Stalwart (politics)

Leader Ulysses S. Grant,
Roscoe Conkling
Founded 1880 (1880)
Dissolved 1890 (1890)
Preceded by Radical Republicans
Ideology Radicalism
National affiliation Republican Party

The Stalwarts were a faction of the Republican Party that existed briefly in the United States during the 1870s, in the Gilded Age after Reconstruction.

Led by U.S. Senator Roscoe Conkling—also known as "Lord Roscoe"—Stalwarts were sometimes called Conklingites. Other notable Stalwarts include Chester A. Arthur and Thomas C. Platt, who were in favor of Ulysses S. Grant, the eighteenth President of the United States (1869–1877), running for a third term. They were the "traditional" Republicans who opposed Rutherford B. Hayes's civil service reform. They were pitted against the "Half-Breeds" (moderates) for control of the Republican Party. The only real issue between Stalwarts and Half-Breeds was patronage. The Half-Breeds worked to get civil service reform, and finally created the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. This was signed by Arthur, who became President after the assassination of James A. Garfield, a Half-Breed.[1] Stalwarts favored traditional machine politics.[2]


The Stalwarts are mostly identifiable through their support of the presidency and re-election of Ulysses S. Grant.[3] The 1880 Republican national convention was the event in which the group participated most prominently. Of the Stalwarts present, most were from former Confederate states, with others being from New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, home to some prominent Republican leaders.[3] Along with being mostly Southern, the Stalwarts have been profiled as more urban and less educated than non-Stalwart Republicans, placing them demographically closer to Democrats. Thus they competed with the Democrats for the same voters. They were therefore more cautious in policy than non-Stalwarts, preferring to avoid controversial policies popular with other Republicans, such as a higher tariff. This caution led the Stalwarts to support the nomination of Grant, a popular former President, at the 1880 Republican national convention.[3]

1880 Republican National Convention

During the Republican national convention in 1880, the Half-Breeds advocated the candidacy of James Blaine of Maine for President. The Stalwarts, in a bid for power within their own party in spite of their loss of power due to the rise in popularity of the Democratic party, stubbornly supported the nomination of Ulysses S. Grant, who, if elected, would be serving his third term. A stalemate ensued between the Half-Breeds and the Stalwarts, so a compromise was struck by the Half-Breeds and supporters of John Sherman to nominate James A. Garfield, with Chester A. Arthur, former Collector for the Port of New York, as his running mate, to satisfy the Stalwarts and thereby ensure their support for the general election.[3]


After the Republican victory in November 1880, Garfield and Conkling fought bitterly and publicly over patronage in Conkling's New York state. Garfield, with assistance and advice from Blaine, won the battle, and Conkling and Platt resigned from the Senate, convinced that they would be re-elected by the New York Legislature. However, Garfield was shot by a self-proclaimed "Stalwart of the Stalwarts", Charles J. Guiteau, on July 2, 1881, and Arthur became President of the United States upon Garfield's death on September 19, 1881. The shock of the assassination broke the power of both Conkling's and the Stalwarts, and his former protege Arthur helped to create civil service reforms in his term, in part because he felt that he had to follow up on and finish Garfield's work.[4]


  1. Sauer, Patrick (2000). The Complete Idiot's Guide to the American Presidents. Indianapolis, Indiana: Alpha Books. p. 290. ISBN 0-02-863821-2.
  2. "Stalwart (American political faction) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved 2012-01-30.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Peskin, Allan (1984–85). "Who Were the Stalwarts? Who Were Their Rivals? Republican Factions in the Gilded Age". Political Science Quarterly. 99 (4): 703–716. doi:10.2307/2150708. JSTOR 2150708.
  4. Zachary Karabell, Chester Alan Arthur: The American Presidents Series: The 21st President, 1881–1885 (Macmillan, 2004).
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