The United States Since The Civil War
Charles Ramsdell Lingley

Part 3 out of 9

ballots and secret voting made abuses inevitable. In New York,
Cincinnati and other northern cities, and on a smaller scale in the
rural districts, abuses of one sort or another were normal
accompaniments of elections. Intimidation in the South was notorious and
not denied. The existing election laws gave the dominant party an
opportunity to appoint large numbers of deputy-marshals--largely party
workers, of course-paying them from the national treasury and so
solidifying the party organization. In the election of 1876 about
$275,000 had been spent in this way. Some of the federal supervisors had
been extremely energetic--so much so that in one case in Louisiana their
registration lists showed 8,000 more colored voters in 1876 than were
discovered by the census enumerators four years later.

If the Republicans saw involved in the laws both a principle and a party
weapon, the Democrats saw both a principle and an opportunity. They
attached a "rider" to an army appropriation bill, which made it unlawful
to use any part of the army for any other than the purposes expressly
authorized by the Constitution or by act of Congress. Since the
Constitution allowed the use of troops only to "execute the laws of the
Union, to suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions," the new law would
prevent the employment of armed forces for civil purposes at the polling
places. The President was compelled to yield to save the appropriation

In the next Congress the Democrats controlled both House and Senate and
they advanced to the attack on the remainder of the election laws.
Attempts were made to prevent the appointment of special deputy-marshals
by forbidding the payment of any compensation to them or to the regular
marshals when used in elections. Each time that Congress passed such a
law the President vetoed it, even though special sessions had to be
called to make up for lost time. He saw in the use of the rider a
dangerous assertion of coercive power on the part of Congress. By means
of it, Congress was withholding funds essential for military and civil
purposes until the President should assent to legislation totally
unconnected with the appropriations. He felt himself being threatened
and driven by a hostile legislature. For the President to give way
before such constraint would be to lose the veto power and to destroy
the independence of the executive as a branch of the government. The
Democrats were unable to muster force enough to overrule the veto, and
here the matter rested while other forces, which have already been
described, were sapping the strength of the election laws. On the whole,
the result was probably to bring the Republican factions together and so
to strengthen the party for the election of 1880. The Democrats, on the
other hand, probably lost ground.

In the meanwhile a difficult and technical problem--the monetary
question--was forcing itself upon the attention of Congress and of the
country. The rapid development of the economic life of the United States
was demanding an increased volume of currency with which to perform the
multitude of exchanges which constantly take place in the life of an
industrial people. Unless the volume of the currency expanded
proportionately with the increase of business, or there was a
corresponding increase in the use of bank checks, the demand for money
would cause its value to go up--that is, prices to go down. If the
volume expanded more rapidly than was necessitated by business, the
value of money would fall and prices would go up. A change in the price
level in either direction, as has been seen, would harm important groups
of people. The exact amount, however, by which the volume should be
increased was not easy to determine. Furthermore, assuming that both
gold and silver should be coined, what amount of each would constitute
the most desirable combination? What ought to be the weight of the
coins? If paper currency was to supplement the precious metals, what
amount of it should be in circulation? These are difficult questions
under any circumstances. They did not become less so when answered by a
bulky and uninformed Congress acting under the influence of definite
personal, sectional and property interests.

Several facts tended to restrict the kind of money whose volume could be
greatly increased. It was not advisable to expand the greenbacks because
legislation had already limited their amount and because such action
would unfavorably affect the approaching resumption of specie payments.
The quantity of national bank notes, another common form of paper money,
was somewhat rigidly determined by the amount of federal bonds
outstanding, for the national bank notes were issued upon the federal
bonds as security. Moreover, the bonds were being rapidly paid off
during the seventies and it was, therefore, impossible to expect any
increase of the currency from this source. Normally the supply of gold
available for coinage did not vary greatly from year to year and
certainly did not respond with exactness to the demand of industry for a
greater or smaller volume of circulating medium. It seemed to remain for
silver to supply any needed increase.

But silver was not in common use except as a subsidiary coin. For many
years the value of the bullion necessary for coining a silver dollar had
been greater than the value of the coin. Nobody therefore brought his
silver to the mint but sold it instead in the commercial markets. Indeed
so insignificant was the amount of silver usually coined into dollars
that an act of 1873 systematizing the coinage laws had omitted the
silver dollar completely from the list of coins. The omission was later
referred to by the friends of silver currency as the "Crime of 1873." At
the same time a remarkable coincidence was providing the motive power
for the demand that silver be more largely used as currency. Early in
the seventies Germany and the Latin Monetary Union, (France,
Switzerland, Belgium, Italy and Greece), had reduced the amount of their
silver coinage, thus throwing a large supply of bullion on the market.
Simultaneously, enlarged supplies of silver were being found in western
United States. A Nevada mine, for example, which had produced six
hundred and forty-five thousand dollars' worth of ore in 1873 had turned
out nearly twenty-five times that amount two years later. Naturally the
market price of silver fell and the mine owners began to seek an outlet
for their product. Thus the people who were convinced that the volume of
the currency was insufficient for the industrial demands of the nation
received a new and powerful reenforcement from the producers of silver
ore. There arose what the New York _Tribune_ referred to as "The Cloud
in the West."

Inevitably the cloud in the West threw its shadow into Congress where
the demand was insistent that the government "do something for silver."
A commission had been appointed in 1876 to study the currency problem
and make recommendations. When the report was made it appeared that the
opinions of the members were so divergent that little was gained from
the investigation. While the commission was deliberating, Richard P.
Bland of Missouri introduced a bill providing for the free and unlimited
coinage of silver. Under its provisions the owner of silver bullion
could present any quantity of his commodity to the government to be
coined under the conditions which controlled the coinage of gold. The
House responded readily to Bland's proposal. In the Senate, under the
leadership of William B. Allison, the free and unlimited feature of the
bill was dropped and a provision adopted limiting the purchase of
bullion to an amount not greater than four million dollars' worth per
month and not less than two million dollars' worth. The bullion so
obtained was to be coined into silver dollars, which were to be legal
tender for all debts public and private. Bland was ready to accept the
compromise because he hoped to be able to increase the use of silver by
subsequent legislation. "If we cannot do that," he said, "I am in favor
of issuing paper money enough to stuff down the bond-holders until they
are sick." The remark was typical of the sectional and class hatreds and
misunderstandings which this debate aroused, and of the maze of
ignorance in which both sides were groping. To the silver faction, their
opponents were "mendacious hirelings" and "Gilded Shylocks." God, in His
infinite wisdom had imbedded silver in the western mountains for a
beneficent purpose. "The country," said one speaker, "is in an agony of
business distress and looks for some relief by a gradual increase of the
currency." On the other hand, the opponents of silver scorned the
"delusion" of a "clipped" coin and the dishonest proposition to make
ninety cents' worth of silver pass as a dollar. The "storm-driven,
buffeted, and scarred" ship of industrial peace, an easterner declared,
"deeply laden with all precious and golden treasure is sighted in the
offing!... shall we put out the lights?... Dare we remove the ship's
helm, leaving her crippled and helpless!"

Sherman believed that this limited amount of silver could be taken into
the currency system without difficulty, but President Hayes thought that
harm would result from making the silver dollar a legal tender when the
market value of the bullion in the coin was not equal in value to that
of the gold dollar. He therefore vetoed the bill on February 28, 1878.
He could not carry Congress with him, however, and the measure was
passed over the veto on the same day.

Party lines had disappeared during the debates over the passage of the
act. Eastern members of both houses and of both parties had been
opposed, with few exceptions, to the increased use of silver; the
westerners had been equally united in its favor. The East, the creditor
section and the holder of most of the Civil War bonds, had no desire to
try an experiment with the currency which would, in their opinion,
reduce the purchasing power of their income. The debtor West looked with
disfavor upon an increase in the real amount of their debts which was
brought about by an inadequate supply of currency. Since prices
continued to decline they believed that the remedy was a greater
quantity of money. Evidently the greenback controversy was reviving in a
new garb.

The approach of the resumption of specie payments which had been set, it
will be remembered, for January 1, 1879, increased the burden under
which the westerners and the debtor classes in general were working.
Favorable commercial conditions and Sherman's foresight, tact and
intelligence made it possible to overcome the various difficulties in
the way of accumulating a sufficient reserve of gold, and on December
31, 1878, the Treasury had on hand about $140,000,000 of the precious
metal, an amount nearly equal to forty per cent. of the paper in
circulation. Despite the desirability of resumption, the first effects
of preparations for it were harmful to considerable bodies of people. As
January 1 approached, the greenbacks, which had been circulating at a
depreciated value, rose nearer and nearer to par. Debts which had been
incurred when paper dollars were worth sixty cents in gold, had to be
paid in dollars worth eighty, ninety or a hundred cents, according to
the date when the debt fell due. Business men who were heavily in debt
and farmers whose property was mortgaged found their burden daily
growing in size.

Notwithstanding the steady advance of paper toward par value, Sherman
nervously awaited business hours on January 2, 1879, (since the first
fell on Sunday) to see whether there would be such a rush of holders of
paper who would wish gold that his slender stock would be wiped out. New
York, the financial center, was watched with especial anxiety. To
Sherman's surprise, only $135,000 of paper was presented for redemption
in gold; to his amazement and relief, $400,000 in gold was presented in
exchange for paper. Evidently, now that paper and metal were
interchangeable, people preferred the lighter and more convenient
medium. Favorable business conditions enabled the government to continue
specie payments; a huge grain crop in 1879, coupled with crop failures
in England, caused unprecedented exports of wheat, corn and other
products, and a corresponding importation of gold. The damage resulting
from the appreciation of paper was temporary in character; the public
credit was vastly benefited; and the greater amount of stability in the
value of paper proved invaluable to industry.

Happily Hayes's stormy political relations were balanced by comparative
quiet in foreign affairs. Only Mexico caused trouble, and that was of
negligible importance. A few raiders made sporadic excursions into
Texas, which necessitated an expedition for the punishment of the
marauders. General Ord was directed to cross the border if necessary,
but General Diaz, at the head of the Mexican government, concluded an
agreement for cooperation with the United States in the protection of
the boundary. The agreement was only partly successful, however, and on
several occasions troops crossed the Rio Grande and fought with bandits.

On the Pacific Coast, meanwhile, the Chinese question was becoming a
political issue. In earlier times the immigration of the Chinese had
been encouraged because of the need of a cheap labor supply when the
transcontinental railroads were being built. As the coast filled up,
however, with native population, and the demand for laborers fell off,
there arose numerous objections to the oriental. It was seen that since
he was willing to work for extremely low wages he could drive American
laborers out of their places. Labor leaders such as Dennis Kearney held
meetings on the "sand lots" in San Francisco and aroused anti-Chinese
feeling. Riots and violence, even, were not unknown.

Just before the inauguration of President Hayes a commission of inquiry
had visited the coast and examined many witnesses. The commission
reported that the resources of the Pacific states had been more rapidly
developed with coolie labor than they would otherwise have been, but
that the Chinese lived under filthy conditions, formed an inferior
foreign element and were, on the whole, undesirable. It recommended that
the executive take steps in the direction of a modification of the
existing treaty with China, for fear that the problem might spread
eastward with increasing immigration. The electioneering possibilities
of the subject had appealed to both parties and they had earnestly
demanded action in their platforms of 1876. Opinion was forming
throughout the country, aided by Bret Harte's famous lines:

Which I wish to remark
And my language is plain,
That for ways that are dark
And tricks that are vain,
The heathen Chinee is peculiar
Which the same I would rise to explain.

Action by Congress was hindered by the Burlingame treaty of 1868 with
China, which covered the subject of immigration in unmistakable
language. By its provisions citizens of China were to have the same
rights of travel and residence in America as the subjects of the most
favored nation. Reciprocally, China was to grant equal privileges to
citizens of the United States. The process of modifying a treaty through
the ordinary diplomatic channels was so slow that Congress sought to
avoid delay by passing a law forbidding shipmasters to bring in more
than fifteen Chinese at one time, and calling upon the President to
notify China that the terms of the Burlingame treaty, in so far as they
related to immigration, would not hold after July 1, 1879, when the
proposed legislation would take effect. President Hayes sympathized with
the purpose of the bill but felt obliged to veto it because of the
Burlingame treaty. The veto message recalled that the treaty had been of
American seeking and that its ratification had been applauded all over
the country. The abrogation of part of the agreement would be equivalent
to abrogation of the whole, leaving American citizens in China without
adequate treaty protection. Furthermore Hayes felt that treaties could
not rightfully be violated by legislation, but advocated other measures
for the relief of the people of the Pacific Coast. He thereupon sent to
China a commission, headed by James B. Angell of Michigan, which
succeeded in liberally modifying the existing treaty. Under the new
arrangement the United States might "regulate, limit, or suspend" the
immigration of Chinese laborers; and as the treaty was promptly
ratified, it redounded somewhat to the credit of the Republicans in the
election of 1880.

The administration of Hayes was, on the whole, an admirable one. The
problems which he faced were varied and difficult, but most of them were
met sensibly and with success. To be sure, he did not grasp the social
and economic forces behind the monetary agitation; nor did he have the
insight and originality necessary for attacking the problem of industrial
unrest as it appeared in the strike of 1877. But neither did his
associates, nor his successors in the presidency for many years to
come. On the other hand, the ethical standards of the administration
were high and the atmosphere of the White House sane and wholesome. The
home life of the President was exceptionally attractive, for Mrs. Hayes
was a woman of unusual charm and social capacity. The attitude of Hayes
on the southern question and on civil service reform was courageous and
progressive. And most of all, his ideas on public questions were stated
with unmistakable clearness in a day when old issues were sinking into
the background and both parties were reluctant to define their position
on the new ones.


A great contribution to the understanding of Hayes's administration was
made by the publication of C.R. Williams, _Life of Rutherford B. Hayes_
(2 vols., 1914). It is complete and contains copious extracts from
Hayes's diary, but is written with less of the critical spirit than is
desirable; J.F. Rhodes has a valuable chapter in his _Historical Essays_
(1909); J.W. Burgess, _Administration of R.B. Hayes_ (1916), is a
eulogy; V.L. Shores, _Hayes-Conkling Controversy_ (1919), describes the
civil service quarrel; J.R. Commons and others, _History of Labor in the
United States_ (2 vols., 1918), describes the strike of 1877; so also
does J.F. Rhodes, _History of the United States from Hayes to McKinley_
(1919), with full references. On the Chinese affair, consult Mrs. M.E.
B.S. Coolidge, _Chinese Immigration_ (1909). Most of the general
histories already mentioned dwell at length on the Hayes administration.

For the official messages of this and succeeding administrations, the
most convenient source is J.D. Richardson, _Messages and Papers of the
Presidents_ (10 vols., 1903).

* * * * *

[1] For a time public interest was absorbed by the determination of
President and Mrs. Hayes to serve no wines of any kind in the White
House. Finally a delicious frozen punch was served at about the middle
of the state dinners, known to the thirsty as "the Life-saving Station."
It was popularly understood to be liberally strengthened with old Santa
Croix rum, but the President later asserted that he had caused the punch
to be sharpened with the flavor of Jamaica rum and that no drop of
spirits was inserted. What the _chef_ really did, perhaps nobody knows.
At any rate, both sides were satisfied. Williams, _R.B. Hayes_, II; 312

[2] Because March 4 fell on Sunday, the oath of office was privately
administered to Hayes on Saturday evening, March 3. Williams, _Hayes_,
II, 5.

[3] George W. McCrary was Secretary of War; Richard W. Thompson,
Secretary of the Navy; Charles Devens, Attorney-General.

[4] Chamberlain, the Republican claimant in South Carolina, wrote in
1901 that he was "quite ready now to say that he feels sure that there
was no possibility of securing permanent good government in South
Carolina through Republican influences." _Atlantic Monthly_, LXXXVII,

[5] Many of the dispatches were in a complicated cipher which resisted
all attempts at solution. The _Tribune_ published samples from time
to time, keeping interest alive in the hope that somebody might solve
the riddle. Finally two members of the _Tribune_ staff were successful
in discovering the key to the cipher in a way that recalls the
paper-covered detective story. The newspaper aroused and excited public
interest by publishing specimens and eventually achieved a sensation by
putting the most damaging material into print on October 16, 1878. One
of the telegrams, with its translation, ran as follows:

"Absolutely Petersburg can procured by Copenhagen may Thomas
prompt Edinburgh must if river take be you less London Thames

Translation: If Returning Board can be procured absolutely, will
you deposit 30,000 dollars? May take less. Must be prompt. Thomas.



The Hayes administration was scarcely half over when the politicians
began to look forward to the election of 1880. At the outset of his
term, Hayes had advocated a single term for the executive and there was
no widespread movement among the politicians to influence him to change
his attitude. His enemies, indeed, had already turned to General Grant.
There had been a third-term boom for the General during his second
administration and he had indicated that he was not formidably opposed
to further continuance in office. Suddenly, however, the anti-third-term
feeling had risen to impressive proportions, whereupon the House of
Representatives had adopted a resolution which characterized any
departure from the two-term precedent as "unwise, unpatriotic, and
fraught with peril to our free institutions." As the resolution passed
by an overwhelming vote--233-18--nothing further was heard of a
third-term boom.

The Hayes administration put a different complexion on the matter. The
wheel-horses of the party were not enthusiastic over the President or
his policies, and in their extremity they looked to Grant. The New York
State Republican Convention, under control of Roscoe Conkling and his
forces, instructed delegates to support the General as a candidate for
the nomination and endeavored to forestall opposition to a third term.
It declared that the objection to a third presidential term applied only
to a third consecutive term and hence was inapplicable to the
re-election of Grant. Grant, meanwhile, presented a spectacle that was
at once humorous and pathetic. He had not expected, on leaving the
presidency, to return to power again, had dropped consideration of the
political future and had given himself up to the enjoyment of foreign
travel. The royal reception accorded him wherever he went suggested to
his political supporters that they utilize his popularity. It was
foreseen that when he returned to America he would receive a tremendous
ovation, on the wave of which he might be carried into office. He was
flooded with advice and entreaties that he act in accordance with this
plan. His family was eager to return to the position of social eminence
which they had occupied, and pressure from them was incessant. At first
he did nothing either to aid or to hinder the boom, then gave way to the
pressure and at last became extremely anxious to obtain the coveted

If the politicians did, in truth, desire a relaxation from the patronage
standards of the Hayes regime, they did not make that the ostensible
purpose of their campaign. They argued that the times demanded a strong
man; that foreign travel had greatly broadened the General and given him
a knowledge of other forms of government; that he had been great as a
commander of armies, greater as a President, and that as a citizen of
the Republic he "shone with a luster that challenged the admiration of
the world." Behind him were Conkling and Platt, with the New York state
organization under their control, Don Cameron who held Pennsylvania in
his hand, General Logan, strong in Illinois, and lesser leaders who
wielded much power in smaller states. Many business men were ready to
lend their aid; the powerful Methodist Church, to which he belonged, was
favorable to him; and, of course, his popularity as a military leader
was unbounded. His return to the United States while the enthusiasm was
at its height was the signal for an unprecedented ovation. The opponents
of a third term painted in high colors the danger of a revival of the
scandals of Grant's days in the presidential chair, formed "No Third
Term" leagues, called an "Anti-Third-Term" convention and decried the
danger of continuing a military man in civil office. _The Nation_
scoffed at the educational effect of foreign travel on a man who was
fifty-seven years of age and could understand the language in only one
of the countries in which he travelled. A large fraction of the
Republican press, in fact, was in opposition. "Anything to beat Grant"
and "No third term" were their war-cries. Nor was there any lack of
Republican candidates to oppose the Grant movement and to give promise
of a lively nominating convention. Blaine's popularity was as widespread
as ever. Those who feared the nomination of either Grant or Blaine
favored Senator George F. Edmunds of Vermont or Secretary Sherman. Both
of these men were of statesmanlike proportions, but Edmunds was never
widely popular and Sherman was lacking in the arts of the
politician--"the human icicle," T.C. Platt called him.

The Republican nominating convention of 1880 met in Chicago in a
building described as "one of the most splendid barns" ever built. This
convention is unusually worthy of study because it involved most of the
elements which entered into American politics in the early eighties. It
was long memorable as making a record for that form of enthusiasm which
bursts into demonstrations. "Great applause," "loud laughter," "cheers"
and "hisses long and furious" dot the newspaper accounts of its
deliberations. The members "acted like so many Bedlamites," one of the
delegates said. On one day the opening prayer was so unexpectedly short
that there was applause and laughter. The keen contest for the
nomination resulted in galleries packed with supporters of the several
candidates, who cheered furiously as their favorite delegates appeared.
As the galleries came down nearly to the level of the floor, the
spectators were almost as much members of the convention as the
delegates themselves. It was under such conditions, then, that the
convention proceeded to the serious business of adopting principles and
choosing a leader.

Three hundred and six of the 757 delegates were sworn supporters of
Grant--pledged to die, if they died at all, "with their boots on," one
of their leaders said. In each of the big delegations--those from New
York, Pennsylvania and Illinois--a minority was unfavorable to Grant.
This minority could be counted in the General's column if the convention
could be forced to adopt the so-called "unit-rule," under which the
delegation from a state casts all its votes for the candidate favored by
the majority. In this particular case, the minorities in New York,
Pennsylvania and Illinois numbered more than sixty delegates, so that
the adoption of the rule was a stake worth playing for. The plan
formulated by the Grant leaders was worthy of the time.

Donald Cameron of Pennsylvania was chairman of the National Republican
Committee. Following the usual custom, Cameron was to call the
convention to order and present the temporary chairman who had been
chosen by the Committee. As the Grant supporters were in a minority even
on the Committee, provision was made to meet the emergency in case the
majority insisted on the appointment of an anti-Grant chairman. Cameron
was to announce the name, a Grant delegate was to move to substitute a
Grant man instead, and Cameron would enforce the unit-rule in the
resulting ballot. This would ensure control of the organization of the
convention and, doubtless, of the nomination of the candidate.

Unhappily for this well-laid plan, rumor of it leaked out, and the
majority of the National Committee--opposed to Grant--conveyed
information to Cameron that he must agree to give up such a scheme or be
ousted from his position. Cameron, convinced that his enemies were
determined, gave up his project, and Senator George F. Hoar, who favored
neither Grant nor Blaine, was made temporary and later permanent

Although defeated in the first skirmish, the Grant forces pressed
forward for renewed conflict. Conkling presented a resolution that every
member of the convention be bound in honor to support the eventual
candidate, whoever he might be. The resolution passed 716 to three; and
he then moved that the three who had voted in the negative had thereby
forfeited their votes in the convention. James A. Garfield of Ohio led
the opposition to such rough-shod action and Conkling angrily withdrew
his resolution amid hisses. When Garfield reported from the Committee on
Rules in regard to the regulations under which the convention should
deliberate, he moved that the unit rule be not adopted and the
convention upheld him. It was manifest that the delegates were not in a
mood to surrender to a junto of powerful machine politicians.

The way having been now cleared for action, the convention adopted a
platform. This was composed largely of a summary of the achievements of
the party and denunciation of the opposition. Most of the planks were
abstract or perfunctory, or expressed in such a way as not to commit the
party seriously. _Harper's Weekly_, a Republican periodical, regretted
the character of the platform and remarked that such documents are
expected to say

An undisputed thing
In such a solemn way.

Judged by this criterion, the platform was ideal. The obligations of the
country to the veterans were emphasized and the restriction of Chinese
immigration called for. On the tariff, the only utterance was an avowal
that duties levied for the purposes of revenue should discriminate in
favor of labor. After this declaration of faith had been unanimously
adopted, a Massachusetts delegate presented an additional plank
advocating civil service reform.

The convention was now badly put to it. To reject a plank which had been
accepted both in 1872 and in 1876 would discredit the party,
particularly as the platform just adopted had accused the opposition of
sacrificing patriotism "to a supreme and insatiable lust for office."
Nevertheless the opposition to its adoption was formidable, and it had
already been twice rejected in the Committee on Resolutions, which drew
up the platform. There seemed no way of avoiding the issue, however, and
the plank was thereupon adopted, though not before Webster Flanagan of
Texas had blurted out, "After we have won the race ... we will give
those who are entitled to positions office. What are we up here for?"

With the speeches presenting candidates to the convention, the real
business of the week began. Senator Conkling aroused a tempest of
enthusiasm for General Grant in a famous speech which began with the

When asked what state he hails from,
Our sole reply shall be,
He comes from Appomattox
And its famous apple tree.

Garfield presented Sherman's name. At the outset General Grant led,
Blame was a close second and Sherman third. This order continued for
thirty-five ballots. By that time Blaine and Grant had fought each other
to a standstill. The General's three hundred and six held together
without a break, and Blaine's forces were equally determined.[1]

There was little chance of compromise, as Grant and Blaine were not on
speaking terms, and Conkling and Blaine looked upon each other with
unconcealed hatred. Since Sherman was handicapped by lack of united
support in his own state, the natural solution of the problem seemed to
be the choice of some other leader who might harmonize the contending
factions. On the thirty-fourth ballot, seventeen votes were given to
Garfield; on the next, fifty; then a stampede began, in spite of a
protest by Garfield, and on the thirty-sixth ballot a union of the
Blaine and Sherman forces made him the choice of the convention. The
nominee for the vice-presidency was Chester A. Arthur, who was one of
the leading supporters of Grant and a member of the Conkling group.

The choice of Garfield was well received by the country, perhaps the
more so as a relief from the danger of a third term. The nominee was a
man of great industry, possessed of a store of information, tactful,
modest, popular, an effective orator, and a veteran of the war. His
rise from canal boy to candidate for the presidency exemplified the
possibilities before industrious youth and gave rise to many a homily
on democratic America. Yet his friends had to defend his relation to a
paving scandal in the District of Columbia and an unwise connection with
the Credit Mobilier of 1873. In neither of these cases does Garfield
seem to have been corrupt, but in neither does he appear in a highly
favorable light.[2]

As the Republicans were dispersing, the Greenback convention was
assembling. Their strength in the campaign was almost negligible but
their platform presaged the future. Money to be issued only by the
government, the volume of money increased, ameliorative labor
legislation, restriction of Chinese immigration, regulation of
interstate commerce, an income tax, government for the people rather
than for classes, wider suffrage,--all these were advocated in concise
and unmistakable terms. James B. Weaver was the presidential candidate.

Among the Democrats, the all important question was whether Tilden would
be a candidate again. He naturally wished for a renomination and an
opportunity to prove by an election that he had been "fraudulently"
deprived of the presidency in 1876. The party, likewise, seemed to need
his services, as no other leader of equal prominence had appeared. On
the other hand, his health had rapidly failed since 1876 and it was
apparent that he was unequal to the exacting labors of the presidency.
Not until just before the meeting of the convention, however, did he
make known his wishes and then he declared that he desired nothing so
much as an honorable discharge from public service and that he
"renounced" the renomination. The party took him at his word and turned
to the adoption of a platform and the choice of another leader.

The platform reflected the bitterness of the party over the "great
fraud" of 1876-1877 and advocated tariff for revenue only, civil service
reform and the restriction of Chinese immigration. In other words,
except for the usual self-congratulation and the denunciation of the
opposition, the Democratic platform closely resembled that of the
Republicans. The convention then nominated for the presidency General
Winfield S. Hancock, a modest, brave Union soldier, of whom Grant once
said, "his name was never mentioned as having committed in battle a
blunder for which he was responsible." He was not an experienced
politician, but was popular even in the South.

On the whole the Democratic convention was much less interesting than
its Republican predecessor. There were no fierce factional quarrels to
arouse the emotions to concert pitch. The applause spurted out here and
there like the "jets from a splitting hose" in the "Ki yi yi yi" which
characterized the cheers of the lower wards of New York, in contrast to
the rolling billows of applause which formed so memorable an element in
the opposition gathering. The New York Tribune, although hostile to
everything Democratic, perhaps stated the fact when it commented on the
lack of enthusiasm. The convention, the Tribune noted, was well-behaved,
but a mob without leaders; there were no Conklings or Garfields or
Logans, only John Kelleys and Wade Hamptons.

The campaign of 1880 reflected the lack of definite utterances in the
party platforms. Since each side was loath to press forward to the
solution of any real problem facing the nation, the campaign was
confined, for the most part, to petty or even corrupt partisanship. The
career of General Garfield was carefully overhauled for evidences of
scandal. Arthur's failings as a public officer were duly paraded.
General Hancock was ridiculed as "a good man weighing two hundred and
forty pounds." Some attempt was made by the Republicans to make an issue
of the tariff, and a remark of Hancock to the effect that the tariff was
a "local issue" was jeered at as proving an ignorance of public
questions. There was little response to the "bloody shirt" and little
interest in "the great fraud." A modicum of enthusiasm was injected into
the canvass by the participation of Conkling and General Grant. The
former was not happily disposed toward the Republican candidate and
Grant had always refused to make campaign speeches, but as the autumn
came on and defeat seemed imminent, these two leaders were prevailed
upon to lend their assistance. Near the end of the campaign a letter was
circulated in the Pacific states, purporting to have been written by
Garfield to a Mr. Morey, and expressing opposition to the restriction of
Chinese immigration. The signature was a forgery, but complete exposure
in the short time before election day was impossible and the letter
perhaps injured Garfield on the coast. Nevertheless Garfield and Arthur
won, although their popular plurality was only 9,500 in a total of about
nine millions. The electoral vote was 214 to 155 and showed that the
division among the states was sectional, for in the North Hancock
carried only New Jersey, together with Nevada and five electoral votes
in California, the result probably of the Morey letter.

Two aspects of the campaign had especial significance. The attempt by
Conkling and his associates to choose the Republican nominee through the
shrewd manipulation of political machinery, and against the wishes of
the rank and file of the party, was a move on the part of the greater
state bosses to get control of the national organization, so that they
might manage it as they managed their local committees and conventions.
The second notable circumstance concerned the collection and expenditure
of the campaign funds.

Even before the convention met, the Republican Congressional Committee,
pursuing the common practice of the time, addressed a letter to all
federal employees, except heads of departments, in which the suggestion
was made that the office holders would doubtless consider it a
"privilege and a pleasure" to contribute to the campaign funds an amount
equal to two per cent. of their salaries. The Republican National
Committee also made its demands on office holders--usually five per
cent. of a year's salary. The Democrats, having no hold on the federal
offices, had to content themselves with the cultivation of the
possibilities in states which they controlled. In New York, Senator
Platt was chairman of the executive committee and he sent a similar
communication to federal employees in the state. Even the office boy in
a rural post office was not overlooked, and when contributions were not
forthcoming, the names of delinquents were sent to their superiors.
Other developments appeared after the election was over. In February,
1881, a dinner was given in honor of Senator S.W. Dorsey, secretary of
the Republican National Committee, to whom credit was given for carrying
the state of Indiana. General Grant presided and grace was asked by
Reverend Henry Ward Beecher. Dorsey was an Arkansas carpet-bagger, who
had been connected with a railroad swindle and was soon, as it turned
out, to be indicted for complication in other frauds. The substance of
the speeches was that the prospect of success in the campaign seemed
waning, that Indiana was essential to success and that Dorsey was the
agent who accomplished the task. Arthur, who was one of the speakers,
explained the _modus operandi_: "Indiana was really, I suppose, a
Democratic State. It had been put down on the books always as a State
that might be carried by close and perfect organization and a great deal
of--(laughter). I see the reporters are present, therefore I will simply
say that everybody showed a great deal of interest in the occasion and
distributed tracts and political documents all through the State."

With the victory accomplished, the politicians turned from the contest
with the common enemy to the question of the division of the spoils;
from the ostensible issue of platforms, to the real issue that Flanagan
had personified. Although the Republicans had presented a united front
to their opponents, there were factional troubles within the party that
all but dwarfed the larger contest. The "Stalwarts" were composed of the
thorough "organization men" like Conkling, Platt and Arthur; the
"Half-breeds" were anti-organization men and more sympathetic with the
administration. The commander of the Stalwarts and one of the most
influential leaders in the country was Roscoe Conkling, Senator from New
York. In person Conkling was a tall, handsome, imperious man, with
something of the theatrical in his appearance and manner. As a
politician he was aggressive, fearless, scornful, shrewd and adroit when
he chose to be, and masterful, always. As an orator he knew how to play
on the feelings of the crowd; his vocabulary, when he turned upon one
whom he disliked, was memorable for its wealth of invective and
ridicule, and especially he uncorked the vials of his wrath on any who
were not strictly organization men. Although an able man and a
successful lawyer, Conkling seems to have had less interest in the
public welfare than in conventions, elections and patronage.

The announcement of Garfield's choice of a Cabinet was the signal for a
fierce patronage fight. James G. Blaine, the choice for Secretary of
State, was distasteful in the extreme to Conkling. Many years before,
during a debate in the House, Blaine had compared Conkling to Henry
Winter Davis as

Hyperion to a satyr, Thersites to Hercules, mud to marble,
dunghill to diamond, a singed cat to a Bengal tiger, a whining
puppy to a roaring lion.

He had contemptuously referred to Conkling's "haughty disdain, his
grandiloquent swell, his majestic, supereminent, overpowering,
turkey-gobbler strut." Accordingly when Garfield disregarded Conkling's
wishes in regard to the representation which New York should have in the
cabinet, Conkling laid the blame upon his old enemy.[3]

As soon as the administration was in office, the Senate met in executive
session to act on appointments, and it appeared that the parties were
evenly divided, the balance of power lying in the hands of two
Independents. President Garfield sent in his list of nominees for office
without consulting Conkling in regard to New York appointments. Among
them was William H. Robertson for the coveted position of collector for
the port of New York. As Robertson had been opposed to Grant and to the
unit rule in the Republican convention, Conkling's rage reached a fever
pitch. In an attempt to discredit the President before the country, he
made public a letter from Garfield giving countenance to the practice of
levying campaign assessments on federal employees. Conkling's point of
view is not difficult to understand. Consultation with the senators from
a state with regard to nominations to offices within its boundaries was
the common custom; Conkling had sunk his dislike of Garfield during the
campaign in order to assist in a party victory; moreover, he and Platt,
the other New York senator, understood that Garfield had agreed to
dispense New York patronage in conformity to the wishes of the
Stalwarts, in case Conkling took the stump. He had carried out his part
of the bargain and now desired his _quid pro quo_.

Meanwhile the Senate was trying to organize and having failed because of
the even division of the parties, stopped the attempt long enough to act
on the nominations. The President then withdrew all except that of
Robertson, thus indicating that offices in which other senators were
concerned would not be filled until the New York case was settled.
Foreseeing that the members would wish to clear the way for their own
interests and that Robertson's nomination was likely to be agreed to,
Conkling and Platt resigned their posts and appealed to the New York
legislature for a re-election as a vindication of the stand they had
taken. As the legislature was Republican and as Vice-President Arthur
went to Albany to urge their case, they seemed likely to succeed; but to
their mortification they were both defeated after an extended contest,
and Conkling retired permanently to private life. Platt, who was
promptly dubbed "Me Too," also relinquished public office, but only for
a time. In the meanwhile, as soon as Conkling and Platt had left the
Senate, the nomination of Robertson had been approved, and Garfield was

Further light was thrown upon political conditions by the investigations
of the "star routes." These were routes in the South and West where
mails had to be carried by stage lines, and were under the control of
the Second Assistant Postmaster-General, Thomas J. Brady. Rumors had
been common for some years that they were a source of corruption.
Garfield's Postmaster-General, Thomas L. James, had already made a
reputation as the reform postmaster of New York, and he set himself
to investigate the reports. Among other things it was discovered that a
combination of public men and contractors had succeeded in raising the
compensation on 134 star routes from $143,169 to $622,808, dividing the
extra profits among themselves. Brady and Senator Dorsey, the active
agent in the campaign in Indiana, were accused of being in the "ring"
and were indicted on the ground of conspiracy to defraud the government.
Brady attempted to block the investigation by threatening Garfield with
an exposure of the campaign methods, and when the threat failed he made
public a letter from the President to "My dear Hubbell," chairman of the
Congressional Committee, similar to that which Conkling had earlier
published. The trials of the conspirators dragged on until 1883 and
resulted in the acquittal of all the accused except one of the least
important. Yet some good was accomplished, for the ring was broken up.
Dorsey retired from public life, and renewed attention was drawn to the
need of better federal officials.

During the course of the trials, the country was shocked by the
assassination of the President on July 2, 1881, at the hands of a
disappointed office seeker named Guiteau. Despite a strong constitution
Garfield grew slowly weaker and died on September 19. The catastrophe
affected the country the more profoundly because of its connection with
the factional quarrel in the Republican party and because, following the
recent murder of the Russian Czar, it seemed to show that democratic
government was no guarantee against violence.[4]

The consternation with which the elevation of Chester A. Arthur to the
presidency was received was not confined to the Democrats. An
oft-repeated remark made at the time was expressive of the opinion of
those best acquainted with the new executive: "'Chet' Arthur President
of the United States! Good God!" In truth Arthur's previous career
hardly justified anything except consternation. He had been identified
always with machine politics and particularly with the Conkling group;
he had been a prominent figure in the opposition to Hayes when the
latter attempted to improve conditions in the New York Customs House;
and had taken an active and undignified share in the quarrel between
Garfield and Conkling. Chester A. Arthur, however, was a combination of
characteristics such as enlist the interest of the student of human
nature. Of Vermont birth, educated at Union College where he had taken
high rank, he had taught school for a time, had entered the practice of
law in New York, had made a good war record, and had been a member of
the Republican party from its beginning. In many ways Arthur was made
for politics. He was the "man of the world" in appearance, polished,
refined, well-groomed, scrupulously careful about his attire, a
_bon-vivant_. Yet he was equally at home in the atmosphere of politics
in the early eighties; a leader of the "Johnnies" and "Jakes," the
"Barneys" and "Mikes" of New York City. Dignity characterized him,
whether in the "knock-down" and "drag-out" caucus or at an exclusive
White House reception. He possessed a refinement, especially in his home
life, that is not usually associated with ward politics but which forms
an element of the "gentleman" in the best sense of that abused word.

Yet they who feared that President Arthur would be like Chester A.
Arthur, the collector of the port, were treated to a revelation. The
suddenness with which the elevation to the responsibility of the
executive's position broadened the view of the President proved that he
possessed qualities which had been merely hidden in the pursuit of
ordinary partisan politics. Platt, expectant of the dismissal of
Robertson, now that a Stalwart was in power, fell back in disgust and
disowned his former associate, for it appeared that Arthur intended to
further the principles of reform. His first annual message to Congress
contained a sane discussion of the civil service and the needed
remedies, which committed him whole-heartedly to the competitive system.
Although he did not go as far as some reformers would have had him, he
went so much farther than was expected that commendation was
enthusiastic, even on the part of the most prominent leaders in the
reform element. In the same message he urged the repeal of the
Bland-Allison silver-coinage act, the reduction of the internal revenue,
revision of the tariff, a better navy, post-office savings banks, and
enlightened Indian legislation. Altogether it was clear that he had laid
aside much of the partisan in succeeding to his high office.[5]

The Chinese problem soon provided him with an opportunity to show an
independence of judgment, together with an indifference to mere
popularity, which were in keeping with the new Arthur, but which were a
surprise to his former associates. As a result of the changes in the
Burlingame treaty, which gave the United States authority to suspend the
immigration of Chinese laborers, Congress passed a bill in 1882 to
prohibit the incoming of laborers for twenty years, western Republicans
joining with the Democrats in its passage.[6] Arthur vetoed the measure
on the ground that a stoppage for so great a period as twenty years
violated those provisions of the treaty which allowed us merely to
suspend immigration, not to prohibit it. An attempt to overcome the veto
failed for lack of the necessary two-thirds majority. Congress did,
however, pass legislation suspending the immigration of laborers for ten
years, and this bill the President signed. Later acts have merely
extended this law or made it more effective.

Arthur also exercised the veto upon a rivers and harbors bill. It had,
of course, long been the custom for the federal government to aid in the
improvement of the harbors and internal water-ways of the country. But
the modest sums of _ante-bellum_ days grew rapidly after the war,
stimulated by immense federal revenues, until the suggested legislation
of 1882 appropriated nearly nineteen million dollars. It provided not
merely for the dredging of great rivers like the Mississippi and Ohio,
but also for the Lamprey River in New Hampshire, the Waccemaw in North
Carolina, together with Goose Rapids and Cheesequake Creek. Some of
these, the opposition declared, might better be paved than dredged.[7]
It might seem that a bill against which such obvious objections could be
raised would be doomed to failure. But the argument of Ransom of North
Carolina, who had charge of the bill in its later stages in the Senate,
seems to have been a decisive one. Somebody had objected that the
members of the committee had cared for the interests of their own
states, merely. Ransom repelled the charge. He showed that the New
England states had been looked out for; "Look next to New York, that
great, grand, magnificent State ... that empire in itself ... Go to
Delaware, little, glorious Delaware." The committee had retained $20,000
for Delaware. "Go next ... to great, grand old Virginia." Virginia had
received something. "Go to Missouri, the young, beautiful, growing,
powerful State of my friend over the way." And so on--all had been
treated with thoughtful care. Ransom was wise in his day and generation.
Although Arthur objected to the bill on the grounds of extravagance and
of the official demoralization which accompanied it, nevertheless
Republicans and Democrats alike joined in passing over the veto an act
which would get money into their home states.

The congressional elections in the fall of 1882 indicated that the
factional disputes among the Republicans, and their failure to reform
conditions in the civil service had presented the opposition with an
opportunity. In the House of Representatives, Republican control was
replaced by a Democratic majority of sixty-nine; the state legislatures
chosen were Democratic in such numbers as to make sure the even division
of the Senate when new members were elected; in Pennsylvania, a
Democratic reformer, Robert E. Pattison, was elected governor, and in
New York another, Grover Cleveland, was successful by the unprecedented
majority of 190,000.

The results of the campaign added interest to a civil service reform
bill which had been drafted by some reformers led by Dorman B. Eaton,
and which had been presented to the Senate by George F. Pendleton, of
Ohio. The debate elicited several points of view. Pendleton set forth
the evils of the existing system of appointments, and emphasized the
superior advantages of appointment after competitive examination. The
Democrats were in distress. Although Pendleton was himself a Democrat
and the party platforms had been advocating reform, nevertheless the
election of 1884 was not far ahead, Democratic success seemed likely,
and the party leaders desired an unrestrained opportunity to fill the
offices with their followers. Senator Williams expressed a conviction
that the Republican party was a party of corruption and continued:

The only way to reform is to put a good honest Democratic
president in in 1884; then turn on the hose and give him a
good hickory broom and tell him to sweep the dirt away.

The Republicans, on their side, were fearful of the same clean sweep
that Williams hoped for, and they therefore looked with greater
equanimity upon a bill which might retain in office the existing
office-holders, most of whom belonged to their party. This aspect of the
situation was not lost upon such Democrats as Senator Brown who moved
that the measure be entitled "a bill to perpetuate in office the
Republicans who now hold the patronage of the government." In the Senate
only five members voted against its passage, but thirty-three absented
themselves; and in the House forty-seven opposed, while eighty-seven
were absent. A little study of the debate makes it clear that the
passage of the act was due to conviction in favor of reform on the part
of a few and to fear of public opinion on the part of many others.
Undoubtedly many of the absentees were members who would not vote for
the measure and were fearful of the results of voting against it. The
President signed the bill January 16, 1883.

The Pendleton act left large discretion in the hands of the President.
It authorized the appointment of a commission of three who should
prepare and put into effect suitable rules for carrying out the law. The
act also provided that government offices should be arranged in classes
and that entrance to any class should be obtained by competitive
examination; that no person should be removed from the service for
refusing to contribute to political funds; and that examinations should
be held in one or more places in each state and territory where
candidates appeared. The system was to be inaugurated in customs
districts and post offices where the number of employees was as many as
fifty, but could be extended later under direction of the President. The
soliciting or receiving of contributions by federal officials of all
grades, for political purposes, was forbidden. With the exceptions just
mentioned, officers could be removed from office as before, but the
purpose of removal was now gone. Since the appointee to the vacancy must
be the successful competitor in an examination, the chief who removed an
officer could not replace him with a personal friend or party worker.

The first commission was headed by Dorman B. Eaton. The work of grading
officials and placing them within the protection of the law began at
once, and by the close of President Arthur's term nearly 16,000 were
classified. Fortunately, the work of the commission was carried on
sensibly and slowly, and no backward steps had to be taken.

The attitude of Congress toward tariff revision illustrates many of the
characteristics of congressional action during the early eighties. In
his first message to Congress, Arthur said that the surplus for the year
was $100,000,000, and therefore urged the reduction of the internal
revenue taxes and the revision of the tariff. In May, 1882, Congress
authorized a tariff commission to investigate and report, and in
conformity with the law Arthur appointed its nine members. All of them
were protectionists and the chairman, John L. Hayes, was secretary of
the Wool Manufacturers' Association. After holding hearings in more than
a score of cities and examining some hundreds of witnesses, the
commission recommended reductions varying from nothing in some cases to
forty or fifty per cent. in others. The average reduction was twenty to
twenty-five per cent.

Using the report as a foundation, the Senate drew up a tariff measure,
added it to a House bill which provided for a reduction of the internal
revenues, and passed the combination. Meanwhile, lobbyists poured into
Washington to guard the interests of the producers of lumber, pig-iron,
sugar and other materials upon which the tariff might be reduced. When
the Senate bill reached the House it contained lower duties than the
protectionist members desired. The latter, although in possession of the
organization of the House, were not strong enough to restore higher
rates, but under the shrewd management of Thomas B. Reed, one of their
number, they were able to refer the bill to a conference committee of
the two houses which contained seven strong protectionists out of ten
members. Reed admitted that the proceedings were "unusual in their
nature and very forcible in their character" but he felt that a change
in the tariff had been promised and that the only way to bring it about
in the face of Democratic opposition was to settle the details "in the
quiet of a conference committee." A "great emergency" having arisen, he
would take extraordinary measures. The bill produced under these
circumstances reduced the internal revenue taxes, lowered some of the
tariff duties and raised others, but left the general level at the point
where it had been at the close of the war. _The Nation_, favorable to
reform, scornfully characterized the act as "taking a shaving off the
duty on iron wire, and adding it to the duty on glue!" Senator Sherman,
a protectionist member of the conference committee, wrote an account of
the whole procedure many years afterward. After commending the spirit
and proposals of the tariff commission and mentioning the successful
efforts of many persons to have their individual interests looked out
for, he expressed a regret that he did not defeat the bill, as he could
have done in view of the evenly balanced party situation in the Senate
at that time.


The election of 1880 is well treated by Sparks, Stanwood, Andrews, and
Rhodes. Senator G.F. Hoar, the chairman of the Republican nominating
convention, has a valuable chapter in his _Autobiography of Seventy
Years_. Such newspapers as the New York _Times_ and _Tribune_ are
invaluable for a discussion of the conventions.

The events of the administration, such as the tariff debates, the
passage of the civil service law and others are discussed in the special
works mentioned in Chapter V. Consult also: Edward Stanwood, _J.G.
Blaine_; T.C. Platt, _Autobiography_; and A.R. Conkling, _Life and
Letters of Roscoe Conkling_. The _Annual Cyclopaedia _contains several
excellent articles on the tariff (1882, 1883), civil service reform
(1883), star route trials (1882, 1883). H.C. Thomas, _The Return of the
Democratic Party to Power in 1884_ (1919), contains useful chapters on
Garfield and Arthur.

* * * * *

[1] For Platt's account of the annual reunion and banquet of the three
hundred and six--"The Old Guard"--see _Autobiography_, 115.

[2] Garfield's early career as a canal boy led to such campaign songs
as the following:

He early learned to paddle well his own forlorn canoe,
Upon Ohio's grand canal he held the hellum true.
And now the people shout to him: "Lo! 't is for you we wait.
We want to see Jim Garfield guide our glorious ship of state."

[3] William Windom, of Minn., was Secretary of the Treasury; E.T.
Lincoln, of Ill., Secretary of War; Wayne MacVeagh, of Pa.,
Attorney-General; T.L. James, of N.Y., Postmaster-General; W.H. Hunt,
of La., Secretary of the Navy; S.J. Kirkwood, of Ia., Secretary of
the Interior.

[4] The death of the President emphasized the need of a presidential
succession law. Under an act of 1792, the president and vice-president
were succeeded by the president of the Senate and the speaker of the
House. When Garfield died, the Senate had not yet elected a presiding
officer and the House had not met. The death of Arthur would have left
the country without a legal head. The Presidential Succession Act of
1886 remedied the fault by providing for the succession of the cabinet
in order, beginning with the Secretary of State. The presiding officers
of the Senate and House were omitted, because they might not be of the
dominant party.

[5] The cabinet was composed of F.T. Frelinghuysen, N.J., Secretary of
State; C.J. Folger, N.Y., Secretary of the Treasury; R.T. Lincoln, Ill.,
Secretary of War; B.H. Brewster, Pa., Attorney-General; T.O. Howe, Wis.,
Postmaster-General; W.E. Chandler, N.H., Secretary of the Navy; H.M.
Teller, Colo., Secretary of the Interior.

[6] Above, p. 145.

[7] Some thoroughly unselfish members of Congress like Senator Hoar,
however, believed the bill a justifiable one and voted for it. See Hoar,
_Autobiography_, II, chapter VIII.



The election of 1880 was memorable only for the type of politics with
which that contest was so inextricably involved. The party leaders were
second-rate men; the platforms, except for that of the Greenback party,
were as lacking in definiteness as the most timid office-seeker could
desire; in brief, it was a cross-section of American professional
politics at its worst. The election of 1884 was a distinct, although not
a complete contrast. It was not a campaign of platforms, but like the
election of 1824 it was a battle of men. Two genuine leaders, each
representing a distinct type of politics, contended for an opportunity
to try out a philosophy of government in the executive chair. In 1880
the conventions were the chief interest--the campaign was dull. The
campaign of 1884, on the other hand, was one of the most remarkable in
our history.

It will be remembered that the year 1882 had been characterized by
political upheavals. In Pennsylvania the Greenbackers had demanded that
currency be issued only by the central government--not by the national
banks--and that measures be taken to curb monopolies; the independent
Republicans had revolted against Cameron, and demanded civil service
reform and the overthrow of bossism; and the Democrats had elected a
governor of the reformer type, Robert E. Pattison. Massachusetts
Republicans had gasped the day after the election to find that "Ben"
Butler, who bore a questionable reputation as a politician, as a soldier
and as a man, had been elected by a combination of Greenbackers and
Democrats on a reform program. In New York the Democrats had taken
advantage of a factional quarrel among their opponents to elect as
governor a man who had achieved a reputation as a reformer--Grover
Cleveland. That some of the states which had been Democratic in 1882,
had become Republican again in 1883 illustrates the unstable character
of the politics of the time.

The beginning of the convention season of 1884 gave hint of the vigorous
campaign ahead. An Anti-Monopoly party nominated Benjamin F. Butler, who
was also supported by the Greenbackers. The Prohibitionists presented a
ticket headed by John P. St. John. The action of the Republican
convention, which met at Chicago on June 3, proved to be the turning
point in the campaign. President Arthur was frankly a candidate for
another term, but he did not have the united support of the professional
politicians and was distrusted by most of the reform element. Nor had
his veto of the Chinese immigration bill and the rivers and harbors act
tended to increase his popularity. Most enthusiastic, confident and
vociferous were the supporters of James G. Blaine, of Maine. The
independent element hoped to nominate Senator Edmunds, of Vermont, and
was particularly disturbed at the character of the workers for the "Man
from Maine." His campaign manager, Stephen B. Elkins, had been charged
with a discreditable connection with the star-route scandals; men of the
Platt type were urging that it was now Blaine's "turn"; and Powell
Clayton, an Arkansas carpet-bagger of ill-repute, was the Blaine
candidate for the position of temporary chairman of the convention.

Before a candidate was chosen the delegates turned to the adoption of
the platform. This was of the usual type but was an advance over that of
1880 in several respects. It committed the party to a protective tariff
and advocated an interstate commerce law and the extension of civil
service reform.

The balloting for candidates proved that Blaine was clearly the choice
of the convention. The mere mention of his name threw the delegates
into storms of applause and even on the first ballot he received votes
from every state in the union save five. On the fourth ballot he
received an overwhelming majority and became the nominee. John A.
Logan of Illinois, a prominent politician and soldier, was nominated
for the Vice-Presidency--a tail to the ticket, in the opinion of the
Democrats, which was designed to "Wag Invitation to the Soldier Vote."
The choice of Blaine was variously received by the different factions
in the convention. The Pacific coast delegates, in a special train,
went from Chicago to Augusta, Maine, before starting for home, in
order personally to pledge their support to the candidate. On the
other hand, Theodore Roosevelt disgustedly remarked that he was going
to a cattle-ranch in the West to stay he knew not how long. George
William Curtis sadly declared that he had been present at the birth of
the Republican party and feared that he was to be a witness of its
death. Other reformers were no less disaffected.

The outspoken Republican opposition to Blaine gave infinite aid and
comfort to the Democrats whose convention, coming a month later, could
take advantage of the growing schism in the opposition. During the
interval between the two conventions the growing sentiment in favor of
the nomination of Grover Cleveland received the additional impetus of
independent Republican support. The Democratic party was still an object
of suspicion to them, but they were ready to run the risks of even a
Democratic administration, if a leader of proved integrity should be
nominated, and Cleveland seemed to them to meet the demands of the
times. The first work of the convention, which met in Chicago on July 8,
was the adoption of a reform platform. Characterizing the opposition
party as a "reminiscence," it condemned Republican misrule, and promised
reform; it proposed a revision of the tariff that would be fair to all
interests, and reductions which would promote industry, do no harm to
labor and raise sufficient revenue; and it briefly advocated "honest"
civil service reform.

The enthusiasm which the independent Republicans were manifesting for
Cleveland was balanced by the hostility of elements within his party.
As Governor he had exercised his veto power with complete disregard
for the effect on his own political future. He had, for example,
vetoed a popular measure reducing fares on the New York City elevated
railroad, basing his objections on the ground that the bill violated
the provisions of the fundamental railroad law of the state. He was
opposed by Tammany Hall, led by John Kelley, who declared that the
labor element disliked him. Kelley's reputation, however, was such
that his hostility seemed like a compliment and gave force to General
Bragg's assertion, in seconding the nomination of Cleveland, that his
friends "love him most for the enemies he has made." The first ballot
proved that the Governor was stronger than his competitors, Senator
Bayard, Allen G. Thurman, Samuel J. Randall and several men of lesser
importance, and on the second ballot he received the nomination.

The choice of Cleveland gave the independent movement more than the
expected impetus. The New York _Times_ at once crossed the line into
the Cleveland camp and _Harpers Weekly_, long a supporter of the
Republicans, the Boston _Herald_, Springfield _Republican_, New York
_Evening Post_, _The Nation_, the Chicago _Times_ and a host of less
important ones followed. A conference of Independents in New York
City, which was composed of five hundred delegates and which enlisted
the support of such men as Carl Schurz, George William Curtis, Henry
C. Lea, Charles J. Bonaparte, Moorfield Storey and President Seelye of
Amherst College, gave striking evidence of the revolt which Blaine's
nomination had aroused. Curtis said in the conference, that the chief
issue of the campaign was moral rather than political. The New York
_Times_ declared that the issue was a personal one. Some of the better
element, however, like Senator Hoar, earnestly urged the election of
Blaine, while Senator Edmunds refused either to aid or oppose his
party. Others, like Roosevelt, were unable to give ungrudging support,
but felt that reform would be better promoted by working within the
party than by withdrawing. It is obvious that Blaine and Cleveland,
not the platforms of the parties, had become the issue of the

James G. Blaine was born in Pennsylvania in 1830, was educated at
Washington College in his native state, later moved to Augusta, Maine,
and purchased an interest in the Kennebec _Journal_. On assuming his
journalistic duties he familiarized himself with the politics of the
state and became powerful in local, and later in federal affairs. He was
a member of the first Republican convention and was chairman of the
state Republican committee for more than twenty years, from which point
of vantage he had a prevailing influence in Maine politics. He served in
the state and federal legislatures as well as in Garfield's cabinet and
was a prominent candidate for the presidential nomination in 1876 and in

Grover Cleveland, although only seven years younger than Blaine, was
relatively inexperienced on the stage of national affairs. He was born
in New Jersey, the son of a Presbyterian minister, grew up with little
education, was salesman in a village store and later clerk in a law
office, at the age of eighteen. Although he had been sheriff of Erie
County, it was not until 1881, when he became mayor of Buffalo, that
he took an important part in politics, and here his record as the
business-like "veto mayor" was such as to carry him into the governor's
chair a year later. The huge majority which he received in the
gubernatorial contest was not wholly due to his own strength--doubtless
factional quarrels among the Republicans assisted him--but the
prominence which this election gave him and his conduct as Governor
made inevitable his candidacy for higher office.

Few men could have been nominated who would have presented a more
complete contrast than Blaine and Cleveland. In personality Blaine was
magnetic, approachable, high-strung, possessed of a vivid imagination
and of a marvellous memory for facts, names and faces. Over him men
went "insane in pairs," either devotedly admiring or completely
distrusting him. Cleveland was almost devoid of personal charm except
to his most intimate associates. He was brusque and tactless,
unimaginative, plodding, commonplace in his tastes and in the elements
of his character. Men threw their hats in the air and cheered
themselves hoarse at the name of Blaine; to Cleveland's courage,
earnestness and honesty, they gave a tribute of admiration. When the
campaign was at fever heat, Blaine was lifting crowds of eager
listeners to the mountain peaks of enthusiasm; Cleveland was in the
governor's room in Albany, phlegmatically plodding away at the
business of his office. He was too heavy, unimaginative, direct, to
indulge in flights of oratory. Yet scarcely anything that Blaine said
still lives, while some of Cleveland's phrases have passed into the
language of every-day.

No less a contrast existed between Blaine and Cleveland as political
characters. The former's experience in the machinery of politics, in the
disposal of its loaves and fishes, has already been mentioned. Of that
part of politics, Cleveland had had no experience. It is said that he
never was in Washington, except for a single day, until he went there to
become President. Both were bold and active fighters, but Blaine was a
strategist, a manager and a diplomat, while Cleveland could merely state
the policy which he desired to see put into effect, and then crash
ahead. Blaine had the instinct for the popular thing, was never ahead of
his party, was surrounded by his followers; Cleveland saw the thing
which he felt a moral imperative to accomplish and was far in advance of
his fellows. The Republican was popular among the professional political
element in his party and was supported by it; the Democrat never was.
Cleveland openly declared his attitude on controverted issues, in words
that admitted of no ambiguity and at times when only silence or soft
words would save him from defeat. Blaine lacked the moral courage and
the indifference to immediate results which were necessary for so
exalted an action. Cleveland had more of the reformer in his nature, and
had so keen a sense of responsibility and duty that his political career
was a succession of battles against things that seemed wrong to him.
Blaine accepted the party standards as they were; he belonged to the
past, to the policies and political morality of war and reconstruction;
Cleveland belonged to the transition from reconstruction to the
twentieth century.

The particular thing, however, that came out of Blaine's past to dog his
foot-steps, give him the enmity of the Independents--better known as the
"Mugwumps"--and, doubtless, to defeat him, was a series of transactions
exposed in the Mulligan letters. In order to understand these, it is
necessary to inquire into events that occurred fifteen years before the
overturn of 1884. In April, 1869, a bill favorable to the Little Rock
and Fort Smith Railroad--an Arkansas land-grant enterprise--was before
the House of Representatives. Blaine was Speaker. As the session was
near its close and the bill seemed likely to be lost, its friends
bespoke Blaine's assistance. He suggested that a certain point of order
be raised, which would facilitate the passage of the measure, and also
asked General John A. Logan to raise the point. Logan did so, Blaine
sustained him and the act was passed. Nearly three months later, Warren
Fisher, Jr., a Boston business man, asked Blaine to participate in the
affairs of the Little Rock Railroad. Blaine signified his readiness,
closing his letter with the words, "I do not feel that I shall prove a
dead-head in the enterprise if I once embark in it. I see various
channels in which I know I can be useful." When Blaine's enemies got
hold of this, they declared that he intended to use his position as
Speaker to further the interests of the road, as he had done at the time
of the famous point of order; his friends asserted that he intended
merely to sell the securities of the road to investors. Whether one of
these contentions is true, or both, he did sell considerable amounts of
the securities of the road to Maine friends, getting a "handsome
commission." Considerable correspondence passed between Blaine and
Fisher from 1869 to 1872 when their relations ended. Blaine understood
that all their correspondence was mutually surrendered.

In the spring of 1876, the presidential campaign was on the horizon and
Blaine was a prominent candidate for the Republican nomination.
Meanwhile ugly rumors were flying about concerning the connection of
certain members of Congress, Blaine among them, with questionable
railroad transactions, and he arose in the House to deny the charges. He
did not discuss the matter fully, as he did not wish his Maine
constituents to know that he had received a large commission for selling
Little Rock securities. Gossip grew, however, and a congressional
investigation resulted in May, 1876. Blaine was one of the witnesses,
but was doubtless anxious to bring the investigation to an end, since it
clearly reduced his chances of receiving the nomination. Presently
gossip said that Warren Fisher and James Mulligan were going to testify.
Mulligan had been confidential clerk to one of Mrs. Blaine's brothers
and later to Fisher. When Mulligan began his testimony it appeared that
he intended to lay before the committee a package of letters that had
passed between Blaine and Fisher, and thereupon, at Blaine's whispered
request, one of the members of the committee procured an adjournment for
the day. That evening Blaine found Mulligan at the latter's hotel and
prevailed on him to surrender the letters temporarily, in order that
Blaine might read and then return them. Blaine thereupon consulted two
lawyers and on their advice he refused to restore the package to
Mulligan. Merely to keep silence, however, was to admit guilt. Blaine,
therefore, arose one day in the House of Representatives and holding the
letters in his hand read selections and defended himself in a remarkable
burst of emotional oratory. At the climax of this defence he elicited
from the chairman of the committee of investigation an unwilling
admission that the committee had suppressed a dispatch which Blaine
declared would exonerate him. Blaine was triumphant, his friends sure
that he had cleared himself and the matter dropped for the time. Further
investigation was prevented by Blaine's refusal to produce the letters
even before the committee and by his sudden illness shortly afterward.
His election to the Senate soon took him out of the jurisdiction of the
House committee and no action resulted.

The nomination of Blaine in 1884 was a fresh breeze on the half-dead
embers of the Mulligan letters. _Harper's Weekly_ and other periodicals
published them with damaging explanatory remarks. Campaign committees
spread them abroad in pamphlet form. Attention was directed to such
phrases as "I do not feel that I shall prove a dead-head" and "I see
various channels in which I know I can be useful." Hostile cartoonists
used the phrases with an infinite variety of innuendo. But the most
powerful evidence was still to come. On September 15, 1884, Fisher and
Mulligan made public additional letters which Blaine had not possessed
at the time of his defence in 1876. The most damaging of these was one
in which Blaine had drawn up a letter completely exonerating himself,
which he asked Fisher to sign and make public as his own. Blaine had
marked his request "confidential" and had written at the bottom "Burn
this letter." Fisher had neither written the letter which was requested
nor burned Blaine's. Meanwhile it was recalled that Blaine had earlier
characterized the reformers as "upstarts, conceited, foolish, vain" and
as "noisy but not numerous, pharisaical but not practical, ambitious but
not wise," and the already intemperate campaign became more personal
than ever.

Thomas Nast's able pencil caricatured Blaine in _Harper's Weekly_ as a
magnetic candidate too heavy for the party elephant to carry; _Puck_
portrayed him as the "tattooed man" covered all over with "Little Rock,"
"Mulligan Letters" and the like. _Life_ described him as a

Take all I can gettery,
Mulligan lettery,
Solid for Blaine old man.

Nor was the contest of scurrility entirely one-sided. _Judge_
caricatured Cleveland in hideous cartoons. The New York _Tribune_
described him as a small man "everywhere except on the hay-scales."
Beginning in Buffalo rumors spread all over the country that Cleveland
was an habitual drunkard and libertine. As is the way of such gossip,
its magnitude grew until the Governor appeared in the guise of a monster
of immorality. The editor of the _Independent_ went himself to Buffalo
and ran the rumors to their sources. He came to the conclusion that
Cleveland as a young man had been guilty of an illicit connection, that
he had made amends for the wrong which he had done and had since lived a
blameless life. Such religious periodicals as the _Unitarian Review_,
however, continued to describe him as a "_debauchee_" and "_roué_."
Nearly a thousand clergymen gathered in New York declared him a synonym
of "incapacity and incontinency." Much was made, also, of the fact that
Cleveland had not served in the war, and John Sherman denounced him as
having no sympathy for the Union cause. It did little good in the heated
condition of partisan discussion to point out that young Cleveland had
two brothers in the service, that he was urgently needed to support his
widowed mother and her six other children, and that he borrowed money to
obtain a substitute to take the field. On the other side, _Harper's
Weekly_ dwelt upon the Mulligan scandal; _The Nation_, while deploring
the incident in Cleveland's past, considered even so grave a mistake as
less important than Blaine's, since the latter's vices were those by
which "governments are overthrown, states brought to naught, and the
haunts of commerce turned into dens of thieves."

As the campaign neared an end it appeared that the result would turn
upon New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Indiana, and especially upon
the first of these. In New York several elements combined to make the
situation doubtful and interesting. Tammany's dislike of Cleveland was
well-known, but open opposition, at least, was quelled before election
day. Roscoe Conkling, still influential despite his retirement, refused
to take the stump in behalf of Blaine, declaring that he did not engage
in "criminal practice." The Republicans also feared the competition of
the Prohibitionists, because they attracted some Republicans who refused
to vote for Blaine and could not bring themselves to support a Democrat.
On the eve of the election an incident occurred which would have been of
no importance if it had not been for the closeness of the contest. As
Blaine was returning from a speaking tour in the West, he was given a
reception in New York by a delegation of clergymen. The spokesman of the
group, the Reverend Dr. Burchard, referred to the Democrats as the party
of "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion." Blaine, weary from his tour, failed to
notice the indiscreet remark, but the opposition seized upon it and used
it to discredit him in the eyes of the Irish. On the same evening a
dinner at Delmonico's at which many wealthy men were present, provided
material for the charge that the Republican candidate was the choice of
the rich classes.

Early returns on election night indicated that the Democrats had carried
the South and all the doubtful states, with the possible exception of
New York. There the result was so close that some days elapsed before a
final decision could be made. Excitement was intense; and business
almost stopped, so absorbed were people in the returns. At length it was
officially decided that Cleveland had received 1,149 more votes than
Blaine and by this narrow margin the Democrats carried New York, and
with it the election.

Contemporary explanations of Blaine's defeat were indicated by a
transparency carried in a Democratic procession which celebrated the

The _World_ Says the Independents Did It
The _Tribune_ Says the Stalwarts Did It
The _Sun_ Says Burchard Did It
Blaine Says St. John Did It
Theodore Roosevelt Says It Was the Soft Soap Dinner[1]
We Say Blaine's Character Did It
But We Don't Care What Did It
It's Done.

None of these explanations took into account the strength of Cleveland,
but the closeness of the result made all of them important. From the
vantage ground of later times, however, it could be seen that greater
forces were at work. By 1884 the day had passed when political contests
could be won on Civil War issues. The younger voters had no recollections
of Gettysburg and felt no animosity toward the Democratic South. Moreover,
Cleveland's success was the culmination of a long-continued demand for
reform, which he satisfied better than Blaine.

The opening of the first Democratic administration since Buchanan's time
excited great interest in every detail of Cleveland's activities and
characteristics.[2] Moreover, many who had voted for him distrusted his
party and were apprehensive lest it turn out that a mistake had been
made in placing such great confidence in one man. The more stiffly
partisan Republicans firmly believed that Democratic success meant a
triumphant South, with the "rebels" again in the saddle. Sherman
declared that Cleveland's choice of southern advisors was a "reproach to
the civilization of the age," and Joseph B. Foraker, speaking in an Ohio
campaign, found that the people wished to hear Cleveland "flayed" and
wanted plenty of "hot stuff."

The President's early acts indicated that the partisans were unduly
disturbed. His inaugural address was characterized by straightforward
earnestness. The exploitation of western lands by fraudulent claimants
was sharply halted. The cabinet, while inexperienced, contained several
able men, of whom Thomas F. Bayard, Secretary of State, William C.
Whitney, Secretary of the Navy, and L.Q.C. Lamar, the Secretary of the
Interior, were best known.[3]

The first great obstacle that Cleveland faced was well portrayed by one
of Nast's cartoons, in which the President, with an "Independent" club
in his hand, was approaching a snarling, open-jawed tiger, which
represented the office-seeking classes. The drawing was entitled
"Beware! For He is Very Hungry and Very Thirsty." It was not difficult
to foresee grave trouble ahead in connection with the civil service. The
Democrats had been out of power for twenty-four years, the offices were
full of Republicans, about 100,000 positions were at the disposal of the
administration, and current political practice looked with indifference
upon the use of these places as rewards for party work. Hordes of
office-seekers descended upon congressmen, in order to get introductions
to department chiefs; they filled the waiting rooms of cabinet officers;
they besieged Cleveland. Disappointed applicants and displaced officers
added to the clamor and confusion.

The President's policy, as it worked out in practice, was a compromise
between his ideals and the wishes of the party leaders. He earnestly
approved the Pendleton act and desired to carry out both its letter and
its spirit. He removed office holders who were offensively partisan and
who used their positions for political purposes. He gave the South a
larger share in the activities of the government, both in the cabinet
and in the diplomatic and other branches of the service. When the term
of a Republican office holder expired he filled the place with a fit
Democrat, if one could be found, in order to equalize the share of the
two parties in the patronage. Nearly half of the diplomatic and consular
appointments went to southerners, and eventually most of the Republicans
were supplanted.

The displacement of so many officials gave the Republicans an
opportunity to attempt to discredit the President in the eyes of his
mugwump supporters. An amended law of 1869 gave the Senate a certain
control over removals, although the constant practice of early times had
been to give the executive a free hand. Moreover the law had fallen into
disuse--or, as the President put it--into "innocuous desuetude." The
case on which the Senate chose to force the issue was the removal of
George M. Duskin, United States District Attorney in Alabama, and the
nomination of John D. Burnett in his place. The Senate called upon the
Attorney-General to transmit all papers relating to the removal; the
President directed him to refuse, on the ground that papers of such a
sort were not official papers, to which the Senate had a right, and also
on the ground that the power of removal was vested, by the Constitution,
in the president alone. In the meantime it had been hinted to Cleveland
that his nominations would be confirmed without difficulty if it were
acknowledged that the suspensions were the usual partisan removals. To
do this would, of course, make his reform utterances look hypocritical
and he refused to comply:

I ... dispute the right of the Senate ... in any way save
through the judicial process of trial on impeachment, to review
or reverse the acts of the Executive in the suspension, during
the recess of the Senate, of Federal officials.

As he was immovable and was taking precisely the position that such
Republican leaders as President Grant had previously taken, the Senate
was obliged to give way. Although it relieved its feelings by censuring
the Attorney-General, it later repealed the remains of the Tenure of
Office act of 1869, leaving victory with the President.

In connection with the less important offices Cleveland was forced to
compromise between the desirable and the practicable. Most of the
postmasters were changed, although in New York City an efficient officer
was retained who had originally been appointed by Garfield. All the
internal revenue collectors and nearly all the collectors of customs
were replaced. On the other hand, the classified service was somewhat
extended by the inclusion of the railway mail service, a change which,
with other increases, enlarged the classified lists by 12,000 offices.

It seems evident that Cleveland pressed reform far enough to alienate
the politicians but not so far as to satisfy the reformers. When he
withstood Democratic clamor for office, the Independents applauded, and
the spoilsmen in his own party accused him of treason. When he listened
to the demands of the partisans, the reformers became disgusted and many
of them returned to their former party allegiance. Eugene Field
expressed Republican exultation at the dissension in the enemy's ranks:

... the Mugwump scorned the Democrat's wail,
And flirting its false fantastic tail,
It spread its wings and it soared away,
And left the Democrat in dismay,
Too hoo!

Aside from the President, official Washington seems to have had but
little real interest in reform. The Vice-President, Hendricks, was a
partisan of the old school, and so many members of Congress were out of
sympathy with the system that they attempted to annul the law by
refusing appropriations for its continuance. On the whole a fair
judgment was that of Charles Francis Adams, a Republican, who thought
that Cleveland showed himself as much in advance of both parties as it
was wise for a leader of one of them to be.

In addition to further improvements in the civil service laws, Cleveland
was interested in a long list of reforms which he placed before Congress
in his first message: the improvement of the diplomatic and consular
service; the reduction of the tariff; the repeal of the Bland-Allison
silver-coinage act; the development of the navy, which he characterized
as a "shabby ornament" and a naval reminder "of the days that are past";
better care of the Indians; and a means of preventing individuals from
acquiring large areas of the public lands. The fact that Hayes and
Arthur had urged similar reforms showed how little Cleveland differed
from his Republican predecessors. It was not likely, however, that the
program would be carried out, for Congress was not in a reforming mood
and the Republicans controlled the upper house so that they could block
any attempt at constructive policies.

The latent hostility which many of the Civil War veterans felt toward
the Democratic party was fanned into flame by Cleveland's attitude
toward pension legislation. The sympathy of the country for its disabled
soldiers had early resulted in a system of pensions for disability if
due either to wounds or to disease contracted in the service. Early in
the seventies the number of pensioners had seemed to have reached a
maximum. Two new centers of agitation, however, had appeared, the Grand
Army of the Republic and the pension agent. The former was originally a
social organization but later it took a hand in the campaign for new
pension legislation. The agents were persons familiar with the laws, who
busied themselves in finding possible pensioners and getting their
claims established. The agitation of the subject had resulted in the
arrears act of 1879, which gave the claimant back-pensions from the day
of his discharge from the army to the date of filing his claim,
regardless of the time when his disability began. As the average first
payment to the pensioner under this act was about $1,000, the number of
claims filed had grown enormously and the pension agents had enjoyed a
rich harvest. The next step was the dependent pensions bill, which
granted a pension to all who had served three months, were dependent on
their daily toil, and were incapable of earning their livelihood,
whether the incapacity was due to wounds and disease or not. President
Cleveland's veto of the measure aroused a hostility which was deepened
by his attitude toward private pension acts.

For some time it had been customary to pass special acts providing
pensions for persons whose claims had already been rejected by the
pension bureau as defective or fraudulent. So little attention was paid
to private bills in Congress that 1454 of them passed between 1885 and
1889, generally without debate and often even without the presence of a
quorum of members. Two hours on a day in April, 1886, sufficed for the
passage of five hundred such bills. Nobody would now deny that many were
frauds, pure and simple. Cleveland was too frugal and conscientious to
pass such bills without examination and he began to veto some of the
worst of them. Each veto message explained the grounds for his dissent,
sometimes patiently, sometimes with a sharp sarcasm that must have made
the victim writhe. In one case where a widow sought a pension because of
the death of her soldier husband it was discovered that he had been
accidentally shot by a neighbor while hunting. Another claimant was one
who had enlisted at the close of the war, served nine days, had been
admitted to the hospital with measles and then mustered out. Fifteen
years later he claimed a pension. The President vetoed the bill,
scoffing at the applicant's "valiant service" and "terrific encounter
with the measles." Altogether he vetoed about two hundred and thirty
private bills. Time after time he expressed his sympathy with the
deserving pensioner and his desire to purge the list of dishonorable
names, and many applauded his courageous efforts. Nevertheless, his
pension policy presented an opportunity for hostile criticism which his
Republican opponents were not slow to embrace. His efforts in behalf of
pension reform were said to originate in hostility to the old soldiers
and in lack of sympathy with the northern cause. In 1887 it even became
necessary for him to withdraw his acceptance of an invitation to attend
a meeting of the Grand Army in St. Louis, because of danger that he
might be subjected to downright insult.[4]

Before the hostility due to the pension vetoes had subsided,
Adjutant-General Drum called the attention of the President to the fact
that flags taken from Confederate regiments by Union soldiers during the
war and also certain flags formerly belonging to northern troops had for
many years lain packed in boxes in the attic and cellar of the War
Department. At his suggestion Cleveland ordered the return of these
trophies to the states which the regiments had represented. Although
recommended by Drum as a "graceful act," it was looked upon by the old
soldiers with the utmost wrath. The commander of the Grand Army called
upon Heaven to avenge so wicked an order and such politicians as
Governor Foraker of Ohio gained temporary prominence by their bitter
condemnation of it. Eventually the clamor was so great that the
President rescinded the order on the ground that the final disposition
of the flags was within the sphere of action of Congress only. In
February, 1905, however, Congress passed a resolution providing for the
return of the flags and the exchange was effected without excitement.

For the reasons already mentioned, little legislation was passed during
President Cleveland's administration that was of permanent importance.
An exception was the Interstate Commerce Act, which is a subject for
later discussion. A Presidential Succession Act, which has earlier been
described, provided for the succession of the members of the cabinet in
case of the removal or death of the president and vice-president. The
Electoral Count Act placed on the states the burden of deciding contests
arising from the choice of presidential electors. When more than one set
of electoral returns come from a state, each purporting to be legal,
Congress must decide which shall be counted. Of some importance, too,
was the establishment of the Department of Agriculture in 1889 and the
inclusion of its secretary in the cabinet. The admission of the Dakotas,
Montana and Washington as states took place in the same year. The
improvement of the navy, begun so auspiciously by Secretary Chandler
under President Arthur, was continued with enthusiasm and vigor, and the
vessels constructed formed an important part of our navy.

Of less popular interest than many of the political questions, but of
more lasting importance, was the rapid reduction of the public land
supply. The purpose of the Homestead law of 1862 had been to supply land
at low rates and in small amounts to _bona fide_ settlers, but the
beneficent design of the nation had been somewhat nullified by the
constant evasion of the spirit of the laws. Squatters had occupied land
without reference to legal forms; cattlemen had fenced in large tracts
for their own use and forcibly resisted attempts to oust them; by hook
and by crook individuals and companies had got large areas into their
possession and held them for speculative returns. Western public opinion
looked upon many such violations with equanimity until the supply of
land began to grow small. Then came the demand for the opening of the
Indian reservations, which comprised 250,000 square miles in 1885. The
Dawes act of 1887 provided for individual ownership of small amounts of
land by the Indians instead of tribal ownership in large reservations.
By this means a considerable amount of good land was made available for
settlement by whites. The dwindling supply of western land also called
attention to certain delinquencies on the part of the railway companies.
Many of them had been granted enormous amounts of land on certain
conditions, such as that specified parts of the roads be constructed
within a given time. This agreement, with others, was frequently broken,
and question arose as to whether the companies should be forced to
forfeit their claims. Cleveland turned to the problem with energy and
forced the return of some millions of acres. Nevertheless, the fact that
it was becoming necessary to be less prodigal with the public land
indicated that the supply was no longer inexhaustible, and led the
President in his last annual message to urge that the remaining supply
be husbanded with great care. Congress was not alert to the demands of
the time, however, and no effective steps were taken for many years.


H.C. Thomas, _The Return of the Democratic Party to Power in 1884_
(1919), is most complete and scholarly on the subject; Sparks, Curtis,
Dewey, and Stanwood continue useful; H.T. Peck, _Twenty Years of the
Republic, 1885-1905_ (1907), is illuminating and interesting; H.J. Ford,
_Cleveland Era_ (1919), is brief; the files of _The Nation_ and
_Harper's Weekly_ are essential, while those of the New York _Sun,
Evening Post_ and _Tribune_ add a few points. The Mulligan letters are
reprinted in _Harper's Weekly_ (1884, 643-646).

On the administration, consult the general texts and the special volumes
mentioned in chapter V; G.F. Parker, _Recollections of Grover Cleveland_
(1909); and _Political Science Quarterly_ (June, 1918), "Official
Characteristics of President Cleveland," give something on the personal
side; J.L. Whittle, _Grover Cleveland_ (1896), is by an English admirer;
Cleveland's own side of one of his controversies is in Grover Cleveland,
_Presidential Problems_ (1904); on Blaine, Edward Stanwood, _James G.
Blaine_ (1905). The _Annual Cyclopaedia_ has useful biographical

* * * * *

[1] A reference to the Dorsey dinner at which Arthur told how Indiana
was carried.

[2] His marriage to Miss Frances Folsom, which occurred in 1886,
occasioned lively interest.

[3] Other members were: Daniel Manning, N.Y., Secretary of the
Treasury; William C. Endicott, Mass., Secretary of War; A.H. Garland,
Ark., Attorney-General; William F. Vilas, Wis., Postmaster-General.

[4] President Cleveland also frequently used his veto power to prevent
the passage of appropriations for federal buildings which he deemed



The most significant legislative act of President Cleveland's
administration was due primarily neither to him nor to the great
political parties. It concerned the relation between the government
and the railroads, and the force which led to its passage originated
outside of Congress. The growth of the transportation system,
therefore, the economic benefits which resulted, the complaints which
arose and the means through which the complaints found voice were
subjects of primary importance.

Beginning with the construction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
about 1830, the extension of the railways went forward with increasing
rapidity so that they soon formed a veritable network: between 1830
and 1850 over 7,000 miles were laid; by 1860 the total was 30,000
miles; the Civil War and the financial depression of 1873 retarded
progress somewhat, but such delays were temporary, and by 1890 the
total exceeded 160,000 miles. In the earlier decades most construction
took place in the Northeast, where capital was most plentiful and
population most dense. Later activity in the Northeast was devoted to
building "feeders" or branch lines. In the South, the relatively
smaller progress which had been made before the war had been undone
for the most part by the wear and tear of the conflict, but the
twenty-five years afterward saw greatly renewed construction. The most
surprising expansion took place in Texas where the 711 miles of 1870
were increased to 8,754 by 1890. In the Middle West, roads were
rapidly built just before the war and immediately after it, and the
first connection with the Pacific Coast, as has been shown, was made
in 1869.

Railroad Mileage, 1860-1910, in thousands of miles]

Many of the circumstances accompanying this rapid expansion were novel
and important. Beginning with a federal grant to the Illinois Central,
for example, in the middle of the century, both the nation and the
states assisted the roads by gifts of millions of acres of land. It
was to the advantage of the companies to procure the grants on the
best possible terms, and they exerted constant pressure upon
congressmen whose votes and influence they desired. Frequently the
agents of the roads were thoroughly unscrupulous, and such scandals as
that connected with the Credit Mobilier were the result. More
important still, the fact that the federal and state governments had
aided the railroads so greatly gave them a strong justification for
investigating and regulating the activities of the companies.

Mechanical inventions and improvements had no small part in the
development of the transportation system. The early tracks,
constructed of wood beams on which were fastened iron strips, and
sometimes described as barrel-hoops tacked to laths, were replaced by
iron, and still later by heavy steel rails. By 1890 about eighty per
cent. of the mileage was composed of steel. Heavy rails were
accompanied by improved roadbeds, heavier equipment and greater speed.
A simple improvement was the gradual adoption of a standard
gauge--four feet eight and a half inches--which replaced the earlier
lack of uniformity. The process was substantially completed by the
middle eighties, when many thousands of miles in the South were
standardized. On the Louisville and Nashville, for example, a force of
8,763 men made the change on 1,806 miles of track in a single day. The
inauguration of "standard" time also took place during the eighties.
Hitherto there had been a wide variety of time standards and different
roads even in the same city despatched their trains on different
systems. In 1883 the country was divided into five vertical zones each
approximately fifteen degrees or, in sun-time, an hour wide. Both the
roads and the public then conformed to the standard time of the zone
in which they were.

Map of the United States showing railroads in 1870]

Of greater importance was the consolidation of large numbers of small
lines into the extensive systems which are now familiar. The first
roads covered such short distances that numerous bothersome transfers
of passengers, freight and baggage from the end of one line to the
beginning of the next were necessary on every considerable journey. No
fewer than five companies, for example, divided the three hundred
miles between Albany and Buffalo, no one of them operating more than
seventy-six miles. In 1853, these five with five others were
consolidated into the New York Central Railroad. Sixteen years later,
in 1869, the Central combined with the Hudson River, and soon
afterwards procured substantial control of the Lake Shore and Michigan
Southern, the Rock Island, and the Chicago and Northwestern. As the
result of this process a single group of men directed the interests of
a system of railroads from New York through Chicago to Omaha. The
Pennsylvania Railroad began with a short line from Philadelphia to the
Susquehanna River, picked up smaller roads here and there--eventually
one hundred and thirty-eight of them, representing two hundred and
fifty-six separate corporations--reached out through the Middle West
to Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis, and in 1871 controlled over
three thousand miles of track, with an annual income of over forty
million dollars. In the eighties a railroad war in northern New
England started the consolidation of the Boston and Maine system.

The beneficial results of the growth of the transportation facilities
of the nation were immediate and revolutionary. The fact that average
freight rates were cut in halves between 1867 and 1890 helped make
possible the economic readjustments after the Civil War to a degree
that is not likely to be overestimated. Not only did railway
construction supply work for large numbers of laborers and help bring
about an ever greater westward migration, but it opened a market for
the huge agricultural surplus of the Middle West. Without the market
in the cities of the populous Atlantic Coast and Europe, the expansion
of the West would have been impossible. Moreover, the railways brought
coal, ore, cotton, wool and other raw materials to the Northeast, and
thus enabled that section to develop its manufacturing interests.

Map of the United States showing railroads in 1890]

Despite the admittedly great benefits resulting from the railroad
system, there was a rising tide of complaint on the part of the public
in regard to some aspects of its construction and management. It was
objected, for example, that many of the western roads especially were
purely speculative undertakings. Lines were sometimes built into new
territory where competition did not exist and where, consequently, the
rates could be kept at a high point. The Chicago, Burlington and
Quincy presented such a case in 1856. Profits were so great as to
embarrass the company, since the payment of large dividends was sure
to arouse the hostility of the farmers who paid the freight rates.
"This, indeed," declared the biographer of one of the presidents of
the road, "was the time of glad, confident morning, never again to
occur in the history of railroad-building in the United States."
Sometimes lines were driven into territory which was already
sufficiently supplied with transportation facilities, in order to
compel the company already on the ground to buy out the new road. If,
as time went on, traffic enough for both roads did not appear, they
had to be kept alive through the imposition of high rates; otherwise,
one of them failed and the investors suffered a loss. The
opportunities for profit, however, were so numerous that the amount of
capital reported invested in railways increased by $3,200,000,000
during the five years preceding 1885.

A practice which was productive of much wrong-doing and which was
suggestive of more dishonesty than could be proved, related to the
letting of contracts for the construction of new lines. The directors
of a road frequently formed part or all of the board of directors of a
construction company. In their capacity as railroad directors they
voted advantageous contracts to themselves in their other capacity,
giving no opportunity to independent construction companies who might
agree to build at a lower cost. As the cost of construction was part
of the debt of the road, the directors were adding generously to their
own wealth, while the company was being saddled with an increased
burden. It cost only $58,000,000, for example, to build the Central
Pacific, but a construction company was paid $120,000,000 for its
services. When John Murray Forbes was investigating the Chicago,
Burlington and Quincy he found that the president of the road was
paying himself a salary as president of a construction company, out of
the railroad's funds, without the supervision of the treasurer or any
one else, and without any auditing of his accounts. Moreover, six of
the twelve members of the board of directors were also members of the
construction company. Such an attempt to "run with the hare and hunt
with the hounds" was suggestive, to say the least, of great
possibilities of profit to the directors and a constant invitation to
unnecessary construction.

Another grievance against the railways was the reckless, irresponsible
and arrogant management under which some of them operated. An eminent
expert testified before an investigating commission in 1885 that Jay
Gould once sold $40,000,000 of Erie Railway stock and pocketed the
proceeds himself. Most of the energy of the officers of some roads was
expended in deceiving and cheating competitors. "Railroad
financiering" became a "by-word for whatever is financially loose,
corrupt and dishonest." If certain roads demonstrated by successful
operation that honest methods were better in the long run, their
probity received scant advertisement in comparison with the
unscrupulous practices of their less respectable neighbors. It is to
be remembered, also, that the growth of the railway system had been so
rapid and so huge that it was impossible to meet the demand for
trained administrators. Naturally, men possessed of little or no
technical understanding of transportation problems could not provide
highly responsible management.

The dishonest manipulation of the issues and sales of railroad stocks
is a practice that was not confined solely to the twenty-five years
after the Civil War, but the numerous examples of it which occurred
during that period aggravated the exasperation which has already been
mentioned. Daniel Drew, the treasurer of the Erie Railway in 1866,
furnished an excellent illustration of this type of activity. Drew had
in his possession a large amount of Erie stock which had been secretly
issued to him in return for a loan to the company. The stock in the
market was selling near par and still rising. Drew instructed his
agents to make contracts for the future delivery of stock at prices
current at the time when the contracts were made. When the time came
for fulfilling his contracts, Drew suddenly threw the secret stock on
the market, drove general market prices on Erie stock down from
ninety-five to fifty, bought at the low figure, and sold at the high
price which was called for in the contracts made by his agents. The
effect of such sharp dealing on investors, the railroad or the public
seems not to have entered into the calculation. Indeed, the Erie and
many another road was looked upon by its owners merely as a convenient
piece of machinery for producing fortunes.

Gould, Drew and other railroad men of their time were also expert in
the practice of "stock-watering." This consists in expanding the
nominal capitalization of an enterprise without an equivalent addition
to the actual capital. The rates which the railway has to charge the
public tend to increase by approximately whatever dividends are paid
on the water.[1] Then, as later, when a road was prospering greatly
it would sometimes declare a "stock dividend," that is, give its
stockholders additional stock in proportion to what they already
owned. The addition would frequently be water. Its purpose might be to
cover up the great profits made by the company. If, on a million
dollars' worth of stock, it was paying ten per cent. dividends, the
public might demand lower freight and passenger rates; but if the
stock were doubled and earnings remained stationary, then the
dividends would appear as five per cent.--an amount to which there
could be no objection. H.V. Poor, the railroad expert, declared before
a commission of investigation in 1885 that the New York Central
Railroad was carrying $48,000,000 of water, on which it had paid eight
per cent. dividends for fifteen years. He also estimated that of the
seven and a half billions of indebtedness which the roads of the
country were carrying in 1883, two billions represented water. Others
thought that the proportion of water was greater. In any case the
unnecessary burden upon business to provide dividends for the watered
stock was an item of some magnitude. The investor, however, looked
upon stock-watering with other eyes. The building of a new road was a
speculation; the profits might be large, to be sure, but there might
in many cases be a loss. In order to tempt money into railroad
enterprises, therefore, inducements in the form of generous stock
bonuses were necessary.

The rate wars of the seventies gave wide advertisement to another
aspect of railroad history. The most famous of these contests had
their origin in the grain-carrying trade from the Lakes to the
sea-board. The entry of the Baltimore and Ohio and the Grand Trunk
into Chicago in 1874, stimulated a four-cornered competition among
these roads and the Pennsylvania and New York Central for the traffic
between the upper Mississippi Valley and the coast. Rates on grain and
other products were cut, and cut again; freight charges dropped to a
figure which wiped out profits; yet it was impossible for any line to
drop out of the competition until exhaustion forced all to do so. A
railroad can not suspend business when profits disappear, for fixed
expenses continue and the depreciation of the value of the property,
especially of the stations, tracks and rolling stock, is extreme.
Since the rate wars were clearly bringing ruin in their train, rate
agreements and pooling arrangements were devised. The latter took
several forms. Sometimes a group of competing roads agreed to divide
the business among the competitors on the basis of an agreed-upon
percentage. Another plan was to pool earnings at the close of a period
and divide according to a prearranged ratio. Sometimes destructive
competition was prevented by a division of the territory, each company
being allowed a free hand in its own field. In general, pooling
agreements were likely to break down, although a southern pool
organized by Albert Fink on a very extensive scale lasted for many
years and was thought to have had a vital influence in eliminating
rate-wars. Their efficacy depended mainly on good faith, and good
faith was a rarity among railroad officials in the seventies and
eighties. In the eyes of the public, rate agreements and pools were
vicious conspiracies which left the rights and well-being of the
private shipper completely out of the calculation.

Still another indictment of the railways resulted from their
participation in politics. It was inevitable, of course, that the
roads should be drawn into the field of legislation--the grants of
public land, for example, helped bring about the result. It early
seemed advantageous to attempt to influence state legislatures to pass
favorable laws, and it seemed a necessity to bring pressure to bear in
order to protect the roads from hostile acts. The methods used by the
railway agents in their political activity naturally varied all the
way from legitimate agitation to crude and subtle forms of bribery. An
insidious method of influencing both law-making and litigation was the
pass system. Under it the roads were accustomed to give free
transportation to a long list of federal and state judges, legislators
and politicians. For a judge to accept such favors from a corporation
which might at any time be haled before his court, and for a
legislator to receive a gift from a body that was constantly in need
of legislative attention is now held to be improper in the extreme.
But in those days a less sensitive public opinion felt hardly a qualm.
That the practice was likely to arouse an unconscious bias in the
minds of public officials is hardly debatable. The more crude forms of
bribery, too, were not uncommon. It was testified before a committee
of investigation that the Erie Railway Company in one year expended
$700,000 as a corruption fund and for legal expenses, carrying the
amount on the books in the "India-rubber account." The manipulation of
the courts of New York by the Erie and the New York Central during the
late sixties was nothing short of a scandal. Alliances between
political rings and railroad officials for the purpose of caring for
their mutual interests were so common that reformers questioned
whether the American people could be said to possess self-government
in actuality. Immediately after the Civil War, Charles Francis Adams,
an acute student of transportation, declared that it was scarcely an
exaggeration to say that the state legislatures were becoming a
species of irregular boards of railroad direction. The evils of the
alliance between the roads and politics were not, of course, due
entirely to the former. The receiver of a pass shared with the giver
the evil of the system. Many a legislator was corrupt; more shared in
practices which were little removed from dishonorable. Adams, for
example, gives an account of his experiences, as a director of the
Union Pacific, in dealing with a United States senator in 1884. The
congressman was ready to take excellent care of railroad corporations
which retained him as counsel, but was a corrupt and ill-mannered
bully toward the Union Pacific, which had not employed him.[2]

The most constant grievance was discrimination--that the roads varied
their rates for the benefit or detriment of especial types of freight,
of individuals and of entire localities. Through business between
competing points was carried at a low figure, while the roads recouped
themselves by charging heavily in towns where competition was absent.
Shippers complained that rates between St. Paul and Chicago, for


Back to Full Books