Aldrich, Nelson Wilmarth

Aldrich, Nelson Wilmarth, 1841–1915, U.S. Senator from Rhode Island, b. Foster, R.I. He rose in local politics as state assemblyman (1875–76) and U.S. Representative (1879–81) before he served as Senator (1881–1911). Aldrich, after the death of Henry B. Anthony, dominated Republican politics in Rhode Island, and because of his wide interests in banking, manufacturing, and public utilities he was popularly considered the spokesman of big business in the Republican party and the nation. After the controversy of 1888 he was the great proponent of protective tariffs and was successful in saving the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act of 1909 even against the combined opposition of the Democrats and the Progressives. Aldrich did much to strengthen the antiprogressive wing of the Republican party and led the Senate opposition to Theodore Roosevelt's increasingly progressive policies. He took charge of Republican administrative legislation after 1897 and helped force the Silver Republicans out of the party, the Gold Standard Act of 1900 completing the work. Aldrich was deeply concerned with monetary problems, helped shape the Aldrich-Vreeland Currency Act of 1908, and headed the National Monetary Commission to study bank reform. The Aldrich plan, published in 1911, was not made into law, but it did offer information that was used by the Democrats in setting up the Federal Reserve System.

See biography by N. W. Stephenson (1930, repr. 1971).

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