Centennial Crisis: The Disputed Election of 1876 by William Rehnquist

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626 words
Carnegie Mellon University
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Book review
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Try assembling all the important days in a nation and presidential elections are sure to surface. It is the time the people decide, and any form of alteration or discrepancies, internal or external is bound to have serious ramifications on the election process itself, the officials involved and the whole nation at large. Among the annals of presidential elections, the 1876 election was undoubtedly the most controversial and contentious in the American history. Rutherford B. Hayes an Ohio native who had incredibly embellished his name as a civil service reformer was in an imminent battleground with Samuel Tilden, a millionaire, lawyer and the governor of New York City for the presidential post. With the largest voter turnout, Samuel Tilden was set for a tremendous win but lost the presidency to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes (William). Tilden accrued 184 electoral votes while his competitor Hayes garnered 165 votes. It is imperative to note that the 2o votes in dispute were from the states of Oregon, Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina. A total of one hundred and eighty five votes formed part of the Electoral College majority, and as a result, all that Tilden needed was one of the disputed votes while Hayes had to have 20. The primary cause of the spirited controversy emanates from the question of who, between the two should have been awarded these unresolved twenty votes (Foley and Edward 2015). Finally, the battle was strictly decided along party lines by an existing electoral commission which constituted of five Republican senators, five Supreme Court judges, and five members of the House of Representatives. The votes were therefore given to Hayes.

Perhaps the most striking detail about the centennial crisis is its display on an interesting time in American period where breath squeezed out of it. 11 years after the civil war the United States envisioned itself prosperous and on a journey that would herald America as the mother of progress. At the same time, the southern states remained hobbled up in the same place with no economic development for development (Foley and Edward 2015).

Sources of information serve as the metrics over which credible and non-credible information is discerned. Rehnquist work is based entirely on secondary sources which are subject to addition, deletion or exaggeration of information (Rakove and Jack 479). Thus, only a small fraction of detailed understanding is added to our already existing knowledge on the compromise. Rehnquist in his defense, claims the that the results were salutary for the nation but he erroneously fails to acknowledge that the outcomes of the result had everything to do with the alienation of African Americans from being involved in American politics. This piece of work sees no crime in infringement of a crucial human right, such as voting to an American citizen. Failing further is the deliberate exclusion of African Americans from political participation in the southern states.

In another twist of events, the southern leaders are depicted immune to their misdeeds as they are swept under the rag (Rakove and Jack 479). Neither are they faulted for disenfranchisement of African American voters a clear indication that leaders were granted impunity. By all standards, this is overt discrimination and bias that impedes national development and progress.


While it is quite common for scandals to emerge in any form of electoral process, it takes the right group of people to ensure regulations are followed, results questioned on factual grounds and the masses are handed the leader of their own choice.


Works cited

Foley, Edward. Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States. Oxford University Press, 2015.

Rakove, Jack. "Ballot Battles: The History of Disputed Elections in the United States. By Edward B. Foley (New York, Oxford University Press, 2016) 479 pp. $34.95." (2017).

Rehnquist, William H. Centennial crisis: The disputed election of 1876. Vintage, 2007.


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