The 1868 Election

In 1868 the Republican nomination of General Ulysses S. Grant was a foregone conclusion. Stung by a string of defeats in northern state elections in 1867, amid charges of Republicans' corruption and too cozy regard for black rights, the Republicans turned to the hero of Appomattox and ran on his record of Union victory and personal honesty and modesty. Republicans largely conducted a campaign of image over ideas. They appealed to voters tired of posturing politicians and eager to bring order to the South and good government to the nation by trading on Grant's war record, Lincoln's memory, and the promise of efficient and responsible government. Republican platform calls for equal suffrage, justice to blacks, and support for immigration got short shrift as Republicans discovered they could get more votes tarring Democrats as disloyal and despicable and echoing Grant's plea, "Let us have peace." Grant won the electoral vote handily, but did less well in the popular vote. Indeed, without black votes in key states, the Republicans would have lost. That fact moved Republicans heretofore reluctant to enfranchise blacks nationally to endorse a 15th Amendment to do just that.

"Both Sides of the Question. The Boys in Blue. The Boys in Gray." Harper's Weekly, October 24, 1868.


"This Is A White Man's Government," in Harper's Weekly, September 28, 1868.

"The Modern Samson," in Harper's Weekly, October 3, 1868.

General Grant and His Family. Engraving, Samuel Sartain after Frederick B. Schell (Philadelphia: Daughaday & Becker, 1868).