The names of the States were called in alphabetical order, about three being called at a time. Maine was reached before Mississippi, and Mr. Blaine was duly sworn in as a Senator from that State. No one expected that he would do otherwise than support the program that had been agreed upon, but, contrary to expectations, as soon as Mississippi was called Mr. Blaine was on his feet, demanding recognition. Of course he was recognized by the chair. He made a motion that Mr. Lamar be sworn in prima facie as the Senator from Mississippi. His contention was that, since his credentials were regular, the Senator-elect should be sworn in; and if there should be any question about the legality of the election it could be made the subject of a subsequent investigation.
This unexpected action on the part of Mr. Blaine took everyone by surprise, with the possible exception of Mr. Lamar, who, no doubt, was well aware of what was in contemplation. It produced consternation and caused a panic among the Republican leaders in the Senate. Hurried and excited conferences were being held while the subject was being debated. For the seriousness of the situation was recognized. Mr. Blaine’s defection meant the defeat of the Morton motion should it be made, and the adoption of the Blaine motion by the solid vote of the Democrats, to which would be added a small minority of the Republicans. This division in the ranks of the party at the beginning of the Hayes administration had to be avoided if possible. That Mr. Blaine should recede from his position was, of course, out of the question. Nothing, therefore, remained to be done but for Senator Morton to refrain from making his motion; for a hurried canvass of the Senate had revealed the fact that the motion, if made and brought to a vote, would be defeated, and the effect of such a defeat would be worse than if the motion had not been made. So the Blaine motion was allowed to go by default, and Mr. Lamar was duly sworn in as a Senator from Mississippi. Of course it was well known at the time by many,—Mr. Blaine among the number,—that this ended the controversy and that no subsequent investigation would be made. That Mr. Blaine was sadly and seriously disappointed at the result of his action in this case, as well as in his action in defeating the Federal Elections Bill, will be made clear in subsequent chapters.