President Arthur aspired to succeed himself as President. As a whole he gave the country a splendid administration, for which he merited a renomination and election as his own successor. While there was a strong and well-organized effort to secure for him a renomination, the probabilities are that the attitude of Mr. Conkling towards him contributed largely to his defeat; although the ex-Senator took no active part in the contest. But, as in the case of Mr. Blaine, his silence, no doubt, was fatal to Mr. Arthur’s renomination.
THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN OF 1884
When the Forty-seventh Congress expired March 4th, 1883, I returned to my home at Natchez, Mississippi. 1884 was the year of the Presidential election. Early in the year it was made clear that there was to be a bitter fight for the Presidential nomination.
President Arthur was a candidate to succeed himself; but Mr. Blaine, it was conceded, would be the leading candidate before the Convention. Senator John Sherman was also a candidate. It was generally believed that Senator Edmunds of Vermont would get a majority of the delegates from the New England States. Mr. Blaine was weaker in his own section, New England, than in any other part of the country except the South. The South, however, had somewhat relented in its opposition to him, as previously stated, in consequence of which he had a stronger support from that section than in any of his previous contests for the nomination; to this fact may be attributed his nomination by the Convention. That support, it was believed, was due more to a deference to public opinion at the North,—the section that must be depended upon to elect the ticket,—than confidence in Mr. Blaine.
The delegation from my own State, Mississippi, was, with one exception, solid in its support of President Arthur. The one exception was Hon. H.C. Powers, one of the delegates from the first district.
Two active, aggressive, able and brilliant young men had just entered the field of national politics, both of them having been elected delegates to this convention. Those men were Theodore Roosevelt, of New York, and H.C. Lodge, of Massachusetts. Both were vigorously opposed to the nomination of Mr. Blaine. Roosevelt’s election as a delegate from New York was in the nature of a national surprise. Mr. Blaine was believed to be very strong in that State. The public, therefore, was not prepared for the announcement that Theodore Roosevelt,—an anti-Blaine man,—had defeated Senator Warner Miller,—the able and popular leader of the Blaine forces in that State,—as delegate to the National Convention from the State at large. The Blaine leaders were brought to a realization of the fact, that, in consequence of their unexpected defeat in New York, it was absolutely necessary, in order to make sure of the nomination of their candidate, to retain the support they had among the Southern delegates.