As early as 1870, some Republican leaders expressed unhappiness with the Grant administration. Sen. Carl Schurz of Missouri was displeased by the general air of corruption in the nation’s capital and ended a working relationship with the president. Schurz managed to form a successful alliance on the state level between his Liberal Republican followers and the Democrats.
Other Republicans began to feel that their party was too firmly in the hands of Eastern financial and industrial interests. Feelings of disgust mounted as word of scandals began to be heard. Two of the most prominent critics were:
- Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, who excoriated Grant for his attempted land grab in the Dominican Republic.
- Horace Greeley, a New York newspaper editor, who was known for his criticism of Southern Democrats and his calls for honest government.
The disaffected elements met in Cincinnati, Ohio
, in May 1872 for the purpose of offering an alternative to Grant. The Liberal Republican convention offered the nomination to Greeley, a man of such strong views that he was bound to alienate many within the movement. The platform called for:
- Civil service reform, an idea that had initially been supported by Grant, but opposed by his cronies
- An end to punitive Reconstruction
- The Tariff did not receive a strong statement since regional differences made unanimity impossible.
Greeley was supported by the Democratic Party in 1872, the only time in American history that a major party has embraced a third party candidate. The joining of these two organizations was not effective; Grant was easily returned for a second term.
Most Liberal Republicans returned to the Republican Party by the next presidential election in 1876.