Compare and contrast the Democratic and Republican parties of the late 1800s in terms of their leadership

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Both parties were very focused on their own histories--at Democratic rallies, portraits of Andrew Jackson appeared prominently while Lincoln was the candidate of choice at Republican ones.  Both claimed to have the best views of the nation at heart.  Both were pro-expansionist in terms of growing the demand for American products abroad, thus trying to appeal to a manufacturing and farming base.  

There were some major contrasts between the parties, however.  In 1892 and 1896 the Democrats adopted the Populist platform of bimetalism, the free coinage of both gold and silver.  This would ease the credit crunch in the nation and make it easier for farmers to get loans.  Republicans feared that taking America off the gold standard would bring about economic ruin.  Most Republicans were well-to-do and wealthy industrialists who did not like the idea that their fortunes would be devalued.  This came to a head in 1896 in the election between William Jennings Bryan on the Democratic side and the Republican William McKinley.  McKinley won the election as his campaigners were able to convince industrial workers in the East that bimetalism would decrease the purchasing power of their already-low paychecks.  

Another difference was the stance on tariffs both parties took at the end of the 1800s.  Republicans favored heavy tariffs in order to protect their products from an influx of cheaper foreign goods, while Democrats favored smaller tariffs in an attempt to get goods cheaper for consumers.  

Yet another difference that would take place between 1895 and 1898 would be the question of expansion, at least in terms of Hawaii.  In 1897, Americans living in Hawaii overthrew the native queen there and petitioned for annexation by the United States so they would not have to pay tariffs on sugar and pineapple exports to the mainland.  President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, saw this as a blatant land grab and would not authorize it.  Republicans in Congress, led by Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts wanted the land annexed to give America more Pacific ports.  The land would be annexed during the Republican McKinley's term in 1898 as it was of strategic value during the Spanish American War.