2. “Let Us Have Peace”
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41 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 2 “LET US HAVE PEACE” The vote on May 16, 1868, to acquit President Johnson did nothing to dampen Republican enthusiasm for Ulysses Grant when delegates streamed into Chicago for the party’s convention four days later. The previous day, a boisterous gathering of veterans had called Grant’s election essential to “secure the fruits of our exertions and a restoration of the Union upon a loyal basis.” At the convention itself, no formal nomLQDWLQJ VSHHFKZDVRͿHUHGDQG*UDQWZRQDXQDQLPRXVQRPLQDWLRQ amid deafening cheers. The band struck up “The Battle Cry of Freedom ,” and the delegates joined in the chorus while a curtain dropped bearing a painting of Liberty upholding Grant: “Match him.”1 For the second spot on the ticket, Republicans aimed to avoid repeating the mistake they had made in selecting Johnson in 1864. When nominating speeches got under way, Carl Schurz of Missouri assured the delegates that “if Ben. Wade is put behind Gen. Grant, there is not a Life Insurance Company in the world, that will not at once want to take a premium on the life of Gen. Grant.” With friends like Schurz, Wade needed no enemies. No one had forgotten that enough Republican senators had, in essence, said they preferred Johnson to Wade in order to GHIHDWLPSHDFKPHQW$OWKRXJK:DGHOHGRQWKHÀUVWIRXUEDOORWV+RXVH 6SHDNHU 6FKX\OHU &ROID[ RYHUWRRN KLP RQ WKH ÀIWK DQG WKH FRQYHQtion nominated Colfax in a rush. Less outspokenly radical than Wade, “Smiler Schuyler” would help put a moderate stamp on the campaign.2 CHAPTER 2 42 The party’s embrace of moderation showed in the platform as well. The convention asserted that the right of black men to vote in the South “was demanded by every consideration of public safety, of gratitude, DQGRIMXVWLFHDQGPXVWEHPDLQWDLQHGZKLOHWKHTXHVWLRQRIVXͿUDJH in all the loyal States properly belongs to the people of those States.” (Republicans in Congress would repudiate this craven hypocrisy at the next session—after the election—with passage of the Fifteenth Amendment .) Optimistically, the delegates congratulated the country on “the assured success of the reconstruction policy of Congress.” The platform endorsed economic orthodoxy by calling for payment of the nation’s bonds at full value, refunding of the national debt at lower interest rates, a reduction in taxation, and economy in expenditures. The resolutions committee also called for a “liberal” immigration policy and for the proWHFWLRQ RIQDWXUDOL]HGFLWL]HQV)URPWKHÁRRUGHOHJDWHVDGGHGUHVROXtions vaguely endorsing the lifting of restrictions on former Confederate leaders when “the spirit of disloyalty” died out and embracing the principles of the Declaration of Independence. The convention condemned $QGUHZ -RKQVRQ IRU ´SHUVLVWHQWO\ DQG FRUUXSWO\ UHVLVW>LQJ@ E\ HYHU\ means in his power, every proper attempt at the reconstruction of the States lately in rebellion.”3 When news of Grant’s nomination reached the War Department, The Republican ticket for 1868. (Library of Congress) “LET US HAVE PEACE” 43 one of his aides observed “no shade of exultation or agitation on his IDFHQRWDÁXVKRQKLVFKHHNQRUDÁDVKLQKLVH\Hµ*UDQWGLGKRZever , signal his approval of the platform, especially its upholding of the sanctity of the national debt. The next evening he greeted a crowd of 2,000 or 3,000, including many women, gathered at his house: “Being entirely unaccustomed to public speaking, and without the desire to FXOWLYDWHWKDWSRZHU>ODXJKWHU@LWLVLPSRVVLEOHIRUPHWRÀQGDSSURSULate language to thank you for this demonstration. All that I can say is, that to whatever position I may be called by your will, I shall endeavor WRGLVFKDUJHLWVGXWLHVZLWKÀGHOLW\DQGKRQHVW\RISXUSRVHµ$ZHHN ODWHUWKHFRQYHQWLRQ·VQRWLÀFDWLRQFRPPLWWHHSUHVHQWHGWKHQRPLQDWLRQ to Grant, stating, “We know that you will not seek to enforce upon the unwilling representatives of the people any policy of your own devising , for you have said that ‘the will of the people is the law of the land.’” At this pointed reference to Johnson’s behavior, Grant readily promised, “I shall have no policy of my own to interfere against the will of the people.”4 Grant reiterated this theme in his formal letter of acceptance. He SUDLVHGWKHFRQYHQWLRQIRUUHÁHFWLQJ´WKHIHHOLQJVRIWKHJUHDWPDVVRI those who sustained the country through its recent trials.” He endorsed the platform and asserted that “peace, and universal...


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