July 28, 2004

He stole the election!

Until today, if someone said that to me, I'd assume that they were talking about Bush/Gore, dismiss them as either a lunatic or a sore loser and I'd try to back slowly out of the room, keeping my hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times. Until today, I thought that this was the first time such an accusation had been levied at the presidential level and such a series of events had taken place in US history. Well, shame on me for being ignorant.

Let's jump into the history way back machine for a sec and revisit, in the extended section: The Hayes-Tilden Presidential Election of 1876.

In, "Mornings on Horseback", David McCullough describes the election, where the popular vote and the electoral vote went to different candidates, thus:

At first it seemed Tilden had [been elected president]. Tilden had swept New York and nationally held a clear majority. But the votes in four states - Oregon and three in the Deep South [me: Florida was one of them!!!] - were in dispute, states that, if carried by the Republicans, would swing the electoral vote to Hayes. Republican "statesman" rushed south to confer with election boards. Through February a special committee met daily in Washington to appraise the conflicting tallies, and outraged Democrats from all walks spoke of violence should the Republicans try to steal the election. In Columbus, Ohio, somebody fired a shot at Hayes's house as he sat down to dinner.

Tilden, in the end, did not dispute that Hayes won by a single electoral vote.

HarpWeek put together the most fascinating website about this controversy: Hayes v. Tilden. If you are interested in the subject, go check it out. It offers a day by day time line and analysis, historical essays, cartoons, the whole shooting match. I have nothing of any great value to add past this site.

Hayes was an interesting character who ran as a reformer, determined to root out corruption and cronyism in government and civil service. He insisted that appointments be on merit, not as a reward for political favor or party affiliation. There is a good biographical sketch about him on the White House website.

In the end, a disputed election that could have torn the country apart. Someone even shot at Hayes or at least his house. And a 120+ years later, who remembers? That points to the strength of this system and our citizen's deep commitment to it.

Posted by Random Penseur at July 28, 2004 09:54 AM
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