In 1868 Ulysses S. Grant remarked that there were three great parties in the United States: the Republican, the Democratic, and the Methodist Church. This was an understandable tribute, given the active role of leading Methodists in his presidential campaign, but it was also a realistic judgment, when set in the context of the denomination's growing political authority over the previous half century. As early as 1819, when, with a quarter of a million members, “the Methodists were becoming quite numerous in the country,” the young exhorter Alfred Branson noted that “politicians… from policy favoured us, though they might be skeptical as to religion,” and gathered at county seats to listen to the preachers of a denomination whose “votes counted as fast at an election as any others.” Ten years later, the newly elected Andrew Jackson stopped at Washington, Pennsylvania, en route from Tennessee to his presidential inauguration. When both Presbyterians and Methodists invited him to attend their services, Old Hickory sought to avoid the political embarrassment of seeming to favor his own church over the fastest-growing religious movement in the country by attending both—the Presbyterians in the morning and the Methodists at night. In Indiana in the early 1840s the church's growing power led the Democrats to nominate for governor a known Methodist, while tarring their Whig opponents with the brush of sectarian bigotry. Nationally, as the combined membership of the Methodist Episcopal Church [MEC] and Methodist Episcopal Church, South [MECS] grew to over one and a half million by the mid-1850s, denominational leaders could be found complaining that the church was so strong that each political party was “eager to make her its tool.” Thus Elijah H. Pilcher, the influential Michigan preacher, found himself in 1856 nominated simultaneously by state Democratic, Republican, and Abolition conventions.