Counting the Vote in 1876 – Florida’s First Election Fiasco
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The 1876 presidential election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden came down to a dispute over Florida’s electoral votes. This archive of 12 pamphlets, broadsides, and documents includes official signed copies of key Florida court and executive decisions. From the papers of Edward Louden Parris, an attorney for Tilden, who ended up losing the election by way of the “Compromise of 1877.” [FLORIDA].
12 pamphlets, broadsides, and documents relating to the disputed presidential election of 1876. 1876-1878.
- Partially Printed Documents Signed
o The Executive of the State of Florida … Printed affidavit signed by 4 Florida electors, attesting that they all voted for Tilden (Tallahassee, January 26, 1877)
“…we do hereby certify and make known, that we, the undersigned, Robert Bullock, Robert B. Hilton, Wilkinson Call and James E. Yonge, Electors … did, on the first Wednesday of December, A.D. eighteen hundred and seventy-six … meet … in the Capitol, at Tallahassee, to give our votes as such Electors for President; and did, then and there, give and cast our votes as such Electors, by ballot … and the said ballots having been opened, inspected and counted, it did then and there appear that on four of said ballots was the name of Samuel J. Tilden…”
Official State of Florida Certificate of State Canvassers of the Election. (Tallahassee, January 26, 1877)
The State of Florida … vs. Charles H. Pearce. (Tallahassee, January 27, 1877)
Whereas, in Pursuance of an Act of Legislature … Appointment of 4 electors, signed and sealed by Governor George F. Drew (Tallahassee, January 26, 1877)
o In the Matter of the Electoral Vote of the State of Florida: Points (Washington, 1877)
o Record and Opinion of the Supreme Court of Florida, in the Case of the state of Florida ex rel. Geo. F. Drew against Samuel B. McLin (Tallahassee, 1876)
o An Act to Procure a Legal Canvass of the Electoral Vote of the State of Florida (n.p., January 17, 1877)
o Florida Political Frauds (Tallahassee, November 7, 1876).
o Five additional items, complete list below.
The Election of 1876 was one of the most significant in American history. People celebrated the nation’s centennial, but prepared to move on after ten years of Reconstruction and eight years of the scandal-ridden Ulysses Grant administration.
The Democrats nominated Samuel Tilden, a respected lawyer and reform governor of New York, while the Republicans nominated Rutherford B. Hayes, a dark-horse war hero from Ohio. It was an incredibly close election, with Tilden winning the popular vote by roughly 250,000 votes. However, the votes of Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana, all states still occupied by federal troops, were contested. Needing 185 electoral votes to win, Tilden was stuck at 184. If he could win one of the three remaining states, he would take the presidency. The electoral boards of all three states, dominated by Republicans, favored Hayes, and used creative means of counting and throwing out votes. However, all three states elected Democratic governors in 1876, all of whom would be expected to endorse results favorable to Tilden. In December 1876, conflicting sets of officially certified presidential electors voted in each state.
The crisis fell into the halls of Congress because that is where the official reading of a state’s electoral votes takes place. Congressional Democrats proposed the creation of a bipartisan electoral commission comprising 5 Senators, 5 Representatives, and 5 Supreme Court Justices. The swing vote would be the fifth Supreme Court Justice, Joseph Bradley of New Jersey, a moderate Republican. Behind the scenes, Hayes, Tilden, and their handlers communicated with each other and with Bradley. Though historians have no smoking gun linking any of the principals to this deal, it unquestionably took place. Bradley was convinced to vote for Hayes, Tilden promised to adhere to the results, and Hayes agreed to end Reconstruction and federal military occupation in the South, and to appoint a Southern Democrat as Postmaster General. Florida was the first test for the validity of the commission, because it was the first of the three states in alphabetical order. When the President Pro Tem of the Senate came to Florida, he read the commission’s results – 8 to 7 for Hayes. The same result was replicated for Louisiana and South Carolina, and Hayes became the 19th president.
Pamphlet – Tilden & Hendricks – Reform, Economy and Better Times 1876 Canvas Book.
Pamphlet – Record and Opinion of the Supreme Court of Florida in the Case of The State of Florida Ex Rel. George F. Drew, Against Samuel B. McLin, Secretary of State, Clayton A. Cowgill, Comptroller, Wm. Archer Cooke, Attorney General, of the State of Florida 1876.
Pamphlet - In the Matter of the Electoral Vote of the State of Florida – Points 1877.
Partially Printed Document Signed – The Executive of the State of Florida … Printed affidavit signed by 4 Florida electors, attesting that they all voted for Tilden (Tallahassee, January 26, 1877).
Partially Printed Document Signed – Whereas, in Pursuance of an Act of Legislature … Appointment of 4 electors, signed and sealed by Governor George F. Drew (Tallahassee, January 26, 1877).
Partially Printed Document Signed – The State of Florida … vs. Charles H. Pearce (Tallahassee, January 27, 1877), signed and sealed.
Printed Document – The State of Florida … vs. Charles H. Pearce (Tallahassee, January 27, 1877) neither signed nor sealed.
Broadside – Chapter 1874 – [No. 12] An Act in Relation to the Proceedings upon Writs of Quo Warranto. 2/2/1872.
Broadside - An Act to Procure a Legal Canvass of the Electoral Vote of the State of Florida (n.p., January 17, 1877).
Partially Printed Document Signed – Official State of Florida Certificate of State Canvassers of the Election. (Tallahassee, January 26, 1877).
Document Signed – Wilkinson Call, Robert Bullock, James E. Yonge, Robert B Hilton Electors of the State of Florida for President and Vice President of the United States
Broadside - Florida Political Frauds (Tallahassee, November 7, 1876).