On May 21, 1868, Ulysses S. Grant was nominated to become the Republican candidate for President. After the long dark night of the accidental president, Andrew Johnson – the first Vice-President to succeed to the presidency after an assassination – the vote for Grant at the Republican convention in Chicago was unanimous. So different than the typical nineteenth conventions with multiple ballots stretching out over days. Grant, “the silent man,” had spoken with his deeds in leading the Union armies to victory in the Civil War and then offering a magnanimous peace treaty to the defeated Robert E. Lee at Appomattox.
Grant did not want to run for president. No big ego given to self-adulation. After his election in November, he would write his best friend, William Tecumseh Sherman: “I have been forced into it in spite of myself. I could not back down without … leaving the contest for power for the next four years between mere trading politicians, the elevation of whom, no matter which party won, would lose to us largely, the results of the costly war which we have gone through.”
Grant would not campaign. He would not criticize his opponent, the Democratic Governor of New York, Horatio Seymour.
Why is all of this important today? Grant’s character and his nomination offer a mirror by which to assess contemporary political leaders and our present nominating process. In future posts, I will say more about fascinating aspects of the 1868 campaign and November election.