Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion: The Making of a President, 1884

Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion: The Making of a President, 1884

by Mark Wahlgren Summers


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The presidential election of 1884, in which Grover Cleveland ended the Democrats' twenty-four-year presidential drought by defeating Republican challenger James G. Blaine, was one of the gaudiest in American history, remembered today less for its political significance than for the mudslinging and slander that characterized the campaign. But a closer look at the infamous election reveals far more complexity than previous stereotypes allowed, argues Mark Summers. Behind all the mud and malarkey, he says, lay a world of issues and consequences.

Summers suggests that both Democrats and Republicans sensed a political system breaking apart, or perhaps a new political order forming, as voters began to drift away from voting by party affiliation toward voting according to a candidate's stand on specific issues. Mudslinging, then, was done not for public entertainment but to tear away or confirm votes that seemed in doubt. Uncovering the issues that really powered the election and stripping away the myths that still surround it, Summers uses the election of 1884 to challenge many of our preconceptions about Gilded Age politics.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807848494
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 03/20/2000
Edition description: 1
Pages: 408
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)
Lexile: 1240L (what's this?)

About the Author

Mark Wahlgren Summers is professor of history at the University of Kentucky and author of The Press Gang: Newspapers and Politics, 1865-1878.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Judgment Day
Chapter 1. No Business To-Day Other Than Politics
Chapter 2. The Dispirit of '76
Chapter 3. The Bloody Shirt—In Hoc Signo Vinces
Chapter 4. The Politics of Personality
Chapter 5. O Temperance, O Mores!
Chapter 6. The Protection Racket
Chapter 7. The Democrats Rise from the Dead
Chapter 8. The Passing of Arthur
Chapter 9. We Love Him for the Enemies He Has Made
Chapter 10. The Public Be Crammed!
Chapter 11. Love's Libels Lost
Chapter 12. Windypendents' Day
Chapter 13. Ireland Sold for Gold!
Chapter 14. Sideshows
Chapter 15. Carrying the War into Africa
Chapter 16. Local All Over
Chapter 17. Clerical Errors
Chapter 18. Lord! But We Skirted the Edge!
Chapter 19. Justice at Last!

"Another voice for Cleveland"
The Blaine tariff fraud
"His own destroyer"
Death at the polls and free from "federal interference"
"Mr. Tilden's body-guard"
"This puts me in the devil of a position"
A cartoon of what Democrats thought Readjuster rule meant
"Rival rag-pickers"
"The 'magnetic' Blaine"
"A grand Shakespearian revival"
"A big job"
"Her platform going to pieces"
"Senator Bayard strikes his grand attitude on the tariff question"
"Cleveland the celibate"
"Made harmless at last!"
"Blaine leans towards Logan"
"Phryne before the Chicago tribunal"
"He courts the mother and means the daughter"
He can't beat his record
"Those dogs won't fight—they are dying of starvation"

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

For those who believe that running for president is the real national pastime and who enjoy reading history, this book will be of great interest. . . . Mark Summers has written a very good book. . . . It deserves an audience that reaches beyond academia.—Virginia Quarterly Review

Summers has unearthed sexual scandals, petty rivalries, comic happenstances, and enough historical drama to nurture interest in 1884 among the most jaded readers. . . . Summers's true scholarship and thoroughness will impress historians and election buffs alike.—Choice

A terrific read for scholars and history buffs alike, full of new insights and crackling stories about a little-understood era of politics.—Michael Les Benedict, Ohio State University

How could an era when character counted produce the dirtiest presidential election in American history? Mark Summers moves beyond the stereotypes to uncover more than a mean and meaningless campaign, where issues real to voters' lives surfaced in spite of the mudslinging. Written with verve and pointed humor, Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion makes important contributions to the ongoing reevaluation of Gilded Age America.—Donald A. Ritchie, U.S. Senate Historical Office

[An] interesting and ably argued book.—Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

Summers's special contribution to revisionism is that he demonstrates how even the election of 1884 fits into a revisionist framework. . . . Anyone wishing to understand the broader context behind those stories will find Summers's analysis of great value.—Labor History

Summers is especially informative in his analysis of the attempts by the Republicans and Democrats to exploit third parties such as the Prohibitionists and Greenbackers to further their own electoral chances. . . . Deeply researched and presented in a colorful narrative style, this is a work that ranks with Geoffrey Blodgett's The Gentle Reformers (1966) and Robert Marcus's Grand Old Party (1971) for the revealing window that it opens on Gilded Age politics.—North Carolina Historical Review

Written with gusto and peppered with insights, this is old-fashioned political history at its best.—American Historical Review

A very good book. . . . It deserves an audience that reaches beyond academia.—Virginia Quarterly Review

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