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Cropsey, Edward
Autograph Letter Signed, [New York, Republican National Committee] June 10, 1884 to Hon. S. B. Elkins

12mo, two pages, inscribed in ink, in good, clean and legible condition.

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“Dear Sir,

… this AM, after I had been at work … going over the papers, and to my great comfort finding a large quantity of ammunition to use against the enemy, a gentleman came from down stairs and burst upon me like a flash of lightning from a cloudless sky – for, after a few gentle phrases, he informed that it was all a mistake, my ever having been here (in the service of the Committee), that he was required to settle with me… with usual lachrymosely phrases intended to be complimentary on such occasions as when the undertaker screws down the coffin lid. I am going this pm to a point about half a dozen miles away … where I am satisfied that with the expenditure of a good part of the shekels I got here today I can get the evidence that instead of making babies Grover Cleveland by a corrupt neglect of his duties as Governor of New York has been killing babies (of other people) for sixteen months, that he has permitted the revival of a death dealing nuisance that Gov. Cornell suppressed. When I return from the expedition, I should like to see you – but now I desire to assure you that no personal maltreatment I can receive can prevent my voting the Republican National ticket.”


This letter was written during the presidential campaign of Republican James G. Blaine against Democratic New York Governor Grover Cleveland. Cropsey, who had apparently been hired by the Republican National Committee to do “opposition research”, was a popular journalist and writer. During the Civil War, as correspondent of a Philadelphia newspaper, he had published a report that General Meade, then commanding the Army of the Potomac, had given a disastrous battlefront order to General Grant. The short tempered Meade had ordered the “blackguard” Cropsey to be arrested, paraded through the lines wearing a placard marked “Libeler of the Press” and then expelled from the war zone. After the War, working for the New York Times, Cropsey had published a book based on three years of investigative journalism, exposing organized crime in New York City, painting “vivid pictures of the underclass of lower Manhattan in a time of municipal squalor and economic depression”. Cropsey then disappeared from historical notice, until 12 years later when this letter was written to Stephen Elkins, then a West Virginia industrialist who had made a fortune in shady land deals as Congressman from the Territory of New Mexico, a future Secretary of War and United States Senator.

The scandal Cropsey proposed to expose for the Republicans apparently went beyond the common rumor – not yet published in the press – that, ten years earlier, Cleveland had seduced, possibly raped, and impregnated a young woman, who, after giving birth to their illegitimate child, had been committed to a mental asylum, while the infant was “abducted” and adopted by another family. What Cropsey meant by “the revival of a death dealing nuisance” is unclear – possibly some action of Grover Cleveland’s winking at abortion? But it was never published and Cropsey faded from view.