The contested result of the 1876 election was settled in a back room, with Democrats acquiescing to “His Fraudulency” Rutherford B. Hayes ascent to the presidency in exchange for the removal of Northern occupation troops from the South and the assurance of federal railroad aid.
Fraud was National
“Early in the morning after the election, [the New York Times], after accounting politically for every State in the Union but Florida, announced: ‘This leaves Florida alone still in doubt. If the Republicans have carried that State, as they claim, they will have 185 votes, a majority of one.’ The situation was not quite that simple, but Florida’s vote was that important. “Visiting statesmen” from both parties hastened to Tallahassee. Local partisans were active too.
[Politician and former Northern general] Lew Wallace described the Florida situation in a letter to his wife: “It is terrible to see the extent to which all classes go in their determination to win. Conscience offers no restraint. Nothing is so common as the resort to perjury . . . Money and intimidation can obtain the oath of white men as well as black to any required statement . . . If we [Republicans] win, our methods are subject to impeachment for possible fraud. If the enemy [Democrats] win, it is the same thing . . .”
Fraud was national. It applied to the Presidency as well as railroad bonds. “Visiting statesmen” who came late showed no more scruples than carpetbaggers who came early or the scalawags whom they found. The Republicans secured the vote of Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina.
But the Florida vote remains more significant in view of Dr. Vann Woodward’s statement that the consensus of modern scholarship is “that Hayes was probably entitled to the electoral votes of South Carolina and Louisiana, and that [Samuel] Tilden was entitled to the four votes of Florida, and that Tilden was therefore elected by a vote of 188 to 181.”
(Prince of Carpetbaggers, Jonathan Daniels, J.B. Lippincott, 1958, excerpts pp. 282-283)