The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow A Century of Segregation
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The Election of 1876
Rutherford B. Hayes

In 1876, the two major candidates running for President were Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican, and Samuel J. Tilden, a Democrat. The first returns indicated a victory for Tilden, who had won the popular vote with 4,284,020 votes to Hayes' 4,036,572. But Tilden's 184 electoral votes -- the votes that would decide the Presidency -- were still one short of a majority, while Hayes' 165 electoral votes left him 20 ballots away. The votes of three Southern states and one western state still had not been counted. The 20 electoral votes remaining in dispute were one from Oregon and 19 from the three Southern states that still retained Republican-controlled electoral boards -- Florida (4), Louisiana (8), and South Carolina (7). What complicated the matter was that Democrats in these states had won the state elections, mostly by violence and fraud. Both parties claimed victory. The Republicans, who still held a majority on the electoral boards that would certify the election results, claimed that Hayes was elected because the Democrats' used fraud, violence, and intimidation in the Southern states. They "threw out" enough Democratic votes for Hayes to win in all three states. The Democrats submitted their own list for Tilden. In Oregon, Hayes had clearly won but the Democratic governor had managed to confuse things by sending one elector in Tilden's favor. The conflict raged because the Constitution did not provide for a way of resolving the dispute.

The Electoral College controversy would drag on for months, not reaching resolution until almost the eve of the scheduled inauguration on March 5, 1877. To break the deadlock, Congress appointed an Electoral Commission, made up of five Senators, five members of the House of Representatives, and five Supreme Court justices. Congress originally hoped to have seven The dealock was finally broken when Southern Democrats agreed to support Hayes' claim for the presidency if he would agree to end Reconstruction.Republican members of the Commission, seven Democrats, and one independent. As it turned out, however, the actual membership turned out to consist of eight Republicans and seven Democrats. The Commission voted along straight party lines 8 to 7 to accept all of Hayes' electoral votes and reject the Democrat's claims. The night before President Grant's term expired, the Senate announced Hayes had been elected President. The deadlock was broken behind closed doors when Southern Democrats agreed to support Hayes' claim for the Presidency if he would support increased funding for Southern internal improvements and agree to end Reconstruction, thus guaranteeing home rule -- meaning white control -- in the South. Hayes became President and the Southern Democrats could reverse with impunity the gains that blacks had made during Reconstruction.

-- Richard Wormser

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Did you Know ...

Rutherford B. Hayes chaired the educational fund that granted W.E.B. Du Bois a scholarship to study at the University of Berlin.
Related Pages
Republican Party

Democratic Party


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