Presidential Election of 1876 – Rutherford B. Hayes

January 9, 2008

rutherfordlucyhayes.jpgThe other combatant in the 1876 election was Republican candidate Rutherford Birchard Hayes. He was born in Delaware, Ohio on October 4, 1822. His father died before he was born. An uncle, Sardis Birchard, lived with the family and became his guardian and lifelong father-figure. He was the youngest of four children. Two of his siblings died young. He remained close to his sister, the surviving one. (left: Rutherford and his wife Lucy shortly after their marriage)

Hayes graduated from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio in 1842 at the top of his class. Then he graduated in 2 years from Harvard Law School in 1845. He was admitted to the bar in 1845 and moved to Cincinnati where he practiced law.

On December 30, 1852 he married Lucy Ware Webb. They had eight children, three of which predeceased him.

He had a distinguished military career during the Civil War. Hayes was the only president who was wounded in the war. He was wounded four times. He was promoted to Brigidier General in 1864.

Hayes started his political career as a Whig, but in 1853 joined the Free Soil party as a delegate. While serving in the war he received the Republican nomination to Congress from Cincinnati. He refused all requests to leave the military and actively campaign. Hayes was elected and served from March 4, 1865 to July 20, 1867 when he resigned because his party nominated him for Governor of Ohio. Hayes won the election and served from 1868 to 1872. In 1872 he was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress. He was going to retire from public life, but was drafted by the Republicans in 1875 to run for governor again. He served from January 1876 to March 2, 1877. He received national attention for leading a Republican sweep of an incumbant Democratic Ohio government.

At the Republican national convention in 1876 he was a dark-horse nominee for president. The favorite and front-runner, James Blaine had led the previous six ballots. Hayes was selected as a compromise candidate in order to break the deadlock.

Then came the controversial election where he apparently lost on Election Day to Samuel Tilden. After the disputed Electoral Votes were awarded, Rutherford B. Hayes was named president. It took until a few days before the end of his predecessor’s term on March 3, 1877 for this to be resolved. He was inaugurated publicly on March 5, 1877. Hayes had secretly taken the oath of office on March 3, 1877 in the White House. This was done out of fear that disgruntled Democrats and voters might disrupt the public inauguration. (below: The public inauguration with Hayes on right taking the oath of office)

hayesoath.jpgHe served as the 19th President of the United States from March 3, 1877 to March 4, 1881. Hayes did not seek re-election in 1880. When he accepted his party’s nomination he had pledged to serve only one term. In his inaugural address he proposed the Constitution be amended to have a one-term limit for the presidency combined with an increase in the term to six years. This proposal never went anywhere. His most famous saying was from his inaugural address:

“He serves his party best who serves his country best”

After his presidency he served on the Board of Trustees of Ohio State University. Hayes died of a heart attack in Freemont, Ohio on January 17, 1893.

 This concludes my examination of the election of 1876.

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Presidential Election of 1876 – Samuel J. Tilden

January 8, 2008

The main characters involved in the controversial election of 1876 were Samuel Tilden from the Democrats and Rutherford Hayes of the Republicans.

samueltilden.jpgSamuel Tilden and the Democrats won the election on Election Day, but the Electoral Votes from several states were in disute. A one-time Electoral Commission was formed to sort it out. In the end the election was awarded to the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes who became the 19th President of the United States. See my previous posting “Presidential Election of 1876 – The Deal” for the details.

Samuel Jones Tilden (photo to the right) was born at Lebanon, New York on February 9, 1814. He attended Yale University in 1834, but had to quite because of illness. Later he went to the University of the City of New York. He was admitted to the bar in 1841. He became a skilled corporate lawyer. His legal practice, combined with shrewd investments, made him rich. Tilden was a life-long bachelor.

Tilden had an interest in politics  and served in the State Assembly in 1846. In 1848 he participated in the revolt of the “Barnburner” or free-soil faction of the New York Democrats. He was the candidate of the “softshell”, or anti-slavery faction for attorney-general of the State of New York.

During the Civil War, he opposed several of Lincoln’s war measures, but he still gave the Union his strongest support.

Tilden became the chairman of the Democratic state committee in 1866 and soon began a conflict with the notorious “Tweed ring” of New York City. This group of corrupt city officials and politicians was led by William Tweed. (photo to the right) williamtweed.jpg

They had all the judges in their pocket and were gouging taxpayers and the city administration for goods and services. Tilden entered the Assembly in 1872 on a reform platform to clean up the mess. He managed to obtain legal proof of the corrupt practices and had the judges impeached, thus effectively destroying the Tweed ring. William Tweed was charged and eventually was sent to jail. Tilden won national fame for these actions against corruption.

The Democrats nominated him as their candidate for president in 1876. By all appearances he and his party won the Presidency on election day. Disputed electoral votes and procedures effectively robbed him of the Presidency and his political career ended.

In 1878 the New York Tribune newspaper in 1878 published articles accusing him of attempting to purchase the disputed Electoral Votes in the 1876 election. Tilden emphatically denied this charge and appeared voluntarily before a Congressional sub-committee to clear his name. The charges were unsuccessful and proven false.

Samuel J. Tilden lived out the rest of his life at his home, Greystone, near Yonkers, New York. He died a bachelor on August 4, 1886. He once told a close a friend that he had never slept with a woman in his life. His fortune of about $5 million dollars was left to establish and maintain a free public library in New York City. In 1895 the Tilden Trust was combined with the Astor and Lenox libraries to form the present day New York Public Library.


Presidential Election of 1876 – The Deal

January 5, 2008

sjtilden_of_ny.jpgThis was the second closest and most disputed presidential election in American history. Certainly it was the most contentious of 19th century America. The 2000 election of Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Albert (Al) Gore, Jr. stands as the closest and most contentious. Republican Rutherford B. Hayes won the 1876 election over Democrat Samuel J. Tilden, but in the end the election had to be decided by an Electoral Commission. (left: Samuel J. Tilden, Democrat from New York)

On election day, November 7, 1876 Tilden defeated Ohio’s Rutherford Hayes in the popular vote, and had 184 electoral votes to Hayes’s 165, with 20 electoral votes in dispute. A constitutional crisis loomed.

Hayes’s predecessor was Ulysses S. Grant, a Republican, who was finishing out his second term. A weak economy and rampant corruption in his administration had lost support for the Republicans. In fact on December 15, 1875 the House went so far as to overwhelmingly pass a resolution asking Grant not to seek a third term. He had previously denied that he would do so, but he did try later in 1880 to run again.

Republican candidate Rutherford Hayes was nominated on the 7th ballot as a party compromise. He was previously a member of the House of Representives and a governor of his home state of Ohio. He was a reformer who wanted to get rid of corruption and put the federal government on a new path.

The National Greenback Party was formed to advocate the use of greenbacks (paper money not supported by the gold standard). They nominated manufacturer and philanthropist Peter Cooper for president. This party wanted the gold standard abolished and a free supply of paper money used to help the working class.

The Democrats nominated Samuel J. Tilden, the governor of New York, for president. He had become a national figure as a crusading reformer. Tilden stood for an end to corruption, withdrawal of federal troops from the South, tariff reform, a ban on Chinese immigration, and a halt to railroad subsidies.

These were the three main presidential candidates. Of the three, Hayes was the relative unknown. An unusual fact related to campaigning at this time – it was actually considered improper for a candidate to actively pursue the Presidency, neither Tilden or Hayes stumped for votes, that job was left to surrogates. Certainly a far cry from today’s presidential politics.

Election Day, November 7, 1876, Samuel Tilden won 250,000 more popular votes than Hayes. In fact the popular vote really doesn’t have anything to do with the actual election of the President of the United States (see my posting on “How is the President Elected? The Answer May Surprise You” in my blog archives). Far too much emphasis is placed on its importance. Anyway the Republicans refused to concede the election to Tilden disputing the returns from Florida (sound familiar?), Louisiana, South Carolina, and Oregon.

On December 6, 1876 two competing sets of Electoral Returns were submitted from these states and a constitutional crisis erupted. The constitution provides that if neither candidate has a majority of electoral votes, then the Presidency will be decided by Congress. At the time the Congress was controlled by the Democrats. They could easily have voted to give Tilden the election. To bring order to the process President Grant requested that Congress set up an Electoral Commission. This temporary commission consisted of five members from each of, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Supreme Court. The political make-up of the members was eight Republicans and seven Democrats. Their assigned task was to sort out the election results.

Supreme Court Justice Joseph Bradley, a Republican member of the Commission, submitted a legal opinion on February 9, 1877 favoring the election of Tilden. Under pressure from fellow Republicans he reversed his decision. The Commission then voted not to examine individual state returns, and awarded Florida’s electoral votes to Hayes. Subsequently on February 16, 23, and 28, 1877, they awarded electoral votes from the other disputed states to Hayes. They declared Hayes as their choice for president. Congress still had ratify the Commission’s findings.

Republicans from Hayes’s home state of Ohio met with Southern Democrats on February 26, 1877. The Southerners agreed to support the election of Hayes with conditions. This was a secret meeting held before the Congressional vote on the Commission’s findings. The deal became known as the Compromise of 1877. Hayes had to promise to withdraw federal troops from the South, appoint a Southerner to his Cabinet, and look into railroad subsidies. He earned the nicknames “Rutherfraud” and “His Fraudulency” for this back-room bargain.

469px-president_rutherford_hayes_1870_-_1880.jpgOn March 2, 1877 Congress voted to ratify the Commission’s findings and officially declared Republican Rutherford B. Hayes (photo to right) as the 19th President of the United States. He was inaugurated three days later. The Democrats and many of the electorate were outraged. Samuel Tilden became, like Al Gore after him in 2001, the almost President.

The final results of the election of 1876 were:

Rutherford B. Hayes, Republican  Electoral Votes 185   Popular Vote 4,034,311 (47.9%)
Samuel J. Tilden, Democratic     Electoral Votes 184   Popular Vote 4,288,546 (51.0%)

In this election year it is always interesting to look back at previous events. More postings to come.


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