George Oberkirsh Seilhamer.

History of the Republican party (Volume 1) online

. (page 37 of 61)
Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 37 of 61)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the Centennial year, it recognized the pacification of the South and
the protection of all its citizens as a sacred duty; the enforcement of
the Constitutional Amendments was enjoined, and the obligation of
removing any just cause of discontent was coupled with that of se-
curing to every American citizen complete liberty and exact equality
in the exercise of all civil, political, and public rights; the Public
Credit Act, the measure first signed by President Grant, was referred
to with the declaration that its " pledge must be fulfilled by a con-
tinuous and steady progress to specie payments." The platform also
embraced a distinct declaration for a radical reform of the civil
service, making a broader and more precise enunciation than was con-
tained in the Liberal platform of 1872, though the assigned reason


for that revolt, as given by its champions, was the alleged hostility of
the Republican party to improvement in the Government service. The
Protective policy was upheld; the extirpation of polygamy was de-
manded, and an investigation into the Chinese question, then begin-
ning to distract California, was recommended. In the Convention
efforts were made to strike out the eleventh resolution relating to the
Chinese, and to substitute for the fourth resolution a more urgent
plank in favor of resumption; but both propositions failed, the former
by 532 nays to 215 yeas, and the latter without a count.

The candidates were all formally placed in nomination before the
balloting began. Mr. Thompson, of Indiana, presented Senator Mor-
ton, and Mr. Bristow was put in nomination by Judge Harlan, of Ken-
tucky. Mr. Bristow's nomination was indorsed in glowing speeches by
two of the literary delegates George William Curtis, of New York,
and Richard Henry Dana, Jr., of Massachusetts. Mr. Blaine was nom-
inated by Col. Robert G. Ingersoll, of Illinois, in a speech that at once
became famous, and is still quoted as a brilliant example of Con-
vention oratory. Elaine's nomination was seconded by William P.
Frye, of Maine, and the Rev. Mr. Turner, a well-known colored
preacher, of Georgia. Senator Conkling was put in nomination by
Gen. Stewart L. Woodford, of New York; Governor Hayes by Ex-
Governor Noyes, of Ohio; Governor Hartranft by Linn Bartholomew,
of Pennsylvania, and Marshall Jewell by Stephen W. Kellogg, of Con-
necticut. When the speech-making was over the ballots followed
each other in quick succession, with the following results:

1st. 2d. 3d. 4th. 5th. 6th. 7th.

Blaine 285 296 293 292 286 308 351

Morton 125 120 113 108 95 85

Bristow 113 114 121 126 114 111 21

Conkling 99 93 90 84 82 81

Hayes 61 64 67 68 104 113 384

Hartranft 58 63 68 71 69 50

Jewell 11

Scattering ; 3 4 3 5 5 5

Whole number 754 754 755 754 755 755 756

Necessary 378 378 378 378 378 378 379

On the first ballot Mr. Blaine received a vote exceeding that of
four of his competitors, the two highest and the two lowest; on the
second ballot, when the unit rule by which some of the delegates
were bound was abrogated by the convention, he had a strength that



fell only two votes short of that of his two highest opponents and his
successful competitor. On the sixth ballot he was only TO votes short
of a majority in a total of 755, and on the final ballot it required the
combination of the entire strength of the opposition, with the excep-
tion of a small contingent that remained true to Bristow, to defeat
him. Elaine and Bristow on the first ballot were the only candidates
who had more than a local strength, the support of the former being
divided among twenty-eight States and seven Territories, and of the
latter among nineteen States and one Territory. Mr. Morton's support
was wholly from the South, except the 30 votes from his own State,

Indiana. Seventy of Mr.
Conkling's 99 votes came
from New York. Hayes
had the 44 votes of Ohio
and IT from other States.
The vote for Hartranft
was that of the Pennsyl-
vania delegation. The
subsequent concen-
tration upon Hayes was
only expressive of the
bitterness of feeling in
opposition to Blaine. It
was a grave political
blunder in itself, apart
from its consequences,
which could not be fore-
seen. Governor Hayes
had no qualities that
o u g h t to have com-
mended him to the Con-
vention as a more desira-
ble candidate than Mr.

Blaine. He occupied no commanding position before the country. In
the Civil War his services were praiseworthy, but not more distin-
guished than those of hundreds of others who were not thought of for
the Presidency. In Congress he had not taken rank as a leader, either
on the floor, or in the work of the committee room. Whatever pres-
tige he possessed was due to the fact that he had beaten the two lead-
ing Democrats of Ohio for the Governorship Allen G. Thurman in
1867 and George H. Pendleton in 1869. He was elected Governor of
Ohio for the third term in 18T5, and thus enjoyed the advantage of
being in office at the time the Republican National Convention was




held in the leading city of his State. If the Convention had been
held in Philadelphia it is not improbable that Governor Hartranft
would have received the nomination. It was the absence of personal
and political antagonisms in a word, of positive strength that
made him acceptable as a candidate in a Convention distracted by
personal and political feuds. The nomination created no enthusiasm,
but, after the disappointment over Mr. Elaine's defeat had passed
away, the whole party labored for the election of Governor Hayes,
forgetful of the conditions that had rendered his nomination pos-

Five names were presented for the Vice-Presidency those of Will-
iam A. Wheeler and Stewart L. Woodford, of New York; Marshall
Jewell and Joseph R. Hawley, of Connecticut; and Frederick T.
Frelinghuysen, of New Jersey but the
balloting showed such a great preponder-
ance in favor of Mr. Wheeler that all the
other candidates were withdrawn, and he
was nominated by acclamation. In Con-
gress Mr. W T heeler's most important serv-
ice was as Chairman of the Committee
on the Pacific Railroad; but he earned
most prominence before the country
through what was know r n as the " Wheel-
er Compromise." It grew out of the dis-
turbed condition of Louisiana in 1874-5.
There existed in that State an organiza-
tion, affiliated with the Ku-Klux, known
as the White League. Many negroes were
killed by members of the League for the
crime of being Republicans. In many

parishes white Republicans were either ostracized or driven away,
if they were not murdered. Honest elections were rendered impos-
sible, and since 1872 the right to administer the State govern-
ment had been in dispute. There were, in fact, two State govern-
ments from 1872 to 1875, Governor Kellogg, Republican, adminis-
tering one, and Governor McEnery, Democrat, the other. The two
Houses of Congress recognized the Kellogg government in March,
1875, and the contentions in regard to the rights to seats in the Louisi-
ana House of Representatives were adjusted by an award of a Special
Committee of the National House of Representatives in April. As
Mr. Wheeler was a member of this Committee, and was active in ef-
fecting the adjustment, the settlement was popularly called the
" Wheeler Compromise." This compromise was accepted and ob-



served until the elections of 1876 gave occasion for new frauds, and
renewed contentions.

With a weak ticket, headed by a man of respectable but negative
character, the Republicans found themselves confronted by the
ablest Democratic leader of his epoch. This was Samuel J. Til-
den. The story of his rapid rise to supremacy in the Democratic
party is one of the romances of American politics. A close student
of political affairs, he had never been closely identified with party
management. Thirty years before he had served in the New York
Legislature, and as a member of the Constitutional Convention of
1846. A disciple of Van Buren, he had taken part with the Barn-
burners in the Free Soil movement of 1848, but was not long an active
opponent of slavery extension. During the next twenty years he
held aloof from politics almost altogether, devoting himself to his
profession as a lawyer, and amassing a large fortune as an acute
man of business. The only public position that he held during the
stirring periods of the war and reconstruction w r as that of a member
of the New York Constitutional Convention of 1867. But he re-
mained a Democrat, and succeeded Dean Richmond as Chairman of
the Democratic State Committee, in which he was treated as a re-
spectable nonentity by the New York Democracy. No one thought
of Tilden as a Presidential possibility when Horatio Seymour was
nominated in 1868, or Horace Greeley indorsed by the Baltimore
Convention in 1872. The echoes of Mr. Greeley's disastrous cam-
paign had scarcely died away when Mr. Tilden took the first steps
that were to lead to his nomination in 1876. His opportunity came in
the downfall of the " Tweed Ring," in the exposure of which he took
an active and vigorous part. Although the work of bringing the
members of the powerful combination of which Tweed was the chief
to punishment began in 1871, it was not until 1873 that the convic-
tion of some of the conspirators was accomplished. In the interval
Mr. Tilden had not only labored in the courts and as a member of the
Assembly for the extirpation of this shameless conspiracy in all the
ramifications, but he had grasped the party leadership in the City
and State of New York, and boldly marked out a career for himself
in his sixtieth year that other men had hopefully and vainly cher-
ished during the long period that he seemed indifferent to the prize.
After the complete overthrow of the " Tweed Ring," the next step
toward the Presidency the Governorship was easy. Mr. Tilden
became the Democratic candidate for Governor of New York in 1874,
and was lifted from that stepping-stone to a Presidential nomination
on the great tidal wave of that year. As Governor of New York, he
waged a vigorous war upon the corrupt " Canal Ring," that was to


the State what the shameful u Tweed King " had been to the City of
New York. His success made his ascendancy over the Democratic
party in his own State supreme, and his supremacy in New York en-
abled him to create a national force in his interest as potent as it was
compact as inspiring as it was fondly believed it would prove irre-

Mr. Tildeu's claim to distinction as a Presidential aspirant rests
not so much upon the fact that he created a party in his own behalf
as that he re-created the Democracy. The Democratic party, as he
found it in 1874, was a poor, tattered, beshredded fragment of the
great inheritance that had come down to a new generation from
Jefferson and Jackson. It was discredited by an odious war record.
On the great financial questions that were to be the real issues of
the future it had trimmed its sails to every wind of doctrine. No
party that ever existed clung so tenaciously to galvanized tradi-
tions, or discarded them so lightly at the suggestion of temporary
expediency. But it was still a power for voicing the discontent of
the people, if it could find a mind to direct and a hand to guide it.
Mr. Tildeu saw his opportunity, and he embraced it with a skill un-
matched in the annals of American politics, except by the organizing
ability of Jefferson, and the deft manipulation of Van Buren. These
were his political masters, and he possessed many of the gifts of
both, without the subtler qualities of either. His plan was to vitalize
the Democracy by promoting Republican discontent. The demand
for administrative reform, which was expressive of this discontent,
he appropriated to his own use and that of the Democracy as com-
pletely as if he had invented it. His fitness for the task was osten-
tatiously exhibited by the success of his methods in the government
of the Empire State. All this was backed by a political organization
more perfect than had been known since the early years of the De-
mocracy. In the brief period of two years, Mr. Tilden gained the un-
disputed control of the Democratic party, and he entered the Na-
tional Convention at St. Louis, in 1876, with a strength that no other
candidate could hope successfully to dispute. An attempt was made
to divert a part of his support to other candidates, including Gov-
ernor Hendricks and General Hancock, but it failed disastrously, Mr.
Tilden lacking only a few votes of the necessary two-thirds on the
first ballot. Before the second ballot ended the vote was declared
to be unanimous, and Mr. Hendricks was then nominated for Vice-
President without opposition further than a declaration of the In-
diana delegation that it was not informed of his willingness to accept
the second place on the ticket.

The Democratic National Convention of 1876 met at St. Louis on


June 28. Henry Watterson, of Kentucky, was made temporary, and
Gen. John A. McClernand, of Illinois, permanent President of the
Convention. Among the delegates were many of the conspicuous
Democrats of the country, including Judge Abbott, of Massachusetts;
Francis Kernan and William Dorsheimer, of New York; Leon Abbett,
of New Jersey; William A. Wallace and Samuel J. Randall, of Penn-
sylvania; Gen. Thomas Ewing, of Ohio; Daniel W. Voorhees and
Governor Williams, of Indiana; James R. Doolittle and William F.
Vilas, of Wisconsin, and Robert M. McLane, of Maryland. The in-
terests of Mr. Tilden in the Convention were ostensibly in charge of
Senator Kernan, but in reality under the direction of Mr. Dors-
heimer, who had left the Republican party with the Liberal Repub-
lican movement four years before, and had become active in Demo-
cratic politics as Tilden's lieutenant. Mr. Dorsheimer was a type of
the men Mr. Tilden brought into active leadership in the Demo-
cratic politics of New York. They were mostly young politicians,
who implicity obeyed the orders of their great chief, and, with Gov-
ernor Tilden, constituted a new Albany Regency. Few of the con-
spicuous Democrats of previous years w r ere in sympathy with the new
" machine," and some of them were in open and earnest opposition.

These enmities led to a futile attempt to organize a movement at
St. Louis to defeat Tilden. It was led by John Kelly, who had
succeeded in reconstructing Tammany, and was its acknowledged
chief. Mr. Kelly's hostility was based on the assumption that if
nominated, Mr. Tilden could not carry his own State, and that con-
sequently he would be defeated. In accord with Mr. Kelly were
Augustus Schell, the Chairman of the Democratic National Com-
mittee; Erastus Corning, the veteran leader of the New York State
Democracy; and Chief Justice Church, of the New York Court of Ap-
peals. It is a proof of the thoroughness and virility of Mr. Tilden's
reorganization of the Democracy that it was not only able to resist
such powerful influences, but gained strength from a movement that
was so evidently the result of jealousy and enmity.

The Platform adopted at St. Louis was the longest and most di-
dactic declaration of principles that had ever emanated from a Na-
tional Convention. It was credited to the pen of Manton Marble, the
editor of the New York World, but it was prepared under the eye and
with the direction of Mr. Tilden himself. It was at once an indict-
ment of the Republican party and an appeal to the people, but with
Reform as its keynote, it was vague and indefinite in its enunciation
of methods. It was resonant, but not convincing. It charged the
Republican party with making no advances toward, or preparation
. for, resumption, and then denounced the resumption clause of the act


of 1875, and demanded its repeal. It assailed the existing tariff as
" a masterpiece of injustice, inequality, and false pretense/' and de-
manded that " all custom house taxation shall be only for revenue."
It assailed the Republican party for the alleged failure " to make
good the promise of the legal tender notes," but indicated no Demo-
cratic plan by which to obtain a sound currency. It was a platform
that committed the Democracy to no principles of finance or govern-
ment, and gave no promise of Democratic policy. With this platform
of phrases and platitudes, and with one candidate appealing to the
hard-money sentiment in the North and East, and the other to the
soft-money vagaries of the South and West, it aimed to hold together
the Democrats of the Jackson School and the " New Lights," who for
eight years had been captivated by the " Ohio Idea."

The canvass was devoid of the incidents that in previous years had
made Presidential campaigns stirring political episodes. There were
no log cabin and hard cider barbecues, as in 1840; no Wide Awake
processions, *as in I860. There were no great popular gatherings ad-
dressed by the Democratic candidate, as had been the devices of Mr.
Douglas in 1860, Mr. Seymour in 1868, and Mr. Greeley in 1872. Gov-
ernor Hayes left his campaign in the hands of the party leaders, and
it was ably and skillfully directed by Zachariah Chandler, of Mich-
igan, the Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Mr. Til-
den took a more active personal control of his canvass, directing his
efforts toward securing the electoral vote of a " solid South," together
with the votes of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Indiana, and
possibly Oregon. The October States, Ohio and Indiana, did not
clearly foreshadow the result in November, the former going Repub-
lican by 9,000, and the latter Democratic by 5,000. The trend, how-
ever, was favorable to Mr. Tilden. As Ohio was not in the list of
States necessary to his success, its loss was not vital, while the in-
dications were that Mr. Hendricks would be able to carry his own
State for the ticket of which he was a part by a majority as large, if
not larger, than that by which Gen. Benjamin Harrison had been
beaten for Governor. This proved to be no miscalculation, and Til-
den was successful in all the other States on his list except Oregon,
which had been conceded to be in doubt. According to the early re-
ports on the night after the election, Mr. Tilden's expectations in re-
gard to a " Solid South " had also been realized. The Democrats
went to their beds firmly convinced that his election was assured,
and the Republicans feared that the South, for the first time since
1856, had elected a President of the United States. There was one
ray of hope, however, in a message that was flashed over the wires at
an early hour on the morning after the election. It came from the



Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and was in these
words: " Rutherford B. Hayes has received one hundred and eighty-
five electoral votes, and is elected."

The information on which this message was based will be told in
detail in the following chapter, giving the history of the most extraor-
dinary contest that ever took place in the settlement of the choice of
an American President. In all thirty-eight States voted for Presi-
dent and Vice-President, November 7, 1876. The whole number of
electoral votes was 369. The solid South would give Mr. Tilden 138
votes, and these, with the 65 votes of Connecticut, New Jersey, and
Indiana, would make a total of 203. Mr. Chandler's information led
him to believe that South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana had gone

Republican, and it was upon this
claim that the disputed election

An incident of the campaign was
the candidature of Peter Cooper, of
New York, and Samuel F. Gary, of
Ohio, as the nominees of the Green-
back, or Independent National party.
Mr. Cooper was a millionaire man-
ufacturer of New York, whose
monument is and always will be, the
great public benefaction created by
him in New York City the Cooper
Union. He was a man of irreproach-
able character, but inclined to politi-
cal crotchets, and not entirely free
from the vanity of a self-made man

long subjected to adulation because of his great wealth and prac-
tical benevolence. Mr. Gary was a quixotic politician, who was
placed on the ticket as Mr. Cooper's running mate after Newton
Booth, of California, had declined to be a candidate. The ticket
was not looked upon as a serious element in the canvass, but the
candidates received a small vote in twenty-four of the thirty-eight
States. In only one State, Indiana, was it large enough to in-
fluence the result. The popular vote of Indiana was: For Tilden,
213,526; for Hayes, 208,011, and for Cooper, 17,233. It will thus be
seen that Mr. Cooper's candidature, lightly as it has been regarded,
may have been the cause of the failure of the Republicans to obtain
the 15 electoral votes of Indiana, which would have rendered only
the vote of South Carolina necessary to the election of Hayes and
Wheeler. The aggregate " Greenback " vote was 81,737.




The Disputed States Visiting Statesmen Opinions on the Mode of
Counting the Electoral Vote Committees Appointed by the
House and Senate Electoral Commission Bill Processes that
Led to an Agreement Plans of the House Committee Justice
Davis Obstacles in the Way of the Agreement The Senate
Plan A Commission not a Tribunal All Plans Hinge on the
Question of Justice Davis's Bias The Plan Agreed Upon The
Commission Constituted and Organized- The Count Begun
The Florida Case Heard The Cases of Louisiana, Oregon, and
South Carolina The Cipher Dispatches and Attempts at

HE dispute over the returns that were to make Hayes or Til-
den President of the United States lasted from November
8, 1876, when Chairman Chandler's claim was announced,
until March 2, 1877, when the title to the Presidency was
finally awarded to Rutherford B. Hayes. The interval was one of
great excitement and peril. Both Republicans and Democrats were
persistent in claiming a victory in the three disputed States. Every
Republican knew that in these three States a Republican majority,
ui)oii an honest vote and legal count, was assured. In South Caro-
lina and Louisiana the colored voters, who were unanimously Repub-
lican, greatly outnumbered the whites. In Florida, where the two
i-Mces were nearly equal in number, there w r as a sufficient population
of white Republicans to make a Republican majority a certainty.
The importance of a fair count was manifest. A proposition was
made almost immediately, and at once acted upon, that each party
should send a number of prominent men to the States in which the
elections were disputed to see that the count was fairly and honestly
made. Some of these were appointed by President Grant, and the
others by the Democratic National Committee. Both sets were pop-
ularly known as " the visiting statesmen," but neither set accom-
plished anything practical, or contributed in any marked degree to-
ward allaying the prevailing excitement. President Grant, however,
took effective measures for preventing an outbreak in the two States
where the greatest danger existed. On November 10, only three
days after the Presidential election, he sent to General Sherman,


commanding the Army, the following memorable dispatch: " In-
struct General Augur in Louisiana, and General Ruger in Florida, to
be vigilant with the force at their command to preserve peace and
good order, and to see that the proper and legal boards of canvassers
are unmolested in the performance of their duties. Should there be
any grounds for suspicion of a fraudulent count on either side it
should be reported and denounced at once. No man worthy of the
office of President should be willing to hold it if counted in or placed
there by fraud. Either party can afford to be disappointed in the
result. The country can not afford to have the result tainted by the
suspicion of illegal or false returns."

When the time came for the meeting of the Electoral Colleges in the
three States in which the elections were in dispute, on December 6,
the candidates for election on both the Presidential tickets met, and
each body proceeded to act as if it had been legally chosen. In South
Carolina the Board of State Canvassers certified to the election of
the Hayes electors on the face of the returns, and the Republican

Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 37 of 61)