1880 General Election

1880 General Election

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Political Parties

Total Votes









Home Rule Party




James A. Garfield: Campaigns and Elections

President Rutherford B. Hayes had vowed to be a one-term President, and he kept his pledge. When Republicans convened in Chicago in June 1880, the fight for the nomination stood between former President Ulysses S. Grant, a Stalwart, and James G. Blaine, the Half-Breed senator from Maine. Garfield, head of the Ohio delegation and chairman of the Convention Rules Committee, backed Treasury Secretary John Sherman of Ohio, a veteran of both the House and the Senate. Though he bore the cross of dullness, Sherman might emerge as the ideal compromise candidate. Garfield nominated Sherman. The convention deadlocked through the next thirty-three ballots, with Grant leading, followed by Blaine and Sherman.

Throughout the convention balloting, Garfield had received one or two courtesy votes on each roll call. On the thirty-fourth ballot, Wisconsin cast sixteen votes for Garfield. On the next ballot, Garfield received fifty votes. The move became a stampede on the thirty-sixth ballot as the Blaine and Sherman forces rallied to the Ohio congressman, who had been elected by the Ohio state legislature to the U.S. Senate just prior to the Republican convention. Garfield won 399 votes to Grant's 306, putting him over the top and giving him the Republican nomination.

Conkling's friend and protege, Chester A. Arthur, former customs collector at the Port of New York, received the party's nomination for vice president with Garfield's endorsement. Conkling warned Arthur against accepting the slot, predicting Garfield's defeat and urging him to "drop it as you would a red hot shoe from the forge." Arthur responded that the "office of the Vice-President is a great honor than I ever dreamed of attaning." Arthur's nomination had been organized behind Garfield's back. Garfield reluctantly approved, knowing he needed Stalwart support to emerge victorious.

When Samuel J. Tilden, former New York governor and the Democratic nominee in 1876, withdrew his name from consideration, the Democrats nominated Winfield S. Hancock, a Civil War hero and career Army officer. Hancock had seen Civil War action at Antietam and Gettysburg, where he had blunted Pickett's Charge. He also fought in the Wilderness campaign and at a dozen other engagements as well. He served as the military governor of Louisiana and Texas during Reconstruction, running afoul of Radical Republicans when his policies supported whites and Democrats over blacks and carpetbaggers.

The presidential campaign revealed few differences between the candidates, except for the tariff. Hancock stumbled when he dismissed the tariff issue as "a local question." Democrats attacked Garfield for his part in the Credit Mobilier scandal. Following President Hayes's advice, Garfield kept a low profile during the campaign.

Since Garfield was, quite correctly, perceived as tied far more to the Half-Breeds than to the Stalwarts, he immediately realized that he had to mend political fences. On August 5, he met with party leaders, though not Conkling, in New York City. During an exchange of views, Garfield promised to recognize all party factions, including the Stalwarts, when presidential appointments were made. Though the terms were vague and ambiguous, pundits dubbed the conference the "Treaty of Fifth Avenue." Both Conkling and Garfield knew that the electoral votes in New York might well prove decisive in the election.

In one of the closest elections on record, Garfield beat Hancock by a mere 7,368 votes, less than one-tenth of one percent of the total votes cast. Taking such minor parties as the Greenbackers and Prohibitionists into account, Garfield received only 48.3 percent. His support was much stronger in the electoral college, where he received 214 votes to Hancock's 155. Each candidate carried nineteen states. Garfield won the northern and midwestern states while Hancock carried the South and most of the border states. Had New York gone Democratic, resulting in a shift of a few thousand votes in each state, Hancock would have won in the electoral college.


Republicans: This issue of the day was tariffs and the Republicans supported them. High tariffs on foreign products meant that American businesses could compete with cheaper foreign products because it would drive their prices up. This would help save American jobs and in turn help the American economy.

Democrats: Democrats generally condemned them as a source of higher prices for goods, whereas the higher revenues that they generated for the federal government were not needed after the conclusion of the Civil War. However, the issue tended to divide the party since northern Democrats were in favor of high tariffs.

Other issues that continued to gain momentum was prohibition, breaking up monopolies, civil rights, Chinese immigration, and women&rsquos suffrage.


  • With the ratification of the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution (and starting with the 75th Congress in 1937), the electoral votes are counted before the newly sworn-in Congress, elected the previous November.
  • The date of the count was changed in 1957, 1985, 1989, 1997, 2009, and 2013. Sitting Vice Presidents John C. Breckinridge (1861), Richard Nixon (1961), and Al Gore (2001) all announced that they had lost their own bid for the Presidency.

Grand Union general election, 1880 (Principia Moderni III Map Game)

After the secularization of the school system in 1877, when the "public" school system, the one financed and supported by government subsidies, prohibited church involvement in education, while allowing non-financed church-run schools, the religious in the nation went into uproar, fearing that the anti-clericalists have won. The Liberal-Socialist-Agrarian government was seen as a figurehead for anti-clericalist forces. At this point the formerly proud Nationalist Faction has disintegrated, and its former "leader", Rikard Joglia begins to gather support for a "Christian" party. After a year of planning, and gaining members, the Christian Social Union, a "right-wing" organization, is formed as an alternative to the National Conservative Party for those who want to oppose the government, and feel that the conservatives have lost their way (many abstained in the vote that secularized the school system). His party won 35 seats in the election, and afterward, the Nationalist faction was no more.

A Short History of Our Own Times, from the Accession of Queen Victoria to the General Election of 1880 (Paperback)

Justin 1830-1912 McCarthy

Published by Wentworth Press, United States, 2016

New - Softcover
Condition: New

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1880 Democratic Party Platform

The Democrats of the United States, in Convention assembled, declare:

1. We pledge ourselves anew to the constitutional doctrines and traditions of the Democratic party as illustrated by the teachings and example of a long line of Democratic statesmen and patriots, and embodied in the platform of the last National Convention of the party.

2. Opposition to centralization and to that dangerous spirit of encroachment which tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever be the form of government, a real despotism. No sumptuary laws separation of Church and State, for the good of each common schools fostered and protected.

3. Home rule honest money, consisting of gold and silver, and paper convertible into coin on demand the strict maintenance of the public faith, State and National, and a tariff for revenue only.

4. The subordination of the military to the civil power, and a general and thorough reform of the civil service.

5. The right to a free ballot is the right preservative of all rights, and must and shall be maintained in every part of the United States.

6. The existing administration is the representative of conspiracy only, and its claim of right to surround the ballot-boxes with troops and deputy marshals, to intimidate and obstruct the election, and the unprecedented use of the veto to maintain its corrupt and despotic powers, insult the people and imperil their institutions.

7. We execrate the course of this administration in making places in the civil service a reward for political crime, and demand a reform by statute which shall make it forever impossible for a defeated candidate to bribe his way to the seat of the usurper by billeting villains upon the people.

8. The great fraud of 1876-77, by which, upon a false count of the electoral votes of two States, the candidate defeated at the polls was declared to be President, and for the first time in American history, the will of the people was set aside under a threat of military violence, struck a deadly blow at our system of representative government. The Democratic party, to preserve the country from the horrors of a civil war, submitted for the time in firm and patriotic faith that the people would punish this crime in 1880. This issue precedes and dwarfs every other. It imposes a more sacred duty upon the people of the Union than ever addressed the conscience of a nation of free men.

9. The resolution of Samuel J. Tilden not again to be a candidate for the exalted place to which he was elected by a majority of his countrymen, and from which he was excluded by the leaders of the Republican party, is received by the Democrats of the United States with deep sensibility, and they declare their confidence in his wisdom, patriotism, and integrity, unshaken by the assaults of a common enemy, and they further assure him that he is followed into the retirement he has chosen for himself by the sympathy and respect of his fellow-citizens, who regard him as one who, by elevating the standards of public morality, merits the lasting gratitude of his country and his party.

10. Free ships and a living chance for American commerce on the seas, and on the land no discrimination in favor of transportation lines, corporations, or monopolies.

11. Amendment of the Burlingame Treaty. No more Chinese immigration, except for travel, education, and foreign commerce, and that even carefully guarded.

12. Public money and public credit for public purposes solely, and public land for actual settlers.

13. The Democratic party is the friend of labor and the laboring man, and pledges itself to protect him alike against the cormorant and the commune.

14. We congratulate the country upon the honesty and thrift of a Democratic Congress which has reduced the public expenditure $40,000,000 a year upon the continuation of prosperity at home, and the national honor abroad, and, above all, upon the promise of such a change in the administration of the government as shall insure us genuine and lasting reform in every department of the public service.

APP Note: The American Presidency Project used the first day of the national nominating convention as the "date" of this platform since the original document is undated.

Early Political Career

In 1864, when Hayes was still on the battlefield defending the North, the Republican Party in Cincinnati nominated him for Congress. He accepted the nomination but refused to campaign. In a letter to his friend Ohio Secretary of State William Henry Smith (1833�), Hayes explained, 𠇊n officer fit for duty who at this crisis would abandon his post to electioneer for a seat in Congress ought to be scalped.” Hayes left the army after the war ended in 1865, and in December of that year, having won the election, took his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Hayes was re-elected to his congressional seat in 1866, but resigned in 1867 to run for governor of Ohio. He won the race and was re-elected in 1869. At the conclusion of his second term as governor in 1872, he wanted to retire from politics altogether, but the Ohio Republican Party had other plans. The party nominated Hayes to run for Congress in 1872, a race he lost. At that point, Hayes and his growing family moved from Cincinnati back to Fremont, where he had begun his law career. Hayes practiced law for three years before again receiving his party’s nomination for governor.

Hayes was elected governor for the third time in 1875 on a platform focused on the procurement of voting rights for blacks and on economic plans calling for a strong gold-backed currency.


  • With the ratification of the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution (and starting with the 75th Congress in 1937), the electoral votes are counted before the newly sworn-in Congress, elected the previous November.
  • The date of the count was changed in 1957, 1985, 1989, 1997, 2009, and 2013. Sitting Vice Presidents John C. Breckinridge (1861), Richard Nixon (1961), and Al Gore (2001) all announced that they had lost their own bid for the Presidency.

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