Lot 69    

1877 Election Tickets,
2010, American History Absentee and Live Auction, January 21
3 x 4.5 in., one for Feb. 13, the other for Feb. 15, 1877. Counting the Vote for President and Vice-President, Admit Bearer to Gallery of House of Representatives.

The 1876 election was the most disputed election in history until 2000. It actually began with the conventions. It was thought that Blaine would win the Republican nomination, and he seemed to get closer with every ballot, but no majority emerged. Leaders of the reform faction got together to consider other candidates, settling on Ohio governor, Rutherford B. Hayes. Hayes was nominated on the seventh ballot - the first on which he was put forth. Tilden had an easier time in the Democratic convention, but the Tammany Hall faction strongly opposed Tilden and wielded some influence, though not enough to block Tilden's nomination.

The election itself was also fraught with problems. There was widespread "terrorism" on the part of radical whites in the South, discouraging black participation in the election. Other "improprieties" included printing Republican symbols on Democratic tickets (for the benefit of illiterate voters), confusing the issue. Colorado was admitted to the union on August 1st, too late to print ballots, organize polling, etc. Oregon disputed the selection of one of its electors, since the man, although retired by the time of the election, had been postmaster earlier in the year - a Federal position making him ineligible in the opinion of the Democratic governor, who then selected a Democratic elector to replace the Republican one. And again, the Florida votes were disputed.

On the first count in the electoral college, Tilden had 184 electoral votes, Hayes 165, and 20 votes were disputed. Many of the disputes had to do with certification of the electoral votes - some had the state attorney's signature, others the governor's, one state had a candidate's signature, and Oregon submitted two sets (one with 3 votes for Hayes, the other with one for Tilden and 2 for Hayes - one signed by the secretary of state, one by the governor).

Since the electoral votes are counted in the full Congress by the President of the Senate, as system which had worked up to this point, Democrats feared that the Republican Vice President could chose which set of disputed votes to recognize in the count and sway the election. So a law was passed forming a committee to settle the result. It was composed of five members from each house of Congress and five members of the Supreme Court. The selection of these members was also disputed, though not as vigorously. It has long been alleged that there were some "back room" deals being made, most centering on electing Hayes in exchange for ending Reconstruction and getting the "carpetbaggers" out of the South - something for which southern Democrats had been petitioning for a long time. These deals, if indeed they were made, may have smoothed over the selection of the committee members.

Ultimately all 20 disputed votes were awarded to Hayes, giving him the election by just one electoral vote, 185-184. And Tilden became the first candidate, but not the last, to loose an election while winning the popular vote. Surely those who were present at the vote-counting in Congress that February of 1877 thought that anything might happen (even though it was supposed to have been worked out in the special committee). The actual certification of the election in Congress seems to have been anticlimactic.


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