Dirty Campaign Trick: The Phony Charles Murchison Letter Upended Grover Cleveland's 1888 Presidential Bid
The race hinged on New York State's 36 electoral votes. "As New York went, so went the election," says historian Rick Shenkman of George Mason University. It should have been no problem for Cleveland, who had been both the state's governor and mayor of Buffalo. Yet he was vulnerable in New York's sizable Irish community after his administration negotiated a fisheries treaty with the British Empire, which was hated by the Irish. George Osgoodby, a Republican in California, sent a letter to the British ambassador to the United States under the pretense that he was a British expatriate named Charles Murchison who wanted to know the candidate who would best "favor England's interests." When the ambassador endorsed Cleveland, he unknowingly stepped into the Republicans' trap; the party trumpeted his letter around the country as evidence that Cleveland had been pro-British all along.
After the ballots were cast two weeks later, Cleveland had beaten Harrison in the popular vote by 100,000, but he had only 168 electoral votes to Harrison's 233. The Republican had won all 36 of New York's votes.
Was the Murchison letter decisive? Most historians agree that it was quite harmful to Cleveland. "Whoever was Irish and voting probably was offended by the Murchison letter," says Henry Graff, professor emeritus of history at Columbia University and author of a 2002 biography of Cleveland.
Another biographer, Alyn Brodsky, called the Murchison letter "the filthiest dirty campaign trick ever pulled because it literally destroyed a presidency." Nevertheless, it didn't end Cleveland's political career. Upon her departure from the White House, Cleveland's wife was reported to have told the staff not to change anything because she would be back in four years. She proved prescient when Cleveland won the 1892 election and became the nation's only president elected to two nonconsecutive terms.
comments powered by Disqus
Susie Russell-Melendez - 3/25/2008
George Osgoodby is my ancestor. My father's name is Andrew Osgoodby Russell. We are all from southern California.
I am doing geneology for my family and want to thank you for having this Murchison Letter information available. I'm looking for any other information on it if anyone has more.
- Study: Violent radicalism in UK isn't associated with poverty
- CONFIRMED: the Shrine of Jonah/Mosque of Yunus (Nineveh, Mosul, Iraq) has been destroyed
- Chinese President Xi Jinping: Nobody can change history
- Iraq’s Long-Lost Mythical Temple Has Been Found…and Is In Danger of Disappearing Again
- CBS features in-depth coverage of the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights law
- Obama to award National Humanities Medals to 3 historians
- Historian Curt Gentry, known for Hoover biography and ‘Helter Skelter,’ dies at 83
- Harvard historian: strategy of climate science denial groups 'extremely successful'
- Curators at Victoria and Albert Museum are pushing the boundaries of collecting
- Ukrainian Leaders Are Using David Barton's Theocratic Pseudo-History To Build Their Nation