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The Wormley Conference

January 9, 2020

“The Democrats are behaving badly.”  That was the final sentence of Republican Congressman James Garfield’s diary entry for Sunday February 25, 1877.

The next day he wrote: “The Democrats filibustered for two hours before we reached the Pennsylvania Case, then two hours were spent in debate, when nearly an hour more was consumed by ayes and noes.  At three o’clock the vote was counted and Rhode Island was soon reached and objection was made to the Hayes Electors.”

After a long day Garfield went home and “Dictated letters until nine o’clock when I went to Wormley’s [Hotel] at the invitation of Stanley Matthews.”  Matthews was one of the Republicans who, along with Garfield, had spoken up for the Hayes Electors in Louisiana.  Upon arriving at Matthews’s room Garfield found six other men, three Republicans and three Democrats.  After briefly mentioning a list of proposals that one of the Democrats offered, Garfield wrote: “This, and Matthews’ (sic) talk led me to believe that there had been former consultations, and that a compact of some kind was meditated.”

Garfield wanted Hayes to become President, but he did not want to participate in a back room deal to make that happen.

“I spoke a few moments, stating that nobody had any authority to speak for Gov. Hayes…  For myself, I had no doubt that the new administration would deal justly and generously by the South, and the whole nation would honor those Southern men who are resisting anarchy, and thus are preventing civil war; but neither they nor we could afford to do anything that would be or appear to be a political bargain.”

Garfield then left the room.







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