The Election of 1884 as the Democratic New York Governor, Grover Cleveland goes up against the Republican Senator from Maine, James G. Blaine… Let’s get into it.
Chester Arthur’s Presidency
Chester Allen Arthur was the 21st president of the United States following the assassination of his predecessor, James A. Garfield and many stalwarts or Republican politicians who got important jobs via special favours saw Arthur’s ascension to the oval office as a golden opportunity to continue the corrupt politics that had occurred under former president Ulysses S. Grant.
However, Arthur decided to turn on his stalwart past and signed into law the Pendleton Civil Service Act which basically meant that political jobs should be given to those who earned it by way of a person’s merit or skills and not because of any special favors.
Arthur’s time in office would also see him reducing taxes, making the U.S. Navy stronger than it was before and making the act or practice of Polygamy a crime in the United States. Unfortunately during Arthur’s presidency, his health was declining due his bout with Bright’s Disease or Nephritis which is the inflammation of the kidneys and as such Arthur questioned if he could make it another term but decided to make an the effort to run for the Republican Party’s nomination in 1884.
James Blaine From Maine
In addition to President Arthur, a few other names were considered for the GOP nomination like Robert Todd Lincoln, the Secretary of War and famous son of President Abrham Lincoln and famed Civil War General, William Tecumseh Sherman but both strongly declined.
Two names that did run for the nomination was George Edmunds, a Senator from Vermont and James Blaine, the former Speaker of the House and Senator from Maine who had previously ran for the GOP nomination in 1876 and 1880 but lost.
However, as the old saying goes “Third Times the Charm” and in Blaine’s case that proved to be true as James Blaine got the nomination for president with his running mate in this election being John Logan who was a Senator from Illinois.
Blaine’s time as both a Senator and Speaker of the House, plus his status as a reformer when it comes to politics made him look like the perfect candidate to run for president…Now, let’s turn to the Democrats.
The Democratic Party have been having a lot of misfortune when it comes to presidential elections whether it’s a result of their actions to secede from the Union during the Civil War, many confederates not being allowed to vote during Reconstruction or the madness that was the election of 1876. Considering the last Democrat to be the president was Andrew Johnson 19 years ago in 1865 and he wasn’t even elected to the office, the Democrats were hoping to get lucky this time around and they attempted to do so by nominating the Governor of New York, Grover Cleveland.
Cleveland’s running mate is someone we’ve been seeing a whole lot in the last couple of articles, Thomas Hendricks the now former Governor of Indiana who won electoral votes in 1872 after the death of the previous candidate and he was the running mate to Samuel J. Tilden during the close but controversial election of 1876.
Much like Tilden, Grover Cleveland was a ‘Bourbon Democrat’… No, they weren’t liberals with serious alcohol addiction, they were Democrats who believed in similar policies to that of Thomas Jefferson like a limited government and high tariffs, although the bourbon part of the name was used as a way to say these types of Democrats were old fashion. So, those are the two major candidates from the Republicans and Democrats now it’s time to look at the third parties.
Third Party Candidates
While there were a lot of third parties who ran in this election, only three really stood out… First was the Prohibition Party, a party whose main issue was to stop the consummation and disruption of alcohol; They chose a man by the name of John St. John, who was the former Governor of Kansas with William Daniel, a politician from Maryland as his running mate.
Next was the Greenback Party who got around 3% of the popular vote in the previous election and were hoping to continue this momentum by nominating the former Governor of Massachusetts, Benjamin Butler and former Confederate General, Absolom West as his running mate.
Finally, the Equal Rights Party emerged again for the first time since 1872 to nominate another woman for president in the form of Belva Ann Lockwood who was a lawyer and former teacher from Washington with a woman named Marietta Stow as her running mate and even though Lockwood and the Equal Rights Party will be pulling in around .04% of the popular vote, her participation in this election is memorable for her being the first woman to appear on the ballots.
So, that’s all of the third parties taken care of, now let’s talk about the two major candidates…not so much about their campaigns as they both are seen as reform-minded politicians but rather the salacious scandals that will be at the forefront of this election.
The Mulligan Letters
During the election, it’s revealed that James Blaine despite being a reformer doesn’t have such a clean political image as a number of letters discovered by someone named James Mulligan shows that Blaine has been using his positions of power for special favors to many businesses.
In one of those letters, it describes how Blaine was paid a whole lot of money by the Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad company for land grants and another one of those letters simply ending with the words “Burn This Letter”.
Once news regarding what would be called “The Mulligan Letters” goes out to the public, many Democrats and Blaine detractors are chanting “Burn This Letter” to Blaine, but that’s not the only issue the Senator from Maine has to deal with but more on that later.
So, it looks like an easy sweep for the Democrats once this scandal hits, but they’ll soon discover their own candidate has a checkered past of his own.
Ma Ma Where’s My Pa!
While Blaine deals with the fallout of the Mulligan Letters, it’s brought to light that the crimefighting Governor of New York who’s allegedly known for his integrity and doing the right thing had an illegitimate child with a woman who wasn’t his wife named Maria Halpin. According to Cleveland who admitted to the affair once the news broke, that the baby (who was a boy named Oscar) was indeed his and that he had the affair when he was single during his time as a lawyer and his also been secretly financing this kid.
However other accounts claim that Halpin was raped by Grover Cleveland which led to the illegitimate child and when Maria wouldn’t let go of the whole thing, Cleveland had her committed to an insane asylum and has been using his connections to cover up the situation.
The scandal leads to Cleveland’s squeaky-clean image taking a hit with many people at his rallies yelling the phrase “Ma Ma, Where’s My Pa”. So, you have both of the major candidates suffering a scandal that’s tarnishing their well-respected reputations, but things go from bad to worse when the October Surprise comes into play.
Rum, Romanism & Rebellion
While the Mulligan Letters have damaged much of Blaine’s reputation in the eyes of many reform-minded Republicans called ‘Mugwumps’, his biggest problem appears during a GOP meeting in the lead-up to the election.
Conservative Reverend, Samuel Burchard arrives at the meeting and makes a speech where he decries the Democratic Party as nothing more but the party of “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion” and while the rebellion part refers to the Democrats part in the Civil War, it’s the Rum and Romanism parts in that phrase that’s going to be the most problematic.
The rum part refers to the Irish Americans and the word Romanism is seen as a despairing remark to Roman Catholics and once people within the Democratic Party discover that this was said in a meeting that James Blaine was at, they try to connect Blaine and the Republicans of being anti-Irish and anti-Catholic even though his mother was a Catholic herself.
So, those are the major scandals involving the two major candidates and now it’s time to see which of these two will come out on top by looking at the results.
For this election, you needed 201 or more electoral votes to win and by the end of it all, Grover Cleveland becomes the 22nd president of the United States with 219 electoral votes compared to James Blaine who receives 182 electoral votes.
While Cleveland may have won just enough electoral votes to win the presidency, he barely wins the popular vote with Cleveland getting 48.9% to Blaine’s 48.3% with 57,579 votes separating the two making this the closest victory in the popular vote since 1880.
The votes for several states in this election were very close with the most notably being Grover’s home state of New York which he wins with about 1,000 more votes than his rival, if Blaine had won New York, he would’ve won with 218 electoral votes making him the new president, but many historians believe it’s the revelation of the Mulligan Letters, the speech regarding Romanism and the Prohibition Party’s involvement that ultimately costs Blaine the win.
Speaking of the Prohibition Party, they ran hard against Blaine and the Republicans following the speech that included the word ‘rum’ and for their efforts, John St. John came in third place with 1.5% of the popular vote and Benjamin Butler of the Greenback Party came in fourth with 1.3%.
Cleveland’s win not only makes him the first Democrat elected to the White House since James Buchanan in 1856 but it also ends an almost 30 year losing streak for the Democrats with six consecutive election losses under their belt from 1860-1884.
So, that’s the election of 1884, Grover Cleveland gets the Democrats back in the White House for the next four years but what will the economy and the country look like by the time 1888 rolls around… will just have to wait and see.
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The Election of 1876: Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel J. Tilden
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The Election of 1872: Ulysses S. Grant vs. Horace Greely
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The Election of 1868 of Ulysses S. Grant vs. Horatio Seymour
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The Election of 1864: Abraham Lincoln vs. George McClellan
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The Election of 1860: Abraham Lincoln vs. Stephen Douglas vs. John C. Breckinridge vs. John Bell
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