In letter on Dec. 30, Joan B. Edwards of Winthrop asked for the definition of the term “mugwump.”

In the politics of the 1880s, the Mugwumps were a reform-minded branch of the Republican Party based in the Northeast. In the 1884 presidential election, they supported Democrat Grover Cleveland of New York over Republican James G. Blaine of Maine. The Mugwumps rejected Blaine on the basis of political accusations that he was financially corrupt.

Such prominent national figures as Harvard president Charles W. Eliot, author Mark Twain and cartoonist Thomas Nast identified themselves as Mugwumps in the 1884 campaign.

Some historians believe that the split in the Republican Party caused by the Mugwumps contributed to Blaine’s losing the state of New York and thus the election. For his part, Blaine rebounded from his loss in 1884 by serving a distinguished term as secretary of state under President Benjamin Harrison from 1889 to 1892. Since 1919, the Blaine House in Augusta has been the home of Maine governors and their families.

Earle G. Shettleworth Jr.

Maine State Historian

Historic Preservation Commission

Augusta