What was known as the celebrated Mentor Conference then took place. Mentor was the home of General Garfield. The conference consisted of General Garfield, General Grant, and Senator Conkling. Who was instrumental in bringing that conference into existence perhaps will never be known, and what was actually said and done on that occasion will, no doubt, remain a mystery. But it resulted in bringing the Grant-Conkling wing of the party,—which up to that time had been lukewarm and indifferent,—into the active and aggressive support of the ticket. Senator Conkling immediately took the stump and made a brilliant and successful campaign, not only in New York but also in the other close and doubtful States. The result was that Garfield carried New York by a majority of about twenty thousand and was elected. Without New York he would have been defeated; for the South this time was unquestionably solid in its support of the Democratic ticket; at least, according to the forms of law. It was not necessary to resort to the questionable expedient of an electoral commission to determine the result of that election. It is safe to say that, but for the active support given the ticket in that campaign by General Grant and Senator Conkling, New York would have been lost to the party and Garfield would have been defeated. With the election of Garfield the National House of Representatives was also Republican. The majority was small, but it was large enough to enable the party to organize the House. The Garfield administration started out under very favorable auspices. How it ended will be told in another chapter.
The Garfield Administration, as I have said, started out under most favorable auspices. Mr. Conkling took an active part in the Senate as a champion and spokesman of the administration. He seemed to have taken it for granted, that,—although his bitter enemy, Mr. Blaine, was Secretary of State,—his own influence with the administration would be potential. In conversation with his personal friends he insisted that this was a part of the agreement that had been entered into at the famous Mentor Conference, about which so much had been said and published. If it were true that Mr. Conkling’s control of the Federal patronage in New York in the event of Republican success was a part of that agreement, it transpired that Mr. Blaine had sufficient influence with the President to bring about its repudiation.