NATIONAL interest in public questions is always incalculable, for it depends upon emotions rather than upon intellect. The nation during Grant's first few months watched apathetically his defeat by the Senate upon the Tenure of Office bill, and took little interest in other evidences that wily politicians were out-maneuvring the clumsy Executive. It paid only languid attention to the departmental reforms by Fish, Cox, Hoar, and Creswell, to the appearance of broad-brimmed Quakers in Washington to discuss the Indian question, or to the army changes which gave dashing Phil Sheridan the position next in power to Sherman, thus humiliating General Meade. Even the Southern tangle excited little concern. Reconstruction had become a bore to most people, and there was widespread agreement at the North with Frederick Douglass's advice to "let the Negro alone." The general belief was that Grant would pursue a conciliatory policy toward the Southern whites, and his first acts encouraged this feeling. The Alabama question was in the headlines for only a few weeks. After all, it was an old issue; after Sumner's unhappy outburst no new incident increased the feeling against England; and it was obvious that the subject would lie dormant for some time.1
In one domestic topic, however, popular interest was intense. This was Boutwell's handling of the finances, which touched the pocket nerve; most Westerners watched suspiciously lest he try to carry forward McCulloch's policy of deflation, which Congress had checked in 1868, while moneyed Easterners hoped for debt-reduction and a rapid return to specie payments. And above all, a host of Americans took the keenest interest in one foreign question--that presented by the rebellion which had blazed up in eastern Cuba. Of all Fish's problems, it was the most exigent and disturbing.
Americans instinctively regarded the vestiges of Spanish dominion in the Western Hemisphere as an anachronism. They had long been____________________