The Pursuit of the White House: A Handbook of Presidential Election Statistics and History

By G. Scott Thomas | Go to book overview

3.
Waving the Bloody Shirt: 1856-1900

The Civil War lasted four years, but its impact on Presidential politics endured for decades. The sole fact that Abraham Lincoln had been a Republican provided his young party an aura of righteous immortality. Its candidates rarely failed to remind Northern audiences that the GOP had directed the successful war effort, a rhetorical practice commonly known as "waving the bloody shirt." Indiana Governor and Senator Oliver Morton was one of the foremost practitioners of the art. He blasted the Democratic party as "a common sewer and loathsome receptacle, into which is emptied every element of treason North and South, and every element of inhumanity and barbarism which has dishonored the age." 1 Such talk echoed from the stump for the rest of the 19th Century.

The Republicans made their debut in 1856, a product of the strong resurgence in sectional feeling. Lincoln scored the party's first win four years later. It took nine of the twelve elections between 1856 and 1900. James Buchanan and Grover Cleveland eked out the three Democratic triumphs.

Other issues intruded, but the big question was still North vs. South. The Grand Army of the Republic, a 19th Century version of the American Legion, became a potent supporter of Republican candidates. The 1876 nominee, Rutherford Hayes, still had the war on his mind. He wrote James Garfield, "The true issue in the minds of the masses is simply, Shall the late Rebels have the Government?"2 A national uproar followed a Republican minister's 1884 characterization of the Democrats as advocates of "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion," but it was the middle word that ignited the furor. Few disputed the last. The Republican candidate in 1896 and 1900, William McKinley, still liked to be called "Major." That was his brevet rank with the Ohio Volunteers more than thirty years earlier.

The Democrats paid quadrennially for their earlier miscalculations: Buchanan's failure to stop secession, the

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The Pursuit of the White House: A Handbook of Presidential Election Statistics and History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • How to Use This Book ix
  • Section 1. the Elections 1
  • 1. All Republicans, All Federalists: 1789-1816 3
  • 2. the Coming of Democracy: 1820-1852 15
  • 3. Waving the Bloody Shirt: 1856-1900 40
  • 4. the Road to Normalcy: 1904-1928 85
  • 5. Rendezvous with Destiny: 1932-1956 120
  • 6. Beyond the New Frontier: 1960-1984 155
  • Section 2. the Participants 191
  • 7. the Candidates 193
  • 8. the Parties 361
  • 9. the States 390
  • Notes 457
  • Selected Bibliography 475
  • Index 477
  • About the Author 487
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