1888

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

OVERVIEWS & CHRONOLOGIES: 1800

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

OVERVIEW

Election Year: 1888

Election Day Date: November 6, 1888

Winning Ticket:

  • Benjamin Harrison (55, Presbyterian), Levi Morton (64,  Episcoplian), Republican 5,443,633 47.80% 233 58.1%

Losing Ticket(s):

  • Grover Cleveland (51, Presbyterian), Allen Thurman (75, ), Democratic 5,538,163 48.63% 168 41.9%
  • Clinton Fisk (60, ), John Brooks (unknown), Prohibition 250,017 2.20% 0 0.0%
  • Alson Streeter (55, ), Charles Cunningham (unknown), Union Labor 149,115 1.31% 0 0.0%
  • Other (+) – – 7,918 0.07% 0 0.0%

Voter Turnout: 79.3%         

Incumbent President and Vice President on Election Day: Stephen Grover Cleveland,  Thomas Hendricks Democratic 1885-1889

Population: 1888: 60,614,000

Nominal GDP (billions of dollars): $13.9 Real GDP (billions of 2005 dollars): $282.7
GDP Deflator (index 2005=100%) 4.90 Population (in thousands): 60,614
Nominal GDP per capita (current dollars): $229 Real GDP per capita (year 2005 dollars): $4,664

Number of Daily Newspapers: 1,610 (1890)

Average Daily Circulation: 8,387,188 (1890)

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

Method of Choosing Nominees: National Party Conventions

Central Issues (Nomination/Primaries): The Tariff;

Cleveland as the “veto” President blocking Congress

Democrats lost 12 seats in the House of Representatives in 1886

Leading Candidates (Nomination/Primaries):

Republican Party candidates:

  • Benjamin Harrison, former U.S. senator (Indiana)
  • John Sherman, U.S. senator (Ohio)
  • Russell A. Alger, former governor of Michigan
  • Walter Q. Gresham, former U.S. Treasury Secretary (Indiana)
  • William B. Allison, U.S. senator (Iowa)
  • Chauncey Depew, president of the New York Central Railroad (New York)

Democratic Party candidates:

  • Grover Cleveland, President of the United States (New York)

Main Controversies (Nomination/Primaries):

  • Passage of the Pendleton Act and Cleveland’s own reformist inclinations cut down on patronage opportunities – infuriating Democrats.
  • Cleveland introduced the Mills bill to lower tariff rates to help reduce the Treasury surplus of $94 million in 1887, but the Republican Senate blocked it.in the “great tariff debate.”

Major Personalities (Nomination/Primaries): Matt Quay, Thomas Platt, John Wanamaker

Turning Points (Nomination/Primaries):

  • Republican Party: James G. Blaine knew he was too controversial a figure within the party and declined to run. For party unity, he endorsed either Benjamin Harrison or John Sherman.
  • Democratic Party: Needed a new Vice Presidential nominee. Vice President Hendricks died in office in November 1885 only eight months into the term.

Conventions (Dates & Locations):

  • Democratic National Convention June 5-7, 1888, Exposition Building, Saint Louis Patrick A. Collins of Massachusetts 1st ballot, Grover Cleveland (New York) Allen G. Thurman (Ohio)
  • Republican National Convention June 19-25, 1888, Auditorium, Chicago 8 ballots Benjamin Harrison (Indiana) Levi P. Morton (New York)

Convention Turning Points:

Democratic National Convention:

  • President Cleveland was renominated unanimously without a formal ballot.
  • First incumbent Democratic president renominated since Martin Van Buren in 1840. Republican National Convention:
  • Frederick received one delegate vote for the Presidential nomination, making him the first African American to receive a ballot vote for a major party ticket at a convention

Number of Ballots to Choose Nominees:

Republican Party nomination

Presidential 8th ballot

  • Benjamin Harrison 80 91 94 217 213 231 278 544
  • John Sherman 229 249 244 235 224 244 231 118
  • Russell A. Alger 84 116 122 135 142 137 120 100
  • Walter Q. Gresham 111 108 123 98 87 91 91 59
  • William B. Allison 72 75 88 88 99 73 76 0
  • Chauncey Depew 99 99 91 0 0 0 0 0
  • James G. Blaine 35 33 35 42 48 40 15 5
  • John J. Ingalls 28 16 0 0 0 0 0 0
  • Jeremiah M. Rusk 25 20 16 0 0 0 0 0
  • William W. Phelps 25 18 5 0 0 0 0 0
  • Edwin H. Fitler 24 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
  • William McKinley 2 3 8 11 14 12 16 4
  • Robert T. Lincoln 3 2 2 1 0 0 2 0
  • Samuel F. Miller 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0
  • Joseph B. Foraker 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0
  • Frederick Douglass 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
  • Frederick D. Grant 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
  • Creed Haymond 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0

Vice Presidential Ballot 1st Ballot

  • Levi P. Morton 591
  • William W. Phelps 119
  • William O. Bradley 103
  • Blanche K. Bruce 11
  • Walter F. Thomas 1

Democratic Party nomination

  • Pres. Grover Cleveland 822 (100.00%)

Vice Presidential Ballot 1st ballot after shifts

  • Allen G. Thurman 684 822
  • Isaac P. Gray 101 0
  • John C. Black 36 0
  • Not voting 1 0

(Gray, an ex-Republican, lost the nomination to Thurman, because rivals remembered his partisan past.)

Third Party Candidates & Nominations: 

  • The Prohibition Party candidates: Clinton B. Fisk and John Brooks, won a quarter million popular votes, as the prohibition movement grew.
  • The Union Labor Party candidate: Alson Streeter  won 150,000 popular votes, but no significant national support)

Convention Chairman:

  • Republican: Temporary Chairman: John M. Thurston (NE); Permanent Chairman: Morris M. Estee (CA)

Party Platforms/Issues: Similarities between Republican and Democratic platforms, except regarding the tariff.

  • Democratic Party: “tariff plank” Defense of the Cleveland administration; tariff and taxes reduction; statehood for the western territories; sympathy for home rule in Ireland; tax reform. Tension between conservative and populists in the party; conservatives, states rights, the primary issue; populist, free coinage of silver, the primary issue.
  • Republican Party: Protective tariffs; repeal tobacco taxes; bimetallism (gold and silver; veterans pensions; opposition to polygamy.

General Election Controversies/Issues:

Free Traders vs. Protectionists; New York Electoral votes; Irish vote;

  • Democratic Party: Tariff as unnecessarily high; unnecessary taxation was unjust.
  • Republican Party: High tariffs protect American industry from foreign competition, guaranteeing high wages, high profits, and high growth

Campaign Tactics:

Republican Party:

  • Matthew Quay chairman of the party’s National Committee raised at least $3,000,000 from pro-tariff manufacturers.
  • local Republican clubs – with a national coordinating body — essential in organizing supporters
  • Young Republican Clubs mobilized youth
  • William McKinley and James G. Blaine campaigned and gave stump speeches around the country.
  • Harrison conducted a “Front-Porch” campaign in Indianapolis, delivered more than 80 speeches from his house, hosted supporters and gave speeches on the issues to the public. Received wide news coverage.
  • Caroline Harrison’s image Harrison’s wife was used for campaign posters.

Democratic Party:

  • Maintaining the tradition of presidential passivity, President Cleveland did not actively campaign and banned any Cabinet members from campaigning. Only his 75-year-old vice presidential candidate Thurman stumped.
  • “Frankie Clubs” cashed in on the popularity of Grover Cleveland’s young wife Francis Folsom Cleveland. Her image also appeared on numerous campaign memorabilia (posters, handkerchiefs, plates, napkins, ribbons, and playing cards).

Major Personalities (General Election): William Wade Dudley; Matthew Quay (Chairman, Republican Party); Thomas C. Platt

Turning Points (General Election):

  • “The Murchison letter”: Republicans claimed  Cleveland was pro-British by publicizing a letter George Osgoodby a California Republican posing as one “Charles F. Murchison,”wrote to the British ambassador to the U. S, Sir Lionel Sackville-West. Claiming to be a former Englishman “Murchison” asked which candidate was better for England. Sackville-West foolishly answered, saying Cleveland. As a result, the Ambassador lost his job and, many argue, Cleveland lost the Irish vote, New York State and the presidency.

Popular Campaign Slogans:

Democrats:

  • [mocking Republican corruption]: “Blocks of Five, Dudley.”
  • “Tariff Reform.”
  • “Rights of Working-Men.”
  • “A Public Office is a Public Trust.”
  • “Low Taxes.”
  • “The Solid South.”
  • “Frankie-The Nation’s Favorite Belle”
  • “Mrs. Cleveland/Queen of 60 Millions of Free People”
  • “His Grandfather’s Hat – It’s Too big for BEN.”

Republicans:

  • [reply to Democratic slogan]: “The Same Old Hat – It Fits Ben Just Right.”
  •  (Harrison): “Rejuvenated Republicanism.”
  • “Tippecanoe and Morton Too, 1840-1888.”
  • “Our Champions, 1888, Protection for Home Industries.”
  • [Harrison and Morton]: Protection/Civil Service Reform/Reduction of Surplus.
  • “Protect Home Industry.”
  • “Tippecanoe and Tarrif Too.”“Protection to American Homes.”
  • “No British Pauper Wages for America.”
  • “The Stars and Stripes Will Always Wave for Protection.”

Campaign Song:

  • Democrats: “The Red Bandanna”: “Yes let the Red Bandanna wave on high! They will have to wash their bloody red shirt…. The Red Bandanna will elect two honest men I know….. The Red Bandanna will elect two honest men I know… The noblest Roman of them all and the Man from Buffalo”;
  • Republicans: “A Substitute He Found”: “For when the Strife was (3x), A Substitute He Found (3x)”; “We Are Coming, Grover Cleveland”: “Your vetoes are behind us, your insults are before, With Harrison is leading, with shout and cheer and song, We are coming, Grover Cleveland, eight hundred thousand strong.” (Benjamin Harrison) He’s All Right

Money Spent (Each Campaign/Party/Overall): Republican Party $3,000,000

Defining Quotation (Winning Candidate):

  • “We have joined now a contest of great principles, and . . . the armies which are to fight out this great contest before the American people will encamp upon the high plains of principle, and not in the low swamps of personal defamation or detraction.” Benjamin Harrison
  • “We have men who boast that they are cosmopolitans, citizens of the world. I prefer to say that I am an American citizen, and I freely confess that American interests have first place in my regard.” Benjamin Harrison

Defining Quotation (Losing Candidate):

  • “Our present tariff laws, the vicious inequitable, and illogical sources of unnecessary taxation.” Grover Cleveland, Annual; Message to Congress, December 1891

Campaign Quotations:

  • “Divide the floaters into Blocks of Five, and put a trusted man with the necessary funds in charge of these five, and make them responsible that none get away and that all vote our ticket.” William Wade Dudley, Treasurer of the Republican National Committee

Election Issues:

  • “Blocks of Five” electoral fraud in Indiana committed by the Republican Party
  • Buying Votes; “Boss” Thomas C. Platt sought to raise $150,000 for the Republican Party in New York, to buy votes and the election. In return, Platt wanted to be appointed Secretary of Treasury.

Further Reading:

  • Calhoun, Charles W., Minority Victory : Gilded Age Politics and the Front Porch Campaign of 1888 (2008).

Lasting Legacy of Campaign:

  • Cleveland, along with Andrew Jackson in 1824, Samuel Tilden in 1876, and Al Gore in 2000 won the popular vote but lost the presidency.  Cleveland had a thin popular vote margin, (48.6% to 47.8%), but Harrison’s 233-168 electoral margin was largely due to win Cleveland’s home state, New York, by 1% of the vote.
  • A nation divided: net difference in total voting between 1880, 1884, 1888 at record lows.

 

CHRONOLOGY

  • November 25, 1885: Vice President Hendricks dies in office only eight months into the term.
  • January 19, 1886: Cleveland signs the Presidential Succession Act into law.
  • June 2, 1886: Cleveland marries twenty-two year old Francis Folsom.
  • November 1886: Democrats lose 12 seats in the House of Representatives.
  • March 3, 1887: The Tenure of Office Act of 1867 is repealed; unconstitutional to require Senate confirmation when a President wishes to remove a cabinet member.
  • September 20-October 22, 1887: Cleveland tours the southern and western United States.
  • Passage of the Pendleton Act and Cleveland’s own reformist inclinations cut down on patronage opportunities – infuriating Democrats.
  • 1887: Cleveland introduced the Mills bill to lower tariff rates to help reduce the Treasury surplus of $94 million, but the Republican Senate blocks it in the “great tariff debate.”
  • 1887: Cleveland as the “veto” President blocking Congress (the tariff)
  • December 6, 1887: Cleveland gives his annual address to Congress, “Our present tariff laws, the vicious inequitable, and illogical sources of unnecessary taxation.”
  • February 23, 1888: The Industrial Reform Party National Convention held in Grand Army Hall, Washington DC nominates Albert E. Redstone
  • May 16, 1888: Equal Rights Party Convention convenes in Des Moines IA. nominates Belva Ann Lockwood for President, and Alfred H. Love PA for Vice President, Charles S. Wells NY later replaces Love.
  • May 16, 1888: 4th Greenback Party National Convention convenes in Cincinnati OH, few delegates attend and no decisions are made.
  • May 17, 1888: The United Labor Party National Convention convenes in the Grand Opera House in Cincinnati, Ohio and nominates on the first ballot Robert H. Cowdrey for President and W.H.T. Wakefield (Kansas) for Vice President.
  • May 17, 1888: The Union Labor Party National Convention convenes in Cincinnati, Ohio and nominates unanimously Alson Jenness Streeter for President and Samuel Evans for Vice President, who declines and Charles R. Cunningham (Arkansas) later replaces Evans on the ticket.
  • May 31, 1888: Prohibition Party Convention nominates Clinton B. Fisk for President and John Brooks for Vice President. The prohibition movement is gaining momentum.
  • June 5-7, 1888: Democratic National Convention convenes at the Exposition Building in Saint Louis, Missouri. Patrick A. Collins (Massachusetts) serves as chairman. The convention renominates on the 1st ballot Grover Cleveland (New York) for President, and Allen G. Thurman (Ohio) for Vice President. President Cleveland is renominated unanimously without a formal ballot. First incumbent Democratic president renominated since Martin Van Buren in 1840.
  • James G. Blaine knew he was too controversial a figure within the Republican Party and declines to run. For party unity, he endorsed either Benjamin Harrison or John Sherman.
  • June 19-25, 1888: Republican National Convention convenes at the Auditorium; Chicago, Illinois, nominates on the 8th ballot Benjamin Harrison (Indiana) for President and Levi P. Morton (New York) for Vice President. Frederick receives  one delegate vote for the Presidential nomination, making him the first African American to receive a ballot vote for a major party ticket at a convention (Gray, an ex-Republican, lost the nomination to Thurman, because rivals remembered his partisan past.)
  • August 15, 1888: American Party’s third and last National Convention convenes in Grand Army Hall, Washington DC nominates James Langdon Curtis (New York) for President and James R. Greer (Tennessse) for Vice President, who declines and is replaced by and Peter D. Wigginton (California).
  • September 12, 1888: Second session of the Greenback National convention convenes with only seven delegates in attendance, no nominee; party ceases to exist.
  • William McKinley and James G. Blaine campaign and give stump speeches around the country.
  • Harrison conducts a Front Porch campaign in Indianapolis, delivers more than 80 speeches from his house. Reporters cover this enthusiastically.
  • Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Allan G. Thurman is main campaigner for the ticket.
  • October 8, 1888: Cleveland renews the Chinese Exclusion Act.
  • October 21, 1888: “The Murchison letter” is published. Republicans claim Cleveland was pro-British. They publicize a letter by California Republican George Osgoodby posing as one “Charles F. Murchison,” who writes to the British ambassador to the U. S, Sir Lionel Sackville-West. Claiming to be a former Englishman “Murchison” asks which candidate was better for England. Sackville-West foolishly answers, saying it would be Cleveland. As a result, the Ambassador loses his job and, many argue, Cleveland losses the Irish vote, New York State and the presidency.
  • November 6, 1888: Election Day, Republicans Benjamin Harrison is elected President and Levi Morton is elected Vice President. “Blocks of Five” electoral fraud in Indiana is committed by the Republican Party. “Boss” Thomas C. Platt sought to raise $150,000 for the Republican Party in New York, to buy votes and the election. In return, Platt wants to be appointed Secretary of Treasury.
  • January 14, 1889: Presidential Electors cast the electoral vote in their state capitals.
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