The Last Lincoln Republican: The Presidential Election of 1880
Benjamin T. Arrington
Of all the great “what if” scenarios in American history, the aftermath of the presidential election of 1880 stands out as one of the most tantalizing. The end of the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln had thrown the future of Lincoln’s vision for the country into considerable doubt; the years that followed—marked by impeachment, constitutional change, presidential scandals, and the contested election of 1876—saw Republicans fighting to retain power as they transitioned into the party of “big business.” Enter James A. Garfield, a seasoned politician known for his advocacy of civil rights, who represented the last potential Reconstruction presidency: truly, Benjamin T. Arrington suggests in this book, the last “Lincoln Republican.”
The story of the presidential election of 1880, fully explored for the first time in The Last Lincoln Republican, is a political drama of lasting consequence and dashed possibilities. A fierce opponent of slavery before the war, Garfield had fought for civil rights for African Americans for years in Congress. Holding true to the original values of the Republican Party, Garfield wanted to promote equal opportunity for all; meanwhile, Democrats, led by Winfield Scott Hancock, sought to return the South to white supremacy and an inferior status for African Americans. With its in-depth account of the personalities and issues at play in 1880, Arrington’s book provides a unique perspective on how this critical election continues to resonate through our national politics and culture to this day.