Page images
PDF
EPUB

of politicians of most remarkable enthusiasm and energy. Because it was not believed there was much hope for the merit system in the event of Mr. Blaine's election—possibly for other reasons—his aspirations were frowned upon by Mr. Curtis and his friends—a very large and very respectable company. So that, in sending representatives to the convention, the Republicans of New York felt that no greater good could be achieved than in the defeat of Mr. Blaine. To that end, no specific directions bound the delegates. They were at liberty to use their influence in the convention in such manner as would best subserve the interests of reform in general, and to aid in the nomination of any man who stood for the aims toward which it seemed the party and the nation so certainly tended. That meant a certain conflict with what had been regarded as fealty to party, for active managers throughout the nation were unquestionably in favor of the nomination of Mr. Blaine. But Mr. Roosevelt had long before written in his political creed: “I do not number party allegiance among the Ten Commandments.” In the face of a question of right and wrong, he recognized no loyalty to party; and he felt the matter of right was involved in the nomination of a candidate for the presidency, because at the hour that nomination meant the approval or the condemnation of the very reform for which good men were striving. “There are times,” he had said, “when it may be the duty of a man to break with his party; and there are other times when it may be his duty to stand by his party, even when on some points he thinks that party is wrong. If we had not party allegiance our politics would become mere windy anarchy, and under present conditions our Government would hardly continue at all. If we had no independence, we should always be running the risk of the most degraded kind of despotism—the despotism of the party boss and the party machine.” Having decided that the best interests of his party and the nation demanded the defeat of Mr. Blaine in the convention, Mr. Roosevelt and his friends made a coalition with the Edmunds forces, and labored through the days preceding the assembling of delegates, to win for the Vermont statesman a sufficient number to insure a nomination. The convention met in the old Exposition building, at Chicago; and there was a season of noise and enthusiasm from the arrival of the first delegation. Clamor and excitement were the weapons of the Blaine following, and streets and hotels and places of public gathering were loud with hurrahs for “the man from Maine,” and good-humored challenges to his enemies. The opponents of Mr. Blaine had no means of employing a similar plan of battle, for they had no candidate about whom the young men and the energetic party workers could rally as they could about that remarkable character. There was an abundance of stubborn antagonism to the Blaine advance, but it was rather of the negative sort. President Arthur was a candidate for renomination, but he had been a friend of Senator Conkling; and no man warm in support of Mr. Blaine could possibly be induced to endorse Mr. Arthur. Senator Edmunds was regarded, the country over, as a type of purity and ability in statesmanship. It was quite generally believed that he represented elements quite the reverse of those for which Mr. Blaine stood. And it was largely owing to the efforts of Mr. Roosevelt that the New York delegation was recognized as the major part of Mr. Edmunds’ strength.

The convention was notable, even in the history of national assemblies. The room was the same as that in which the Grant forces had gone down four years before, grim and defiant even in defeat. And yet John A. Logan, one of the three men who led that “old guard,” the famous three hundred and six, was here as a candidate, and perfectly able to capture—at the very least —the second place on the ticket. Mr. Roosevelt was accorded place with the Committee on Resolutions. He laid little claim to a part in the formulation of the platform, for there had never been a doubt in his mind that the man to be chosen was far more clearly indicative of the policy of the party than any declaration of principles that might be made. And he devoted his energies to bringing about a coalition between the forces of President Arthur and those of Mr. Edmunds. The result was that the latter went into the convention second in strength to “the plumed knight,” a title that Mr. Blaine had worn since his nomination at Cincinnati by Colonel Ingersoll in 1876.

The student of practical politics will be interested to turn back the files of some daily paper, and read the record of that convention. There was a struggle at the beginning for the selection of a temporary chairman. The name of Mr. Lynch, a colored man from Louisiana, had been put forward, and there was a sentiment that this was for the purpose of flattering the colored men in the convention, with no purpose of doing more than to bestow honorable mention. But in a twinkling the vote of Illinois, well held in the hand of General Logan, was added to the strength of the black man, and he was chosen to the position. The act had the double effect of winning the good will of the colored delegates to General Logan, in whatever service he might need them, and of convincing the Blaine following that the Illinois man would have to be reckoned with, whatever contingencies might arise. When Mr. Roosevelt saw the result of that vote, he got up from the floor of the convention, and went out to the committee room, where he met a number of his confrères. “Blaine will be nominated,” he said. “Why?” asked one of the most experienced politicians of the country. “Because Logan has made it possible.” It was looked upon as the emotional estimate of a young man, new to practical politics. The

« PreviousContinue »