1872 United States presidential election
The 1872 United States presidential election was the 22nd quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 5, 1872. Despite a split in the Republican Party, incumbent President Ulysses S. Grant defeated Liberal Republican nominee Horace Greeley. The election is notable for being the only presidential election in which a major party nominee died during the election process.
All 352 electoral votes of the Electoral College
177 electoral votes needed to win
Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Grant/Wilson, blue denotes those won by Greeley, yellow denotes those won by Hendricks, and the various shades of green denote those won by Brown, Jenkins and Davis; this reflects the posthumous scattering of Greeley's electoral votes. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.
Grant was unanimously re-nominated at the 1872 Republican National Convention, but his intra-party opponents organized the Liberal Republican Party and held their own convention. The 1872 Liberal Republican convention nominated Greeley, a New York newspaper publisher, and wrote a platform calling for civil service reform and an end to Reconstruction. Democratic Party leaders believed that their only hope of defeating Grant was to unite around Greeley, and the 1872 Democratic National Convention nominated the Liberal Republican ticket.
Despite the union between the Liberal Republicans and Democrats, Greeley proved to be an ineffective campaigner and Grant remained widely popular. Grant decisively won re-election, carrying 31 of the 37 states, including several Southern states that would not again vote Republican until the 20th century. Grant would be the last incumbent to win a second term until William McKinley's victory in the 1900 presidential election, and his popular vote margin of 11.8% was the largest margin between 1852 and 1904.
On November 29, 1872, after the popular vote was counted, but before the Electoral College cast its votes, Greeley died. As a result, electors previously committed to Greeley voted for four different candidates for president and eight different candidates for vice president. It was the last instance until the 2016 presidential election in which more than one presidential elector voted for a candidate to whom they were not pledged.
Republican Party nomination
|Republican Party Ticket, 1872|
|Ulysses S. Grant||Henry Wilson|
|for President||for Vice President|
President of the United States
|U.S. Senator from Massachusetts|
At the 1872 Republican National Convention the Republicans nominated President Ulysses S. Grant for re-election, but nominated Senator Henry Wilson from Massachusetts for vice-president instead of the incumbent Schuyler Colfax, who was implicated in the Credit Mobilier scandal. Others, who had grown weary of the corruption of the Grant administration, bolted to form the Liberal Republican Party.
The opposition fusion nominations
In the hope of defeating Grant, the Democratic party endorsed the nominees of the Liberal Republican Party.
Liberal Republican Party nomination
An influential group of dissident Republicans split from the party to form the Liberal Republican Party in 1870. At the party's only national convention, held in Cincinnati in 1872, New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley was nominated for president on the sixth ballot, defeating Charles Francis Adams. Missouri Governor Benjamin Gratz Brown was nominated for vice-president on the second ballot.
|Liberal Republican Party Ticket, 1872|
|Horace Greeley||Benjamin G. Brown|
|for President||for Vice President|
|Former U.S. Representative
for New York's 6th
Governor of Missouri
|Candidates in this section are sorted by their highest vote count on the nominating ballots|
|Charles Francis Adams Sr.||Lyman Trumbull||Benjamin Gratz Brown||David Davis||Andrew Gregg Curtin||Salmon P. Chase|
|Fmr. Envoy to the United Kingdom from Massachusetts
Governor of Missouri
Governor of Pennsylvania
|324 votes||156 votes||95 votes||93 votes||62 votes||32 votes|
Democratic Party nomination
|Democratic Party Ticket, 1872|
|Horace Greeley||Benjamin G. Brown|
|for President||for Vice President|
|Former U.S. Representative
for New York's 6th
Governor of Missouri
The 1872 Democratic National Convention met in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 9–10. Because of its strong desire to defeat Ulysses S. Grant, the Democratic Party also nominated the Liberal Republicans' Greeley/Brown ticket and adopted their platform. Greeley received 686 of the 732 delegate votes cast, while Brown received 713. Accepting the Liberal platform meant the Democrats had accepted the New Departure strategy, which rejected the anti-Reconstruction platform of 1868. They realized that to win the election they had to look forward, not try to re-fight the Civil War. Also, they realized they would only split the anti-Grant vote if they nominated a candidate other than Greeley. However, Greeley's long reputation as the most aggressive antagonist of the Democratic party, its principles, its leadership, and its activists cooled Democrats' enthusiasm for the nominee.
Some Democrats were worried that backing Greeley would effectively bring the party to extinction, much like the moribund Whig Party had been doomed by endorsing the Know Nothing candidacy of Millard Fillmore in 1856, though others felt that the Democrats were in a much stronger position on a regional level than the Whigs had been at the time of their demise, and predicted (correctly, as it turned out) that the Liberal Republicans would not be viable in the long-term due to their lack of distinctive positions compared to the main Republican Party. A sizable minority led by James A. Bayard sought to act independently of the Liberal Republican ticket, but the bulk of the party agreed to endorse Greeley's candidacy. The convention, which lasted only six hours stretched over two days, is the shortest major political party convention in history.
The Liberal Republican Party fused with the Democratic Party in all states except for Louisiana and Texas. In states where Republicans were stronger, the Liberal Republicans fielded a majority of the joint slate of candidates for lower offices; while in states where Democrats were stronger, the Democrats fielded the most candidates. In many states, such as Ohio, each party nominated half of a joint slate of candidates. Even initially reluctant Democratic leaders like Thomas F. Bayard came to support Greeley.
Labor Reform Party
|Charles O'Conor||David Davis|
|Lawyer from New York
|Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from Illinois|
(Nominee – Withdrew on June 24, 1872)
The Labor Reform Party had only been organized in 1870, with its first National Convention meeting held in St. Louis, Missouri, on February 22, 1872. Initially, there was a fair amount of discussion as to whether the party should actually nominate anyone for the presidency at that time, or if they should wait at least for the Liberal Republicans to nominate their own ticket first. Every motion to that effect lost, and a number of ballots were taken that resulted in the nomination of David Davis, who was the frontrunner for the Liberal Republican nomination at that time. Joel Parker, the Governor of New Jersey, was nominated for vice-president.
While Davis did not decline the nomination of the Labor Reform party, he decided to hinge his campaign in large part on the success of attaining the Liberal Republican nomination, so that he might at least have their resources behind him. After their convention, in which he failed to attain the nomination, Davis telegraphed the Labor Reform party and informed them of his intention to withdraw from the presidential contest entirely. Joel Parker soon followed suit.
A second convention was called on August 22 in Philadelphia, where it was decided, rather than making the same mistake again, that the party would cooperate with the new Straight-Out Democratic Party that had recently formed. After the election, the various state affiliates grew less and less active, and by the following year, the party ceased to exist. Labor Reform party activity continued to 1878, when the Greenback and Labor Reform parties, with other organizations, formed a National Party.
Straight-Out Democratic Party
Unwilling to support the Democratic party nominee Greeley, a group of mostly Southern Democrats held what they called a Straight-Out Democratic Party convention in Louisville, Kentucky on August 11, 1872. They nominated as presidential candidate Charles O'Conor, who declined their nomination by telegram; as vice president they nominated John Quincy Adams II. Without time to choose a substitute, the party ran the two candidates anyway. They received 0.36% of the popular votes, and no Electoral College votes.
Grant's administration and his Radical Republican supporters had been widely accused of corruption, and the Liberal Republicans demanded civil service reform and an end to the Reconstruction process, including withdrawal of federal troops from the South. Both Liberal Republicans and Democrats were disappointed in their candidate Greeley. As wits asked, "Why turn out a knave just to replace him with a fool?" A poor campaigner with little political experience, Greeley's career as a newspaper editor gave his opponents a long history of eccentric public positions to attack. With memories of his victories in the Civil War to run on, Grant was unassailable. Grant also had a large campaign budget to work with. One historian was quoted saying, "Never before was a candidate placed under such great obligation to men of wealth as was Grant." A large portion of Grant's campaign funds came from entrepreneurs, including Jay Cooke, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Alexander Turney Stewart, Henry Hilton, and John Astor.
This was the first election after the formation of the National Woman Suffrage Association and the American Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. As a result, protests for women's suffrage became more prevalent. The National Woman's Suffrage Association held its annual convention in New York City on May 9, 1872. Some of the delegates supported Victoria Woodhull, who had spent the year since the previous NWSA annual meeting touring the New York City environs and giving speeches on why women should be allowed to vote. The delegates selected Victoria Woodhull to run for president, and named Frederick Douglass for vice- president. He did not attend the convention and never acknowledged the nomination, though he would serve as a presidential elector in the United States Electoral College for the State of New York. Woodhull gave a series of speeches around New York City during the campaign. Her finances were very thin, and when she borrowed money from supporters, she often was unable to repay them. On the day before the election, Woodhull was arrested for "publishing an obscene newspaper" and so was unable to cast a vote for herself. Woodhull was ineligible to be president on Inauguration Day, not because she was a woman (the Constitution and the law were silent on the issue), but because she would not reach the constitutionally prescribed minimum age of 35 until September 23, 1873; historians have debated whether to consider her activities a true election campaign. Woodhull and Douglass are not listed in "Election results" below, as the ticket received a negligible percentage of the popular vote and no electoral votes. In addition, several suffragists would attempt to vote in the election. Susan B. Anthony was arrested when she tried to vote and was fined $100 in a widely publicized trial.
Results and disputed votes
Grant won an easy re-election over Greeley by a margin of 56% to 44%. Grant garnered 286 electoral votes to what would have been 66 electoral votes for Greeley. However, Greeley died on November 29, 1872, just twenty-four days after the election and before any of his pledged electors (from Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Maryland) could cast their votes. Most of Greeley's electors cast their votes for other Democrats.
Of the 2,171 counties making returns, Grant won in 1,335 while Greeley carried 833. Three counties were split evenly between Grant and Greeley.
During the joint session of Congress for the counting of the electoral vote on February 12, 1873, numerous objections were raised to some of the results. However, unlike the objections which would be made in 1877, these had no impact on the outcome of the election.
- The electors of Arkansas and Louisiana were rejected due to irregularities. They were not included in the total number of electors. Both states had voted for Grant.
- Three Georgia electors had voted for Greeley for president. Their votes for Greeley were rejected because Greeley was dead when the electors cast their ballots. Their votes for B. Gratz Brown for vice-president were not affected. The electors were included in the total number of electors.
- Protests were raised against the votes of Texas, Mississippi, and of Mississippi elector James J. Spelman. These electoral votes were ultimately accepted.
This election was the last in which Arkansas voted for a Republican until 1972 and the last in which it voted against the Democrats until 1968. Alabama and Mississippi would not be carried by a Republican again until 1964 and they wouldn't vote against the Democrats until 1948. North Carolina and Virginia wouldn't vote Republican again until 1928. West Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey wouldn't vote Republican again until 1896.
|Presidential candidate||Party||Home state||Popular vote||Electoral
|Count||Percentage||Vice-presidential candidate||Home state||Electoral vote|
|Ulysses S. Grant (Incumbent)||Republican||Ohio||3,598,235||55.6%||286||Henry Wilson||Massachusetts||286|
|Thomas A. Hendricks||Democratic||Indiana||—(a)||—||42||—(c)||42|
|Benjamin Gratz Brown||Liberal Republican/ Democratic||Missouri||—(a)||—||18||—(c)||18|
|Horace Greeley||Liberal Republican/ Democratic||New York||2,834,761||43.8%||3(b)||Benjamin Gratz Brown||Missouri||3(b)|
|Charles J. Jenkins||Democratic||Georgia||—(a)||—||2||—(c)||2|
|David Davis||Liberal Republican||Illinois||—(a)||—||1||—(c)||1|
|Charles O'Conor||Straight-Out Democrats||New York||18,602||0.3%||0||John Quincy Adams II||Massachusetts||0|
|James Black||Prohibition||Pennsylvania||5,607||0.1%||0||John Russell||Michigan||0|
|Needed to win||177(d)|
Source (popular vote): Leip, David. "1872 Presidential Election Results". Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Retrieved July 27, 2005.
(a) These candidates received votes from Electors who were pledged to Horace Greeley, who died before the electoral votes were cast.
(b) Horace Greeley received three electoral votes for president, but these votes were disqualified because of his death.
(c) See Breakdown by ticket below.
(d) The 14 electoral votes from Arkansas and Louisiana were not counted, and are not included in this count. If these electoral votes were included, there would be 366 electoral votes total, and 184 would be needed to win.
Geography of results
Results by state
Source: Data from Walter Dean Burnham, Presidential ballots, 1836–1892 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1955) pp 247–57.
|States won by Grant/Wilson|
|States won by Greeley/Brown|
|Ulysses S. Grant
Red font color denotes states won by Republican Ulysses S. Grant; blue denotes those won by Democrat/Liberal Republican Horace Greeley.
States where the margin of victory was under 5% (51 electoral votes)
- Maryland 0.69%
- Virginia 0.98%
- Delaware 4.23%
- Tennessee 4.32%
- Arkansas 4.35%
- West Virginia 4.46%
- Connecticut 4.81%
Margin of victory between 5% and 10% (133 electoral votes):
- Kentucky 5.87%
- Alabama 6.38%
- Indiana 6.41%
- New York 6.46%
- Florida 7.04%
- Ohio 7.09% (tipping point state if electors of Arkansas and Louisiana were rejected)
- New Hampshire 8.33% (tipping point state if electors of Arkansas and Louisiana were not rejected)
- New Jersey 9.04%
- Wisconsin 9.16%
- Georgia 9.94%
|Vice presidential candidate||Party||State||Electoral vote|
|Benjamin Gratz Brown||Democratic/Liberal Republican||Missouri||47|
|Alfred H. Colquitt||Democratic||Georgia||5|
|George Washington Julian||Liberal Republican||Indiana||5|
|Thomas E. Bramlette||Democratic||Kentucky||3|
|John M. Palmer||Democratic||Illinois||3|
|Nathaniel P. Banks||Liberal Republican||Massachusetts||1|
|William S. Groesbeck||Democratic/Liberal Republican||Ohio||1|
|Willis Benson Machen||Democratic||Kentucky||1|
|John Quincy Adams II||Straight-Out Democratic||Massachusetts||0|
|Needed to win||177|
Breakdown by ticket
|Presidential candidate||Running mate||Electoral vote(a)|
|Ulysses S. Grant||Henry Wilson||286|
|Thomas Andrews Hendricks||Benjamin Gratz Brown||41 .. 42|
|Benjamin Gratz Brown||Alfred Holt Colquitt||5|
|Benjamin Gratz Brown||George Washington Julian||4 .. 5|
|Benjamin Gratz Brown||Thomas E. Bramlette||3|
|Horace Greeley||Benjamin Gratz Brown||3 (b)|
|Benjamin Gratz Brown||John McAuley Palmer||2 .. 3|
|Charles J. Jenkins||Benjamin Gratz Brown||2|
|Benjamin Gratz Brown||Nathaniel Prentiss Banks||1|
|Benjamin Gratz Brown||Willis Benson Machen||1|
|Benjamin Gratz Brown||William Slocum Groesbeck||0 .. 1|
|David Davis||Benjamin Gratz Brown||0 .. 1|
|David Davis||William Slocum Groesbeck||0 .. 1|
|David Davis||George Washington Julian||0 .. 1|
|David Davis||John McAuley Palmer||0 .. 1|
|Thomas Andrews Hendricks||William Slocum Groesbeck||0 .. 1|
|Thomas Andrews Hendricks||George Washington Julian||0 .. 1|
|Thomas Andrews Hendricks||John McAuley Palmer||0 .. 1|
(a) The used sources had insufficient data to determine the pairings of 4 electoral votes in Missouri; therefore, the possible tickets are listed with the minimum and maximum possible number of electoral votes each.
(b) Greeley was disqualified, having previously died and thus become ineligible for the Presidency, but the Brown vice-presidential votes were counted.
Demise of the Liberal Republicans
Though the national party organization disappeared after 1872, several Liberal Republican members continued to serve in Congress after the 1872 elections. Most Liberal Republican Congressmen eventually joined the Democratic Party. Outside of the South, some Liberal Republicans sought the creation of a new party opposed to Republicans, but Democrats were unwilling to abandon their old party affiliation and even relatively successful efforts like Wisconsin's Reform Party collapsed. Even the strong Missouri Liberal Republican Party collapsed as the Democrats re-established themselves as the major opposition party to the Republicans. In the following years, former Liberal Republicans became members in good standing of both major parties.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to United States presidential election, 1872.|
- United States presidential election of 1872 at the Encyclopædia Britannica
- Presidential Election of 1872: A Resource Guide from the Library of Congress
- 1872 popular vote by counties
- How close was the 1872 election? — Michael Sheppard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Election of 1872 in Counting the Votes