The election of 1880 was a referendum on the Republican relaxation of Reconstruction in the former states of the Confederacy. The other issue of significance was the tariff, which Republicans supported as protective to business. Incumbent Republican president Rutherford Hayes kept his promise not to seek reelection; another Ohioan, James A. Garfield, was chosen by the party as its nominee. Democrats nominated Winfield S. Hancock, who like Garfield was a Civil War veteran from the North. Garfield received more popular votes than Hancock (by a margin of less than 2,000) to win the smallest popular vote victory in American presidential history.
The campaign focused more on personalities than issues. Garfield projected himself as a hard-working, self-made man, and chose not to attack Hancock, a hero of the Gettysburg campaign. Democrats campaigned on Republican corruption and attempted to defame Garfield and his running mate Chester A. Arthur. While some charges in the "Life of Garfield," published in the Democratic magazine Puck—his hanging of cats and making religious changes to the White House—are ludicrous, the reference to the DeGoyler scandal is biting. In 1872, while a powerful congressional chairman, Garfield had accepted a counselor's fee of $5,000 from the DeGolyer and McClelland Company of Chicago, contractors for wooden paving blocks that were laid at great government expense in the streets of Washington.
About this exhibit | Image gallery | Resources | Credits & Comments