Ulysses S. Grant: Politician

By William B. Hesseltine | Go to book overview

Chapter XXIII A Reformer in the Cabinet

THE elections of 1874 and the succeeding session of Congress completely broke Grant's leadership of his party. Henceforth all but a handful of spoilsmen who were so closely identified with the Administration that they could not answer to the bugle call of reform deserted him and sought new policies and a new leader. Inevitably, the presidential bee buzzed in men's bonnets, and aspirants for the succession lost no occasion to put themselves on record as opposing Grant. Vice- President Wilson, who was not averse to thinking of himself as President, was constantly remarking for publication that the Republican Party had a chance to win new victories if it would adopt "broad, wise, and magnanimous" policies.1 Wilson was sure that the people of the country were opposed to a third term for any man.2 John A. Logan, whom Grant had accused of having the presidential "bug" two years before, hoped that some turn of fate would give him the Republican nomination, and, during the summer went to California, where he found the people for him. His policy was to say nothing and do nothing while "things take shape."3 Throughout the country there was considerable sentiment for Minister Washburne--a man whose reforming zeal, financial ideas, and close connection with the politicians made him popular with all classes, East and West.4 Washburne's health, however, prevented his making any effort for the nomination. He doubtless expected that the Grant forces among the officeholders--the real organization of the party, would be thrown to him. Hamilton Fish was frequently mentioned. Another potential heir of the Administration was Oliver P. Morton, and in many circles political speculators were willing to wager on Conkling's chances.

Far stronger than any of these aspirants was James G. Blaine, Speaker of the House and a party wheelhorse whose ability to straddle an issue increased his availability with both reforming and regular Republicans. His popularity in the House assured him widespread sup-

____________________
1
New York Tribune, January 19, September 13, 1875.
2
Ibid., June 5, 1875.
3
Logan to Mrs. Logan, August 7, 1875, Logan MSS.
4
J. Russell Young to Washburne, September 27, 1875, Washburne MSS.

-375-

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