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In this quotation:

The stage-type of statesman was amusing, whether as Roscoe Conkling or Colonel Mulberry Sellers, but what was his value? The statesmen of the old type, whether Sumners or Conklings or Hoars or Lamars, were personally as honest as human nature could produce.

What's the meaning of “the stage-type of statesman” versus “the statesmen of the old type”?

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1 Answer 1

The author (Henry Adams) appears to be contrasting statesmen who play to popular opinion (demagogues, in other parlance; "stage-type" here) with those of the old-school who held their own moral compass and performed actions for the country instead of merely acting for a crowd.

I gather this from a search for more context and offer it here because without such context the example you give is rather opaque.

Google Book Result

You can read further by clicking the above link. The passage speaks of Grant and Garfield, among others, who were presidents of the United States after the Civil War. Grant especially was noted for having one of the most corrupt administrations in American political history (up to that time). But the issue seems to be one of public posturing vs. action without regard to what the press wrote and the public thought.

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