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The Wrath of Roscoe

May 20, 2014

William H. Robertson was not an obnoxious person per se, but his nomination to the Collectorship was taken as an insult to the Stalwart faction of the Republican party.  Former President Grant identified with that faction and was motivated to write a letter of disapproval to President Garfield.  Grant could have taken Robertson’s nomination as a personal insult, but he seemed more concerned that his friends had been wronged.

Garfield did not see things that way.  In his reply to Grant he stated that Robertson had recently worked for the Senate election of Grant’s friend Thomas Platt.  As a member of the New York legislature Robertson had twice voted for Grant’s friend Roscoe Conkling, the senior U.S. Senator.  Robertson had also supported Conkling’s bid for the presidency at the Republican convention of 1876.  Surely Robertson could not be listed among the political enemies of Grant’s friends.

However, in politics the question is not: “What have you done for me?”, but “What have you done for me lately?”, and Robertson had done something at the 1880 convention which made Roscoe Conkling very angry.

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