Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Rutherford Hayes needed Fla. recount

Reconstruction politics tainted 1876 vote

By Walt Schaefer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Florida presidential election recount is historic — but it's not a first. In 1876, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, an Ohioan and Cincinnati's city solicitor from 1858 to 1861, needed a Florida recount — along with recounts in Louisiana and South Carolina — to claim the 19th presidency over Democrat Samuel J. Tilden of New York.

        “Hayes lost Florida by about 90 votes, but a return board, like an election review board today, threw out enough votes — several hundred of them — to give Hayes Florida with about a 200-vote margin,” said Roger Bridges, director of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio.

  • Born: 1822 in Delaware, Ohio.
  • Died: 1893 in Fremont, Ohio.
  • Other political service: U.S. House of Representatives, 1865-67, governor of Ohio (three terms) 1867-76.
  • As president
  • Initiated civil service reform to end patronage.
  • Allowed female attorneys to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Kept a presidential election promise not to seek a second term.
  • First president to travel to the West Coast.
  • First president to have a typewriter and telephone in the White House.
  • Only president to have been wounded (five times) in the Civil War. A major in the 23rd Ohio Volunteers, he rose to rank of brevet major general.
  • Began the traditional Easter Egg Hunt on the White House lawn in 1878.
  • Inaugural quote (1877): “He serves his party best who serves his country best.”
        Similar recounts in Louisiana and South Carolina gave Hayes the popular vote in those states, too, Mr. Bridges said. Still, Hayes lost the popular count nationwide with 4,033,950 votes to Tilden's 4,284,757.

        The Electoral College outcome was even more involved, resulting in the appointment of an Electoral Commission of five U.S. senators, five U.S. representatives and five Supreme Court justices with the duty to determine which of two different sets of electoral votes submitted by each of the three Southern states were valid, Mr. Bridges said.

        The commission of eight Republicans and seven Democrats awarded all disputed electoral votes to Hayes, Congress confirmed, and Hayes won by a single electoral vote, Mr. Bridges said.

        The tumultuous election of 1876 was the result of that period. Only 11 years after the Civil War, the South was still in Recon struction, Mr. Bridges said.

        Republicans controlled state governments in the South, but “those states had their real governments (recognized by Washington) and "shadow' governments controlled by Democrats — former Confederates,” Mr. Bridges said.

        Republican-controlled governments and the shadow governments each reported electoral votes.

        The popular vote recounts resulted from widespread voter fraud and deception.

        In some Southern states, Democrats printed ballots identical in appearance and format to the Republican ballot and then distributed them to illiterate voters, many of whom were recently freed African-Americans.

        The ballot appearance led some people to think they were casting Republican votes when they were actually voting for Tilden, Mr. Bridges said.

        The Hayes Presidential Center director also took issue with a Hearst Newspapers story last week that claims “The (Electoral) Commission cut a deal with Democrats.”

        The Hearst account says that: “In exchange for the presidency, Hayes would pull federal troops out of the South and effectively end Reconstruction. He would also spend money on railroads damaged by the war in the South and give a Cabinet appointment to a southern Democrat.”

        Mr. Bridges said the Hearst account is incomplete.

        Mr. Bridges said Hayes followed through on a commitment of his predecessor, Ulysses S. Grant, to remove about 5,000 federal troops in Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana.

        Mr. Bridges said the order came only after Hayes received promises from those states that they would not interfere with voting and other rights of southern Republicans and blacks through intimidation or fraud and Republicans not be removed from any elected offices held.

        “Where I disagree most (with the Hearst account) is that Hayes made a corrupt deal,” Mr. Bridges said. “He was not a corrupt president.”


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