James Gillespie Blaine (January 31, 1830 – January 27, 1893) was a member of the United States House of Representatives, Speaker of the House, U.S. Senator from Maine, two-time United States Secretary of State, and a dominant Republican leader of the post-Civil War period. He was the Republican candidate for President in 1884, but lost to Democrat Grover Cleveland.
His hands-on approach to politics earned him the nickname "The Plumed Knight," but the discovery of scandalous documents during his Presidential campaign caused his opponents to deride him rhythmically as "Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, the Continental Liar from the State of Maine."
Blaine was elected by Maine as a Republican to Congress in 1862, a major accomplishment in a year when the Confederate States had won the War of Secession and the Republican Party was being made to pay. He served for the next 7 terms, earning a reputation as a fiery orator and debater in a minority party. As the people of the United States grew tired of the conciliatory stance the Democrats took towards the C.S., the Republicans soon began regaining seats. In the 1878 elections, following President Samuel J. Tilden's unpopular decision to remove the stars representing the states of the Confederacy from the flag of the U.S., the Republicans regained the congress. Blaine's star rose dramatically, and in 1880, he was the Republican Party's nominee for president. He won on an anti-Confederate platform.
Blaine was immediately put to the test. The Confederacy recoiled at the return of a "Black" Republican to the presidency. Moreover, Confederate PresidentJames Longstreet had been counting on the Democrats' indifference to successfully purchase the states of Sonora and Chihuahua from Mexico in 1881. Now, Blaine, backed by the popular will and anger of the American people, moved to block the purchase by threat of war. Longstreet, confident in his country's alliances with Britain and France, defied Blaine, and the Second Mexican War began.
It soon became clear that Blaine and the United States were out of their depth. The United States Army was woefully unprepared, suffering setbacks on multiple fronts. After just over a year of bloody fighting, the United States sought an armistice. The C.S. successfully took possession of the Mexican states. For the second time in a generation, the United States had lost a war while under Republican leadership. Further humiliating Blaine at a personal level, the only territorial concession the U.S. made was northern Maine, his home state, which was annexed by Britain into Canada.
Blaine lost the presidency in 1884, although he probably did not mind. The Republican party had split in 1882, with most joining the wayward Democrats. Ironically, Blaine, in his military defeat, had laid the foundation the United States' eventual victory in the Great War through two acts. First, on April 22, 1882, Blaine declared a holiday to commemorate the US defeat called "Remembrance Day". This day soon birthed a political ideology which the reinvigorated Democrats adopted as their own. Second, Blaine began political ties with Germany, which eventually led to the alliance known as the Central Powers.
Blaine himself left office, and retired to obscurity. Only truly die-hard Republicans revered him. President Blaine's defeat marked the beginning of 36 consecutive years of Democratic control of the Powel House which only came to an end with the election of the first Socialist president Upton Sinclair in 1920.