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U.S. presidential election, 1876

Presidential CandidateElectoral Vote Popular Vote Pct Party Running Mate
(Electoral Votes)
Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio (W) 185 4,036,298 48.4 Republican William A. Wheeler of New York (185)
Samuel J. Tilden of New York 184 4,300,590 51.6 Democrat Thomas A. Henricks of Indiana (184)
Total 100.0%
Other elections: 1864, 1868, 1872, 1876, 1880, 1884, 1888
Source: U.S. Office of the Federal Register

In 1876 the election for the President of the United States ended in a dispute. Democrat Samuel J. Tilden received 184 electoral votes, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes received 163, and 22 electoral votes were uncertain, two different sets of returns being certified. The Electoral Commission was formed to settle the result. The disputed results involved 21 electors from Florida, Louisana, and South Carolina as well as one from Oregon. In those states, the official returns favored the Democrats, but the elections were marked by fraud and threats of violence against Republican voters and the Republican dominated electoral commissions were able to throw out enough votes to allow the Republicans to win those states. The result was two sets of returns, one certified by the governor favoring the Republicans and one certified by the state legislatures favoring the Democrats.

In the case of Oregon, the votes were clearly in favor of the Republicans. However, one of the Republican electors was a postmaster. The Democratic governor claimed that the elector was constitutionally disqualified on the grounds of holding a Federal office and therefore substituted a Democratic elector in his place.

The Electoral Commission was formed by an act of Congress to settle the result. The law was signed on January 29, 1877.

Fifteen members were chosen to compose the Commission: five from the United States Senate, five from the United States House of Representatives, and five from the Supreme Court of the United States. Since the Senate was controlled by the Republicans, three of the Senators were Republicans and two were Democrats. Similarly, since the Democrats controlled the House, three Democratic Representatives and two Republicans (one of whom was future President James A. Garfield) were chosen. Finally, two Republican and two Democratic Supreme Court Justices were chosen, and these four were to choose a fifth Justice, to make the Commission as impartial as possible.

Unfortunately, before the Supreme Court members elected their fifth member, the expected choice, Justice David Davis, was elected by the Illinois legislature to the Senate. Another Justice had to be chosen, and it was Justice Joseph P. Bradley, considered the most nonpartisan of the Republicans on the Court. Bradley was, however, still a Republican, and on every disputed electoral vote, he joined the other 7 Republicans to make an 8-7 majority. Consequently, all the disputed votes were awarded to Hayes, who was declared the winner of the electoral vote, 185-184.

The members of the Electoral Commission:

  Republicans: Democrats:
From the Senate: George Franklin Edmunds of Vermont   Thomas Francis Bayard of Delaware
Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey Allen Granberry Thurman of Ohio
Oliver Hazard Perry Thock Morton of Indiana  
From the House of Representatives: James Abram Garfield of Ohio   Josiah Gardner Abbott of Massachusetts
George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts Eppa Hunton of Virginia
  Henry B. Payne of Ohio
From the Supreme Court: Joseph Philo Bradley of New Jersey   Nathan Clifford of Maine
Samuel Freeman Miller of Iowa Stephen Johnson Field of California
William Strong of Pennsylvania  

The Democrats in the Senate threatened a filibuster to prevent the commission from reporting its results. In order to prevent this, the Republicans negotiated an agreement known as the Compromise of 1877 in which federal troops were withdrawn from the South, at least one Southerner was appointed to the Hayes cabinet, and economic benefit were promised to industrialized the South. The withdrawal of Federal troops marked the end of Reconstruction and post-Civil War efforts to bring about racial equality.

The decision was handed down on March 2, 1877 declaring Rutherford B. Hayes the winner of the election. The election was widely viewed as having been stolen, and Hayes was dubbed "Ruthefraud".

Until the election of 2000, this election was the most contentious in United States history.

See also: President of the United States, U.S. presidential election, 1876, History of the United States (1865-1918)