The Press Gang: Newspapers and Politics, 1865-1878

By Mark Wahlgren Summers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 17
James G. Blaine Beats the Rap

House Democrats had no excuse for the blunder they made in early 1876. Eighteen years in the minority may have left them inexperienced at forging a policy. But they might have wondered why Northern voters kept electing a Republican House. Was it not possible, just remotely possible, that people still associated the party with treason? If so, was there not some danger in giving aid and comfort to former Confederates? Yet the Democrats did just that, the moment they came back to power. They offered a bill restoring the right to hold federal office to the last white Southerners still shut out by the Fourteenth Amendment. 1

They had reckoned without the former Speaker. James G. Blaine of Maine was among the most remarkable politicians of his day and one of the craftiest. "Now there's Blaine, damn him!" one congressman exclaimed, "but I do love him." It was a love widely shared. Grizzled and amber-eyed, energetic and impetuous, attractive to men as well as women, Blaine had the kind of magnetism that would make crowds of Republicans support him to the end--or fight him to the death. In vain critics looked behind the accom-

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