THE CAMPAIGN OF 1884
Grover Cleveland carried four advantages into the 1884 presidential campaign. First, his battles with Tammany Hall had won the support of middle-class voters from both parties. Second, his reformism emphasized hard work, merit, and efficiency, reinforcing his appeal to Republicans as well as to Democrats. Third, and most importantly, he seemed poised to carry the state of New York; in 1884, every politician worth his salt understood that the Democrats had to carry the entire South and New York to win. Lastly, the candidate nominated for the Republican ticket, the irascible James G. Blaine of Maine, had almost as many enemies within the Republican Party as supporters. The morally upright Mugwumps, a Republican faction of reform-minded businessmen and professionals, hated Blaine but admired Cleveland because of his willingness to challenge corrupt political organizations and businesses.
When the two candidates squared off in the summer of 1884, Blaine immediately promoted tariff protection as the centerpiece of his campaign. Cleveland preached honesty and efficiency in government. He talked about the need for federal "corrective action," to which Blaine countered with demands for "constructive action." Democrats tried hard to paint Blaine as politically immoral, a blackmailer who, as Speaker of the House, had used his influence to obtain favors from railroads. The press made the most of these images in their political cartoons. Mass demonstrations sprang up on Wall Street ridiculing Blaine as a tool of the moneyed interests. The Democrats challenged Blaine's integrity further in an effective campaign slogan:
"Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, The continental liar from the State of Maine."
For his part, Cleveland gave only two campaign speeches in 1884. In both, he characterized the Republican Party as a "vast army of office holders"—corrupt, extravagant, and subservient to the rich. When Republicans charged Cleveland with fathering an illegitimate child by a woman whom he had then sent to an insane asylum, Cleveland immediately admitted the possibility of his paternity. Like hungry animals scenting blood, the Republican press charged Cleveland with debauchery and immorality. These publications argued that a choice between Cleveland and Blaine was a choice between "the brothel and the family, between indecency and decency, between lust and law." A popular Republican cartoon caption read: "Ma, Ma, Where's my Pa?" Cleveland responded to these attacks by urging his supporters to "Tell the Truth." After instructing telegramming his Buffalo friends by telegram to follow this dictum, he ignored the scandalmongers and left his defense to his closest associates. He privately told them to avoid all cringing and to make it clear that he had, in fact, fallen to temptation, but just that once. A supporter deflected the morality issue with the following argument: "We are told that Mr. Blaine has been delinquent in office but blameless in public life, while Mr. Cleveland has been a model of official integrity but culpable in personal relations. We should therefore elect Mr. Cleveland to the public office for which he is so well qualified to fill, and remand Mr. Blaine to the private station which he is admirably fitted to adorn."Cleveland admitted to having sexual relations with Maria Halpin in 1874. She later gave birth to an infant boy and named Cleveland as the child's father. He had agreed to name the child Oscar Folsom Cleveland after himself and his law partner, who, as it happened, could also have been the responsible party. When the mother suffered a mental collapse, the child was adopted by a couple living in the western part of the state. Cleveland never again saw the child or the mother.
Cleveland won the 1884 election by the narrowest of margins. He received 4,879,507 votes (48.5 percent) to Blaine's 4,850,293 votes (48.2 percent). If Blaine had won a few more votes in New York—which he lost to Cleveland by only 1,200 votes out of the more than one million cast, he would have taken that state's huge electoral slate and won the presidency. As it was, Cleveland received 219 electoral votes to Blaine's 182.
Source: Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. “Grover Cleveland: Campaigns and Elections.” Accessed May 23, 2016. http://millercenter.org/president/biography/cleveland-campaigns-and-elections.
Anonymous. 1884. "Our country's choice--Democratic nominees." Continental Publishing Company. Lithograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540
Anonymous. 1884. "The Banner that Booster Blaine and Locked the Logan Link." J.M.W. Jones Sta’y & P’t’g Co. Chromolithograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540.
Frank Beard. 1884. "Another voice for Cleveland." The Judge. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540.