George Oberkirsh Seilhamer.

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mate means to restore all the States of this Union to the most perfect
harmony which may be practicable; and we submit to the practical,
sensible people of the United States to say whether it would not be
dangerous to the dearest interests of our country, at this time to sur-
render the administration of the national Government to a party
which seeks to overthrow the existing policy, under which we are so
prosperous, and thus bring distrust and confusion where there is now
order, confidence, and hope.

9. The Republican party, adhering to a principle affirmed by its last
National Convention, out of respect for the constitutional rule cover-
ing appointments to office, adopts the declaration of President Hayes,
that the reform of the civil service should be thorough, radical, and
complete. To this end it demands the co-operation of the legislative
with the executive department of the Government, and that Con-
gress shall so legislate that fitness, ascertained by proper practical
tests, shall admit to the public service; and that the power of re-
moval for cause, with due responsibility for the good conduct of sub-
ordinates, shall accompany the power of appointment.

The civil government should guarantee the divine right of every


laborer to the results of his toil, thus enabling the producers of wealth
to provide themselves with the means for physical comfort, and facili-
ties for mental, social, and moral culture; and we condemn, as un-
worthy of our civilization, the barbarism which imposes upon wealth-
producers a state of drudgery as the price of a bare animal existence.
Notwithstanding the enormous increase of productive power by the
universal introduction of labor-saving machinery and the discovery of
new agents for the increase of wealth, the task of the laborer is
scarcely lightened, the hours of toil are but little shortened, and few-
producers are lifted from poverty into comfort and pecuniary inde-
pendence. The associated monopolies, the international syndicates,
and other income classes, demand dear money, cheap labor, and a
strong government; and hence, a weak people. Corporate control of
the volume of money has been the means of dividing society into hos-
tile classes, of an unjust distribution of the products of labor, and
of building up monopolies of associated capital, endowed with power
to confiscate private property. It has kept money scarce, and the
scarcity of money enforces debt-trade, and public and corporate
loans; debt engenders usury, and usury ends in the bankruptcy of the
borrower. Other results are deranged markets, uncertainty in man-
ufacturing enterprises and agriculture, precarious and intermittent
employment for the laborer, industrial war, increasing pauperism
and crime, and the consequent intimidation and disfranchisement of
the producer, and a rapid declension into corporate feudalism.
Therefore, we declare:

1. That the right to make and issue money is a sovereign power,
to be maintained by the people for their common benefit. The dele-
gation of this right to corporations is a surrender of the central at-
tribute of sovereignty, void of constitutional sanction, and conferring
upon a subordinate and irresponsible power an absolute dominion
over industry and commerce. All money, w r hether metallic or paper,
should be issued, and its volume controlled, by the Government, and
not by or through banking corporations; and, when so issued, should
be a full legal tender for all debts, public and private.

2. That the bonds of the United States should not be refunded,
but paid as rapidly as practicable, according to contract. To enable
the Government to meet these obligations, legal-tender currency
should be substituted for the notes of the national banks, the national
banking system abolished, and the unlimited coinage of silver, as well
as gold, established by law.

3. That labor should be so protected by National and State author-
ity as to equalize its burdens and insure a just distribution of its re-
sults. The eight-hour law of Congress should be enforced, the sani-


tary condition of industrial establishments placed under rigid
control, the competition of contract convict labor abolished, a bureau
of labor statistics established, factories, mines, and workshops in-
spected, the employment of children under fourteen years of age for-
bidden, and wages paid in cash.

4. Slavery being simply cheap labor, and cheap labor being simply
slavery, the importation and presence of Chinese serfs necessarily
tends to brutalize and degrade American labor; therefore, immediate
steps should be taken to abrogate the Burlingame treaty.

5. Railroad land grants forfeited by reason of non-fulfillment of
contract should be immediately reclaimed by the Government, and,
henceforth, the public domain reserved exclusively as homes for ac-
tual settlers.

6. It is the duty of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. All
lines of communication and transportation should be brought under
such legislative control as shall secure moderate, fair, and uniform
rates for passenger and freight traffic.

7. We denounce as destructive to property and dangerous to lib-
erty the action of the old parties in fostering and sustaining gigantic
land, railroad, and money corporations, and monopolies invested
with, and exercising powers belonging to the Government, and yet
not responsible to it for the manner of their exercise.

8. That the Constitution, in giving Congress the power to borrow
money, to declare war, to raise and support armies, to provide and
maintain a navy, never intended that the men who loaned their money
for an interest-consideration should be preferred to the soldiers and
sailors who periled their lives and shed their blood on land and sea in
defense of their country; and we condemn the cruel class legislation
of the Republican party, which, while professing great gratitude to
the soldier, has most unjustly discriminated against him and in favor
of the bondholder.

9. All property should bear its just proportion of taxation, and we
demand a graduated income tax.

10. We denounce as dangerous the efforts everywhere manifest to
restrict the right of suffrage.

11. W T e are opposed to an increase of the standing army in time of
peace, and the insidious scheme to establish an enormous military
power under the guise of militia laws.

12. We demand absolute democratic rules for the government of
Congress, placing all representatives of the people upon an equal
footing, and taking away from committees a veto power greater than
that of the President.

13. We demand a Government of the people, by the people, and for


the people, instead of a Government of the bondholder, by the bond-
holder, and for the bondholder; and we denounce every attempt to stir
up sectional strife as an effort to conceal monstrous crimes against
the people.

14. In the furtherance of these ends we ask the co-operation of all
fair-minded people. We have no quarrel with individuals, wage no
war on classes, but only against vicious institutions. We are not
content to endure further discipline from our present actual rulers,
who, having dominion over money, over transportation, over land
and labor, over the press and the machinery of government, wield
unwarrantable power over our institutions and over life and prop-


The Democrats of the United States, in Convention assembled, de-

1. \Ve pledge ourselves anew to the constitutional doctrines and
traditions of the Democratic party, as illustrated by the teachings and
examples of a long line of Democratic statesmen and patriots, and
embodied in the platform of the last National Convention of the party.

2. Opposition to centralization, and to that dangerous spirit of en-
croachment which tends to consolidate the powers of all the depart-
ments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government,
a real despotism; no sumptuary laws; separation of the church and
state for the good of each; common schools fostered and protected.

3. Home rule; honest money, consisting of gold and silver, and
paper, convertible into coin on demand; the strict maintenance of the
public faith, State and National; and a tariff for revenue only; the
subordination of the military to the civil power, and a general and
thorough reform of the civil service.

4. The right to a free ballot is a right preservative of all rights;
and must and shall be maintained in every part of the United States.

5. The existing administration is the representative of conspiracy
only; and its claim of right to surround the ballot-boxes with troops
and deputy-marshals, to intimidate and obstmct the elections, and
the unprecedented use of the veto to maintain its corrupt and despotic
power, insults the people and imperils their institutions. W r e exe-
crate the course of this administration in making places in the civil
service a reward for political crime, and demand a reform, by statute,
which shall make it forever impossible for a defeated candidate to
bribe his way to the seat of a usurper by billeting villains upon the

6. The great fraud of 1876-7, by which, upon a false count of the


electoral votes of two States, the candidate defeated at the polls was
declared to be President, and, for the first time in American history,
the will of the people was set aside under a threat of military violence,
struck a deadly blow at our system of representative government.
The Democratic party, to preserve the country from the horrors of a
civil war, submitted for the time, in the firm and patriotic belief that
the people would punish the crime in 1880. This issue precedes and
dwarfs every other. It imposes a more sacred duty upon the people
of the Union than ever addressed the consciences of a nation of free

7. The resolution of Samuel J. Tilden, not again to be a candidate
for the exalted place to which he was elected by a majority of his
countrymen, and from which he was excluded by the leaders of the
Kepublican part}-, is received by the Democrats of the United States
with deep sensibility; and they declare their confidence in his wis-
dom, patriotism, and integrity unshaken by the assaults of the com-
mon enemy; and they further assure him that he is followed into the
retirement he has chosen for himself by the sympathy and respect of
his fellow-citizens, who regard him a one who, by elevating the
standard of the public morality, and adorning and purifying the pub-
lic service, merits the lasting gratitude of his country and his party

8. Free ships, and a living chance for American commerce upon the
seas; and on the land no discrimination in favor of transportation
lines, corporations, or monopolies.

9. Amendments of the Burlingame treaty; no more Chinese immi-
gration, except for travel, education, and foreign commerce, and,
therein, carefully guarded.

10. Public money and public credit for public purposes solely, and
public land for actual settlers.

11. The Democratic party is the friend of labor and the laboring
man, and pledges itself to protect him alike against the cormorants
and the commune.

12. We congratulate the country upon the honesty and thrift of a
Democratic Congress, which has reduced the public expenditure f 10,-
000,000 a year; upon the continuation of prosperity at home and the
national honor abroad; and, above all, upon the promise of such a
change in the administration of the Government as shall insure a
genuine and lasting reform in every department of the public




Appointment of Collector Robertson Resignation of Senators Conk-
ling and Platt Long Contest in the New York Legislature The
Senators Defeated Assassination of President Garfleld A Stal-
wart of the Stalwarts Comments of the Newspapers Repub-
lican Feud in Pennsylvania Revolt of 1882 Cleveland and Fol-
ger Contest in New York Discontent in Other States Causes of
Republican Reverses Mahone Movement in Virginia Presi-
dent Arthurs Cabinet A Successful Administration.

ENERAL GARFIELD was scarcely inaugurated when the
feud broke out to which the Republican National Conven-
tion of 1880 was the prelude. The new Cabinet was not
one to give satisfaction to the wing of the party that had
supported General Grant at Chicago. The appointment of Mr. Elaine
as Secretary of State could not be openly resented by Mr. Conkling
when it was made, but a collision between the two great party chiefs
was inevitable sooner or later. It came sooner than was expected.
If not actually sought, causes of offense were not avoided by either.
The President at the outset was not indisposed to oblige Mr. Conk-
ling and his friends in the matter of filling the Federal offices in New
York. A number of appointments were made that were acceptable to
the New York Senators and the Vice-President. There was, or it
was claimed that there was, a tacit understanding that the one place
that was of greater political importance than all the others together
should not be filled in the immediate future. This was the office of
Collector of the Port at New York. General Edward A. Merritt, the
Collector, had been appointed by President Hayes as the successor of
General Arthur. Collector Merritt was not active in using the Fed-
eral patronage, which was very great, against the existing Repub-
lican organization in New York City, and for this reason the domi-
nant faction was satisfied with his retention. But before the nomi-
nations already made were confirmed by the Senate the President
was induced to nominate General Merritt as Consul-General at Lon-
don, and to name William II. Robertson, of Westchester County, for
Collector of the Port at New York. No action could have been more



offensive to Senator Conkling, and the Conkling faction in New York
City and State, and it was generally believed at the time that it was
intended as a challenge of Mr. Conkling's supremacy in New York

Judge Robertson was a man of high character and recognized abil-
ity. He had served in the Senate of New York and as the representa-
tive from the Westchester District in the 40th Congress. As a
politician he was impatient of the dictation of party chiefs, and he
had the courage to oppose Mr. Conkling's arbitrary methods of party
discipline. He was the leader of the anti-Grant element in the New
York delegation at Chicago, and had been the first and most active
of the New York delegates in
disavowing and disregarding
the unit rule in the Conven-
tion. During the two days'
balloting he led the Elaine
delegates in open hostility to
Grant, and in equally open de-
fiance of Conkling, support-
ing Elaine while there was a
possibility of his nomination
and afterward transferring
Elaine's strength to Garfield.
Under these circumstances
his nomination for the Collec-
torship was notice to the sen-
ior Senator from New York
that Mr. Elaine's friends
would insist upon a share in
the management of the party
in the Empire State. To

meet this situation Mr. Conkling sought to have his friends
confirmed by the Senate while the confirmation of Robert-
son w r as held in abeyance. This course was resented by the Presi-
dent, who withdrew all the other nominations, thus making a direct
issue of Judge Robertson's confirmation. Vice-President Arthur and
Senators Conkling and Platt remonstrated against this action in a
letter to the President, but the remonstrance went unheeded. Sen-
ator Conkling then sought to defeat Robertson by urging the " cour-
tesy of the Senate " against his confirmation. A bitter contest ensued,
in which the friends of the administration in the Senate took sides
against the Senators from New York. The nomination was made
March 23, 1881, and was confirmed on the 10th of May.



The confirmation of Judge Robertson was immediately followed
by the resignations of the New York Senators. These resignations
caused great excitement throughout the country, and especially in
New York, where the Legislature was still in session. They came as
a surprise to Mr. Conkling's political friends, as well as the friends
of Mr. Elaine and the administration. Even Vice-President Arthur
was not consulted, and only learned of the resignations in the perform-
ance of his official duty as presiding officer of the Senate. When the
letters of resignation reached Governor Cornell, at Albany, he sought
to have them reconsidered and withdrawn, but without effect. Mr.
Conkling was obdurate, and insisted upon a " vindication " for him-
self and Senator Platt. Then came the long contest in the Legislature
over the election of the successors of the two Senators. The Demo-
crats nominated Francis Kernan for the long term and John C. Jacobs
for the short term. The Republicans who resented the course pursued
by Conkling and Platt made no nominations, but, after a few ballots,
concentrated upon William A. Wheeler as the successor of Mr. Conk-
ling, and Chauncey M. Depew as the successor of Mr. Platt. On the
first ballot for the short term, Mr. Conkling had 35 votes, and Mr. Platt
started with 29 for the long term, to which he had been elected only
a few months before. Mr. Wheeler started with 22 votes, to 15 for
Sherman S. Rogers, 10 for Alonzo B. Cornell, 3 each for Theodore
M. Pomeroy, Richard Crowley, Henry E. Tremaine, and Reuben E.
Fenton, and 2 each for Charles J. Folger, William M. Evarts, and
Thomas G. Alvord. Wheeler showed no decided gain until the six-
teenth ballot, when he received 38 votes. On the twenty-third ballot
he reached his high-water mark, 50 votes, 79 being necessary to a
choice. As w r as the case with Mr. Conkling, Mr. Platt received no
increase of votes after the first ballot. Mr. Depew started with 25
votes, to 11 for Alonzo B. Cornell, 8 each for Elbridge G. Lapham and
Warner Miller, 5 for Charles J. Folger, 4 for Richard Crowley, 3 each
for William M. Evarts and Hamilton Ward, 2 each for James W.
Wadsworth, Silas B. Dutcher, and Noah Davis, and 1 each for Henry
E. Tremaine and Sherman S. Rogers. Mr. Depew's highest vote was
55 on the fourteenth ballot, 76 being necessary to a choice. On
July 8, after forty-one ballots had been taken, a caucus of the Re-
publican members of the Legislature was called, at which sixty-seven
members were present. Six ballots w r ere taken for a candidate to
succeed Mr. Platt, on the last of which W T arner Miller received 65
votes. This led to Mr. Miller's election on the forty-eighth ballot,
when he received 76 votes. In the caucus Elbridge G. Lapham was
nominated to succeed Mr. Conkling, receiving 34 out of 66 votes. This
nomination gave Mr. Lapham 67 votes on the forty-second ballot, 75


being necessary to a choice. The balloting continued without
result until the fifty-fifth ballot, thus showing that Mr. Lapham could
not be elected while Mr. Conkling continued to be a candidate. Fi-
nally a caucus was agreed to, which met on July 22, and nominated
Mr. Lapham, who received 61 votes to 28 for Mr. Conkling. Thus the
contest that had begun on May 31 was brought to a close by the
election of Elbridge G. Lapham. This defeat of Mr. Conkling was
the end of a great career in the United States Senate, but Mr. Platt
lived to regain the confidence of the Republican party of New York,
and now fills the place in the Senate from which he so precipitately
retired at the beginning of his Senatorial life.

While these factional fights over the Senatorship were in progress
at Albany an event occurred at Washington that somehow became
associated in the public mind with the great feud that had occurred
in the Republican party. At twenty-two minutes past nine o'clock,
on the morning of July 2, two shots in rapid succession were fired
in the waiting-room of the Pennsylvania Railroad station in Sixth
Street, near Pennsylvania Avenue. Almost at the same instant Sec-
retary Blaine rushed from the room and called for an officer. The
President had been shot down by an assassin while on his way
through the station to take a train. The murderer was Charles Gui-
teau, a disappointed office-seeker, who had gone to the station in ad-
vance of the Presidential party with the intention of shooting the
President. On his person, after his arrest, was found a letter that led
many people to the hasty conclusion that the crime had some political
significance. " The President's tragic death \vas a sad necessity,"
this letter said, " but it will unite the Republican party and save the
Republic. Life is a flimsy dream, and it matters little when one goes;
a human life is of small value. During the war thousands of brave
boys went down without a tear. I presume the President was a
Christian, and that he will be happier in Paradise than here. It will
be no worse for Mrs. Garfield, dear soul, to part with her husband
this way than by natural death. He is liable to go at any time, any-
way. I had no ill will toward the President. His death was a
political necessity. I am a lawyer, a theologian, and a politician. I
am a Stalwart of the Stalwarts. I was with General Grant and the
rest of our men in New York during the canvass. I have some papers
for the press, which I shall leave with Byron Andrews and his com-
pany, journalists, at No. 1420 New York Avenue, where all the re-
porters can see them. I am now going to the jail." It was addressed
" To the W 7 hite House," and signed " Charles Guiteau." Guiteau's
declaration that he was a Stalwart of the Stalwarts seemed, to imag-
inative persons, to point to some connection between the assassin and


the President's political opponents in the party in New York. Stal-
warts was the name assumed by the Conkling wing of the party, the
other faction being contemptuously called " Half-breeds." The use
of nicknames had been a practice in New York politics since the be-
ginning of the century. The followers of Aaron Burr were called
" Quids," or " Tertium Quids," the third party men. Other similar
designations have been " Hunkers " and " Barnburners," " Locofo-
cos," " Mugwumps," and " Goo-Goos."

It was natural, perhaps, that Guiteau's claim that he was a " Stal-
wart " among the " Stalwarts " should lead some of the " Half-
breeds " to impute his crime to the faction with which he sought to
identify himself, and some of the newspapers in New York treated
the event as " Faction's latest crime." " For though the murderer
was obviously of unsound mind," said the Times, " it is impossible to
ignore the causes which led immediately to this act; which directed
his ill-regulated will to final aim. He was a disappointed office-
seeker, and he linked the bitterness of his personal disappointment
with the passionate animosity of a faction. His resentment was in-
flamed and intensified by the assaults upon the President which have
been common in too many circles for the past few months. Certainly,
we are far from holding any party or any section of a party respon-
sible for this murderous act, but we believe it our duty to point out
that the act w r as an exaggerated expression of a sentiment of narrow
and bitter hatred which has been only too freely indulged. It is not
too much to say, in the first place, that if Mr. Garfield had not been
the chief of a service in which offices are held out as prizes to men
of much the same merit and much the same career as this murderer,
he would not have been exposed to this attack." " President Garfield
has been shot down," the Tribune said, " not by a political faction,
but by the spirit which a political faction has begotten and nursed.
But for that spirit, there was hardly a man in this country who
seemed at sunrise yesterday more safe from murderous assault.
. . It does not appear that the assassin of yesterday had ever been
thought a lunatic by any associate or acquaintance, until the deadly
shots were fired. Was he i crazed by political excitement,' then, as
many say? At what point, if ever, did the madness of faction become
the madness of irresponsibility? Do the leaders of faction ever in-
tend all the mischief which grows from the wild and desperate spirit
which they create, feed, and stimulate, week after week? Is it not
their constant crime against self-government that, by kindling such a

Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 44 of 61)