When the president began handing out appointments, William Merriam was a strong candidate for many positions. In business, he had recently been touted as the right man to head the Northern Pacific Railroad, of which he was already a director. In politics, he was mentioned as the front-runner for many very important positions: Department of the Interior, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of War, ambassador to Germany, and ambassador to Russia. He was widely considered very capable of filling any of those positions, and had another thing going for him: no skeletons in the closet, and no scandals for the opposition to resurrect.
And it’s true: the rival party well knew of Merriam’s qualifications, his intelligence, and affability. His only problem came from within his own party’s ranks—yet it had nothing to do with politics, and little to do with Merriam himself. » Continue Reading.