Grover Cleveland elected president

November 4, 1884

The presidential campaign of 1884 was one of the most memorable in American history. The Republican nominee, James G. Blaine of Maine, was nicknamed the “plumed knight,” but disgruntled Republican reformers regarded him as a symbol of corruption. These liberal Republicans indicated to Democratic leaders that they would bolt their own party and support a Democrat, provided he was a decent and honorable man. Grover Cleveland seemed to meet these qualifications. He had started his career as sheriff of Erie County where he personally hanged two murderers to spare the sensibilities of his subordinates. He had been known as the “veto” mayor of Buffalo for rejecting political graft, and as governor of New York, he had repudiated Tammany Hall. Some Republicans attacked Cleveland for avoiding service during the Civil War; he had hired a substitute to take his place. Democrats, in turn, claimed that Blaine had sold his influence in Congress to business interests. Then a Buffalo newspaper dealt Cleveland a devastating blow by revealing that he had fathered a child out of wedlock. Even worse, Republicans charged, Cleveland had placed the child in an orphanage and the mother in an insane asylum. These attacks failed to ignite much public indignation against Cleveland, however, and in the election, white southerners, Irish Americans, and German American voters turned out in record numbers. Grover Cleveland was elected the twenty-second president of the United States, making him the first Democrat elected to the office since Buchanan.


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