Mark Hanna’s 1898 Senate Bribery Scandal – page 4

As he progressed, he made enemies. He was frequently in court.[52] One relentless adversary was the other owner of the Times, who described Boyce as “a pretender and a scoundrel.”[53] After Boyce sold his interest in the newspaper, articles caricatured him as “Smoothy.”[54] Eventually, Boyce left Los Angeles, moving first to Boston, then to New York.[55] During all this time, he maintained his interest in Republican politics, writing occasional letters to President McKinley to enclose newspaper clippings or to recommend candidates for political appointments.[56]

In New York, Boyce became acquainted with C.C. Shayne, a prominent furrier and president of the Merchants and Manufacturers Board of Trade of New York.[57] Shayne was a McKinley supporter. He corresponded with the President and received frequent invitations to visit the White House.[58]

McKinley wanted to keep Hanna in the Senate.[59] Boyce and Shayne were eager to help McKinley. Shayne had sent Hanna a five-page letter volunteering his services just days after the November legislative elections in Ohio.[60] By January 1898, Boyce had convinced Shayne that the best way to assist Hanna would be for Boyce to go to Ohio and reason with Otis. Shayne wrote to Hanna recommending the plan and Hanna discussed the proposition with Major Estes G. Rathbone, a detective by trade, who was working on the Hanna campaign. They agreed to let Boyce come. Shayne gave Boyce a hundred dollars to cover his expenses.[61]

After Boyce left New York, Shayne sent a letter to President McKinley saying that he had “sent a man to Columbus” who would bring “strong influence to bear upon Otis….” Although Shayne promised everything would be “open and above board,” he wanted to make sure McKinley understood a key point:

You will make a note of this that my men always win. I never lost a political fight in my life, and now that I have put my shoulder to the wheel for Mr. Hanna, you can depend upon it that he will be landed in the United States Senate.[62]

After reaching Ohio, Boyce went to Hanna’s headquarters in Columbus. He met with Rathbone, who was in charge of his activities.[63] From Columbus, Boyce took the train to Cincinnati and checked into the Gibson House, where he waited for Representative Otis.[64]

Once Otis arrived, Boyce explained that he was a friend of Shayne, who was a friend of the President. Both were “very anxious about the Ohio situation” and hoped Hanna would be elected.[65]

Although Otis was a Republican, he was a silver advocate and he told Boyce he was opposed to Hanna. It was clear to Otis, however, that Boyce planned to offer a bribe. Otis made a polite excuse to leave, but agreed to see Boyce again at 3:00 PM on the following day. Otis then left the Gibson House and went to consult his lawyer, Col. T. C. Campbell.[66]

Otis told the lawyer what had happened and insisted to Campbell that he did not want to see Boyce again. But Campbell, who also opposed Hanna’s election, recognized an opportunity. He advised Otis, “This fellow is evidently a rascal,” but “you might as well… hear what he has to say anyhow.” A year later, a committee of the United States Senate reviewed these events and concluded that “Mr. Otis never had any intention of yielding to bribery. He encouraged Mr. Boyce by the advice of others only in order to entrap him.”[67]


[52] “$1. The Assessed Value of a Shattered Reputation,” Los Angeles Times, Sept. 25, 1888; “Courts,” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 8, 1889; “The Law,” Los Angeles Times, May 9, 1890.

[53] Dinkelspiel, “Isaias Hellman and the Creation of California,” 1, 2.

[54] “More ‘Smoothy,’” Los Angeles Times, April 28, 1887; “Madstone,” Los Angeles Times, April 30, 1887.

[55] “Car Kills Gen. H. H. Boyce,” New York Times, Oct. 15, 1903.

[56] John Addison Porter to Henry H. Boyce, June 25, 1897 and Jan. 5, 1898, reels 19 and 25, William McKinley Papers, Library of Congress; George B. Cortelyou to Gen. Henry H. Boyce, Sept. 18, 1897, reel 21, William McKinley Papers.

[57] “C. C. Shayne on Gen. Boyce,” New York Times, Feb. 6, 1898; C. C. Shayne to President William McKinley, May 3, 1897, reel 2, William McKinley Papers.

[58] John Addison Porter to C. C. Shayne, June 3, 1897, reel 19, William McKinley Papers. See also John Addison Porter to C. C. Shayne, Nov. 10, 1897 and June 23, 1898, reels 23 and 30, William McKinley Papers.

[59] William McKinley to M. A. Hanna, Jan. 7, 1898, box 1, Charles W. F. Dick Papers, Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, OH.

[60] C. C. Shayne to Mark A. Hanna, Nov. 13, 1897, reel 2, William McKinley Papers.

[61] Edited Dick statement, pp. 21, 23, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers; Statement of Major Estes G. Rathbone, taken in Washington, D. C., December 30, 1905, p. 2, box 4, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers; Croly, Marcus Alonzo Hanna, 262; “C. C. Shayne on Gen. Boyce,” New York Times, Feb. 6, 1898.

[62] C. C. Shayne to President William McKinley, Jan. 7, 1898, box 66, George B. Cortelyou Papers, Library of Congress. After the scandal broke, Shayne first denied his involvement with Boyce, then admitted it. “Shayne Denies the Charge,” Washington Post, Jan., 30, 1898 and “C. C. Shayne on Gen. Boyce,” New York Times, Feb. 6, 1898.

[63] Rathbone statement, p. 2, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers. No evidence submitted to the investigating committee indicated Hanna met with Boyce.

[64] 33 Cong. Rec. 6622 (1900).

[65] Ibid. Boyce also said he represented J.P. Morgan.

[66] Ibid., 6627, 6622, 6624. Campbell was an associate of John R. McLean, a Hanna opponent. “Bribery Fake Exploded,” Ohio State Journal, Jan. 11, 1898.

[67] 33 Cong. Rec. 6622, 6627, 6590 (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