Tag Archives: Rutherford Hayes

Reconstruction Era Elections

(July 9, 2019) Most of today’s Reconstruction Era historians only want their students to know two facts about Southern elections. First, Washington Republicans adopted policies that gave blacks the vote in all states of the former Confederacy. Second, white Southerners responded by using the Ku Klux Klan to suppress black vote via intimidation and violence.*

They don’t bother to tell students two other facts. First, many former Confederates were denied the vote. In combination with black suffrage the selective white disfranchisement ensured that Republican-controlled state governments would take over the South. Second, most of the new puppet regimes established election returning boards to count votes. That nearly guaranteed they would hold onto their power in all but the most lopsided of unfavorable elections, regardless of the true vote.

The Republican-controlled returning boards were a menace to good government. The most notorious example involved the 1876 Presidential election between Republican Rutherford Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden. Hayes eventually won the electoral college 185-to-184. On the initial tally, however, Tilden led 203-to-165, with a single disputed vote in Oregon that the Republicans would win.

Consequently, the GOP decided to challenge Tilden’s returns in Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana where their vassal regimes controlled the returning boards. As a result, each of the three states sent separate tallies to Washington where GOP machinations had constituted a committee that selected the Hayes returns. That’s how “Rutherfraud” became our nineteenth President.

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While the Ku Klux Klan was active in the former Confederate states during Reconstruction its period of intimidation and violence against blacks and white Republicans was shorter than commonly believed.

By academic convention, the Reconstruction Era lasted twelve years from 1865 to 1877. Yet one of the Klan’s sharpest critics, historian Eric Foner, admits that it had faded to insignificance by 1872.  Moreover, the Klan never overthrew a single Republican regime. 

Similarly, even though it was organized as an isolated social club in Pulaski, Tennessee on Christmas Eve 1865, the Klan had little incentive to influence elections until after the spring of 1867 when Congress passed a series of Reconstruction Acts over President Andrew Johnson’s veto. The Acts mandated black suffrage across the South while simultaneously denying the vote to many ex-Confederates who believed that such terms would create chaotic and corrupted state governmetns.

Thus, the Klan’s lifespan of violence was only five years from 1867 until the end of 1871.

Post-Bellum Republicans and the Southern Black Vote

(December 27, 2017) One of the reasons the Republican Party wanted ex-slaves to vote after the Civil War was because they knew that freedmen would vote Republican and thereby help the infant GOP hold onto power in Washington. Even though widely acclaimed for winning the Civil War, candidate Ulysses Grant only got 53% of the popular vote in the 1868 presidential election, which was the first one after the Civil War. If it had not been for Southern blacks Grant would have failed to win a majority of the popular vote, although he would have won the electoral vote. In other words, only a minority of whites voted for Grant.

Eight years later the situation had changed for two reasons.

First, the country was in the midst of its worst economic depression up to that time. Growing numbers of Republican and Northern voters concluded that the corrupt carpetbagger’s focus on lining his own pocket was choking the South’s economic recovery  to a point where it was also hindering America’s overall economy. Thus, the Party was willing to make a deal to manipulate the presidential votes one last time in order to get their man in the White House. The Republicans would disclose the insincerity of their merely rhetorical advocacy for blacks in a deal that would permit white Southerners to reagin control of the carpetbagger states.

Specifically, the Republicans would use the ballot-counting machine of Louisiana’s crooked carpetbaggers to steal the state’s electoral votes for “Rutherfraud” B. Hayes. In exchange, Hayes would remove federal troops from the three Southern states where they remained: Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida. Hayes would also require that Southern  Democrats acquiesce to a switch in the electoral tallies for South Carolina and Florida from the Democratic column, where the original vote put them, into the Republican column. The switch would assure Hayes’s election by a single electoral vote. Although all three states had voter fraud on both sides, Hayes’s deal allowed the Republicans to pretend that the fraud was predominantly among the Democrats.

Second, the pragmatic Republican politicians of 1876 could foresee that the South’s black vote would become an unnecessary way of maintaining Republican control in Washington. They recognized that the established geographic population growth and migration patterns favored states with few blacks and otherwise populated by—or likely to be populated by—characteristically Republican demographics.

From 1860 to 1876 the electoral votes for the eleven states of the former Confederacy where blacks composed forty percent of the population increased from 88 to 95. By comparison, over the same period the electoral votes from the twenty-two states that remained Union-loyal during the Civil War where blacks composed less than five percent of the population increased from 215 to 260. Additionally, the Republican-dominated states of Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, and Colorado, which had not been permitted to vote in 1860, provided an additional 14 electoral votes to Hayes in 1876. All four had few black voters. In short, the states of the former Confederacy represented only 29% of the total electoral votes cast in 1876 as compared to 35% in 1860. Moreover, few blacks lived in the Northern and Western states holding 71% of the total electoral votes in the centennial year.

Finally, the next seven states to join the Union after 1876—North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah—were overwhelmingly white and generally Republican. Each of the seven, for example, sent two more Republicans to the United States Senate upon being admitted to the Union. Oklahoma would be the first decidedly Democratic state to join the union after the Civil War. That would not happen until 1907, which was thirty years after President Grant left office.* Thus, the practical Republican politician of 1875 realized that black votes would steadily decline in value in terms of retaining the Party’s control in Washington.

After 1876 the morality of racial equality would generally stand alone as the chief reason for politically supporting blacks, but its was evidently an insufficient cause for the typical nineteenth century Republican. For fourteen years after Hayes’s 1876 election the Party virtually ignored blacks until 1890 when Republican President Benjamin Harrison was approaching a tight race for reelection against Democrat Grover Cleveland in 1892. Harrison took the office away from Cleveland in 1888 with an electoral vote majority despite losing the popular vote. In order to help Harrison in the 1892 election Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge introduced a bill that would provide for federal supervision of elections in the South.

Democrats opposed the bill because they feared that Harrison-appointed federal supervisors might put their thumbs on the scale of Republican candidates. Thus, the Republican Party was prepared to make another deal that would throw blacks under the omnibus. Specifically, they abandoned Lodge’s elections bill in exchange for Democratic support of the McKinley Tariff, which was designed to protect Northern industries from foreign competition. The protected industries employed few blacks and had even fewer black owners. The average duty increase from 38% to 50% was almost entirely for the benefit of Northern whites.

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*Oklahoma was also the first state to be initially admitted after the Civil War with a significant minority population, which were Native Americans. In fact, the “Civilized Tribes” encompassing the Cherokee, Seminole, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Creeks located in the eastern half of the territory hoped to be admitted as a separate state. They planned to name it Sequoyah in honor of the originator of the Cherokee alphabet. Republican President Theodore Roosevelt blocked the plan. If Oklahoma were split into two separate parts, he reasoned, each part would likely  send two more Democrats to the U. S. Senate. That would give the former Oklahoma Territory four Democratic Senators instead of only two.

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Presently Amazon and Barnes & Noble Online are out-of-stock of my latest book, Southern Reconstruction. Although my publisher has ordered a second printing, the production run will not be completed until next month.

Meanwhile, some physical Barnes & Noble stores do have them in stock. Go to this link, and click on the “Want it today? Check Store Availability,” which is in small print to the right of the picture cover. The link will prompt you to enter your zip code and afterward display a list of stores nearby and will also indicate which ones have Southern Reconstruction in stock. Some other independent physical stores may also have the title in stock.

Finally, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have eBook versions available.

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Electoral College Fraud

(November 14, 2016.) About four o’clock on the morning following Tuesday’s Presidential election The New York Times received a request from two prominent Democrats for an update on the Electoral College vote. Nobody ever replied. Instead the editors and political writers sensed the Democrat victory that most everyone—including both candidates—had assumed, was actually in doubt. If leading Democratic politicians were privately uncertain, they reasoned, perhaps the Republican-loyal Times could transform their fears into a reality through creative reporting in the morning’s first edition.

A once insane Republican leader may have indirectly provided the basis for partial newspapermen to rationalize putting a biased interpretation of the front page. Years earlier Daniel Sickles was the first person to win acquittal for murder by using a temporary insanity defense after killing his wife’s lover. Shortly before midnight of Election Day he sent telegrams to Republican-controlled machines in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida, which were the only three Carpetbag regimes remaining. He emphasized that Republican Rutherford B. Hayes would win the 1876 election against Democrat Samuel Tilden if each of the three delivered their electoral votes to Hayes. Tilden would lose the Electoral College despite holding a 51% to 48% popular vote majority.

Perhaps due to Sickles’ earlier telegrams, The Times learned of rumors that the returns from the three Southern states might be contested. As a result, the first edition declared the election to be in doubt. A front-page editorial arbitrarily put South Carolina and Louisiana in the Republican column thereby giving Hayes the lead. Thus began America’s most notorious election fraud.

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Regardless of the true vote, the returns from each of the Carpetbag states would be determined by Republican-controlled “returning boards,” which launched investigations into the legitimacy of popular votes in the applicable states. Although fraudulent votes were cast on both sides it was nearly certain that the boards would throw out enough Democratic votes to provide a fabricated Republican majority in each state thereby giving the election to Hayes.

The eventual fraudulent electoral vote was 185 for Hayes and 184 for Tilden. Thus, Tilden needed only one of the disputed states. He probably should have had all three, but most certainly Louisiana. According to historian Roy Morris, “The actions of the returning boards…would not bear close scrutiny; any reasonably impartial board was likely to reverse the findings, particularly for Louisiana…”

Since the electoral vote roll call was postponed until days before the new President’s inauguration, Democrats threatened to filibuster before the roll call was completed, thereby Preventing Hayes from taking office. Anticipating the maneuver, Republicans responded by secretly hinting to take two actions that would provide Southern Democrats incentives to stay out of a filibuster.

First, was to withdraw federal occupation troops from the three Carpetbag states. From one perspective the action removed federal military protection for black voters. From another it denied Carpetbag rulers an arbitrary tool for blocking Democratic white voters. Regardless of whether or not it was secretly a promise, Hayes removed the federal troops during his first year in office.

A second incentive was to provide more federal public works spending in the South, particularly for railroads. From 1865 to 1873, for example, the states of the former Confederacy received less than 10% of federal public works spending. Massachusetts and New York alone got more than twice as much as all of the former Rebel states. Whether or not such action was a second secret promise, it was never fulfilled. Southerners were told that “the Great Barbecue” originating with the 1863 Pacific Railroad Act was over. They were told it had to be ended because of the economic depression that followed the Panic of 1873, which was partially caused by liberal government railroad subsidies elsewhere.

Democratic governors soon replaced Carpetbag Republicans in the three disputed Southern states but Hayes arranged appointments of their former GOP governors and other state officials who helped him win the election. Louisiana’s 1876 gubernatorial candidate became the U. S. Counsel to Liverpool and the outgoing governor who signed the returns sent to Washington moved up to the U. S. Senate in a deal arranged by Ohio Senator John Sherman, who was a brother of General William T. Sherman.

The four—two white and two black—members of Louisiana’s election board were given federal posts. One of the white men was appointed the chief customs collector in New Orleans and the other became his assistant. (Tax collection posts were notoriously corrupt.) One of the blacks became a deputy naval officer at the port and the other got a customs house post for his brother. In total, sixty-nine men involved in the Republican-winning Louisiana count got federal appointments. In all, some fifty relatives and friends of the Louisiana Returning Board got positions at the New Orleans custom’s house.

After Hayes’s 1876 election, Washington Republicans virtually ignored the black electorate until the eve of the tightly contested reelection campaign of President Benjamin Harrison against Democrat Grover Cleveland in 1892. Anticipating a close vote, in 1890 Massachusetts Representative Henry Cabot Lodge introduced a “Force Bill” to empower the federal government to supervise elections in the South once again under the glitter of bayonets thereby optimizing Republican election prospects in the region. The bill, however, was dropped when the Republicans traded it away for Southern support of the McKinley Tariff, which raised import duties about 50%. Although Republicans claimed the Lodge Bill underscored the Party’s determination to protect black voters, the motive was evidently less powerful than their hunger for higher tariffs.

But that’s another story, and a good one.

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