Sunday, March 2, 2014

Decision Reached in Presidential Election of 1876 TWO DAYS before the Inauguration

1877U.S. presidential election, 1876: Just two days before inauguration, the U.S. Congress declares Rutherford B. Hayes the winner of the election even though Samuel J. Tilden had won the popular vote on November 7, 1876.

The United States presidential election of 1876 was one of the most disputed presidential elections in American history. Samuel J. Tilden of New York outpolled Ohio's Rutherford B. Hayes in the popular vote, and had 184 electoral votes to Hayes' 165, with 20 votes uncounted. These 20 electoral votes were in dispute: in three states (Florida, Louisian, and South Carolina), each party reported its candidate had won the state, while in Oregon one elector was declared illegal (as an "elected or appointed official") and replaced. The 20 disputed electoral votes were ultimately awarded to Hayes after a bitter legal and political battle, giving him the victory.
Many historians believe that an informal deal was struck to resolve the dispute: the Compromise of 1877. In return for Democrat acquiescence in Hayes' election, the Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction. The Compromise effectively ceded power in the Southern states to the Democratic Redeemers.
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I continue to wonder why the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 felt that it could not delay deciding the disputed election between Al Gore and George Bush by recounting all the votes in Florida more than a month before the inauguration, when in 1876 a decision was reached only two days before. (Well, I guess it's obvious why: the majority on the Court had a biased political agenda.)

My good friend Jeffrey Hardy took me into Governor Tilden's house -- now the Fine Arts Club in Gramercy Park, downtown Manhattan -- when I was back East four years ago April for the Spizzwinks(?) 95th Reunion in New Haven. Jeffrey is a member of The Players Club next door, which had been the home of the great Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth, brother of Lincoln's assassin.

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