The presidential election of 1876 was a close competition between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democratic candidate Samuel J. Tilden that resulted in a heated dispute between political parties over determining the winner of the election. In what became known as the Compromise of 1877, both sides came to an agreement and Hayes became the nineteenth President of the United States.
The leading Republican candidates at the national convention were James G. Blaine of Maine and Rutherford B. Hayes, Governor of Ohio. The reform Republicans ultimately swayed the vote in favor of Hayes, and chose William A. Wheeler as his running mate.
The Democratic National Convention met in St. Louis, Missouri, and was the first national convention to be held west of the Mississippi River. Samuel J. Tilden took the nomination with widespread support from his party, and the Democrats believed they would have their first presidential win in many years. Both major parties followed a campaign strategies were marked by mud-slinging and attacks.
The Greenback Party and the Prohibition Party, both third parties, formed and nominated their own presidential candidates, Samuel Fenton Carey and Green Clay Smith respectively. Neither candidate had a significant following, and they received no electoral votes.
The election results after the 1876 election were close and controversial. After the popular vote on Election Day, Tilden led the polls by a small margin. But when the electoral votes were counted, a total of twenty electoral votes were disputed. In Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, each party declared its candidate the winner in all of these states, and the ballots were wrought with evidence of fraud. Some accounts claimed that Republicans had threatened voters into casting their ballots in favor of Hayes.
One of Oregon’s electors was determined to be ineligible, because he had previously served as a postmaster, which fell under the category of an elected or appointed official, disqualifying his electoral vote for Tilden. He was replaced with a new elector, but Oregon’s two other electors, who were Republicans, took over the vote in his absence and cast the extra ballot for Hayes.
The dispute was sent to the Electoral Commission to determine the official outcome of the election. The parties then privately reached what became known as the Compromise of 1877, in which the Democrats allowed Hayes to become the President of the United States on the condition that the Republicans would withdraw federal troops from the South, signaling the end of Reconstruction.
After a long deliberation and a drawn out battle, Hayes was given all twenty of the disputed electoral votes, giving him one more electoral vote than Tilden. The election of 1876 was the first election in which the winner of the absolute majority of the popular vote did not become president. In one of the nation’s most controversial elections, Hayes became the nineteenth President of the United States.