During the administrations of President Grant his leadership in shaping financial policy became generally recognized.
In some cases the culprits were so near to President Grant that many persons found it difficult to avoid the suspicion that he was himself implicated, and never perhaps was his hold upon popular favour so slight as in the summer and autumn of 1876.
A personal quarrel with President Grant led in 1872, however, to his joining the Liberal-Republican revolt in supportof Horace Greeley, and as the Liberal-Republican and Democratic candidate he was defeated for re-election.
As a result, President Grant pronounced for Baxter, and the Brooks forces disbanded.
As early as 1870 President Grant recommended measures of civil service reform, and succeeded in obtaining an act authorizing him to appoint a Civil Service commission.
In 1871 he was sent to Santo Domingo as a member of the commission appointed by President Grant to examine the condition of the island, the government of which desired annexation; and when that scheme was defeated through Sumner's opposition he returned (1872) as the representative of the Samana Bay Company, which proposed to take a lease of the Samana peninsula; but though in 1874 he revisited the island, it was only to see the flag of the company hauled down.
In 1873 President Grant nominated him for chief justice of the United States, but in spite of his great learning and eminence at the bar, his ante-war record and the feeling of distrust experienced by many members of the senate on account of his inconsistency, aroused such vigorous opposition that his nomination was soon withdrawn.