The Compromise of 1877
The Presidential Nominees of 1876
The Centennial presidential
election of 1876 sparked a fire
Republican nominee Rutherford
B. Hayes and Democratic
nominee Samuel Tilden found
themselves in the midst of a
The Democrats, eager to both
rid the south of the military
presence left over from
Reconstruction and make a
mark once again in federal
Tilden, the Governor from New
York was nominated in St.
Louis alongside Indiana
Governor Thomas Hendricks
Meanwhile, the Radical
Republicans were giving way
to a more liberal Republican
Despite this gradual
transformation of the
Republican party, the basic
tenets which inspired the
Republican backing of
Reconstruction policy were
Hayes, Governor of Ohio and
a former Congressman was
nominated for the presidency
by the Republican party in
Cincinnati at the Republican
National Convention, with
New York Congressman
William Wheeler nominated
as his running mate.
campaign of 1876 was
difficult from the onset.
Campaign slander was
rampant, with smear
tactics used in order to
bolster support for
While neither candidate
was unfamiliar with the
world of politics, the
attacks were still difficult,
and at times taken
The Initial Outcome
It appeared initially as November 7th came to a close that Tilden
was winning the Electoral College vote with 184 electoral votes to
The popular vote too appeared to favor Tilden with 51% or
4,284,020 for the Democratic candidate, while Hayes received 48%
of the popular vote, or 4,036,572.
The Contested Results
News of contested election results began to circulate
around the country in the early hours of November 8.
The Electoral vote, 184 for Tilden and 165 for Hayes was
a close one, and 20 electoral votes in dispute.
Three southern states, South Carolina with 7 electoral
votes, Florida with 4, and Louisiana with 8, as well as
Oregon (with only one of the three electoral votes
contested) were contesting the results of their electoral
The states, with the electoral votes given to Hayes, were
historically democrat, and interestingly, the only southern
states still with Federal troops present enforcing
The returns from the electoral boards of the
southern states were the main source of dispute,
with both the Republicans and the Democrats
The Oregon contested results were rather unique.
The debate centered on the legitimacy of one of the
The following article from Harper's Magazine
published on December 16, 1876, demonstrates the
sentiment of the country concerning the disputed
“Will any decent Democrat say
upon his honor that he believes there was
no designed and general intimidation of the
colored vote in any of the disputed States
for the purpose of securing Democratic success?” 7
The disputed election resulted in numerous political cartoons
dedicated to the crisis.
The cartoon entitled "A National Game That is Played Out"
represents the discontent of the cartoonist over the apparent gamy
nature the disputed election was being handled.
“Compromise Indeed!" represents the perceived bullying on the part
of the Democrats in their plight. The popular press was particularly
critical of the Democratic effort to get Tilden elected.
"A Jewel Among Swine", presents a rather scathing view
of the electoral boards of the disputed southern states, in
this case Louisiana.
Election Violence and the Red Shirts
Violence and coercion were
suspected to have occurred
during the election.
Of particular note was the
supposed Red Shirts of South
These staunch southern
Democrats were known for
their bullying and intimidation
of African American voters.
Accusations abounded which
claimed the Red Shirts were
both forcing African
Americans to vote democrat,
and even preventing them
from voting altogether.
The Electoral Commission
The dispute continued into 1877 with a resolution yet to
The U.S. Constitution was ill-equipped to solve the
dilemma, stating merely that it was up to the Congress to
find a resolution.
Thus, in January of 1877 an Electoral Commission Bill
was proposed which called for the establishment of a
committee to count the returns from the disputed states
and determine the proper victor.
The act, called for a 15 member commission consisting
of 5 members each from the Supreme Court, the Senate,
and the House of Representatives.
The partisan make-up of the Commission was never
envisioned to be entirely even to avoid deadlock.
Initially the Democrats wanted David Davis, a
Democratic Supreme Court justice on the commission,
which would ensure a 3-2 Democrat majority among the
Supreme Court representatives.
However, this was not to be. The very nature of the
dispute, coupled with his political aspirations caused
Davis to decline to accept the position.
Thus, Joseph Bradley, a staunch Republican got the
seat, rendering the Supreme Court representation 3-2,
favoring the Republicans.
The Senate representation was also 3-2, favoring
Republicans, with the House representation standing at
3-2 favoring the Democrats.
Despite the clear Republican advantage, a congressional report released in early
February of 1877 sings the praises of the "non-partisan" committee.
Of note is Congress's realization within the report as to the lack of rules or
provisions established prior to the election of 1876 to safeguard against such an
The Electoral Commission's results began to stream in
the spring of 1877.
While favorable to Hayes, the findings of the commission
did not however bring about a resolution, considering the
rules stipulated in the Electoral Commission Act.
The act itself stated that both Houses of Congress had to
approve the commission's findings in order for them to
This became evident when the results began to come in;
the Republican controlled Senate approved the
commission's findings just as quickly as the Democrat
controlled House rejected them.
Filibusters ensued, threatening the speedy resolution
envisioned at the creation of the commission.
While Democrats were hopeful, the reality of the
situation was becoming all too apparent.
Negotiations began to take place between top
Democrats and supporters of Hayes.
It was decided that the Democrat-controlled Senate
would accept the findings of the commission,
ushering in the Presidency of Hayes under certain
Most importantly, the Southern Democrats wanted
Federal troops out of Florida, Louisiana, and South
Carolina, giving the states ultimate control over
their own political affairs.
Also desired by the Democrats were Federal posts
for leading Democrats.
A Final Outcome
On March 2,
B. Hayes was
President of the
bringing an end
to the four month
Three days later,
on March 5,
Hayes was sworn
in as President. 17
The Results of the Compromise
The Compromise of 1877 is
often perceived as the end of
Because of the negotiations
reached in order to ensure a
Hayes presidential victory,
certain concessions were
promised to the South which
essentially put an end to the
progressive reforms that were
attempted by previous
While both in private and
public, Hayes insisted on his
continued commitment to the
African American cause,
particularly in the South, his
seemed to indicate the
changing tide of the
The following map portrays the Reconstruction military
redistricting of the south which came to an end with the
Compromise of 1877
The appointment of
leading Democrats in
Federal office was
another agreed upon
point prior to Hayes'
Governor David Key was
to be appointed to the
coveted position of U.S.
ushering in the revived
era of Democratic
affluence in politics.