James A. Garfield served the second shortest term as President. He was shot by a disappointed office seeker, and he died after only six months in office.
Chester Arthur became the 21st President. Arthur signed a Civil Service bill proposed by George Pendleton of Ohio which set aside one eighth of all federal offices for appointment by merit rather than through party patronage. Arthur was also interested in lowering the tariff.
Throughout the nineteenth century, VPs who succeeded to the Presidency had a difficult time gathering support for re-election. Arthur angered many Republicans when he attempted to make appointments based on qualifications rather than party loyalty. James G. Blaine ran against Arthur and captured the Republican nomination with the support of the northern states.
The Democrats nominated New York Governor Grover Cleveland over the objections of Tammany Hall. Cleveland had been elected Mayor of Buffalo in 1881 as a reformer, and he was then elected Governor of New York the next year. Thomas A. Hendricks was chosen as the VP candidate.
With a close election likely to take place, Blaine committed two important blunders a week before the vote. While attending a meeting in New York City, a speaker declared the Democrats to be the party of “rum, Romanism and rebellion.”
Later that same day Blaine attended a party which the most wealthy residents of the state attended. The Democratic press hounded Blaine throughout the week before the election.[More...]