The Indianapolis Monetary Convention
by Murray N. Rothbard
The presidential election of 1896 was a great national referendum on the gold standard. The Democratic Party had been captured, at its 1896 convention, by the Populist, ultra-inflationist, anti-gold forces, headed by William Jennings Bryan. The older Democrats, who had been fiercely devoted to hard money and the gold standard, either stayed home on election day or voted, for the first time in their lives, for the hated Republicans. The Republicans had long been the party of prohibition and of greenback inflation and opposition to gold. But since the early 1890s, the Rockefeller forces, dominant in their home state of Ohio and nationally in the Republican Party, had decided to quietly ditch prohibition as a political embarrassment and as a grave deterrent to obtaining votes from the increasingly powerful bloc of German-American voters.
In the summer of 1896, anticipating the defeat of the gold forces at the Democratic convention, the Morgans, previously dominant in the Democratic Party, approached the McKinley–Mark Hanna–Rockefeller forces through their rising young satrap, Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts. Lodge offered the Rockefeller forces a deal: The Morgans would support McKinley for president and neither sit home nor back a third, Gold Democrat party, provided that McKinley pledged himself to a gold standard. The deal was struck, and many previously hard-money Democrats shifted to the Republicans. The nature of the American political party system was now drastically changed: previously a tightly fought struggle between hard-money, free-trade, laissez-faire Democrats on the one hand, and protectionist, inflationist, and statist Republicans on the other, with the Democrats slowly but surely gaining ascendancy by the early 1890s, was now a party system that would be dominated by the Republicans until the depression election of 1932.