With that end in view the National Committee, in which the Blaine men had a majority, selected a Southern man, Hon. Powell Clayton, of Arkansas, for temporary chairman of the Convention. The anti-Blaine men,—under the leadership of Messrs. Roosevelt, Lodge, Hoar, Hanna, Geo. William Curtis and others,—decided to select another Southern man to run against Clayton. For that purpose a conference was held;—composed of many of the active supporters of Arthur, Sherman, and Edmunds,—to select the man to put up against Clayton.
I did not attend the conference. Senator Hoar suggested my name and insisted that I was the man best fitted for the position. After a brief discussion it was decided unanimously to select me. A committee was appointed, of which ex-Governor Pinchback, of Louisiana, was chairman, to wait on me and inform me of what had been done, and to insist upon my acceptance of the distinguished honor which had thus been conferred upon me. Another committee was appointed,—of which Hon. M.A. Hanna, of Ohio, was chairman, to poll the Convention to find out the strength of the movement. This committee subsequently reported that Clayton would be defeated and Lynch elected by a majority of about thirty-five votes. For two reasons I had some doubt about the propriety of allowing my name to be thus used. First, I doubted the wisdom of the movement. It had been the uniform custom to allow the National Committee to select the temporary chairman of the Convention, and I was inclined to the opinion that a departure from that custom might not be a wise step. Second, I did not think it could possibly win. My opinion was that a number of delegates that might otherwise vote for me could not be induced to vote in favor of breaking what had been a custom since the organization of the party.
I did not come to a definite decision until the morning of the day that the Convention was to be organized. Just before that body was called to order I decided to confer with Maj. William McKinley and Hon. M.A. Hanna, of Ohio, and act upon their advice. McKinley was for Blaine and Hanna was for Sherman, but my confidence in the two men was such that I believed their advice would not be influenced by their personal preference for the Presidential nomination. I did not know at that time that Mr. Hanna had taken an active part in the deliberations of the conference that resulted in my selection for temporary chairman of the Convention. I first consulted Major McKinley. I had served with him in Congress and had become very much attached to him. He frankly stated that, since he was a Blaine man, he would be obliged to vote against me, but he told me that this was an opportunity that comes to a man but once in a lifetime.
“If you decline,” he said, “the anti-Blaine men will probably put up someone else who would, no doubt, receive the same vote that you would receive. If it is possible for them to elect anyone, I know of no man I would rather have them thus honor than you. While, therefore, I shall vote against you and hope you will not be elected,—simply because I am a Blaine man, and a vote for you means a vote against Blaine,—I shall not advise you to decline the use of your name.”