The Democratic Mask: Grant v Greeley in the Election of 1872

I ended up writing a a paper on this particular election for one my graduate courses basically through luck of the draw.  The challenge my professor presented us was to do as much as we could using only online sources – not wikipedia, but online archives and scholarly websites.  That, I managed quite easily enough and so what you’ll read below is almost entirely my own conclusions based upon the fascinating primary sources I spent the semester immersed in.

This election was a fascinating practice in manipulation.  After writing this paper, I have never looked at elections, or the media coverage of such, the same.

And neither, I trust, will you.


The Democratic Mask

Welcome to America, post Civil War – corrupt, decadent, and nouveau-riche.  The spoils of war have been divided among the victors who grow fat upon the corpse of the Confederacy, while the former rebels struggle to rebuild their lives and cope with the myriad changes that are happening around them.  Meanwhile, the newly emancipated slaves, now freedmen, must figure out how to establish themselves in a society which is generally hostile to their success, many of whom would just as soon hang them as help them.  It is a time of transition and turmoil for everyone.   The people of America, frustrated by the disastrous reign of Andrew Johnson, elect themselves a hero in 1868, one whom they suppose will be above politics; surely the great man who saved the union and showed kind mercy to the defeated General Robert E. Lee will be able to truly restore union and peace.  However, Ulysses S. Grant, our soldier-president, would disappoint many as his first term in office became rife with corruption and nepotism.[1]

By 1872 war-emotions had cooled and the desire for vengeance had dried up for many; people were beginning to grow tired of Reconstruction and disillusioned with their hero’s political shortcomings.  The question of re-nominating Grant for a second term was a controversial one and proved to split the Republican party in two – the radical Charles Sumner would go off on a fantastic tirade against Grant shortly before the nominations, laying out his faults before the Senate and contrasting him to greats such as Washington and Adams.  The speech was ineffectual.  Grant would be the Republican nominee.  And so Sumner and others simply turned their backs on the party and went their own way.  The dissenters, led by German-born Senator Carl Schurz and Missouri Governor B. Gantz Brown would call themselves the Liberal Republicans and nominate as their candidate the eccentric and widely-known New York newspaper editor Horace Greeley.  Their goal: to ally with the weak and frustrated Democrats and overthrow Grant together.  Desperate, the Democrats grasped at their only possible hope of defeating Grant and agreed to the alliance, taking the Liberal platform and candidates and making them their own.

Greeley was, at best, a dubious choice as candidate: not only had he spent his entire career publicly declaring his deep-seated hatred of all Democrats in the most colourful and creative terms imaginable, he had also been extremely vocal in regards to his opinions about exactly how the rebellious South should be treated.  Why the Democrats would agree to such a candidate at all is baffling.  So while, in 1872, the issues of the presidential election were officially tariffs, Reconstruction, and the Southern Question, the real issue was this: when faced with the potential re-election of Ulysses S. Grant, would the Democrats and the South be willing and able to unite behind Horace Greeley, a man who had been a most vile and vindictive political and social enemy for far longer than General Grant?   In an election which would offer the Southerners choice only in theory, many would prefer to throw their support behind the man who had conquered them instead of the man who had spent the past four decades insulting them and opposing every stitch of Democratic doctrine. [2]

Grant’s First Term – A Snapshot

In 1868 the nation wanted a man capable of healing their wounds; the Republicans wanted someone they could control.  Andrew Johnson was suitable for neither and few were sorry to see him leave the White House.  In his place the Republicans chose General Ulysses S. Grant, a popular figure all but guaranteed to win.  While an excellent soldier, he was  inexperienced in politics, considered (perhaps unfairly) simple-minded, and easily influenced by those around him.  The Republicans were strengthened by the newly enfranchised freedmen and, in spite of accusations of alcoholism and stupidity, the General now found himself President.  The Republicans would not forget the debt they owed to the black voter and promptly pushed through the Fifteenth Amendment, guaranteeing black suffrage and further securing Republican power in the South.[3]

Trouble is that soldiers don’t necessarily make good politicians, and Grant had never received the education necessary to the position which he now occupied.  He seemed to regard the office of President as a prize won by his hard work on the battlefield, and with good reason – he had been told as much by admirers and supporters.  Lacking both the education and experience needed, Grant made quick work of bungling the Presidency.  He offended and confused many with his poor selection of cabinet members and ended up surrounding himself with corrupt and dishonest men who would put their own self-interest above the good of the nation.   Although Grant is generally believed to have been honest himself and innocent of the scandals that marked his administration, his reputation ended up being drug through the mud never-the-less.  You are judged by the company you keep, and when it came to choosing friends Grant proved to have poor taste indeed.  Take, for example, Jay Gould and James Fisk, Jr., who planned to manipulate the market and the national treasury in order to corner the gold supply in the Gold Conspiracy of 1869.  Or Oakes Ames,  the master-mind behind the brilliant and infamous Credit Mobilier Scandal, whose promises of riches managed to seduce even Vice President Scyhler Colfax.   These are only two examples of the many scandals that plagued the hapless President from 1868-1872; combine those with a Southern policy which grew tougher each day – thanks to the influence of the Radicals – his fondness for the bottle, his habit of appointing friends and family to office, and his penchant for surrounding himself with other soldiers, and by the time his first four years in office had expired he was up to his eyebrows in accusations of military despotism, alcoholism, corruption, nepotism, and incompetence.[4]

The Republicans and the Philadelphia Convention

In June of 1872 the Republican Party gathered in Philadelphia to discuss the upcoming election.  With the Union preserved and the Fifteenth Amendment passed, there were some in the country who believed the work of the party complete and expected the Republicans to die out, making way for a new party with new issues.  The Republicans needed to prove that this was not so.  However, these mutterings were not without a grain of truth – without the issue of war to unite them, the party had indeed fractured and a smaller group, the Liberal Republicans, had already met in Cincinnati to discuss their own candidates and platform.  Four years of scandals had hurt the party, and there were many who believed that Reconstruction had failed.   What the Republicans needed now was something new to rally the country to their cause and secure their place in the White House for a further four years, not to mention guarantee their survival.  Now one cannot have a war every time one needs to win an election, so they turned to something else that can generally be relied upon to stir people up a bit – taxes, specifically the question of a protective tariff.  Seemed a safe enough bet; after all, the country’s own bid for freedom had begun with the colonial desire to protect their pocket books.  Intentions aside, however, the tariff issue simply wasn’t enough to stir passion in anyone, and the convention and ensuing campaign both returned to the tired but relevant issue of Reconstruction and the Southern Question.[5]

The Philadelphia Convention appears straightforward – far more so than the other three conventions which would take place that summer – and can best be described as a triumphant one.  According to a New York Times correspondent, “a spirit of harmony and kindliness… pervaded all the deliberations.” Spirits were high and opposition was at a minimum (probably because the majority of the dissenters had already met in Cincinnati). As stated by Temporary Chairman Morton McMichael in his introductory speech, the candidacy was already a foregone conclusion.  Everybody knew it would be Grant.  Neither did the platform appear to interest many – it had already been decided.  The Convention seemed more a celebration of assured victory than anything else.[6]

It is interesting to note that for all the complaints he and his party received in regards to his lack of political experience, the Republicans seem to consider his experience on the battlefield more important than his role in the national government.  This is evidenced by the fact that the delegates to the convention persistently, habitually, and constantly refer to him as “General;”  the only ones who call him “President” at any time are all Southerners, and even then they switch back and forth between the two.  In 1868 the people wanted a hero and not your average politician; they got it and then complained.  In 1872 little appears to have changed; a great soldier has always been an easy sell as candidate, and someone as malleable as Grant a valuable party tool.  During the convention much was made of his heroics during the war: the Northerners thanked him for saving the Union and the Southern delegates praised him for his mercy towards their

General Grant in uniform.  I always think he looks a bit troubled.

troops.  Mr. Emrey Storrs from Illinois even went so far as to say that the “people of the country cannot forget… the great achievements which Ulysses S. Grant has accomplished…(and) they will give voice to their gratitude by a larger majority than any President ever yet received, in the election of (the General) as his own successor.”  When confronted with such attitudes, can the soldier-president really be blamed for regarding his office as a prize justly deserved?[7]


When reading the minutes of the Convention, one can’t help but notice that protective tariffs were hardly mentioned at all – odd, considering it was supposed to be their main issue.  Interest, instead, generally focused on post-war issues, most frequently the Ku Klux Klan.  Northerners decried the atrocities perpetrated by the sheeted terrors and condemned the Southern states for allowing it to happen, while the Southern delegates begged Grant to protect them and continue to fight the Klan.  As Southern Republicans, they would have been in great danger themselves.  The success of the Ku Klux Act was a great matter of pride and mentioned by nearly all.  Other celebrated triumphs of his first administration included “universal” suffrage, the improvement of the nation’s finances, the building of the first transcontinental railroad, lack of criminal punishment for “political offenses,” the drop in taxes, and, of course, the preservation of the Union.[8]

There are, of course, little ironies scattered here and there throughout the Republican list of victories which simply cannot be ignored.  For instance, suffrage in America was far from universal, unless, of course, the entire country was peopled solely by men – Republican “universal” suffrage and the Fifteenth Amendment did not include women.  The construction of the transcontinental railroad gave rise to the infamous Credit Mobilier Scandal, one of many scandals which was currently being used as ammunition against Grant and the Republican party.  The former Confederates who had perpetrated “political offenses” had most certainly been punished by being stripped of their rights and property, disenfranchised, and, in some cases, imprisoned and tried for treason.

During the course of the delegates’ speeches, any mentioned scandals are glossed over without specifics or names.  Instead, the intelligence and integrity of the President is defended with vigor and loyalty.  The traitors who make up the Liberal Republicans are summarily condemned and declared inconsequential.  The Republicans know that the soon-to-come Liberal alliance with the Democrats is inevitable and are confident that such a union will not only fail, but will most likely backfire by forcing many Democrats into their camp, especially with a man like the great anti-Democrat Horace Greeley as chosen candidate.  Greeley, the Liberal man to defeat Grant, was no cause of concern in the Republican camp; quite the contrary, the nomination of the so-called “Chappaqua Farmer” won derision from many.  In fact, Governor E.F. Noyes of Ohio maintained that his whole nomination was one big joke.[9]

After a great number of speeches both congratulatory and motivational, the Republicans proved so eager to get down to business that they suspended the rules and moved on to the nominations without even setting down an official platform.  Grant’s nomination: unanimous.  Cheering errupted throughout the hall and the band burst into song, playing first Grant Campaign Song and moving through another half-dozen patriotic numbers such as Yankee Doodle and war songs like Marching Through Georgia.  The crowd sang along to John Brown with an almost religious fervor:

The band struck up the familiar, electrifying strains which our soldiers used to sing when marching to the front.  The whole concourse rose as one mass.  From the parquet to the upper tier, the vast multitude stood up and rolled out the grand old hymn of freedom.  Strong men wept with intensity of feeling.  There was scarcely a dry eye in the great assemblage; not a heart that was not thrilled with the sublimity of the moment.

Indeed, the enthusiasm with which Grant’s re-nomination was met made it seem almost as if the war had been won a second time.[10]

Once celebrations died down they again suspend the rules and without a platform proceed with nominations for Vice President, choosing Henry Wilson over Schyler Colfax, no doubt thanks to the latter’s involvement with the Credit Mobilier scandal (also possibly a concession towards the Liberals).  An extensive platform was finally adopted unanimously, in which the party vowed, among other things, to uphold the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, pledged equal rights for all men, civil service reform, protective tariffs, specie payments, and amnesty.  They opposed corporate land grants, reserving public lands for real settlers and not, say, corrupt railroad officials.  More celebrations followed, a massive equestrian portrait of the General was uncovered, and the triumphant Republicans, already completely assured of victory, marched singing with the band  into the streets.[11]

The Liberal Republicans and Horace Greeley

Some circles were of the opinion that Grant’s administration had failed.  Failed to unite the country, failed to heal national wounds, failed to carry out the vision of the late martyred Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln had promoted forgiveness and wished to accept the seceded Southern states quickly and painlessly back into the union “with malice towards none and charity towards all,” the Confederacy a Prodigal Son for the Western Hemisphere.  Far from “bind(ing) up the nation’s wounds,” the harsh Reconstruction policy pursued by the Republicans for the past seven years ran directly counter to this desire and was only deepening the gulf which still existed between North and South.  Republicans believed that the rapid growth of technology and innovations would be able to unite the country in a way never before seen, but they were being too literal.  Railroads spanning North to South and East to West would serve only as stitches across deep and ugly scars.  In order to truly repair the damage done by the Civil War, a new sense of nationalism would have to be found and shared by all.  The Republicans believed that building a bigger and more advanced nation would provide this.[12]

There were some, however, who disagreed.  There were some who believed that the rebirth of American feeling depended upon the nation’s policy towards the South.  They believed that forcing the South to submit to the wishes of the national government would do nothing but feed fuel to a long and deep resentment.  The only way to truly bring the nation back together was to be friend and not oppressor to their wayward brothers.  Reconstruction would have to go, and so would Grant’s entire administration – after all, how could they be reconciled with the South when their very conqueror stood as head of the government?  The scandals and difficulties inherent in Grant’s first four years were simply an extension of the Civil War legacy, evidence of the waste and failure which had consumed the nation for far too long.  These feelings were shared by a number of men belonging to the Republicans and in 1872 they split off and formed their own party, calling themselves the Liberal Republicans.  Their purpose was to remove Ulysses S. Grant from office and have done with Reconstruction once and for all.[13]

The Liberal Republican movement traces its roots back to 1870 when several Republicans, including Carl Schurz, stood against the Enforcement Act and opposed the harsh treatment of ex-Confederates.  In Missouri, local Republicans led by B. Gantz Brown united with Democrats to overthrow Radical rule and re-enfranchise former rebels.  Together they won the fight for a general amnesty and encouraged other Republicans that a more lenient Southern policy was the best way to go.  Brown, for his efforts, would later be awarded Governorship of Missouri.  Most importantly, Schurz, Brown, and others like them set the ball of dissent rolling through the halls of Congress and the minds of Republicans throughout the country.  Reconstruction, they argued, was tyrannical.  It eroded the principle of federalism.  It took attention away from other issues and concerns.  It was time to end federal intervention in the reconstructed states and reconcile with the South.[14]

In May of 1872 the Liberal Republicans kicked off the presidential race by meeting in Cincinnati to discuss their own platform and candidate.  The men who gatherd there were a diverse group, lacking any real cohesion except a dissatisfaction with the President.  Among them were Republican Party founders Lyman Trumbull and George Julian.  Many “delegates” simply showed up to see what was going on and actually lacked any real responsibilities or constituents.  Most were  politicians who had been slighted or outright fired by the General-President, giving rise to numerous accusations that they were nothing more than a cadre of disgruntled malcontents with a taste for vengeance.  In reality their motivations weren’t necessarily as simple as all that.  There were actually several reasons for party realignment in 1872.  Many Republicans were no longer the original party founders and held different ideas and priorities.  The main issues that had created the party – slavery, union – were now taken care of, and so attention was free to wander to other areas.  With a common enemy no longer and the Democrats putting up a poor fight, the Republicans really had little better to do than fight among themselves.  The split was a natural reaction to the present situation.[15]

Now Schurz did not walk away from the Republicans without first planning ahead carefully; he saw that the Republican party was in a weakened state; he recognized that the Democrats were growing desperate for a victory.  Prior to the convention, he met with Democratic Party Chairman August Belmont to negotiate an alliance between their two parties.  Although the Liberal goal had initially been to change the course of the Republican party and block a re-nomination of Grant, they had failed and must now consider the possibility of union with the Democrats in spite of a long history of mistrust and opposition.  Such a union had worked in Missouri; perhaps it could work on the national level.  None-the-less Schurz was not entirely comfortable with such a thing; as a life-long Republican, he distrusted the Democrats and feared that an alliance with them would chase off many of his own Republican voters.  However, with the Democratic South on their side, the Republican party split in two, and Grant’s popularity wavering, a strong enough candidate could oust him from the White House.[16]

Together, Belmont and Schurz worked out a platform that would both serve to please the Liberals and attract Democrats.  It advocated the end of Reconstruction, civil service reform, union, amnesty, and equal rights for all – overall extremely similar to the Republican platform except for the bit on Reconstruction. Next came the part that was decidedly anti-Grant: they would stand against abuse and corruption in and of office, military despotism, and centralization of government.  They discussed possible candidates that would please both parties and could show Grant some decent opposition; Schurz himself would have been a good choice, but he was foreign and therefore ineligible.  Charles Sumner was suggested, but he removed himself from the running and his abolitionist past probably would not have sat well with the Southern vote.  Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase had long been interested but he was aging and ill and not a good choice.  Horace Greeley was popular in New York, but aside from being an outspoken enemy of the Democrats and all things Southern, he was also known to be eccentric and a bit wishy-washy; Belmont and Schurz agreed he would be a better Vice-Presidential prospect.  Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull was suggested, but he was less than enthusiastic about it in spite of heavy Midwestern support.  Ultimately the best choices seemed to be Charles Francis Adams of Massachusetts and David Davis of Illinois.  Davis seemed to carry a decent amount of support from the Democrats, and Adams was generally agreeable to both parties as none of his views ran counter to anything major.  Plus his relation to the great John Adams was considered a boon. These were the men whom Schurz would push for the candidacy when they met in Cincinnati.  Of these men, it is interesting to note that not a single one of the prospective candidates came from a former Confederate state.[17]

While Schurz was busy attending to the future of his party, certain New Yorkers were attending to the future of Horace Greeley.  Greeley’s name was in the proverbial hat for the Liberal Republican nomination, but some were not content to let him go as a mere Vice-President.  In spite of protestations of dis-interest, the editor of the New York Tribune had proven that he had a taste for office: in 1854 he lost the Whig nominations

Horace Greeley

for governor and lieutenant governor; he ran for the US Senate in 1861, Comptroller of New York in 1869, and Congress in 1870.  He lost all three, meaning that when he won the nomination for chief executive in the summer of 1872 he had no political experience to speak of.  The choice of Horace Greeley personified the national desire for a man and a not a politician to stand at their head, a desire which also aided Grant in securing and holding office for himself. [18]  When the idea was first mentioned to him in 1871 he appeared reluctant – what he really wanted was to retire and read a few good books.  He claimed to have little interest in the stress and troubles of the Presidency.  His actions were to the contrary; in fact, Secretary of Navy Gideon Wells would call him a “greedy office hunter” and biographer Jeter Allen Iseley would state that he “boiled with anxiety for elected office.”  He would agree to the campaign in spite of his feigned protests.[19]


Horace Greeley was a complicated and complex figure indeed.  Described as crotchety, and contradictory,  his looks constantly a subject of derision and scorn, one could hardly imagine a sharper contrast to the simple and brave General Grant than the eccentric newspaper editor in question.  He had supported such things as spiritualism and vegetarianism, earning him much ridicule.  He had also somewhat supported noble yet controversial concepts such as emancipation, racial equality, and women’s suffrage.  He envisioned a future in which everyone was equal and, in a roundabout way, worked to win this future.  However, the waffling he did in regards to the office of the President was indicative of a larger, life-long pattern, one which can be seen in his attitudes towards the major issues and events of his day.[20]

According to Gideon Wells, “there (were) no principles to which (Greeley would) adhere faithfully.”  The issues surrounding the War Between The States is one example of such behavior.  In 1860 he supported the Southern right of secession.  Using the words of Thomas Jefferson and recalling the spirit of the Revolution, he reminded his readers that if an oppressive government “justified the secession… of three millions of colonists in 1776, (he did) not see why it would not justify the secession of five millions of Southerners from the federal union in 1861.” “Let them go!” he urged, desperate to prevent bloodshed.  Then, somewhere during the course of the war, he changed positions. Suddenly the seceded states were full of liars, thieves, perjurers, gamblers and pickpockets who were “outside the world’s respect forever.”  The “rebellious traitors,” he insisted, must return home to “find poverty at their firesides, and see privation in the anxious eyes of mothers and the rags of children.”  As late as 1871 he insisted that Reconstruction would not be finished until “all resistance…shall have been definitely abandoned or finally crushed out.”  At the same time he was known to attack Reconstruction as unconstitutional.  He opposed confiscation of former Confederate property and spoke again treason trials. In fact, he used his own money to post bail and release Jefferson Davis from jail, an act which earned him much criticism in the North but which Liberals hoped would endear him to the Democratic Southerners.[21]

Another example of his oft-wavering opinions can be seen in regards to slavery and abolition.  He opposed slavery in practice, but distrusted abolitionists as too extreme.  He saw slavery as an evil but in 1830 would write that black freedom was incompatible with the safety of white citizens.  He would write about the cruelties of the “curious institution” in his paper, but in 1845 would annoy abolitionists by refusing to attend a meeting in Cincinnati.  He would later come to support the idea of gradual emancipation, but when Grant would purpose the annexation of San Domingo partly as a haven for freedmen, Greeley would strenuously object.  After the war, he opposed the freedman policies on the basis that they did not allow the former slaves to learn to stand on their own two feet.  His attitude towards women’s rights would follow a similar pattern; he would defend their rights in his paper one day and then marginalize them the next.  When asked to speak in their defense, he would decline.  By the time 1872 rolled around he had disappointed and alienated such people as Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  Historian and biographer Robert Williams defends Greeley’s “erratic swapping of positions” as reflecting a “consistent strategy of freedom,” but it seems more like Greeley simply lacked the stuff of his convictions.  Political and social equality for all sounded like a good idea to him, but in practice he, like so many of his contemporaries, just wasn’t ready for it.  His inability to commit to a stance or opinion certainly gives credit to Well’s criticisms and made him a difficult sell for voters but an easy target for the opposition.[22]


Although personal opinions may have wavered, Greeley’s party politics remained fairly concrete through his life, making his sudden switch to the “Liberal Democrats” all the more notable.  His politics had, until 1872, stayed faithful and true to a particular set of ideas and opinions, namely those of the Republicans.  Prior to the birth of the Republican Party, Greeley identified himself with the Whigs, liking their anti-slavery pro-tariff stance because it protected Northern industry.  In 1840 the Liberty Party caught his attention with their own anti-slavery stance, but he remained true to the  better established and more powerful Whigs.  Again in 1848 anti-slavery Democrats and a small group of Whigs combined with the Liberty Party to form the Free Soil Party, and although he agreed with many planks in their platform he again stuck with the main party, thus establishing a pattern which suggests a distaste for splinter parties.  This again makes his later swap to the Liberal Republicans – a splinter party – all the more surprising.  The Whigs eventually broke apart and the majority, with Greeley, formed a new party, the Republicans.  Greeley’s long-established political patterns and opinions put him always at odds with the long-surviving Democrats.[23]

Greeley’s dislike of the Democrats was a life-long affair and seems to be the one thing in which he had never, before 1872, questioned or altered.  Now one must understand that in Antebellum America, “Democrat” and “Southern” were all but synomous, so when considering his opinions one must realize that he was not only insulting the opposing party but also nearly every Southerner in the United States; to him, and to most Americans at the time, the two were one and the same.   According to Greeley, the Democratic Party attracted the “lewd” and “purely selfish;” they were all “blacklegs, thieves, burglars, (and)  keepers of dens of prostitution.”  Their entire creed comprised of no more than “love rum and hate niggers.” In March of 1872 he insisted in his paper that the election of a Democratic president would be a reversal of Appomattox.

When the Liberals emerged, it was common knowledge that they intended to merge with the Democrats.  When suggested to Greeley that he could be the Liberal/Democratic nominee, his initial response went like this:

I saw the other day a suggestion that I would probably be the best Democratic candidate to run against General Grant for President.  I thought that about the most absurd thing I ever heard or read.  If the Democratic Party were called upon to decide between Grant and myself, I know that their regard for what they must call principle would induce nine-tenths of them to vote against me.  Why?  I am a decided enemy of that party, even in its most respectable aspects.

No one could have better summarized the reality of thing.  Greeley had spent his entire life raking the Southern Democrats across the coals with his quick wit and sharp tongue via the New York Tribune.  The very idea of him supporting, let along representing, the Southern party was preposterous and he both recognized and acknowledged this. How it is that this man, “ambitious, talented, but not considerate, persistent, or profound,” a vicious enemy of the Democrats and the South, came to be the nominee of the “Liberal Democrats,” is both interesting and suspicious.  It is most certainly not what either Carl Schurz or August Belmont had in mind when they first devised their plan of union.[24]


The Cincinnati Convention

In spite of all his careful preparations and grand schemes with August Belmont, the Cincinnati Convention did not go at all as Schurz had intended.  In fact, the carefully planned convention all but leaped out of his hands and ended up taking several very suspicious turns in favor of a man whom Schurz did not trust and whom the Democrats could not possibly accept.

The Cincinnati Convention had barely begun before a delegate from New York stood and entered a protest against the already-purposed nomination of Horace Greeley.  The Convention had only just started, no nominees have been named, no platform declared, role had only just been called and Schurz had not yet even given his opening remarks, and already people seemed to know the outcome.  The New York delegate in question complains that any opposition to Greeley has been “studiously excluded” from the present delegation, explaining how elected members who did not support Greeley had simply been removed and replaced with others who did.  Therefore the present members of the New York delegation had not all been elected.  He also explains that, in New York, the delegation had been instructed to cast their entire vote as a unit for Greeley and only for Greeley, disregarding completely the preferences of their respective districts and deliberately packing the delegation in favor of the editor.  He argues that the imposed “unit rule” tied the hands of the delegation and was the same sort of tyranny against which the Liberal Republicans claimed to fight.  He closes by stating that the present delegation did not accurately reflect the views of New York as a whole.  He is summarily disregarded.[25]

Carl Schurz now stands to give his opening remarks. The requisite condemnation of Grant and his administration comes first, but then Schurz begins to speak on the nomination.  It was already quite clear that many had made up their minds in favor of Greeley and Schurz intended to address this.  Without using names, he urges those present to do more than just vote for someone who “might, by cheap popularity, or by astute bargains and combinations, or by all the tricks of political wire-pulling, manage to scrape together votes enough to be elected President.”  That was how Grant won the presidency; they must avoid repeating past mistakes in order to solve the problems now before them.  He hates the oft-heard cry of “anybody to beat Grant,” and urges those present to choose the ablest, most experienced politician among them.  Any other action will just give weight to the insults of the opposition.[26]

Like the Republicans, this Convention proved to be in a great hurry to get to business, but unlike the Republicans they did not feel the need to pass much time in speeches.  Many express the desire to rush straight ahead and nominate their candidates without even deciding on a platform.  Several protest – choosing a candidate before a platform really is putting the cart before the horse.  “Who ever dared to make propositions and ballot for candidates, without first having a platform containing the principles upon which they were to vote?”  How could they know who best to represent their ideas if they had not yet agreed on said ideas?  Now Greeley did not agree with the Liberals on the tariff issue and perhaps that is why some were so adamant to proceed to the nominations; if they had not yet made an official stand on the tariff  then someone who opposed their views would be easier to slip by as candidate.  However reason won out and on the third day a platform was announced, speaking of universal equality, local self government, an end to Reconstruction, civil service and tax reform.

Because God forbid a woman have an opinion

It is interesting that while the Liberals vow to uphold equality, the female delegates from California were turned out into the halls.  Like the Republicans and Horace Greeley, the Liberals appear to hold universal equality as well and good in theory, but the practice is another thing entirely.[27]

Finally the balloting, and the real circus began.  Adams and B. Gantz Brown pulled ahead on the first ballot, but before the results could be fully tallied Brown suddenly withdrew and urged all his supporters to vote for Greeley instead.  There is little concrete evidence to explain such a maneuver, but backroom politics and political buy-offs are the only possible explanation;  Greeley’s supporters were determined to secure the nomination for their candidate.   It is also known that Brown agreed to use his considerable influence to support Greeley in return for the nomination for Vice President.  His possible reasons for this are not limited to his political aspirations – after all, why settle for Vice President when the Presidency itself seems so close?  No, it appears a complicated maneuver inspired by angst and petty vengeance, a product of  a complicated soap-opera that one would expect to find in the halls of a twentieth-century middle school and not between grown educated men, right?  Yet relations between Brown and Schurz often left something to be desired; rancor still festered from Brown’s criticism of Schurz’s troops at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.  Aside from not necessarily liking Schurz and knowing full well that Schurz disliked Greeley, Schurz supported Adams, whom Brown resented.  A former supporter had betrayed Brown by encouraging his own Missouri delegation to support Adams instead.  In short, Brown threw his supporters behind Greeley to annoy Schurz and block the hated Adams from the nomination.[28]  Schurz responded by attempting to rally support for Adams, who would remain strong all the way to the fifth ballot when, still, the necessary majority had not been reached.  With the help of Brown’s supporters, Greeley’s votes continuously grew and grew but then showed a troubling decline at the fifth ballot.  At which time came the “spontaneous demonstration” which had been carefully planned the night before:  a man stood upon a desk and unfolded a fan which said “Horace Greeley” on it, and

The hall was filled with a mechanical, preordained, sententious bellowing.  Hoary-haired, hard eyes politicians, who had not in twenty years felt a noble impulse, mounted their chairs and with faces suffused with a seraphic fervor, blistered their throats hurrahing for the great and good Horace Greeley.

In the midst of all the confusion, enough changes were somehow made to ensure Greeley a majority on the sixth ballot.  Schurz was dismayed; this was not what he had agreed to with Belmont; Greeley’s own opinions did not match the platform and it was sure the Democrats would not support him.  In a minor panic, he declared the vote defective due to the chaos and ordered a new one.  The New York delegates quickly shouted him down and the nomination was carried.  Greeley now found himself the Liberal Republican nominee for President, and ultimately ensuring a second victory for Grant. [29]

Exhibit A: The Neck Beard. 

Greeley’s nomination sat poorly with many.  For a party which claimed to support free trade, Greeley’s life-long protectionist ideology was a major conflict.  The German faction of the party was less than pleased with his prohibitionist leanings, and his famous eccentricities and ridiculous sense of fashion made it difficult for some to take him at all seriously.  Neither did the candidate for this so-called “reform party” actually support reform; the make-up of the New York delegation is evidence of such.  Of the sixty-eight delegates from New York, only three of the requested twelve actually supported tariff reform. Many believed the nomination was stolen outright.[30]


According to Earle Dudley Ross, there are many reasons why the Cincinnati Convention backfired.  He attributes it to political bungling and just plain bad luck.  He paints the whole scene as a war between idealists like Schurz and politicians like Brown; the politicians would “stop at nothing that long years of convention-manipulation could suggest to force their candidate upon the unwary.” Ross’ intellectuals had neither the experience nor the resourcefulness to battle real politicians. In addition, Greeley had the power of the press behind him; his good friend Whitelaw Reid at the Tribune is often given credit for securing his victory. But regardless of how he got there, the fact was that he had won the Liberal nomination.  The eyes of the world now turned to the Democrats.  Would they accept him? [31]  

Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate In Miami
A stolen nomination?  Manipulated conventions? Naaaahhhhhhh



The Democrats and the Baltimore Convention

Were it not for what came next, the Liberal Republicans may have just faded into the pages of history, little more than passing mentions in textbooks here and there as is often the fact of splinter parties.  But the coming alliance with the Democrats raised a great amount of rancor.

The Civil War had left the Democrats weak.  August Belmont, unionist and former War Democrat, long time chair of the party, had been carrying the blame for the numerous Democratic losses since 1862.  He had nearly been removed from the chair entirely but had managed to cling to his position;  however, aging, exhausted, and emotionally wrung out, retirement was on the horizon.  Still, Belmont did not want to leave his party without a victory so he watched the Republican factionalism with interest.  When the time was right he approached Schurz and the two began to plan their respective conventions and agree upon candidates.  Greeley was not one of them.   Assuring Schurz that he could unite his Democrats with their nemesis was an arrogant step to be sure, but the Democrats were so demoralized that Belmont figured it a simple matter to string them along.  Give them a decent platform and candidate and he could assure their support.  A gentlemen’s agreement was struck and the two parted ways.  But then,  instead of bringing the Democrats Charles Adams, Belmont was  presented with Horace Greeley.  He had given his word to Schurz.  All he could do now was his best to unite the Democrats behind the editor and hope the voters would go for it.[32]

According  to New York General John A. Dix, “The Baltimore Convention acted more like a mob… than like statesmen seeking the public good and guarding the public interest.” At only six hours long, the convention was the shortest in party history.  The delegates seem rushed, impatient.  Belmont had, at one point, actually considered canceling the convention all together.  With that in mind, the whole gathering seems only token, an empty gesture intended to clothe a pre-ordained decision with some semblance of legitimacy and which only vaguely resembled reverence to the hallowed principle of popular sovereignty.  The convention was run by men who knew what they were there to do and had little interest in hearing other ideas.  Opposition to the planned agenda was rudely silenced.[33]

August Belmont opened ceremonies with a somber speech in which he praised Grant as a soldier but condemned him as politician.  He had “sadly failed in the discharge of the high trust imposed upon him  by the confidence of a grateful people,” and “his re-election is fraught with the most deplorable consequences for the welfare of the republic.”  He then moves on to confront the Greeley issue.  Greeley had, more than once, personally attacked Belmont in his paper, which he admitted made him no great fan.  But, he concedes, if the party is to choose Greeley then he must, as a loyal Democrat, support the nomination.  He calls upon his constituents to “sacrifice…personal and party preference” for the good of the country, revisiting the theme of the Cincinnati Convention.  And then, perhaps humiliated by the upcoming nomination, perhaps unable and unwilling to face the inevitable outcome of the convention, August Belmont resigns his position.[34]

James Rood Doolittle is next appointed president of the Convention.  His appointment, like the nomination of Greeley, seems suspicious in light of a number of facts.   It turns out that he and Greeley had exchanged favors, particularly ironic considering how frequently the editor had accused the Democrats of corruption and criticized the President for accepting gifts.  If elected, Greeley was going to give Doolittle a position as Secretary of Interior in a reform cabinet on Indian affairs.  Doolittle was also not a staunch Democrat; after the Missouri Compromise was repealed he swapped to the Republicans, with whom he remained until 1869. Accused of corruption, accepting gifts, and cotton prospecting, Doolittle comprised a dubious but important part of Greeley’s retinue. Decrying Grant as a symbol of war and Southern subjugation, it was Doolittle who presented the platform and candidates of the Liberals and suggest they be accepted by the Democrats.  It is, he insists, the only way to defeat Grant. [35]

Mr. A. E. Burr of Connecticut then caused quite a stir when he purposed the entire Liberal platform be accepted exactly as is, with no changes.  A great commotion ensued.  Delaware stood and called it tantamount to a “gag law” and declared it “unjust to the Democracy of the country.”  When told by Doolittle that he is out of order, another Senator indignantly interrupts the president and demands to know if Doolittle is “deaf to the voice of reason.”  Heated debate ensued and, finally, Thomas F. Bayard from Delaware was able to take the floor.  His eloquent speech summarized the real issue of the Convention.[36]  He agreed with the necessity to set aside party differences for the good of the country, but was strongly against adopting the entire Cincinnati platform.

Shall this great organization… not be allowed to have an independent expression of its own honest sentiment?  What then, can be said in favor of the proposition that, cut and dried, we shall, without crossing a t, or dotting an i, force down our throats without mastication or digestion, the action of other men who have not been called into our councils?

If the Democrats are not allowed to make their own distinct voice heard, then the election is just a sham: “ Give us a free federal election… Unchain the great heart of the American people, and let them vote freely…”[37]

Having candidates and platforms which sprang from an enemy party foisted upon them upset many present delegates.  Another issue that caused ire was the general silencing of opposition which those opposed to the motions were subject to.  Debates over the make-up of the platform were against the rules.  The “Gag Law” had gone into effect.  The unit rule, imposed in Baltimore like it was in Cincinnati, caused annoyance among the dissenters and rendered it easier for the men in charge to win the votes they desired by making it harder for the opposition to have a voice.  Very much like the Liberal convention, those who do not support Greeley are at best ignored.   Take the case of one candidate, from Tennessee.  Throughout the duration of the Convention, a Mr. McRae attempts to speak against both the merge and the unit rule no less than eight times, and each time he is literally told to shut up and sit down by those around him.  While the president has no qualms about telling McRae that he is out of order, at no point does he move to “shush” those who so rudely demand McRae’s silence.  Those who support Greeley, both Northern and Southern, are of course allowed to speak.  A few Northerners who oppose him are even allowed to take the floor momentarily.  Was McRae treated so rudely because he was a Southerner and a former Confederate soldier?  He seems to think so, and with good reason.  Throughout the convention, the Southern voice in this supposedly Southern party is almost completely absent.  In the first fifteen pages of the conventional proceedings alone, for every three times a Northerner speaks only one Southerner is given the floor.  When McRae first rises to be heard, he begins by asking that the“courtesy which has been extended to…other sections of the country” be granted to “the section from which (he) come(s).”  He then complains that they are “not…permitted to vote according to (their) own consciences… (and not) permitted to vote like free men… (he hopes they) will (at least) have freedom of utterance in a Democratic National Convention.”  Ironically this is precisely the point at which he is told to sit down.  He had barely uttered two sentences.[38]  And so it was that this so-called Democratic convention, led almost entirely by Northerners and headed by a man who previously belonged to the opposing party and who owed their front-runner a favor, came to nominate the anti-Democratic, anti-Southern Horace Greeley for President.  A correspondent with the New York Times painted a dismal picture of the scene:

Without faith in the present, without encouragement for the future, ashamed of what they have done, fearful that they will have no recompense for the sacrifice which they have made, the Democratic delegates this evening are scattering to their homes.  Horace Greeley has been bolted and swallowed without question, but he sits uneasy upon the Democratic stomach… they went to their homes with a fear that their abandonment of principle, their acceptance of their greatest enemy for their candidate, has been without avail.[39]

There was a general uproar from Democrats throughout the country.  The New York Times cried, “Greeley as the Democratic nominee?  Why, the honest, thinking mass of Democrats could no more vote for him than a Jew be persuaded to eat pork!”   It is said that Dr. David Livingstone, upon receiving the news from Henry M. Stanley in the jungles of Africa, responded, “You have told me stupendous things, and with a confusing simplicity I was swallowing them peacefully down, but… when you tell me that Horace Greeley is become a Democratic candidate I will be hanged if I believe it!”  Greeley’s victory was widely declared to be the result of chicanery, bargaining, and all sorts of cloak-and-dagger back-room politicking. A New Jersey newspaper, after interviewing a neighbor of Greeley, offered as evidence this statement:

Sometime before the convention was held, John C. Ferguson, who lives near Greeley’s Chappaqua farm, stated to a friend that Horace Greeley would be the nominee of the Cincinnati convention, and also of the Convention to be held at Baltimore.  Ferguson said that he had been in correspondence through the winter with… prominent Democrats… and that the matter was all arranged…

Belmont, who had in May declared that he was willing to “do most anything to beat this administration”  and that he would “willingly vote for (his) deadliest enemy” now called the whole idea, especially Horace Greeley, “one of those stupendous mistakes which it is difficult to even comprehend.” The nomination, aside from causing suspicion and anger, quickly became the subject of much mocking and ridicule.  An article in the New York Times scathingly painted Greeley as a desperate, pathetic  creature, “grasping at straws” and so desperate for the notice of “real politicians” such as Belmont that he was grateful for even their scorn.[40]

The Straight-Out Democrats and the Louisville Convention

Not all of the disgruntled Democrats at Baltimore were content to go home in shame.  A number of them, refusing to “(clasp) hands with the worst men of the radical party – Sumner, Schurz, Trumbull, Fenton…”  rallied against Greeley.  Insisting that “the disintegration of the radical party into two factions renders it self-evident that the Democratic masses can elect one of their own faith instead of a life-long enemy like Greeley,” Blanton Duncan led the “Straight-Out Democrats” in arranging their own convention to be held in Louisville, Kentucky on September 3rd.  There is sadly little information to be found on the Louisville Convention, but it is evident that things did not go as well as some may have hoped.  Charles O’Conor, a supporter of states’ rights and defense attorney for Jefferson Davis, was nominated by the convention for President.  In spite of events in Baltimore, however, there appears to have been little cohesion among the “Bourbon Democrats.”  During the second day one delegate actually nominated himself and was so harangued that he left the convention to announce his own nomination is another part of the city.  Those not voting for O’Conor were booed, and he was chosen six hundred to four on the very first ballot.  John Q. Adams II was chosen as Vice President.  The convention, having accomplished their goal, prepared to adjourn but was interrupted by a strange telegram from O’Conor.  In spite of his acceptance speech of the previous day, he now declined the nomination altogether.  Confusion ensued and the delegation adjourned.  Half would leave during the night, and the Straight-Out Democrats would never really get off the ground.[41]  

The Campaign

So, could the Democrats and the South swallow the pill that was Horace Greeley, their bitter enemy?

The campaign was what one would expect.  The Democrats harped on the corruption and alleged stupidity of Grant; many a cartoon depicted him as a drunkard.  They called him a potential dictator and a threat to the nation and the principles of the Constitution.  They claimed that his “wartime habit of crushing the opposition had persisted in peace; he excited the passions of a divided people rather than conciliated them.”  They painted the election as being a choice between freedom, equality, and peace versus corruption, apathy, and partisanship.  But the Democratic cries of “Tyrant!” were met with Republican proof of relative prosperity and peace. The fact remained that Grant had saved and preserved the union, that his Ku Klux legislation had been successful, that all former Confederate states were now recognized, and that he had helped the economy a great deal.  To many, the Republican platform represented progress.  The Democrats represented a backward slide into war and white supremacy.[42]

But Grant’s scandals hurt him far less than the nomination of Horace Greeley hurt the Democrats.  Many would categorically refuse to place their vote for the Chappaqua Farmer; one Ohio Liberal would say, “That Grant is an ass, no man can deny, but better an ass than a mischievous idiot.”  Phillip Clayton of Georgia would write an open letter to the Georgia voters, stating that they could “not vote for Mr. Greeley without trailing (their honour) in the dust.”   General John A Dix, New York Democrat, when asked to support Greeley, would give this indignant response:

I do not understand on what ground you considered yourself authorized to address such a  request to me.  If you had been familiar with the course of my political life, and equally so with Mr. Greeley’s, you could not have supposed me capable of advocating his election to the office of President of the United States without imputing to me an utter abandonment of all political principle.

Mr. Greeley was “as unstable as water… ill qualified and… unscrupulously nominated,” and the union between the two parties “the most conspicuous abandonment of political principles known to party contests.”  Greeley’s long history as a news-paper editor would prove to work against him.  An article titled “Greeley’s Amnesty Record” would be published by the New York Times.  It contained not a single editorial or comment by its author or publisher, only the words of Mr. Greeley himself.  In the article in question, the various quotes and excerpts taken from his editorials in the Tribune make up a remarkable and lengthy collection of hateful, vicious, and habitual attacks upon the Southern people and reminds the reader that the man who currently preached forgiveness and reconciliation had, not that long ago, supported the conquest and utter subjugation of the former Confederate States.  But perhaps Harper’s Weekly put it best in their cartoon, “Bringing the Thing Home, or, Reasons Why the South Should Vote for Greeley.”  In it, a fat and poorly dressed Greeley walks through the devastated streets of the South with a smile upon his face.  To his side one sees a woman and her three children, huddled by the fire in the ruins of what was once a home.  At his back are disabled Confederate veterans, missing limbs, wearing slings, and limping on crutches.  Beneath it, Greeley’s own words: “When the Rebellious Traitors are overwhelmed in the Field, and scattered like Leaves before an angry Wind, it must not be to return to Peaceful and Contended Homes.  They must find Poverty at their Fire-sides, and see Privation in the Anxious Eyes of Mothers and the Rags of Children.” [43]

The image just mentioned

The Republicans attacked their opponents viciously, partly, perhaps, out of a sense of betrayal.  They called the “Liberal Democrats” opportunistic.  Greeley was a secessionist, a pacifist, a traitor, cowardly, unqualified, erratic, and even a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan.  Greeley’s own words and perpetually shifting opinions would give weight to all of the above accusations save the last. William Lloyd Garrison himself would complain that the platform had no fixed principles and was inadequate to protect freedmen.  The Republicans need not have even bothered.  Why campaign against a man who built a gallows for himself out of his own news paper editorials?[44]

Greeley shakes hands with John Wilkes Booth over Lincoln’s grave

In spite of Grant’s faults and the corruption of his administration, the South, when faced with a choice that was really no choice at all, declared Grant the lesser of two evils; changeable, inconstant Greeley, his barbed tongue always out to draw Southern blood, would prove unable to capture the confidence of the Democratic voter.  Grant would take 55% of the popular vote and 81% of the electoral college.  Greeley would only carry a majority in six Southern states, four of which were headed up by his cronies.  Only three of the six were ex-Confederate.   He did not win a single Northern state, not even his home state of New York.  The fact that he did not carry New York only drives home the complaints made at the Cincinnati convention that the New York delegation did not accurately represent the voters and provides more substance to the rumors of buy-offs and conspiracies.

Greeley had truly shot himself in the foot on all counts – he had lost the suffragists by his lukewarm support throughout the years.  The abolitionists had turned their backs on him over reconciliation and his aid to Jefferson Davis.  The Southerns could not forgive his harsh words during the war years, nor the way he had first supported their succession before suddenly turning and ferociously condemning the action.  The Democrats?  Well, he never really had them at all.  Forty years of his own words assured that the vast majority of them simply could not forgive him and would not support him.  All in all, his constantly shifting attitudes lost him the election.[45]

Still, the loss of the election can’t be blamed entirely on the Democratic choice of Horace Greeley and their acquiescence to a Republican-made platform.  A Democratic victory represented the end of Reconstruction and a willingness of the nation to forgive and forget the wounds of less than a decade ago; 1872 proved that they were not ready to do this.  The black vote, of course, would never go to the Democrats.  The former slaves were not ready to trust the party which had so recently represented chains and bondage and which they feared would try to threaten such a thing again.  Seeing “grave dangers for the Negro in the Liberal program of ‘conciliation’ of Southern whites and ‘self-government’ for the Southern States,” many believed that the Liberal cry of “sectional peace” was nothing more than code for returning the freedmen to the power of their former masters. The Liberal platform also didn’t consider many needs of the freedmen; lower taxes meant, for them, fewer government services.  No class legislation meant that the freedmen, as a class, would be abandoned before they got their feet under them.  Civil service reform at the hands of the Democrats meant that blacks would not be allowed to hold office.  In short the Democrats would have had a difficult fight regardless of their chosen candidate.  But a stronger candidate, one who carried less rancor with white Democratic voters, may have been able to at least give Grant a good show.[46]


Glossing the surface of the whole intrigue was the noble rhetoric of overcoming the spirit of party, uniting together beneath one banner to save the country from the ravages of Grant and his Republicans.  The “non-partisan” manner of the Democrats and the Liberal Republicans was intended to emphasize unity and nationalism, a promise that the Civil War wounds would finally be bound up.  Also, the Democrats wanted America to see and believe that they had accepted the outcome of the Civil War and were ready to play nice with the rest of the country again; they hoped their union with the Liberals would prove that.[47]  Yet beneath the surface things are darker and hint at the demise of a two-party system.  In his acceptance letter to the Democrats, Greeley himself summarized the situation aptly, and perhaps a bit more insightfully than he realized.  “Democracy is not henceforth to stand for one thing and Republicanism for another, but that those terms are to mean in politics, as they always have meant in the dictionary, substantially one and the same thing…”   If Democrat and Republican are to mean the same thing, then all real choice has been removed from the voter.  In merging the two parties, the two party system became, in essence, non-existent in 1872, making a free election little more than an illusion as voters chose between Republican and… Republican, with a Democratic mask.  In merging with the Democrats, the Liberals had ensured that the voters could only choose from a Republican platform.  In choosing Greeley, the very embodiment of antagonism to the Democrats, they assured that Grant would have his victory.  Had it been planned from the start, the election could not have been turned better in favor of Grant and the Radical Republicans, nor more against the South.[48]


There were, however, some positive results from what passed for a free election in 1872.  Former radicals and party leaders breaking off to support Greeley indicated the impending death of Radicalism.  Anger over the war had slowly begun to cool.  Americans were becoming more and more willing to close the door on the hurts of slavery, secession, and war.  When the Liberals broke off, they took many party leaders with them.  The fact that the Republican party managed to survive without a number of its leaders and founders proved that the party itself was enduring and permanent, stronger, greater, and most than just the sum total of its members.  The Liberal movement turned out to be little more than a temporary disagreement among family; many would return to the fold after 1872.[49]    In spite of the reconciliation which would eventually be found, the outcome demonstrated the immediate Northern commitment to Reconstruction; this means an unwillingness to forgive the former Confederates and a need to continue with vengeance.  While many were, in fact, tiring of the fight, many more still wanted retribution for the wounds of war and the death of Lincoln.  However, the Liberal and Democratic cry for local self government did not go unheard by the Republicans, and they became more open to this option and to the idea of reconciliation – at very least, the Liberal Republican movement turned out to be “the first great event… which made an appreciable number of Republicans soften the harshness of their attitudes toward Democrats and the South.”[50]

1872 also signaled a great transition for the nation.  Thanks to Grant’s soldierly habits, the government would be become more militaristic.  The government grew more centralized and the states weakened to what they are now – a clear reaction to the war and a final word on the whole argument of State’s Rights.  It signaled a major change in race relations, a chance that would not be truly wrought out or settled for another hundred years.  Finally, it signaled the end of the Antebellum era.  The time of master and slave, of plantations, hoop skirts and old-fashioned Southern ideas of nobility and honor, had passed, killed by the Civil War and laid to rest by the end of Reconstruction.  [51]


[1] Brooks D. Simpson,  The Reconstruction Presidents  (University Press of Kansas, 1998), 133.

[2] Charles Sumner,  “Republicanism vs. Grantism: Speech in the Senate,” May 31, 1872;  Erik S Lunde,  Horace Greeley (Michigan State University, 1981), 116.

[3] W. E. Woodward, Meet General Grant (Horace Liveright Inc.  1928), 379, 391, 397; Paul F. Boller,  Presidential Campaigns from George Washington to George W. Bush  (Oxford University Press, 2004), 124-125; Woodward 400-417.

[4] Charles Sumner,  “Republicanism v. Grantism” Speech in the Senate, May 31, 1872;  Woodward, 398, 399;  Robert Chadwell Williams, Horace Greeley: Champion of American Freedom (New York University Press, 2006), 290; Woodward, 400-417.

[5] Simpson, 148; Lunde, 106; Francis Hickox Smith, Proceedings of the National Union Republican Convention held at Philadelphia, June 5th and 6th, 1872

[6] The New York Times, April 13, 1872.; Proceedings 6&7.

[7] Ibid, 31.

[8] Ibid, 51.

[9] Ibid; Woodward, 440; James R. Lynch,  Proceedings, 34; Ibid, 35.

[10] Ibid, 43.

[11] Ibid, 44-57; Lunde, 109.

[12] Abraham Lincoln, “Second Inagural Address,” March 4, 1865.; Lunde, 105.

[13]Lunde, 113; Ibid, 106

[14] Irving Katz,  August Belmont: A Political Biography (Columbia University Press, New York and London, 1968),  195;; Earle Dudley Ross, The Liberal Republican Movement  (University of Washington Press, Seattle and London,  1910), 12;  Simpson, 153.

[15] Williams, 292; Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877  (Harper and Row, New York, 1989), 505; Simpson, 159; Foner, 500.

[16] Katz, 197; Ross, XIV; Ibid, 73.

[17]; Katz, 198; Foner, 502; Ross, 73; Ibid, 74.

[18] Williams, 103;; Carl Sandberg,  Abraham Lincoln: The War Years.  Vol IV  (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1939), 255.

[19] Gideon Wells, A Diary of Gideon Wells, 1802-1878  (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911) 108;  Jeter Allen Iseley, Horace Greeley and the Republican Party, 1863-1861: A study of the New York Tribune (Princeton University Press, 1947), 15;

[20] Woodward, 439; Lunde, 104; Ibid, 109; Williams, 296

[21] Wells, 104.  Horace Greeley, New York Tribune, December 24, 1860;; “Greeley’s Amnesty Record,”  New York, 1872;;  Horace Greeley, “No Half Measures,”  New York Tribune,  May 1, 1861;  Foner, 504; Williams, 273

[22] Ibid, 99; Ibid, 104; Foner, 504; Williams, 305; Ibid, 113.

[23] Williams, 103.

[24] “Horace Greeley’s Opinions,” New York Times, October 3, 1872. Williams, 103;  “Amnesty Record;” “Horace Greeley’s Opinions;” Wells, 108.

[25] Lunde, 109; Henry Rogers Selden, The Cincinnati Convention.  Second Day’s Proceedings: Thursday, May 2, 8;;  Ross, 90.

[26] Carl Schurz,  Convention,  11.

[27] Convention, 11-21; Ross ,92-96.

[28] Ross, 97; Williams, 292;; Ross, 89.

[29] Williams, 299; Ross, 99; “Henry D. Lloyd’s speech at the Steinway Hall Conference, May 30,” New York Tribune, May 31, 1872;  Convention , 21-29.

[30] Ross, XVI; Ibid, 89.

[31] Ross, 90; Ibid, XVI; Lunde, 109; Williams, 299.

[32] Katz, 196-197;  Ibid 200.

[33] Phillip Clayton, “Greeley vs. Grant: The Duty of True Democrats.  An Open Letter by Hon. Phillip Clayton of Georgia to the Voters of Georgia,” July 22, 1872;

[34] Official proceedings of the National Democratic convention, held at Baltimore, July 9, 1872,  4, 5; htttp://

[35]; “Senator Doolittle: He Exacts Money for His Influence. A Shameful Disclosure.” New York Times, August 15, 1872;;; Democratic Convention ,15-20.

[36] Democratic Convention , 42-47.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Democratic Convention; Ibid, 50-54.

[39]“Midsummer Madness: Last act of the Democratic Bedlamites,”  New York Times, July 10, 1872.

[40] New York Times, May 1872; James Ford Rhodes, History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 to the Final Restoration of Home Rule at the South in 1877, (7 vols, New York, 1899-1919), VI, 340-431;  Richard Allan Gerber, “The Liberal Republicans of 1872 in Historiographical Perspective,” The Journal of American History, Vol 62, No. 1, June 1975, 40-73; Katz, 200; “Greeley’s Intrigue with the Democrats.”  New York Times, July 29, 1872;

New York Tribune,  May 6, 1872; New York Times, June 10, 1872; “Catching at Straws.”  New York Times, June 10, 1872.

[41]Blantan Duncan,  “Letter to all true Democrats,” August 6, 1872;;;;

[42] Lunde, 109; Ibid, 112; Ross, XVI.

[43] Foner 503; Blanton “Letter;” Thomas Nast, “Bringing the Thing Home, or, Reasons Why the South Should Vote For Greeley,” Harper’s Weekly,  July 13, 1872, 38.

[44] Williams 302; Ibid 303; Duncan 3.

[45]; Foner, 507.

[46] Williams, 304; Gerber 54; James M. McPherson, “Grant or Greeley?  The Abolitionist Dilemma in the Election of 1872,” American Historical Review, LXXI (Oct 1965), 43-61; Gerber 55;

[47] Lunde, 109; Foner, 505.

[48] “Mr. Greeley’s Acceptance of the Nomination Made by the Baltimore Convention,”  New York, July 18, 1872;; John A. Dix, “What a life-long Democrat Thinks,”  July 1872; “Greeley’s Amnesty Record.”

[49] Foner, 509

[50] Ibid, 510; Paul Buck, The Road to Reunion 1865-1900.  Boston, 1937,  VIII; Gerber 45.

[51] Simpson, 150.



Primary Sources


Greeley, Horace.  New York Tribune. December 24, 1860

Greeley, Horace.  “No Half Measures.”  New York Tribune.  May 1, 1861

Lloyd, Henry D.  “Speech at the Steinway Hall Conference on May 30.”  New York Tribune, May 31, 1872.

Unknown Author.  “Horace Greeley’s Opinions New York Times, October 3, 1872

Unknown Author. “Greeley’s Amnesty Record.”  New York Times, 1872

Unknown Author.  “Midsummer Madness: Last act of the Democratic Bedlamites.”  New York Times, July 10, 1872.

Unknown Author. “Senator Doolittle: He Exacts Money for His Influence. A Shameful Disclosure.” New York Times. August 15, 1872

Unknown Author.  “Catching at Straws.” New York Times.  June 10, 1872

Unknown Author. “Greeley’s Intrigue with the Democrats.”  New York Times.  July 29, 1872

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