previous next

Electoral commission.

A Republican National Convention assembled at Cincinnati, June 16, 1876, and nominated Rutherford Birchard Hayes, of Ohio, for President, and William A. Wheeler, of New York, for Vice-President. On the 27th a Democratic National Convention assembled at St. Louis and nominated Samuel J. Tilden, of New York, for President, and Thomas A. Hendricks, of Indiana, for Vice-President. A very excited canvass succeeded, and so vehement became the lawlessness in some of the Southern States that at times local civil war seemed inevitable. The result of the election was in doubt for some time, each party claiming for its candidate a majority. In the electoral college 185 votes were necessary to the success of a candidate. It was decided after the election that Mr. Tilden had 184. Then ensued a long and bitter contest in South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana over the official returns, each party charging the other with fraud. There was intense excitement in the Gulf region. In order to secure fair play, President Grant issued an order (Nov. 10, 1876) to General Sherman to instruct military officers in the South to be vigilant, to preserve peace and good order, and see that legal boards of canvassers of the votes cast at the election were unmolested. He also appointed distinguished gentlemen of both political parties to go to Louisiana and Florida to be present at the reception of the returns and the counting of the votes. The result was that it was decided, on the count by returning boards, that Hayes had a majority of the electoral votes. The friends of Mr. Tilden were not satisfied. There was a, Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. On Dec. 4 a resolution was adopted, providing for the investigation of the action of returning boards in South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana. There was much excitement in Congress and anxiety among the people. Thoughtful men saw much trouble at the final counting of the votes of the electoral colleges by the president of the Senate, according to the prescription of the Constitution, for already his absolute power in the matter was questioned. Proctor Knott, of Kentucky, offered a resolution for the appointment of a committee of seven members, to act in conjunction with a similar committee that might be appointed by the Senate, to prepare and report a plan for the creation of a tribunal to count the electoral votes, whose authority no one could question, and whose decision all could accept as final. The resolution was adopted. The Senate appointed a committee; and on Jan. 18, 1877, the joint committee, consisting of fourteen members, reported a bill that provided for the meeting of both Houses in the hall of the House of Representatives on Feb. 1, 1877, to there count the votes in accordance with a plan which the committee proposed. In case of more than one return from a State, all such returns, having been made by appointed tellers, should be, upon objections being made, submitted to the judgment and decision, as to which was the lawful and true electoral vote of the State, of a commission of fifteen, to be composed of five members from each House, to be appointed viva voce, Jan. 30, with four associate justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, who should, on Jan. 30, select another of the justices of the Supreme Court, the entire commission to be presided over by the associate justice longest in commission. After much debate, the bill passed both Houses. It became a law, by the signature of the President, Jan. 29, 1877. The next day the two Houses each selected five of its members to serve on the Electoral Commission, the Senate members being George F. Edmunds (Vt.), Oliver P. Morton (Ind.), Frederick T. Frelinghuysen (N. J.), Thomas F. Bayard (Del.), and Allen G. Thurman (O.), and the House members, Henry B. Payne (O.), Eppa Hunton (Va.), Josiah G. Abbott (Mass.), James A. Garfield (O.), and George F. [205] Hoar (Mass.). Senator Francis Kernan (N. Y.) was afterwards substituted for Senator Thurman, who had become ill. Judges Clifford, Miller, Field, and Strong, of the Supreme Court, were named in the bill, and these chose as the fifth member of associate justices Joseph P. Bradley. The Electoral Commission assembled in the hall of the House of Representatives, Feb. 1, 1877. The legality of returns from several States was questioned, and was passed upon and decided by the commission. The counting was completed on March 2, and the commission made the final decision in all cases. The president of the Senate then announced that Hayes and Wheeler were elected. The forty-fourth Congress finally adjourned on Saturday, March 3. March 4, prescribed as the day for the taking of the oath of office by the President, falling on Sunday, Mr. Hayes, to prevent any technical objections that might be raised, privately took the oath of office on that day, and on Monday, the 5th, he was publicly inaugurated, in the presence of a vast multitude of his fellow-citizens.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: