1880

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

OVERVIEWS & CHRONOLOGIES: 1880

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

OVERVIEW

Election Year: 1880

Election Day Date: November 2, 1880

Winning Ticket: James A. Garfield (49, Church of Christ), Chester Arthur (51, Episcopalian), Republican 4,453,337 48.31% 214 58.0%

Losing Ticket(s):

  • Winfield Hancock (56, Baptist), William English (58,) Democratic 4,444,267 48.22% 155 42.0%
  • James Weaver (47)  Benjamin Chambers (63)Greenback 306,135 3.32% 0 0.0%
  • Other (+) – – 13,671 0.15% 0 0.0% 

Voter Turnout: 79.4%

Incumbent President and Vice President on Election Day: Rutherford Birchard Hayes, William A Wheeler, Republican, 1877-1881

Population: 1880: 50,262,000

Nominal GDP (billions of dollars): $10.4 Real GDP (billions of 2005 dollars): $191.8
GDP Deflator (index 2005=100%) 5.40
Nominal GDP per capita (current dollars): $206 Real GDP per capita (year 2005 dollars): $3,816

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 Conventions

Central Issues (Nomination/Primaries):

  • Rutherford B. Hayes kept his promise to serve one term and not seek the nomination again in 1880.
  • Republicans ended Reconstruction in the South;
  • Tariffs: Republicans supported higher tariffs; Democrats supported lower tariffs

Leading Candidates (Nomination/Primaries):

Republican Party candidates:

  • James A. Garfield, U.S. representative (Ohio)
  • Ulysses S. Grant, former President of the United States (Illinois)
  • James G. Blaine, U.S. senator from (Maine)
  • John Sherman, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury (Ohio)

Democratic Party candidates:

  • Winfield Scott Hancock, U.S. Major General (Pennsylvania)
  • Thomas F. Bayard, U.S. senator (Delaware)
  • Samuel J. Randall, U.S. representative (Pennsylvania)
  • Henry B. Payne, former U.S. representative (Ohio)
  • Allen G. Thurman, U.S. senator (Ohio)

Main Controversies (Nomination/Primaries):

  • Former President Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) seeking a third term arrived at the Republican convention as the frontrunner. But the pro-Grant “boom” triggered a potent anti-third-term movement crying “Anyone to Beat Grant.”
  • A National Blaine Club and local “Blaine Clubs” championed James G. Blaine

Major Personalities (Nomination/Primaries): Ulysses S. Grant; Wharton Barker (Philadelphia banker); Roscoe Conkling and his Stalwarts, James G. Blaine and his “Half-Breeds”

Turning Points (Nomination/Primaries):

  • The economy was recovering from the Panic of 1873.
  • In 1878, the Democrats gained control of both Houses of Congress.
  • Three major Republican factions:
    • Stalwarts (regulars):  Roscoe Conklin, Thomas Platt and other bosses, supporters of Grant, 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: Carl Schurz, Henry Ward Beechers and other “good government” types appalled by what the party had become.
  • The Greenback Party nominated candidates and championed the use of greenbacks, paper money, as they had in 1876.

Conventions (Dates & Locations):

  • Republican National Convention: June 2-8, 1880 Interstate Exposition Building; Chicago, 36th ballot, James A. Garfield (Ohio) Chester A. Arthur (New York)
  • Democratic National Convention: June 22-24, 1880 Cincinnati Music Hall; Cincinnati John W. Stevenson (Kentucky), 2nd ballot Winfield S. Hancock, (Pennsylvania) William H. English (Indiana)

Convention Turning Points:

Republican National Convention:

  • Conkling wanted a “unit rule” at the Republican National Convention to force state delegations to cast their votes as one. The Half-Breeds defeated this proposal but could not get their hero, Blaine, nominated.
  • James Garfield (Congressman, Ohio, Senator-elect) spoke so eloquently in support of his fellow Ohioan John Sherman, he gained the delegates’ support for himself as a candidate. Garfield became the dark horse candidate on the 35th ballot and the frontrunner for the nomination, beating Grant on the 36th. Garfield was a compromise between the Stalwarts and the Half-Breeds.

Democratic National Convention:

  • Wisconsin delegation commenced movement to switch votes and catapulted General Winfield Scott Hancock to the nomination on the second ballot

Number of Ballots to Choose Nominees:

Republican National Nomination

Presidential 36th ballot

  • James A. Garfield 399
  • Ulysses S. Grant 306
  • James G. Blaine 42

Vice Presidential 1st ballot

Levi P. Morton (withdrew on NY boss Roscoe Conkling’s behest)

  • Chester A. Arthur 468
  • Elihu B. Washburne 193
  • Marshall Jewell 44
  • Horace Maynard 30
  • Blanche Kelso Bruce 8
  • James L. Alcorn 4
  • Edmund J. Davis 2
  • Thomas Settle 1
  • Stewart L. Woodford 1

Democratic Party nomination

Presidential 2nd ballot after Shifts

  • Winfield S. Hancock 171 320 705
  • Thomas F. Bayard 153.5 112 2
  • Samuel J. Randall 6 128.5 0
  • Henry B. Payne 81 0 0
  • Allen G. Thurman 68.5 50 0
  • Others 247.5 124.5 31
  • Abstaining 10.5 3 0

Vice Presidential 1st ballot

  • William H. English 738

Third Party Candidates & Nominations:

  • Greenback Party nomination: President, James B. Weaver; Vice President, Benjamin J. Chambers
  • The American Party (A new nativist party) President, John W. Phelps (Former Civil War general, head of the Vermont Anti-Masonic movement); Vice President, Samuel C. Pomeroy, former U.S. Senator (Kansas)

Party Platform/Issues: 

This election seemed particularly lacking in serious issue clashes.

  • Republican Party: Passed by voice vote; tariff, protectionist; strong federal power, “The Constitution of the United States is a supreme law, and not a mere contract”; civil service reform
  • Democratic Party: “Free trade” policy to lower tariffs; revenue only tariff; decentralization of the federal government; increased local government; civil service reform; end Chinese immigration; Presidential election of 1876, “the great fraud”

General Election Controversies/Issues: Tariff, Protectionism

Campaign Innovations (General Election):  James Garfield’s Front Porch Campaign

Major Personalities (General Election): Congressman James Weaver of the Greenback party (mocked and dismissed for advocating an eight-hour workday and women’s suffrage);

Campaign Tactics:

Republican Party:

  • Garfield’s campaign was well-funded and well-run
  • Garfield also conducted an early version of the “front-porch” campaign, greeted supporters at his home.
  • Republicans were restrained because “Hancock the Superb” was a Civil War hero. Still, they dismissed him as a “padlocked” candidate, representing “no policy, no principle, no issue, nothing but the party which has nominated him.” Warned he would be a figurehead covering up Democratic corruption
  • Democratic Party: Attacked the “fraud of ‘76”, the “stolen” 1876 election, calling the President “Rutherfraud.” Opposed Republican corruption and the characters of both Garfield and Arthur.
  • Thomas Nast’s cartoon mocking Hancock as clueless, asking “WHO IS TARIFF, AND WHY IS HE FOR REVENUE ONLY?”

Turning Points (General Election):

  • Economic rebound (End of Panic of 1873)
  • In late October, Democrats publicized the “Morey Letter,” flooding New York City alone with halfa-million copies. The letter, allegedly written by Garfield, supported Chinese immigration. Garfield eventually denounced it as a forgery, but his hesitation fed the controversy and almost lost him the election.
  • Republicans mocked Hancock for saying “The tariff is a local question” – an answer that was economically sound, politically disastrous.
  • Democrats reminded voters that Garfield had been suspected of receiving a $329 bribe in the Credit Mobilier scandal. They chalked the number, “329,” on buildings all over the country.
  • A Democratic pamphlet compared the “Bright Record of the Patriot Hancock” with the “Black Record of the Politician Garfield”
  • Big fight pitted around two states New York and Indiana, where Garfield was told confidentially that there were “30,000 merchantable votes in the state, … which side will manage to buy most of them is the question.”
  • The historian James Ford Rhodes wrote that in Indiana, “money was used to an extent hitherto unknown in American politics.”

Popular Campaign Slogans:

Campaign Songs:

  • Democratic Party: “Hancock And English Union March”;
  • Republican Party: “Garfield and Arthur Quickstep.” (James A. Garfield) If the Johnnies Get Into Power Again

Influential Campaign Appeals or Ads: Democratic “tariff for revenue only”

Garfield born in a log cabin “so politically perfect a mansion”

Republicans sing sneeringly about Hancock: “In the Union War I fought so well/That my name is greeted with the ‘rebel yell.’

Money Spent (Each Campaign/Party/Overall): Approximately $2,000,000.

Defining Quotation (Winning Candidate):

  • “The doctrines announced in the Chicago convention, are not the temporary devices of a party to attract votes and carry an election; they are deliberate convictions, resulting from a careful study of the spirit of our institutions, the events of our history and the best impulses of our people…. If elected, it will be my purpose to enforce strict obedience to the constitution and the laws, and to promote, as best I may, the interest and honor of the whole country, relying for support upon the wisdom of Congress, the intelligence and patriotism of the people and the favor of God.” James A. Garfield, Letter Accepting the Presidential Nomination, July 12, 1880
  • “Poverty is uncomfortable, as I can testify; but nine times out of ten the best thing that can happen to a young man is to be tossed overboard and compelled to sink or swim for himself. In all my acquaintance I never knew a man to be drowned who was worth the saving.” James A. Garfield
  • “The office of the Vice Presidency is a greater honor than I ever dreamed. A barren nomination would be a great honor.” Chester Arthur to Roscoe Conkling, refusing to decline the candidacy

Defining Quotation (Losing Candidate):

Campaign Quotations:

  • “I present to the Convention one who on the battlefield was styled ‘the superb,’ yet whose first act when in command of Louisiana and Texas was to salute the Constitution by proclaiming that, ‘the military rule shall ever be subservient to the civil power.’ I nominate one whose name will suppress all faction and thrill the republic.” Winfield S. Hancock Nominator
  • “All anti-machine Republicans . . . see that the only safety for the Republican party is in making some man such as yourself our candidate.” Wharton Barker, Philadelphia banker, letter to James Garfield

Election Issues:

  • Georgia’s electors cast their votes the second Wednesday in December (December 8, 1880) rather than the constitutionally-prescribed first Wednesday in the month (December 1, 1880). However, Congress decided to include Georgia’s vote in the official tally.
  • California’s electoral votes were split between Garfield (1) and Hancock (5). Since California became a state, a candidate has won the election without California only three times: Garfield in 1880, the Democrat Woodrow Wilson in 1912 and Republican George W. Bush in 2000.

Further Reading: 

  • Morgan, H. Wayne, From Hayes to McKinley: National Party Politics, 1877-1896 (1969).

Lasting Legacy of Campaign:

  • Smallest popular vote victory margin; Garfield won by only 2000 more than Hancock
  • First time delegates one of the major parties cast votes for an African American candidate, Vice Presidential candidate Blanche Kelso Bruce at the Republican National Convention

 

CHRONOLOGY

  • April 10, 1877 Hayes withdraws troops from South Carolina
  • April 24, 1877: Republicans end Reconstruction in the South, withdraw troops from Louisiana
  • September 6, 1877: Hayes above New York Senator Roscoe Conkling authority, when he announces he will replace Collector of the Port of New York, Chester A. Arthur, and naval officer Alonzo Cornell, and instead nominates Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., however Conkling blocks Roosevelt’s nomination.
  • September 1877: Hayes tours the South.
  • May, 1878: House Democrats begin investigating the 1876 Presidential election, Hayes fears he might be replaced by Tilden.
  • November 1878: Democrats gain control of both Houses of Congress.
  • February 3, 1879: Resolution of differences between Hayes and Senator Conkling, Senate confirms Hayes choices for the New York Customhouse, the start of civil service system reform.
  • May 29, 1879: Hayes vetoes the appropriations bill for a third time, Hayes objects to the army “policing the polls.”
  • June 1879: Hayes vetoes the appropriations bill, because Democrats exclude election law funds.
  • Tariffs: Republicans supported higher tariffs; Democrats supported lower tariffs
  • A National Blaine Club and local “Blaine Clubs” formed champion James G. Blaine .
  • June 2, 1880: Rutherford B. Hayes keeps his promise to serve one term and does not seek the nomination again in 1880.
  • June 2-8, 1880: Republican National Convention convenes at the Interstate Exposition Building in Chicago, Illinois. The convention nominates on the 36th ballot James A. Garfield (Ohio) for President, and Chester A. Arthur (New York) for Vice President. Former President Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877) seeking a third term arrives at the Republican convention as the frontrunner, but the pro-Grant “boom” triggers a potent anti-third-term movement crying “Anyone to Beat Grant.” Conkling wants a “unit rule” at the Republican National Convention to force state delegations to cast their votes as one. The Half-Breeds defeat this proposal, but are unable to get their hero, Blaine, nominated. James Garfield (Congressman, Ohio, Senator-elect) speaks so eloquently in support of his fellow Ohioan John Sherman, he gains the delegates’ support for himself as a candidate. Garfield becomes the dark horse candidate on the 35th ballot and the frontrunner for the nomination, beating Grant on the 36th. Garfield is a compromise between the Stalwarts and the Half-Breeds. Levi P. Morton withdraws on NY boss Roscoe Conkling’s behest. To appease the Stalwarts, Chester A. Arthur is nominated for Vice President.
  • June 11, 1880: Greenback Party Convention convenes and nominates James B. Weaver for President, and Benjamin J. Chambers for Vice President. The party’s platform champions the use of greenbacks, paper money, as they had in 1876.
  • June 17, 1880: Prohibition National Convention nominates Neal Dow for President.
  • June 22-24, 1880: Democratic National Convention convenes in the Cincinnati Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio. John W. Stevenson (Kentucky) serves as chairman.  The convention nominates on the 2nd ballot Winfield S. Hancock (Pennsylvania) for President, and William H. English (Indiana) for Vice President. Wisconsin delegation commences movement to switch votes and catapults General Winfield Scott Hancock to the nomination on the second ballot.
  • July 1, 1880: Anti-Masonic National Convention nominates John Wolcott Phelps for President.
  • July 12, 1880: James A. Garfield accepts the Presidential nomination in a letter.   
  • The American Party (A new nativist party) nominates John W. Phelps (Former Civil War general, head of the Vermont Anti-Masonic movement) for President, and Samuel C. Pomeroy, former U.S. Senator (Kansas) for Vice President.
  • Republicans dismiss “Hancock the Superb” a Civil War hero as a “padlocked” candidate, representing “no policy, no principle, no issue, nothing but the party which has nominated him.” Republicans warn Hancock would be a figurehead covering up Democratic corruption.
  • Democratic Party attacks the Republicans for the “fraud of ‘76”, the “stolen” 1876 election, calling the President “Rutherfraud.”
  • Thomas Nast’s cartoon mocking Hancock as clueless, asking “WHO IS TARIFF, AND WHY IS HE FOR REVENUE ONLY?”
  • October 18, 1880: Democrats publicize the “Morey Letter.” New York City alone is flooded with halfa-million copies. The letter, allegedly written by Garfield, supports Chinese immigration.
  • Oct 21, 1880: Garfield denounces the “Morey Letter” as a forgery, but his hesitation feeds the controversy and almost loses him the election.
  • Republicans mocked Hancock for saying “The tariff is a local question” – an answer that was economically sound, politically disastrous.
  • Democrats remind voters that Garfield had been suspected of receiving a $329 bribe in the Credit Mobilier scandal. They chalk the number, “329,” on buildings all over the country.
  • Democrats publish a pamphlet that compares the “Bright Record of the Patriot Hancock” with the “Black Record of the Politician Garfield.”
  • Big fight surrounds two states New York and Indiana, where Garfield is told confidentially that there were “30,000 merchantable votes in the state, … which side will manage to buy most of them is the question.”
  • November 2, 1880: Election Day, Republicans James Garfield is elected President  and Chester A. Arthur is elected Vice President.
  • December 1, 1880: Presidential electors cast their electoral votes in their state capitals. California’s electoral votes split between Garfield (1) and Hancock (5).
  • December 8, 1880: Georgia’s electors cast their votes the second Wednesday in December rather than the constitutionally-prescribed first Wednesday in the month (December 1, 1880). However, Congress decides to include Georgia’s vote in the official tally.
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