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Benjamin Harrison

The businessmen got what they paid for. New Republican President Benjamin Harrison pushed through the highest tariff bill ever passed, the McKinley Tariff Act (1890). The McKinley bill set a record by taxing the average import almost 50 percent. As an example, this tax made an imported coffeepot worth $10 cost $15.

U.S. industrialists were delighted because they had less competition. U.S. manufacturers could raise their protected prices and make more profit. Regular people couldn't help noticing they were paying high prices for both imported and protected domestic goods.

The return of Grover Cleveland

Voters took most of the seats away from the Republicans in the House of Representatives and brought honest Grover Cleveland back again — the only president to win reelection after being out of office.

While Cleveland was making his comeback in the 1892 election, the new Populist Party managed to get more than 1 million votes. The party's platform called for a graduated income tax, government ownership of railroads and telephones, the direct election of U.S. senators, an eight-hour workday, and immigration reform. They never elected a president, but the Populists saw much of their program become law. The Populists also tried to help Southern blacks, which made white Southerners angry. The whites tightened the Jim Crow laws so that almost no blacks got to vote in the South.

Cleveland had to face the Depression of 1893, the worst economic downturn of the 1800s. Strapped for cash to run the government, he turned to J.P. Morgan, the richest banker in the country. Morgan and his banker friends came up with the money, but they charged a commission of more than 10 percent. In the face of economic troubles, Cleveland couldn't get the tariff reductions he had promised through Congress, and the Republicans took control again in the next election.

 
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