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77 Chapter 5 Money, Corruption, and the Reformers, 1882-1902 The issue of money was a hot political potato in America for several decades after the Civil War. Indeed, it was as divisive an issue as there was, except for the issue of White-Negro race relations. What types of money ought the U.S. Treasury to produce? Paper bills, gold coins, and silver coins? Should a gold coin have more gold in it than a silver coin has silver? Should the value of paper money be backed by (that is, be redeemable /in) gold or, by both gold and silver, or by neither? And just how much paper money should be in circulation? These were the types of questions with which all Americans and their political officials wrestled in the latter third of the 19th century. Businessmen, especially those at banks, financial interests, and large corporations , wanted a limited supply of paper money in circulation, paper money backed by gold. Indeed, Big Business preferred the Gold Standard—they believed that the paper currency of the United States should be backed by and redeemable in gold, a large supply of which would be kept in federal gold depositories . These people were called “Goldbugs.” More ordinary Americans (farmers and debtors, in general) wanted a large supply of paper money in circulation to make it easier to pay their bills/debts. They also believed that silver should be elevated to the status of gold, so that a person could take a bag containing $100 in paper bills into a large bank or Treasury office and exchange them for $100 worth of silver bars or coins, or $100 worth of gold coins or gold bars, or a mixture of gold and silver. These people were known as “Silverbugs” or silverites, or, later, Silver Republicans. Silverbugs wanted the Treasury to purchase silver ore from western mines and convert it into silver coins at a ratio of 16-to-1; that is, silver coins would have 16 times more silver in them than the gold content of a gold coin. 78 chapter 5 The issue of money tended to divide people along economic, social, sectional , and regional lines. The issue caused deep political divisions in both Oregon and the nation between 1870 and 1910. Indeed, the appearance of the Greenbackers in the 1870s, and the Populists and Silver Republicans in the 1890s, as well as the rupture of the National Democratic Party under President Grover Cleveland, and the rise of William Jennings Bryan are all manifestations of this money issue. The Big Three: Power in One Place After 1880, when political power shifted from Democratic to Republican control inOregon,railroad,timber,mining,andbankinginterestsbecameidentifiedwith the Republicans. In fact, the three men who dominated the Republican Party between 1872 and 1905 were prominent Portland railroad attorneys. This triumvirate —Joseph Dolph, John Mitchell, and Joseph Simon—exercised a degree of political control not seen since in Oregon. When John Mitchell left Oregon in 1873 to take the U.S. Senate seat he had won the previous year, Joe Dolph, with whom Mitchell shared a law practice, took on two new partners. One was his brother, Cyrus. The other partner was a precocious 23-year-old named Joseph Simon. For the next 30 years, the firm became the virtual governmental headquarters of the state, managing Republican policy, ruling the legislature, making and unmaking U.S. senators. Year after year, bankers, editors, and businessmen of Oregon who had paid huge sums for the honor of being elected to Congress were played for suckers. “Four members of the firm—Mitchell, Dolph, Simon, and John Guerin—served in the office of senator, in the aggregate, forty-one years. [Mitchell] used his influence with his patronage power as a senator to further land and timber frauds and protect the interests of the corporations. Up to 1892, the firm of Dolph, Bellinger, Mallory and Simon acted as counsel to the Southern Pacific Railroad, besides dominating state politics.”1 John Mitchell and Joe Simon remained dominant political figures well after 1892.* Mitchell and Dolph (though no longer law partners) both represented the Northern Pacific Railroad Company as early as 1886. Joe Dolph, in fact, “became the vice-president of the Oregon and Transcontinental Company which controlled and financed the Northern Pacific, Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, and the Oregon and California Railroad Company.”2 Through distribution of rail passes, financial contributions, and business relationships, Oregon’s political * Mitchell was senator until 1897 and again from...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780870716584
Print ISBN
9780870716577
MARC Record
OCLC
821734340
Launched on MUSE
2012-09-21
Language
English
Open Access
N
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