John S. Cooper has a fascinating account of the presidential election of 1876 in which Rutherford B. Hayes arguably stole the presidency from Samuel Tilden through electoral college shenanigans and back-room dealings. I never learned in history class that 19th century American politics was filled with such corruption -- assuming the essay is substantially true.

Rutherford Birchard Hayes' victory over Samuel J. Tilden in the election of 1876 was the closest in our history. In fact, many people consider the man inaugurated in March 1877 was not the winner at all. In the Electoral College, only one vote separated the two candidates, still a record for the closest election. It is how those votes were won that created a constitutional crisis and threatened to start another civil war. ...

When the election was over, it looked as though the Democrats had indeed won by an electoral vote of 204-165. But late on the election night, a democratic state chairman wired the New York Times asking nervously for the latest totals from three states (Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina) saying "Please give your estimate of electoral votes secured for Tilden. Answer at once." A Republicans editor, John Reid, wired other Republican leaders that if "...they want to know the electoral vote, that means they are not certain they have won. If they are still in doubt, then we can go on from here and win the election."

Read it all. I love history.



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