- Bourbon Democrat
Bourbon Democrat was a term used in the
United Statesfrom 1876 to 1904 to refer to a conservative or classical liberalmember of the Democratic Party, especially one who supported President Grover Clevelandin 1884–1896 and Alton B. Parkerin 1904. After 1904, the Bourbons faded away. Woodrow Wilson, who had been a Bourbon, came to terms with William Jennings Bryanin 1912.
Bourbon Democrats represented business interests, supported banking and railroad goals, promoted
laissez-faire capitalism(which included opposition to the protectionismRepublicans then advocated), opposed imperialismand U.S. overseas expansion, fought for the gold standard, and opposed bimetallism. They strongly supported reform movements such as Civil Service Reform and opposed corruption of city bosses, leading the fight against the Tweed Ring. The corruption theme earned the votes of many Republican Mugwumps in 1884.
Bourbons and Bryan
Panic of 1893damaged the Bourbons because Cleveland was President at the time and was blamed for the consequent economic losses.
The Bourbons' great opponent was
William Jennings Bryan, who harnessed the energy of an agrarian insurgency with his Cross of Gold speechand defeated the Bourbons at the decisive 1896 Democratic National Convention. Some of the Bourbons sat out the 1896 election or tacitly supported McKinley, the Republican nominee; others created the third party ticket of the National Democratic Party led by John M. Palmer, a former governor of Illinois. Most Bourbons returned to the Democratic party by 1900 or 1904 at the latest. Bryan demonstrated his hold on the party by winning the 1900 and 1908 Democratic nominations as well; in 1904, a Bourbon, Alton B. Parker, won the nomination. He lost, as did Bryan every time.
William L. Wilson, Cleveland's
postmaster general, confided to his diary that he opposed Bryan on moral and ideological as well as party grounds. Wilson had begun his public service convinced that Congress was too much controlled by special interests, and his unsuccessful tariff fight had burned this conviction deeper. He feared the triumph of free silver would bring class legislation, paternalism, and selfishness feeding upon national bounty as surely as did protection. Moreover, free silver at 16 to 1 was morally wrong, "involving as it does the attempt to call 50 cents a dollar and make it legal tender for dollar debts." Populism, he said, was "the product of protection founded on the idea that Government can and therefore Government ought to make people prosperous." [Summers 240]
Origins of the term
The term was first used as a pun to refer both to
bourbon whiskeyfrom Kentuckyand even more to the Bourbon Dynasty of Francethat was overthrown in the French Revolution, but returned to power in 1815 to rule in a reactionary fashion until its final overthrow in the July Revolutionof 1830.
The term was occasionally used in the 1860s and 1870s to refer to conservative Democrats (both North and South), and in the 1870s to refer to the regimes set up in the South by
Redeemersas a conservative reaction against Reconstruction.
List of nationally prominent Bourbon Democrats
Besides Cleveland and Parker, nationally prominent Bourbons included:
* New York's
Samuel J. Tilden, David Bennett Hill, and William C. Whitney
* Maryland's Arthur Pue Gorman
Thomas F. Bayard
* West Virginia's William L. Wilson
John Griffin Carlisle
* Wisconsin's William F. Vilas
* Nebraska's J. Sterling Morton
* Illinois' John M. Palmer
* Mississippi's Lucius Q. C. Lamar
James J. Hill
History of the United States Democratic Party
* Going, Allen J. "Bourbon Democracy in Alabama, 1874-1890". Tuscaloosa : University of Alabama Press, 1951.
* Merrill, Horace Samuel. "Bourbon Leader: Grover Cleveland and the Democratic Party". Boston : Little, Brown, 1957. Merrill argues that in an age of rapid economic change Cleveland staunchly defended the untenable status quo.
* Merrill, Horace Samuel. "Bourbon Democracy of the Middle West, 1865-1896". Louisiana State University, 1953.
* Morgan, H. Wayne. "From Hayes to McKinley: National Party Politics, 1877-1896". Syracuse : Syracuse University, 1969.
* Sperber, Hans and Travis Trittschuh. "American Political Terms: An Historical Dictionary". Wayne State University, 1962.
* Summers, Festus P. "William L. Wilson and Tariff Reform, a Biography". New Brunswick : Rutgers University, 1953.
* Woodward, C. Vann. "Origins of the New South, 1877-1913". Louisiana State University, 1951.
* Democratic Party (U.S.) National Committee. [http://books.google.com/books?ie=UTF-8&vid=LCCN09032461&id=VIwkzQzzbl4C&dq=Democratic+%22campaign+text+Book%22&pg=PP19&printsec=4&lpg=PP19 "Campaign Text-book of the National Democratic Party"] . 1896. This is the handbook of the Gold Democrats; it strongly opposed Bryan.
* Nevins, Allan. ed. "The Letters of Grover Cleveland, 1850-1908". Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1933.
* Wilson, William L. "The Cabinet Diary of William L. Wilson, 1896-1897". Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina, 1957.
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