Greeley and Tweed

The Election of 1872: Grant vs. Greeley

Hello, and welcome back to another edition of Lace ‘Em Up’s Presidential Election series. Today we will be going over the Election of 1872, one of the strangest Presidential elections in all of American History as Ulysses S. Grant wants to be a two termer but his got a lot of enemies even in his own party who don’t want to see that happen.

President Grant’s Term in Office

Election of 1872

President Ulysses S. Grant was widely popular especially with African Americans after the ratification and passing of the 15th Amendment on February 3rd, 1870. This amendment prevented the government from suppressing a person’s right to vote regardless of the color of their skin, race or previous condition of servitude.

Grant has also been busy dismantling the first iteration of the Ku Klux Klan after the passing of the Enforcement Act of 1870 with many KKK members being put on trial and later convicted for their heinous crimes.

Because of this and much more, Grant won the re-nomination with Henry Wilson, a Senator from Massachusetts as his running mate after Grant’s former VP, Schyler Colfax was implicated in the Credit Mobilier Scandal. This saw several government officials being bribed for special favors that would be acceptable to those in charge of the Railroad and Construction companies and this coupled with Colfax’s decision to announce that he’ll be running for President unaware that Grant was planning to run again, led to him getting dropped off the ticket.

Grant’s habit of giving important political jobs to friends and family made his administration very corrupt, but it didn’t stop at giving friends cabinet positions. There were lot of scandals including businessmen using shady means to corner a large amount of gold in New York to the Attorney General being bribed to not take action against a shady business involved in fraud and a plot in which alcohol distillers and politicians scammed millions of dollars off of recently sold or produced whiskey…and so much more.

Strange Political Bedfellows

1024px Cincinnati Convention of Liberal Republicans

Many Republicans refuse to support Grant in wake of all of these scandals and this led to them creating their own political party called the Liberal Republican Party with many of its members meeting to nominate a candidate to challenge Grant for the Presidency in the upcoming election.

Names like Charles Francis Adams Sr., Salom Chase and David Davis were considered but many of them couldn’t get much of the support needed to win, so by the six ballot they nominated a very unlikely fellow as their candidate. They chose Horace Greeley who was the famous newspaper editor of the New York Tribune and a former Representative of New York and his running mate for this election was Benjamin Graetz Brown who was the Governor of Missouri.

In an unusual turn of events, the Democratic Party decided to adopt the Liberal Republican platform mostly due to the fact that if they nominated their own candidate it would just divide the votes enough for Grant to get re-elected. So they decide to support the Liberal Republican candidates if it mean’t getting Grant out of the White House. 

The Liberal Republicans ran on the standard GOP ideas like supporting voting rights for blacks and infrastructure spending, but they’re also supporting ideas like amnesty for the former Confederates and ending military occupation in the South which has allowed African Americans to have their basic civil rights without being threatened or killed by racist white people but their claiming that this occupation needs to end because it’s an overreach of the government.

Mudslinging and Misfortunate

Greeley vs Grant 1

The Liberal Republicans attempt to go after Grant for the amount of corruption within his administration, however the Liberals don’t have an effective strategy to attack Grant when it comes to using these claims against him and things certainly aren’t helped by the fact that their support for amnesty is being portrayed as support for the KKK and that removing military occupation in the South will lead to the same problems African Americans faced before the war.

There are also political cartoons that are being used as a weapon with many of them showing Horace Greeley doing deals with the corrupt kingpin of Tammany Hall, William ‘Boss’ Tweed while in others his seen shaking hands with Abraham Lincoln’s assailant, John Wilkies Booth over Lincoln’s grave and even bailing out the former leader of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis out of prison.

Outside of the election, Greeley is dealing with other issues such as his wife Mary dying from tuberculosis in late October which plunged Greeley into a depression that he was unable to recover from.

Stricken by sadness over the loss of his wife and the slanderous cartoons made about him, Greeley returned to the New York Tribune to continue his work as the editor until he discovered that his colleagues at the Tribune were usurping him from his position which worsen his depression so bad that he eventually was confined to a sanatorium. Allegedly Whitelaw Reid, one of the many usurpers at the New York Tribune visited Greeley only for the former editor to respond with: “You Son of a Bitch…You Stole My Newspaper!”  

So, as we can see things have not been so good to say the least for Horace Greeley and when the results for this election roll in, it’s going to lead some history being made.

Election of 1872: The Results

800px ElectoralCollege1872.svg

Since the last election, the former confederate states have been brought back into the United States meaning that the electoral votes needed to win in this election are 177 or mores as you can see from the electoral map above, Ulysses S. Grant wins re-election in a landslide. He received 286 electoral votes and 55.6% of the popular vote making Grant became the first Republican president to serve two full terms in office.

Henry Wilson became the 18th Vice President in U.S. history, however Wilson would die in November of 1875 after suffering from a number of strokes throughout his tenure as VP, in fact Wilson would be one of three Vice Presidents to die in 1875 with the other two being John C. Breckinridge and Andrew Johnson.

Horace Greeley got 66 electoral votes and 43.8% of the popular vote unfortunately many of those votes couldn’t go to him as it was soon discovered that Horace Greeley died…That’s right, Greeley passes away on November 29th which was the same day when the electoral votes were being counted and little over a month after his wife had died making this election the only time in which one of the major candidates died before the electoral process could be finished.

It’s unclear to this day what led to Horace Greeley’s death with some alleging that he died of broken heart following the news regarding his wife and being screwed out of his newspaper empire while others believe it was the drugs that the people in the sanatorium were giving him that ultimately led to his death.

With Greeley dead, the electoral votes he got in this election being pledged to other people thereby making the people who voted for someone else other than the two major candidates “Faithless Electors”.

Most of the electoral votes Greeley got were pledged to four other men:

  • Thoms Hendricks- A former Senator from Indiana got 42 electoral votes
  • Benjamin Graetz Brown- Greeley’s running mate got 18 electoral votes
  • Charles Jenkins- The former Governor of Georgia got 2 electoral votes
  • David Davis- Abraham Lincoln’s campaign advisor and candidate for the Liberal Republicans got only 1 electoral vote

Despite the fact that he died, three electors from Georgia who voted for Greeley still pledge their votes to him although these votes were considered invalid which is why in some cases when you look at the votes he gets in this election, it often says that he got zero.

The Liberal Republican Party would soon collapse after this election with many members rejoining the GOP, but to end things on a positive note when Horace Greeley was buried none other than Ulysses S. Grant himself attended the funeral showing that despite all the mudslinging made about his opponent in this election, the former war hero turned president decided to honor his fallen foe with respect at his final resting place.

Be sure to come back for the next Presidential Election, as will be talking about the Election of 1876, but If you are interested in learning more about U.S. political history on this site be sure to leave your thoughts down below in the comment section and be sure to follow Lace ‘Em Up on Twitter @laceemupoffice you can follow me also on Twitter @hakeemfullerton and I’ll see you in the next article.

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