Ohio History Journal

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"Bluff Ben" Wade in Lawrence, Kansas:

"Bluff Ben" Wade in Lawrence, Kansas:

The Issue of Class Conflict




Most historians know of Theodore Roosevelt's famous speech

at Osawatomie, Kansas, on August 31, 1910, in which he outlined

the policies later advocated during the campaign of 1912, but few

have considered the equally important Lawrence speech of Senator

Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio on June 10, 1867. The latter might have

had considerable effect upon the outcome of the Johnson impeach-

ment trial and the choice of a Republican nominee for president in


In March 1867 the Republican caucus assembled to consider can-

didates for the position of president pro tem of the senate. The

party was strife-torn over the political, economic, and social prob-

lems confronting the nation after the Civil War. The man chosen

for the position would have the difficult job of reuniting his party,

but if he could bring that to pass, the White House might be within

his grasp. Moderation, tact, and a spirit of compromise seemed to

be prerequisites for the task, and the conservatives felt that William

P. Fessenden of Maine was the man possessing these traits. The

radicals, however, succeeded in choosing Wade.

"Bluff Ben" was scarcely the man to weld the divergent elements

of the party together; controversy was the breath of his nostrils.

Nevertheless, there was much confidence expressed, and as his biog-

rapher later noted concerning his selection, "many regarded it an

election to the presidency of the Republic."1

On May 30, 1867, Wade left Chicago en route to Omaha ac-

companied by a large party, which included Senators Timothy O.


* William Frank Zornow is assistant professor of history at Kansas State College,

Manhattan, Kansas.

1 Albert G. Riddle, The Life of Benjamin F. Wade (Cleveland, 1886), 277-278.