Politics of the 1870s and 1880s

Author: Dorothy W. Hartman

Two seemingly incongruent trends marked the political landscape of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. At no other time was the citizen’s interest in elections and politics more avid than during this time period. In fact, 80 to 90 percent of the eligible voters (white and black males in the North and white males the South) consistently voted in local and national elections. This amazing turnout occurred at a time when the major political parties differed little on the issues and when the platforms of the two main national political parties were almost indistinguishable. Consequently, throughout the era, voters gave few strict mandates to either parties or individuals and the outcomes of the presidential races were determined by a relatively small number of votes. Although Grover Cleveland, elected in 1884, was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win office since James Buchanan in 1856, no sitting President had a majority of his own party in both houses of Congress for his entire term.

Political activity in the Midwest was both highly partisan and rousingly participatory. Thousands turned out for political rallies and parades, sometimes clothed in cheap but colorful costumes provided by the parties and marching along with the bands and floats. Men and women sat for hours in the hot sun devouring details on the issues of the day, regardless of the fact that the parties differed little on these very issues. These rallies were as much social events as political gatherings.

President Rutherford Hayes 1870 - 1880 Restored

The political debate was actively carried on in the press. Newspaper circulation far exceeded the number of voters in most counties, indicating that many families subscribed to more than one paper. In 1886, the Midwest published 340 dailies and 2900 weeklies, totals that were almost exactly the same as the number of television and radio stations in the nation in the mid-1950s. These papers flourished because they were semiofficial party organs, and provided a direct route from the party operatives to the rank and file. The news was almost as biased as the editorials.

Voters spoke of political loyalty in the same breath as religious affiliation. Most voted as their fathers had before them. A sample of thousands of interviews taken by directory makers in Illinois and Indiana in the mid-1870s showed that only 2 percent of men were without a party affiliation. Anyone uncomfortable with his party’s position would most likely not split his ticket and almost never switched parties. Instead, if he was really unhappy, he just stayed away from the polls on election day.

Given that the two parties were nearly evenly matched in the Midwest and the nation as a whole in the 1880s, turnout for elections was especially important. Nationally, less than two percentage points separated the total Democratic and Republican vote for congressmen in the elections of 1878, 1880, 1884, 1886 and 1888. On the presidential front, in 1880 Garfield was victorious over Hancock by only 7,000 votes. Cleveland, in 1884, edged out Blaine by only 70,000 votes out of 10 million cast. The Midwest was almost as close; Blaine was only 90,000 votes ahead of Cleveland out of 3 million votes cast regionally. Indiana went to Cleveland, the only state in the Midwest to do so, possibly because his vice-presidential running mate was Indiana Senator Thomas A. Hendricks.

Election Day

Clearly, a small shift in votes, a sharp drop in turnout or a bit of fraudulent manipulation of returns could decide the winners in local, state or even national races. Consequently, the parties aligned their strategy with the two main facts of political life, intense partisanship and very tight races. Indiana and New York were considered the ‘swing’ states, and much effort was expended by both parties on getting out the vote in these two states.

The Parties

The Republican Party first appeared on the national ballot in 1856. Following the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Whig party disintegrated, and meetings in the upper mid-western states led to the formation of this new party opposed to the spread of slavery into the western territories. The Republicans quickly became the dominant force in the North, and with the Confederate defeat, known as the party of the victors. The south became solidly Democratic, and would remain so for decades.

After the war, the Republicans continued the Whig tradition of promoting industrial development through high tariffs. The party promoted government activism, primarily to foster economic development. Freedmen and the white, Protestant population of the Northeast comprised their political base. It was during this post-war period that the party became known as the "Grand Old Party", or GOP.

The party advocated moralistic policies based on evangelical Protestant values. They generally supported restrictions on the sale and use of alcohol and limits on business openings on Sunday. Their support came from the Methodists and Baptists of the Northeast and Midwest and other evangelical sects.

Ulysses Grant 1870-1880

The party was not without dissent. After the disgrace and scandal of Ulysses Grant’s administration, a group of Republican civil service reformers provoked a revolt in the 1872 election. This issue was kept alive by a group of New York Republicans, known as Mugwumps, who continued to advocate for reform of the civil service patronage system. Grant was not without his supporters, who were known as Stalwarts. A third group, the Half-Breeds, favored moderate reform and the continuation of high tariffs.

In truth, the parties differed only slightly on the issues in the years after the war. The Republican party, for the most part, favored industrialists, bankers and railroad interests. In fact, more than one scandal during the era arose from corrupt dealings between politicians and railroad barons. Republicans more strongly favored hard money policies and strict laissez-faire economic policies, until public pressure forced the issue of regulation, especially with regard to railroad rates.

The modern form of the Democratic party began in the years after the War of 1812. Although the Democrats cannot be credited with starting conventions, platforms and highly institutionalized campaigning, they succeeded in bringing these features to new levels in the party system. From the mid-1830s to the Civil War, the Democrats were the nation’s majority party, controlling Congress, the presidency and many state offices. In general, the Democrats favored a confined and minimal federal government and states’ rights.

The party suffered its first major disruption in the mid-1850s. A large influx of Irish and German Catholic immigration precipitated a strong reaction among northern Democrats. Worries about the future of the "Protestant" nation led to the formation of the Know-Nothing party, which drew off many Democrats. Also, many Democratic leaders were reluctant to take a stand against slavery, and that was viewed as a pro-southern stand that permitted slaveholders to prevail in new territories and consequently to dominate in national politics. The new Republican party astutely played on the nativism and anti-southern sentiment, resulting in a new political alignment.

The Democrat’s second significant era lasted from the Civil War into the 1890s. Partisan loyalties planted early in the century and nurtured during the Civil War kept the party faithful loyal in election after election. Southern whites who had not been Democrats earlier flocked to the party in the aftermath of Reconstruction, making the Solid (Democratic) South a political reality.

Grover Cleveland

In keeping with their small government stance, Democrats asserted it was wrong to wield power to regulate individual behavior and religious beliefs. This stance gained them the support of German Lutherans, Roman Catholics and other Christians who were not evangelical.

In the national elections of the 1870s and 1880s, the Democratic platform differed only by degrees from the Republican. For years, both parties practiced the corrupt policy of doling out civil service jobs to party lackeys, while at the same time calling - feebly - for reform of the system. On the tariff issue, while the Republicans favored high tariffs, the Democrats campaigned for "tariffs for revenue only."

Neither party during this time focused much energy on the increasing problems of debt-burdened farmers and powerless laborers.

The Greenback party, also called the National Greenback party, organized in 1876 to campaign for the expansion of the supply of paper money - greenbacks - first issued in 1862 to help pay for the Civil War. Greenbackers had tried unsuccessfully to prevent passage of the Specie Redemption Act in 1875, which returned the monetary policy to the gold standard. The formation of the political party was a result of these efforts. They won 80,000 votes in 1876, and their strength grew as the party of workers and farmers. In the Congressional elections of 1878, the party received nearly a million votes and sent fourteen Greenbackers to Congress and electing many to local office. As prosperity returned in the late 1880s, and as it became clear that the Specie Redemption Act would not be repealed, the party lost its following. They mounted their last national campaign in 1884, nominating Benjamin F. Butler for president at their convention in Indianapolis. He received 175,370 votes, 1.8 per cent of the popular votes.

The National Prohibition Party, formed in 1869, had little success. Their primary cause was the prohibition of alcohol, but it also supported full and equal suffrage for women. Its initial entries into presidential politics were remarkable failures. Neither James Black in 1872, Green Clay Smith in 1876 or Neal Dow in 1880 received more than .1 percent of the vote. In 1884, the party nominated John P. St. John for president.

Greenbacks Benjamin Butler

When the Women’s Rights Convention met in San Francisco in 1884, they nominated Belva A. Lockwood, the first women lawyer to practice before the Supreme Court, as their presidential candidate. The platform supported suffrage for women, equal rights as property holders for women, a moderately protective tariff, discouragement of liquor traffic, civil service reform, and urged that public land be granted only to actual settlers.


Politically Active Groups


The Grange movement began in 1867, in Washington, DC, with the formation of a secret fraternal organization for farmers called the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry. Early on, most of the local branches, called Granges, were in Minnesota, home of the founder, Oliver Kelly. The movement spread rapidly in the 1870s, fueled by farmers’ desperation over high railroad shipping rates and the tight money supply. By 1875, the membership had passed 850,000. Indiana ranked second behind Missouri in Grange membership in Mid-Central region of the US that year, with 60,298 members and 1,485 Granges, 498 for every 100,000 in agricultural population.

The Grangers defined themselves by emphasizing the extent to which farmers were victims of railroads, merchants and banks. For the farmer, the enemy was not an employer, but a system of credit, supply, transportation and marketing. They took action by forming cooperatives, founding banks, pushing through legislation for regulation of railroads and grain elevators, and campaigned for political candidates. Farmers in general in the 1870s, 1880s and 1890s were determined to hold on to or regain the autonomy of the independent small producer in the new industrial economy and saw politics as a way to do just that.


As agricultural conditions improved in the 1880s, the Grange movement lost members, dropping to 150,000. Because of opposition from local business and lack of experience, many of their business ventures failed. The agrarian movement, though, moved south and west, where a new Farmers’ Alliance movement grew.

The Grange movement set some important precedents, particularly with regard to railroad regulation. The movement also marked the beginning of aggressive and self-conscious efforts by the nation’s farmers to define their problems in economic terms and address those problems in political ways.

The Issues

Well into the 1880s, hostilities left over from the Civil War divided the country and its citizens. Republicans ‘waved the bloody shirt,’ reviving war memories for political purposes, and accusing Democrats of destroying the nation. Democrats in the South waved their own ‘bloody shirt,’ calling Republicans traitors to white supremacy and state’s rights.

Perhaps the most infamous corruption scandal, and one that dogged Maine congressman James G. Blaine through his presidential bid, was the Credit Mobilier of America incident. The scandal, exposed by the New York Sun on the eve of the 1872 election, involved major stockholders in the Union Pacific Railroad and influential congressmen. The stockholders formed a company, the Credit Mobilier of America, and gave it contracts to build the railroad. They sold or gave shares in this construction to congressmen. In turn, the congressmen approved federal subsidies for the cost of railroad construction without attention to expense, enabling railroad builders to make large profits, which improved the value of their stock.

Blaine himself set up a congressional committee to investigate. Two Congressional members were censored for their involvement: Oakes Ames of Connecticut and James Brooks of New York. The scandal also sullied the careers of outgoing president Schyler Colfax, incoming vice president Henry Wilson and Representative James A. Garfield, who denied the charges and was ultimately elected president. Perhaps most damages of all, though, was Blaine, who was accused of writing the "Mulligan Letters" about his corrupt actions, most likely contributing to his failed presidential bid in 1884 (see below, election of 1884).

The Credit Mobilier scandal exemplified the way in which railroads and other economic interests sought to influence politics – and succeeded – in an effort to insure and increase profits.

James G Blaine Brady Handy

Tariff was among the primary issues debated by both major parties in the 1870s and 1880s. Before the days of income tax, tariffs on imported goods filled the national treasury. During the 1880s, it was an embarrassment of riches. By 1881, the Treasury was running an annual surplus of $145 million. The federal government consistently carried a large surplus derived from these tariffs, and continuous discussions ensued on how to spend the money. Pork barrel projects and pensions to Civil War veterans were two means of dispensing funds, both meant to cement party loyalty, depending on who was in power at the time.

Theodore Roosevelt tariffs

Tariffs also kept domestic prices artificially high. The purchase price of imported goods included the added tariff. The same product made in this country could be sold for a bit less and still be extremely profitable. For example, an imported item costing $2.00 to produce, plus $.80 tariff, might be sold for $4.00, leaving a profit of $1.20. The same product, made in this country, might be sold for $3.80, underselling the imported competition, but still making a profit of $1.80.

Coupled with this, the price farmers received for their agricultural products declined significantly in 1880s. Farmers’ abilities to buy land and products, especially the new mechanized equipment, consequently declined, too. Also, farmers who had already borrowed to purchase land or equipment found their ability to repay these debts and mortgages ebbing as their income shrank.

The Republican Party espoused the belief that the federal government should employ a high tariff to ensure that foreign competition did not injure agriculture and industry. For them, it was a protective measure. The Democrats, however, felt that the tariff was a burdensome tax on consumers and supported tariffs for "revenue only," to support a limited government.

Monetary policy brought out even stronger emotional reactions than the tariff. Increased industrial and agricultural production had caused prices to fall after the Civil War, leaving debtors and creditors on opposite sides of a controversy. Farmers suffered because they were receiving less for their crops but had to pay high interest rates on the money they borrowed. Consequently, farmers generally supported the coinage of silver to increase the amount of money in circulation.

Creditors believed overproduction had caused prices to decline. They favored a more stable money supply backed only by gold, fearing that the value of currency not backed by gold would fluctuate and undermine investors’ confidence in the economy of the country.

Paper Money 1

This argument, however, involved more than just pure economics. Social, regional and emotional conflicts also came into play. Creditor-debtor conflicts also came to be defined as a difference between the haves and the have-nots. It also pitted the silver-mining areas of the west and the agricultural south, mid-west and west against the more conservative industrial northeast.

A bit of background may be in order. By the 1870s, the currency question had basically boiled down to gold versus silver. Previously, the government had coined both gold and silver dollars. A silver dollar weighed 16 times more than a gold dollar, meaning gold was worth sixteen times more than silver. However, in 1848, gold was discovered in California, increased the supply and therefore reducing the price relative to silver. When silver became worth more than 1/16 the value of gold, silver producers preferred to sell their metal on the open market instead of to the government. Consequently, silver dollars disappeared from circulation. Owners hoarded them and in 1873, Congress officially stopped coining silver dollars, an action that silver currency supporters called the "Crime of ‘73." The Unites States officially adopted the gold standard, meaning the currency was backed chiefly by gold.

Gold Coin
Silver Coin
money green back

Debtors, including farmers hurt by low agricultural prices, saw silver as a way of expanding the currency supply. They pressed for the resumption of silver coinage at the old sixteen to one ratio. Congress tried to compromise with the Bland-Allison Act of 1878, requiring the Treasury to buy between $2 million and $4 million in silver each month. The minting of silver coin, which the act (and the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890) allowed, failed to expand the money supply adequately to meet debtors’ needs, nor did it erase the impression that the government favored the creditor’s interest. The issue of money did not subside until the 1890s.

The greenback movement supported the ‘easy money’ policy, too. Greenbacks, or paper money, had been in circulation during the Civil War, and to those in debt, it represented more currency in circulation, thus easier payment of debt. Creditors, however, wanted to remain with the gold standard, knowing that a flexible supply of paper money made debts repayable with less valuable dollars than those borrowed. The creditors’ vies were supported when Congress passed the Species Redemption Act in 1875, putting the country back on hard money.

Civil Service Reform

Hardly a congressman could dare oppose pensions for Civil War veterans, but a few attempted to reform the spoils system which had been an integral part of politics for some time. The practice of awarding government jobs to party loyals, regardless of qualifications, had been in place before the Civil War and flourished afterward. Between 1865 and 1891, the number of people with federal jobs tripled, from 53,000 to 166,000. Those elected to office scrambled to control these jobs as a way to cement support for themselves and their parties. In exchange for comparatively short hours and relatively high pay, appointees promised their votes and a portion of their earnings to their political patron.

Some were shocked by this blatant behavior and began to agitate. Civil service reform became a fervent crusade in 1881 with the formation of the National Civil Service Reform League. That same year, with President Garfield’s assassination by a mentally ill job seeker, the movement took on steam. The result was the Pendleton Civil Service Act of 1882, outlawing political contributions by officeholders and creating the Civil Service Commission. The Commission would oversee competitive examinations for government positions. This act gave the new commission jurisdiction over about 10 percent of the federal jobs, but since the Constitution barred Congress from interfering in state affairs, patronage at the state and local levels continued for some years.

In Memorium Our civil service as it was

Railroad Regulation

Railroad expansion had exploded by the 1880s. Besides the major transcontinental lines, branch railroads reached out to every corner of the country. The fact that railroads became THE way to transport goods also gave the unregulated rail companies carte blanche when it came to rates. Competition was steep among long distance lines, keeping rates within reasonable limits. But, on the non-competitive short lines, railroads often raised rates as high a possible to compensate for low rates on the competitive lines, making price disproportionate to distance. Railroads also played favorites by reducing rates to large shippers and offering free passenger passes to preferred customers and politicians. In many cases, the railroads also controlled the grain elevators, making farmers captive to storing and shipping rates.

Interstate Commerce Commission Seal

This activity prompted farmers, small merchants and some reform politicians to demand regulation of rates. These attempts occurred first at the state level, mostly under pressure from organized agrarian groups like the Grange in the mid-west. But the scattered efforts of state legislatures came to a halt in 1886, when the Supreme Court ruled that individual states had not power to regulate interstate commerce. If railroad rates were to be controlled, it would have to be a federal law.

After a number of attempts at reconciling the House and Senate versions of bills over the course of 1886 after the Supreme Court decision, a compromise was reached and the Interstate Commerce Act was passed and signed into law in 1887. It prohibited rebates and pools and required railroads to publish their rates openly. It also outlawed charging more for short-haul shipments than for long-haul ones over the same line. More importantly, perhaps, the law established the Interstate Commerce Commission, the first of many government regulatory commissions over the years.

The National Elections

As the election year approached, Ulysses Grant, considered to be a rather inept president, was urged by his supporters to run for a third term. Congress, in a bipartisan vote, quickly put an end to that idea by passing a resolution reminding the country - and Grant - of the two-term tradition. With Grant out of the running, the Republican Party nominated Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio for president and William A. Wheeler of New York for vice president. Hayes, dubbed " The Great Unknown," was relatively obscure on the national front, but served as three-time governor of Ohio, an important swing state in national elections.

Samuel J. Tilden of New York was the Democratic nominee for president, joined by Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana as the vice presidential candidate. Tilden was known for the fact that he’d undone Boss Tweed in New York. The Democratic ticket campaigned against Republican scandal and for sweeping civil service reform.

Tilden won 184 of the necessary 185 electoral votes, with 20 votes in four states disputed because of irregular returns. Indiana went for the Democratic ticket, supporting its native son, Hendricks. The issue became how to resolve the 20 contested votes. The disputed states of Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida submitted two sets of returns, one Republican, one Democratic. One vote from the fourth state, Oregon, was in dispute because it’s elector held a federal office, contrary to the Constitution.

Both parties sent "visiting statesmen" to the three southern disputed states. Weeks passed with no resolution. The Constitution only specified that the returns should be sent to Congress and opened in the presence of the House and Senate by the Senate president. The Constitution did not specify who should count the votes.

Unable to decide, the legislature formed a fifteen member commission composed of Supreme Court justices and members of Congress. Although it was supposed to be non-partisan, eight members were Republican and seven were Democrats. As established, the commission’s final decision would stand unless both the Senate and House rejected it. The commission adopted the Republican vote in each state, the (Democratic ) House disagreed, but the (Republican) Senate concurred. Hayes and Wheeler were declared president and vice president. The results of this compromise functionally ended Reconstruction in the South. Federal troops still stationed there were withdrawn and the Republican party quietly abandoned its commitment to black equality.

1876 Democratic Poster

The crisis of the election of 1876 left a cloud over Hayes, called "His Fraudulency" and "Old 8 to 7" in the press. Under Hayes, Reconstruction was ended. During his tenure, he emphasized national unity and played a quiet (too quiet to some) role as reformer and conciliator. His wife Lucy, a staunch prohibitionist, was nicknamed "Lemonade Lucy, " and no liquor was served at the White House. Many believed that his political record was a disaster and as the election year approached, even his party seemed to abandon him. He had earlier declared himself a one-term president, ultimately saving himself the embarrassment of not getting re-nominated.

1880 Republican Poster

It took the Republicans thirty-six ballots to arrive at a nominee. The nomination of "dark horse" candidate James A. Garfield, another Civil War hero, finally broke the impasse. His running mate, Chester Arthur of New York, was a close associate of powerful Senator Roscoe Conkling from New York. Democrats, still seething over the loss of the presidency in 1876, nominated former Civil War general Winfield S. Hancock. He appealed to veterans and was popular in the South, where he had fair mindedly directed one of the military Reconstruction districts. Former Indiana congressman William English was Hancock’s running mate. The Greenback-Labor Party ran James Weaver.

In their platforms, both major parties equivocated on the currency question and tepidly endorsed civil service reform, while supporting generous pensions for Civil War veterans (on the Union side - not for Confederates) and the exclusion of Chinese immigrants. Both parties ignored the growing problems of debt-burdened farmers and powerless laborers. The Republicans called for protective tariffs; the Democrats for tariffs "for revenue only."

During the campaign, the Republicans waved the "bloody shirt" of the Civil War one more time and quite possibly purchased their narrow but crucial victory in Indiana. Democrats, equally blind to the economic and social problems, harped on Garfield’s alleged participation in the infamous Credit Mobilier scandal of a few years earlier, a railroad stock payback scheme involving politicians and railroad company owners.

Garfield won a narrow popular vote, getting only around 39,000 more popular votes than Hancock. By carrying the pivotal states of New York and Indiana, he garnered 214 electoral votes to Hancock’s 155. His presidency was short-lived, though. Charles J. Guiteau, a disappointed and mentally ill office-seeker, shot Garfield in the back in a Washington railroad station. Garfield lay in agony for eleven weeks and died on September 19, 1881.

Chester Arthur took over as president and surprised his fellow politicians - and the American public - by instituting the first serious civil service reforms. Previously, government jobs were strictly doled out on the spoils system Arthur’s stand was especially surprising given that he was a notorious spoilsman himself, a close associate of Roscoe Conkling, a true believer in the spoils system. Arthur’s work, and the Republican’s new found enthusiasm for reform led to the passage of the Pendleton Act of 1883, the so-called Magna Carta of civil-service reform. Even so, Arthur’s reforms offended too many of his Republican associates, and he was not re nominated, and died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1886.

The presidential campaign of 1884 is remembered for two things. A Democrat was victorious for the first time in twenty-eight years, and the campaign was perhaps the worst mudslinging, frenzied but meaningless battle ever fought for the presidency. As Henry Adams said, "Everyone takes part. We are all doing our best, and swearing like demons. But the amusing thing is that no one talks about real issues."

Chester A Arthur
James G Blaine John A Logan

Dissent ruled the Republican party. They split into three factions; dissident reformers called Mugwumps, who were opposed to party and government graft; Stalwarts, supporters of Ulysses S. Grant who had fought civil service reform; and Half-Breeds, moderate reformers and high-tariff men loyal to the party. At the time of the convention, in June 1884, most felt Chester Arthur had little to show for his nearly three years in office, and although he wanted to run again, the Republicans nominated James G. Blaine of Maine on the fourth ballot. Blaine, a charismatic figure and former secretary of state and Maine congressman, was popular for his protectionist stance in tariff issues, but of questionable honesty. His running mate was John A. Logan, a Stalwart and one of his opponents at the Convention. Their relationship was notably cool during the campaign.

The Democrats nominated Grover Cleveland of New York, who only four years earlier, had been a relatively unknown lawyer in Buffalo. In 1881, he was elected Buffalo’s mayor on a reform ticket and a year later, to the governorship of New York. By 1884, he had earned a reputation for honesty and courage and for what would be called moderation today, "sound conservatism" then. His running mate was Senator Thomas Hendricks of Indiana.

The Democrat’s pleasure in having a candidate of upstanding principles was seriously eroded with the announcement shortly after that Cleveland, a bachelor, had fathered a child out of wedlock by Mrs. Maria Halpin, years ago in Buffalo. The Republicans quickly took up the chant, " Ma! Ma! Where’s my pa?" To which the Democrats replied, " Gone to the White House. Ha! Ha! Ha!" The furor did die down when Cleveland acknowledged his paternity and showed that had contributed to the child’s support.

Blaine’s candidacy fared no better. Many of the reform-minded Republicans bolted the party out of disgust for Blaine’s political villainies. His enemies published the famous "Mulligan letters," supposedly written by Blaine to a Boston railroad executive Warren Fisher and linking the powerful politician to a corrupt deal involving federal favors to a southern railroad. At least one damning letter ended with the words, " Burn this letter." Democrats used this evidence as a rallying cry to march through the streets chanting, " Burn, burn, burn this letter."

Mama wheres my pa

The contest hinged on the New York vote, which may have gone in the other direction except for a last-minute blunder on the Blaine side. A thoughtless Republican clergyman. Reverend Samuel Dickinson Burchard, castigated the Democrats by calling them the part of "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion," insulting all at one time the race, faith and patriotism of New York’s Irish-American voters. Blaine, who was present at the speech, and the son of a Catholic mother, lacked the immediate awareness to repudiate the statement then and there, and New York went to the Democrats in the election.

Cleveland swept the South and won Indiana, along with New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Maryland. The tally in popular votes was 4,879,507 to 4,850,293 and in electoral votes 219 to 182. New York’s electoral votes determined election, although Cleveland squeaked by with a margin of 1,149 popular votes in 1,127,000 cast. The Prohibition party garnered about 150,000 votes, 25,000 of them from New York. The Greenback-Labor party candidate, Benjamin F. Butler, got 175,000 votes.

The victorious Democrats chanted:
"Hurrah for Maria,
Hurrah for the kid,
We voted for Cleveland,
And we’re damned glad we did!"

National Government Officials, 1886

Grover Cleveland, President
Thomas A. Hendricks ( of Indiana), Vice President
E. T. Frelinghuysen, Secretary of State
Daniel Manning , Secretary of the Treasury
L. Q. C. Lamar, Secretary of the Interior
William C. Endicott, Secretary of War
Augustus H. Garland, Attorney General
Morrison R. Waite, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

Grover Cleveland, painting by Anders Zorn

Additional Readings:


Calhoun, Charles W., ed. The Gilded Age: Essays on the Origins of Modern America. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1996. (See especially Chapters 9, 10 and 11.)
Garraty, John A. The New Commonwealth, 1877-1890. New York: Harper and Row, 1968.
Jensen, Richard J. The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict 1888 1996. (Includes information on late 1870s and early 1880s.)
Keller, Morton. Affairs of State: Public Life in Late Nineteenth Century America. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1977.
McCormick, Richard L. Public Life in Industrial America, 1877-1917. Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 1990.
Silbey, Joel H. The American Political Nation, 1838-1893. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1991.

For a statistical analysis of voting patterns

Kleppner, Paul. The Third Electoral System 1853-1892: Parties, Voters and Political Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979.
Kleppner, Paul. The Cross of Culture: A Social Analysis of Midwestern Politics, 1850-1900. New York, Free Press, 1970.

To read more about third parties

Gillespie, J. David. Politics on the Periphery: Third Parties in a Two-Party America. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1993.
Haas, Garland A. The Politics of Disintegration: Political Party Decay in the United States, 1840-1900. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1994.
Rosenstone, Steven J, Roy L. Behr and Edward H. Lazarus. Third Parties in America: Citizen Response to Major Party Failure. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984.

On Civil Service Reform

Hoogenboom, Ari A. Outlawing the Spoils: A History of the Civil Service Reform Movement, 1865-1883. Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1961.

On the Grange and agricultural reform movements

McMath, Robert C. American Populism: A Social History, 1877-1898. New York, Hill and Wang, 1993.
Sanders, Elizabeth. Roots of Reform: Farmers, Workers and the American State, 1877-1917. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1999. (Chapter 4, Farmers and Politics 1873-1896.)
Weibe, Robert. The Search for Order, 1877-1920. New York: Hill and Wang, 1967.

For a discussion of the silver issue and the roots of populism

Weinstein, Allen. Prelude to Populism: Origins of the Silver Issue, 1867-1878. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970.
On The Presidency of Grover Cleveland, see
Welch, Richard E. The Presidency of Grover Cleveland. Lawrence, Kan.:University Press of Kansas, 1988.