The political campaign of 1872 saw Grant win the presidency again though the corruption and scandals of his administration like Credit Mobilier would not surface until after his reelection. His opponent, Northern newspaperman Horace Greeley, was outspoken against the black vote being manipulated by Grant’s party, stating that “they are an easy, worthless race, taking no thought of the morrow.” He thought the freedmen no longer deserved government support, his harsh injunction being “root, hog, or die.”
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Controlling Elections in a Businesslike Manner
“In the summer of 1872 . . . my immediate recreation was the heated political campaign which was then in full swing . . . the Republicans had put forward their contention along the most radical lines. A black Negro man had practically dictated the platform, claiming complete civil and social rights; endorsing [scalawag Governor W.W.] Holden, who had been removed by impeachment from his governorship; and injecting various “isms” which had been imported by the carpet-bag elements.
The most distinguished of the deserters from Democracy, Samuel L. Phillips, had begun the campaign with the opening sentence, “Hitherto, I have not been a Republican.”
The Democrats . . . had named for governor Judge Merrimon, from the mountain country and a life-long rival of Governor [Zebulon] Vance, a representative of the Union and war sentiment. In those days there was no place for a Democrat on the Democratic ticket.
Judge Merrimon was a ponderous person, addicted to the Websterian style of garment and the Websterian habit of four-hour speeches. Vance had declined the nomination.
The national features of this election were historically and dramatically set. As North Carolina voted in August, it led the procession . . . The Negroes voted for the first time for a president and were drilled [by Republicans] to vote early and often. The presidential contest was between the regular Republican party, supporting Grant, and the Liberal Republicans, whose candidate, Horace Greeley, had been endorsed by the Democrats.
Fred Douglas, the Negro orator, was sent into the denser populations of colored people in the eastern counties. He spoke before a multitude in Warrenton. His racial instinct to magnify himself and display his superiority made him speak along lines that were so much metaphysics to the audience. They had come to hear paeans of praise for [Republican] officeholders and denunciation of the old masters, with jests broad enough to get over the platform.
John Hyman, a colored barkeeper and later successful candidate for Congress, had placed on the speaker’s table a glass of sherry for Fred Douglas’s refreshment. Douglas sipped it between perorations, explaining it to his audience that it was not liquor, but sherry wine; and that while it might have been worse, it puzzled him to see how.
This gave great offense. His hearers did not believe him; and John Hyman, who had donated the wine, remarked that “Mr. Douglas’s manners – what he has – may be good enough for his northern friends but they don’t set well with folks who know what manners is.”
The regular Republicans followed the military tactics of Grant, their leader, and they sat down to the task of carrying the State in a thoroughly businesslike manner. The Federal courts were prostituted to their purpose and issues thousands of orders for arrest for Democrats who were accused of belonging to the Ku Klux.
A quarter of a million dollars was spent on tipstaffs and underlings connected with the courts. Every branch of the Government was called upon to furnish its quota of force. The Congress had passed bills promising social equality to the black; every State had a garrison of [Northern] troops placed conveniently to suppress any outbreak which should be kindled by political provocation.
The idea of allowing the possession of the Government to pass out of the [Grant Republican] party’s hands was not tolerated [and] . . . The result of the election was foregone.”
(Southern Exposure, Peter Mitchel Wilson, UNC Press, 1927, pp. 83-87)