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Chapter 9: Greeley's presidential campaign-his death

  • The changed attitude of the Tribune toward Grant's administration
  • -- causes of Republican discontent -- Carpet-baggers and Kuklux -- the demand for universal amnesty -- Greeley's leadership in that cause -- an opponent of President Johnson -- bondsman for Jefferson Davis -- his Richmond speech -- the Liberal movement in Missouri -- Forerunnings of the Cincinnati convention -- Sumner's influence -- the demand for tariff reform -- Greeley's alliance with the Liberals -- proceedings of the Cincinnati convention -- how Greeley's nomination was brought about -- his retirement from the Tribune control -- progress of the campaign -- his defeat and its effect on him -- his last hours

On the evening of March 4, 1869, John Russell Young, the managing editor of the Tribune, came to my desk (I was then the assistant city editor), with a long letter, written on Tribune notepaper, in his fine hand, which he asked me to copy for him. The letter was addressed to General Grant's intimate friend, General Adam Badeau. The next morning I found this letter, with only the necessary alterations, printed as the Tribune's leading editorial, giving an outline of what the paper hoped for Grant's administration. There were to be economy and retrenchment; Cuba seemed to be “falling into our lap for nothing” ; Santo Domingo stood at our door, and with it would come Porto Rico; for Canada we could wait; Grant was to change possible national bankruptcy into solvency, bring about specie payments, and send ships carrying the American flag into every sea — in a word, to have a “splendid [215] administration.” At the close of the President's first term, the editor of the Tribune was the candidate who was opposing him for reelection, and on a platform which was preceded by an address accusing the Grant administration of usurpation of power, and of striking a blow at the fundamental principles of constitutional government and the liberties of the people; charging the President with the use of his high powers for the promotion of personal ends, making the public service “a machinery of corruption,” and alleging that his partizans had “kept alive the passions and resentments of the late civil war, to use them for their own advantage.”

In explaining this changed position, it is necessary to glance back at the causes of Republican discontent, and to review Greeley's position on the question of reconstruction.

General Grant naturally carried his military ideas into the White House. He was not tactful in conciliating those who disagreed with him about his civil policy, and was stubborn in supporting men whom he had selected for office when they came under a fire of adverse criticism. Some of his advisers early encountered such criticism, and serious scandals were brought to light in the Post-Office and other departments. Many Republicans [216] came to believe that the President was personally corrupt, and that his fidelity to friends “under fire” was due to his own connection with their schemes. His civil appointments were often very injudicious, and there grew up a large body of independents ready to accept the declaration of the Nation that the President had so used his power of appointment that there was in office “a body of officials such as no party in a constitutional country has ever been served by, and such as no government except that of imperial France has ever brought into play to influence an election.”

Both among and outside of the radical civil service and revenue reformers were many men in the North who were anxious to see the negro question eliminated from Federal politics. The disfranchisement of the leading white men in the Southern States who had participated in the rebellion had handed over the governments of many of these States to the ignorant negroes, and to newcomers from the North, who were soon classified under the name of “carpetbaggers,” and an era of governmental chaos ensued, out of which came scandalous waste of the public funds, the grossest travesties in the way of legislatures, and the organization of [217] the whites in “Kuklux Klans,” which, as is always the case in such organizations formed outside of the law, committed terrible outrages in their efforts to check existing evils. A motion in the House of Representatives, in June, 1870, to remove all political disabilities for participation in the rebellion was lost, 59 to 112, 11 Republicans voting with the minority. President Grant, in his message in 1871, said: “It may be considered whether it is not now time that the disabilities imposed by the Fourteenth Amendment be removed.” On a motion in the House by Mr. Dawes, on January 15, 1872, to remove all the disabilities named in this amendment, the vote was, yeas, 132; nays, 70; not two-thirds, as was necessary to pass the resolution, Dawes, Garfield, and Hale voting with the yeas.

While Greeley was not identified personally with the civil service reformers, he was the leader of those Republicans who demanded an end of all proscription for participation in the rebellion. With the laying down of the rebel arms he had lifted up his voice for magnanimity toward the South. The day after Lee's surrender the Tribune said (May 10, 1865): “We can not believe it wise or well to take the life of any man who shall have submitted to the national authority,” explaining, [218] “Unquestionably, there are men in the South who have richly deserved condign punishment. Whoever is responsible for the butchery of our black soldiers vanquished in fight, or the still more atrocious murder of captives by wanton exposure in prison-camps, stands in this category. But the immediate issue concerns, not the dispensation of justice to individuals, but the pacification of the whole republic.”

On November 27, 1866, when a hopeful candidate for United States Senator, Greeley, with the knowledge that the declaration would destroy his chances of election, said in the Tribune: “I am for universal amnesty-so far as immunity from fear of punishment or confiscation is concerned-even though impartial suffrage should for the present be resisted and defeated. I did think it desirable that Jefferson Davis should be arraigned and tried for treason; and it still seems to me that this might properly have been done many months ago. But it was not done then, and now I believe it would result in far more evil than good. I hope to see impartial suffrage established by very general consent. . . . The one simple, obvious mode of taking the negro out of politics is to treat him as a man.” [219]

Greeley visited Washington by invitation after the elections of 1865, and took part in conferences with President Johnson, the object of which was to secure cooperation and peace between him and Congress. These efforts failed; the President issued a proclamation of amnesty, excepting fourteen classes, including generally all persons who had taken official part in the rebellion, and by proclamation he established governments in several of the lately rebellious States; and on April 2, 1866, he officially proclaimed the rebellion at an end. Congress met, and appointed a joint committee to report on the existing condition of the rebelling States, and the conflict between the President and the Federal Legislature ensued, the President vetoing the reconstruction measures which Congress passed during that conflict. Greeley was a bitter opponent of President Johnson's policy. He called his veto of the bill establishing universal suffrage in the District of Columbia “the least plausible veto message we ever read” ; said of the veto of the reconstruction bill (March 3, 1867): “Its obvious tendency to keep the Southern States unreconstructed and unrepresented is, in every view, deplorable” ; and, during the impeachment trial, declared, “The nation demands impeachment.” [220] The reconstruction acts excluded from a share in the new State governments all persons already disfranchised for participation in the rebellion; an amendment offered in the House by Mr. Blaine, that the rebel States should be entitled to representation in Congress whenever the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution should be ratified, and they should consent to it, was defeated, 69 to 94. Greeley in a speech in Richmond, Va., in May, 1867, stated that he accepted this proscription “only as a precaution against present disloyalty,” adding: “I believe the nation will insist on such proscription being removed so soon as reasonable and proper assurances are given that disloyalty has ceased to be powerful and dangerous in the Southern States.”

When Jefferson Davis's counsel, George Shea, an old friend of Greeley, consulted the latter about procuring satisfactory bondsmen for his client, Greeley suggested two prominent Union men, and added, “If my name should be found necessary, you may use that.” His name was asked for, and he went to Richmond, and there, in May, 1867, signed the bond with Gerritt Smith, Commodore Vanderbilt, and others. This act brought down on him such an avalanche of denunciation [221] from his party and personal admirers as he had never incurred. His motives were attacked, his interview with Davis misrepresented, and he was handed over by thousands of Republicans to the company of the late rebels. An indication of the public feeling was furnished by its effect on the sale of his history of the rebellion. In his own words, that sale then “almost ceased for a season; thousands who had subscribed for it refusing to take their copies.” But, he added, “at all events, the public has learned that I act upon my convictions without fear of personal consequences.”

The feeling against Greeley in New York city manifested itself most pointedly in a call, signed by more than thirty members, for a special meeting of the Union League Club, to consider his conduct in becoming Davis's bondsman. In reply to an official notification of this meeting, Greeley wrote to the signers of the call a vigorous letter, in which he rehearsed his early views about the disposition to be made of Davis, recalled the fact that, soon after their publication, the acceptance of a portrait of him by the club had been opposed by its president, and added:

Gentlemen, I shall not attend your meeting this evening. I have an engagement out [222] of town, and shall keep it. I do not recognize you as capable of judging, or fully apprehending, me. You evidently regard me as a weak sentimentalist, misled by a maudling philosophy. I arraign you as narrow-minded blockheads, who would like to be useful to a great and good cause, but don't know how. Your attempt to base a great, enduring party on the hate and wrath necessarily engendered by a bloody civil war, is as though you should plant a colony on an iceberg which had somehow drifted into a tropical ocean. I tell you here, that, out of a life earnestly devoted to the good of human kind, your children will select my going to Richmond and signing that bail bond as the wisest act, and will feel that it did more for freedom and humanity than all of you were competent to do, though you had lived to the age of Methuselah. I ask nothing of you, then, but that you proceed to your end by a direct, frank, manly way. Don't sidle off into a mild resolution of censure, but move the expulsion which you propose, and which I deserve, if I deserve any reproach whatever. All I care for is that you make this a square, stand — up fight, and record your judgment by yeas and nays.

The club, at its meeting, adopted a resolution setting forth that there was nothing in [223] Greeley's action “calling for proceedings of this club.”

While Greeley was in Richmond he accepted an invitation to deliver an address in the African Church, in which he made an earnest plea for good — will and reconciliation. He pointed out objections to some of the laws passed by the Southern State governments established under military rule-such as the prohibition against negroes bearing arms or testifying against whites in the courtscall-ing them “unnecessary, invidious, and degrading.” Urging the obligation of the South as well as the North to the blacks, he said: “Their equal rights as citizens are to be secured now or not at all. I insist, then, in the name of justice and humanity, in the name of our country, and of every righteous interest and section of that country, that the rights of all the American people-native or naturalized, born such or made such-shall be guaranteed in the State Constitutions first, and in the Federal Constitution as soon as possible; that we make it a fundamental condition of American law and policy that every citizen shall have, in the eye of the law, every right of every other citizen. I would make the equal rights of the colored people of the country, under the laws and the Constitution [224] thereof, the corner-stone of a true, beneficent reconstruction.” As to the removal of disabilities in the South, he would deny the right to a voice in the Government to the “implacably hostile,” but he would look to the removal of all proscription at the earliest possible moment. He closed thus:

Men of Virginia: I entreat you to forget the years of slavery and secession and civil war, now happily passed, in the hopeful contemplation of better days of freedom and union and peace now opening before you. Forget that some of you have been masters, others slaves — some for disunion, others against it-and remember only that you are Virginians, and all now and henceforth freemen. Bear in mind that your State is the heart of a great republic, not the frontier of a weaker Confederacy, and that your unequaled combination of soil, timber, minerals, and water-power fairly entitles you to a population of five millions before the close of this century. Consider that the natural highway of empire — the shortest and easiest route from the Atlantic to the heart of the great valley-lies up the James River and down the Kanawha, and that this city, with its millpower superior to any in our country but that of St. Anthony's Falls on the Mississippi, [225] ought to insure you a speedy development of manufactures surpassing any Lowell or Lawrence, with a population of at least half a million before the close of this century.1 I exhort you, then, Republicans and Conservatives, whites and blacks, to bury the dead past in mutual and hearty good-will, and in a general, united effort to promote the prosperity and exalt the glory of our long distracted and bleeding, but henceforth reunited, magnificent country.

In May, 1871, Greeley accepted an invitation to address the Texas State Fair at Houston, and made a number of speeches in the South on his way to that city. On his return, a public welcome was given to him by his admirers at the Lincoln Club in New York city, on which occasion he made an elaborate address, urging once more universal amnesty. He said he believed that the leading men of the South would be safer and more useful in Congress than the second-rate men, and that the Republican party would be stronger if the Tombses, Wises, and Wade Hamptons [226] had been allowed to go to Congress four years before. Admitting that dishonest “carpetbaggers” were “a mournful fact,” he explained: “Do not mistake me. All the Northern men in the South are not thieves. The larger part of them are honest and good men. . . .The time has been, and still is, when it was perilous to be known as a Republican or an Abolitionist in the South; but it never called the blush of shame to any man's cheek to be called so until those thieving carpetbaggers went there-never! . . . ‘Well, then, do you justify the Kuklux?’ I am asked. Justify them in what? If they should choose to catch a hundred or two of these thieves, place them tenderly across rails, and bear them quietly and peacefully across the Ohio, I should, of course, condemn the act, as I condemn all acts of violence; but the tears live in a very small onion that would water all my sorrow for them.” He closed with a plea for an end of fighting over old issues.

These outspoken expressions made Greeley-leading Republican and editor as he was --the acknowledged representative of the supporters of universal amnesty.

In no border State had the loyal and rebel elements contended more bitterly during the war than in Missouri. When the State Constitution [227] was revised in 1865, the new instrument disfranchised the sympathizers with the Confederates, and required a rigorous test oath, which was upheld by the United States Supreme Court. In December, 1866, B. Gratz Brown, an ex-United States Senator, took the lead in a movement for universal amnesty and universal suffrage in the State, and he was warmly supported by Carl Schurz,2 who went to St. Louis in 1867 to edit a German newspaper, and was elected a United States Senator in 1869. The Missouri Legislature of 1870 voted to submit to the people six amendments to the Constitution, which gave the right of suffrage to every male citizen of the United States, and abolished the test oath, and the oath of loyalty required of jurors. The Democrats — a hopeless minority --held no State convention that year. The Republican convention, by a vote of 439 to 342, adopted, instead of the report of the majority of the committee on resolutions (presented by its chairman, Senator Schurz) [228] which favored the removal of all disqualifications and the conferring of equal political rights and privileges on all classes, a minority report “in favor of reenfranchising those justly disfranchised for participation in the late rebellion as soon as it can be done with safety to the State.” Thereupon nearly two hundred and fifty delegates, headed by Schurz, left the convention. The majority adopted a resolution heartily approving the administration of President Grant, and nominated a State ticket. The bolters, with Schurz in the chair, also nominated a State ticket, headed by B. Gratz Brown for Governor. President Grant sided with the Radicals, and in a letter to a Federal office-holder in St. Louis, in September, said, “I regard the movement headed by Carl Schurz, Brown, etc., as similar to the Tennessee and Virginia movements, intended to carry a portion of the Republican party over to the Democracy, and thus give them control.” 3 Brown was elected Governor by 41,917 majority.

The Central Committee of the Missouri [229] Liberal Republicans adopted a resolution in 1871 declaring that no citizen should be deprived of a just share in the Government; demanding the removal of all political disabilities; saying that the organization was unequivocally hostile to any tariff which fosters one industry or interest at the expense of another; and calling for a thorough reform of the civil service. The resolution also declared that “this committee, believing that it has no power to disband or consolidate with any other committee, expresses its willingness to call a State convention of Liberal Republicans to take into consideration measures for the unity of the party.” As an outcome of this action of the committee a call was issued for a State convention of Liberal Republicans, which was held in Jefferson City on January 24, 1872, with a representation from nearly every county. This convention, in turn, issued a call for a national convention, to be held in Cincinnati, on the first Monday in May next, “to take such action as their convictions of duty and public exigencies may require.” The platform adopted declared for universal amnesty and equal suffrage, tariff reform “by the removal of such duties as, in addition to the yielded revenue, increase the price of domestic products [230] for the benefit of favored interests,” and civil service reform, and denounced the “packing of the Supreme Court to relieve rich corporations,” and the attempt to cure the Kuklux disorders, irreligion, or intemperance “by means of unconstitutional laws.”

This movement for a national convention received some directions from Washington. Schurz was occupying his seat as Senator at the time, and he held intimate relations with Charles Sumner, whose quarrel with President Grant was a matter of national interest. The unfriendliness of the Massachusetts Senator and the President, beginning, perhaps, when Sumner was obliged, on constitutional grounds, to oppose the confirmation of A. T. Stewart, Grant's first nominee for Secretary of the Treasury, grew into charges and counter-charges of great bitterness while the Santo Domingo treaty was under discussion, and the President gave Sumner the chief credit for the defeat of that measure. Motley's recall from England was the President's first act of retaliation. In the following December the President proposed the annexation of Santo Domingo in the same way that Texas had been annexed as a State, and Sumner again led the opposition, selecting words that were especially irritating to [231] the executive, and charging him with trying to remove three antitreaty members of the Committee on Foreign Relations. The publication of the Motley correspondence, in January, 1871, put an end to all cooperation between the State Department and the Committee on Foreign Relations. The Alabama High Joint Commission began its sessions in Washington in February, and in March, when the new Congress met, the Senate committee was reorganized, and, in accordance with the President's wishes, Sumner was dropped as chairman.

From that time Sumner was an outspoken opponent of Grant's renomination, and so bitter a critic that he was persuaded by his friends to withhold from publication an arraignment of Grant which he prepared; he circulated it privately, however. Early in 1871 he offered in the Senate a resolution to amend the Federal Constitution so that a President could serve but a single term, and he and others who objected to Grant's reelection discussed the steps necessary to defeat him, and had a share in shaping the Missouri movement. After the nomination of the Greeley ticket, and a few days before Grant's renomination, Sumner made a bitter speech in the Senate, of which he said, as he [232] left the Capitol, “I have to-day made the renomination of Grant impossible,” and throughout the campaign he refused to believe that the Grant ticket would win.4

In 1871 and 1872 the tariff question was causing the Republicans a great deal of anxiety. So firm a defender of protection as Senator Morrill had declared in 1870 that “it is a mistake for the friends of a sound tariff to insist on the extreme rates imposed during the war, if less will raise the necessary revenue.” A bill prepared by David A. Wells, Special Commissioner of the Revenue, in 1867, reducing duties on raw material, had passed the Senate by a large majority, and received a vote of 106 to 64 in its favor in the House, but failed there because a two-thirds majority was necessary to reach it under a suspension of the rules. The subject came up again in 1870, when Garfield, in the House, warned his protectionist friends that, unless they revised the tariff “prudently and wisely” they would have to submit to a reduction that would “shock, if not shatter, all our protected industries.” Congress in that year passed a tariff bill, but it did not satisfy [233] the revenue reformers, since, while reducing the duty on pig iron from $9 to $7 a ton, it increased the duty on steel rails, nickel, flax, and marble.

The removal of Mr. Wells from his office was accepted as an affront both to tariff reform and to civil service reform. The urgency of the demand for relief from tariff burdens was shown by a letter from a Republican observer in Washington, printed in the Tribune in March, 1871, advocating “a carefully revised tariff bill” so wisely drawn “that it will permit the party to escape a split on this question in the coming presidential campaign.” Hubbard, of New Hampshire, on March 27, 1871, moved in the House that the tariff should be so reformed as to be “a tax for revenue only, and not for the protection of class interests at the general expense.” A motion to table this resolution was defeated by a vote of 2 yeas to 154 nays, and it was referred to the Ways and Means Committee. The House, at this session, passed a bill placing salt and coal on the free list, and to these, at the instance of the Pennsylvanians, added tea and coffee; but these measures did not pass the Senate.

Thus it will be seen that the tariff declaration of the Missouri Liberal Republicans appealed [234] to the sympathies of a large number of other Republicans.

The Tribune of March 30, 1872, published a letter signed by several New York Republicans, addressed to the chairman of the executive committee of the Liberal Republicans of Missouri, expressing their concurrence in the principles set forth by the Jefferson City convention, which, as regards the tariff, they interpreted to mean that “Federal taxes should be imposed for revenue, and should be so adjusted as to make the burden upon the industries of the country as light as possible,” hoping that the movement begun there would spread through all the States, and inviting all Republicans of New York who agreed with them to cooperate. Greeley was the second signer of this letter. The Tribune had said, on March 16, “Of course, we shall ask to be counted out [of the Liberal movement] if the majority shall decide to make free trade a plank in their platform,” and it explained on April 4, “In signing the letter to Colonel Grosvenor, we simply indicated our approval of the Cincinnati movement, not of every phase embodied in that letter.”

The Liberal movement received encouragement in all the States, and on May 1 six [235] hundred and fourteen delegates assembled in convention in Cincinnati. Meeting as they did without previous organization, they were largely at sea both as regards the form of the platform and the candidate. Charles Francis Adams was the preference of the radical civil service and tariff reformers. Illinois was divided between Senator Trumbull and Judge David Davis, of the United States Supreme Court.5 Governor Brown was the favorite of most of the Missouri delegates, and Pennsylvania was ready to vote for Curtin. Horace Greeley was supported by sixty-six of the sixty-eight New York delegates. How to nominate him on a platform in line with the declarations of the Jefferson City platform was a problem even to his friends. The Missourians held that Brown was the logical leader of a movement which, they said, originated in his State and had made him Governor.

In their earlier despatches, as the delegates were gathering, neither the Sun nor the Times correspondent considered Greeley's [236] nomination a possibility, and both made predictions of the disposition of his vote after the first “complimentary” ballot. E. L. Godkin, in his letter to the Nation reviewing the convention (which he attended), said: “Strange as it may seem, Greeley's nomination was generally regarded as impossible. I think I am right in saying that nobody outside the circle of his immediate supporters treated it as a serious probability. Men laughed when his name was spoken of; all said he ought to have a good complimentary vote; but nearly everybody talked of his selection for the presidency by the convention as an utterly ludicrous thing, which would cover the proceedings with ridicule and contempt. What was feared by the reformers was not this, but some ‘ sinful game’ on the part of the politicians which would defeat Adams and deprive the movement of all weight and significance.”

To Adams objection was made that he had not been identified with the Liberal movement; that he was “cold-blooded,” and would arouse no enthusiasm in the West, and that his relations with Sumner would drive the latter back to Grant if Adams was nominated. That Adams was not a “practical politician” was shown by the publication, on [237] April 25, of a letter addressed by him to David A. Wells, in which he said:

I do not want the nomination, and could only be induced to consider it by the circumstances under which it might possibly be made. If the call upon me were an unequivocal one, based upon confidence in my character, earned in public life, and a belief that I would carry out in practise the principles that I professed, then indeed would come a test of my courage in an emergency; but if I am to be negotiated for, and have assurances given that I am honest, you will be so kind as to withdraw me out of that crowd. .... If the good people who meet at Cincinnati sincerely believe that they need such an anomalous being as I am (which I do not), they must express it in a manner to convince me of it, or all their labor will be thrown away.

The Tribune was quick to make use of this letter. Its Cincinnati despatch the next day said that it had created a flutter; “the Missouri and Kansas delegates say it ruins his [Adams's] prospects for the nomination here.” Its despatch dated April 26 said that, according to a leading Pennsylvanian, the delegation from that State indicated a willingness to sustain Greeley, “whose presence on the ticket should be a guaranty to the [238] country of the dignity and power of the reform movement; he would, they argue, carry an overwhelming Republican vote, and render the work of the Philadelphia gathering [the National Republican Convention] useless. They are equally frank in their repugnance to Charles Francis Adams, whose letter is regarded as frivolous and undignified. He is accused of courting administration bounty by his careless, or as they term it, slighting allusion to the Liberal convention. It is claimed that Adams has lost the chance he had last week, through the earnest sympathy and support extended to him by the World and August Belmont.” On April 28 its correspondent telegraphed, “The loudest talking is for Davis, the strongest for Adams, the most boastful for Brown, while the friends of Trumbull and Cox counsel quietly.” The next day its advices from the same source were, “There is much talk about Horace Greeley, but his friends are not making any vehement contest for him. Their policy, so far as they can be said to have one, appears to be that of awaiting events; they believe their favorite to be the second choice, in a large measure, of both the Adams and Davis men.” Editorially, at the same time, the Tribune said: “The Tribune has no candidate; [239] it asks for no particular man; but it does ask the choice of some man whose name should symbolize the national movement for reform.”

The position of Illinois in the convention was an important one. It was represented by forty-two delegates, and the supporters of Trumbull and Davis were stubbornly antagonistic. The anti-Adams feeling among some of these delegates was very strong, and they were quoted as saying, after the publication of his letter to Wells, that Grant would carry their State against Adams by 50,000 majority. As events proved, this feeling caused Adams's defeat.

The convention organized with Senator Schurz in the chair. Two days were devoted to preliminary matters, and on Friday, May 3, the platform was adopted and the balloting for candidates took place. The platform, reported by Horace White, editor of the Chicago Tribune, opened with an address charging the Grant administration with corruption, and the President with using his official position for personal ends, keeping corrupt men in public places, and being unequal to the duties of his office, and declaring that a party “thus led and controlled can no longer be of service to the best interests of the republic.” [240] The resolutions demanded the immediate removal of all disabilities imposed for participation in the rebellion, a thorough reform of the civil service, the maintenance of the public credit and a speedy return to specie payments, and opposed further land-grants to railroads. On the question of the tariff it declared as follows:

Seventh. We demand a system of Federal taxation which shall not unnecessarily interfere with the industries of the people, and which shall provide the means necessary to pay the expenses of the Government, economically administered, the pensions, the interest on the public debt, and a moderate annual reduction of the principal thereof; and, recognizing that there are in our midst honest but irreconcilable differences of opinion with regard to the respective systems of protection and free trade, we remit the discussion of the subject to the people in their Congressional districts, and to the decision of Congress thereon, wholly free from executive interference or dictation.

The delegates were still “at sea” as regards the head of their ticket. On the preceding night the New York Times correspondent, who the day before had insisted [241] that Greeley stood no chance of the nomination, reported no change, except that Greeley and Trumbull were “a little stronger” ; and the Sun correspondent noted a belief that Adams was the coming man. The most influential Adams men thought that he would be nominated without difficulty.

On Thursday morning it was rumored in convention circles that B. Gratz Brown and Frank Blair were on their way to Cincinnati, and they arrived that evening. It had been stated from the time the delegates began to arrive that Brown would not attend the convention, and different reasons have been assigned for his change of purpose. One writer 6 found his motive in jealousy of the growing influence of Schurz in the Liberal ranks, indicated by the selection of the Missouri Senator for chairman of the convention. But Schurz was already a member of the upper house of Congress, and, as a foreign-born citizen, could not receive the nomination for President. Moreover, Brown could easily have ascertained that Schurz advised against his own selection as chairman, both because he thought he could be more useful on the floor, and because it was his [242] opinion that a native-born Republican should preside; and that he consented to take the place only when assured that, if he did not, it would go to a man who was radically objectionable to the entire intelligent reform sentiment of the movement. The real explanation of the Blair-Brown scheme in favor of Greeley is rather to be sought in the long-time political enmity of the Blair and Adams families.

When the balloting began, only vague rumors of the Brown program had reached a majority of the delegates, and very many of them were ignorant of the light in which it was regarded by their chairman. The first ballot resulted as follows:


This vote aroused the enthusiasm of the Adams supporters, but evidence of the Brown-Greeley deal was supplied at once. As soon as the result was announced the chairman, reading from a slip of paper which he held in his hand, informed the convention that a gentleman who had just received a large number of votes desired to make a communication, and Governor Brown ascended [243] the platform. In his remarks he not only stated his own withdrawal, but urged the nomination of Greeley. The Missouri delegation at once retired for consultation, during which Schurz made a vigorous plea against handing over to Greeley their vote. In the first ballot Missouri had given Brown 30 votes and Trumbull 3. In the second ballot it gave Greeley 10, Trumbull 16, and Adams 4. In the fifth ballot it increased the vote for Greeley to 18, giving Trumbull 8 and Adams 4, and the total of this ballot gave Adams 309, and Greeley 258. Adams's supporters now counted on his nomination as a certainty on the next ballot, believing that the Trumbull vote (of 91) would be cast for him.

The Illinois delegates were absent in conference when the sixth ballot was ordered, and the Greeley men began a noisy effort to start a stampede for their favorite. The delegates generally were in a nervous state, not understanding clearly how the wires were being pulled by the skilled manipulators, nor what the wishes of the most trusted leaders were; and had one of the latter taken the floor (as was suggested but not done), and moved the nomination of Adams by acclamation, there is little doubt that the convention [244] would have so decreed. The Greeley supporters received unexpected aid when the vote of Illinois was announced, as it gave Greeley 14 and Adams only 27. This marked the beginning of the end. The Greeley hurrah was kept up, votes were changed so rapidly and amid so much confusion that the secretaries could not keep accurate register of them, and the chairman, unable to recognize any one, had to suggest that the changes be handed up in writing. When at last the announcement of the ballot was made, it gave Greeley 482 and Adams 187. Greeley was the nominee of the convention, with Brown for Vice-President. “When the call for a unanimous vote came,” said the Tribune's report, “the element known as Free Trade and Revenue Reform manifested a disposition to mar the enthusiasm by dogged silence, and an indignant and unanimous nay.”

When the country heard of this result, it taxed public credulity. Greeley's nomination by these tariff reformers and civil service reformers seemed like an impossibility. At the Union League Club in New York city members individually predicted that the candidate would decline the honor, but Greeley had no such intention. How could it seem to him otherwise than that the gratification of [245] an ambition unsatisfied for years had come at last? Weed might consider him no politician; Seward might overlook him in the apportionment of nominations and appointments; Lincoln might reject his advice. But now a great movement of the people in favor of that honest government and universal amnesty for which he had so long been pleading, and on account of which he had made so serious sacrifices, had called on him to be its leader. Never satisfied with the position and influence he had gained by means of his editorial pen, he now saw within his reach the great office which would bestow upon him an honor that would gratify his pride, and give him an opportunity to demonstrate those administrative qualities which he had been made to feel that others doubted. During the sessions of the convention he had been occupying a room in a hotel near the Tribune office in order to be in close touch with the convention. When the result of the final ballot was made known to him he received the news with a smiling countenance, and telegraphed at once, instructing his representatives in Cincinnati to tender to the convention his “grateful acknowledgment for the generous confidence” they had shown in him, adding, “I shall endeavor to deserve it.” [246]

But tariff reform! Greeley was ready to accept the platform. To a reporter who asked him that evening, “If the people elect a majority of Congressmen in favor of a repeal of the tariff bill, and Congress repeals that bill, what would be the duty of the next President of the United States?” Greeley replied, “It would be his duty to sign the bill passed by Congress.” “If you are elected President,” again asked the reporter, “will you sign such a bill if Congress passes it?” Greeley replied, “I certainly will.”

Greeley formally accepted the nomination in due order, and, on May 15, printed a card in the Tribune announcing that, from that date, he had “withdrawn absolutely from the conduct of the Tribune and would henceforth, until further notice, exercise no control or supervision over its columns.”

Although Greeley and his personal followers did not realize it, the disintegration of the body that nominated him began with the declaration of the final ballot. This was indicated by the press comments. The Nation, which spoke for the supporters of the Liberal movement who considered Adams the type of candidate to represent them, and who could not be allured from revenue and civil [247] service reform, repudiated the Cincinnati ticket at once, saying, “The convention has offered us a candidate of undoubted personal honesty, who is, and has long been, associated intimately with the worst set of politicians the State contains-excepting the Tammany ring-whose supporters at the convention included some of the worst political trash to be found anywhere, who would, in all possibility be followed by them to Washington, and who, if left in their hands there, would set up the most corrupt administration ever seen, and that from which least might be expected in the way of administrative reform; who is not more remarkable for his generosity and kindheartedness than for the facility with which he is duped, and not more remarkable for his hatred of knavery than for the difficulty he has in telling whether a man is a knave or not.” The New York Evening Post,7 which would have supported Adams with enthusiasm, rejected Greeley with [248] scorn, Mr. Bryant writing the editorial which stated “Why Mr. Greeley should not be supported for the Presidency,” the reasons being his lack of courage, firmness, and consistency; his bad political associations (especially his alliance with Senator Fenton); his want of settled political convictions, except on the subject of the tariff, and “the grossness of his manners.”

But to the candidate, and perhaps to his campaign managers, all this objection seemed trivial after his acceptance, on the Cincinnati platform, by the Democratic National Convention on the ninth of July. To one of his associate editors who announced to him his nomination by the Democratic convention he remarked, “I shall carry every Southern State but South Carolina. That they will steal from me.”

Naturally, there was considerable apprehension on the part of the Republicans when the campaign opened. If Greeley could poll the Democratic vote, the addition of not a very large number of Republicans would secure for him several important States. In 1872 Maine held her State election in September, and Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana held theirs in October. To these States the whole country looked for the first indication [249] of public sentiment on the new alinement. Maine responded with a Republican majority of a little over 17,000. The Tribune, to make the best of this, estimated the reduction of the previous Republican majority in the State by the Liberal movement at 5 per cent, and said, “The lesson, then, of the Maine election is plain. It reveals a percentage of change which, with proper organization and work, gives us Pennsylvania and Indiana in October. After these, the battle wins itself.” When, in October, Pennsylvania gave a Republican majority of 40,443, and Ohio a Republican majority of 14,150, while Indiana gave Hendricks, the Democratic-Liberal, 1,148 majority, the Tribune counted 178 electoral votes for Greeley, 119 for Grant, and 69 in doubt, and said, “This leaves us but 6 votes to win from the doubtful States; it leaves Grant 65. On that showing, who can doubt which side the chances lie? Courage, friends. The enemy have done their worst. We have wrested Indiana from their grasp; the way to final victory is clear.”

This sort of journalism was more in vogue thirty years ago than it is now, but even then it really deceived no one but Greeley. He, up to the announcement of the result, seemed to have no doubt of his election, and to deem [250] himself thousands of votes stronger in these States than were the State candidates. The managers of the Liberal canvass early realized the trend of public opinion, and they decided that Greeley should set out on a speech-making tour. Starting on September 18, he spoke in Pennsylvania and Ohio on his way to Cincinnati, where he made two elaborate addresses. On the return trip he spoke in Kentucky and Indiana, and again in Ohio and Pennsylvania. He presented himself as the champion of universal amnesty, and was cheered and encouraged by the friendly reception which he everywhere received.

The Republican campaign managers, of whom perhaps Senator Roscoe Conkling was the leader, made the attacks on President Grant their keynote, defending the purity of his personal character and motives, and holding up Greeley as weakly inconsistent when seeking the presidency on a platform adopted by revenue reformers, and as the candidate, not only of discontented Republicans, but of his lifelong opponents, the Democrats. In no presidential campaign did the cartoonists ever take so large a part. Greeley was a good subject for their witty pencils, and they dealt him some effective blows; for a really telling cartoon can carry home an argument [251] more forcibly and instantly than the most carefully prepared address.

When the November returns came in, Greeley found that he was the most thoroughly beaten candidate, so far as the electoral vote was concerned, who had ever run for President of the United States. Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas alone gave him their votes. Pennsylvania, which had given the Republican candidate for judge 40,443 majority in October, gave Grant 137,548; Ohio increased her October Republican majority of 14,150 to 37,531; and Indiana changed the small Liberal-Democratic majority to a Republican majority of 22,515. Greeley's own State gave a majority of 53,456 against him, and the majority for Grant in the whole country was 762,991.

Many things contributed to this result. There are prominent participants in the Liberal movement of 1872 still living who think that, if Adams had been the choice of the Cincinnati convention, he would have been elected. Adams would have retained the support of a good many earnest and consistent reformers who could not vote for Greeley, and he would probably have proved less distasteful to Democrats than Greeley was [252] found to be. But all such calculations have to reckon with U. S. Grant. Unfortunate as he was in many of the incidents of his first term administration, in the popular eye he was the general whose persistency and faith in the final result-whose generalship --had crushed the rebellion. He might lack experience in choosing civil officers. He might stand up too firmly for his friends. He might give Federal support to unworthy Republicans in the South. He might, in a word, be attacked on this ground and on that. But so had been the early fathers of the republic, whose names were now enshrined in the list of national heroes. To elect Greeley, to elect Adams, it was necessary to defeat Grant, and that was as hard a task in civil as in military movements.

Greeley counted on the support of that large body of men whom he had so long addressed with his pen, and especially of the agricultural classes. But he had been addressing these men in defense of principles which had, for almost twenty years, been identical with the Republican party. The men who admired him as the opponent of slavery extension, as the defender of home productions, as the teacher of temperance, as the spokesman for the farmer, had followed [253] his lead for many years as the most influential Republican editor of the country. The war feeling was by no means extinguished. Distrust of the South had not yet disappeared. It was counting on a great uncertainty, therefore, for Greeley to expect to lead out of his old party's ranks, in 1872, the body of Republicans who had taken their political instruction from his pen. The task would have been an easier one before the war. But, while Greeley's electoral vote was small, his popular vote reached 2,834,079, and this was large enough to account for the continued devotion of all his strictly personal following.

The Tribune, on November 7, printed a card from Greeley announcing his resumption of the editorship “which he relinquished on embarking in another line of business six months ago,” and saying that it would be his effort to make the paper “a thoroughly independent journal, treating all parties and political movements with judicial fairness and candor, but courting the favor and deprecating the wrath of no one.” He would gladly say anything he could to unite the whole people on a platform of universal amnesty and impartial suffrage, but for the present he could do most for that end by silence. As he [254] would never again be a candidate for office, he would give more regard to science, industry, and the useful arts, and would “not be provoked to indulgence in those bitter personalities which are the recognized bane of journalism.”

This same issue of the Tribune contained a remarkable editorial headed Crumbs of Comfort. In this it was set forth that for twelve years the Tribune had been supposed to keep “for the benefit of the idle and incapable a sort of Federal employment agency. .. . Any man who had ever voted the Republican ticket believed that it was the duty and the privilege of the editor of this paper to get him a place in the custom-house. Every red-nosed politician who had cheated at the caucus and fought at the polls looked to the editor of the Tribune to secure him appointment as gager, or as army chaplain, or as minister to France. ... It is a source of profound satisfaction to us that office-seekers will keep aloof from a defeated candidate who has not influence enough at Washington or at Albany to get a sweeper appointed under the sergeant-at-arms, or a deputy subassistant temporary clerk into the paste-pot section of the folding-room. At last we shall be let alone to mind our own affairs and manage [255] our own newspaper, without being called aside every hour to help lazy people whom we don't know, and to spend our strength in efforts that only benefit people who don't deserve assistance. At last we shall keep our office clear of blatherskites and political beggars.”

Such a declaration could not fail to give pain to the venerable editor of the Tribune for more reasons than one. It pictured his editorial room as a sort of officebroker-age shop; it offended many of his friends who might consider themselves classed among the “red-nosed” ; it counted him out of the list of future political advisers. His action was characteristic. As soon as he read the article he penned the following, and sent it up to the composing-room: “By some unaccountable fatality, an article entitled Crumbs of Comfort crept into our last, unseen by the editor, which does him the grossest wrong. It is true that office-seekers used to pester him for recommendations when his friends controlled the custom-house, though the ‘red-nosed’ variety were seldom found among them; it is not true that he ever obeyed a summons to Washington in order that he might promote or oppose legislation in favor of this or that private scheme. In [256] short, the article is a monstrous fable, based on some other experience than that of any editor of this journal.8” This retraction did not appear in the Tribune. It was so severe a rebuke to the writer and publisher of the Crumbs of Comfort that Greeley was urged not to insist on its publication, on the ground that the matter would be soonest forgotten if it was simply dropped. In earlier years he would have asserted his authority and his judgment; now, crushed by his defeat, he yielded.

In the last week of November the country was shocked to hear that Horace Greeley was critically ill, and he died at 6.50 P. M. on November 29, 1872. His wife had been taken to Chappaqua, a helpless invalid, a short time before the date of the election, and he had watched by her bedside day and night. The Tribune in announcing his death said: “His incessant watch around the dying pillow of his wife had well-nigh destroyed the power of sleep. Symptoms of extreme nervous prostration gradually became apparent. His appetite was gone. The stomach rejected food. The free use of his faculties was disturbed, [257] and he sank with a rapidity that, even to those who watched him closest, seemed startling.” In one of Greeley's Letters to a Lady Friend (published in 1893), he wrote, under date of November 8, 1872, “As to my wife's death, I do not count it. Her sufferings since she returned to me were so terrible that I rather felt relieved when she peacefully slept the long sleep. . . . Nor do I care for defeat, however crushing. I dread only the malignity with which I am hounded, and the possibility that it may ruin the Tribune. My enemies mean to kill that; if they would kill me instead I would thank them lovingly. And so many of my old friends hate me for what I have done that life seems hard to bear.”

His own words tell the story of his death. “Mr. Greeley,” said Dr. Cuyler in his memorial sermon, “died of a broken heart.” He had seen the realization of a great ambition within his reach, and had been disappointed. Had he been elected, the campaign criticisms of old friends who had not followed him in his departure from the Republican ranks would have been forgotten in the mapping out of the policy to which he would have devoted himself, and his paper would have had a new status as the organ of the Federal administration. [258] But, cast down by his defeat-a rejected leader — the personal criticisms were killing, and it was only natural that he, with others, should fear for the future of the journal of his creation, which, he might suppose, must now look to a new constituency for support.

But in his death all the animosities of the recent campaign were forgotten. New York city realized that it had lost its citizen whose renown was widest, and whose fame was most intimately associated with the metropolis, and the whole nation, through press and pulpit, paid tribute to his personal honesty and the purity of his aims. The body lay in state for a day in the City Hall, where it was viewed by more than fifty thousand persons, and among the attendants at the funeral were the President and Vice-President of the United States, Chief Justice Chase, and leading United States Senators. The burial took place in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn. The printers of the United States began at once a movement to erect over his grave a bust of the veteran editor made of melted newspaper type, and such a bust, designed by Charles Calverly, was unveiled there on December 4, 1876. The Common Council of the city, as their tribute, voted to name the [259] little triangle at Broadway and Thirty-third Street “Greeley Square,” and there a Greeley statue, by Alexander Doyle, was unveiled by the “Horace Greeley statue Committee” on May 30, 1894.

1 Greeley was not a good prophet. The population of Virginia in 1900 was 1,854,184, and of Richmond 85,050. In his autobiography he said, “I predict that California will have 3,000,000 of people in 1900 and Oregon at least 1,000,000.” The population of California in 1900 was 1,485,053, and of Oregon 413,536.

2 Schurz, who was a vice-president of the National Republican Convention of 1868, moved an amendment to the platform, which was adopted, declaring in favor of “the removal of the disqualifications and restrictions imposed upon the late rebels in the same measure as the spirit of disloyalty will die out, and as may be consistent with the safety of the loyal people.”

3 A report, current at the time, and which has found a place in some permanent records, that President Grant refused to receive Senator Schurz when he called at the White House, was without foundation, as I am able to say on the authority of Mr. Schurz himself.

4 I am assured on the most competent authority that the published statement that Sumner expected that he would be nominated for President at Cincinnati is unfounded.

5 A Labor Reform National Convention, at Columbus, Ohio, on February 21 (twelve States being represented), had nominated Judge Davis for President. He declined the nomination on June 28 on the ground that he had consented to the use of his name in the Liberal Republican Convention.

6 Cincinnati correspondence of the Nation of May 9, 1872.

7 A conference of Republicans opposed to Grant's administration and not satisfied with Greeley was held, at the invitation of Carl Schurz, J. D. Cox, William Cullen Bryant, Oswald Ottendorfer, David A. Wells, and J. Brinkerhoff, at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, in New York, on June 20, and William S. Groesbeck, of Ohio, was nominated for President, and Frederick Law Olmstead for Vice-President. But there the matter ended. Schurz later made speeches for Greeley.

8 A facsimile of this paragraph was printed in the New York Boycotter in November, 1884.

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