S. M. Brice '93 opened the proceedings and introduced Dean Briggs as chairman of the evening. Professor Briggs announced the questions to be discussed as:
1. The McKinley Tariff Law is not beneficial to the country. 2. The Federal Elections Bill which passed the House of Representatives of the last Congress was not a wise Measure of Legislation. The Democrats were to support the affirmative and the Republicans the negative. Two Democrats and two Republicans were to speak on the McKinley Bill and one from each side on the Elections Bill. Professor Briggs said that applause would be provided for by allowing each speaker five extra minutes. He introduced as the first debater, Mr. J. S. Brown, L. S. of the Harvard Democratic Club.
Mr. Brown spoke on the McKinley Bill. He said that the Bill was not one for the laborers, who are likewise the consumers, but for the monopolists and the wealthy manufacturers in general. As a proof of this he stated that over a quarter of the reductions of the bill were on the articles of the iron industry, and quoted from a wealthy iron manufacturer that the legislation on the bill was bought expressly for that purpose. Wages, too, were far from benefited, he said, and amid great applause unfurled a voluminous document, detailing the one thousand labor strikes that have taken place since the passage of the bill. Finally, the increased prosperity of the country was, not because of the bill but in spite of it.
Mr. A. P. Stone, L. S., the next speaker, opened for the Republicans and occupied himself with refuting the arguments of his predecessor. He stated that the articles on which the tariff was reduced by the bill were almost wholly articles of necessity, while the luxuries of the rich were more highly protected, to raise the prices. Wages, again, had increased, he said, according to the statistics of Mr. Peck of New York, who quoted 90,000 individual cases, as to the prosperity of the country, Mr. Stone showed that the Democratic platform claimed a direct loss, owing to increased mortgages on farms. He further claimed that England supported the measure for Free Trade in this country, for the purpose of bolstering up her own shattered interests.
Mr. W. G. Brown, L. S., upheld the Democratic side of the question about the Elections Bill and spoke somewhat as follows: The bill is simply a party measure, a scheme to give work to some 250,000 Re-publicans, and to place elections in the hands of the Republicans, for the appointing of all eanvassers and supervisors is to be in the power of the District Court judges, who are mostly Republicans. The bill provides that where three are to constitute a board of supervisors, not more than two shall belong to one party, but this allows a Republican majority. The reports of the house to house canvassing are not to be published, thus making the work of no avail, and simply employing many idle laborers. As to the South, the various states are individually taking measures of reform, and will proceed on the right track, unless prevented by the adoption of the Elections Bill, which when once passed, allows of no changes in the method of voting for congressman.
Mr. Gillespie L.S. spoke again on the Federal Election Bill. In the first place the Supreme Court has unanimously declared the bill constitutional. Its object is primarily, he said to do away with unfair or fraudulent balloting. In the South there are thousands of people unable to enjoy the privileges which the constitution gives them. If the negroes are too ignorant to vote, the southern states should require education. The Elections Bill is to remedy the difficulties. It is in fact an anti-force bill.
Mr. Hayes, L. S., reopened the question as to the McKinley Bill. He said the bill was conceived, made, and passed by those who had only their own interests in view He cited the changes in price of various articles, due to its influence, and in each case the price of articles of daily use had risen, in many cases doubled, while those that might be considered as mere luxuries had remained unchanged. The clothing manufacturers petitioned for cheaper material. Massachusetts made a hard fight in the leather business but finally won. Never again ought we to hear Peck's report cited as showing that wages had risen. Hall, he said, has just returned from abroad, much benefited in eyesight, and now sees that protection is of much good to the European pauper.
Although the Republicans call the Democrats horridly unpractical, they yield to the Democrats the field of theory and science.
Mr. A. K. Stearns refuted the arguments of his predecessors. He spoke of the Republican policy of protection, and said that the things previously attributed to the McKinley bill, it did not touch. What it did touch it benefited, as for instance the tin industries. Also it made prosperous the woolen mills in Connecticut where before there had been destitution. We do not call the Bill perfection, but it is certainly the grandest piece of tariff legislation ever enacted in this nation.
The government under which prosperity has existed has never been turned out of office, and next week we do not turn out the Harrison administration. It has been stated that the reciprocity clause in the McKinley bill is a concession to free trade. It gives the president power to reimpose duties on articles, as it is needful by the actions of other nations. Where reciprocity has had time to act, mills flourish, the increase is tremendous, and the cost of living decreases while wages increase.