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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 21, Presidential Losers: Horace Greeley

Horace Greeley, 1868

After the narrowly-won election in 1864, Republicans began rolling up their sleeves to battle the Democratic ticket in 1868.   When they saw it was Horace Greeley and Benjamin Gratz Brown, they rolled their sleeves back down again.  “Gratz,” as his pals called him, was something of a drinker, and during a campaign picnic, became so inebriated, he attempted to butter a watermelon. 1 A newspaperman and editor, Greeley had published works by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and dabbled in phrenology and Fourierism – a utopian belief that one day seas would turn to lemonade and the North Pole would be as balmy as the Mediterranean.2  As if these ideas weren’t nutty enough, he also thought women should have the right to vote.  Speaking of women’s suffrage, (“So suffer!” advised their opponents.) a third candidate, not pictured, was Victoria Woodhull who satisfied all the most paranoid miscegenation nightmares of unreconstructed southerners by selecting former slave Frederick Douglass as her running mate.  Woodhull’s candidacy was illegal, however, not because she was a woman, but because she was only 34 years old.  (While the Constitution mandated women couldn’t vote, it didn’t say they couldn’t run.)  Meanwhile, vigilant law-abiding citizens arrested women who tried to vote, and Woodhull herself spent election night in jail for “indecency.” 3 Incumbent Grant ran on a solid record of graft, cronyism, and service to special interests; meanwhile, Greeley added to the surrealism of the entire election by dropping dead before the electors from any of the states he did win had cast their votes, so although he lost soundly, he fared better than any posthumous candidate before or since.  Nevertheless, his demise left many questions unanswered, specifically – what was with that beard?  I swear, it seems to be growing out of his collar.

Result

Ulysses S Grant: 286
Horace Greeley: 66

1.Unsuccessfully.
2. OK, so he was half right.
3. Her principles were showing.

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