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Democracy and the Origins of the American Regulatory State$
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Samuel DeCanio

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780300198782

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300198782.001.0001

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The Crime of 1873

The Crime of 1873

(p.92) Chapter 6 The Crime of 1873
Democracy and the Origins of the American Regulatory State

Samuel DeCanio

Yale University Press

This chapter examines the impact of silver policy on American politics by focusing on the demonetization of the silver dollar in the Coinage Act of 1873 and the claims made by the free silver movement in the 1870s and 1880s that were subsequently adopted by the Populist Party and William Jennings Bryan. It first considers the passage of the Coinage Act, denounced by the Populists as the “Crime of '73,” and goes on to discuss the politics of silver and its relevance to general issues involving popular comprehension of democratic politics. It then explores Richard Hofstadter's reaction to the Populists' conspiratorial view of the silver issue and the studies echoing his arguments. It supports the Populists' contention that William Chapman Ralston, president of the Bank of California, bribed Henry Linderman, the official who wrote the Coinage Act of 1873, to influence silver policy. It suggests that silver had been demonetized to protect not only Ralston's business empire but also the gold standard and the public debt.

Keywords:   silver, demonetization, Coinage Act of 1873, William Jennings Bryan, Populists, democratic politics, Richard Hofstadter, William Chapman Ralston, Henry Linderman, gold standard

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