26th, I have to say that afterhastily scanning your article, "Farmers' Movements," I commend it as a worthy political document, if facts stated areincontrovertible."Nebraska is certainly in danger of defeat by the Alliancepeople. They are organizing very systematically, with leaders at the head who are popular, and powerful in politicalconflicts, and in addition to this, the Democratic party, inall probability, will make some kind of an alliance withthem, so far as local tickets are concerned, and in my opinion, they will only vote for one set of electors. This mayhowever, annoy some of the "old line" Republicans, whohave joined the Alliance, and thus cause a break in theirranks.Another difficulty that we must encounter here, is theknown fact that the Republican party is divided into threesections; one known as "railroad Republicans," another as"anti-railroad Republicans," and the third as "Republicans."If it be possible for the Republicans proper to establish acondition of precedence that will cause both of the otherwings to come into line, and work solidly, shoulder to shoulder for victory this fall, then we may be successful evenagainst the anticipated alliance between the farmers andthe Democrats.The rural districts of our state were never more prosperous, nor the people better contented, than ours are now,on account of good crops last year and abundance of well5 The Chicago Inter Ocean was an uncompromisingly conservative, Republican newspaper. Through Easley, it was engaged inexposing alleged scandals in the Alliance movement and in combatting the emerging third party.

PARTY PROBLEMS IN 189257filled granaries, holding over against possible contingenciesin the future.Our farmers are also liquidating their mortgages veryrapidly, and as a consequence, country merchants are thrifty,banks and loaning institutions have plenty of money andinterest rates are low, but with not much demand for money.Of course this state of things produces more or less stagnation in the active enterprises, because the money is notchanging hands rapidly, owing to the fact that money received in payments of notes does not find ready investment,because building enterprise and commercial industries generally, seem to be passing through what might be termeda resting period, but the indications are, that this will befollowed by an unusual activity in all directions. It is quiteevident, however, that this year must pass, and anothergood crop received before confidence will be fully re-established, and before people will be fully recovered from thecalamities of 1890.Conditions that would be most effective for the Republican party, would be a thorough impression made upon thepeople of the good results that come from the tariff doctrinesto the ordinary consumers, i.e., they should be shown howit affects them favorably, both in the purchasing of theirown goods, and sale of their products. The next greatestgood that can be done to the Republican party, would beto establish harmony in their own ranks, if possible.This letter I write you confidentially, for your own information, not to be divulged.Very respectfully,/s/ S. D. MERCERDiet.

PARTY PROBLEMS IN 1892 55 improved greatly in the previous year, the political sky was still overcast when the chairman of the Republican State Central Committee sat down in March, 1892, to write a con fidential estimate of his party's prospects to a sympathetic Chicago ed

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