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Chapter 39:

Grant and Blaine.

Grant's relations with Blaine were always amicable, up to the time when the two became rivals for the Presidential nomination in 1880. Blaine was Speaker of the House of Representatives when Gen. Grant was first elected President, and as one of the leaders of the Republican party, he proposed the passage of a bill authorizing Grant to take a leave of absence, as General of the Army, for the term of his Presidency. During both of Grant's Administrations Mr. Blaine gave him a loyal support; he was in favor of Grant's renomination in 1872, and did not himself become an avowed aspirant for the succession until Grant had formally announced that his own name was not to be presented to the Convention in 1876.

In that Convention Grant's influence was thrown for Conkling, but he had still no hostility for Blaine, and if Blaine had received the nomination, the Administration would undoubtedly have done whatever it could, legitimately, for his election. It was Bristow whom Grant especially opposed, and he and Blaine were united in this opposition; for Bristow's friends attacked Blaine as fiercely as they did Grant. While the Convention was in session, Mr. Blaine and Mr. Fish, Grant's Secretary of State—were seen driving together in an open carriage, in the streets of Washington, and Fish was too loyal to his chief to afford this indication of friendship to any man with whom the President under whom he served was at enmity. [343]

I had personal knowledge of the early relations of the two great men, who were destined afterwards to be so bitterly opposed. In the first years of Grant's Presidency I was offered the position of Minister to Uruguay and Paraguay, but learning that a change was to be made at the Consulate-General in London, I asked the President for the latter appointment instead. He replied that he was pledged to nominate a friend of Mr. Blaine for the London Consulate, but added that I might consult the Speaker, and if he was willing, I should be sent to London. Accordingly, I went to Mr. Blaine, who was quite ready to oblige General Grant through me. His friend was sent to South America, and I was appointed Consul-General at London. Of course, the courtesy was intended for the President, although it gratified and benefited me.

In 1877 I accompanied General Grant in his first visit to Switzerland, and at Geneva, a son of Mr. Blaine was often in his company, and always welcome in his apartments or at his table. The young man bore civil messages from his father to General Grant, which were cordially reciprocated in my hearing. It was not until the return of Grant to this country, in 1879, that there was any ill feeling between the predestined rivals. But the especial opposition to General Grant's candidacy for a third term came from the friends of Blaine; and in the preliminary canvass all the ordinary resources of political warfare were called into play. Many things were said of General Grant that were disagreeable to him, and personal accusations were made against his character that touched him keenly; perhaps he felt them more acutely after the lavish compliments that had been offered him abroad, and the demonstrations that had followed him around the world. During the contest I did not perceive that he suffered from the sting of these assaults, and if he had succeeded, I doubt whether he would have remembered them; but as the arrows came home, and he was, for the first time in his career, [344] flagrantly defeated, the wounds rankled for a long time. He always held Mr. Blaine responsible, not, indeed, avowedly for his discomfiture, but for the personal attacks to which he attributed it. I more than once asked him the cause of his especial bitterness toward Blaine, and he invariably gave this reason. Yet I thought at the time that he deceived himself, and that it was because Blaine had been the instrument and agent of his overthrow, that Grant maintained so persistent a resentment. I could not see that Blaine was more responsible for what his supporters said of Grant, than Grant was for many of the attacks his friends directed, without his knowledge, against Blaine. Still the sentiment was not unnatural.

But here comes in a singular phase of his anger. Although Grant had been extremely disgusted at Blaine's introduction into the Cabinet, and though he certainly attributed the subsequent course of Garfield to the influence of Blaine, I never thought his soreness so great toward the Secretary of State as toward the President. He not only looked upon Garfield as responsible, but he felt that it was Garfield whom he had obliged, and who should have remembered the obligation. Blaine was an avowed antagonist, and at liberty to fight with whatever weapons Fortune or his own ability had endowed him. Thus, though the action of Garfield's Administration undoubtedly increased Grant's hostility to Blaine, I never heard him speak of the Minister as bitterly as he did of the President.

Grant's implacability, however, was in no way shared by Blaine. That statesman was very willing to come to terms with his great antagonist, and manifested this disposition frequently. But of course, it was easier for him to be magnanimous, for it was he who had succeeded. If not President, he was Secretary of State, and rightly or wrongly, he was credited with directing Garfield's policy.

After 1880 there was no intercourse between Grant and [345] Blaine, until the time approached when another nomination for the Presidency was to be made, and then the friends of Blaine became extremely anxious for an accommodation. But Grant was still unwilling to be propitiated. He certainly preferred Blaine to Arthur, as a candidate, but he refused to take any step, or make any public utterance in Blaine's favor, in the months preceding the nomination.

In October, 1883, he wrote to me as follows:

dear Badeau,—I have your letter of yesterday. I write because of your allusion to hearing a rumor that Blaine and I had formed a combination politically. You may deny the statement most peremptorily. I have not seen Blaine to speak to him since a long time before the Convention of 1880. We have had no communication in writing through other parties nor in any direct or indirect way. The Republican party cannot be saved, if it is to be saved at all, by tricks and combinations of politics. I read yesterday a circumstantial account of Blaine and I spending a week together recently, when without doubt we had fixed up matters for 1884, Blaine to be President and I to be Senator from this State. The Republican party, to be saved, must have a decisive declared policy. It has now no observable policy except to peddle out patronage to sore-heads, in order to bring them back into the fold, and avoid any positive declarations upon all leading questions.

This declaration was probably stronger because Grant knew that I was anxious for him to take ground in favor of Blaine. General Beale, who was an intimate friend, Senator Chaffee, the father-in-law of one of Grant's sons, and Stephen B. Elkins, all desired the same result, but were unable to bring it about at this time. In the late winter or early spring, after the accident which compelled him to make use of crutches for months, General Grant was in Washington, and Mr. Blaine called on him at the house of General Beale, where Grant was a visitor. The opponents of Mr. Blaine declared that the visit was not returned; but Grant authorized a [346] denial of the statement. He explained to me that he had left his cards himself at Mr. Blaine's house, but being a cripple, had not alighted from his carriage. He said, indeed, that he paid only one or two personal visits during his stay in Washington, because of his infirmity. At the same time he told me that though he would not sanction any formal dinner made to bring himself and Mr. Blaine together, he certainly would not refuse to meet him socially.

In fact time had undoubtedly somewhat mellowed or modified his feeling, and as it became evident that the choice of the party had almost narrowed down to Blaine or Arthur, Grant admitted that he desired the success of Blaine as an alternative. After the nomination he often said to me that he had no doubt Mr. Blaine would make an excellent President; and on the first occasion when the candidate was in New York, General Grant called on him at his hotel. I was out of town at the time, and wrote to say how glad I was that he had taken this step, for his own sake as well as for the effect it might have upon the election; for it seemed to me that one who had received so much from the Republican party was bound to sink his personal feeling and to do all in his power for its success. After I went to stay at his house, in the early autumn, I talked in this vein whenever I thought it advisable. He never disputed the suggestion, but said that he had thought it proper for him as ex-President to call on the nominee of his party for the place he had himself once held. I thought for awhile that he would make some more explicit declaration of his views, but there were influences persistently and incessantly at work to induce him to withhold his support from Blaine. No opportunity was omitted to revive bitterness or to recall the events which he had attributed to the hostility of Mr. Blaine, and though Chaffee, Elkins, Beale, and others did their best, the counter current was too strong. I very much hoped that at the last he would cast his vote for Blaine, but the wily enemies of Republicanism were awake [347] at the critical moment, and General Grant did not vote for the Republican candidate.

During the winter Mr. Elkins ascertained that Grant would not refuse to accept a copy of the first volume of Blaine's history, and accordingly one was presented to him, with an autograph inscription from the author; and Grant acknowledged the compliment in a note of more than his ordinary suavity. I read to him the few pages in which there was occasion for the political writer to discuss General Grant's military career. They were acceptable to their subject, but the account of Grant's civil administration did not appear until he who was judged was beyond the influence of criticism. Blaine, however, had been a faithful supporter of Grant's Presidential policy, and his comments over the tomb of his great rival contained nothing at which that rival could himself have caviled. General Grant left a list of the names of those to whom he wished his own memoirs presented, and Mr. Blaine's name was among them.

The exchange of courtesies upon the presentation of Blaine's book took place only a few months before the death of the soldier, and was the concluding incident in the intercourse of Grant and Blaine. In those last hours, when the hero declared, as he did to me on Easter Sunday, 1885, ‘I would rather have the good — will of even those whom I have not hitherto accounted friends’; when he forgave Rosecrans and Jefferson Davis—he did not include Blaine among his enemies.

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