1884

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

OVERVIEWS & CHRONOLOGIES: 1884

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

OVERVIEW

Election Year: 1884

Election Day Date: November 4, 1884

Winning Ticket:

  • Grover Cleveland (47, Presbyterian), Thomas Hendricks (65, ), Democratic 4,914,482 48.85% 219 54.6%

Losing Ticket(s):

  • James G. Blaine (54, Congregationalist), John Logan (58, ), Republican 4,856,903 48.28% 182 45.4%
  • John St. John (51, Congregationalist), William Daniel (62, ) Prohibition 150,890 1.50% 0 0.0%
  • Benjamin Butler (66, ), Absolom West (66, )Greenback 134,294 1.33% 0 0.0%
  • Other (+) – - 3,576 0.04% 0 0.0%

Voter Turnout: 77.5%

Incumbent President and Vice President on Election Day:

Chester Alan Arthur, None Republican 1881-1885

Population: 1884: 55,826,000

Nominal GDP (billions of dollars): $11.8 Real GDP (billions of 2005 dollars): $229.7
GDP Deflator (index 2005=100%) 5.13 Nominal GDP per capita (current dollars): $211 Real GDP per capita (year 2005 dollars): $4,114

Number of Daily Newspapers: 971 (1880)

Average Daily Circulation: 3,556,395 (1880)

Method of Choosing Electors: Popular vote (mostly General Ticket/Winner Take All)

Method of Choosing Nominees: National Party Convention

Central Issues (Nomination/Primaries): Republicans lost 33 Congressional seats in the 1882 midterm elections, a backlash against political patronage and Republican corruption.

Leading Candidates (Nomination/Primaries):

Republican Party candidates:

  • James G. Blaine, former U.S. senator (Maine)
  • Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States (New York)
  • George F. Edmunds, U.S. senator (Vermont)
  • John A. Logan, U.S. senator (Illinois)

Democratic Party candidates:

  • Grover Cleveland, governor of (New York)
  • Thomas F. Bayard, U.S. senator from (Delaware)
  • Thomas A. Hendricks, former governor of (Indiana)
  • Allen G. Thurman, former U.S. senator from (Ohio)
  • Samuel J. Randall, U.S. representative from (Pennsylvania)
  • Joseph E. McDonald, U.S. senator (Indiana)

Main Controversies (Nomination/Primaries):

  • Republicans split into three major factions:
    • Stalwarts (regulars):  Roscoe Conklin, Thomas Platt and other bosses,  Grant allies, and machine politicians, supporting the spoils system, fighting civil service reform and opposing a conciliatory policy toward the South.
    • Half-Breeds: James G. Blaine, Henry Cabot Lodge, Theodore Roosevelt and other Republican moderates who pushed for some reforms but remained party loyalists.
    • Reformers (soon labeled Mugwumps in this campaign): Carl Schurz, Henry Ward Beechers and other reformers seeking “good government,” appalled by what the party had become and finally willing to bolt.

Major Personalities (Nomination/Primaries):

Tammany Hall, John Kelly (Tammany boss);

Turning Points (Nomination/Primaries):

Democratic Bosses from New York City’s political machine Tammany Hall tried to block the front-runner Grover Cleveland, New York’s reforming governor who fought Tammany corruption.

Conventions (Dates & Locations):

  • Republican National Convention: June 3-6, 1884 Exposition Hall; Chicago 4 James G. Blaine (Maine), John A. Logan (Illinois)
  • Democratic National Convention July 8-11, 1884 Exposition Building, Chicago William F. Vilas (Wisconsin) 2 Grover Cleveland (New York) Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana
  • Prohibition Party National Convention, July 23-24, 1884, Lafayette Hall, Pittsburgh PA
  • The National Greenback Labor Party, May 28, 29, 1884, Opera House, Indianapolis IN
  • The Equal Rights Party: September 20, 1884, San Francisco CA

Convention Turning Points:

Republican National Convention:

  • Stalwart faction challenged incumbent Chester Arthur’s nomination, because of his investigations into political corruption.
  • Arthur won his choice of party chairman, John R. Lynch, but lost momentum at the forth ballot, without being able to capture a majority.
  • Arthur received a third of his votes from the North, none from Ohio, 1 of 44 from Illinois, 9 of 30 from Indiana, 11 of 60 from Pennsylvania and only 31 of 71 from his home state of New York.
  • Blaine received 130 more than the majority needed, 67 votes from Arthur and 28 from Edmunds’

Democratic National Convention:

  • North Carolina’s delegation shifted their support towards front runner Governor Cleveland on the second ballot.

Number of Ballots to Choose Nominees:

Republican Party Nomination

Presidential 4th ballot

  • James G. Blaine 334.5 349 375 541
  • Chester A. Arthur 278 276 274 207
  • George F. Edmunds 93 85 69 41
  • John A. Logan 63.5 61 53 7
  • John Sherman 30 28 25 –
  • Others 21 21 24 24 (Joseph Roswell Hawley, Robert Todd Lincoln and William Tecumseh Sherman)
  • Vice Presidential: John A. Logan

Democratic Party nomination

Presidential 2nd ballot after shifts

  • Grover Cleveland 392 683
  • Thomas F. Bayard 170 81.5
  • Thomas A. Hendricks 1 45.5
  • Allen G. Thurman 88 4
  • Samuel J. Randall 78 4
  • Joseph E. McDonald 56 2
  • Others 35 0

Vice presidential (First ballot)

  • Thomas A. Hendricks IN 816
  • Not Voting 4

Third Party Candidates & Nominations:

  • The Equal Rights Party: President: Belva A. Lockwood DC; Vice President: Marietta L. Stow CA
  • Greenback Party National Convention (3rd): President first ballot B.F. Butler; VP Absalom M. West MS unanimously
  • Prohibition Party (4th ticket) unanimously: President: John Pierce St. John; Vice President: William Daniel

Convention Keynote Speaker:

  • Republican: John R. Lynch MS (first keynote speaker at a national convention)

Nominating Speech Speakers (President):

Daniel N. Lockwood (New York)

Edward S. Bragg in a rousing speech seconding Cleveland’s nomination: “They love him, gentlemen, and they respect him, not only for himself, for his character, for his integrity and judgment and iron will, but they love him most of all for the enemies he has made.” (meaning Tammany Hall – this prompted the Tammany boss to lunge at the speaker).

Convention Chairman:

  • Democratic: Temporary Chairman: Richard D. Hubbard TX; Permanent Chairman: William F. Vilas WI
  • Republican: Temporary Chairman: John R. Lynch (MS) (African American); Permanent Chairman: John B. Henderson (MO)
  • Equal Rights Party: Marietta L.B. Stowe (first woman to preside over a national nominating convention)
  • Greenback Party: Temporary Chairman: John Tyler Jr. FL (son of the President) Permanent Chairman: James B. Weaver IA
    Party Platform/Issues:
  • Democratic Party: One of the Democrats longest platforms; listed Republican failures; tariff revisions; taxes based on product necessity; rights of organized labor; restrictions on Chinese immigration
  • Republican Party: Railroad regulation; eight-hour work day; immigration, civil service reform; bureau of labor; public lands for settlers; high tariff “not for revenue only, but…to afford security to our diversified industries and protection to the rights and wages of the laborers.”
  • The American (Prohibition) Party: Opposed Masonry and polygamy, while advocating prohibition and direct election of the President.

General Election Controversies/Issues: Candidate Character; Catholic vote;

Major Personalities (General Election): “Bourbon Democrats” Daniel Manning, William C. Whitney, Arthur P. Gorman (conservative, business-oriented Democrats behind Cleveland’s candidacy).

Minor Parties; Mugwump Revolt; Democratic Campaign (Vice President’s stumping)

Campaign Tactics: Mudslinging

  • Democratic Party: Cleveland minimal campaigning, gave only a few speeches
  • Republican Party: Blaine gave over 400 speeches on a cross-country tour in the fall that lasted six weeks. He gave partisan speeches on the tariff.

Turning Points (General Election):

  • On July 21, the Buffalo Evening Telegraph reported “A Terrible Tale,” that Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock (the child’s paternity was unclear, but Cleveland had taken responsibility). Cleveland ordered his staff: “Tell the Truth.” That strategy enhanced his standing with the public, especially in contrast with Blaine’s evasiveness.
  • September 15, the Boston Journal published a number of the “Mulligan Letters”, discovered in 1876 and released by bookkeeper James Mulligan, which cost Blaine the nomination twice beforehand. Blaine wrote those letters to Warren Fisher, a Boston railroad lawyer. One letter dated on April 16, 1876, was a self-exonerating letter Blaine wrote, asking Fisher to sign to clear him of any wrong doings (being paid for Congressional favors for railroad companies) the cover letter was particularly damning and ended in “Burn this letter!”
  • Mugwumps: Republican reformers – many founders of the Party — opposed Blaine because of the scandals associated with him and supported Cleveland.
  • In a final campaign tour, on October 29 “black Wednesday”, the Reverend Samuel D. Burchard, while introducing Blaine, “We are Republicans, and don’t propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.”  Blaine’s failure to repudiate this slur alienated Catholics and Soutehrners – this may have cost Blaine New York’s electoral votes and the election.
  • John St. John, the Prohibition Party candidate, also helped sway New York’s electoral votes toward Cleveland. Usually the Prohibitionists allied with the Republicans but the Republicans pushed too hard for St. John to withdraw and as revenge, he campaigned more vigorously in New York against the Republicans.
  • When Blaine attends a banquet with some of the country’s wealthiest people in his honor at Delmonico’s he is pilloried for attending “Belshazzar’s Feast” or the “Boodle Banquet,” as most Americans suffered during the recession.

Popular Campaign Slogans:

Democrats:

  • “Grover the Good.”
  • Victory and Reform.”
  •  “Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, The Continental Liar from the State of Maine. Burn this Letter!

Republicans:

  • “Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa, [Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha.]” Democrats after the election.

Campaign Song: Democratic Party: (Grover Cleveland) Democrats, Good Democrats

Influential Campaign Appeals or Ads:

  • Democratic: “Burn, burn, burn this letter!” (referring the “Mulligan letters”)  “Ready for Business” (Irish for Cleveland)

Money Spent (Each Campaign/Party/Overall):

Republicans and Democrats spent nearly the same amount for their campaigns, approximately $2,000,000.

Defining Quotation (Losing Candidate):

  • “The letter is strictly true, is honorable to you and to me, and will stop the mouths of slanderers at once. Regard this letter as strictly confidential…. a favor I shall never forget…Kind regards to Mrs. Fisher. Burn this letter!” James Blaine, letter to Warren Fisher, April 16, 1876
  • “”but for the intolerant and utterly improper remark of Dr. Burchard, which was quoted everywhere to my prejudice and in many places attributed to myself, though it was in the highest degree distasteful and offensive to me. I should have carried New York by 10,000 if the weather had been clear on election day and Dr. Burchard had been doing missionary work in Asia Minor or Cochin China.” James G. Blaine to a friend after the election
  • “I cannot vote but I can be voted for.” Belva Lockwood, the first woman running for president and actually eligible.

Campaign Quotations:

  • This is a contest over “the copulative habits of one and the prevaricative habits of the other.” Lord James Bryce
  • “If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.” William Tecumseh Sherman, Sherman pledge
  • “We are told that Mr. Blaine has been delinquent in office but blameless in private life, while Mr. Cleveland has been a model of official integrity, but culpable in his personal relations. We should therefore elect Mr. Cleveland to the public office which he is so well qualified to fill, and remand Mr. Blaine to the private station which he is admirably fitted to adorn.” A Mugwump explaining his support for Cleveland
  • “We are Republicans and don’t propose to leave our party and identify with the party whose antecedents have been Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.” Reverend Samuel D. Burchard, October 29, 1884

Further Reading:  

  • Summers, Mark Wahlgren. Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion: The Making of a President, 1884 (2000).

Lasting Legacy of Campaign:

  • Often considered one of the nastiest campaigns ever.
  • The first Democrat elected President in twenty-five years and the first since the Civil War and Reconstruction

CHRONOLOGY

  • July 2, 1881: James Garfield is wounded by Charles Julius Guiteau who is hung June 30, 1882.
  • September 19, 1881: James Garfield dies from blood poisoning from doctors’ attempts to recover the bullet lodged in his pancreas;
  • September 22, 1881: Chester A. Arthur succeeds as President
  • March 22, 1882: Congress passes the Edmunds Act, excludes bigamists and polygamists from voting and holding office, and creates the “Utah commission” to supervise voting in the territory.
  • May 6, 1882: Revised Chinese Exclusion Act goes into law, bans Chinese immigration for 10 years, and bans American citizenship for Chinese immigrants.
  • May 15, 1882: Arthur agrees to a tariff commission, whose findings suggest tariff reductions.
  • November 7, 1882: Republicans lose 33 Congressional seats in the midterm elections, Democrats gain 50 seats, 197-118. The election is a backlash against political patronage and Republican corruption. Republicans gain 2 seats and a 38-36 minority in the Senate. Third parties fill the remainder of seats in both houses.
  • January 16, 1883: Congress passes the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. March 3, 1883: Congress passes the “Mongrel” Tariff Act, which reduces rates by less than 2 percent on certain items.
  • May 14, 1884: Anti-Monopoly Convention nominates Benjamin Franklin Butler for President.
  • May 28, 29, 1884: Greenback Party National Convention, National Greenback Labor Party convenes at the Opera House, in Indianapolis Indiana, and nominates Benjamin Franklin Butler (3rd) for President on the 1st ballot, and nominates unanimously Absalom M. West (Mississippi) for Vice President.
  • June 3-6, 1884: Republican National Convention convenes at the Exposition Hall,  Chicago, Illinois. 4th James Gillespie Blaine (Maine), John A. Logan (Illinois) Stalwart faction challenged incumbent Chester Arthur’s nomination, because of his investigations into political corruption. Arthur wins his choice of party chairman, John R. Lynch, but lost momentum at the forth ballot, without being able to capture a majority. Arthur receives a third of his votes from the North, none from Ohio, 1 of 44 from Illinois, 9 of 30 from Indiana, 11 of 60 from Pennsylvania and only 31 of 71 from his home state of New York. Blaine receives 130 more than the majority needed, 67 votes from Arthur and 28 from Edmunds.
  • June 20, 1884: American Prohibition Party Convention nominates Samuel C. Pomeroy for President.
  • July 8-11, 1884: Democratic National Convention convenes at the Exposition Building in Chicago, Illinois. William F. Vilas (Wisconsin) serves as chairman. The convention nominates on the 2nd ballot, Grover Cleveland (New York) for President, and Thomas A. Hendricks (Indiana) for Vice President. Democratic Bosses from New York City’s political machine Tammany Hall try to block the front-runner Grover Cleveland, New York’s reforming governor who fought Tammany corruption. North Carolina’s delegation shift their support towards front runner Governor Cleveland on the second ballot, allowing him to capture the nomination.
  • Republican reformers, Mugwumps– many founders of the Party — oppose Blaine because of the scandals associated with him and support Cleveland.
  • July 21, 1884: The Buffalo Evening Telegraph reports “A Terrible Tale,” that Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock (the child’s paternity was unclear, but Cleveland had taken responsibility). Cleveland orders his staff: “Tell the Truth.” That strategy enhances his standing with the public, especially in contrast with Blaine’s evasiveness.
  • July 23-24, 1884: Prohibition Party National Convention convenes at Lafayette Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (4th ticket). The convention unanimously nominates John Pierce St. John for President, and William Daniel Vice President.
  • September 20, 1884: Equal Rights Party Convention convenes in San Francisco CA, nominate: Belva A. Lockwood DC for President, and Marietta L. Stow CA for Vice President.
  • September-October 1884?: Blaine gives over 400 speeches on a cross-country tour in the fall that lasted six weeks. He gave partisan speeches on the tariff.
  • September 15, 1884: The Boston Journal published a number of the “Mulligan Letters”, discovered in 1876 and released by bookkeeper James Mulligan, which cost Blaine the nomination twice beforehand. Blaine wrote those letters to Warren Fisher, a Boston railroad lawyer. One letter dated on April 16, 1876, was a self-exonerating letter Blaine wrote, asking Fisher to sign to clear him of any wrong doings (being paid for Congressional favors for railroad companies) the cover letter was particularly damning and ended in “Burn this letter!”
  • October 1884: Cleveland gives his only two speeches of the campaign.
  • October 23, 1884: Andrew D. White in the Nation reflects on the campaign; “Party contests, have never before reached so low a depth of degradation in this . . . country.”
  • October 29, 1884: “Black Wednesday”: During Blaine’s final campaign tour, the Reverend Samuel D. Burchard, introduces Blaine and states, “We are Republicans, and don’t propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.” Blaine’s failure to repudiate this slur alienated Catholics and Southerners – this may have cost Blaine New York’s electoral votes and the election.
  • October 29, 1884: Blaine attends a banquet with some of the country’s wealthiest people in his honor at Delmonico’s and is pilloried for attending “Belshazzar’s Feast” or the “Boodle Banquet,” as most Americans are suffering during the recession.
  • Fall 1884?:John St. John, the Prohibition Party candidate, also helped sway New York’s electoral votes toward Cleveland. Usually the Prohibitionists allied with the Republicans but the Republicans pushed too hard for St. John to withdraw and as revenge, he campaigned more vigorously in New York against the Republicans.
  • November 4, 1884: Election Day, Democrats Grover Cleveland is elected President, and Thomas Hendricks is elected Vice President.
  • December 3, 1884: Presidential Electors cast the electoral votes in their state capitals.
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