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Grant v Seymour

Ulysses S Grant, the Civil War general, was nominated by the Republican Party as their presidential candidate in 1868, despite the fact that he had only ever once voted in a presidential election, and then for the Democratic candidate.

The American public twice elected him as their president. In 1868, it must be admitted, the options were not particularly impressive. Grant’s Democratic opponent, Horatio Seymour, who had been Governor of New York, had said repeatedly and in public that he did not have “the slightest desire to occupy the White House; there is too much trouble and responsibility”. In an attempt to ensure that he could not be nominated, he took on the chairmanship of the Democratic convention. When his name was put forward despite his strong opposition, he told the convention that he must not be nominated “as I could not accept the nomination if tendered”.

Twenty ballots later, when the convention was still deadlocked, his name was reintroduced, still against Seymour’s wishes. He repeated forcefully that he meant it when he said he was not a candidate, but then made the fateful error of leaving the convention for a few minutes to get a breath of fresh air. While he was outside the convention hall, the delegates nominated him, and so Horatio Seymour stood for the presidency. No doubt to his immense personal relief, he failed to beat General Grant, who, however, had he maintained a consistent voting record in presidential elections, would presumably have voted for his opponent.

Jonathan Rice, Curiosities of Politics

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