Mr. Russell’s Classroom: Presidential History

Welcome to Mr. Russell’s classroom where we want to help complement your remote learning during this unique school year. Today’s assignment is all about history…presidential history! There’s a lot of angst about the uncertainty of this election. But leave it to Professor John Carter to find that this is not the worst of times!

We know all the votes in this presidential election aren’t in…and it could be next week before we get a final tally. But what if I told you we won’t find out who’s going to be president for at least four more months? Well…that’s exactly what happened with what many consider to be the most contentious presidential election ever.

And while this time North Carolina is playing a big role in the uncertainty, it was South Carolina that played a major role in the other election. It was 1876…there were 38 states then. Voters went to the polls on Tuesday, November 7th…and the turnout was huge. To this day, it remains the highest percentage voter turnout in presidential election history…81.8 percent of eligible voters!


On the ballot…democrat Samuel J. Tilden who was the governor of New York…and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, who was the governor of Ohio. And it got very messy. When the votes were all in…BOTH sides were claiming victory!

As it turns out…Tilden won the popular vote by a majority…not just a plurality. And it appeared he’d won the electoral votes…184 to Hayes’s 165.

BUT…20 electoral votes from four states were in dispute…and one of those states was none other than South Carolina! The republicans argued those votes were Hayes’s! So how did they work it out?

Well, it gets a little complicated here.

In essence…a 15 member Electoral commission was formed…which later voted 8 to 7 to give Hayes the 20 electoral votes.  The democrats and republicans also struck a deal…it was called the Compromise of 1877.

Under the compromise, the Republicans agreed to withdraw federal troops from the south, which in essence, ended the reconstruction era.

Then, what was known as the “Redeemer” Democrats, took control of southern politics and power.  That, unfortunately, led to more segregation in the south.  According to theHistory Channel,  the southern democrats’ promises to protect civil and political rights of blacks were not kept…and eventually Jim Crow laws became the rule in the south.  That’s a whole ‘nother topic that needs more discussion…but we’ll get back to the matter at hand here, and that’s the election.

The 20 electoral votes were given to Hayes, giving him 185 to Tilden’s 184…and Hayes was declared the winner.

And that wasn’t until March 5th…almost four months after the election!

Now not all democrats were happy with the results of the compromise and there were fears there would be riots and armed marches on Washington, but that never materialized, and Hayes was sworn in as President without incident.

However, the question of who really should have been awarded those electoral votes remains a mystery to this day!

So just when you think today’s election issues are the worst…think again.


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