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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Presidential Losers #22: Sam Tilden

The Centennial campaign began with a vigorous debate on the issues and a free exchange of ideas.  Democrats claimed that Rutherford Hayes stole the salaries of dead Union soldiers and had shot his own mother.  Republicans maintained that Tilden was a pathological liar and alcoholic with a case of syphilis.  

But the real fun came after the voting.  Tilden won the popular vote, and also had 184 electoral votes to Hayes’ 165.  Twenty electoral votes remained contested: the votes from FloridaSouth Carolina, and Louisiana, and one vote in Oregon.  

In spite of the fact that Tilden was a “reform” candidate, it seems both parties were in a race to out-steal the election.  Republicans carped that Democrats had intimidated voters, kept blacks from voting, and tricked illiterate Republicans by giving them Democratic ballots printed with pictures of Abraham Lincoln.  

In Florida, Republicans claimed a 922-vote victory, whereas Democrats claimed they'd won by a margin of 94; however, accurate counting was impossible because some of the ballots had been smeared with ink. 1 

Congress established a 15-man electoral commission made up of representatives, senators, and Supreme Court justices. There were seven Democrats, seven Republicans, and one independent, Justice David Davis.   A plan by Tilden’s nephew to elect Davis to the U.S. Senate and thereby sway his vote backfired when Davis recused himself and was replaced by a Republican.  

The result was a compromise in which Rutherford Hayes, affectionately know as Rutherfraud ever after, became president and in return, granted the desire of southerners who felt they’d been quite reconstructed enough, thank you, and could do without the greed, violence, and corruption of a Yankee power structure, having in place a Southern white power structure capable of providing enough greed, violence, and corruption to last a century.


Rutherford Hayes: 185
Samuel Tilden: 184

1. Sound familiar?

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