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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

In which the rising Republican Congressional leader


For

some time, as has been seen, the Republicans continued to retain a certain link with their origin by appearing mainly as a pro-Negro and anti-Southern party, with "Southern outrages" as its electoral stock-in-trade and the maintenance of the odious non-American State Governments as its programme. The surrender of 1876 put an end even to this link. The "bloody shirt" disappeared, and with it the last rag of the old Republican garment. A formal protest against the use of "intimidation" in the "Solid South" continued to figure piously for some decades in the quadrennial platform of the party. At last even this was dropped, and its place was taken by the much more defensible demand that Southern representatives should be so reduced as to correspond to the numbers actually suffered to vote. It is interesting to note that if the Republicans had not insisted on supplementing the Fourteenth Amendment by the Fifteenth, forbidding disqualification on grounds of race or colour, and consequently compelling the South to concede in theory the franchise of the blacks and then prevent its exercise, instead of formally denying it them, this grievance would automatically have been met.

What, then, remained to the Republican Party when the "number it first thought of" had been thus taken away? The principal thing that remained was a connection already established by its leading politicians with the industrial interests of the North-Eastern States and with the groups

of wealthy men who, in the main, controlled and dealt in those interests. It became the party of industrial Capitalism as it was rapidly developing in the more capitalist and mercantile sections of the Union.

The first effect of this was an appalling increase of political corruption. During Grant's second Presidency an amazing number of very flagrant scandals were brought to light, of which the most notorious were the Erie Railway scandal, in which the rising Republican Congressional leader, Blaine, was implicated, and the Missouri Whisky Ring, by which the President himself was not unbesmirched. The cry for clean government became general, and had much to do with the election of a Democratic House of Representatives in 1874 and the return by a true majority vote--thought defeated by a trick--of a Democratic President in 1876. Though the issue was somewhat overshadowed in 1880, when Garfield was returned mainly on the tariff issue--to be assassinated later by a disappointed place-hunter named Guiteau and succeeded by Arthur--it revived in full force in 1884 when the Republican candidate was James G. Blaine.

Blaine was personally typical of the degeneration of the Republican Party after the close of the Civil War. He had plenty of brains, was a clever speaker and a cleverer intriguer. Principles he had none. Of course he had in his youth "waved the bloody shirt" vigorously enough, was even one of the last to wave it, but at the same time he had throughout his political life stood in with the great capitalist and financial interests of the North-East--and that not a little to his personal profit. The exposure of one politico-financial transaction of his--the Erie Railway affair--had cost him the Republican nomination in 1876, in spite of Ingersoll's amazing piece of rhetoric delivered on his behalf, wherein the celebrated Secularist orator declared that "like an armed warrior, like a plumed knight, James G. Blaine strode down the floor of Congress and flung his shining lance, full and fair"--at those miscreants who objected to politicians using their public status for private profit. By 1884 it was hoped that the scandal had blown over and was forgotten.


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