Term Paper: American Politics

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The Democrats responded effectively with a truthful approach (Brodsky, 2000).

It was admitted that he had the affair, and, although he thought he was not the father, had financially supported both mother and child. When Maria Halpin's alcoholism seemed to threaten the boy's well being (Harper, 2001), Cleveland saw to it that she was placed in a sort of half-way house, not an insane asylum, and that the boy was placed in an orphanage, where he was soon adopted by a wealthy couple. The other stories were shown to be false (Harper, 2001). The diligently hardworking governor had no time, much less inclination, to spend his evenings on the seedy side of town (Harper, 2001)."

Much to the dismay of the Republican Party the scandal release only served to make Cleveland look better in the eyes of the public.

The Democrats were furious at the attempt to discredit Cleveland with the sex scandals that they pulled their own version of scandal out. The shady dealings of Blaine's business in the past were quickly brought to light. Later as he tried to cover it up by denying all charges he demanded that a letter be burned in which he could be incriminated (Harper, 2001).

The scandal first came to light when Blaine was seeking the Republican nomination in 1876. Blaine attempted to exonerate himself on the floor of the House, but copies of letters to Fisher were revealed by a disgruntled company clerk (Harper, 2001), James Mulligan. An official House investigation, though, was dropped when Blaine was appointed to the Senate. Blaine's questionable dealings, as well his attempt to cover up the scandal by lying to his colleagues and the public, came back to haunt him when he sought the Republican nomination in 1880 and the presidency in 1884. The full text of the letters was published widely in newspapers during 1884(Harper, 2001). As a postscript to one of the Mulligan letters (as they became known), Blaine had scribbled, "Burn this letter!" Democratic followers chanted that phrase at political rallies during the campaign (Harper, 2001)."

Blaine had been encouraged to sell stocks and bonds while pocketing a larger than normal commission. In addition the Democrats dug around and located a sex scandal to produce to the public about Blaine in retaliation of what happened to Cleveland. Blaine's sex scandal involved the marriage at 19 but it was publicized at this time the reason he had the early marriage was because he had gotten the woman pregnant while they were not married and only dating still.

Blaine denied the allegation that the wife had been pregnant at the time of the marriage and he sued the publications that printed the story for libel (Harper, 2001). His hope was to force a retraction but it instead blew up in his face. The papers in their attempt to find evidence of their claim discovered proof that the child was born three months following the wedding, which by any counting placed the woman at six months pregnant when they wed. Blaine angrily denied this as well and insisted that there had been a secret and private ceremony before the one the papers found the paperwork on and they had been legally married when the woman conceived. While unwed mothers are not uncommon today, during this era a scandal of this time could destroy the credibility and respectability of a candidate. This was the goal of the party who pushed the story into the forefront of the public eye.

The newspapers dug into his story about the previous marriage and found that there were many holes in his claims (Harper, 2001). He claimed there had been a private wedding without a license, or pastor in Pennsylvania but that he had feared the marriage would not be legal or binding so they did it again with all the trimmings later.

At the time, however, it was Kentucky that did not require a marriage license and Pennsylvania that did. Other irregularities in Blaine's story came to light, such as the fact that June 30, 1850, occurred on a Sunday, a day when most Protestants would not schedule a wedding. Also, Blaine would have been only twenty years old, and thus a minor marrying without parental approval (Harper, 2001).

Whatever the reality was (and only the Blaines were alive in 1884 to know), the Republican nominee once again seemed like a liar, in contrast to his Democratic rival, and Blaine's possible involvement in a premarital sexual relationship uncut the force of the Republican use of Cleveland's Maria Halpin affair (Harper, 2001)."


Until this presidential election the public had believed a candidate who went on a campaign trail was hiding something and in turn would raise suspicions and not win. With all of the mud being flung back and forth in the 1884 campaign the candidates believed there was no choice but to go on the road and meet the voters. Cleveland and Blaine both hit the campaign trail and gave over 400 speeches each to live audiences. This probably contributed to the current habit and need for candidates to make themselves personally available to their voters.

In the days before the election Blaine had the unfortunate task of being in states that were against him because of the scandals that had occurred. His shady business dealings may have been overcome had his party not tried to discredit Cleveland with a sex scandal that turned out to be untrue and then had Blaine look bad when his own past sexual indiscretions became public.


The election of 1884 went down in history as one of the dirtiest America had ever seen. Today some of the things that were revealed about each candidate in 1884 would be scandalous but not in any great proportions. The scandals that were revealed in 1884 were extremely embarrassing at the time of the era and enough to destroy any candidate in the blink of an eye. Each candidate participated and supported their party in participating in a smear campaign that eventually reached epic proportions. The example set by this campaign set the stage for dirty politics still being witnessed today. http://www.presidentelect.org/e1884.html





Thomas Andrews Hendricks


Home State:

PR: NY; VP: IN Electoral Votes: 219

Pop. Vote: 4,874,986 (48.5%)

James Gillespie


John Alexander Logan


Home State:


Electoral Votes: 182

Pop. Vote: 4,854,981 (48.3%)

Benjamin Franklin


Absolom Madden West

Party: GREENBACK and ANTI-MONOPOLY and Home State:


Electoral Votes: 0 Pop. Vote: 175,370 (1.7%)

John Pierce


William Daniel


Home State:


Electoral Votes: 0

Pop. Vote: 150,369 (1.5%)

Total electoral votes - 401 (from 38 states)

Majority needed to win - 201

Total popular vote - 10,052,706


Rum, Romanism, & Rebellion: The Making of a President 1884 by Mark Wahlgren Summers

Univ of North Carolina Pr; (March 2000)

Grover Cleveland: (The American Presidents Series) by Henry Graff (Author), Arthur Jr. Schlesinger (Editor)

Times Books; (August 20, 2002)

Grover Cleveland:… [END OF PREVIEW]

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