George Oberkirsh Seilhamer.

History of the Republican party (Volume 1) online

. (page 27 of 61)
Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 27 of 61)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


that the Legislative and Executive Departments of the Government
might agree upon. As the policy of the President and the plan of
Congress were diametrically opposed to each other, it was difficult
for him to please either easy to offend both. That he gave serious
offense to neither, through a discretion and dignity that showed that
he possessed high qualities as a man as well as great genius as a
soldier, was a proof to the people that he ought to rule after he had
conquered. His course had been closely watched by the country,
sometimes with fear that he was about to err, but it was to end with
complete faith in his judgment and patriotism. That Mr. Johnson
did not entirely despair of molding Grant to his views, or at least of
using him for the aims the Administration had so much at heart, is
shown by the onerous duties that were thrust upon him by the Presi-
dent. As early as the autumn of 1865 an attempt was made to use
his prestige for the benefit of the Administration. In November,
when General Grant w r as about to start on a tour of inspection in the
South, the President asked him " to learn, as far as possible, during
his tour, the feelings and intentions of the citizens of the Southern
States toward the National Government." Grant complied, and made
a perfunctory report in which he expressed the belief that " the mass
of thinking men of the South accept the present situation of affairs



246 HISTORY OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.

in good faith," but at the same time he thought that " four years of
war have left the people possibly in a condition not ready to yield
that obedience to civil authority which the American people have
been in the habit of yielding, thus rendering the presence of small
garrisons throughout those States necessary until such time as labor
returns to its proper channels and civil authority is fully established."
The report contained some other expressions of opinion that were
hopeful, but not optimistic. The friends of the Administration, how-
ever, professed to find in Grant's language strong justification of the
President's position on the question of Reconstruction, and began to
use the report to the general's prejudice. Nobody was quicker to
see this than Grant himself. His early impressions were not con-
firmed by closer inquiry, and no one more thoroughly approved the
Reconstruction measures of the Republican party w r hen the real con-
dition of the South was ascertained. A soldier more impulsive or
impetuous would have resented the affair as a trick, but Grant ig-
nored it, and the country was not long in ignorance of his later con-
clusions. His acceptance of the office of Secretary of War ad interim,
when Stanton was suspended by the President, was another instance
in which Grant found himself in dangerous contact with the Admin-
istration. He protested against the suspension of Stanton, and ac-
cepted the War Department with great reluctance. When the Senate
acted on the suspension, restoring Stanton to his functions, Grant at
once gave up all control of the Department. Johnson afterward said
that Grant promised either to remain or resign, but Grant answered,
" I made no such promise." It was a case in which no question of
veracity could arise in the minds of the people. They believed Grant.
He had established his claim to the confidence as well as the gratitude
of the country. It was determined that the chief hero of the war
should be the leader in the restoration that should have followed the
peace, but was delayed by the course of Andrew Johnson, his Demo-
cratic allies, and an unrepentant South.

In spite of the fact that the Presidential nomination was a foregone
conclusion, the Convention had a number of interesting features.
Although impeachment had already partly failed, hope of Johnson's
conviction was not yet abandoned. This gave an aggressive spirit to
the delegates, that was felt in the Convention and expressed in the
Platform. The war party of the previous epoch was about to enter
upon its great work as the party of peace. A broad national financial
and industrial policy was required, and great interest was shown in
molding the policy of the party so that its principles would conserve
the true interests of the country. Besides, there was a keen compe-
tition for the second place on the ticket. These rivalries were exerted



THE GRANT AND COLFAX CAMPAIGN. 247

so early that they were felt in the organization of the Convention.
There was no difficulty over the selection of the temporary chairman,
the place being accorded to General Carl Schurz, in recognition of
his independent course when he was sent to investigate the condition
of the South by the President in 1865. His report was so unsatisfac-
tory to the Administration that an effort was made to suppress it.
This was prevented by the Senate, and it proved a very important
document when Congress undertook to formulate a plan of Recon-
struction. For permanent President there were two candidates
General Sickles and General Hawley. Sickles had made a brilliant
reputation in the war, and lost a leg at Gettysburg. As one of the
Military Governors in the South, under the Reconstruction Acts, he
incurred the hostility of the Administration, and he, of course, became
all the more popular with the Republican masses because of the
enemies he had made. Hawley was also distinguished as a soldier,
and had supported the Civil Rights bill on the broad ground that he
was not ashamed to sleep in a tavern, or go to a theater, or be buried
in a graveyard with his colored brother. In the Committee on Organ-
ization the vote for Sickles and Hawley was a tie. As Sickles was
from New York, and Fenton was the candidate of the New York
delegation for Vice-President, Hamilton Harris, of Albany, who had
the casting vote, decided the contest in favor of Hawley. In his
speech on taking the chair General Hawley gave a forecast of the
future policy of the party. " For every dollar of the national debt,"
he said, " the blood of a soldier is pledged. . . . Every bond, in
letter and spirit, must be as sacred as a soldier's grave." These pa-
triotic maxims w r ere received with loud applause by the Convention,
and were embodied in the platform as the principles of Republican
action.

The Republican Platform of 1868, reported on the second day of
the Convention and adopted with enthusiasm, differed from previous
declarations in the absence of any reference to the vexed question of
so many years slavery. In its place a new principle became con-
spicuous equal suffrage. This, and the maintenance of the public
faith, were the great questions of the new epoch. In one respect the
Convention and its declaration of principles fell short of the high mis-
sion of the Republican party. It failed to demand equal suffrage in
all the States, declaring that " the question of suffrage in the loyal
States properly belongs to the people of those States." This was an
unworthy surrender to expediency a sacrifice of the consistency and
courage of the party. The motive that prompted it was the fear of
losing the electoral votes of Indiana and California, where the preju-
dice against negro suffrage was very strong. It can not be claimed



248 HISTORY OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.

that this insincere device was necessary in Indiana indeed, it is not
even likely that it kept California in the Grant column, notwith-
standing the fact that the Kepublican majority in that State was
only 512. But the party in deeds was more consistent and courageous
than the Convention in words, and the declaration went unheeded.
On the financial issue the platform was earnest and unequivocal. The
arraignment of the President was severe and reflected Republican
feeling. On all questions, except equal suffrage, the platform was a
signboard that pointed the pathway that the party was destined to
follow.

The nomination of General Grant in the Convention was made by
General John A. Logan in a vigorous and eloquent speech. Logan was
a type of the Republicans that the war and the issues of the war had
made. Although he was a Douglas Democrat, the district that he
represented in Southern Illinois in 1861 w r as almost as completely
secessionist as those across the Mississippi in Arkansas, or
across the Ohio in Kentucky. His constituents deeply resented his
loyalty in Congress when the war began, and when he returned to
raise a regiment after the adjournment they at first turned from him
in disdain. But his eloquence and zeal overcame their prejudices, and
the regiment was raised. His first battle with his regiment brought a
recommendation from Grant that he be made a brigadier-general. In
the subsequent campaigns no soldier of the Union was more intrepid
than " the Black Eagle of Illinois," and, a major-general at the
close of the war, he was now in a position to repay Grant's recom-
mendation for his first promotion by naming Grant to the Chicago
Convention for President of the United States. No othf ' candidate
was named in opposition, a thing unprecedented in National Conven-
tions and Grant was nominated by a unanimous vote, not merely
by making the vote unanimous. When the result was announced it
was received with a great shout just as if it had been a surprise.

The nomination for Vice-President was no mere perfunctory regis-
try of the will of the people. As many as eleven candidates had hopes
of carrying off the prize. Of these the most hopeful were Wade, of
Ohio; Fenton, of New York; Wilson, of Massachusetts, and Colfax,
of Indiana. The other candidates who were supported by the dele-
gations from their own States were Curtin, of Pennsylvania; Hamlin,
of Maine; Speed, of Kentucky; Harlan, of Iowa, and Creswell, of
Maryland. The nomination of Henry Wilson, which was the first
made, came from the Virginia delegation. Then an obstreperous
delegate from Pennsylvania, disobeying the instructions of his State
Convention, named Schuyler Colfax. This impertinence disconcerted
the friends of Colfax for a moment, but when the applause that fol-



THE GRANT AND COLFAX CAMPAIGN. 249

lowed the mention of his name ended he was formally nominated by
Henry S. Lane, of Indiana. The nomination of Wade followed, and
was seconded by General Schurz. Fenton was put in nomination by
Lyman Tremaine. Each nomination being- accompanied by a speech,
speech-making began to be tiresome, and the delegates were begin-
ning to show their impatience with the orators. Mr. Spalding. in sup-
porting the candidature of Senator Wade, pointed out the fact that
this was the first time in the National Convention when the Ohio
delegation was a unit for an Ohio candidate; and General Sickles
made an eloquent speech in behalf of Governor Fenton, whose ambi-
tion had prevented him from becoming President of the Convention.
But even speech-making must come to an end, and at last the ballot-
ing began. There were five ballots, as follows:

1st. 2d. 3d. 4th. 5th.

Benjamin P. Wade, of Ohio 147 170 178 206 38

Keuben E. Fenton, of New York . 126 144 139 144 69

Henry Wilson, of Massachusetts. 119 114 101 87

Sclmyler Coif ax, of Indiana 115 145 165 186 541

Andrew G.Curtin, of Pennsylvania 51 45 40

Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine 28 30 25 25

James Speed, of Kentucky 22

James Harlan, of Iowa 16

John A. J. Creswell, of Maryland. 14

Samuel C. Pomeroy, of Kansas. . 6

William D.Kelley, of Pennsylvania 4

An analysis of the vote shows that Mr. Wade started with a good
lead and gained strength on the three succeeding ballots. He had
been seventeen years in the Senate and was then its president. If
Johnson had been convicted in the impeachment trial W r ade would
have been the logical candidate for Vice-President, and there is no
reason to doubt that he would have been nominated. Next to Wade
in strength at the outset was Fenton. In Congress he had not
been conspicuous as a parliamentarian, but he was a man of sound
judgment and an acute political manager. He had been twice elected
Governor of New York, and had wrested the control of the party in
that State from the powerful grasp of Thurlow Weed. He held the
second place in the balloting until the fourth ballot, when he was
passed by Mr. Colfax. On the first ballot Senator W T ilson had three
more votes than Colfax, but he lost steadily, while the Speaker gained
as the voting proceeded, until on the fifth ballot it became apparent
that Wade and Colfax were close together, with Colfax in the lead.



250 HISTORY OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.

Then there was a break, and Colfax was nominated. Wade's failure
was due in a measure to the traditional insincerity of Ohio delegations
toward Ohio candidates. On the second ballot four of the Ohio dele-
gates broke from Wade and went over to Colfax. Wade's strength
on the fourth ballot came from Pennsylvania. If Ohio had not been
divided, the ticket would have been Grant and Wade, instead of Grant
and Colfax.

The popularity of Schuyler Colfax at the time of his nomination
was very great. He had been three times chosen Speaker of the
House of representatives a record only surpassed by that of Henry
Clay. He had presided with dignity and commanding skill during
the most passionate period in the history of Congress. His parlia-
mentary ability had been demonstrated by the success that attended
the labors of two Congresses in passing all party measures over the
Presidential veto. He was a thorough party man, tried and approved,
and his nomination meant that the party had not repeated the mis-
take of 18(54. No similar nomination ever before created so much
enthusiasm. When he left the Speaker's room that day the employees
of the Capitol gathered round him. Passing through the Capitol
grounds and along Pennsylvania avenue he was greeted everywhere
by a multitude rejoicing in his nomination. In the Convention, and
afterward in the campaign, he had the assistance of the corps of
Washington correspondents, and when he was elected he was, after
General Grant, the most popular man in the United States.

The formal tender of the nominations to Grant and Colfax was
made at General Grant's house in Washington, on the 29th of May.
The addresses to the two candidates, who were standing side by side,
were made by General Hawley, attended by the committee appointed
by the Convention. A brilliant company gathered to hear the
speeches and witness the ceremony. General Hawley's addresses
were both eloquent. Grant's response accepting the nomination was
very brief, but, like all his utterances, fitting and direct. Colfax
made a longer reply, but it, too, was very brief and pointed. " Since
the General of our armies, with his heroic followers, crushed the re-
bellion," Mr. Colfax said, speaking of the party, " the keynote of its
policy, that loyalty should govern what loyalty has preserved, has
been worthy of its honored record in the war." Then the campaign
began without waiting for the action of the discredited Democracy.
Grant's letter of acceptance contained the historic phrase that was
heard everywhere throughout the canvass " Let us have peace! "

Great interest was felt throughout the country in the action of the
Democratic National Convention, which had been called to meet in
New York on the Fourth of July. Historically this interest is as great



THE GRANT AND COLFAX CAMPAIGN. 251

now as it was then politically. The party that had come out of the
war disgraced by the pusillanimous platform of 1864 was determined
to begin a new life regardless of its past record. When the Conven-
tion met in Tammany Hall a meeting-place that was in itself
typical of the influences that were to control its action the charac-
ter of the platform and the composition of the ticket were still prob-
lematical. There were three names in which the interest centered
for the place at the head of the ticket George H. Pendleton, of
Ohio; Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, and Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio.
Each of these men represented a distinct policy. Pendleton was the
logical candidate, and the financial plank of the platform was made
to fit the new Democratic heresy of which he was the champion. This
was the famous " Ohio idea." The proposition was to pay the national
debt in the depreciated paper currency that a long war had entailed
upon the country. If not the author of this " idea," Mr. Pendleton was
its most zealous advocate, and his friends believed he could be nomi-
nated on this issue. It took form in the platform in the declaration
in favor of " One currency for the Government and the people, the
laborer and the officeholder, the pensioner and the soldier, the pro-
ducer and the bondholder." To the Democratic cry of " The same
currency for the bondholder and the plowholder," the Republicans
had an effective answer, " The best currency for both plowholder and
bondholder." Pendleton succeeded in imposing his financial ideas
upon his party, but missed the prize that he expected as a candidate
to fit the platform.

Johnson had wrecked his administration for a Democratic nomi-
nation, and was even more unfortunate than Pendleton. The Demo-
cratic minority in Congress encouraged and supported him in his
long conflict with the majority, and then showed him that although
Democrats loved the treason, they despised the traitor. He received
65 votes on the first ballot in the Convention, but was then aban-
doned, except by a handful of supporters for a few ballots. He made
a few friends in the South, but his sacrifices were in vain, and he went
out of the Convention without a party, and with his administration
more completely discredited than was Tyler's twenty-four, and Fill-
more's sixteen years before.

The real interest of the Convention turned on the candidature of
Chief Justice Chase. Although he only received one-half of a vote in
any of the twenty-one ballots, his possible nomination was the pivot
on which all the intrigues in the metropolis turned. The men by
whom his candidature was promoted were the astute leaders of the
New York Regency, and a few of the extreme Democrats of the war
period, notably Alexander Long and Clement L. Vallandigham. There



252 HISTORY OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.

was nothing remarkable in the fact that Chase was found in such
peculiar company. He never had been a thorough Republican. He
was a Democrat by instinct, and if there had been no slavery question
he never would have been in opposition to the Democratic party.
Five years before he had sought to bring about a reorganization of
the Democracy to promote his nomination as a candidate against
Mr. Lincoln in 1864. He did not despair of effecting such a reorganiza-
tion in 1868. But on one point he was inflexible insistence upon
universal suffrage as distinctive Democratic doctrine. So strong was
his desire to become President of the United States that it is probable
he would have accepted the nomination of the New York Convention,
even without this declaration, if his friends had been able to secure
it for him. The purpose was to place him before the people without
regard to his views on this question, and without any attempt to
harmonize his principles with the principles of the platform. In the
long series of ballotings that finally resulted in the nomination of
Horatio Seymour this purpose was never lost sight of.

The determination to beat Pendleton was as strong in the Demo-
cratic Convention in New York in 1868 as the successful effort to
defeat Seward in the Republican Convention in Chicago in 1860. The
expedients by which this was finally effected were very adroit. The
first diversion was the use of the name of Thomas A. Hendricks, of
Indiana. This naturally caused a break in the Indiana delegation,
and served to draw off a part of Pendleton's support. New York
dropped Sanford E. Church, who had been used to mask the purpose
of the New York politicians, and voted for Hendricks with an osten-
tatious air of satisfaction. Pendleton had reached his highest vote
on the eighth ballot, and was steadily declining. Meanwhile General
W. S. Hancock had been steadily gaining strength, and he soon passed
Hendricks and obtained the lead. Between the eighteenth and the
twenty-first ballots the contest seemed to be between Hancock and
Hendricks, with Hendricks constantly encroaching on Hancock's
lead, until there was a difference of only 31 votes betw r een them. The
following table will show the general course of the balloting:

1. 8. 16. 18. 19. 21.

George H. Pendleton, of Ohio 105 1561 1071 561

Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee 65 6 51 10

WinfieldS. Hancock, of Pennsylvania 331 28 1131144113511351

Sanford E. Church, of New York 33

Asa Packer, of Pennsylvania 26 26 22

Joel Parker, of New Jersey 13 7 7 31

James E. English, of Connecticut ..... 16 6 6 19



THE GRANT AND COLFAX CAMPAIGN. 253

James R. Doolittle, of Wisconsin ____ 13 12 12 12 12 12

Thomas A. Hendricks, of Indiana ____ 2| 75 70i 87 107i 132

Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio ........... - i i

All others... ..................... 9 3^ 33



The twenty-second ballot was ordered, but it had progressed
through only a few States when some votes were cast for Horatio
Seymour, the President of the Convention. Mr. Seymour promptly
interposed, and declined to be a candidate. The voting went on with-
out decisive result, and it was not intended that there should be a de-
cisive result until the following day, when it was arranged that Mr.
Seymour should leave the chair and, taking the floor, urge the nomi-
nation of Chief Justice Chase. This plot was defeated by the action
of the Ohio delegation. The delegation had withdrawn Pendleton's
name in the morning, and w r as thoroughly angered by the course of
events. During the progress of the tw r enty-second ballot the dele-
gates were in consultation, but re-entered the Convention in time for
the call of the State, and created a sensation by casting the vote of
Ohio for Horatio Seymour. Mr. Seymour protested, but New York
sustained the action of Ohio, and there was a stampede for Seymour.
The Convention became a bedlam, and while the uproar lasted Mr.
Seymour was overborne and the nomination was made.

With Mr. Seymour nominated the Convention determined to give
him a running mate who would emphasize the most extreme and
revolutionary propositions of the platform. The candidate selected
was General Frank P. Blair, Jr. The Blair family had not only re-
turned to the Democratic party to which it naturally belonged, but
Frank Blair, the younger, had written an extraordinary letter in
which he said: " There is but one way to restore the Government and
the Constitution, and that is for the President to declare these acts
null and void, compel the army to undo its usurpations at the South,
dispossess the carpet-bag State governments, allow the white people
to reorganize their own governments, and elect Senators and Repre-
sentatives." This extreme doctrine was echoed in the declaration of
the platform, " that we regard the Reconstruction Acts of Congress
as usurpations, unconstitutional, revolutionary, and void." Thus the
candidates fitted the platform, and the canvass turned upon the two
issues upon which the Democratic party chose to fight the battle
the payment of the national debt in depreciated paper currency and
the overthrow of Reconstruction.

The campaign was marked by great earnestness, but it possessed
fewer of the uniformed marching clubs than was usual before the war.
Four years of fighting had given the young men a surfeit of parading,



254 HISTORY OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.

and torchlight processions were no longer as popular as they once
were. There was no lack of enthusiasm, however, and there never
was a more earnest or confident canvass. The platforms, the candi-
dates, and the reckless utterances of Southern men like Wade Hamp-
ton and Robert Toombs, put the Democrats on the defensive from the
outset. Hampton took to himself great credit for the declaration that
the Reconstruction Acts were usurpations, unconstitutional, revolu-
tionary, and void. Toombs, speaking at Atlanta, declared that " these
so-called governments and legislatures which have been established
in our midst shall at once be made to vacate. The Convention at New
York appointed Frank Blair specially to oust them." Such avowals
could not fail to injure Blair, and, through Blair, the ticket of which
he was a part. So pronounced was his unpopularity, in consequence,
that before the canvass ended the New York World turned against
him, and frantically demanded that he should be withdrawn from the
ticket. This was after the October elections, in a year when the Oc-
tober States had gone Republican. Vigorous efforts were made by



Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 27 of 61)