Google+ Georgia On My Mind: The Election of 1884

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Election of 1884

Well, the long road to the Election of 2012 is over, and tomorrow evening we should know who the next occupant of the White House will be.  

I spent some time yesterday wondering how Atlanta reacted to past elections, and I found an interesting account from the Election of 1884 including revelry that lasted all day and night as well as citizens bursting into the General Assembly while in session and a river of fire ran through the city's streets.

Read's not what you think.

You may rely absolutely on Cleveland's election....

Once those words were sent out to cities all over the United States via telegraph the Election of 1884 was over.

Grover Cleveland would be heading to the White House.

Franklin Garrett, Atlanta's premier historian advised in his book Atlanta and Its Environs......In ten minutes 1000 democrats were in consultation as to how best to celebrate. Mr. Henry W. Grady was elected marshal of the day. Committees on music, bloody shirts, bonfires and parade were appointed and at 10:30 there were over 3000 men in line.

The Constitution for November 8, 1884 stated the following:

In front of the procession were two volunteer drummers, Gresham and Brown. Following them, leading the line of march came Mr. Grady, his hat wrapped with a new silk flag, and Alderman Lowery bearing an immense flag, which was greeted with resounding cheers.....

Next came the bloody shirt brigade....bearing red shirts stretched on crossed poles.  Affixed to each shirt was a placard reading, 'We are going to burn this!'

The bloody shirt made reference to instances during the campaigns where reference had been made to martyrs in exchange for political points.

The newspaper account continues:

Behind the bloody shirts came about a thousand men bearing small flags. Next to these was a huge United States flag stretched as a canopy over 50 men in charge of Jim Iverson, Hoke Smith and Dr. [Clinton T.] Brockett......

As the procession marched up Broad Street it was met by Hon. E.P. Howell and Major John Fitten with a brass band they had picked up in a jiffy. They had gathered perhaps 500 people, who at once fell into the column, the band taking its place in the center. As the march proceeded up Broad it was greeted by cheers from the crowd that lined each side of the way and filled all of the windows. Up Marietta Street it was the same.

On reaching the capitol the line of march was turned into the side steps and up into the corridor it poured like a torrent.  When they reached the door of the house, the drummer started in. The doorkeeper made some show at holding the doors, but Mr. Evan Howell bracing against the brass drum pushed in and the crowd followed with a rush.

The house was in session. The drums were stilled, and the members in surprise rose to their feet.

Mr. Grady with beaming face announced:

'Mr. Speaker! A message from the American people:'

The house rose as one man this time, and the column marched onto the speaker's stand, with drums beating and colors flying. Hon. Lucius Lamar was in the speaker's desk. Mr. Grady siezed him in his arms, and took gavel from his hands, and rapping for order said:

'in the name of, and by the authority of Grover Cleveland, President of the United States, I now declare this house adjourned until tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock!"

The house took the point like a flash. Most of the members were on their desks, the uproar and cheering were terrific. The speaker took the stand and tried to restore order, but the thing was over. A resolution was offered by Mr. Flint of Spalding congratulating Cleveland and Hendricks. It was voted on by 2000 people, who filled every nook and corner of the house. There were calls for 'Grady' for several minutes but he had left to adjourn the senate and the governor..... front of the capitol the broad streets were packed with 10,000 people shouting themselves hoarse. The bands were playing 'Dixie' and the yelling was deafening. Governor McDaniel was brought down accompanied by General Lawton. They were received with cheers and encircled with United States flags. Mr. Grady then announced that Governor McDaniel would address the unterrified and jubilant democracy of Fulton County from the customhouse steps.

The bloody shirts, saturated with oil were fired in front of the capitol and burned amid the wildest demonstrations of joy and approval. When this interesting ceremony was over, Mr. Grady introduced Governor McDaniel......

Over a thousand torches were provided and at six o'clock a remarkable scene was presented about the Constitution building and for blocks around. Everywhere the weird light of the torches could be seen and the streets were filled with crackling bonfires, until the picture was like unto a view of the infernal region. Everywhere was one moving mass, while shouts rent the air and horns shrieked and drums beat and bands played. It was a wild scene and one that was calculated to fill the stoniest soul with patriotic enthusiasm.

At seven o'clock the procession started, led by a detachment of sixteen mounted policemen to clear the way. Following came young men from the Democratic League, about 300 strong, bearing [signs]. The greatest procession, to the music of 'Dixie', turned into Broad Street and proceeded toward Mitchell......Broad Street seemed like one mass of moving fire, and a wild pandemonium of exultant democratic noise.....Along Whitehall were brillant illuminations and thousands of flags fluttered gaily, while every few feet bonfires and colored lights made a scene that was as dazzling in its brilliance....

....As the procession passed along Whitehall, it was easy to see how imposing it was. Among the [signs that the people carried were the slogans]: Low tariff and reform, Paint the town Red, .....and Tell the Truth....

....At the Constitution office the procession was reinforced, and again they started out passing around Broad, Mitchell and Whitehall again.....Everywhere immense bonfires were burning, rockets and Roman candles were firing and the scene was a wild one....

....The procession turned into Peachtree, and then a scene of grandest brilliance occurred. The procession by this time was nearly a mile and half long and the thousands of torches looked like a river of fire that flowed along the ridge lined by the bank of trees. The residences were brightly illuminated. The Capital City Club was brilliant as a palace and the lawn of Leyden House was filled with a thousand Chinese lanterns, while the building was lighted by hundreds and hundreds of candles, making it a blaze of light.......

....By the time the procession turned into Peachtree there were fully 25,000 people on the streets. Never in the history of the city were there so many people out at one time. 

[At one point] the procession was joined by the Gate City Guard under command of Captain Jackson. The procession turned in Forsyth Street and proceeded to the customhouse, halting in front of the building and filling Marietta Street with a sea of fire for blocks each way.

For some time the horns tooted, the bands played, the drums beat, the populace shouted, the cannons boomed and there was a regular whoop-la time of it.  [When the quiet was restored Mr. Grady introduced Senator Brown who spoke. He was followed by several other  just as enthusiastic speeches.]

Then the crowd took to the streets. The procession started up, and the boys went ahead painting the town red. Until after midnight the exultant shouts were heard. At one everything was quiet, only here and there a stray shout. At two o'clock silence brooded over the sleeping city, and the greatest democratic demonstration was over.

The election of Grover Cleveland in 1884 was important because a losing streak for the Democratic Party that had lasted for over 25 years had been broken. After years of Reconstruction following the Civil War the South finally had a Democratic leader. This meant something as in those days Democrats were the majority in southern states.

It had also been a difficult and bitter election.  Accusations regarding an illegitimate child had been hurled at Cleveland and his opponent....James G. Blaine had some ethics issues as Speaker of the House.

Cities all over the state of Georgia.....all over the South celebrated the election of Cleveland that night including my own home of Douglas County.   I've shared a bit about their celebration which included a mule here.

No matter which candidate is deemed the winner tomorrow night......let us celebrate the fact we have the freedom to choose our leaders.

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