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Chapter 28:

Grant and Hayes.

Grant and Hayes first met in 1865, at the time of the Grand Review in Washington, when Hayes was a Congressman-elect. During the next few years they were always on friendly terms, and after the nomination of Hayes for the Presidency Grant gave him a cordial support. Until the nominations were made, however, all Grant's influence had been thrown in favor of Conkling, and against Bristow and Blaine. He had declined to allow his name to go before the convention, but he naturally took a keen interest in the selection of the candidate who might succeed him. Conkling had been his especial advocate and defender in the Senate during the period when many fell away, while for Bristow he entertained an especial bitterness. He looked upon Bristow as a Cabinet Minister who had become not only the rival of his chief, but the instigator of all the fierce and personal attacks directed against himself during the concluding years of his Administration. I was out of the country and had no personal knowledge of the matter. I am far from declaring that Grant's feeling was justified by facts; I simply record the sentiment, which was one of the most intense he ever knew. But for Blaine at this time Grant had no animosity; he opposed him because he was the competitor of Conkling.

When, however, Hayes became the candidate by a compromise, Grant was loyal to his party and to the decision of its representatives. No one suspected him, and few accused him, of using his office illegitimately in behalf of Hayes; but [248] he made his preference known, and urged his friends to support the new Republican standard-bearer. His action was fully appreciated; Hayes, in his letter of acceptance, had pledged himself not to become a candidate for a second term, but afterwards feared that this might be regarded as a criticism of Grant's course in accepting a renomination in 1872. He therefore wrote to Grant, and explained that he intended no reflection on the conduct of his predecessor, but that, by making a second term for himself impossible, he hoped to secure the support of other and expectant candidates, who would perceive that they also had their opportunities.

When the first announcement of Tilden's election was made, a day or two after the vote, Grant, like a good citizen, was prepared to acquiesce in the defeat of his party, but the uncertainty as to the result which immediately arose made him, of course, anxious. He invited important persons of both parties to visit the disputed States, and to investigate and report the situation; but their statements were so conflicting that he determined it would be improper for him to form a conclusion, much more to offer a judgment. The position he held during the crisis, which at times almost threatened civil war, was extremely delicate, and he resolved in no way to attempt to affect the result after the election had occurred and while the decision was yet contested.

The election occurred on the 7th of November, and on the 18th he wrote to me at London: ‘I expect to be in England early in July, when I shall hope to see you, if my successor has not decapitated you before that. The question of successor is not yet fully determined, nor can it be until we get the official canvass of the States of Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida.’ As the contest waxed furious he was approached on one side and threatened on the other, but could not be induced to swerve from the line he had marked out for himself. He held that he was in no way the judge of the elections, but he was determined to preserve the peace [249] of the country, and watched every step and every indication of feeling, North and South, with the closest solicitude.

Finally, Congress concluded to appoint the Electoral Commission and to abide by its decision, and then Grant felt that he had a definite duty to perform. He approved the appointment of the commission as the only means to avoid fierce strife, and in spite of the probability that its decision would be in favor of the Democratic candidate; but when, by a change in the composition of the Commission, the choice of a Republican became almost inevitable, he was equally inflexible in the determination that the decisisn should be enforced. In the dilemma into which the country was thrust Congress was the only authority that could determine anything, and the President, Grant held, was the executive of the Congressional will. Accordingly, he made every preparation to carry out that will, whichever way it turned. Had Tilden been declared President by the Commission, Grant would assuredly have taken every step to inaugurate him which he afterward took to inaugurate Hayes.1

As to the exact legality of the Commission I doubt if Grant ever expressed an opinion. He did not profess to be a lawyer, and was certainly unversed in technicalities and abstruse reasonings; but he felt now as he had felt about the constitutionality of several executive acts during the war—that [250] they were essential to the salvation of the country, and that the Constitution was devised to secure that end, not to subvert it. He believed that there was no other practicable way of settling the question at issue in which both parties would acquiesce; no other arbitrament but arms, and this he was determined to avert. Therefore, when Congress laid down the law he executed it.

I remember talking with Motley on the subject at the time in London. Like most of the disappointed or disaffected Republicans, Motley held that Tilden had been elected, but he said bitterly that made no difference, for Grant was in power, and he would certainly put Hayes into place. It was an unfair accusation, but not unnatural, I suppose, in one who thought he had himself suffered unjustly at Grant's hands; still, it showed a belief that Grant would execute his determination. The country at home had the same belief in his inflexibility, and felt that he would carry out whatever policy he might adopt. Thus after it was known that he had accepted the decision of the Commission both sides breathed freer: they knew that whatever happened there would be no war. All Americans abroad, Democrats as well as Republicans, expressed this confidence; I often heard political opponents declare they were glad that Grant was in power, for at least he would preserve peace; and perhaps there were some who were not sorry to be restrained. It was no reproach to their courage to submit to what Grant was sure to enforce. His presence in the Presidential chair at this time doubtless did much, not only to allay the anxiety of the country, but to produce and preserve that peace which he and all patriots desired.

He had, indeed, a few foolish friends, personal or political, who talked about his holding over, retaining the Presidency himself and ordering a new election, assuming a sort of dictatorship; but Grant never for a moment contemplated any unconstitutional step, and when the Commission decided that Hayes had been elected, he made ready at once to secure his [251] inauguration. He conferred with his Cabinet and with Sherman, then General-in-Chief of the army. But there were no serious indications of resistance to the verdict of the court created by the representatives of the people, and no need arose for extensive military preparations. There was not more than the complement of a single regiment in Washington on the 4th of March. There were troops enough within reach to be summoned if required, but no show of preparation was made to invite or provoke disturbance.

The 4th of March that year fell on a Sunday, and Mr. Hayes arrived at Washington only the Friday before. Grant telegraphed in advance and invited him to dinner on Saturday. The President-elect was requested to name any persons whom he would like to be asked to meet him; he availed himself of the courtesy and mentioned about a dozen. GeneralGrant and Mrs. Grant selected the other guests, and the company numbered altogether about thirty.

It was a critical moment in the history of the country, and the party that met on that 3d of March was not without a certain excitement of feeling, though none appeared on the surface. The election of Hayes was still denied by immense numbers of citizens. The Democratic leaders, with marked and elevated patriotism, had accepted the decision and recommended acquiescence to their followers, but there was a sullenness abroad that made many feel uneasy. It was not so long since the country had emerged from civil war. Mr. Tilden had been publicly recommended to take the oath of office at New York, and thus raise the question of the legality of Hayes's inauguration at the Capital. This possibility was known, and to meet the contingency the Chief Justice of the United States was invited to the dinner at the White House. During the day Mr. Fish approached Mr. Hayes, by the desire of Grant, and reminded him that the public inauguration could not with propriety take place on a Sunday. But it was extremely important that no opportunity to dispute the legality [252] of any of the proceedings should be allowed; the Secretary of State, therefore, inquired whether Mr. Hayes would take the oath of office then (on Saturday), or on Sunday, the 4th of March. Mr. Hayes replied that he could not possibly be sworn in on a Sunday. Accordingly, in the evening, before dinner, the President-elect and the Chief Justice, and one or two others, went into the Red room, apart from the rest of the company, and on the 3d of March Hayes took the oath of office before the Chief Justice and was inaugurated President. On the 5th of March he renewed the oath formally at the Capitol. Grant accompanied him thither and returned with him to the White House, where a large party lunched together, after which Grant made way for Hayes.

Grant had done all that was proper in his position to assist in the election of Hayes, and very much indeed to facilitate his installation, and Hayes appreciated this course. A few days after the 4th of March, the new President invited Grant to say if there were any personal friends in office whom he would like to have retained. Grant named about half a dozen, among them his brother-in-law, Mr. Cramer, the Minister to Denmark. My own name as Consul-General at London was also mentioned. These requests Mr. Hayes religiously observed, though in my case, at least, great pressure was brought to induce him to break his pledge. My place was wanted by two Cabinet Ministers for their own friends, and was actually offered to Chester A. Arthur, then collector at New York, by Sherman, the Secretary of the Treasury. Arthur declined it, and I never heard that Sherman's offer was authorized by Hayes. Mr. Sherman, however, was under no obligation to me, nor indeed to General Grant, beyond that which every citizen of the country shared.

The new Administration showed Grant all proper civilities during his stay abroad. Naval vessels were placed at his disposal in European and Asiatic waters, and diplomatic and [253] consular officers were instructed by the State Department to pay him every honor in the countries to which they were were accredited. But the policy of Hayes's Government Grant always thought reflected on his own. An avowed and personal enemy of the ex-President was made Secretary of the Interior, while the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury were men for whom he had no personal preferences. He also disliked many of Hayes's inferior appointments, and never professed any admiration for his Administration. He was especially mortified at the appointment of Schurz as Secretary of the Interior; but he was out of power, and the influence of an incoming Secretary was greater than all the authority of the ex-President.

I suppose this feeling on Grant's part was not unnatural; after having been so long the Head of the State he could hardly share the partialities or prejudices of an Administration which had its own aims and ambitions to foster, its own friends to appoint, its own loves and hates to gratify. It was Hayes's Administration, not Grant's; and Grant, who had more than a spice of human nature in his composition, liked it less than if it had consulted his wishes or views instead of its own. He felt, beside, whether justly or not I do not venture to decide, that his assistance having been indispensable to the installation of Hayes, he should have been more considered afterward. He thought that the reversal of much of his own policy was not only unwise but offensive, and he endured his share of the mortification that comes to every man who has filled high public place and descends to a position in which he has no longer honors or emoluments to dispense, and loses the obsequious homage which follows only power.

But he offered no more than an occasional criticism of Mr. Hayes or his Government, and never opposition, except to Schurz, his dislike for whom was doubtless returned in kind. Schurz was indeed one of the men for whom Grant [254] conceived a violent hate, yet even Schurz called at Grant's house to inquire for him while the great soldier lay dying.

Mr. Hayes also went to the house of his predecessor on a visit of sympathy at the same sad time, and he attended Grant's funeral

1 I never met Mr. Tilden until he went abroad after the inauguration of Hayes. I was then Consul-General at London, and called on him as on a man under whom I might perhaps have served, or who, more probably, would have used his power to remove me. He received me cordially, and was evidently pleased at the mark of respect from a political opponent. He said that he recognized all of the American representatives abroad who had served under Grant. They had been appointed by a President; but he visited none of the nominees of Hayes.

He spoke with respect of General Grant and of his services, although he must have known that, after the result of the Electoral Commission was declared, Grant was determined to place Hayes in the Presidential chair. But he was probably equally certain that if the decision had been different Grant would just as certainly have done all in his power to install him.

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