The Comly Letter
Volume XI, Number 2
Home, 8 January 1877.
Perhaps I may save some of your time and give you a more coherent idea of the results by letter than by verbal message, though I have unexpectedly been called home much sooner than I expected.1
I reached Washington about 3 PM on the 2nd. I immediately went to dinner, and short as the time was, when I came out found cards from General Jno. B. Dennis and L. Cass Carpenter of South Carolina, and the following note from General Tyner: "I live in the house, (Ebbitt) and want to see you this evening.2 Please let me know when you are at leisure." Dennis and Carpenter were both still waiting, and on hearing my name mentioned (we were not acquainted) they both came forward and opened a wild and scattering fire on Judge Mackey, both talking at once, loudly and excitedly,-and foolishly,-barroom fashion.3 Carpenter was under the influence of liquor. He was M.C. 43rd Cong., and is now Collector. Dennis is the man who took charge of the passport business, on the admission of members of So. Car. Legislature to the State house. He is a cool headed, hard featured man, with a good command of bad English, and an utter contempt for nicety in political morals. Carpenter is an excessively excitable little man, with a brain about the size of a grain of popcorn. They both took it for granted that the portentous Mackey had completely pulled the wool over your innocent eyes, and had secured the distribution of all the South Carolina patronage; and they literally, in express terms, charged him with bribery, corruption, piracy, murder, and "every crime known to the law of civilized nations."4 They specified that he was on trial for piracy (as a South American fillibustero) when the war broke out and was only saved from conviction by joining the Confederate Army; that he was charged with murder, and escaped into Nebraska pending trial; that he shot at his nephew Speaker Mackey with intent to kill; that he peddled out justice in his Court to the highest bidder. &c. &c. &c.5 They were so boisterous and violent that the attention of the whole room was drawn to us, and I could scarcely conceal my disgust. I succeeded in calmly assuring them that Judge Mackey was received by you simply as the bearer of a letter from Wade Hampton, and as an advocate of Hampton for Governor and Hayes for President in the late canvass; that he had no assurances whatever as to the distribution of patronage in South Carolina, and had probably known better than to demand any such assurances.6 They replied that he had presented in a few of his first speeches to be a friend to Hayes, in order to influence the negro vote for Hampton, but alleged that he had soon gone over to Tilden, and had made speeches for Tilden through the rest of his canvass-including one speech in N.Y. which they said was reported in the Northern papers.7 I withdrew from them as quietly as possible, and found General Boynton in waiting.8 He spoke scornfully of Carpenter, and entered at once into an explanation of the situation in the Senate. He expressed grave doubts of Senators Conkling, Spencer, and others, and gave it as his opinion that "Boss" Shepherd was at the bottom of most of the mischief in that quarter, he having gone about alleging that "the Bristow crowd" were going to "run Hayes and his Administration, if Hayes got in."9 He (B.) talked freely and frankly of the situation, giving me many valuable hints as to leading men on both sides. He said Conkling had introduced resolutions at the last count of the Presidential vote (1873) to the effect that the duty of the two Houses was ministerial only.10 He took me to his office to show me a copy of the res. but did not find it. (It appeared afterward in the dispatches to the Gazette, perhaps Thursday.) He then went with me to see White of the N.Y. Tribune.11 White is favorable to Tilden, but expresses the opinion that the Tilden canvass in Louisiana (he was down there) was disgraceful to civilization, and that Tilden could not afford to claim Louisiana as the result of such outrages on the ballot. White seemed to me a finically fair minded man, with a much stricter code for the Republican than the Democratic party. Before leaving me, General Boynton (who had formerly worked in harmony with Mr. Chas. Nordhoff12) warned me, in strict confidence, not to talk too freely to N. as he had shot off on a tangent and voted for Tilden, and would use any information he might gain from me confidentially, by sending part of it as a special to the N.Y. Herald from some remote point, and putting the rest in the editorials he telegraphs from Washington for the regular Ed. Columns. Boynton related with great satisfaction how he had ridiculed Nordhoff for his truly independent conduct in pretending to be your friend all through the canvass, and then voting for Tilden. (In this and other cases of the kind I assume that it is no breach of confidential communications to give them to you, for the simple reason that usually that was the chief object of the person making them.) Several very interesting and suggestive interviews with Gen. Boynton led me to count him one of your most discreet and reliable friends-chastened, I may say, by devotion to Bristow, and restrained by detestation of "Boss" Shepherd. Grant is the common focus of these divergent likes and dislikes, so that Boynton dislikes and distrusts Grant half because of his love for Bristow, and half because of his hate for Shepherd. After seeing Boynton and White of the Tribune I called upon General Tyner. I found no one in Washington was devoted to the interests of the Republican party in securing the next Administration that Tyner. He was the only one in Washington that was able to give me proof that there was already active danger in the attitude of Senator Conkling toward the counting business. He gave me also the first notice of a matter which is even yet not understood by some of our best friends-and that is, the probable intentions of Senator Conover.13 He (Tyner) and Senator Morton were probably the only Republicans in Washington who knew that Conover, under pretense of visiting his family in New Jersey during the holidays, had paid three visits at night to Tilden, at his house in New York.14 (A letter from George Alfred Townsend in the Cin. Enq. of today gives confirmatory hints of the truth of this-though Wm. E. Chandler assured me Friday night that Conover had gone to Florida to stiffen the backbone of our friends there and "see that the judges were not unduly influenced."15) General Tyner gave me some information which I do not feel at liberty to write, even here. Attorney General Taft came in just as I was leaving, and insisted upon a further conference.16 The interview was prolonged to a great length, and it would take half a day to write out a full account. It covered a discussion of all that had been done by the Department of Justice in securing the results in the three disputed States against attempted tricks and frauds designed to wrest those States from the Republican party; and it also went over the ground of the future, as its necessities seemed to be forecast by the present policy of Tilden-(for the whole Democratic party is begotten, generated, delivered, nourished and "brought up" by this one man-all other Democrats are only his implements in the nibbling and tricking and scheming to get one more vote.) Taft expressed great regret over a reported "interview" with the President, published in N.Y. Tribune of Monday, Jay 1st. The first part, he said, was all right-but the last half would be very troublesome. He expressed a hope that a case for the U.S. Courts might be made up from the demand by the House for the dispatches in the Western Un. Telegraph offices.17 I took the liberty of calling his attention to the Kilburn case, (which he said he had not hear of,) in which the House answered a writ of Habeas Corpus under protest, claiming that House was sole arbiter, under its privileges and prerogatives, of the question of jurisdiction in cases of contemp for refusal to answer a subpoena duces tecum by the production of the papers.18 He, however, held that under a leading Illinois case the Court might examine whether the House had jurisdiction of the action of the Returning Boards; if the House had no jurisdiction of the matter of the inquiry; that the subject-matter of the inquiry in the telegraph case this winter was, the action of the Returning Boards; and consequently the Courts would examine and determine the question whether the House had no jurisdiction, the Telegraph Co. could not be in contempt in refusing to answer. Thus the U.S. Courts could be brought regularly to pass upon the vital question whether the House can review and revise the decision of the Returning Boards. (I afterwards stated the point to Shellabarger.19 He was not willing to give an offhand opinion, but suggested cautiously that there were cases where a Court might punish for contempt where it had no jurisdiction of the subject-matter of the trial-as where a witness refused to answer in a murder trail before a criminal court, and it turned out afterward that the murder was committed on the High Seas, and was under the jurisdiction of an Admiralty Court-yet the witness could be punished for contempt in refusing to answer.-"Because," I suggested, "his refusal to answer involved an attempt to pass upon the jurisdiction of the Court," to which he assented.) After leaving the Postmaster General and Attorney General I visited representatives of most of the newspapers, and succeeded in keeping my name out of the papers. The Baltimore Gazette and New York Herald, though, sent representatives to the hotel at a late hour, and I was obliged to give answers to inquiries as to Eighth of Jan. meetings in Ohio, and as to the Herald report of the Hayes-Mackey interview.20 I found it best to be pleasant about it, and I believe escaped without damage, as the enclosed brief copies will perhaps show.
Wednesday, Jan. 3.- I had a long consultation with Senator Sherman in Finance Com. room, occupying all the afternoon up to 3:30.21 Garfield came in and joined during the latter part of the interview.22 In regard to the count of votes they both expressed great confidence in Morton and grave doubts as to Conkling. Sherman said he had objected to Conkling being put on the committee, and Ferry offered to put Sherman on the com. but he declined, for the reason that it was impolitic.23 (General Tyner also objected to Conkling, in interview with Ferry, but Ferry said it would have a good effect to put C. on, and give him a recognition, as well as interest him in the inquiry. I suggested whether C. might not resent being second choice, after Logan declined-and the general opinion was that he would.)24 Garfield offered a presumption: Conkling felt embittered by the small showing in Cincinnati and irritated by the loss of prestige in New York.25 Query.-whether he did not wish to gain a sufficient carpet bag following to control the Senate, and show his power, after which he would make an able speech and vote his carpet baggers "all right," showing himself the savior of the Republican party. This was considered quite possible, in various quarters where I heard it broached. It was the general impression that Conkling would do nothing without sufficient backing to make himself felt. If he could not have sufficient following to make himself master of the situation, he would not play any inferior role. The supposition of General Tyner (Morton?) and others is, that he will attempt to prevent a decision until after the 4th of March, so that a new election must be had. He will then, by the help of his carpetbaggers and the Democratic vote, secure an election as Pres. Pro tem. of the Senate, thus becoming President ad interim. Some (but not all) of those holding this view suppose that as acting President he can secure the nomination for the new election, with a fair chance for the Presidency. Most persons assume that it is to be taken for granted that in case of a new election the ticket cannot be anything else than Hayes and Wheeler, for the reason that any other course would be a confession of defeat in 1876 and a surrender in advance for 1877.26 Senator Sherman says that with all his arrogance and conceit Conkling is the most sensitive to attack of any senator of the floor, and he feels inclined to demand of him a clear and explicit declaration of his position with reference to the fair and honest election of the Republican candidates, with such sequences as his answer may require. I desired to call upon the President this (practically) first day in Washington, and was advised by both Sherman and Garfield to make my call at as near four o'clock as possible, in order to avoid the morning rush of visitors, and secure an uninterrupted interview. I reached the Executive Mansion about 3:45, and found that the hours this winter were (for visitors other than Members and Senators & c) from12 to2 P.M. So I failed to get in, and the "door keeper" informed me that he was not permitted to even take up cards of person calling after 2.27 This troubled me a little-for I did not wish the President to suppose that I had failed to pay my respects to him on the 3rd-the day he had mentioned as the latest when I ought to report in Washington. At the dinner table Foster told me that Garfield and other Ohio men desired to meet me, and he had arranged to have me see them at his room that evening.28 After dinner I made a number of calls, and received calls from General Knapp, Auditor McGrew, White of the Tribune and a number of other newspaper men (all of whom were kind enough to keep me out of the papers), and had many conversations.29
Among others, I saw Shellabarger, and found him frank and cordial and disposed to give me the benefit of his sagacious advice, without any of the half-timid reticence and caution which sometimes obstructs his confidence. I went to him freely, and there was no fact or opinion submitted to him upon which he did not throw novel and important lights, which no one else had even suggested. He corrected false impressions and harmonized the refractions which vexed and perplexed me,-doing it all in such a cautious, feeling-along, inexorable way, that there did not seem to be a chance left, in any by-path, for any lurking blunder.
Judge Taft spoke of the opinion of Wm. H. West in the N.Y. Times of Tuesday, Jan. 2, as by far the ablest argument on the counting of the vote that he had seen.30 He told me how he had ordered a copy to be furnished to the Times supposing that all the other papers would copy from it. As this was the very way to prevent them from copying, I consulted General Boynton about it, and he undertook to get Wm. Henry Smith to "manifold" the letter and send it to all leading papers West.31 It was done, I believe. Boynton deserves the credit.
At 8 in the evening, which was the hour appointed, I went to Foster's room, and found him alone. We talked on various subject, among others the candidacy for Governor this fall. I told him frankly that I did not think he ought to be a candidate, for the reason that it was not certain that the Republicans of this District would be able to return another Republican in his place for Congress. He assented to this, and I told him the people of Ohio would doubtless see to it that he should not lose the advantage of any prestige he might have gained as the candidate for Governor, & he should refuse to sacrifice a Congressman-or at least, run the risk of sacrificing one. One of his constituents came in, and told me that he had formed a company of a hundred men in Washington, of old soldiers, (he was a wounded soldier,) who were ready to shoulder their muskets to see fair play in the inauguration of Hayes and Wheeler. I tried to cool him down by telling him there was no danger of an appeal to physical force. He said no one was responsible for his action but himself, and his men had smelt powder enough to make them careful. Garfield came in later, from a meeting of the Pacific Railroad committee, of which Lamar is chairman.32 Both Garfield and Foster intimated regret that the Republican party was so squarely committed against further subsidies as to prevent them from advocating the building of the Texas Pacific R.R. by the help of Congress. They thought a large following might be gained for the Republican party in the South by favoring this road, and both asserted that Texas might be made a Republican State by advocating the road. Garfield said he had made a serious breach in the Southern Democratic lines by advocating an appropriation for Galveston harbor which was defeated by the objection of Holman.33 Both said they had no doubt of being able to build up a strong Southern following for a Republican Administration by advocating such Southern public improvements as had been granted to the North during the war. They regretted that the whole business of subsidies to railroads had been brought into disrepute by the injudicious fostering of small local lines, while the Pacific road had paid a thousandfold for the aid extended them. No other "Ohio men" put in an appearance, and the only other matter of importance I remember was, a very decided expression by both, that while they had the highest regard and admiration for Bristow, they could not help expressing the opinion that he would be the worst man in the country to take into a new Cabinet. He had created such intense animosities that his presence in a Cabinet now would be almost fatal to the success of any Administration. They both said that Bluford Wilson had been guilty of meannesses which ought to be denounced by all honorable men; and while Bristow ought not to be held responsible for the acts of his subordinate, yet he had not dared to disavow Wilson's acts.34 They said that the appointment of Harlan might be accepted as a compromise which might be satisfactory to Bristow's friends and not obnoxious to his enemies.35 But the appointment of Bristow would excite factional opposition which would weaken any Administration. All this was said without a word on my part. After they were done, I said that I had no authority whatever to speak on this point, but I felt sure from my knowledge of Governor Hayes's character that he would do no act which would threaten the division of the Republican party, or weaken its strength in any way. They seemed to accept this as sufficient. On returning to the hotel I found the following note from Nordhoff:
"Dear General: They say you've gone to Theatre. My office is opposite Riggs House, 15 & G. Can't you drop in? I'm there till 12." I went around (it was then about 11, or later), and found Senator (General) Gordon.36 The conversation led me to suspect that it was planned to have me meet Gordon casually in this way. He talked about Mackey, but said nothing of importance. The whole conversation was a fencing one on both sides. Nordhoff had little to say. Col. O'Byrne came in-he had interviewed me. He professes to be a warm friend of yours, and I believe he is. He commanded at Camp Chase when the war closed and is a very pleasant gentleman now of the Herald Bureau in Washington.37 Gordon told some of Mackey's stories, praised his conversational power highly, denied that Mackey had made any speech in favor of Tilden, said he advocated Hayes and Hampton all through and since the canvass, and that personally he is absolutely insensible to fear. Gordon let off a lot of the usual rot about the lamb like innocence of the Southern whites, and the reasons why the negroes were beginning to vote with the old masters. And so on.
Thursday, Jan.4.-Called on the President at 11:30. Was admitted first as the hour (12) struck for visitors who were not official. The interview lasted during the whole two hours devoted to such visitors, everybody else being sent away by the President's order-except one old army officer from the Far West, who had just five minutes for his share. Of course, the whole interview was devoted to you-and I mention the circumstances above merely to show you the cordial disposition of the President toward you, after a fair understanding of your position towards him. There are parts of the interview which should be verbatim, in order to show their full significance-but I write entirely from memory, having not one word of memorandum, except the bare dates.-The President recognized me, at once, and met me cordially. I said-"Mr. President, I am very glad to pay my respects to you again, I attempted to do so yesterday, but failed, through ignorance as to the proper hours. I was advised to call as near 4 o'clock as possible after the morning rush was over, and found that visitors were not received so late as that." He said,"I would have been glad to have seen you two weeks ago. There was a great deal that you might have done. I finally told General Tyner that he must write or telegraph you to come not later than the 3rd or 4th." "I received a letter to that effect." "It became necessary that Governor Hayes should have some friend here, outside the Senate and House, and outside of all who are mixed up with this business of counting the vote, who could speak for Governor Hayes and put down the malicious rumors and lies that hatched here for the purpose of making mischief in the Republican party, and we all thought you ought to come." I said, "Mr. President, if you allow me, I would like to define my status in the matter, at the outset, in order that there may be no misunderstanding prejudicial to Governor Hayes. I am not in any sense the agent or personal representative of Governor Hayes. The responsibility of attempting to speak by authority is so grave that I could not assume it. I do not think it would be within the wit of man to avoid such complications in that relation as would be dangerous to the Republican party and the country. I do not believe that Governor Hayes himself could come here and avoid such perplexities, speaking for himself-I certainly could have no hope of getting through without some fatal blunder. I am here, simply to speak of Governor Hayes according to my knowledge, on my personal responsibility without authority," The President approved this, warmly. I then told him there was one point upon which I was authorized to speak to him confidentially, by authority; and I repeated your language to me, about your staunch friendship for the President from the time of Fort Donelson down to this day; and about your desire to avoid anything that could seem to be a reflection upon the President or a censure of his administration.38 I assured the President that there was not one chance in a million that you would appoint Bristow to a Cabinet position, in view of the fact that he had made himself so personally obnoxious to the President and so large a section of the Republican party. The President was much gratified at this assurance, and showed strong emotion. It was plain that he had not been without the need of this assurance, and that the doubt in his mind had been skillfully manipulated by somebody. At this point in the conversation he drew the friendly cigars from his pocket and tendered one to me as he settled down to a quiet smoke and a confidential talk. This is the best symptom any one can have. The conversation I cannot attempt to repeat. The President went all through the secret history of the Bristow connection with the Cabinet, and gave me the proofs of such duplicity and treachery on Bristow's part as were astounding. He also gave me the inside reasons for Henderson's enmity.39 Briefly, Henderson had served Johnson in impeachment-Johnson appointed Henderson's father-in-law to a good place in the Departments as pay for Henderson's friendship. When Grant came in, knowing (through an accidental talk with Henderson in a street car) the reasons for the appointment, one of the first acts was to take the official head of Henderson's father-in-law. In the course of the conversation I thought it best to frankly introduce the subject of Conkling's doubtful position, assuming the known friendship of the President as a reason for hoping he might be able to clear Conkling of the injurious imputations made by persons unfriendly to him. The President said that Conkling had not reached a definite conclusion as to the power of the Vice President over the count, though he had expressed his conviction that the Republican candidates had 185 fair and honest electoral votes.40 The proper mode of securing the constitutional announcement of this fact was what puzzled Conkling. The Pres. said that it was no doubt on account of this unsettled state of Conkling's mind that he had seen C. only twice this winter. He said Conkling probably did not want to see him till he should have made up his mind; and he said, laughing, "I don't know what I want to see Conkling any more than he does me, while he is in doubt."41 He expressed the belief, however, that Conkling would come out all right. He already conceded the election, and is only in doubt as to the proper mode of ascertaining and declaring it. There were many other things of great interest in the interview with the President, but I cannot write them out in full without reaching the dimensions of an ordinary volume in my report. After the interview I called on Shellabarger, made my second attempt to see Morton, and called upon twelve others, including an hour or more at Nordhoff's house, where I met his family, and had a gentle bulldozing from Mrs. N. because "Governor Hayes did not speak out and denounce Grant's interference with the bayonet in the Southern elections." This shows where the milk in Mr. Nordhoff's cocoanut is to be found. Nordhoff came back with me to the hotel, and remained until Senator Dorsey's card was brought up, when he left.42 I found that Dorsey had defective information as to your being a reliable Republican-which information I took great pleasure in supplying, endeavoring to give him not only enough for his personal needs, but sufficient to "go around" the whole carpetbag circle. Dorsey suggested a quiet dinner somewhere, so that I could meet the whole carpetbag fraternity, together with Conkling, Garfield, and others. Said Garfield would probably arrange the dinner for them.
Friday, Jan. 5.-I made twelve calls and received fifteen this day. Nordhoff took me on the floor of the House and brought forward some of the Conservatives. Had a long and very pleasant interview with Chittenden of New York, ending with an invitation to dinner, to meet Ben Hill, Prof. Seelye, Lamar, and others of the class which I dubbed "the irreducible sixes and sevens."43 About the time Mr. Chittenden finished, Nordhoff came forward in evident unwillingness with Hon. T. C. Platt of New York, Conkling's best friend.44 Platt asked the introduction, and he voluntarily introduced the subject of Senator Conkling into the conversation, stating that his position was much misunderstood, and hoping that I might find an opportunity to learn what it was from the Senator himself. I said I would be only too happy, and Mr. Platt invited me to go with him to call on Conkling Monday night-his first available evening. I made the engagement, and on leaving so suddenly, I dropped a note to Mr. Platt sending my complements to Senator Conkling and regretting extremely that I was prevented from meeting him. I cannot even name all the interviews of this day. By far the most important affair of the day was a Council of your friends at the Attorney General's office, to organize and criticize the Hayes strength. Present-Attorney Genl. Taft, Senator Sherman, Ex-Govr Dennison, general Garfield and myself.45 It was determined to extend this circle very cautiously, taking in only thoroughly reliable and discreet friends. Senator Morton was to be present at the next meeting (Tuesday night), and meantime, Dennison, Garfield and myself were to call upon him and talk it over with him. It was suggested that I talk with Southern Republicans. I told them I was getting too many irons in the fire, and mentioned the call upon Conkling, which seemed to have been brought about by his connivance. Govr Dennison said he would see the Southern Republicans, and we ought all do what we could in that direction. Sherman said, "I will do any thing I can, but I'll be damned if I do that. I can't talk with those fellows-don't' know how to get at them. Somebody else must do it." (The language is exactly that used by him.) Attorney General Taft solemnly winked one eye, (this is literally reported also) and said mysteriously that he had a great deal to do with those fellows, in the Department of Justice. He had occasionally found it in his power to be serviceable to the Republican of the South, and thought he might count on considerable influence with them. It was decided we should all do what we could. It was thought my opportunity with Conkling was significant and valuable, yet plans were freely discussed, as I asked advice, how best to reach him. It was thought best to combine a delicate appreciation of his commanding character, with a somewhat robust intimation how easily such talents might be lost to the Republican party and sent into retirement by too much deliberation over the difficulties of counting the vote. I suggested also that Republican Senators having doubts as to your staunchness as a Republican be referred to President Grant, who I felt confident could give satisfactory assurances on that point. I sent Senator Dorsey to the President, to learn what he thought of you as "a party man," and whether"Bristow and his crowd" were going to run the Administration in the interest of Sam Bowles and Uncivil service.46 In the evening I had a long interview at my room in the hotel with Wm. E. Chandler. He gave me the ups and downs of the Florida count, and really did not leave me as comfortable as I could wish over the probable outcome there. He vouched for Spencer-said he would answer for his faithfulness with his head, if need be. He also claimed that Conover had gone South to break up the Tilden tampering with the Florida counts. On the contrary I have pretty sure information Conover has visited Tilden three times during the holidays, and has been "seen" by him. While talking to Chandler I received the telegram which so suddenly called me home, leaving numerous important engagements unfulfilled. I hope to be able to go back soon, and feel encouraged to hope that I may do some good by doing so. I enclosed a list of officials and duties performed by each together with the pay of persons engaged in the Executive Mansion. I asked it of Mr. Sniffen (Assistant Secretary) who mailed it to me since my return.47 Other enclosures explain themselves. Faithfully yours.
James M. Comly
2 John B. Dennis (d. 1894), was a Union officer and an aide to South Carolina Governor Daniel H. Chamberlain. On November 28, 1876, Dennis, following Chamberlain's instructions, had refused to admit anyone to the state house in Columbia not bearing the proper credentials, thus effectively barring Democratic claimants from the process of organizing the state legislature. L. Cass Carpenter (1836-1908), was a former Republican congressman from South Carolina. James N. Tyner (1826-1904), was Postmaster General from Indiana.
3 Judge Thomas J. Mackey was a Republican who had decided to support Hayes for President and Democrat Wade Hampton in the South Carolina gubernatorial race. In December he visited Hayes with a letter from Hampton pledging peace. Hampton to Hayes, December 23, 1876, HPC.
4 In his diary Hayes noted that he had received a dispatch warning Hayes that Mackey was "a first class fraud." Hayes commented, "This is a specimen of the Southern complications!" T. Harry Williams, ed. Hayes: The Diary of a President, 1875-1881 (New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1964), 62 (December 30, 1876).
9 Roscoe Conkling (1828-1888), Republican senator from New York and a confidant of Ulysses S. Grant, had been a disappointed aspirant for the 1876 presidential nomination. George E. Spencer (1836-1893), was a Republican senator from Alabama. Alexander R. Shepherd (1835-1902), was a former territorial governor of Washington, D.C. "The Bristow Crowd" referred to the supports of former treasury secretary Benjamin H. Bristow (1832-1896), who counted themselves as anti-Grant Republicans.
15 George Alfred Townsend (1841-1914), also know as "Gath" was the Washington correspondent for several newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer. William E. Chandler (1835-1917),was a member and former secretary of the Republican National Committee.
17 On December 21, 1876, a House of Representative committee demanded that E. W. Barnes, the manager of the Western Union Telegraph office in New Orleans, surrender telegrams concerning the elections.
18 In the spring of 1876, Hallett Kilbourn, a trustee of a real estate pool in which Jay Cooke and Company held a large interest, had refused to respond to a subpoena issued by a House committee conducting an investigation into the financial settlements following the collapse of Cooke's firm. The House ordered Kilbourn arrested for contempt; after six weeks in prison, he was released by the order of a federal judge. Eventually, the Supreme Court, in Kilbourn v. Thompson (1881) rejected the House's efforts to cite Kilbourn for contempt and awarded him the proceeds from the damage suit.
23 Conkling had been named to a joint committee to frame a proposal that promised to resolve the electoral crisis. Thomas W. Ferry (1827-1896), was a Republican senator from Michigan and president pro tempore of the Senate.
24 John A. Logan (1826-1887), a Republican senator from Illinois, was currently engaged in battling for reelection. He eventually lost to U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice David Davis, who then declined to serve on the Electoral Commission that eventually upheld Hayes's claim to the presidency.
27 Office procedures during the Grant presidency are detailed in William H. Crook, Through Five Administrations, comp. and ed. Margarita S. Gerry (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1910), 154-55, 176-77, 205.
30 Judge William H. West (1824-1911) of Ohio had written Taft on December 19, 1876, arguing against proposals to have both houses of Congress participate in the counting of the electoral vote. His preference-that the President of the Senate should count the vote-reflected Hayes's own position.
33 William S. Holman (1822-1897), Democratic congressman from Indiana, had opposed Garfield when the latter spoke in favor of the Galveston Harbor appropriation on December 19, 1876. Garfield pointed out how Republican generosity contrasted with the tight-fisted nature of northern Democrats in an effort to woo southern Democrats.
34 Bluford Wilson (1841-1924), former solicitor in the Treasury Department under Bristow. It was apparent to many observers that Wilson was bent upon proving Orville Babcock's complicity in the Whiskey Ring, and by doing so to damage Grant and to promote Bristow's presidential chances. In the congressional investigations that followed, Wilson tried unsuccessfully to deny several instances that revealed his animus. See Crook, Through Five Administrations, 201-2.
36 John B. Gordon (1832-1904), former Confederate general and Democratic senator from Georgia, had taken an active role in advocating Wade Hampton's claim as winner of the South Carolina gubernatorial contest.
38 The reference to Hayes's friendship for Grant dating back to Fort Donelson is figurative, since the two men did not meet until the last year of the war. During the campaign of 1876 and the ensuing electoral crisis Hayes was at great pains to reassure Grant that some of his statements were not intended as a reflection on Grant. See Harry Barnard, Rutherford B. Hayes and His America (Indianapolis: Bobbs Merrill, 1954), 310.
39 John B. Henderson (1826-1913), former Republican senator from Missouri, whose partisan behavior as the special counsel during the Whisky Ring trials had resulted in his removal. In 1868, Henderson had been one of seven Republican senators to vote for the acquital of
Andrew Johnson during the latter's impeachment trial.
40 As president pro tempore, Senator Thomas W. Ferry became presiding officer of the United States Senate upon the death of Henry Wilson in 1875. Among his tasks was the counting of the electoral vote. Had Grant died or resigned, Ferry would have become president-thus the reference to him as vice president.
41This is not quite accurate, for prior to January 3, the President has successfully urged Conkling to introduce the first of several bills that eventually resulted in the establishment of the Electoral Commission.
43 Simeon B. Chittenden (1814-1889), was a Republican representative from New York, Benjamin H. Hill (1823-1882), Democratic representative from Georgia. Julius H. Seelye (1824-1895), a professor of philosophy at Amherst, was an Independent Republican representative from Massachusetts.
45 William Dennison (1815-1882), former Republican governor of Ohio and Postmaster General under Lincoln and Johnson. Sherman, according to Garfield, stated his opinion that Conkling would break with the party, and expressed dismay with proposals to establish an electoral commission composed of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats, with one member excluded by lot. Harry J. Brown and Frederick D. Williams, eds., The Diary of James A. Garfield, 4 volumes (East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 1967-1981), 3:411 (January 5, 1877). go back