Until November 1894, the Democrats enjoyed a comfortable majority in the US Congress over the Republican Party, whose candidate Benjamin Harrison lost the 1892 presidential election to Grover Cleveland.
Just two years after Cleveland became president, the United States of America witnessed an unprecedented event. After a series of crises experienced by the country, the Democrats lost in the midterm elections a large number of seats in Congress, classifying their loss at the time as the largest political change in the history of the American midterm elections.
A picture of US President McKinley
In the late nineteenth century, the United States witnessed a sharp rise in the prices of a number of basic materials such as wheat. Over the course of 5 years, the cereal sector faced many crises ranging from overproduction to droughts and hurricanes that destroyed crops. By 1893, the wheat market in the United States of America collapsed, and with it many other sectors.
Despite its independence from the wheat market, the railway sector was wracked by the economic crisis. Just 12 days after Cleveland’s inauguration, the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad went bankrupt after accumulating debts. During the Great Panic of 1893, about 50 other railways went bankrupt, and about 30 steel and steel enterprises closed permanently.
As president, the Cleveland Democrat tried to stem the hemorrhage of the economy by convincing Congress that the Sherman Silver Purchase Act should be abandoned.
Portrait of the losing Democratic candidate in 1896, William Jennings Bryan
In addition, the decision to cancel came too late. Because of speculators, who mainly turned to trading in one metal against another, the US gold reserves fell to less than $100 million, which threatened the health of the US economy. In the following period, this situation caused a panic in the money market, which prompted European investors to sell their shares, causing the stock market to crash.
Subsequently, this situation caused the unemployment rate to reach record figures, stabilizing at 19 percent.
Historic political change
Faced with the inability of President Cleveland to find a solution to the crisis, the Republicans in 1894 promoted their program, which was limited to 3 basic points: tariffs, the value and value of the silver standard, and the Cuban War of Independence, on which Cleveland took a neutral position.
On the other hand, a large proportion of Americans tended to search for an alternative to the Democrats to get out of the crisis, coinciding with the leftists mobilizing angry farmers in the West and the American South in favor of the Republican Party in a populist program against Cleveland’s policy. In the industrial sector, workers were dissatisfied with the high unemployment rates and low wages, coinciding with the rise in prices.
In addition, the owners of the means of production feared the possibility of the crisis continuing and the bankruptcy of their institutions.
Picture of Democratic President Cleveland
During the month of November 1894, the results of the midterm elections came as a slap in the face for the Democratic Party, as nearly 90 percent of Democratic Representatives in the Northeast and Midwest lost re-election.
These midterm elections resulted in an absolute political change that was ranked the largest in the history of the United States of America. Coinciding with their loss of five seats in the Senate, the Democrats lost 116 seats in the House of Representatives.
In the 1896 presidential election, the Democrats declined to re-nominate Cleveland and turned to present Nebraska Representative William Jennings Bryan, who in turn lost the presidential race to Republican candidate William McKinley.