Boss Rule in the Gilded Age: Matt Quay of Pennsylvania

By James A. Kehl | Go to book overview

4
From Lieutenant to General 1877-1884

BECAUSE of the circumstances surrounding Hayes's election, a cloud of uncertainty hung over the administration, but it was comparatively unnoticed by Republican leaders who detected other more ominous signs in the political sky. With the economy still feeling the crippling effects of the Panic of 1873, prosperity was at best a mist beyond the horizon.

Disturbances erupted across Pennsylvania in 1877, the most disastrous year of the depression for that state. Mob violence took charge of Pittsburgh's railroad strike, which was quelled only by state and federal troops after the loss of sixteen lives and millions of dollars in property damage. Rioting spread to Reading, Scranton, and Wilkes-Barre and threatened to infect other areas. Unrest was prevalent throughout the Commonwealth, and in the local election returns of 1877 the voters appeared to attribute much of the responsibility to the Republican party. Soundly defeated but not demoralized, the party leadership displayed a remarkable resilience. It regrouped, supplied its organization with the necessary resources, and sallied into the 1878 campaign. The party's stakes were extremely high. Completing the unexpired term of his father, Donald Cameron expected to be returned to the U. S. Senate, but renewal depended upon the composition of the new legislature. Since a governor was also to be elected, the makeup of the legislature would be determined, in part, by the campaign strength of the party's gubernatorial nominee. With the key offices so intertwined, the Republicans had to rebound from their 1877 election losses if they hoped to win them all.

Cooperation within the party and division without permitted Pennsylvania Republicans to make such a recovery. With the Camerons centrally located in

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