An Uncertain Majority
R ANDALL swung into a vigorous campaign to retain the Speakership shortly after the last barrier fell to Hayes's inauguration. Unlike two years earlier, he did everything possible to undercut Cox and Morrison, his chief rivals. Above all, Randall considered Wood indispensable. To a confidant, Randall wrote that although " Wood & I have never spoken on the subject," they made an implicit swap. For his aid, Randall agreed to name Wood "chairman [of] Ways and Means." At the moment, neither considered the chief liability in the deal -- their profound differences over the tariff -- and pushed ahead with single-minded dedication.1
Wood pulled powerful strings of money, organization, and influence. In New York, he lobbied hesitant financiers and congressmen, assuring them that Randall was safe on key fiscal issues. Within Tammany, he secured Kelly's endorsement by warning that Cox's candidacy was futile. During the summer, Wood spent a working holiday at Sharon Springs, pushing Randall among politicians vacationing from other states.2
The missing piece was the party's largest bloc of congressmen, sixty-seven Southern Democrats and their uncertain attitude toward Randall after the disputed election. While Randall called in political debts for past help he had given Southerners, Wood tested his own standing among them. It was firm. To most Southerners, Wood's racism was a vital part of their chief priority, preserving the racial order through home rule. His role in the presidential election was beside the point, then, especially since Hayes's Southern policy seemed to abandon blacks to their control.
Wood listened sympathetically to Southern grumbling about Randall's rulings and his negative attitude about subsidizing the Texas and Pacific Railroad. Wood soothed ruffled feelings through a network of congressional associates, and wrote pro-Randall editorials for the prestigious Charleston News and Courier, which Ben Wood partially owned, emphasizing Randall's belief in home rule. To three
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Fernando Wood:A Political Biography. Contributors: Jerome Mushkat - Author. Publisher: Kent State University Press. Place of publication: Kent, OH. Publication year: 1990. Page number: 221.