“Republicans are diehard here. All their hope lies in finding a clerical error in the returns,” a Lake George correspondent wrote in a dispatch published November 11th in The Morning Star of Glens Falls.
Rhetoric published in historic newspapers of 1884 sounds remarkably contemporary.
“Let Democrats everywhere prevent the frauds meditated by Blaine,” The Argus of Albany editorialized, referring to Republican candidate James Gillespie Blaine. “Be firm for your rights. Allow no tampering by Blaineites with the returns.”
New York’s 36 electoral votes, which went to Democrat Grover Cleveland, were at the forefront as the controversy played out around the nation.
When all was said and done, Cleveland won by just 37 electoral votes, with a razor thin lead of about half-of-a percentage point in the national popular vote.
On November 5th, the day after the election, the New York Post called the election for Cleveland.
On November 7th, three days after the election, The Associated Press called New York for Cleveland, with about a 1,000-vote margin, and Democrats around the state held celebrations.
On November 8th, the Boston city Democratic Chairman telegraphed a whimsical congratulatory message to Cleveland: “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious by the sun of New York.”
Yet Republican newspapers, such as The New York Tribune, insisted that Blaine was the rightful winner in New York.
“It has comprised baseless claims without figures, in some places; the utterance of figures without truth, in other places; systematic endeavors to withhold or misrepresent returns, and the misuse of all the channels of news to deceive the people and defraud Democracy,” The Argus editorialized on November 6th. “This surface work covers desperate and daring attempts to prepare for a direct reversal, after election, of the verdict of the people at the polls.”
Other New York newspapers were confidant Cleveland would prevail.
“The nation’s decision at the polls is known at this writing, but it is too early to separate and set forth all the elements of that decision. …
But the victory is ours. It is glorious! Let us sing!” the Utica Press editorialized.
On November 7th, speaking with reporters at his home in Augusta, Maine, Blaine insisted he had won the election.
“I feel entirely confident that the honest vote of New York, without change or manipulation, will show a plurality for the Republican electors of not less than 1,500. I do not speak idly, but from the most accurate data carefully furnished me from the most confident sources,” Blaine said. “I do not think the American people will accept a fraudulent count.”
Cleveland kept a low profile at the governor’s mansion in Albany.
“Gov. Cleveland’s demeanor, during these exciting days, has been marked by calmness, dignity, reserve and good humor under very trying circumstances,” The Argus editorialized on November 8th.
The outcome was still in question on November 12th, eight days after the election.
“There is nothing materially new in the political field. It seems that nothing short of the official count will satisfy,” The Morning Star reported. “When that is announced every is expected to submit gracefully, like good American citizens.”
The Morning Star, a politically independent newspaper, suggested it was unfortunate that neither major political party had fielded a compelling candidate.
“It is a matter of serious regret that the election of Tuesday was not more decisive for either one party or the other,” the paper editorialized.
“The close vote in this and other states together with the absurd claims of both parties and ridiculous alarms of the ultra press of both parties tend to create a feeling of distrust which needs but little incentive to cause serious disturbance.”
On November 15th, The Morning Star reported that The New York Tribune had conceded New York to Cleveland the previous day, but there were still doubters.
“’What are the latest figures?’ is still the prevailing interrogation.”