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friends of the freedmen began to recognize that the States were most safely left to themselves. But the sectional fires were not left to die unfanned. When the new Congress met, 1875-6, the Democrats showed themselves conservative enough. They chose two excellent Northern men as speakers: Michael C. Kerr, of Indiana, and upon his death Randall, of Pennsylvania ; and they showed themselves chiefly concerned to probe administrative abuses, which, in truth, needed heroic surgery. But for these prosaic matters Blaine, now leader of the opposition, substituted a far more lively tune, when a bill for universal amnesty at the South was brought before the House. There was no serious Republican opposition, but Blaine saw his opportunity,-he moved that sole exception be made of Jefferson Davis, and on that text he roused Northern passion by the story of Andersonville, goaded to exasperation the “Confederate brigadiers ” among his listeners, and made himself most conspicuous for the time among the Republican leaders. He eclipsed the foremost of the Grant clique, Morton and Conkling, who after a little fruitless third-term talk were both hoping to be legatees of the Grant influence in the approaching Presidential convention. But at the eleventh hour a cloud swept over Blaine's prospects, in charges of discreditable receipt of favors from railroads looking for political aid. The testimony was conflicting, but Blaine's palpable seizure of his own letters from a hostile witness was hardly outweighed even by his spectacular vindication of his acts before the House. A sudden illness stopped the investigation; and later his transference to the Senate postponed its renewal until it frustrated his ambition in 1884. The convention in 1876 met at Cincinnati, with Blaine the favorite, and Morton and Conkling dividing the Grant strength. The reform element, led by George William Curtis, supported Benjamin F. Bristow, of Kentucky, who
had made an honorable record as Secretary of the Treasury, by attacking powerful rings, which through their connection with the President's friends succeeded in driving Bristow out of office. The choice of the convention fell on Rutherford B. Hayes, Union general, governor of Ohio, leader of a State campaign in 1875 which had been a decisive victory for sound money, and a man highly acceptable to the reformers. Against him the Democrats nominated Samuel J. Tilden, of New York, a statesman in his aims and the craftiest of politicians in his means; tolerant of Tammany Hall while it was a necessary factor in the party, but leader in the fierce and skilful assault which drove the Tweed ring from power. As Governor he had attacked and routed a formidable gang of plunderers connected with the canal management. On the issues which to thoughtful men were becoming paramount,-administrative reform and sound finance,-he offered as good promise as did Governor Hayes.
The two men, and the elements supporting them, stood for the new politics instead of the old,—the replacement of the war issues and their sequels by the matters of clean administration, sound currency, and interests common alike to the whole nation. But the Republican leaders found their best campaign material in what the slang of the time called “waving the bloody shirt,”—reviving the cry of abuse of the freedmen, suppression of the negro vote, and the need of national protection for the nation's wards. It was out of keeping with Hayes's record, and with his later performances,—but he let the campaign take its way, and the sectional temper that was roused provided the atmosphere in which the next act of the drama was played.
Election day came: the returns indicated the election of Tilden; Democrats went to bed jubilant and Republicans regretful. Then, just before the night-editor of the New York Times put his paper to press at 3 A.M., he noticed that
the returns from South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida were hardly more than conjectural, and, on the chance of making his tables more complete, he sent a neighborly inquiry to the Republican headquarters as to whether they had definite returns from those States. The inquiry came to the ears of a little knot of the party managers, among them Zachariah Chandler, chairman of the national committee. He caught at it," the Democrats are not sure of those States,—we have a chance.” Instantly—so the story goes—he sent dispatches to the party managers in the three States, “ Claim everything." So they did—and so did he. Next morning, following the first announcement of Tilden's election, came the assertion that the Republicans had carried South Carolina, Louisiana and Florida—which would give Hayes a majority of one vote in the electoral college. All hung on the vote in those three States,-no, on the counting of the votes! The returning-board of Louisiana, which had before been so useful, was in full working order; Florida was similary equiped ; South Carolina was in much the same case. The boards had authority to throw out the entire vote of districts where there was proof that intimidation had tainted the election. The business of merely counting the votes might be supplemented by the operation of throwing out enough districts to leave the prize with the party that did the counting. It soon appeared that the returning boards could be trusted by their friends. With all reasonable speed, they threw out enough votes to give all the doubtful States to Hayes. In each of these States an indignant and protesting opposition sent in a counter set of returns giving the electoral vote to Tilden. And any one of the three States would be enough to insure Tilden's election,
The controversy extended to the state governments—in South Carolina, both Wade Hampton and Chamberlain
claimed the Governorship, and each had a Legislature organized to support him. The case was the same in Louisiana, with Nichols and Packard. President Grant refused recognition or active support to either party; but United States troops kept the peace, and their presence prevented the Democratic claimants from summarily ousting their opponents.
The whole country was in a storm of excitement. The returning-boards had done their counting,—but who was to judge the judges? Who was to decide which of the returns of Presidential electors were the valid ones? They were to be passed on by the two Houses of Congress in joint session. But the Senate was Republican, the Representatives were Democratic,—what if they disagreed as to the returns? The President of the Senate is to decide, claimed the Republicans,-on very slender grounds, it must be said. The House of Representatives, said the Democrats,—with more plausible yet doubtful argument. The deadlock was alarming. Then the emergency was met with a self-control, a resourcefulness and efficiency, worthy of the best that is claimed for the American character. By general agreement of the moderate men of both parties, a special tribunal was constituted for the occasion. It consisted of five Senators, five Representatives, and five Justices of the Supreme Court. The Congressmen were evenly divided between the two parties. The justices were two and two, with the fifth place assigned to David Davis, an independent. It was an ideal division. But at the critical moment, Davis was chosen by the Illinois Legislature to the Senate, so that he could not act. As a substitute, Justice Joseph Bradley, was put on the commission. He was a Republican, but in the generous temper which had risen to meet the emergency, there was a general feeling that party lines would be forgotten by the tribunal. The commission consisted of Justices Bradley,
Miller, Strong, Field and Clifford; Senators Edmunds, Morton, Frelinghuysen, Bayard and Sherman ; Representatives G. F. Hoar, Garfield, Payne, Hunton and Abbott.
The two Houses proceeded to count the electoral votes in the usual form, and whenever the return was contested the case was referred to the commission and debated before it. Each side had its ablest lawyers to plead; for the one party, Evarts, Kasson, McCrary, Stoughton and Matthews; for the other, O'Conor, Black, Field and Tucker. The commission then made its decision; and the result was reported to the two Houses for their acceptance. In the pleading, the Republicans took their stand on legality and the Democrats on equity. The Democrats claimed as the question at issue, For whom did the majority of the people of the State give their votes? The Republicans made it, Whom does the official authority of the State certify as elected ? When the commission came to vote, on the preliminary questions, it was apparent that the party line was just as rigid among its members as between the advocates who pled. And it was clear that the Republicans stood upon the narrowest possible construction of the case before them. For example, in the case of Louisiana, it was moved, first, that evidence be admitted that the returning body was an unconstitutional body and its acts void. No, said the Republican eight. Moved, next, that evidence be admitted that the board was illegal because its acting members were all of one party,-No. Moved, that evidence be admitted that the board threw out votes dishonestly and fraudulently, No. In each case, the Republican eight refused to look a hair's breadth beyond the governor's seal to the returning board's certificate. In the same way they dealt with Florida and South Carolina.
Tilden's friends had contrived an ingenious scheme to put the commission in a dilemma. They had managed that