By Lisa Cooper
This week’s topic is the election of 1884.
Wait – don’t click off all bored-like. I promise this will be interesting – perhaps a little entertaining.
The Election of 1884 pitted Grover Cleveland for the Democrats up against James G. Blaine representing the Republican Party, and it is one election year remembered for its extreme bitterness including personal slurs, casting blame toward the opposition, gaffes and downright nastiness.
This was also one of the first presidential elections where the candidates had to try a little harder to get in front of as many citizens as possible to make the case why they were the best person for the job.
This was also the election year the news media made a huge profit hawking sensationalism. They picked up on the drama on both sides reporting every detail they possibly could and kept the mess churning throughout the months of campaigning by both candidates.
Cleveland was accused of having an illegitimate child. James G. Blaine carried around the nickname of "Slippery Jim" due to several questions regarding ethics violations while he served as Speaker of the House.
Cleveland won, but just barely in what is described by historians as one of the closest elections in United States history. Cleveland's election was also notable because it broke a twenty-five year losing streak for the Democratic Party regarding the White House.
The Democrats were ecstatic, and southern Democrats were beyond ecstatic. They were downright giddy as they had endured years of Reconstruction and Republican rule not only with national offices, but within their own states as well.
Douglas County Democrats were among the ecstatic bunch per The Weekly Star newspaper. The article from November, 1884 states:
A number of Douglasville boys went down to Atlanta last Friday night to participate in the jubilee over Cleveland's election. Some of them jubilated muchly.
I have my own personal opinions regarding what "jubilated muchly" might mean, but I'll keep that to myself.
The newspaper article continues:
The boys painted the town red last Friday, when the news of Cleveland's election was received. Amid the firing of anvils, whooping and rejoicing, Captain C. P. Bowen made his appearance on the smallest mule in the county and rode up and down the sidewalk and all over town, with little Joe Johnson behind him. He had placed on the mule's forehead a placard which had written on it in large letters "Cleveland and Hendricks".
Thomas A. Hendricks was Cleveland's running mate and our 21st Vice President. Please don't feel bad if you didn't know. I didn't know it either, and I make it my business to commit factoids like that to memory.
Back to the article:
Bowen was followed by half the town, some holding to the mule's tail, some its ears, and all hollering at the top of their voices.
Before the election, the Captain had pledged himself, that if Cleveland was elected, to ride a bull all over town. He was not able to find a bull and substituted this little mule.
Well, the occasion justified the behavior.