Mark Hanna’s 1898 Senate Bribery Scandal – page 11

Rathbone believed he had to fight fire with fire. He reported that his friends had stealthily retrieved Representative John E. Griffith of Union County, together with his wife, from their hotel. The Griffiths were both placed in a carriage and were “rapidly driven” to Rathbone’s hotel. Rathbone conducted “a long interview” with Mrs. Griffith, “from nine o’clock in the evening until three o’clock the next morning.” Both Mr. and Mrs. Griffith were kept “practically under lock and key.” Mrs. Griffith appeared to be “in great distress of mind….” But, in the end her husband “voted for Mr. Hanna and thus carried out his promise to his constituents….”[149]

Even Major Dick, who strained to present himself favorably, recounted questionable campaign practices. According to his statement, Hanna’s friends handed Dick $50,000 in cash and told him to spend it “‘for any purpose that is required to make Mr. Hanna’s election certain.’” When he told the men he could not use it (and he almost certainly did not use it), he was told “to put it under the bed….”[150]

What’s illuminating about Dick’s story is not that he refused to use the money, but that the men thought he would use it. They had assumed Hanna would hire people who would accept cash to pay off legislators.

It’s Over

The assumption that Hanna and his associates would use money unethically was understandable. Major Rathbone would eventually be convicted of a felony. Another top Hanna aide during the 1898 Senate race was Harry Daugherty. Daugherty escaped blame in the Otis affair and was later active in Warren Harding’s presidential campaign. He was appointed U.S. Attorney General, but resigned because of his role in the Teapot Dome scandal[151].

Theodore Roosevelt summed up the prevailing attitude. Hanna was “a burly, forceful man, of admirable traits” but he had “been trained in the post-bellum school of business and politics, so that his attitude towards life, quite unconsciously [was]…‘If I like it, I’ll buy it.’”[152]

Hanna and his allies believed their opponents would stop at nothing in the campaign:

[M]oney and offices, threats and debauchery were resorted to…. I doubt if there is in the history of the country anything quite like it, quite as bad. You know nothing was left undone.”[153]

Hanna believed that opposition legislators were damaging the Republican Party by violating their promises to vote for him. He felt, in Horner’s words, that they were ignoring principles “that were good for the country.”[154]

Fortified by this sense of mission, Hanna did what he had to do.

The transcripts of the secretly overheard telephone calls are the best evidence of his personal complicity.[155] The calls took place over three days – from Friday, January 7 through Sunday, January 9, 1898. Boyce was a speaker in most transcripts, but not in all. Other speakers included “Columbus,” “Major Rathbone,” or simply “Major,” among others.[156]


[149] Ibid., 3, 4. Rathbone’s version of the Griffith story agrees with Garfield’s and Croly’s. Garfield statement, p. 6, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers; Croly, Marcus Alonzo Hanna, 257.

Warken and the New York Times described an incident that occurred earlier, in which Griffith’s wife was separately retrieved from her hotel after Griffith had already arrived at Rathbone’s hotel. Warken, “The First Election of Marcus A. Hanna,” 75, 76; “Majority Against Hanna,” New York Times, Jan. 4, 1898.

[150] Edited Dick statement, p. 25, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers. Dick’s assertion that if “any money had been used [unlawfully] it would have come from that pile…nobody else had any….” is perplexing. Ibid. “The Hanna organization was awash with money….” Shoemaker, “Mark Hanna and the Transformation of the Republican Party,” 245.

[151] Rathbone statement, p. 2, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers; James N. Giglio, H. M. Daugherty and the Politics of Expediency (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1978), 91-116, 124, 173.

[152] Theodore Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1920), 354,;view=1up;seq=23. Hanna is not named, but Roosevelt had him in mind. The paragraph contains an anecdote about the same person who misunderstands the word “cosmos.” Scholars have linked Roosevelt’s cosmos story to Hanna. See Nathan Miller, Theodore Roosevelt: A Life (New York: Morrow, 1992), 402.

[153] Original Dick statement, p. 30, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers (softened slightly in Edited Dick statement, p. 21, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers).

[154] Marcus A. Hanna to John Hay, Dec. 4, 1897, John Hay Papers; Horner, Ohio’s Kingmaker, 229.

[155] Hanna usually was content to delegate. Dover statement, p. 17, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers.

[156] 33 Cong. Rec. 6610 (1900).

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Kristie Miller is the author of three political biographies, Ruth Hanna McCormick (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize); Isabella Greenway; Ellen and Edith: Woodrow Wilson's First Ladies. She holds degrees from Brown University and Georgetown University. Learn more at


Robert H. McGinnis is a member of the Washington DC bar. He is a graduate of the University of Florida Law School and Harvard Divinity School. His work has appeared in the Florida Law Review, Lawyer of the Americas (now Inter-American Law Review) and Rolling Stone. He and Kristie co-edited A Volume of Friendship: The Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Isabella Greenway. Learn more at