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Introduction
Having recovered from their disarray following the Civil War, Democratic presidential nominees in 1876 and 1880 nearly won the presidency. In 1882, Democrats recaptured a majority in the House of Representatives and cut the Republican margin in the Senate to four. Democrats also scored well in state elections, winning the governorship in key states like New York and Massachusetts, as well as in Republican strongholds like Kansas and Michigan. Outside of the South, where the Democrats dominated after the collapse of Reconstruction, the two major parties were competitive across the country. Although a party whose leaders represented a wide disparity of views on major issues, most Democrats were determined to remain united in 1884. The Republicans, on the other hand, were divided into often-warring factions, blamed for an economic recession in Northeastern cities, and hampered with a president (Chester Arthur) whom most considered, at best, a caretaker. (Arthur succeeded to the presidency in September 1881 after President James Garfield died from wounds caused by an assassin's bullet.)

Republican Factions: Stalwart, Half-Breed, and Reform
The Republican party in 1884 was divided into several factions.  The Stalwart faction was originally so-named because they were firm (“stalwart”) in their opposition to the Southern policy of Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881), which implemented  the final end of Reconstruction.  During the Hayes administration, prominent Stalwarts included Senators James Blaine of Maine and Roscoe Conkling of New York, both of whom lost the Republican nomination to Hayes in 1876, and John Logan of Illinois, among others.  The Stalwarts also became known for their opposition to civil service reform and other reform efforts of the liberal wing of the party.

In 1880, many of the Stalwarts, led by Senators Conkling, Logan, and Donald Cameron of Pennsylvania, supported former president Ulysses S. Grant’s unsuccessful bid for a (non-consecutive) third term.  Enthusiasm for Grant was widespread in the South, where Republicans needed patronage to retain a political foothold in the post-Reconstruction world of the Democratic “Solid South.”  Senator Blaine, however, was Grant’s leading rival for the nomination until both lost to a compromise candidate, Representative James Garfield of Ohio.  Blaine came to represent the dominant moderate wing of the Republican party, called “Half-Breeds” by their opponents.  They endorsed the protective tariff and a “hard money” policy.

The Reformers (or Liberals or Independents) were the other major faction of the Republican party.  They supported civil service reform, numerous other political and social reforms, and often opposed the expansionist foreign policy of Grant and Blaine, as well as the protectionist tariff which Blaine emphasized.  Leading voices for the Reformers included Harper’s Weekly editor George William Curtis, former interior secretary Carl Schurz, and up-and-coming politician Theodore Roosevelt.

By 1884, President Chester Arthur (1881-1885) led the administration Stalwart faction and was seeking reelection, although a remnant group of Stalwarts backed Logan for the Republican nomination.  Blaine, appointed secretary of state by Garfield, resigned a few months after the president’s assassination in 1881.  He then worked secretly to undermine Arthur’s political efforts.

 
 
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