The Election of 1876
Samuel J. Tilden Rutherford B. Hayes
Only a few months after arriving in their new country, the Fritschers witnessed an interesting and unique political occurrence. Having come from a country of such political unrest, they may have found it a bit unsettling to find that in their new country, the United States, there could be so much confusion and conflict about the election of the highest official in the land, the President.
In November and December of 1876 the United States government teetered at the brink of chaos. The candidates running for the nineteenth President of the United States were Rutherford B. Hayes, governor of Ohio, and Samuel J. Tilden, governor of New York.
In 1876, a candidate needed 185 electoral votes to win. By midnight on Election Day, some tallies had Tilden with 184 votes and Hayes at 181. But two states were unconfirmed, and Florida, with four electoral votes, was too close to call and could, by itself, decide the election.
Both the Republicans and the Democrats were claiming victory in the presidential contest. On the day after the election, Tilden seemed safely ahead in the popular vote with a lead of 250,000. The Republicans, however, maintained that Hayes had won Florida, giving him 185 electoral votes--and victory. The situation worsened when some states sent two sets of documents to Washington—one proclaiming the state in question was carried by Tilden, the other giving the state's electoral votes to Hayes. The debate continued until, finally, the president of the Senate announced that Hayes had won the presidency by a single electoral vote. The dispute was settled on March 2, 1876, just two days before President Grant's term expired. Hayes was elected after the most lengthy, bitterly disputed, and corrupt presidential election in history.
Once in office, however, Hayes was up to the task. The death of Abraham Lincoln, the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, and the failures of Ulysses S. Grant had left the presidency in a weakened state. The policies of Rutherford B. Hayes, America's nineteenth President, began to heal the nation after the ravages of the Civil War. He had earned a steadfast reputation for integrity throughout his career as a soldier, a lawyer and a statesman. Hayes helped restore prestige to the presidency, heal the wounds left by the Civil War, and strengthen the Republican party sufficiently to win the election of 1880.