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ful race, and in the many armed combats were
almost invariably the chief sufferers. Not only
were Federal troops frequently used to sustain
tottering state governments, but congress in
1870 and 1871 passed two Enforcement acts for
the protection of the negro's political and civil
rights and an act that established a rigorous
system of Federal supervision over congressional
elections, which remained in force until Cleve-
land's second term. The second Enforcement
Act, generally called the Ku-Klux Act, was aimed
at the secret organizations whose activities have
already been described. It was subsequently set
aside as unconstitutional, but under its supposed
authority President Grant, in October, 1871,
proclaimed nine counties of South Carolina in
rebellion, suspended the writ of habeas corpus,
and sent detachments of troops that arrested
hundreds of persons, a few of whom were con-
victed and imprisoned.

In spite, however, of the protecting hand of
the Federal government, the Radicals gradually
lost their hold upon the South. In 1869 they lost



CARPET-BAGGERS 55

Tennessee; in 1870, Alabama, North Carolina,
and Georgia; in 1873, Texas; in 1874, Arkansas;
and in 1875, Mississippi. The methods employed
by the party in opposition to accomplish these
results were not always above reproach, being
too often a compound of persuasion, bribery,
force, and fraud, but they were effective. The
passage by congress of numerous amnesty acts
also aided the Conservatives by enabling their
natural leaders once more to participate in poli-
tics; in 1872 only about 750 persons still remained
under disabilities. In this number was included
Jefferson Davis, who had been captured and
imprisoned for a time and then released on bail.
With the "redemption" of Mississippi, only
three Southern states Florida, Louisiana, and
South Carolina remained in the hands of the
Radicals.



CHAPTER IV

THE END OF AN ERA

ULYSSES S. GRANT was inaugurated president
on the 4th of March, 1869. Eight years before
he had been a leather clerk in a small western
town at a salary of $600 a year and had behind
him a record of failure in everything he had under-
taken. The rapidity of his rise was hitherto
unprecedented in American annals. His suc-
cess was due to military genius of a high order;
unfortunately his capacities as a civil ruler did
not prove equal to his abilities as a soldier. Prior
to his inauguration he had never held an office
except that of secretary of war ad interim, and
he did not clearly understand the workings of
our political system. Although a keen judge of
military men, as is evidenced by his selecting
such officers as Sherman and Sheridan, he had no
skill in choosing civil subordinates and advisers.
Honest himself, he was unable to detect dis-
honesty in others. His confidence was frequently
(abused by pretended friends, who brought him
into disrepute, but whom, with misguided fidelity,
he was unwilling "to desert under fire."
Grant began his administration with the as-
sumption that the presidency was a sort of per-
sonal possession given him by the people to
56



THE END OF AN ERA 57

manage as he thought proper. He ignored the
party leaders in selecting his first cabinet and
preserved a sphinx-like silence until his nomina-
tions were sent to the senate. They occasioned
no little surprise, for the list was mainly composed
of men whose names had not even been suggested
in the public prints. Adolph E. Borie, his choice
for the post of secretary of the navy, was a
citizen of Philadelphia, a personal friend, so
obscure politically that the Pennsylvania sena-
tors both professed that they had never even
heard of him. For secretary of the treasury the
president was anxious to secure a successful
business man, and it happened that he greatly
admired Alexander T. Stewart, a canny mer-
chant prince of New York. Stewart's name was
sent to the senate, but it was soon discovered
that he was rendered ineligible by a law prohibit-
ing any one from holding the portfolio who was
interested in "the business of trade or commerce."
After vainly trying to get congress to modify
the law, Grant substituted George S. Boutwell,
a member of the house from Massachusetts.

Elihu B. Washburne, who was appointed secre-
tary of state, was a member of congress who had
been so active in forwarding the president's
military career that he was said to "have Grant
on the brain." Although a man of natural parts,
he did not possess the culture usually supposed a
requisite in one who must deal with diplomats.
When one disgruntled Republican statesman
suggested that the position demanded a knowl-
edge of French, a second retorted that at least
it required a knowledge of one's own language.



58 RECONSTRUCTION AND UNION

But Washburne's appointment proved to be
merely complimentary; after a week's incum-
bency he resigned to accept the French mission.
There, notwithstanding linguistic deficiencies,
he did himself and his country high honor, being
the only foreign representative who dared to
remain in Paris during the red days of the Com-
mune. To fill the vacancy created by Wash-
burne's resignation, Grant dragged from retire-
ment Hamilton Fish, a former governor of New
York and United States senator, who, contrary
to public expectation, proved one of the most
successful secretaries of state the country has
had. The other members of the cabinet were
Jacob D. Cox, secretary of the interior; John A.
J. Creswell, postmaster-general; John A. Rawlins,
secretary of war; and E. Rockwood Hoar,
attorney-general. Hoar was a Free-soil jurist
from Massachusetts. The selection was a praise-
worthy one, but he was soon forced out of the
cabinet because he seemed not to admit the
right of senators to speak in regard to appoint-
ments. Prior to his retirement he had been
nominated to the supreme bench, but the senate
had refused to confirm him. "What could you
expect when you had snubbed seventy senators?"
asked a friend by way of condolence.

One of the president's first tasks was to secure
a modification of the Tenure of Office Act. A
bill for its repeal at the last session of congress
had failed, chiefly because the senate wished
to retain the act for use as a lever. But Grant
said: "Because you found it necessary to put a
curb bit in the mouth of one horse is no reason



THE END OF AN ERA 59

that you should try to put it on another." He
brought the legislators to terms by giving them
to understand that until his wishes were com-
plied with he would retain the Johnson appointees.
The act was radically amended, but was not
finally repealed until the first administration of
Grover Cleveland, having long been in a con-
dition of "innocuous desuetude."

The first year of Grant's presidency was sig-
nalized by the completion of a transcontinental
railway. The enterprise had been authorized
by congress in 1862. As important unifying and
military results were certain to be accomplished
by the road, the central government gave it
much financial assistance. Not only was it
granted a free right of way through the public
domain, but it received twenty sections of land
for each mile of track and loans aggregating up-
wards of $27,000,000.

When the two construction companies, one
working from the east and the other from the
west, met at Promontory Point near Ogden,
Utah, the last rail was laid (May 10, 1869) with
impressive ceremonies, and the event was cele-
brated all over the country. The building of the
line across the great plains and mountains was
an important step in winning the last West to
settlement and civilization. Branch lines were
built north and south from the main line, while
other transcontinental roads were soon begun.
In time the blanket Indian, the trapper, and the
teeming buffalo gave way to miners, cowboys,
and great herds of long-horned cattle.

Unfortunately the process of financing the road



60 RECONSTRUCTION ANtf UNION

had many sordid features that dimmed the luster
of the achievement. A group of financiers hold-
ing a majority of the stock in the enterprise organ-
ized a company called the Credit Mobilier, and
then, in their capacity as stockholders in the
road, proceeded to vote to themselves as con-
trollers of the Credit Mobilier a contract to build
and equip at an enormous profit a large part of
the road. This in itself was highly reprehensible,
though typical of the then developing methods of
"high finance." Worse was to come. Fearing
congressional interference, one of the financiers,
Oakes Ames, a member of the house from Massa-
chusetts, proceeded to distribute (1867-68) at
extremely low prices shares in the Credit Mo-
bilier among his congressional associates, placing
them, he wrote, "where they will do the most
good to us." The corrupt nature of such a trans-
action was not so well understood then as now;
a number of the most prominent men in public
life accepted the covert bribe, but the facts did
not become public property until some years
later.

Grant failed miserably in an ill-advised at-
tempt to secure the annexation of Santo Domingo,
but his administration was more fortunate in
negotiations regarding damages inflicted by the
Alabama and other Confederate cruisers fitted
out in British ports. The attempts of Charles
Francis Adams to obtain an adjustment of our
claims had failed, but the feeling against England
was still bitter, and there existed a strong deter-
mination to exact satisfaction. When in January,
1869, Reverdy Johnson concluded in London a



THE END OF AN ERA 61

convention that seemed practically to waive our
claims, it was deemed so unsatisfactory that the
senate decisively rejected it by a vote of 54 to one
(April 13, 1869). In opposing it, Senator Sum-
ner voiced the public sentiment on the subject
in a speech which won him for once genuine
popularity. He estimated that England owed
the United States $15,000,000 for direct indi-
vidual losses inflicted by the Alabama and simi-
lar cruisers, and upwards of $2,000,000,000 for
indirect damages to our merchant marine and
on account of prolongation of the war by too
hasty recognition of belligerent rights and fail-
ure to observe neutrality obligations. He thought
that by way of reparation England ought to
cede us Canada. The speech "set almost all
Americans to swinging their hats for eight or
nine days, and made every Englishman double
up his fists and curse every time he thought of
it for several weeks." As Sumner was head of
the senate committee on foreign relations, his
speech was in a sense official and gave ground for
serious reflection in England. In that country
there already existed a well-founded fear that in *
case England should become involved in war the
United States would pay her back in her own coin
by allowing the fitting out of cruisers to prey on
her commerce.

In his message of December 5, 1870, the presi-
dent incorporated a paragraph furnished by Fish
recommending that congress authorize the as-
sumption of private claims by the United States
so that the government would "have the respon-
sible control of all the demands against Great



62 RECONSTRUCTION AND UNION

Britain." The moment for this ominous lan-
guage was well chosen, for the Franco-Prussian
war was in progress, and there existed a possi-
bility that England might become involved.
The outcome was a joint high commission which
labored for two months and produced the Treaty
of Washington, signed May 8, 1871. The treaty
provided for a mixed commission to deal with the
claims of Canada against the United States and
referred the Alabama claims and a dispute con-
cerning the northwestern boundary to tribunals
of arbitration. The mixed commission did not
complete its labors until 1877, when it mulcted
the United States $5,500,000 for alleged illegal
fishing in Canadian waters. The northwestern
boundary dispute was decided five years earlier
by the German emperor in favor of the United
States.

The tribunal for the adjustment of the Ala-
bama claims met at Geneva, Switzerland, De-
cember 15, 1871. It consisted of five persons
appointed respectively by President Grant,
Queen Victoria, the king of Italy, the emperor
of Brazil, and the president of the Swiss Republic.

The presentation by the American agent, J. C.
Bancroft Davis, of enormous claims for indirect
damages caused great excitement in England,
and for a time threatened to wreck the arbi-
tration. But the claims were not pressed and
ultimately were excluded by the tribunal. Con-
sideration of direct and individual claims then
proceeded. A verdict was finally rendered that
Great Britain had been remiss in neutrality
duties as regarded the cruisers Alabama, Shen-



THE END OF AN ERA 63

andoah, and Florida. By way of damages the
tribunal awarded (September 2, 1872) the sum
of $15,500,000. The British arbitrator, Lord
Alexander Cockburn, a nephew of an admiral
little loved in the United States, bitterly opposed
the award. It was far from popular in England,
but the ministry accepted it, and the damages
were duly paid.

President Grant had not been long in office
before his independent policy broke down. His
attempt to annex Santo Domingo roused the bitter
opposition of Senator Sumner, and in his anxiety
to secure votes for the treaty of annexation the
president threw himself into the arms of the
politicians. The least reputable Republicans,
such as Conkling of New York, Cameron of
Pennsylvania, Butler of Massachusetts, and
Patterson of South Carolina, gained control of
him and became the dispensers of patronage.
Under their influence he adopted the policy of
dealing rigorously with the South, and he also
lost sympathy with civil service reform, a move-
ment to which he at first gave a half-hearted sup-
port. His ultimate conclusion on the matter was
that "there are two humbugs . . . one is Civil
Service Reform, the other reformers." As a rule,
his political opinions were hazy, and personal
friends of doubtful antecedents too often deter-
mined his policy to their own benefit and the public
scandal. In the first year of his administration,
by allowing himself to be entertained by the sub-
tle Jay Gould and the notorious "Jim" Fiske,
he narrowly escaped being unwittingly a pawn
in the game to corner gold that resulted in



64 RECONSTRUCTION AND UNION

the famous financial flurry known as "Black
Friday."

The first impulse toward organized opposition
within the Republican ranks against the regime
at Washington originated in Missouri, where
the proscription and disfranchisement of Con-
federate sympathizers had taken an extreme form.
In 1870 liberal Republicans, under the leadership
of Senator Carl Schurz and others, joined with the
Democrats, and, despite presidential opposition,
carried the elections and modified the constitu-
tion in the interest of peace and conciliation.
The movement awakened favorable echoes in
other quarters, and hi January, 1872, the Mis-
souri Liberals felt emboldened to issue a call
for a national convention at Cincinnati for the
purpose of nominating candidates for the coming
presidential election.

The persons who met at Cincinnati (May 1,
1872) were moved by widely different motives,
including tariff reform, civil service reform,
opposition to centralization, to the Radical South-
ern policy, and to President Grant personally.
Among those present were David A. Wells,
William Cullen Bryant, Carl Schurz, David Davis,
Lyman Trumbull, Horace Greeley, Murat Hal-
stead, Henry Watterson, and Whitelaw Reid.
Schurz became permanent chairman, and the
platform satisfied the demands of the various
classes of reformers except that upon the question
of the tariff there was such wide difference of
opinion that, under the influence of Greeley, a
protectionist, the subject was remitted to "the
people in their congressional districts and to the



THE END OF AN ERA 65

decision of congress." The keenest leaders of the
movement had expected to bring about the nom-
ination of Charles Francis Adams, the eminent
diplomat who had so ably represented the United
States at the Court of St. James during the Civil
War and who was now the American representa-
tive at the Geneva Convention. But their plans
went awry; on the seventh ballot there was a
sudden stampede to Horace Greeley, who was
nominated, with B. Gratz Brown of Missouri
as the vice-presidential candidate.

In July the Democrats met in convention at
Baltimore, and, as a forlorn hope, accepted the
Liberal Republican candidates and platform.
This platform solemnly declared: "We pledge ?
ourselves to maintain the Union of these States,
emancipation and enfranchisement, and to oppose
any reopening of the questions settled by the
Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amend-
ments." In adopting such a pledge the Demo-
crats went exactly counter to their platform of
1868, and formally confessed defeat upon the issue
of the war and reconstruction.

No more preposterous candidacy than that of
Greeley' was ever put before the American people.
He was not a believer either in civil service reform
or in tariff reform two of the three cardinal ten-
ets of the Liberal Republican movement. No man
then living had ever said more bitter things of the
Democrats and the South. That the Democratic
party should now accept him as their candidate j
was almost beyond belief. Little wonder that I
The Nation, coining a new political phrase, de-
clared that "Greeley appears to be 'boiled crow'



66 RECONSTRUCTION AND UNION

to more of his fellow citizens than any other can-
didate for office in this or any other age of which
we have record." Some of the Liberal Republi-
cans ultimately declared for Grant, who was
renominated, with Senator Henry Wilson of
Massachusetts, the "Natick Cobbler," for vice-
president. Schurz and others swallowed their
chagrin and supported Greeley. The Democratic
leaders and the Democratic organization, in the
main, gave him loyal support, one factor in se-
curing the loyalty of the South being the fact that
Greeley had signed the bail-bond of Jefferson
Davis.

Greeley's nomination made Grant's success
inevitable. The Republicans brought the South-
ern issue to the forefront and made effective use of
the cry, "Grant beat Davis, Greeley bailed him."
To hundreds of thousands of good citizens Grant's
mistakes seemed venial and easily pardoned when
they recalled the thrills with which, in the days
when patriots had despaired of ithe Republic,
they had received the news of Fort Donelson,
Vicksburg, and Appomattox. More than Liberal
Republican or Democrat could adduce was needed
to influence men who had marched where "Ulysses
led the van." As for Greeley, his record, personal
characteristics, and childlike naivete, which is
discernible even in his portraits and statues, lent
themselves to ridicule and caricature. Thomas
Nast, then at the height of his fame, contributed
powerfully to the result in cartoons, one of which
represented Greeley eating with a wry face from
a bowl of uncomfortably hot porridge labeled
"My own words and deeds." Another pictured



THE END OF AN ERA 67.

the candidate at his country home at Chappaqua
sitting well out upon a giant limb, which he was
gravely sawing off between himself and the
tree.

A tour which Greeley made in the "October
States" Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana gave
the Republicans temporary uneasiness, for his
name had long been a household word in Repub-
lican families, and curiosity drew great crowds
to see and hear him. But the elections in these
states dispelled all fears. When the final elections
were held in November, it was found that Greeley
was one of the worst defeated men who had ever
run for the presidency. Grant received 272 of
the 338 electoral votes that were counted and a
popular majority of three-quarters of a million.
The outcome was more than the old journalist
could bear. Sorrow over the recent death of his
wife, attacks upon himself, mortification over his
defeat, and financial troubles combined to drive ;
him to insanity and then to the tomb. In that
tragic hour men forgot his failings, and over his
grave honored him for the good deeds that lived
after him.

Seemingly the question of the dispensation of
the loaves and fishes of political patronage was
settled forever, but the new lease of power into
which the Republican party entered was destined
to be a stormy one. Speculation, undue railway
construction, and other causes combined in Sep-
tember, 1873, to produce one of the worst finan-
cial panics the country had passed through.
The panic began in New York City with the sudden
failure of the great banking house of Jay Cooke &



68 RECONSTRUCTION AND UNION

Company, which had been popularly esteemed as
solid as the hills. Next day the names of nineteen
other firms that were unable to meet their obli-
gations were read off in the Stock Exchange.
All over the country banks and business houses
went down. The president, implored by financiers
to do something to ease the money market,
authorized the release of about $13,000,000 of
idle greenbacks in the treasury by the purchase
of bonds. Otherwise the government conserva-
tively refrained from interfering and let confidence
and credit return without artificial stimulus.
When congress passed a bill to increase the cir-
culation of the "battle-born, blood-sealed" green-
backs, Grant courageously vetoed it (April 22,
1874). Railroad building almost ceased, many
other projects were stopped for lack of capital,
and there was no real revival of business until
1878. It was a gloomy period of grinding frugality,
suffering, and despair.

As invariably happens hi such cases, the panic
reacted unfavorably upon the party in power.
The reaction was intensified by disclosures of
widespread governmental corruption. During the
presidential campaign charges of gross bribery
by the Credit Mobilier had been made by the
New York Sun; when Congress reassembled, it
authorized an investigation. The investigation
showed that the charges were greatly exaggerated,
but the truth proved enough to shock the American
people. It was shown that Oakes Ames and
another member of the house, namely, James
Brooks of New York, had been guilty of dis-
guised corruption; they were censured by con-



THE END OF AN ERA 69

gress. Both died soon after. Others dishonor-
ably involved were Vice-president Colfax and
Senator Patterson of New Hampshire, while Henry
Wilson, the vice-president-elect, James A. Gar-
field, and others were gravely suspected of ques-
tionable conduct.

These and other disclosures had a far-reaching
effect upon popular opinion, for they were regarded
as confirming the worst suspicions of corruption
in high governmental circles. At the same
session of congress an act was passed increasing
the salaries of the president, cabinet officers,
judges of the supreme court, senators, and
representatives, the increase for senators and
representatives being made retroactive. This
so-called "salary grab" or "back pay steal"
"was like vitriol on the raw wound of public
sentiment." There was an explosion of wrath from
one end of the country to the other. Finding
attempts at justification vain, many members
hastened to return their back| pay; and when
the new congress assembled, it hastily reduced all
salaries except those of the president and judges
to the old figures.

As the congressional elections drew near, the
people were in a different mood from that of two
years before. Stories [of "horrible 'scenes of
violence and bloodshed throughout the South"
proved no longer effective. A great "Tidal
Wave" swept over the land. Out of thirty-five
states in which elections were held twenty-three
went Democratic; even such rock-ribbed Re-
publican states as Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania,
and Massachusetts repudiated their old allegiance.



70 RECONSTRUCTION AND UNION

Only a comparative handful of Republicans were
returned to the house.

The dying congress in its final session performed
one notable act. In the same month that Grant
entered office, congress had passed an act solemnly
pledging "the payment in coin or its equivalent
of all the obligations of the United States," except
in cases expressly providing for "lawful money
or other currency than gold or silver." The act
also pledged the government "to make provision
at the earliest practicable period for the redemp-
tion of the United States notes in coin." Green-
backism was again rearing its head in the West,
but the Republican majority, under the leader-


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Online LibraryPaul Leland HaworthReconstruction and union, 1865-1912 → online text (page 4 of 20)