The very candidacy of the Republican Party's nominee for the Presidency of the United States was altogether obnoxious to many, including many within his own Party; many media outlets ordinarily expected to endorse the standard bearer of the Grand Old Party simply refused to do so...
no, I am not at all here referring to Donald J. Trump; instead, I here refer to one James Gillespie Blaine:
Blaine, Blaine: James G. Blaine--
that continental liar from the State of Maine!
The year was 1884 and Blaine had, up till then, been an important national leader in the Republican Party since at least the end of the Civil War. He had been Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first six years of the Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant (only the loss of political control of the House by the Republicans in the final Midterm Elections of Grant's Administration ended Blaine's "reign"); Blaine simply went on to become a United States Senator from his home State and, as such, was a leading (yet unsuccessful) contender for his Party's presidential nomination in both 1876 and 1880.
Next, Blaine served as Secretary of State (he was actually with President James Garfield when the President was shot inside a Washington, DC railroad terminal in early July 1881) and, come the 1884 presidential election cycle, as it became more and more apparent that White House incumbent Chester Arthur (who, as Vice-President, had succeeded Garfield when the latter had finally succumbed come mid-September 1881) was not going to be nominated by the Republicans for a full term as President in his own right, Blaine leapt to the forefront as the leading Republican presidential contender going into that year's GOP National Convention.
But the Grand Old Party itself was split, although this- in and of itself- was not all that much of a surprise for, as the predominant American political Party of the postbellum era (the GOP garnering a great deal of its support from Union veterans of the Civil War), it was the more easily factionalized as compared to the Democrats (knocked back on their heels during a time when, in election after election, Republicans "waved the Bloody Shirt"- that is, ever engaged in blaming the Democrats for having fomented the still so recent Civil War [a notion reinforced by the fact that, by the 1880s, the Democrats were already the predominant Party in the so recently vanquished South]).
There were a large number of reformers within the Republican Party- at first known as "Independent" Republicans, but later often characterized in the Press (as well as by their opponents within the GOP itself) as "Mugwumps"- who were the political heirs to the earlier 'Liberal Republicans' who had had their political heyday with their having backed the unsuccessful presidential candidacy of newspaper editor and publisher Horace Greeley (also formally nominated by a Democratic Party with, back then, no other viable options) back in 1872. These "Mugwumps" saw Blaine as the very epitome of the "Political Insider", a "player" going back to the very Grant Administration Greeley and the 'Liberals' had failed to dislodge (Blaine's own name had regularly surfaced, since then, in relation to such scandals as had plagued the Grant Presidency as Credit Mobilier): the "Mugwumps" had unsuccessfully opposed Blaine's nomination by the Republican National Convention that year and many of them thereafter refused to back his candidacy once he had been so nominated (although one particularly vociferous opponent of Blaine at that same Convention- a young New York State Assemblyman named Theodore Roosevelt- ended up sticking with his Party-- and Blaine-- come November).
The ensuing 1884 General Election campaign would provide the more principled "Mugwumps" with plenty of ammunition with which to defend their own stance. Early that Fall, information came forth shedding new light on an old scandal involving Blaine, while still Speaker of the House, having accepted bribes from a railroad company whose stock had been well watered down before sale to an unsuspecting third party with the help of a Boston-based stockbroker named Fisher: at the time this story had originally broken- back in 1876 (while the Maine legislature was considering electing Blaine to the Senate in order to fill a vacancy)- Blaine had produced letters from Fisher's bookkeeper, one Mulligan, seemingly exonerating him; but now, eight years later, it was revealed that these so-called 'Mulligan Letters' had all been but part of a 'smokescreen' engineered by both Blaine and Fisher: one particular letter between Blaine and Fisher had lately been publicly revealed-- in it, Blaine instructed Fisher as to the exact content to be placed above Mulligan's own signature and, at its close, Blaine had written "Kind regards to Mrs. Fisher. Burn this letter!" (Fisher had, but Blaine had also ordered Fisher to mail a copy of this letter back to him [it was Blaine's manner of knowing it had actually been both received- as well as read- on Fisher's end]; Fisher's office ended up keeping the carbon version on file and, therefore, it was this carbon copy that now came to the fore).
The opposing Democrats ended up having the proverbial "field day" with this one, gleefully chanting in political parades and during their own rallies:
Burn this letter! Burn this letter!
Kind regards to Mrs. Fisher!
However, the Democrats actually needed such ammunition against Blaine, for they themselves had nominated for President one Stephen Grover Cleveland (who preferred to be known primarily by his middle name)- Governor of New York State and former Mayor of Buffalo- and Governor Cleveland had his own problems...
first of all, he had been a Civil War draft dodger (more precisely, he had paid to have a substitute serve in his place- a not all that uncommon practice amongst those who could afford to do so, but one that was certainly anathema to all those Republican Union veterans so "waving the Bloody Shirt"); but, not all that long after he had received his own Party's presidential nomination, it was revealed that Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock (Cleveland himself was unmarried at the time he was first running for President)- this at a time when such a thing was surely much more scandalous that it might well be nowadays (though, to be fair, Cleveland had always voluntarily paid what we today would call "Child Support" for his [as the terminology of the time would, however unfortunately, have put it] illegitimate son)-- and this last had given supporters of Blaine their own well-worn (and just as gleeful) chant to be marched to during their many torchlight political processions as the election itself neared:
Ma, ma! Where's my pa?!
Thus, two largely flawed presidential candidates- nominees, in each case, of one of the two Major Parties- so faced off in 1884.
I recount above what the United States of America faced 132 years ago come Election Day if only to show that there has been at least one time in American History before 2016 when the country has had to pretty much choose between two non-incumbent Major Party presidential candidates with what, nowadays, would be referred to as "High Negatives". There were even two leading Third Party candidates for President in 1884, equivalent to Libertarian Gary Johnson's and the Green Party's Jill Stein's respective candidacies this time round: former Governor of Massachusetts (and one-time Civil War General) Benjamin Butler of the Greenback Party and former Governor of Kansas John St.John of the Prohibition Party- each of whom would receive nearly 2 percent of the Popular Vote come 4 November of that year.
We in the early 21st Century have a tendency to act as if something is truly new where, in fact, it has its antecedents: take ISIS (please!), for example. Politicians of both Parties run around declaring and declaiming that "Islamic State [for sake of this argument alone, I will here refer to ISIS by that name] is something we have never ever seen before" or some such ahistorical drivel...
except that we have already seen it-- OK, not we, literally-- but at least those who lived in The West (including the United States) now more than a century ago had seen (or at least were, through reading their daily newspapers, made aware of) just such a thing-- at least once before:
at the same time American voters were preparing to go to the polls in late 1884, there already existed- in what is now The Sudan- an emergent polity known to History as the "Mahdist State" (the Mahdiyya in Arabic), the earliest modern Jihadist political entity. This "State" was so called (by its opponents: it called itself Ansar, after those who had greeted the Prophet Muhammad in Medina during the early 7th Century) because it had been founded by Muhammad Ahmad, a local religious leader and sheikh claiming to be al-Mahdi (Arabic: "the [rightly] guided one")- in Sunni Islam, the Redeemer who will reign for a relatively short period of years until the Day of Judgment (itself tied, in Islam, to the Return of Isa [yes, Jesus-- who, in Islam, is a prophet, but not the Redeemer]: it should be here noted that al-Mahdi is not to be found within the Qu'ran but, rather, among the supplemental writings [non-Koranic traditions involving the Prophet Muhammad collected after his death (the Qu'ran, on the other hand, consists of revelations to Muhammad during his own lifetime) known as the Hadith]).
As anyone who has ever seen the 1966 Hollywood action film Khartoum starring Charlton Heston and Laurence Olivier should know: in early 1884, the forces of The Mahdi (as Muhammed Ahmed would come to be known in English) would besiege the city of Khartoum, strategically located at where the Blue Nile and White Nile come together to form the River Nile proper. Defenders commanded by British Major General Charles George Gordon (sent to both aid the Egyptians [the Mahdists originally rose up against Egyptian rule of The Sudan in 1881: although still ostensibly under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Sultan in Constantinople, Egypt was- by then- a quasi-independent British "sphere of influence"] and evacuate Western civilians [primarily Britishers] from the Sudanese capital) would attempt to hold off the Mahdists but eventually (nearly a year after the siege had begun) be overwhelmed (before a relief column coming up the Nile from Egypt to the north could reach them)-- Gordon and the other defenders of Khartoum would end up having been killed (it should be noted that Gordon had defied orders from the British Government to himself withdraw once he had completed the evacuation of Westerners from Khartoum: as usual in such cases of military insubordination to civilian oversight, the civilian British public was politically split over whether Gordon's unsuccessful defense of Khartoum was heroic or not [in light of this historical fact, it is altogether interesing that the movie Khartoum was a rather popular one during America's 'Vietnam era']).
The Mahdi himself, however, died some six months after Gordon's defeat and was succeeded by one Abdullah bin Muhammad (who promptly added "al-Khalifa" to his name, having declared The Sudan to now be a Caliphate [sound familiar? The current 'Caliph Ibrahim'- that is: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State/ISIS- himself first came to the fore after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qa'eda in Iraq, was killed in 2006]). The Mahdists- now under their own Caliph (who, much like today's 'Ibrahim'/al-Baghdadi, demanded personal loyalty to himself as a sign of religious, let alone political, fealty)- would, among other insurgencies fomented by the Mahdiyya in and around The Sudan, make war on Abyssinia (Ethiopia): indeed, in one such battle during 1889, the Ethiopian Emperor Yohannes IV himself was killed. It would not be until 1898 that British troops- under the command of General Horatio Herbert Kitchener- would be able to finally subdue the Mahdists (Kitchener would thereafter be proclaimed 'Earl Kitchener of Khartoum' [thereby becoming 'Lord Kitchener'] while something called 'the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan' [a joint British/Egypt "condominium"- although Egypt was, by then, a British protectorate no longer part of the decaying Ottoman Empire] would come into being, itself the forerunner polity of the later [come March 1956, the very month I myself was born] independent Republic of [the] Sudan; interestingly, an early contender for first ruler of independent Sudan [he was to be rejected as such by the departing British] was The Mahdi's own son [born after his father had already died], Sayyid Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi [KBE: yes, Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire]: The Mahdi's great-grandson, Dr. Sadiq al-Siddiq al-Mahdi, was Prime Minister of Sudan in the late 1980s).
The point herein is that Islamic State/ISIS is not really all that new. Yes, it's true the Mahdists could never ever project their own politicoreligious ideology all that far beyond the geographic region they themselves could directly control (back in the late 19th Century, after all, there was no Internet through which, say, the "Mahdist-inspired" could potentially be indoctrinated far and wide across the globe and, thereby, perhaps motivated to commit acts of terrorism abroad; and, of course, "Mahdist operatives" could not simply hop onto a jet airliner and fly to the capitals and other major cities of the major Western powers in order to carry out just such terrorist acts under more direct "Mahdist" 'command and control') but an overall distinction between the Mahdist State and today's Islamic State as makes no real difference in kind (however much in degree) is so precisely because said difference in degree is merely a matter of more advanced human technologies developed over the past century and a quarter or so.
Likewise, the 2016 Presidential Election as compared to that of 1884:
although, admittedly, 1884 is but an analogue here (and Analogy is ever but illustration, never proof) and, equally admittedly, that long-ago Presidential Election (unlike one now in the early 21st Century) would be determined by primarily white (despite the 15th Amendment, most Blacks- along with Native American Indians- would find it difficult, where not even impossible, to vote come 1884) men (no State in 1884 allowed women to vote) living within the northern tier of States (for the old Confederacy had, by 1884, already become the 'solid [Democratic] South') and along the West Coast (much of the Interior West still, at the time, consisting of Territories yet to achieve Statehood in 1884), there are still enough similarities nonetheless (despite the fact that 1884 preceded over-the-air Radio and Television: let alone the Internet, Cable Television and Satellite Radio; Talk Shows and Social Media. We of our own time tend to forget just how impactful the wealth of information- not to also mention overtly political editorials- found in daily Newspapers [published both mornings and late afternoons in and around at least most metropolitan regions of the country] had become to the average literate American by then: here, again, a "an overall distinction... as makes no real difference in kind... merely a matter of more advanced human technologies developed over the past century and a quarter or so").
And so, now in 2016, Americans will go to the polls (at least those who have not previously availed themselves of so-called 'Early Voting' in those States of the American Union that allow for this) tomorrow- Tuesday 8 November- knowing, regardless of whom they might actually vote for (or, for that matter, against) as regards the Office of President of the United States, that one of two people- Hillary Rodham Clinton or Donald J. Trump, Sr.- both of them deeply flawed in many and differing ways, not necessarily the best candidates for that High Office each Major Party might have otherwise produced as their respective presidential nominees, each supported by many to whom the "negatives" attaching to the other candidate ever reinforces their own fervor for their own-- one of those two people (and no other) will, come Noon Eastern Standard Time [1700 GMT] next 20 January, take the Oath of Office as 45th President of the United States of America-- no other than one of those two!...
so it was 132 years earlier.
For even the voter who cast his ballot for either General Butler or Governor St.John (or, for that matter, anyone else) back in 1884 knew that, at some point, the incoming President-elect would be either Secretary Blaine or Governor Cleveland (and not one of the minor candidates for the Presidency).
As things turned out, the 1884 Presidential Election seemed to turn on what later came to be known as "Black Wednesday"- 29 October, less than a week before the actual polling would get underway.
"Black Wednesday" was set up by Blaine's returning from his own more than a month-long campaign swing "out West" (which, in the late 19th Century, still meant what we today call the Midwest): this had been principally timed to coincide with the Ohio State Elections- still being held on the second Tuesday in October (14 October in 1884)- in which, along with many local offices, the Buckeye State would also be electing its Congressmen (literally, Ohio's members of the U.S. House of Representatives [Senators still be chosen by State Legislatures back then]). The thought was that, should the Grand Old Party gain a noteworthily big victory in such elections, it would not only provide momentum to Blaine's presidential candidacy in Ohio (which still had to wait until November to "appoint" its Presidential Electors via Popular Vote) but also possibly influence the later Presidential Vote in other similar "Rust Belt" (as we would say today) States- including (perhaps even especially) the State of New York.
Blaine certainly delivered in Ohio (if we presume his presence there had any significant effect): even the New York Times (a paper of, at that time, otherwise Republican editorial bent which had refused to endorse James Blaine) trumpeted, in the left-hand column of its front page of Wednesday 15 October, a "REPUBLICAN MAJORITY"- further noting "The Blaine Men Win The Fight in Ohio" (although anti-Blaine, the Times of 1884 was still decidedly pro-GOP majority in Congress, as well as in Ohio's State General Assembly [its legislature]).
Blaine stayed in the Midwest nearly another two weeks after Ohio had so voted, in order to (hopefully) solidify support for the Republican ticket throughout that region: he returned East and during the day on Tuesday 28 October stopped off briefly in Jamestown, New York (at the foot of Chautauqua Lake) where the New York Republican Chairman begged him to spend at least a few days campaigning in upstate New York (a State thought to be close, if only because it was also the Democratic presidential nominee's own home State [indeed, western New York was, of course, Cleveland's own political base]) but Blaine demurred, citing previously arranged social (and even political) obligations in New York City before a planned last campaign swing through parts of New England on his way home to Maine (where Blaine would monitor the returns the following Tuesday evening). Accordingly, Blaine continued on to the 'Big Town' at the southern end of New York State by train, spending that Tuesday night at the Fifth Avenue Hotel across the street from Manhattan's Madison Square.
The next morning, a headline appeared in the left-hand column of the front page of the aforementioned New York Times which read: "BLAINE AND HIS BIG HOUSE"-- the subheads further explained: "A Candidate Who Hires Labor at Cheap Rates" and, further, "Remarkable Parsimony of the Man from Maine-- His Building Contractors Lost Much Money"... all very interesting (perhaps even intriguing now in 2016!) but not, in and of itself, fatal to Blaine's presidential ambitions (many a Republican voter that year would hardly have beeen offended by- as these would have the more seen it- Blaine's personal financial prudence [although, doubtless, many of those opposed to Blaine might well have wondered from just where even that meager spending might have actually come]).
Yet that same day would turn out to be so much worse for Blaine (whether or not he himself was actually aware of the above-cited story in the Times).
In the parlor of his hotel that same morning, Blaine met with a number of prominent Protestant clergy from throughout the City who were most supportive of his candidacy. Many of them spoke at this gathering, including one Reverend Samuel Burchard of the Murray Hill Presbyterian Church who declaimed:
We are very happy to welcome you in this circle... We are your friends, Mr. Blaine, notwithstanding all the calumnies that have been waged in the papers against you [NOTE: one fairly wonders if Rev. Burchard had seen that morning's Times] ... We are Republicans and don't propose to leave our Party and identify ourselves with that Party whose antecedents have been Rum, Romanism and Rebellion.
The first and third of these three 'R's would not have been all that controversial (Democrats of the time well knew that Republicans were pro-Prohibition [although not so much as to prevent a Prohibition Party from running its own presidential candidate] and here, as usual, were also once again "waving the Bloody Shirt") but it would be the middle of Burchard's three 'R's that would prove Blaine's undoing.
Rev. Burchard's remarks might have been lost to History (and, perhaps, James Blaine- and not Grover Cleveland- would thereafter have become President) had it not been for a single stenographer present: historians, to this day, debate whether or not he was an actual 'plant' by the Democratic National Committee, then headquartered in New York City (for it is just as likely he was simply a stenographer brought along by at least one of the clergymen in attendance in order to record that clergyman's own remarks for posterity [or at least for the following Sunday's church bulletin], but one who had happened to find Burchard's remarks particularly offensive). In any event, this stenographer promptly reported Burchard's remarks to the DNC and, within but hours (before the sun had even set that same evening) and thanks to the telegraph, printed handbills were already being distributed, and broadsides posted, throughout workingmen's enclaves in cities throughout the Northeast and even into that Midwest Blaine had so lately returned from- handbills and broadsides vehemently decrying the "Republican Party"'s attack on Democrats via Burchard's three 'R's.
Meanwhile, Blaine himself had failed to at all immediately distance himself from Burchard's remarks in his own brief statement of gratitude to these clergymen (a fact also duly noted by that same stenographer)- and, in any event (and certainly blissfully unaware of the political firestorm already starting to grow amongst many Roman Catholic working people- many of whom were hitherto supportive of Blaine over Cleveland for the Presidency- in many of the more industrialized sections of the country), Blaine went on into that evening (a large "Businessman's Parade" accompanying him almost all the way down Broadway to his next venue) courting outright disaster!
One of Blaine's social/political obligations in New York City was a dinner that same evening being given in his honor at Delmonico's, the premier steakhouse in the Financial District downtown and catering to the wealthiest New Yorkers: in attendance were many of the most prominent financial barons (some of them of rather questionable reputation, such as notorious "stockjobber" Jay Gould) and associated professionals (such as corporate attorneys and accountants, themselves quite well off due to their close association with 'Wall Street').
So comporting with such men (in late October 1884, the American economy was "flatlining"- although, as things turned out, it would avoid a major crisis such as the earlier Panic of 1873 or later Panic of 1893) would have been at least somewhat controversial for any presidential candidate during just such circumstances but Blaine turned it into unmitigated disaster through his choice of topic during his own remarks at this soiree. Blaine had, long before, decided to herald 'the Republican Party's contribution to the High Prosperity of both the Nation and the [New York] City' and the very tone of his remarks, as delivered, suggested (whether this might have been Blaine's intent or no) that he was primarily concerned with maintaining the prosperity of those with high income and not that of the average American workingman.
The following morning- that of Thursday 30 October 1884- the New York World, the paper owned by Joseph Pulitzer (for whom the Pulitzer Prize is named) and one that had already become a favorite newspaper in many a workingman's home throughout the immediate vicinity of New York, printed a large cartoon by Walt McDougall directly under its front page masthead, itself under the banner headline "THE ROYAL FEAST OF BELSHAZZAR BLAINE AND THE MONEY KINGS"...
the specific reference here was to the biblical King Belshazzar of Babylon who- as recounted in Chapter 5 of the Book of Daniel- sees that which gives us today the proverbial "Handwriting on the Wall" and the cartoon itself depicted (with the names of persons therein specifically labeled) Blaine and many of the more well-known among his Delmonico's hosts enjoying a sumptuous feast laid out all across a long table while a poor man (who could pass for either an everyday farmer or laborer), his wife and small child standing before all of them unsuccessfully begs for at least a small something. Underneath this 'visual' was a complete account of Blaine's rather bad day (under the headline "His Black Wednesday"), including the remarks by Rev. Burchard (with his three 'R's in all capital letters).
Published just as "GOP decries Romanism"- or equivalent- handbills and broadsides were also, at the same time, appearing throughout the very neighborhoods in which most World readers lived, the negative effect on many a blue collar voter in the greater New York area even merely thinking about casting his vote for Blaine the following Tuesday was clearly devastating.
Whether Blaine himself was apprised of (or even saw) McDougall's cartoon is unknown but, in any event, the Republican nominee was off again that same morning by train to Connecticut: arriving in New Haven, he found himself within a city fairly festooned with those handbills and broadsides so gleefully promoted by the Democrats. By two days later- Saturday 1 November, while Blaine was in the Nutmeg State's capital, Hartford- he could no longer ignore the inevitable (although, by most accounts, he still had to be goaded by Connecticut Republican leaders to even publicly address the issue): however, Blaine's belated response was altogether tepid (nowadays, we might even say "lame"), when he noted that, although himself a Protestant, his own mother had been raised Catholic (Blaine's parents had even been married in a Roman Catholic church, although Blaine and his father remained Presbyterian) and that, therefore, he could not in any presence, make a disrespectful allusion to that ancient faith in which my mother lived and died.
But it was all too late, as Blaine had still failed to say that what Burchard had said was itself wrong: the story is that the Republican leader in Hartford, himself an Irish Catholic, tersely told Blaine- just before the Republican nominee left that city- "All is over". Blaine had long been known by the nickname "The Magnetic Man" due to his personal charisma (especially earlier in his political career) and stirring oratorical abilities (during an era in which such was still highly prized) but now what was "sticking" to him during these waning days of the campaign was simply unseemly and one wonders just what thoughts were going through Blaine's own mind as he, certainly anxiously, awaited the results of the 4 November 1884 Presidential Election at his "big house" in Maine.
Everyone who has paid the least bit of attention in American History class- even during elementary school Social Studies- knows, of course, that Grover Cleveland- and not James Blaine- would be the one taking the Oath of Office as President of the United States come 4 March 1885. However, despite all of Blaine's problems that final week going into the 1884 Election itself, it was still a near thing!
On Tuesday 4 November of that year, American men throughout the country went to the polls (in most cases- States such as Ohio excepted- these voters were also choosing their Congressmen and filling many other State and local elective offices at the same time). That same morning, the New York Times offered something of an apologia (but not at all an apology!) for having failed to endorse Blaine, writing that it had no regrets. [Our] course was entered upon from a profound and sincere conviction of Mr. Blaine's unfitness to be President of the United States... There was no other course for the Times to take.
The secret, State-mandated standardized ballot (a hearty thanks, and a tip of the cap here, to South Australia: hence it's being known, back then, as the 'Australian ballot') was not yet in use anywhere in the United States (although it would spread quite rapidly throughout America in the years immediately following this particular election): many places in the country (literally-- for this was much more a practice of rural areas) still used so-called 'Open Balloting', in which a voter had to declare viva voce for whom he was voting (yes, in front of any friends, family and neighbors who happened to be standing within earshot); other places in America had already switched to a paper ballot dropped into a ballot box (or equivalent) in front of pollwatchers, but Parties would- ahead of time- hand out colored ballots- called "tickets"- with all that Party's candidates (only) listed thereon which the voter could (and, indeed, was encouraged by the Parties to) use (it is from this practice that we get the term "ticket" for a slate of candidates); those who might wish to "ticket-split" their voting would fill out what was more usually a white ballot (thus, anyone observing the line of voters waiting to deposit their respective ballots could easily discern whether or not a given voter was voting a "straight ticket" and, if so, just which one-- hardly secret!).
As a result, the Popular Vote of each State in the 1884 Presidential Election (as officially recorded on the Certificates of Ascertainment that accompanied the votes of actual Presidential Electors cast later- on Wednesday 3 December that year) is subject to no little subsequent interpretation and even, perhaps, no little later revision (this aside from any and all voting irregularities that might- or might not- have occurred [on both sides: rumors of such electoral chicanery appeared in many a newspaper during the final days of the campaign). Nonetheless, one can (obviously) certainly say that- officially (that is: as counted, tabulated and then formally accepted in Joint Session of Congress on Wednesday 11 February 1885)- Grover Cleveland received 219 Electoral Votes to James Blaine's 182 (with 201- a majority of the total 401- necessary to elect a President) and, thereby, it was Cleveland who had been duly, and constitutionally, elected President.
The key State in this Presidential Election of 1884 appears to have been New York (with, at that time, 36 Electoral Votes): Governor Cleveland won his own Empire State by a mere 1,149 (popular) votes out of a total of just under 1.2 million votes cast therein (subsequent historical analysis has whittled Cleveland's margin in New York down to much closer to 1,000)-- the two Third Party presidential candidates (Butler and St. John) received some 42,000 votes total in New York between them: Cleveland was, thereby, denied a majority of his own State's Popular Vote, yet he still won all of New York State's Electoral Vote...
had Blaine- and not Cleveland- won at least a plurality of the Popular Vote in New York State, the total Electoral Vote for President, instead, would then have been: Blaine 218 and Cleveland 183 (virtually a proverbial "reversal of fortune"); James G. Blaine would then have become President! The events of, and fallout from, "Black Wednesday" a week before- perhaps, just perhaps, aided and abetted (at least a wee bit [wink, wink- nod, nod]) by "help" from 'Tammany Hall' (although this notorious New York County Democratic Party machine had been no real friend of its own State's reformist Democratic Governor, they would find Lieutenant Governor [later to be elected Governor in his own right and then, later still, to serve as a United States Senator] David Hill, who would take over from Governor Cleveland once Cleveland had gone on to Washington, much more amiable)- had certainly taken their toll, however, and a "Blaine Administration" was never to be.
In any event, immediately thereafter- in answer to the Republicans' Ma, ma! Where's my pa?!- the victorious Democrats of 1884 could now gleefully retort:
Gone to the White House: ha, ha, ha!
There is a certain air of dread in much of America (as well as elsewhere around the World) attending the approach of Election 2016: the headlines themselves certainly seem ominous-- warnings of potential terrorist attack (this time from Al-Qa'eda, not ISIS) timed with the election; stories of independent militias drilling in isolated camps, readying to act once the election results (especially if they go one way and not the other, as regards the presidential race) are known; various and sundry political actors preparing- as well as purporting- to step up and monitor the election for electoral fraud in certain precincts on their own (on the other side of this coin, there are those many worried about intimidation of certain ordinary voters as a result [certainly those same ordinary voters, through no fault of their own, are worried]); an historic black church in the Delta of the State of Mississippi has been burned (with a reference to the Republican candidate painted thereon)-- not all that long before, a Molotov cocktail-type device had damaged a county Republican office in the State of North Carolina. But even if all this latest news might be no little unsettling to the average American (not to also mention those watching from abroad), the fact remains that we cannot- even as I now type this just before the election- at all perceive that which the historians of the future (including historians as yet unborn) will write about Election 2016, let alone all that- good, bad or just plain ugly- might well (or not) surround its voting and the election's aftermath.
'Tis all too often said that what will become History is already writ within current events ("Today's headlines contain what will be History come a far-away Tomorrow" and such); however, this is not really all that true because "History"- as a field of study- is itself the result of a process: we may well witness what happens as it is actually happening, but we cannot at all apprehend the future historiography about said happenings while they are all still happening in real time. Even the essential question- what might a President Donald Trump, or a President Hillary Clinton, do (or not do) in a particular situation once one or the other is installed as President of the United States?- is, in truth, utterly unanswerable right now, even by the most ardent supporter (let alone most vociferous detractor) of either, regardless of what these might otherwise right now think. Whatever one might say at this time about a Mrs. Clinton, or Mr. Trump, Administration, it is all just so much (whether educated or ignorant) guesswork (after all, not even Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton themselves can possibly know how they might, as President, address events that cannot yet even be contemplated [whatever each candidate might right now think, or even say]!).
Yet it is still clear that- other than their most ardent supporters, respectively- many Americans (whether they will vote, have already voted [where 'Early Voting' is permitted], or will not even be voting at all) are quite concerned about the prospects for either a "President Hillary Clinton" or a "President Donald Trump" and there are, to be sure, many such Americans who are most agitated over both possibilities (even though, as I have already said above, one or the other- Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton- will be the next President of the United States of America).
To those among my fellow Americans reading this who are so very much worried that the "other candidate" (whichever one that happens to be)- or, for that matter, either of them- will end up being elected President this time round, I can- if only by way of ending this piece- here only offer you three at least somewhat interrelated quotes, quotations that are best contemplated in the sequence in which I now share them:
the first is one I have quoted at least a few times on this very website and is from the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, Democrat of Texas:
My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total
and so it also is with myself.
The second comes courtesy of a now-late friend of mine who, during his much younger days (more than three and a half decades ago now), attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City's Borough of Manhattan where he was taking a Constitutional Development course and told me, at that time, that the professor of that particular class had said the following:
The Constitution protects the United States from bad Presidents
and so this is, at least in the main, also true...
for, as I myself have pointed out on this very website, the Framers of the Federal Constitution met in Philadelphia during the Summer of 1787 were quite fearful of what would happen- as regards the Office of President of the United States they were creating- once George Washington (presiding officer of that Convention [whereby he was ever sitting directly in front of them all] and the man pretty much everyone in the room assumed would be the first President should the document they were then crafting later be successfully ratified) was out of the picture (that is: no longer serving as President, for whatever reason). Accordingly, they devised what would later be referred to as the Electoral College system and, although it never functioned as they had originally intended (principally because they had not anticipated the rather rapid development of national-level Political Parties which could 'game' their system ahead of time and, thereby, cause the Highest Office in the Land to soon become that which political scientists call a "plebiscitary Presidency"), it has- at least for the most part- served the Nation well enough...
as have the inherent constitutional Checks and Balances- vertical (Federal-State, as well as State-Local Governmental Relations) as well as the much more noted horizontal (Legislative and Judicial branches [Popular Sovereignty and Rule of Law, respectively] hemming in the Executive's ever-bidding to push the envelope of its Power, regardless of to just which Party and/or political ideology a given President of the United States might adhere).
Finally, the third quote (which I have also previously cited at least a few times on this very website)-- it is from the Opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Ex parte Milligan [4 Wall. (71 U.S.) 2 (1866)] by Associate Justice David Davis, an appointee (and political confidant) of the then-lately assassinated President Abraham Lincoln:
The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine involving more pernicious consequences was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism, but the theory of necessity on which it is based is false; for the government, within the Constitution, has all the powers granted to it which are necessary to preserve its existence
If this all be but the coldest comfort to at least some of you amongst my dear readers, so be it. Know, however, that *I* am comforted.
After 1884, of course, America moved on: President Cleveland would face a challenge from Republican Benjamin Harrison, the grandson of a former President, four years thereafter-- and lose-- only to then force a rematch with now-President Harrison in 1892, a contest that Cleveland would win, thereby becoming the only former President to be, once again, elected President. (James Blaine [who would once more serve as Secretary of State, under President Harrison], on the other hand, died in January 1893: thus, he would not live to see his erstwhile opponent take the Oath of Office as President a second time the following March, nor would he live to see William McKinley- one of the Republican Congressmen from Ohio aided by Blaine's Midwest campaign tour back in the Fall of 1884- elected President in Grover Cleveland's stead come 1896).
Likewise, America will also move on after 2016, regardless of just who might win the Presidency this time round...
after all, we've been through this (even though it might have been well before any of those now reading these words could possibly have been born) at least once before!