The Most Contentious Election in US History

RutherfordBHayes.jpgWas reading Robert Penn Warren‘s 1961 “The Legacy of the Civil War” written on the centennial of the start of the US Civil War.  Robert Penn Warren is a three time Pulitzer Prize winner, one for fiction (“All the King’s Men”) and two for poetry.  One of my favorite writers.  I was curious what this southerner had to say a half a decade ago about the divide in the US and how things might have changed.  One thing I ran across was the Presidential election of 1876, which sounds strangely familiar.  The sad part of the story is Reconstruction ended as part of the deal to swing this election.  From the Wiki:

United States presidential election, 1876

The United States presidential election of 1876 was the 23rd quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 7, 1876. It was one of the most contentious and controversial presidential elections in American history, and is known for being the catalyst for the end of Reconstruction. Republican nominee Rutherford B. Hayes faced Democrat Samuel Tilden. After a controversial post-election process, Hayes was declared the winner.

To date, it remains the election that recorded the smallest electoral vote victory (185–184) and the election that yielded the highest voter turnout of the eligible voting age population in American history, at 81.8%.[1][2] It was also the first presidential election since 1856 in which the Democratic candidate won the popular vote.

The compromise which settled this election was called The Compromise of 1877.  Warren keeps referring to it in his book as the “Big Sell Out”, but that may be his own term, since Google doesn’t show up anything on one.  The result, according to Wiki was “By 1905, most black men were effectively disenfranchised by state legislatures in every southern state.”