21. Securing the Succession
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535 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 21 SECURING THE SUCCESSION After accepting the Republican presidential nomination in 1868, Grant FRQÀGHGWR6KHUPDQWKDWKHKDGDJUHHGWRUXQWRVDYHWKHFRXQWU\IURP “mere trading politicians.” Eight years later, as he began his last year in R΀FH*UDQWKLPVHOIKDGEHFRPHDWKRURXJKSROLWLFLDQ+HKDGOREELHG on Capitol Hill, twisted arms at the White House, wielded patronage, fashioned policies, enlisted a cadre of legislative lieutenants, and done much to set the nation’s agenda. He had won a landslide reelection, but he had also battled a host of enemies. He had become committed to the Republican Party, convinced that its fortunes and those of the nation stood inextricably entwined. So believing, he took a keen interest in the protracted struggle to choose his successor—an intense drama that did not reach its climax until hours before he handed over the keys to the :KLWH+RXVH7KDWXQIROGLQJGUDPDERWKUHÁHFWHGDQGLQÁXHQFHGWKH shape of Grant’s reputation as president.1 The vexations Grant had found in the presidency did not deter a ODUJHÀHOGRIFDQGLGDWHVKRSLQJWRZLQWKHR΀FH)RUWKHÀUVWWLPHVLQFH 1860, the Republican Party faced a wide-open convention. The odds-on favorite was popular Maine congressman James G. Blaine. Blaine had served six years as Speaker of the House, winning respect on both sides RIWKHDLVOHIRUKLVHYHQKDQGHGPDQDJHPHQW%XWWKH&UpGLW0RELOLHU scandal had tinged his reputation, and revelations in the spring of other apparent misdeeds deepened suspicions about his character. Senator CHAPTER 21 536 Oliver Morton had earned Republican reverence for his Herculean efforts on behalf of the Union cause as governor of Indiana, and he enjoyed respect as an ardent champion of African Americans’ rights. Generally DVWDOZDUWDOO\RIWKHDGPLQLVWUDWLRQKHKDGRͿHQGHGFRQVHUYDWLYHVE\ KLVVXSSRUWRIWKH,QÁDWLRQ%LOO0RUHRYHUDVWURNHLQKDGOHIWKLV legs paralyzed, and despite his vigor in the Senate, his candidacy suffered from prejudice against electing a “cripple.” Morton’s chief rival for support among pro-administration Republicans was Roscoe Conkling. 1RRQHVWRRGE\WKHSUHVLGHQWPRUHHͿHFWLYHO\LQ&RQJUHVVLQSULYDWH conclave, or on the public platform. Yet the supremely arrogant Conkling showed a disdain for lesser mortals in the Republican Party. He and Blaine hated each other uncordially, and if either man were nomiQDWHG KHIDFHGSUREDEOHNQLÀQJE\WKHRWKHU·VIULHQGVLQWKHHOHFWLRQ$ few states backed favorite sons to leverage their convention bargaining power. Governor Rutherford Hayes rose somewhat above favorite-son status by virtue of his vote-getting ability in unpredictable Ohio and his LQQRFHQFHRIUHFHQWSDUW\LQÀJKWLQJ The other major candidate was Benjamin Bristow. Soon after he became secretary of the treasury in June 1874, his political allies Bluford and Harry Wilson and John Marshall Harlan had begun a long-march campaign to position Bristow as the party’s noblest crusader for cleansing government. These men, especially the Wilson brothers, had ambitions of their own. Harry had hankered after numerous positions under Grant and hoped for greater appreciation of his talents by President Bristow . Bluford thought he might run for Congress in a Bristow campaign or, even better, become attorney general in a Bristow cabinet. As solicitor of the treasury, he spent much of his time advancing his chief’s political fortunes.2 Key to the Bristow strategy was winning the endorsement of Liberal Republicans. Having seen their organization disintegrate after the *UHHOH\ÀDVFRWKH/LEHUDOVGHOLEHUDWHGKRZEHVWWRH[HUWWKHLULQÁXHQFH in the coming contest. As early as February, the Wilsons and Bristow EHJDQQHJRWLDWLQJZLWKWKHP%OXIRUGWROGWZHQW\ÀYH\HDUROG+HQU\ Cabot Lodge that if the Liberals supported Bristow at the Republican convention, the secretary would, in the event he lost, be willing to take second place on an independent ticket behind Charles Francis Adams. Henry Adams considered his father out of the running and pushed for an independent nomination of Bristow regardless of what the Republicans might do. Bristow himself told Lodge that if the Republican Party “did not come up to his principles,” he would “leave it.” Each camp was SECURING THE SUCCESSION 537 obviously using the other, but the two agreed that denigrating Grant was central to their campaign. They believed, as Horace White put it, “the public mind is feverish enough on the subject of administrative rascalities” that the Liberals could “terrify...


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