This is an except of a chapter from "Story of The Old Home Town" Jewell City, Kansas by my grandfather, Everett Palmer. As published in the Jewell County Republican in 28 weekly installments beginning April 28, 1933
Public Interest High during 1880 Election Cycle
Nearly one-half of each issue of the Republican was devoted to the campaign, the candidates, and the approaching election. Nor was public interest lacking in political affairs. On July 14, C W Steward, the "Great Lecturer of Main," appeared at Marks Hall for a Democratic address. In a few minutes after the doors were open the hall was full. Stewart spoke for two hours. At the conclusion he offered to give five minutes for anyone to speak in reply. The crowd called out D L Palmer. (one of Rottlady's relatives) He said he could not reply to a two-hour speech in five minutes, but was urged to the stand for a brief speech and challenged his opponent to a formal debate. On Tuesday they met and arranged for a joint debate on Wednesday and Thursday the crowd was so large that the debate was held in the public square.
Such was the interest in public matters 53 years ago. Meetings in country school houses, local, county, and state conventions; and debates on the issues of the campaign - absorbed the attention of the people.
The financial credit of the United States sank to a low ebb at the outbreak of the Civil War. In a nation split in twain and in the throes of a great civil war, the national treasury could not meet its extraordinary expense with any normal method of financing. Late in 1861 special payment was suspended throughout the nation. Many war taxes were laid but emergency taxes would not suffice and finally the hard-pressed federal government issued 150 millions of dollars in non-interest-bearing legal tender notes of the United States., to be used as money, and which were later called "greenbacks." Within four months of the first issue, 150 million more were authorized. The maximum sum issued during the war was 450 million dollars. They fell to 35¢ per $1 in 1864 and fluctuated at various rates until the resumption of special payment in 1879.
Inflation the Issue
The campaign of 1880 was pressed with what would now be termed excitement. It was urged that since greenbacks had sufficed to carry the country through the emergency of war, the continued issue of them would carry the country through the emergency of a great depression. It was said then, precisely as has been said in recent months, that prices never would rise, debts never would be paid, labor never would find employment and prosperity never would be known again unless the monetary standards were changed. Convinced that the cycle of declining trade, falling prices, diminishing employment and reduced consumption was largely brought about by the media of exchange in use. The Greenbacker's and those who believed in a freer issue of paper currency asked the question of why permit the country to suffer the pains of a depression when such simple expedient of inflating the currency would start the business world in an upward cycle.
The "sound money" advocates argued that the fiscal advantages which the government obtains in securing a loan without interest, by the issue of paper money, is clearly bought. It is in effect, an unjust method of taxation; for it strikes hardest finally on those who have no means of defending themselves, and it makes the burden of taxation variable and uncertain. When a government once yields to such methods it has entered upon a path that is likely to lead it downward in the scale of political integrity and national honor. That deliberate inflation of the currency would impair confidence in "real" recovery. That inflation cannot be brought about until the confidence of the people in their money is shaken. That once inflation is adopted as a national policy, it would be difficult for a representative government to stop short of a national disaster.
Thus the great debate proceeded 53 years ago, as it is today. The decision of the voters in 1880 was exactly the opposite of the decision in 1932. If inflation is carried out to any great degree in the near future, it will be interesting to observe the results. The "sound money" advocates won at the polls in 1880, but were they in the right or were they in the wrong? The history of the next few years may furnish an enlightening comparison.
Returns in Jewell County in 1880
The result of the election in Jewell County was as follows:
J A Garfield, R........................2,187
W S Hancock, D........................836
J B Weaver, G............................402
Rottlady's Note:This is the included in a series I'm posting. You can find the rest by clicking on the link "the story of the old home town".