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The Run-Up to 1876

October 17, 2019

Lincoln was the first Republican President.  His second term Vice President, who succeeded him in 1865, was a pro-Union Democrat.  Andrew Johnson was impeached by the Republican House and acquitted by one vote in the Republican Senate in 1868.  Later that year the Republicans nominated General Grant who then served two terms as President.  Although he was very popular with the voters, his party was badly divided when he left office.

Associate Justice David Davis had been a Whig when Lincoln was a Whig and became a Republican when Lincoln became a Republican.  Lincoln appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1862.  When Lincoln was assassinated, Davis was in Chicago.  Within hours of his father’s passing Robert Lincoln sent a telegram to Davis asking him to “Please come to Washington at once to take charge of my father’s affairs.”  Davis complied with celerity.

In 1870 Davis switched from Republican to Liberal Republican.  He had hoped to be that party’s standard bearer in 1872, but that honor was given to Horace Greeley.  After Greeley’s miserable loss to Grant coupled with the demise of the Liberal Republicans, rather than return to the party of Lincoln, Davis became a political independent.  Davis was just one example of many who were upset with the Republican Party.  If the Democrats could only nominate a person of stature in 1876, they would have a chance at the Presidency.  That is probably why Republican Congressman James Garfield believed the Democrats would choose Davis that year.

The Democrats did indeed nominate a person of stature in 1876, but it was not Associate Justice David Davis.

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