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Election of 1876

Both major political parties were influenced by the Grant-era corruption and sought to nominate candidates who could win the public trust.

The Democrats turned to Samuel J. Tilden, who had established an enviable record as the reform-minded governor of New York. Tilden was on record as favoring the removal of the remaining federal occupation soldiers from the South, a position regarded favorably by his supporters in that region.

The Republicans passed over the frontrunner, James G. Blaine, because of his participation in some questionable dealings. The nomination was eventually given to the respected governor of Ohio, Rutherford B. Hayes. While the platform called for taking steps to assure black equality, Hayes was skeptical at best. Attacks were made on Tilden's questionable health and his ties to the railroads.

Peter Cooper, 85 years of age, received the nomination from the National Greenback Party.

The election results left the nation in suspense. All agreed that Tilden had won the majority of the popular vote, but there was little agreement on what the electoral results should be. In order to win, a candidate needed 185 electoral votes. Tilden controlled 184 votes and Hayes 165; 20 votes, however, were in dispute in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida, where Reconstruction Republican governments were still in control. (A single elector was challenged in Oregon.)

Each of the states with disputed votes submitted two sets of electoral ballots, one favoring Tilden, the other Hayes. The Constitution had not foreseen this event and offered no remedy. Loose talk was heard in some quarters about the possibility of war breaking out. In the end, Congress opted to appoint an "impartial" Electoral Commission to find a solution.

An informal agreement between the two parties, sometimes called the "Compromise of 1877," convinced the Democrats that they should accept the Commission's 8-7 vote, which made Hayes the new president.

Election of 1876
Candidates

Party

Electoral Vote

Popular
Vote

Rutherford B. Hayes (OH)
William A. Wheeler (NY)

Republican

185

4,034,311

Samuel J. Tilden (NY)
Thomas A. Hendricks (IN)

Democratic

184

4,288,546

Peter Cooper (NY)
Samuel F. Cary (OH)

Greenback

0

75,973

The electoral vote totals above represent the final decision made by the Electoral Commission.


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