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Election of 1884

Chester Arthur was determined to seek the Republican nomination again in 1884, despite the fact that he was suffering from a fatal kidney disease known only to himself, his family and his doctors. Arthur enjoyed general approval with the electorate, but had failed to gain support from any of the factions (Stalwarts, Half-Breeds or reformers) within the party. James G. Blaine, former Speaker of the House and a Senator from Maine, had failed to secure the nomination in 1876 and 1880. He and his backers believed that their time had arrived in 1884. Blaine, unlike most Republicans, enjoyed strong support among immigrant groups, which were typically Democratic voters. He was especially popular with Irish-Americans for his willingness to confront the British on a number of controversial issues. The Republican Party was still plagued by factionalism and the reform groups, the Mugwumps, bolted the party to support the Democratic ticket. The Democrats` prospects looked promising in 1884. They had come close to electing a president in 1876 and 1880, and in 1882 had taken control of the House of Representatives. The nomination was given to Grover Cleveland, the former mayor of Buffalo and the then current governor of New York. He ran as a "clean government" candidate. The campaign was extremely bitter and focused on the candidates` shortcomings. Cleveland, years earlier in Buffalo, had fathered an illegitimate child. He had taken full financial responsibility for his offspring and publicly acknowledged that he had made a mistake. Republican opponents, however, kept the matter in the public mind by chanting, "Ma, Ma, where`s my Pa? Gone to the White House. Ha, ha, ha." Blaine, on the other hand, was a good family man, but had apparently engaged in questionable investment schemes while on the public payroll. Much of the campaign furor revolved around the difference between private and public misdeeds. Democratic partisans used the refrain, "Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, the continental liar from the state of Maine!" The turning point came when a clueless Protestant minister and Blaine supporter, Samuel Burchard, publicly described the Democrats as the party of "rum, Romanisim and rebellion." Blaine was present to hear the remarks and failed to disassociate himself from them, leaving the impression that he believed that many of the urban immigrants were drunkards, followers of the pope, and the cause of the Civil War. Irish support evaporated by the eve of the election, allowing Cleveland to win by a narrow 20,000 vote margin. The Greenback Party, supplemented by a growing group concerned about the abuses of capitalism, ran poorly. The greenback cause had passed its prime, but the underlying issue of currency expansion would be a major force in future elections.

Election of 1884


Electoral Vote


Grover Cleveland (NY)
Thomas A. Hendricks (IN)




James G. Blaine (ME)
John H. Logan (IL)




Benjamin F. Butler (MA)
A.M. West (MS)

Greenback and Anti-Monopoly



John P. St. John (KS)
William Daniel (MD)