Chester A. Arthur was a very popular president. As publisher Alexander McClure wrote, “No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Arthur, and no one ever retired from the highest civil trust more generally respected.” But although he considered it for a time, Arthur did not make a bid for a full-term nomination in 1884 because of a decline in his health. He had Bright’s disease, a kidney disease that was terminal at the time, and feared he might not survive a second term. In this he was correct, as he died in November 1886, what would have been just a year and a half into his term. The Republicans nominated James G. Blaine in June 1884. He had represented Maine in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1863 to 1876, been Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1869 to 1875, and then served in the United States Senate from 1876 to 1881. He was then Secretary of State for President Garfield, and in fact dominated the cabinet. But did not mesh with Arthur and he resigned in December 1881. The Democrats nominated Grover Cleveland, governor of New York, a man with a reputation as a reformer and an opponent of corruption.Grover Cleveland carried four advantages into the 1884 presidential campaign. First, his battles with Tammany Hall had won the support of middle-class voters from both parties. Second, his reformism emphasized hard work, merit, and efficiency, reinforcing his appeal to Republicans as well as to Democrats. Third, and most importantly, he seemed poised to carry the state of New York; in 1884, every politician worth his salt understood that the Democrats had to carry the entire South and New York to win. Lastly, Blaine had almost as many enemies within the Republican Party as supporters. The morally upright Mugwumps, a Republican faction of reform-minded businessmen and professionals, hated Blaine (who they considered corrupt) but admired Cleveland because of his willingness to challenge corrupt political organizations and businesses. For his part, Cleveland gave only two campaign speeches in 1884. In both, he characterized the Republican Party as a "vast army of office holders" - corrupt, extravagant, and subservient to the rich. When Republicans charged Cleveland with fathering an illegitimate child by a woman whom he had then sent to an insane asylum, Cleveland immediately admitted the possibility of his paternity. Cleveland won the 1884 election by the narrowest of margins. He received 4,879,507 votes (48.5 percent) to Blaine's 4,850,293 votes (48.2 percent). If Blaine had won a few more votes in New York - which he lost to Cleveland by only 1,200 votes out of the more than one million cast, he would have taken that state's huge electoral slate and won the presidency. As it was, Cleveland received 219 electoral votes to Blaine's 182.As the March 4, 1885 inauguration of Grover Cleveland approached, President Arthur called the U.S. Senate into session for the event. Document signed, Washington, February 27, 1885, ordering that “extra session”. “I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of State to cause the Seal of the United States to be affixed to a Proclamation convening the Senate in extra session at 12 o’clock March 4, 1885.” Cleveland became the first Democratic president since the Civil War, and would in fact be the only one between Buchanan in March 1861 and Wilson in March 1913.A unique piece of history, signed as the popular Arthur was leaving office. (Inventory #: 11166)
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