The Election of 1868



The local elections in 1867 brought anxiety to the republicans. The democrats carried New York and Pennsylvania, and in Ohio they reduced a large adverse majority to only 3000 while they defeated a negro suffrage amendment by 50,000.This result, seven months after the adoption of congressional reconstruction, argued badly for the party in 1868. Fortunately, safety was at hand in the person of a presidential candidate.

May 20, a national republican convention nominated General Grant for president and Schuyler Colfax for vice-president. Grant was not a politician, and his early sympathy was democratic; but his quarrel with Johnson in 1867 threw him into the arms of the radicals. His speech of acceptance struck a popular note in the expression, "Let us have peace."

In the democratic convention, New York, July 4, were two prominent candidates, both from Ohio. One was George H. Pendleton, representative from the Cincinnati district, cultured and well connected, and nicknamed "Gentleman George." The other was Chief Justice Chase, who had a following among those who opposed Pendleton's financial views. These views. known as the " Ohio Idea," may be summed up as follows: The national bonds were payable in "dollars," although the interest was to be paid in gold. About $1,600,000,000 was in five-twenty bonds, and might therefore, soon begin to be redeemed. Pendleton desired to pay them in "greenbacks," or legal tender, then much depreciated. This would mean large issues of notes, but they would pay no interest, thus effecting a saving to the government, and the resulting inflation would please the debtor class, then large in Ohio and the states west of it. The year 1867 brought a panic, and at such a time inflation was apt to be popular. To pay the debt in gold, or to refund it in gold bonds, said Pendleton, was to favor the Eastern capitalists at the expense of the taxpayers, and he won many of the latter by his battle-cry: "The same currency for the bondholder and the plow-holder!" The response was so strong in the West that the republicans there dared not oppose it openly.

The Pendleton men wrote the platform of 1868, demanding (1) the payment in currency of bonds not specifically payable in specie,(2) taxation of national bonds, and (3) opposition to radical reconstruction. The platform required a mere majority vote, but to nominate a candidate a two-thirds vote was necessary. The New York delegates led the Eastern sentiment for conservative finance, and for two days no nominations were made. Pendleton led on the first ballot and had 156 1/2 out of 317 votes on the second. Two-thirds he could not get. Finally on the twenty-second ballot there was a stampede to Horatio Seymour, of New York, chairman of the convention. He protested he would not run, but the vote was unanimous, and he accepted. For vice-president, Frank P. Blair, Jr., of Missouri, was selected. Nine days earlier he had said in a letter immediately made public that the carpet-bag regime in the South should be dispersed by the president with armed force. His nomination under the circumstances was indiscreet, and the republicans pointed to it to support their argument that the democrats contemplated violence. However wisely the party may have acted, it had no chance against Grant. He had 214 to Seymour's 80 electoral votes and a plurality in the popular vote of over 300,000.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Election of 1868
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: A Short History of the United States by John Spencer Bassett, Ph.D. The Macmillan Company 1913
Time & Date Stamp: