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Minor Parties
Seven parties nominated presidential candidates in 1884, although only the Prohibition and Greenback-Labor parties were thought to be able to influence the election. The Prohibition party nominated John St. John, a former governor of Kansas, for president. Republicans were particularly worried about his candidacy because so many Prohibitionists identified with the Republican party, and St. John, prominent and articulate, might be able to woo them away from their regular party base.

St. John was embarrassed during the campaign, though, when revelations about his marriage were made known in the press. He had married at 19 years of age, fathered a child, then divorced at his wife's request.  Both St. Johns married someone else shortly afterward. St. John paid for his boy's education, provided lodging in his home when the young man read law, and secured him a government position.

Republican operatives tried to convince St. John to drop out of the race. When he refused, they engaged in a smear campaign against him, accusing him of wife abuse and other dreadful deeds. In retaliation, a furious St. John concentrated his efforts in upstate New York, an area of the key electoral state where Blaine was vulnerable on the prohibition issue. The Democratic party secretly funded the Prohibition party's campaign there. In the end, the Prohibition vote in New York proved to be one of the leading factors in Blaine's electoral defeat by Democrat Grover Cleveland.

The Greenback-Labor party nominated Benjamin Butler, former Democrat, former Republican congressman, and former Greenback governor of Massachusetts, for president. An ardent advocate of soft-money and labor reform, the colorful Butler was popular with working-class voters. His party was thought to draw more away from the Democrats, so Republicans secretly funded his campaign.

Mugwump Revolt
The Reform wing of the Republican party was disgusted by the nomination of James Blaine. Some reformers, such as New York assemblyman Theodore Roosevelt, remained loyal to the party. Others, like former interior secretary Carl Schurz, Harper's Weekly editor George William Curtis, and Nation editor E. L. Godkin actively promoted Cleveland's candidacy. Those who bolted were called "Mugwumps," purportedly an Algonquin name for chief, but derided by regular Republicans as meaning one who sits on a fence, with his "mug" on one side and his "wump" on the other. That epitaph, however, was one of the softer brickbats thrown at the pro-Cleveland Republicans. During the campaign, the Mugwumps were ridiculed as self-righteous, effeminate men or silly women, not "manly" enough to participate in the game of politics, where (with a few limited exceptions) only men could vote or be elected to office.

The degree of vilification may be due to the fact that the Mugwumps represented not merely political independence, but civil service reform, which aimed at severely restricting patronage, considered the lifeblood of the party system. The seriousness of the issue went deep. Supporters believed that patronage encouraged a corrupt and inefficient government, so they advanced civil service reform to make political parties more honest and democracy work better. Opponents believed that patronage was the basis of party strength, which, in turn, was the foundation of democracy; therefore, they perceived civil service reform as a full-scale attack on both parties and democracy by an aristocratic elite.

With the passage of the federal Civil Service Act in 1883, the reformers did not want to lose the momentum of that legislation. Only a limited number of federal employees were included under the law initially, but its coverage could be expanded by executive order. Consequently, it was vital that the next president support and extend civil service reform. But civil service reform was not the only factor in their defection.

In an editorial, Curtis summarized the three reasons why he and other Independents opposed Blaine so vehemently: 1) his involvement in various scandals; 2) his imperialist foreign policy; and 3) his record as a spoilsman who resisted civil service reform and reform in general. The second point is usually overlooked, but was quite an important one. During the campaign, reformers circulated two tracts which criticized Blaine's foreign policy during his brief tenure as Garfield's secretary of state. The third point is sometimes perceived as only regarding civil service reform, but Mugwumps like Curtis and Schurz assumed that a more efficient and honest government would be a more activist government in areas such as education, conservation, and health and safety regulations.

Democratic Campaign
In his letter of acceptance, Cleveland emphasized reducing federal spending and providing "honest administration." The Democratic nominee promised to make appointments based on merit, advance civil service reform (although he did not specify how), and work for a constitutional amendment limiting presidents to one term. Cleveland delivered only two campaign speeches in October, one in Newark, New Jersey, and the other in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He did make public appearances in New York at county fairs, parades, and rallies, ostensibly in his role as New York governor, but on such occasions spoke only in patriotic generalities.  However, in 1884, Republican James Blaine spent six weeks on the campaign trail.  He also left most of the campaign organization to others. The Democratic National Committee was again (as in 1880) headed by Connecticut financier William Barnum, but the day-to-day operations were managed by Senator Arthur Poe Gorman of Maryland. The only times that Cleveland intervened were to insist that his campaign tell the truth about his relationship with Maria Halpin and quash rumors about the Blaines' premarital affair.

As in other years, the vice-presidential nominee delivered stump speeches and represented the ticket at partisan events. Seen as a respectable gentleman, Thomas Hendricks got by with attacking the Republican record, agenda, and character, whereas his more disreputable Republican rival, John Logan, was forced to be more restrained. Hendricks preached the virtue of soft-money in debt-ridden farm areas, chiding the Republicans for their excesses taxation, and linking them to the Prohibition movement before German-American audiences. Most of his campaigning took place in and around his home state of Indiana, a must-win swing state for Democrats. It paid off; Indiana fell into the Democratic column in November. Because many Democrats still burned over what they considered the theft of the White House from the 1876 ticket of Tilden and Hendricks, the second-time vice-presidential candidate was a sentimental favorite at partisan gatherings. His years of government service gave confidence to voters worried about a ticket headed by a relatively inexperienced governor. Finally, Hendricks proved to be an effective liaison between the Democratic National Committee and Tammany Hall.

The focus of the Democratic campaign was on Blaine's corruption. According to Democrats, Blaine's malfeasance was emblematic of the greed and arrogance of an entire party-the Republicans-which had been ensconced in office far too long. That strategy was also a way for Democrats to link Blaine and the Republicans to large, business corporations ("monopolies"), wielding disproportionate economic and political power which could affect the lives of common workingmen adversely. Mugwump periodicals, such as the New York Times, Harper's Weekly, and the Nation, published a steady flow of anti-Blaine editorials and news stories, while political cartoonists at Harper's Weekly, Puck, and other journals lampooned the Republican nominee, including as a "tattooed man" who sold himself to the highest bidder. The sensational New York World erroneously reported that Blaine was dying of Bright's Disease.

Cleveland Scandal: The Maria Halpin Affair
On July 21 the presidential campaign was jolted by news of a sex scandal involving Democratic nominee Grover Cleveland. The Buffalo Evening Telegraph reported that the bachelor Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock (born 1874) by a widow named Maria Halpin; that he had callously abandoned mother and child, then later arranged Halpin's commitment to an asylum and the child's placement in an orphanage. The story became a major embarrassment to the Cleveland camp. Since the negative image of Blaine was of a corrupt politician, and the positive image of Cleveland was of a man of integrity, the Halpin scandal was a threat to the public persona promoted by Cleveland's strategists.

The revelation's early date in the campaign, though, allowed the Democrats to respond effectively, although the story still had legs into November. Yet, while defenders argued that the affair was a youthful discretion that Cleveland righted, the Telegraph, joined by some other anti-Cleveland newspapers, painted the nominee as a habitual womanizer, brawler, and drunk, whose wild ways continued into his governorship. That context, plus the public's unfamiliarity with Cleveland, gave the Halpin allegation more plausibility.

When presented with the news, Cleveland was alleged to have instructed his managers: "Tell the truth." 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, 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. The diligently hardworking governor had no time, much less inclination, to spend his evenings on the seedy side of town. (Apparently no one on either side, though, bothered to interview Maria Halpin.)

The Cleveland version of the story portrayed the Democratic nominee (at the expense of Halpin's reputation) as acting justly after falling from grace, and honestly after his private life became public. Consequently, the incident actually reinforced the perception of Cleveland as a man of good character. Furthermore, his actions were contrasted with the behavior of Blaine who supposedly acted in his own self-interest and lied about his financial dealings.

 
 
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