In the last couple of years, the Republican Party seems to have fractured a bit. Of course, there have always been “wings” to the party…a more conservative wing and and one with a more liberal bent. The same holds true for the Democratic Party. And I suppose there are more subgroups than just the liberals and conservatives. I happen to be in the subgroup that prefers to lick postage stamps rather than peel-and-stick…I’m just nostalgic that way.
Anyways, now there’s this Tea Party, which I think is a Republican Party off-shoot…I think. I don’t know for sure, and I don’t really care all that much, either. We’re here for history…aren’t we?
I mention that because it provides something of a lead-in to Today’s History Lesson. During the late 19th century, there were factions within the Republician Party. There were Stalwarts, who either were men “marked by outstanding strength and vigor of body, mind, or spirit“, or they were more conservative Republicans who really liked President Grant and wanted him in office for a third term.
On the other side were the more moderate Republicans, called Half-Breeds (they called themselves that?!?), who liked more moderate guys, like President Rutherford B. Hayes (whose middle initial is, for some reason, extremely important). For the 1880 elections, the Half-breeds wanted to nominate James Blaine, who apparently was more in the mold of Hayes.
Neither side liked the other’s candidate, so a compromise was reached with the selection of the “middle man”…Half-Breed James Garfield (no middle initial required). The Vice Presidential candidate was Chester Arthur, a Stalwart. Got that? There’s probably more to it, but I’m certainly not an expert on the subject (I’m still working to plow through James Madison’s biography).
Garfield won the election, took office in 1881, and was promptly shot by an angry Charles Guiteau, who gave himself the title of “Stalwart of Stalwarts” (rather ironic, given the cowardly nature of his deeds). President Garfield lived the better part of 3 months before dying on September 19th.
The next day, September 20, 1881, would see Chester Arthur (shown above) sworn in as the 21st President of the United States.