Inspired a number of telephone calls and...

A RECENT COLUMN

March 07, 1992|By THEO LIPPMAN JR

A RECENT COLUMN inspired a number of telephone calls and letters of which the following are representative:

Letter from Michael T. Shatterly of Ellicott City: "After pointing out that the Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland, carried the South in the 1884 election, you refuted the theory that Cleveland owed his success to the fact that his Republican opponent, James Garfield, had been a Union general during the Civil War, while Cleveland, a draft dodger, carried no such baggage. I would like to offer an alternative theory. Isn't it possible that Cleveland won, in part, because he was alive, while Garfield was dead? It seems to me that Garfield's death in office three years previously might have hampered him on the campaign trail. Yours most respectfully . . . ."

Letter from T. Allen Wells of Glen Burnie: "The Republican Party has run a variety of candidates in presidential elections since 1860, but Theo Lippman Jr. is the first I've seen suggest that they ran a corpse. He states that 'it is true that Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland's opponent was James Garfield.' Unfortunately, it is not true, since Garfield died in 1881, after less than seven months in office as president. Maybe Mr. Lippman was confused because Garfield is buried in Cleveland, Ohio."

Letter from Wesley L. Michael of Baltimore: "Wrong! Cleveland's opponent in 1884 wasn't Garfield, who was assassinated in 1881, but James G. Blaine. Some of us read your column all the way to the end. Regards . . . ."

Phone call from Blaine Brooks of Baltimore: "I'm not surprised that Grover Cleveland won against James Garfield, as Mr. Garfield was shot to death three years earlier. He ran against James Blaine, a name I could never forget."

Anonymous call relayed by The Sun's Patrick Hickerson: "A caller said that it was impossible for Garfield to be an opponent of Cleveland, since he was assassinated in 1881. He said $l Cleveland faced Garfield's vice president, Chester A. Arthur." I wish Pat had gotten that caller's name. He's the only person involved in this who's dumber than I am. Chester A. Arthur! Ha!

Finally, this model letter, from Martin D. Tullai of Brooklandville: "Your column continues to be among the best, but since you deal with so many names it is not surprising that on occasion an error might occur. Such as in your column of Feb. 22, when you wrote: 'It is true that his opponent was Republican James Garfield, who as a Union officer killed a few rebels at Shiloh and Chickamauga.' In fact, in 1884, Cleveland's opponent was James G. Blaine. Garfield, it will be recalled, was shot and killed by Charles Guiteau on July 2, 1881. Sincerely yours. . . ."

Mr. Tullai is chairman of the history department at St. Paul's. Notice how he excuses the inexcusable, corrects an error and bolsters my self-esteem all at the same time? He must be a fine teacher. He is certainly a fine Reader.

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