George Oberkirsh Seilhamer.

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for the third time. Grant had only lately returned from his mem-


orable tour around the world. The acerbities of his last administra-
tion had passed out of the minds of the people, and the country was
proud of the honors that had been bestowed upon him in every land
that he had visited. It was while the enthusiasm thus aroused was
at its height that the plans were laid for promoting Grant's candida-
ture in order to defeat Blaine. Senator Conkling in New York, Sen-
ator Cameron in Pennsylvania, and Senator Logan in Illinois, under-
took to control their State Conventions to this end. In these three
States the delegations were instructed to vote as a unit for General
Grant, but not without strong opposition in all of them. In New York
the majority was only 38, in a total vote of 397, and in Pennsylvania it
was 20. Similar action was taken in Illinois by a small majority, nine
delegates already chosen in the Congress districts being set aside by
the State Convention. This course naturally aroused opposition, not
only in the States immediately concerned, but all over the country.
The leading Republican newspapers took strong ground against the
action dictated by the three powerful leaders Conkling, Cameron,
and Logan. In New York, the New York Tribune, the Albany
Journal, and the Utica Herald; in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia
Press, and in Illinois the Chicago Tribune, not only vigorously com-
bated the third term project, but denounced the methods of its pro-
moters. Some of the instructed delegates announced their intention
to disregard their instructions. Among these were William H. Rob-
ertson, of Westchester County, N. Y., and James McManes, of Phil-
adelphia. All this presaged a determined fight in the Convention
for the complete abrogation of the unit rule, and led to the pro-
longed contest that ended with the nomination of General Garfield.

The Convention was one of unusual distinction, even when com-
pared with the Republican National Conventions that had gone be-
fore it. Seven of the States sent United States Senators with their
delegations: New York, Roscoe Conkling; Pennsylvania, J. Donald
Cameron; Massachusetts, George P. Hoar; Illinois, Gen. John A. Lo-
gan; Kansas, Preston B. Plumb; Louisiana, William P. Kellogg, and
Mississippi, Blanche K. Bruce. General Garfield was already com-
missioned as a Senator from Ohio, and other delegates, who were soon
to enter the Senate, were: Eugene Hale and William P. Frye, of
Maine; William, J. Sewell, of New Jersey; Omer D. Conger, of Michi-
gan; Gen. Benjamin Harrison, of Indiana; Philetus Sawyer, of Wis-
consin, and Dwight M. Sabin, of Minnesota. Besides Senator Cam-
eron, there were four delegates who had been in General Grant's
Cabinet George S. Boutwell, of Massachusetts; J. A. J. Creswell, of
Maryland; Edwards Pierrepont, of New Y r ork, and George H. Will-
iams, of Oregon. Among the younger men in the party, who were


already prominent or were coming into prominence, were: William
E. Chandler, of New Hampshire; President Seelye and Henry Cabot
Lodge, of Massachusetts; Henry C. Robinson, of Connecticut; Chester
A. Arthur, of New York; William Walter Phelps, of New Jersey;
Gen. James A. Beaver and Col. Matthew IS. Quay, of Pennsylvania;
Emory A. Storrs, of Illinois; Governor Henderson and J. S. Clark-
son, of Iowa, and Governor Warmoth, of Louisiana. Thus it will be
seen the Convention was representative of the leading men of the
party during the rest of the century.

The meeting of the Convention was fixed for Wednesday, June 2,
but the battle began days before the vast assemblage gathered in
Exposition Hall. On Monday and Tuesday, the Chicago hotels were
seething masses of heated political disputants. The abrogation of
the unit rule was the one subject under discussion. The first strug-
gle was in the Republican National Committee. A secret meeting-
was called, at which Mr. Chandler, of New Hampshire, offered two
resolutions. The first was a mere formal approval of the call for the
Convention, and was adopted without opposition. The other was a
recognition of the right of each delegate in a Republican National
Convention " freely to cast, and to have counted, his individual vote
therein, according to his own sentiments, and, if he so decides,
against any unit rule or other instructions, passed by a State Con-
vention, which right was conceded without dissent, and was exer-
cised in the Conventions of 1860 and 1868, and was, after full de-
bate, affirmed by the Convention in 1876, and has thus become a
part of the law of Republican Conventions, and until reversed by a
convention itself, must remain a governing principle." Senator
Cameron, the Chairman of the National Committee, ruled this reso-
lution out of order. Because of this ruling there was a scheme to de-
prive Cameron of his power unless he promised not to enforce the
unit rule, but he declined to give the promise, and the majority of
the Committee was content with naming George F. Hoar, of Massa-
chusetts, for temporary Chairman of the Convention. Cameron's au-
tocratic course was hotly denounced at the headquarters of the State
delegations, in the corridors of the hotels, and in the streets. As is
apt to be the case with extreme measures, in retaliation twenty-two
members of the New York delegation signed a paper declaring their
purpose " to resist the nomination of Gen. U. S. Grant at all hazards,"
and avowing the conviction that in New York, at least, his nomina-
tion would insure defeat. A revolt in the Pennsylvania delegation
followed the next morning. In order to prevent further defections
the Grant men, through Gen. Chester A. Arthur, of New York, of-
fered a compromise, that was accepted. This agreement declared


that Senator Hoar should be accepted as temporary Chairman of the
Convention, and that no attempt should be made to enforce the unit
rule, or have a test vote in the Convention, until the committee on
credentials had reported, when the unit rule question should be de-
cided by the Convention in its own way.

The seating of the great Convention on the day of the opening was
in itself a spectacle. As the noon hour approached the spectators
began to gather, but when the clock struck twelve there were not a
thousand persons in the hall. An hour later a mass of ten thousand
living, breathing beings was crowded within the great building. The
interest centered in the delegations in turn, as they arrived and took
their places. The Alabama delegation was the first to file in as a
body. It was a motley exhibit of the wonderful revolution in Ameri-
can politics that had been accomplished since the birth of the lie-
publican party. Every shade of color was represented, from the pure
white to the unadulterated African. Arkansas followed with Dor-
sey, the last Republican Senator from that State, in the lead. Then
the delegations poured in in such a continuous stream that it was
impossible to single them out by States until they were seated. Prom
every State came men distinguished in the war for the Union and the
councils of the party. General Sewell, and Kilpatrick, the dashing
cavalry leader, were with the men from New Jersey. " Long John "
Wentworth towered above the Illinois delegation. The white locks
of Marshall Jewell gave a romantic touch to the plain, earnest Con-
necticut faces around him. General Beaver, on his crutch, swung
himself down the aisle, and into place at the head of the Pennsyl-
vania delegation. Near him were the refined face of Colonel Quay
and the rugged features of John Cessna, suggestive of his aggressive
personality. In the center of the delegation from Mississippi was the
olive-hued Bruce, and the tall, spare form of the venerable War Gov-
ernor, Dennison, was seen among the men from Ohio. By Dennison's
side was General Garfield, bright and alert, but without any pre-
monitions of what this vast assemblage meant for him. As the
champion of John Sherman many expectant eyes regarded him; but
two other figures, perhaps, attracted even more attention. They
were men who would be singled out for observation in any assem-
blage. One had the swarthy visage and long, straight hair of an In-
dian the other the splendid front and haughty mien of a modern
Charlemagne. These were Logan and Conkling, the spokesmen of the
hero, Grant. Five minutes before the clock struck one, Chairman
Cameron mounted the platform with elastic step. When he was on
his way to begin the contest that all men foresaw, he was asked,
" What of the battle? " and answered back, " We have three hundred


to start with, and shall stick until we win." Ten minutes later he
calmly opened the Convention with moderate words, and the great
fight was on.

" Let there be but one motive governing our actions," Senator Cam-
eron said, " and let that be a determination to place in nomination
the strongest possible candidates, men strong in themselves, strong
in the confidence and affections of the people, and men who will com-
mand the respect of the civilized world. Do not for a moment doubt
the strength of our institutions. They have been tried in blood, and
come from the contest better, stronger, and purer than the most ar-
dent patriot dared to hope. No combination of circumstances, no co-
terie of individuals, no personal ambition can ever prevail against the
intelligence and inborn love of liberty which are implanted in the
hearts of Americans. When the nominations are made, and the Con-
vention has completed its work, let there be but one sentiment ani-
mating all earnest, sincere, and unselfish Republicans, and let that
be, that each shall vie with the other in carrying our grand old party
through the coming contest to victory."

After this brief speech Senator Hoar was presented as the tempor-
ary Chairman of the Convention, and then, after another address,
that was a compact contrast of the two great political parties of
the country, the committees on Organization, Credentials, Rules and
Resolutions were appointed. With the appointment of the commit-
tees, the interest centered in their action, which it was known would
virtually decide the nomination for the Presidency. In all the com-
mittees the anti-Grant members were in the majority. Mr. Conger, of
Michigan, was made Chairman of the Committee on Credentials, by a
vote of 29 to 11 for Mr. Tracy, of New York. The Committee on Rules
made General Garfield chairman. In the Committee on Organiza-
tion, Senator Hoar had 31 votes for permanent President of the Con-
vention to 9 for Mr. Creswell, of Maryland. These votes, however,
were no lest of the strength of the opposition to General Grant in the
Convention, which would depend upon the report of the Committee
on Credentials and the abrogation of the unit rule. There were many
contests, and the report was not made until Friday, and not finally
disposed of until Saturday. In the meantime, the permanent organi-
zation being effected, the Parliamentary gladiators amused them-
selves by sparring for points. The first clash between the opposing
factions w r as over a proposition to request the Committee on Rules
to report, so that the Convention could proceed to business. The
effort failed on the morning of the second day, to give General
Sharpe, of New York, time to make a minority report, but it was re-
newed at the evening session. There was another clash and some


strong language was used. General Logan said that the committee
had agreed to defer their reports until after the action on contested
seats, and that the rules ought not to be adopted before they knew
who were entitled to seats in the body, especially as one of the rules
to be reported would limit each speaker to five minutes. Mr. Hen-
derson, of Iowa, denied that there was any such compact, and as-
serted, on the authority of a Kentucky member, that the minority
report was in fact ready to be reported in the morning. This the
Kentucky member characterized as a misstatement, whereupon an-
other committeeman shouted excitedly that the statement was accur-
ate and true. As a test of strength, General Sharpe moved to amend
the pending motion by ordering the Committee on Credentials to
make its report. On the vote on his amendment Sharpe asked that
the question be taken by yeas and nays, and the chair, in the ab-
sence of any adopted rules, so ordered. The calling of the roll began,
Alabama leading off with 19 yeas. When this vote was announced a
delegate from that State, rising, desired to vote in the negative. Mr.
Hoar replied: " If the gentleman wishes to vote ' No/ his vote will be
received and recorded." This was a distinct repudiation of the unit
rule, and, under the ruling of the chair, it was adhered to throughout
the ballot. The amendment was lost by 406 nays to 318 ayes, a re-
sult that clearly foreshadowed the failure of the third term move-
ment, unless General Grant should be able to draw sufficient support
from the other candidates to nominate him.

On the morning of the third day, Friday, Mr. Conkling created a di-
version for which there could be no adequate reason. He offered a
resolution declaring it to be the sense of the Convention " that every
member of it is bound in honor to support its nominee, whoever that
nominee may be, and that no man shall hold his seat here who is not
ready so to agree." When it was put upon its passage it received an
almost unanimous vote, only three delegates from West Virginia vot-
ing against it. As soon as it was passed its mischievous intent was
made apparent. Mr. Conkling moved that the delegates " who have
voted that they will not abide the action of the Convention do not de-
serve to have seats, and have forfeited their votes in the Convention."
A. W. Campbell, editor of the Wheeling Intelligencer, the most promi-
nent of the three West Virginia independents, vigorously defended
their action, but the most important speech in the debate that en-
sued was that of General Garfield. He expressed the fear that the Con-
vention was about to commit a grave error. " Every delegate save
three," he said, " had voted for a resolution, and the three had risen
in their places and stated that they intended to support the nominee of
the Convention. Was every delegate to have his Kepublicanism in-


quired into before he was allowed to vote? Delegates were respon-
sible for their votes, not to the Convention, but to their constituents.
He himself would never, in any convention, vote against his judg-
ment. If this Convention expelled these men, it would have to purge
itself at the end of every vote, and inquire how many delegates who
had voted ' No ' should go out. He trusted that the gentleman from
New York would withdraw his resolution and let the Convention pro-
ceed with its business." Mr. Conkling inquired of the chair whether
the three gentlemen from West Virginia said that they would vote
for the nominee of the Convention. The chair said that it was not his
province to answer the question. Conkling then said that he would
not press his resolution, if his question was answered in the affirma-
tive, and finally withdrew it. General Garfield's temperate speech
was the first important step in the Convention toward his nomina-

After the breeze of Friday morning had blown over, the reports
from the Committee on Rules were submitted, with the understanding
that they were not to be acted upon until after the report of the Com-
mittee on Credentials. This Committee had examined the cases of
fifty contesting delegates, and finally made two reports, which oc-
cupied the time of the Convention for the rest of the day, Friday, and
were not finally disposed of until Saturday morning. In the Louis-
iana contest the Committee recommended the admission of the War-
moth delegation; in Alabama the admission of Rapier, Smith, and
Warner; in Illinois the admission of the contestants for the seats of
the sitting members from nine Congress Districts. They reported
against the contestant in the Second Illinois District, and did not
sustain the objections to the delegates-at-large from that State. They
reported in favor of the sitting members from the Ninth and Nine-
teenth Districts of Pennsylvania, and the Third District of West Vir-
ginia, and in favor of the contestants from the Second and the Third
Districts of Kansas. They recommended that the delegates from
Utah should keep their seats. The committee suggested that the
final decision of many of these contests depended upon the adop-
tion by the Convention of the principle of District representation.

Mr. Clayton, of Arkansas, presented the minority report. The rec-
ommendation of the majority, if adopted, would, the minority consid-
ered, reverse the long-established usage of the party in many States.
They urged that there was a vacancy in the district claimed by Ra-
pier, and that the sitting members were entitled to the seats which
the majority report awarded to Smith and Warner. They reported
that there seemed to have been no District conventions in Alabama,
at which the contestants had been chosen. Their authority there


could rest only on the action of the State Convention. The minority
claimed that if the principle of District representation was a sound
one more than half of the delegates sitting in the Convention were
there without right. In the case of Illinois, they made an elaborate
statement of facts, and denied the charge that the State Convention
had entered into a gigantic conspiracy to defraud the electors. The
report took the ground that the local quarrels, as in Cook County,
should be left to the State Convention, and not transferred to the
National Convention. It ended with the recommendation that the
sitting delegates should be allowed to keep their seats.

After the corrected list of delegates had been presented, Mr. Cessna,
of Pennsylvania, moved to adopt all of the report on which the com-
mittee had agreed, and then proceed to the separate consideration
of the disputed issues involving the contests in Alabama, Illinois,
West Virginia, and Utah. Mr. Conkling called for the considera-
tion of the questions which fell within the list of undisputed cases.
Mr. Conger said that this list embraced the cases of Louisiana, the
Second District of Illinois, the Illinois delegates-at-large, the Second
and the Fourth Districts of Kansas, and the Ninth and the Nineteenth
Districts of Pennsylvania. General Logan inquired how it happened
that there was any report about the four delegates-at-large from Il-
linois. Mr. Conger replied that petitions against the rights of the four
delegates-at-large had been presented to the Convention and referred
to the committee, and that it was therefore necessary for the com-
mittee to notice the subject. A Kansas delegate objected to includ-
ing his State in the list of undisputed questions, and Mr. Cessna
amended his motion by allowing separate action on the Kansas case.
General Sharpe moved to amend Cessna's original motion by striking
from the majority report so much of it as related to the Illinois
delegates-at-large. Mr. Conger, referring to Logan, said that he made
no apology to the gentleman, or to the State of Illinois, or to this
great body of people, for the moral courage of this committee, which
enabled it to say to the world that the gentleman was entitled to his
seat. Cessna's amendment was then adopted without dissent. The
question was then on Sharpe's amendment. Mr. Haywood, of Cal-
ifornia, pointed out that if it should prevail the seats of the Illinois
delegates would be contested, while the committee proposed to put
their title beyond question or dispute in history. It was modified so
as to strike from the majority report as much of it as implied that
there was any contest regarding the Illinois delegation-at-large, and
adopted. Cessna's original motion was then adopted. In the settle-
ment of the disputed claims to representation the first case in order
was Alabama, and after full debate a motion to substitute the re-


port of the minority for that of the majority was defeated, the ayes
being 306, the nays 449. The Convention thus reaffirmed the cardinal
doctrine of District representation. The case of Illinois, which had
excited more interest than all others, next came up. The discussion
was prolonged and animated, and the result was not reached until
nearly two o'clock in the morning. Nine districts were at stake, but
the vote was taken on each separately, and the delegates chosen in the
districts were admitted by a vote of 387 to 353. In the cases of West
Virginia and Kansas there was some dispute as to the facts, but they
were decided upon the same principle.

The abrogation of the unit rule was complete in the action of the
Convention on every disputed seat, and it only needed the adoption
of the report of the Committee on Rules to settle the question of Dis-
trict representation as the future policy of the party. There were
only verbal changes in the rules of 1876, except in one instance.
This related to cases where the vote of a State is divided. The old
rule prescribed that where the vote was divided the chairman of the
delegation should announce the number of votes cast for any candi-
date or for or against any proposition. The committee reported in
favor of adding the following: " But if exception is taken by any
delegate to the correctness of such announcement by the chairman
of his delegation, the President of the Convention shall direct the
roll of members of such delegation to be called, and the result shall
be recorded in accordance with the votes individually given." As a
parliamentary device to prevent the adoption of this principle as the
settled policy of the party, General Sharpe moved that the Conven-
tion proceed to ballot for a candidate for President of the United
States. General Garfleld raised the point of order that under the
order of the Convention the report of the Committee on Rules was
before the body, and that Sharpens motion to proceed to entirely
different business was not in order. The chair ruled Sharpe's motion
in order. Upon a viva i~oce vote, the negative had it. A call of
States was demanded, and resulted: Yeas, 287; nays, 479. The result
was hailed with great applause. General Garfield said that the Con-
vention had wasted on this vote time enough to have adopted the
rules and gone to work. He asked that the question now be taken
without further debate. But General Sharpe moved to substitute
the minority report for the majority. This motion was rejected. Mr.
Boutwell moved to amend the majority report by adding, " And said
committee (the National Republican Committee) shall, within twelve
months, prescribe a method or methods for the election of delegates
to the National Convention to be held in 1884, and announce the same
to the country and issue a call for that Convention in conformity


therewith." Mr. Butterworth, of Ohio, moved an amendment that
nothing in such rules or method shall be so construed as to prevent
the several Congress Districts in the United States from selecting
their own delegates to the National Convention. Mr. Boutwell ac-
cepted the amendment, and his motion, as amended, was adopted.
Then the rules were adopted as a whole.

The platform reported and adopted at Chicago was the least dis-
tinctive declaration of principles that ever emanated from a Repub-
lican National Convention. It presented no overmastering issue,
which was in marked contrast with every previous platform since
1856. The protection of American industries became the controlling
question in the campaign, but the tariff plank was only a repetition
of the declaration of 1876. The restriction of Chinese immigration
was approved. The Democratic party was charged with sustaining
fraudulent elections, with unseating members of Congress who had
been lawfully chosen, with viciously attaching partisan legislation
to appropriation bills, and with seeking to obliterate the sacred mem-
ories of the war. " The solid South," it was declared, " must be di-
vided by the peaceful agencies of the ballot; and all honest opinions
must there find free expression." As reported from the Committee
on Resolutions, the platform was silent on Civil-service Reform, but
in Convention it was resolved " that the Republican party adopts

Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 41 of 61)