At the start of Grover Cleveland’s term in 1893 the nation fell into the worst economic depression it had thus far experienced; unemployment hit 20 per cent and strikes swept across the country. Cleveland blamed the depression on silver, his unremitting belief in the gold standard led him to believe that the furore for silver had weakened confidence in American business. The Democratic party’s nominee, William J. Bryan, adopted a pro-silver platform. The Republican party, led by William McKinley, supported high protective tariffs on trade. McKinley won 51 per cent of the popular vote and 60.6 per cent of the Electoral College vote. Once ensconced in power, the Republicans repudiated key planks of Republican dogma. Congress passed, and McKinley signed, bills that raised tariff rates to a record high, and officially converted the country to the gold standard.
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