State Republican officials still controlled the counting and reporting of

State republican officials still controlled the

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State Republican officials still controlled the counting and reporting of ballots in South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana, and those three states could change the Electoral College majority from Tilden to Hayes. Charging voting fraud, Republican election boards in those states rejected enough ballots so that the offi- cial count gave Hayes narrow majorities and thus a one-vote margin of victory in the Electoral College. Crying fraud in return, Democratic officials in those states submitted their own versions of the vote count. Angry Democrats vowed to see Tilden inaugurated, by force if necessary. Some Democratic newspapers ran head- lines that read “Tilden or War.” For the first time, Congress faced the problem of disputed electoral votes that could decide the outcome of an election. To resolve the challenges, Congress created a commission of five senators, five representatives, and five Supreme Court justices. The Republicans had a one-vote majority on the commission. As commission hearings droned on through January and into February 1877, informal discussions took place among leading Republicans and Democrats. The result has often been called the Compromise of 1877. Southern Democrats demanded an end to federal intervention in southern politics but insisted on federal subsidies for railroad construction and water- ways in the South. And they wanted one of their own as postmaster general because that office held the key to most federal patronage. In return, southern
Democrats seemed willing to abandon Tilden’s claim to the White House. The Compromise of 1877, however, was never set down in one place or agreed to by all parties. By a straight party vote, the commission confirmed the election of Hayes. Soon after his inauguration, the new president ordered the last of the federal troops withdrawn from the South. The era of a powerful federal government pledged to protect “equality before the law” for all citizens was over. The last three Republican state governments fell in 1877, giving the Democrats, the self-described party of white supremacy, control in every southern state. One Radical journal bitterly concluded that African Americans had been forced “to relinquish the artificial right to vote for the natural right to live.” In parts of the South thereafter, election fraud and violence became routine. A Mississippi judge acknowledged in 1890 that “since 1875 … we have been preserving the ascendancy of the white people by … stuffing ballot boxes, committing perjury and here and there in the state carrying the elections by fraud and violence.” Reconstruction was over. The Civil War was more than ten years in the past. Many moderate Republicans had hoped that the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amend- ments and the Civil Rights Act would guarantee black rights without a continuing federal presence in the South. Southern Democrats persistently argued—on paltry evidence—that carpetbaggers and scalawags were all corrupt, that they manipulated

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