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Election of 1876

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Essay title: Election of 1876

Nearly four months after Election Day, in the early morning hours of Friday, March 2, 1877, the results of the Presidential election were handed to the President of the Senate, Republican T.W. Ferry. Ferry signed the poll sheet and announced that the winner of the 1876 Presidential election was Republican Rutherford b. Hayes of Ohio. After a controversial four months, Hayes was elected President of the United States over Democrat Samuel J. Tilden of New York by one electoral vote.[1]

1876 was a special year in America. Not only did Americans have the opportunity to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their country; they would also have the opportunity to take part in one of the freedoms that was fought for 100 years prior, the election of their President. What started out as a year of celebration, which reached it's height in Philadelphia at the World's Fair Great Centennial Exposition, would end up being confusing due to the controversy surrounding the Presidential election.[2]

The campaign for President between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Tilden turned into a war of words between the two political parties. The Democrat used the scandals in Grant administration against the Republicans and the Republicans accused the Democrats of being the party of treason and rebellion because of the Civil War.[3] So the race for the Presidency was on with the Republicans trying to overcome the scandals of the Grant Administration and the Democrats trying to "bloody shirt" accusations.[4]

Tuesday, November 7 1876, was the day that Americans went to the polls to elect a new President. As the results of the election started coming in everything seemed to point to a clear victory for Democratic Presidential hopeful Samuel Tilden. Tilden had won his home stated of New York and many other key northern states and was expected to win a majority of the southern states giving him the Presidency. As the night came to an end Republican Rutherford Hayes went to bed assuming that Tilden had won the election and that a Democrat would be in the White house for the first time in twenty years. [5]

On election night Daniel Sickles, an ardent Republican supporter, decided to attend the theater in New York. Around midnight, Sickles, a former Union general and Ambassador to Spain, decided to stop by the Republican headquarters on his way home from the theater to check the returns of the election. As Sickles began looking at the returned results of the election, he realized that if Hayes did not lose any more states in the North and could carry a few of the Southern states, he would have a chance to win the election. Seeing that no results had been reported in Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana, Sickles, using the name of Republican national chairman Zachariah Chandler who was in his hotel room sleeping off a bottle of whiskey, sent out telegrams to the Republican leaders in these states urging them to hold their state for the Republicans. Because these three states were still under the control of reconstruction governors, it would make it easy for the votes to be manipulated if needed.[6]

John Reid, managing editor of the New York Times and also an ardent Republican, received a telegram from the chairman of the Democratic national party wanting a count of the Republican newspaper's electoral votes for Tilden. This telegram caused Reid to assume that the Democrats had doubts about Tilden winning the election as first thought. Reid went to the Republican headquarters to meet with party leadership and more telegrams were sent to the undecided states in the south to hold the vote for the Republicans.[7] Unlike other newspapers, the New York Times did not project Tilden as the winner of the election on the morning of November 8, 1876. The newspaper stated "the election as undecided."[8]

When a majority of the votes had been counted, Tilden won the popular vote by almost 250,000 votes but he only had 184 electoral votes compared to Hayes' 165 electoral votes. Tilden's 184 electoral votes left him one vote shy of a majority with 20 electoral votes still undecided, one vote from Oregon and 19 from Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana.[9]

In the three Southern states both parties were claiming victory and were accusing the other of fraud. With these states having Republican governments due to reconstruction, the Republicans had a majority on the election return boards to certify the elections for their state. The return boards in each of these states were accused of manipulating the vote. In some counties where there was a majority for Tilden, the return boards would throw out the votes. When things finally settled two sets of returns from each of these three states were sent to Congress, thus delaying the election of a President and starting a controversy that would last four almost four

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