Mark Hanna’s 1898 Senate Bribery Scandal – page 8

James B. Morrow, the editor of The Cleveland Leader,[119] reported that Hanna said to him:

I would not give a sent [sic] for any man’s vote. I am not engaged in that kind of business….If I am to be defeated by the use of money well and good but I shall not spend a dollar to prevent that defeat.”[120]

These statements are not authoritative for several reasons. First, both Garfield and Morrow thought of themselves as principled men. Both men – generally – opposed vote buying, as Hanna knew. The earnest Garfield, in particular,[121] had warned Hanna to his face, “If money is used I shall vote against you.”[122] Plus, Garfield believed that Hanna had personally promised him he was innocent.[123]

Morrow admired upstanding candidates too; he scathingly described one politician as “utterly without political principles and wholly without the moralities which generally govern men….”[124] It is doubtful that Hanna, knowing the views of these men, would have revealed demeaning campaign secrets to them.

Second, both quotations arose when Hanna was being urged to buy votes from Democrats,[125] not from Republicans like Otis. Hanna was a political professional. He knew that Democratic legislators would be delighted to trick him into offering a bribe and then expose him.

The third reason for discounting the quotations is that both Garfield and Morrow prided themselves on being knowledgeable Hanna insiders, when they were not. Garfield, a supposed confidante of Hanna, knew nothing of Rathbone’s activities.[126] Morrow, who thought he “knew everything that was going on,”[127] never “saw any desire on his [Hanna’s] part to ‘dominate.’”[128]

A confession made by another Hanna ally, George A. Myers, also showed that Garfield and Morrow overestimated their intimacy. Myers was a political force among Cleveland’s African-Americans. Long after Hanna’s death, Myers admitted bribing Representative William H. Clifford from Cuyahoga County to vote for Hanna in the Senate race.[129] Myers’s confession solved a mystery about Representative Clifford that had stumped the self-described insiders, Garfield and Morrow.

Before the election, Clifford had inexplicably delayed in signing an agreement to vote for Hanna, even though he had previously said he would. According to Garfield:

I never knew why Clifford delayed doing so. He always talked to me as though he certainly meant to vote for Mr. Hanna.[130]

Morrow thought he had an explanation. In 1906 he wrote:

Now Clifford could have been easily bought. That he wasn’t bought is proof of the integrity of Mr. Hanna’s purpose…. When Clifford found that he could not get money he voted for Mr. Hanna, as he meant to all along.[131]

Morrow’s explanation was rousing, but wrong: Clifford’s vote was bought. In 1920, Myers confessed:

I served Mr. Hanna because I loved him and even though I put my head in the door of the Ohio Penitentiary to make him U.S. Senator….[132]

When I paid Clifford to vote for M.A.[Marcus Alonzo Hanna] I did not think it a dishonest act. I was simply playing the game.[133]


[119] Dictated Statement of James B. Morrow made in Washington, D.C., April 17, 1906, pp. 6, 16, box 4, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers

[120] Ibid., 10, quoted (and corrected) in Croly, Marcus Alonzo Hanna, 263.

[121] On January 2, 1898, Garfield wrote in his diary, “How specious are the arguments for evil doing.” Garfield Diary 1898, Jan. 2, 1898, box 5, James Rudolph Garfield Papers, Library of Congress. One doctoral dissertation on Garfield consistently referred to him as naïve. “Apparently, the G.O.P. boss [Hanna] convinced the puritanical young politician of his pristine honesty.” Jack M. Thompson, “James R. Garfield: The Career of a Rooseveltian Progressive 1895-1916” (PhD. diss., University of South Carolina, 1958), 46, 99, 214, 50. ProQuest (5805576). Garfield “traveled an independent course.” Hoyt Landon Warner, Progressivism in Ohio 1897 -1917 (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1964), 255.

[122] Garfield statement, p. 10, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers.

[123] Ibid., 12. In 1910, Garfield described a letter in which Hanna denied “in the most positive way” the bribery charge, but this letter does not seem to be in Garfield’s papers. James R. Garfield to Herbert Croly, Sept. 23, 1910, box 110, James Rudolph Garfield Papers.

Garfield did believe Hanna had used an intermediary to bribe Cleveland City Council members. Garfield statement, p. 13, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers. “[I] always felt that he lacked ideals, politically. He had been brought up in the school of practical politics….He said you had to take human nature as it came.” Ibid., 14.

[124] Morrow statement, p. 8, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers. Morrow helped Croly prepare Hanna’s biography. Croly, Marcus Alonzo Hanna, v, vi.

[125] According to Garfield, a “delegation…from Cleveland” [Emphasis added] had urged Hanna to buy votes, but Hanna had “declined to do it.” The Cleveland delegation had urged Hanna to buy the votes of Democrats. Garfield statement, pp. 10, 7, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers. Garfield also described Hanna’s refusal to pay “two Democrats” to leave the state. Ibid., 7.

Garfield mentioned several instances when Hanna reportedly declined to buy Republican votes, but it is unclear if Garfield personally knew of these refusals or if he simply was told about them. Ibid., 3, 6, 7, 8. In some diary entries and correspondence with Croly, Garfield did not specify party affiliations of potential bribe recipients. Garfield Diary 1898, Jan. 1-3, 1898 and James R. Garfield to Herbert Croly, Sept. 23, 1910, James Rudolph Garfield Papers.

The Hanna quote (“I would not give a sent [sic]….”) contained in Mr. Morrow’s statement also came in response to the suggestion that Hanna pay off a Democrat. Morrow statement, p. 10, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers.

[126] Garfield statement, pp. 10, 12, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers.

[127] Morrow statement, p. 10, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers. See also Croly, Marcus Alonzo Hanna, 263, 264.

[128] Morrow statement, p. 16, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers. This was hardly an accepted view. Statement of Honorable Theodore E. Burton, Member of Congress from the Cleveland, Ohio, District, and Chairman of the Rivers & Harbors Committee, made April 16, 1906, p. 5, box 4, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers; Lincoln Steffens, “Ohio: A Tale of Two Cities,” McClure’s Magazine 25, no. 3 (July, 1905): 294,

[129] John A. Garraty, ed., The Barber and the Historian: The Correspondence of George A. Myers and James Ford Rhodes, 1910 – 1923 (Columbus, OH: Ohio Historical Society, 1956), 108; Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Ohio, 93:3. Before bribing Clifford, Myers’s friends used other tactics. “I chased him [a man identified as “Cliff”] and we got him to our Hotel and they all jumped him…the whole gang.” Once there, Hanna “nailed him.” Jere Brown to George A. Myers, Dec. 31, 1897, The Ohio Historical Society, The African-American Experience in Ohio, George A. Myers Papers,

[130] Garfield statement, pp. 6, 7, Hanna-McCormick Family Papers.

[131] Ibid., 7 (a supplemental notation written by James B. Morrow).

[132] Garraty, The Barber and the Historian, 118.

[133] Ibid., 108.

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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