Hamilton Fish: The Inner History of the Grant Administration - Vol. 1

By Allan Nevins | Go to book overview

Chapter VI Grant in Power

WITH crash of brass and roll of drum, under a cold and cloudy sky, the Fifth Cavalry on March 4, 1869, escorted President-elect Grant, with General Rawlins, Speaker Colfax, and several staff officers, from his house to the Capitol. Remembering that Johnson had accused him of lying, he had refused to ride in the same carriage with the outgoing President. At the Capitol, just after high noon, Chief Justice Chase administered the oath of office, and Grant stepped forward to deliver his brief inaugural address. The spectators noted that he was reserved and restrained, colder in manner than ever before, as if deeply impressed by the weight of his new responsibilities.1

Fish sat just behind President Grant on the platform built before the east portico of the Capitol. He and his wife had arrived in Washington three days earlier, and taken rooms (the entire second story of a commodious house) engaged for them in Twelfth Street by the proprietor of Wormley's Hotel. They knew Grant too intimately to miss the great occasion, while Fish wished to burnish some of his old friendships in Washington. At Representative John V. L. Pruyn's house he had dined with Justices Clifford and Miller of the Supreme Court.2 He had attended President Johnson's final and most brilliant reception at the White House, with Harriet Lane, its mistress during Buchanan's Administration, among the five thousand guests. At the Capitol he had chatted with Republican leaders, while with three other prominent New Yorkers, Judge Hilton, William H. Aspinwall, and A. T. Stewart, he had spent some pleasant hours at Grant's and Sherman's headquarters.3

The press had repeatedly spoken of Fish as a possible Cabinet member. "The New Yorkers have ciphered the appointment from their State down to either Fish or Pierrepont," announced the Washington correspondent of the New York Tribune on March 2; and next day added, "The opinion tonight is that Hamilton Fish is to be New York's representative." But such reports were idle. Weeks earlier it had been inti

____________________
1
Louis A. Coolidge, Ulysses S. Grant, 274, 275; William B. Hesseltine, Ulysses S. Grant, 142-145; N. Y. Tribune, Herald, March 5, 1869.
2
J. V. L. Pruyn MS Diary, March 3, 1869.
3
Fish had taken a part, at Elihu Washburne's request, in raising Republican funds in New York during the campaign of 1968, and himself contributed generously; Washburne to Fish, September 15, 1868; W. E. Chandler to Fish, September 23, 1868. Fish Papers.

-105-

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