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The Great Democrat Fraud of 1876 (Part II)


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The previous installment ended with Reid breaking the Democratic narrative from the New York Times and General Sickles putting the Republican Party on the warpath. In the days that followed, the evidence of the Democratic election fraud – through intimidation, terror and deception – accumulated in such a way that, seeing themselves exposed, they clung to the supposed formal legality of results obtained through terror and deception. The Republicans resisted with every weapon at their disposal.

And the country ended up with states sending not one, but two lists of voters designated as polling station pledges – three in Florida. A situation for which the U.S. Constitution offered no clear solution. And further complicated by the political division of the legislature where each party dominated one of the houses, closing the constitutional solutions proposed by the jurists.


The Democrat fraud crashes with the Electoral Commission

The only way out was the appointment of a prestigious Electoral Commission of Jurists, regulated by President Grant – with members appointed by the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Supreme Court – to elucidate the legality of elections in the states in dispute. And to rule on what list of college arbitrators would be legal in each case, thus defining who – and how – had legally won the election.

The Democrats in the North were maintaining an aggressive “Tilden or blood” campaign without much support from the South, where they had already bloodied their way into the racist agenda – and into Tilden – but they feared another civil war that would once again sweep them away.

The Election Commission was left to Henry Payne, Eppa Hunton, Jonah Abbot, George Hoar and James Garfield for the House of Representatives; George Edmunds, Oliver Morton, Frederic Frelinghuysen, Allen Turman and Thomas Bayard for the Senate; and Nathan Clifford, Samuel Miller, Stephen Field, William Strong, and Joseph Bradley for the Court. On Friday, February 9, 1877, the Commission certified that the State of Florida’s four compromise votes were for Hayes as President and Wheeler as VP.

On Friday, February 16, 1877, the Commission decides that the constitutionally valid list of Louisiana’s compromisers is that of those who would vote for Hayes and Wheeler. On the skillful maneuver of Democratic Governor Grover in Oregon to appoint the only compromiser required Tilden where no Democrat claimed to have won the state.

Simulating the response of the Republican authorities to the irregularities of the State Canvassing Board of the states in dispute -which in Oregon did not exist- taking advantage of the temporary ineligibility of a compromisee, the Commission concludes that the governor had exceeded his duties and considers valid the final notarized list submitted by the three legitimate compromisers, on February 23, 1877.

Already on February 27, 1887, as a matter of mere formality, the Commission applied for South Carolina the same criteria as in the rest of the states. And Hayes became de jure President Elect of the United States.

The Democrats lost with the fraud but won with the negotiation

There were early contacts between senior Republican leaders and representatives of the southern states looking for a political compromise. In December 1886 between William Henry Smith for the Republicans and Andrew Kellar for the southern wing of the Democratic Party. Democratic Representative Casey Young offered Republican William Williams that if Garfield offered Hayes’ policy lines for the southern states acceptable to the southern bloc, fifty southern Democrats would block any attempt by the House of Representatives to prevent Hayes’ inauguration.

With the appointment of the Commission the negotiations cooled down. Until February 26, 1877, with the results of the Commission on the table, representatives of Hayes, Stanley Matthews, John Sherman, James Garfield and William Dennison and Southern Democrats Henry Watterson of South Carolina and John B. Gordon of Georgia met. From that came the public statement:

“Referring to the conversation with you yesterday, in which Governor Hayes´s policy as to the status of certain states was discussed, we desire to say that we can assure you in the strongest possible manner of our great desire to have him adopt such a policy as will give to the people of the states of South Caroline and Louisiana the right to control their own affairs in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States and the laws made in pursuance thereof, and to say further, that from an acquaintance with and knowledge of Governor Hayes and his views, we have the most complete confidence that such will be the policy of his administration.

Stanley Matthews.

Charles Forster”

The Republicans had only managed to make Hayes’ inauguration more or less peaceful. Because once invested, the Democrats began an intense campaign of delegitimization against Hayes, attributing “the fraud of the century” that they had tried without success, to the Electoral Commission and to the” weak” President Hayes.

The election of Republican Hayes thus ended the reconstruction. In compliance with the political agreement, President Hayes withdrew the federal detachments from the southern states. The Democrats lost a White House that they had not really won and that the Electoral Commission had already denied them. In exchange for nothing, they regained total control of the southern states to impose for almost a century the white supremacy that the Republicans had fought – without pause, though with greater or lesser intensity – until that day.

The great Democrat fraud of 1876 lost de jure to the Electoral Commission lawyers. But it won de facto in the halls of politics.

Guillermo Rodríguez is a professor of Political Economy in the extension area of the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Universidad Monteávila, in Caracas. A researcher at the Juan de Mariana Center and author of several books // Guillermo es profesor de Economía Política en el área de extensión de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas de la Universidad Monteávila, en Caracas, investigador en el Centro Juan de Mariana y autor de varios libros

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