The 1868 presidential election took place after the Civil War, during the period of reconstruction in the United States. The southern states that had seceded from the Union were gradually rejoining, and all but three had already done so by the time of the election.
Democratic candidate Horatio Seymour was defeated by Republican General Ulysses S. Grant, who had played an important role in the Civil War.
The Democratic Party decided not to nominate incumbent President Andrew Johnson, who had been elected as vice president under Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 election. After Lincoln’s assassination, Johnson took his seat as President of the United States for the rest of his term, but Congress had unsuccessfully attempted to impeach him for his reconstruction policies. Johnson, who was from the Confederate state of Tennessee, was pro-slavery, and his policies were not in line with those of his party.
George Pendleton, who had been a candidate for vice president during the election of 1864, was a leading contender for the presidential nomination during the 1868 election. After much deliberation, the Democratic Party selected Horatio Seymour from New York as their presidential nominee. At the convention, Seymour declined the nomination several times, but the party refused to accept it. They chose Francis Preston Blair as his running mate for regional balance. Seymour campaigned on a reconstruction plan similar to that of former President Lincoln, which was fairly lenient.
On the opposing side, the Republican Party preferred a candidate who would punish the southern states for the war and their secession. Without much deliberation, they chose a war hero General Ulysses S. Grant as their presidential candidate, knowing they needed someone who would enforce the proposed Radical Reconstruction.
The Republican Party successfully portrayed Seymour in a negative light, attacking his character and even his family. Seymour chose not to use negativity in his campaign, instead attempting to guide the campaign in a more positive direction.
The 1868 election was a close match in terms of popular vote, with Grant receiving just over half of the votes and Seymour with just under half. However, the electoral vote distribution saw Grant as the clear winner with 214 votes to the 80 Seymour received. Ulysses S. Grant won the election and became the eighteenth President of the United States.