BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Roy Morris, Jr., what was the fraud of the century?
ROY MORRIS, JR., AUTHOR, "FRAUD OF THE CENTURY": The fraud of the century, according to the Democratic Party, was the theft of the 1876 presidential election from Samuel J. Tilden, given to Rutherford B. Hayes.
MORRIS:Who are these pictures of here on the cover? I guess on the left, it`s Rutherford B. Hayes.
MORRIS:Rutherford B. Hayes on the left and Samuel Tilden on the right.
LAMB: And you say "and the Stolen Election of 1876." Who stole it?
MORRIS:The -- well, that`s -- there`s a debate about that. To the Democrats, the Republicans stole the election. The Republicans said then and still -- I mean, historians say today -- were merely stealing back what the Democrats had stolen from them first.
LAMB: Which was what?
MORRIS:Which was the election itself, but primarily the election in the southern states, in which Republicans contended that the black voters were intimidated and kept away from the polls, and so that Tilden had unfairly won an election that he would have lost otherwise.
LAMB: You say on your first page of the introduction of your book, "But if the 2000 election was something of a farce" -- and I want to ask you about that -- "the 1876 election was nothing less than a tragedy."
Explain the farce part of that first.
MORRIS:Well, we all remember the 2000 election, the butterfly ballots and the hanging chads and the election officials looking through microscopes at ballots. The whole media build-up was very much farcical, in a way, not in the outcome but in the transpiring. 1876, I think, was more of a tragedy, particularly for the four million-plus black citizens of the South who, as an at least indirect result of this election, were put back into a condition of at least involuntary segregation for the next 90-plus years.
LAMB: How did you get into this topic?
MORRIS:Many people have asked if I started this book after the 2000 election on -- strictly from that point of view, but actually, I had done an article on this election back in the mid-`80s for "American History Illustrated" magazine. I vaguely remembered, as a boy, reading about Samuel Tilden and the whole stolen election, and it kind of stuck in my mind. And I`m -- I`m very much a Civil War historian myself, and this is sort of a natural offshoot of that because, in a way, as I say in the book, it was almost the last battle of the Civil War 11 years after the fact.
LAMB: Give us an overview of 1876. Who was president going into the election?
MORRIS:1876 was the last year of Ulysses S. Grant`s second term. It was also the centennial year in American history, and there were celebrations going on throughout the year, particularly in Philadelphia, where the centennial exhibition was based.
LAMB: What kind of shape was the country in in 1876?
MORRIS:The country was not in very good shape. There had been a succession of scandals, especially in Grant`s second term. In fact, Grant himself wanted to run for a third term, but the scandals and the depression which set in in 1873 and was the worst depression in American history to that point, had precluded him from being able to get a nomination. So there was a great deal of unrest and uncertainty, coupled with the fact that in the South, people were -- redeemer governments had taken control of seven of the ten former Confederate states by then. Three states were still under Reconstruction governments. They happened to be South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana. And they all three figured very prominently in the 1876 election and its aftermath.
LAMB: What do you mean by Reconstruction governments?
MORRIS:Reconstruction, of course, was a process that had been under way since the end of the Civil War -- in fact, a little bit before the end of the Civil War it started -- in which the former Confederate states, in order to get back -- admitted into the Union again had to revise their state governments, approve the constitutional amendments, the 13th, 14th and later 15th amendments, giving equal citizenship and voting rights to black citizens. The former Confederates, many of whom were -- were disenfranchised and lost the right to vote for a while, had to petition to get the right to vote again. Essentially, there were a number of steps that were very much set out by Congress for these states in the South to meet these guidelines before they could be fully represented again in Congress.
LAMB: You point out in your book that Colorado was entered into statehood in 1876, the year of this election. How many states were there in the union?
MORRIS:There were 38 states then, Colorado being the 38th -- 38th one admitted. And in fact, it was admitted just prior to the election. At the time, no one thought that -- I think Colorado had three electoral votes -- that it would be an important state one way or the other. In fact, Colorado`s territorial representative had been a Democrat, and he said -- he guaranteed that the state would go Democratic in the election, so the Democrats, who controlled the House of Representatives in 1876, agreed to let Colorado enter the union. Of course, they were badly surprised because on election day, Colorado, in fact, had gone Republican.
LAMB: Where -- before we go any farther with the book itself, where do you live?
MORRIS:I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
LAMB: Doing what there besides writing books?
MORRIS:That`s what I do full-time now. I`ve taught before. I come from primarily a journalistic background. I was a newspaper reporter for several years at the "Chattanooga Times" and the "Chattanooga News Free Press." And I was editor of "America`s Civil War (ph)" magazine for 13 years. So pretty much a journalistic background. Now I concentrate fully on writing books.
LAMB: Who reads "America`s Civil War" (ph) magazine?
MORRIS:Who reads it?
LAMB: Yes. What kind of person reads it? How big a circulation does it have?
MORRIS:It has a circulation of about -- if you count everything, about 80,000 to 100,000 people. You would think that Civil War reenactors would be a big segment of the readers, but they`re not. It`s more just the average historical lay reader.
LAMB: Are you into the Civil War big-time? Is that something you follow?
MORRIS:Coming from Chattanooga, as I do, I`ve had a lifelong interest in Civil War history. In fact, my -- all four of my books, to one degree or another, deal with elements of the Civil War. My first book was a biography of General Phil Sheridan. My second book was a biography of Ambrose Bierce, the writer, and during the Civil War, a Union soldier. My third book was on Walt Whitman and his Civil War experience here in Washington. And then this book, which is post-Civil War, but in a way, the end of the Civil War.
LAMB: Phil Sheridan was what kind of a general? Tell us something about him.
MORRIS:Phil Sheridan was a Union general, ended the war a major general, was -- started out as an infantry commander and ended up by being Ulysses S. Grant`s best cavalry commander.
LAMB: And where was he during the 1876 election?
MORRIS:Sheridan in 1876 -- I`m not sure if he had -- if he had gone back -- his headquarters were in Chicago then. A year or so -- a year or two earlier, he had been very much involved in the previous mid-term elections in Louisiana when there was also a dispute over who had won the -- who had won the election between the governors. There were two governors competing. After the election, the Democrats and the Republicans both claimed the House, the statehouse. And so Sheridan went down to Louisiana, to New Orleans, to take charge of the situation, which, being a -- being a cavalry commander, he did in the most forceful way possible, which was to have his troops evict the Democratic members of the Louisiana legislature and replace them with the Republican members in the disputed seats that they were arguing about.
LAMB: Ambrose Bierce you wrote a book about? What`s his claim to fame?
MORRIS:Ambrose Bierce is primarily remembered today for two things. One is a short story he wrote called "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," which many people read either in high school or college or graduate school or all the above. It`s a story in which a man is being -- is being hanged as a Confederate spy during the Civil War, and he`s being hanged from a bridge. And the rope breaks, and he escapes through a series of misadventures, only to find out at the end of the story that it was all a momentary daydream, and he`s then hanged for real. Bierce also, after the Civil War, went to San Francisco, where he was a columnist for many years. And he wrote what is probably his best known work now is "The Devil`s Dictionary," which gives short and ironic definitions to many words.
LAMB: Was he alive during this 1876 election?
MORRIS:He was. He was a columnist in California then.
LAMB: Any impact on the election at all?
MORRIS:He had a couple things to say about it. He -- I think -- I say in the book that he said there was -- there was enough to Lincoln to kill and enough of Grant to kick but that there wasn`t enough of Rutherford B. Hayes to even be a magic lantern image. But he knew he extended, I think he said, from the dark side of Senator John Sherman to the confines of space, but you couldn`t find him.
LAMB: And you wrote a book about Walt Whitman. Why?
MORRIS:Walt Whitman has always been an interest of mine. My undergraduate and graduate degrees are in English, so...
MORRIS:University of Tennessee. And so I`ve been very interested in the way that the Civil War impacts literature. And Walt Whitman, when the Civil War began, was living sort of a wastrel life in New York City and was really kind of on the back side of his career. And his brother, George, was wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg. So Walt rushed down to look for him and ended up staying in Washington for the next three years as a volunteer in the hospitals. And some of his most poignant poems and non-fiction was written about his experiences in the Union hospitals here in Washington.
LAMB: So back to the 1876 election. How about an overview of the numbers. How many people voted?
MORRIS:I think about eight-and-a-half million people voted, maybe.
LAMB: You said there were 38 states. How many electoral votes were there?
MORRIS:Three hundred and sixty-nine total.
LAMB: And after the dust settled -- I know there`s a lot to talk about, how we got there, but after the dust settled, how many electoral votes did Rutherford B. Hayes have and how many did Samuel Tilden have?
MORRIS:At the very end or...
LAMB: The very end.
MORRIS:At the very end, Rutherford B. Hayes had 185 electoral votes, Samuel Tilden had 184. It`s the only time in American history that an election`s been decided by one electoral vote.
LAMB: Thirty-eight states. How many states, can you remember, went to Hayes and how many went to Tilden?
MORRIS:I believe, off the top of my head, that 20 went to Hayes and 18 went to Tilden. But there again, the -- depends on -- on your interpretation of how the Southern states went.
LAMB: I want to jump in the middle of this, before we get the explanation on how it happened, to the scene on the floor of either the House or the Senate, where members had guns strapped to their sides and they were -- I think you even write they -- some of them were up on their chairs with the guns drawn, at some points. What was that all about?
MORRIS:This was during the last day of debate, after the electoral commission had decided and after the vote -- the electoral votes were all in, and they were waiting to announce the winner of the election. It was an intense, I think, 18-hour day. And tempers were very -- very high. Some members were pulling guns on other members. I know that one Mississippi congressman, a Republican member came over and was remonstrating with him, and the Mississippi congressman pulled out a Derringer and essentially told his friends to get him away from him or he would dispatch him himself, so...
LAMB: Anybody shot during that period?
MORRIS:Nobody was shot, but there were a lot of -- a lot of hot tempers that day.
LAMB: Did you research at all how -- why they were allowed to carry guns onto the floor?
MORRIS:No, I didn`t. I think pretty much anyone could carry guns anywhere at that time still. It -- you know, without a permit or anything.
LAMB: You have some photographs in the book. I want to ask you about this man right here. Who is he?
MORRIS:That`s an early photograph of Samuel J. Tilden, the Democratic nominee for president in 1876.
LAMB: Tell us something about him.
MORRIS:Tilden was a very cerebral politician. He was very reserved, quiet, a lifelong bachelor. He was very wealthy. He had made millions of dollars as a corporation attorney before entering politics. In 1876, he had been governor of New York for two years and was elected primarily as a reform candidate because of his role in overthrowing Boss Tweed and the Tammany Hall ring, which was the political patronage machine in New York.
LAMB: You mention that he was a 62-year-old bachelor when he ran in 1876. You also mention that the Republicans tried to paint him as a homosexual.
MORRIS:Yes, there were some -- some innuendoes that he may very well have been a homosexual. I don`t really -- personally, as far as I could tell, I don`t think that`s the case, but his campaign managers were worried enough about it to pass along rumors of their own that after the election, Tilden planned to get married. In fact, so many different women were suggested as his possible mate that one Republican newspaper editor said, Well, Tilden must be planning to become a Mormon, then, after the election, as well.
LAMB: How did Samuel Tilden become the nominee of the Democratic Party in 1876?
MORRIS:As governor of New York state, which was the biggest state in terms of electoral votes -- they had, I think, 35 electoral votes -- he was in a very strong position politically, and in fact, didn`t have a lot of opposition at the Democratic nominating convention in St. Louis. He was pretty much the frontrunner from the start.
LAMB: Who backed him? And you mentioned Boss Tweed. I was interested to learn in your book that Boss Tweed ended up in California and in Spain after it was all over. Tell us more about the relationship between Samuel Tilden and Boss Tweed?
MORRIS:Well, Tilden, before he became governor, was chairman of the Democratic Party in New York state and had also served in the New York Assembly. And Boss Tweed, through Tammany Hall, controlled for some years the entire political machine in New York. So there`s some controversy as to Tilden`s credentials as a reformer. Some people said, Well, he waited a long time to try to reform Boss Tweed because he worked with him for several years before he started leading the reform efforts to oust Tweed from power.
LAMB: The other fellow, on the Republican side, Rutherford B. Hayes -- how did he get the nomination?
MORRIS:Hayes was very much a dark horse candidate when the election -- when the convention was held. He was a three-time governor of Ohio. In fact, he was in his third term as governor of Ohio in 1876. He had also been a two-term congressman from Ohio. That picture there is Hayes as a Union colonel during the Civil War, in which he was wounded four times and became, I think, the most wounded president we`ve had in American history.
LAMB: How was he wounded?
MORRIS:Fighting for the Union in various scrapes. He was most seriously wounded at the battle of South Mountain, before Antietam, when he was shot in the left arm above the elbow. It might very well have been a fatal wound, or he might at least have lost his arm, except for the fact that his brother-in-law was his regimental surgeon at the time and was able to rush him to a nearby house and give him sort of hands-on attention. So he survived that wound and went back and served, and by the end of the Civil War, had become a brevet brigadier general.
LAMB: Now, he was wounded four different times in four different battles?
LAMB: And how many times was his horse shot out from under him?
MORRIS:His horse was shot out from under him, I think, four or five times, as well. In fact, twice, I believe, in the same battle, at Cedar Creek.
LAMB: Did you learn anything about what the impact of all those wounds had on him, as a person?
MORRIS:I don`t -- physically, I don`t think they had -- oh, I think his arm always bothered him. I think the main impact of the Civil War for Hayes was that it -- he entered the war as an untried soldier. He had never had any military training. And I think it really, as it did for millions of Americans, was a rite of passage that taught him that he really had strengths that he didn`t know about. And he came out of the Civil War -- in fact, he was elected to Congress the first time as -- while he was still serving in the Army. And he said then that he would not campaign or he would not leave the Army, if elected, until the war was over because, you know, that was -- that was the place for him. It turned out to be a very effective campaign slogan.
LAMB: Where did he live in Ohio?
MORRIS:He was born in upstate Ohio, northwestern part of Ohio, which is now Fremont, Ohio, and was educated at Kenyon College and at Harvard Law School. He had a -- his father died before Hayes was born, and his mother`s brother, Sardis Birchard, was sort of his benefactor, a very wealthy merchant, and sent Hayes to college and then on to law school afterwards.
LAMB: Rutherford B. Hayes -- the "B" was Birchard?
LAMB: And he ended up in the Spiegel Grove house there in Fremont. How did he get that?
MORRIS:That was his uncle Sardis`s house, to begin with, and he inherited it when his uncle died. And of course, now it is part of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center.
LAMB: How much younger was Hayes from Tilden?
MORRIS:Hayes was 53 during the 1876 election, so he was nine years younger.
LAMB: And the convention in 1876 was held where?
MORRIS:The Republican convention was held in Cincinnati, and that was very much to Hayes`s favor because Cincinnati was pretty much his adopted home town from the time he was grown. He started law practice there and was city attorney in Cincinnati before the Civil War. He also met his wife, his future wife, Lucy, who was attending college in Cincinnati, and she later became the first first lady to be a college graduate. So Cincinnati was very much his home town, and by the convention being set there, he was -- he had a -- pretty much a home town backing that I think the other candidates did not count on, going into the convention.
LAMB: You have some other people in the book you talk a lot about. Who`s this man right here?
MORRIS:That is Maine Congressman James G. Blaine. In 1876, he was the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president. But Blaine ran into a scandal of his own right before the convention, in which he was accused of having traded on his influence as a congressman and speaker of the House to help some railroad interests in Little Rock, of all places. So he was badly wounded politically by this scandal. He still went into the convention as the frontrunner.
And in fact, Robert G. Ingersoll, who was the noted orator of the time, gave a nominating speech for Blaine in which he called him "the plumed knight," which is something that stuck with him throughout his career. And there was a big rush after Ingersoll`s speech to nominate Blaine. But the lights in the convention hall somehow malfunctioned, and it was later alleged that Blaine`s opponents had done something to sabotage the lighting. So they postponed for the night the nominating vote.
During the night, the other candidates got together and decided that if no one could show sufficient strength to stop Blaine on the first ballot or two, that the support would go to Rutherford B. Hayes, who was sort of the favorite son candidate from Ohio at the time.
LAMB: Who were some of the other Republicans running for the nomination?
MORRIS:Besides Blaine, Treasury Secretary Benjamin Bristow was the darling of the reformer wing of the party. That`s Bristow there. He had taken a lead role in cracking what was known as the "whiskey ring," which was a multi-million-dollar scandal involving defrauding the government of whiskey taxes. Bristow was the reform candidate. He was hated by Ulysses S. Grant, even though he was in Grant`s cabinet.
Grant didn`t have a favorite candidate, although New York Senator Roscoe Conkling wanted to inherit the support of Grant`s supporters, who were known as the "stalwarts." There was also Indiana Senator Oliver Morton, who was one of the leading radical Republicans in Congress then, was another leading candidate.
LAMB: Abraham Hewitt is who?
MORRIS:Abraham S. Hewitt was a long-time friend of Samuel Tilden`s, and was his campaign manager in 1876. He was a member of Congress and later became mayor of New York.
LAMB: This gentleman down here is Zachariah Chandler?
MORRIS:That’s Zachariah Chandler. He was the head of the Republican National Committee and ran Rutherford B. Hayes’ campaign.
LAMB: How much money was there in politics back then?
MORRIS:Well, there was a lot of money, I think, in terms of under-the-table money, and that was part of the -- part of the -- the ongoing scandal, and the cause for reform, was that so much money was being passed about by railroad interests, and other sort of shady double-dealers in Washington, that Tilden and the Democrats were able to campaign as the party of reform, that would come in and clean up the whole mess.
LAMB: In 1876, who controlled Congress?
MORRIS:The Republicans controlled the Senate, still. The Democrats had gained control of the House of Representatives in 1874 primarily because of the panic and depression of 1873, which put something like three million Americans out of work.
LAMB: Now in 1876, we were some eleven years after the end of the Civil War. How many blacks were in public office in the South then? Many?
MORRIS:Not many. Some. In Mississippi I know the Lieutenant Governor was black. There were some -- I believe -- the Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina was black, then, or had been.
There were still some legislators in the southern states that were black. By 1876, however, seven of the ten former Confederate states had already gone over to Democratic Party control, so, there was very little black representation in those states.
LAMB: How long did the campaign last for president once the nominees had been selected?
MORRIS:The Republican and Democratic conventions were in June, so it lasted for three or four months, going into November.
LAMB: So they didn`t start like they do, often, now they say they start on Labor Day, they start earlier than that?
MORRIS:Well that`s when the conventions were. They -- they -- back then, the -- the official campaign sort of started when the candidates released their -- their public letters of acceptance of the nominations, and sort of spelled out their positions on the issues.
LAMB: When you had the tickets together, what was the supposition at the time, whether Samuel Tilden or Rutherford B. Hayes would be the winner? Was there a sense across the country then?
MORRIS:I think -- I think most people though that it would be a close election, but that Tilden would win. And certainly going into the final days of the election, Hayes thought so, as well. He in his diary several times mentions the fact that he was pretty convinced he was going to lose.
LAMB: Yes, but the tickets -- the actual photographs of the tickets up front in your book -- and you see here Rutherford B. Hayes on the left, who was the presidential candidate for the Republicans and William Wheeler, who was the vice-president. Any significance to Mr. Wheeler?
MORRIS:Wheeler was a congressman from New York State. He was primarily picked, I think, because he had taken an active role in working out a compromise to solve the Louisiana mess from 1874, 1875 in which under the Wheeler -- what was known as the Wheeler Compromise, the Democrats in Louisiana agreed to give up their claims on the governorship in return for being allowed to take their disputed seats in the Louisiana legislature.
LAMB: And the undertaker was Samuel Tilden for president on the Democratic side and Governor Thomas A. Hendricks. Who was he, and what was the significance of him being on the ticket?
MORRIS:Hendricks was governor of Indiana, which was a very important swing state. Also, secondarily, Hendricks was a leading proponent of what was known as soft money, so he was -- he was contrasting adding that element to the ticket because Tilden was what was known as a hard money Democrat and it`s a whole complicated issue about gold reserves and specie payments, greenbacks.
Essentially Hendricks and the Western Democrats wanted more greenbacks printed, whereas Tilden and also Hayes and the Republican Party supported returning to the gold standard.
LAMB: As I -- I`m not sure this works, but as I was reading it I kept thinking that if this were like some -- held today -- Samuel Tilden would be a Republican and Rutherford B. Hayes might be a Democrat?
MORRIS:Roughly speaking yes, it sort of flip-flops around. Republican Party then was always a pro-business party so you still got that element but it was at the same time was much -- much more racially liberal of the two parties. In fact the Republican Party had come into existence of the party of abolition.
LAMB: "The New York Times" was supporting Republicans and the "New York Herald Tribune" Democrats.
MORRIS:That`s right, it was a total flip-flop. "The Times" was a very pro-Republican paper and, in fact, their managing editor was one of the lead players in the whole election night drama in which Hayes and Tilden both went to bed believing Tilden had won, and the next morning most of the newspapers in the country believed Tilden had won but "The New York Times" came out with the headline saying it was a doubtful election and that`s pretty much the way it stayed for the next four months.
LAMB: I want to read from a speech of Robert Ingersol`s that you quote at some length. Again, who was he?
MORRIS:Ingersol was an orator and writer, primarily traveled around the country giving -- giving speeches.
LAMB: You say that he -- what I`m about to quote from is from a speech that he gave in Indianapolis.
MORRIS:Yes, I believe so.
LAMB: And it`s -- it`s Union veterans. Ingersol achieved a pinnacle of the "bloody shirt" oratory. What is "bloody shirt" oratory?
MORRIS:Waving the bloody shirt was a -- was a term for the political practice which the Republican Party had pretty much patented. Which was to blame the Democratic Party for the start of the Civil War, and for the whole mess in Reconstruction after the Civil War.
LAMB: OK, I`m going to read this. It`s taken a little bit, but the reason I want to read this is because you can see the same thing happening in the last hundred years. Same kind of rhetoric among the parties. He says I`m opposed to the Democratic Party and I will tell you why -- this is his speech in Indianapolis.
“Every state that seceded from the United States was a Democratic state, he roared. Every ordinance of secession that was drawn was drawn by a Democrat. Every man that endeavored to tear the old flag from the heaven that it enriches was a Democrat. Every man that tried to destroy this nation was a Democrat. Every enemy this great Republic has had for twenty years has been a Democrat.
“Every man that shot Union soldiers was a Democrat. Every man that denied to the Union prisoners even the worm-eaten crust of famine was a Democrat. Every man that loves slavery better than liberty was a Democrat. The man that assassinated Abraham Lincoln was a Democrat. Every man that raised bloodhounds to pursue human beings was a Democrat. Soldiers, every scar you have on your heroic bodies was given, you, by a Democrat.”
How was that received back in those days?
MORRIS:Oh, it was a very popular speech, a stump speech for the Republicans. Ingersol gave it so many times during the campaign that he was known as the Centennial Spread Eagle, a nickname which stuck with him for the rest of his life.
LAMB: How much of that was true?
MORRIS:Well, the republicans also had the slogan that not every Democrat was a rebel, but every rebel was a Democrat, meaning of course that the former Confederate states had been controlled by Democrats and that the Republican party, being the party of abolition, had been the party to contest that. So it was certainly believed by the massive majority of Union veterans who during the campaign were urged to vote as you shot.
LAMB: 1876 election, how many people could vote? I mean, what kind of people could vote?
MORRIS:Uh, white males and black males, in most states -- I think there were still some prescription against it. Of course, no women could vote then, so it was strictly a male electorate.
LAMB: So skipping the campaign for discussion purposes, a lot of it`s in the book, on the night of the election, what was the outcome?
MORRIS:Hayes and Tilden both went to bed believing Tilden had won. Tilden was 250,000 votes ahead in the popular vote. But, late on election night, the Democrats seemed to be wavering on -- in their confidence and they sent some telegrams to "The New York Times" earlier, saying can you give us the estimates of Tilden`s electoral vote count, particularly in South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana which were the last three Southern states still under reconstruction control.
So, the lead character in the whole election night drama was "Devil Dan" Sickles, who was a former Union General, a former congressman, and a notorious figure in American history at the time.
He had actually shot and killed the son of Francis Scott Key, the composer of the "Star Spangled Banner." Key`s son Phillip was having an affair with Sickles wife. Sickles beat the rap by pleading temporary insanity, which was the first time that that had been used successfully as a legal defense. So, after the Civil War, Sickles had been minister to Spain and had rushed back to America to help the Republican Party campaign for Hayes in 1876.
Sickles also believed that Hayes had lost the election. In fact, on election night, he went to a Broadway play and a late dinner. Happened to be returning home. He lived on 5th Avenue, right down the street from the 5th Avenue Hotel in New York City which was Republican National Headquarters, so Sickles popped into headquarters to see how the election was going, and the place was empty except for one clerk who was packing up the records and said well Tilden`s won the election and we`re all going home.
The clerk even tells Sickles that Zachariah Chandler had already gone to bed with a bottle of whiskey.
LAMB: Chairman of the Republican...
MORRIS:Chairman of the Republican Party. Sickles looked over the figures and had something of a brainstorm in retrospect because he -- he added up the totals, and if you took the electoral votes from Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina, which were 19 electoral votes, and put them with Hayes` 166 electoral votes, then Hayes would have the bare minimum of electoral votes needed to be elected.
MORRIS:185. And so Sickles sent telegrams to the Republican governors in those three southern states saying hold on to your states. And I think he added troops and money will be provided.
So, on election -- the day after the election, Tilden woke up to find out that he was not necessarily president elect any more.
LAMB: Now go over the basics one more time. Samuel Tilden is 62 years old; he had been governor of the state of New York. He was a bachelor, never married, lived physically where?
MORRIS:He had a mansion on Gramercy Park in New York. He of course also lived in Albany as governor and the fact of the mansion he had there he later donated to the state. He lived very well, was a man of books and learning and liked good wine. Was very cultured -- almost aesthetic sort of person.
LAMB: Where was he the night of the 1876 election that November?
MORRIS:He was -- he was in his home in Gramercy Park, about I think four blocks away from the 5th Avenue Hotel. He had -- he went to bed around midnight, I think, people said. And had no idea that when he woke up the whole election would be up in the air again.
LAMB: And Rutherford B. Hayes, 53-years-old, married, five children, lived in Columbus, Ohio.
MORRIS:Columbus, Ohio, as governor.
LAMB: Was he governor at the time?
MORRIS:Yes, he was still governor of Ohio.
LAMB: Where was he the night of the election?
MORRIS:They were -- they were at home. And had a group of family and friends over to listen to the election returns. His wife, Lucy, who was ordinarily very vivacious hostess went up to bed with a sick headache and Hayes went to bed a few minutes later and they both consoled themselves with the notion that now at least they wouldn`t have to uproot the kids and move to Washington.
LAMB: The one part of this you haven`t talked about yet is the one electoral vote out of Oregon. When did that become a controversy?
MORRIS:It became sort of a sideline to the whole bigger issue of the southern controversy because there`s one -- one -- one of the Republican electors out of three in Oregon had been a postmaster up to the election and there`s a law that says you cannot be an employee of the federal government and be an elector.
So he was challenged by the Democrats and Democratic governor of Oregon approved to dropping him from the ballot and bringing up the fourth place elector, we`re talking about electoral votes, who would have been a Democrat.
Obviously Tilden needed just one more vote to be elected so, so the Democrats challenged that vote as well, but in the end they were unsuccessful in overturning that electors eligibility.
LAMB: How did -- you say -- listen to the returns. You really didn`t mean listen to the returns, I mean, there was no radio then.
MORRIS:Right, I -- through telegraph and you know newspaper accounts and whatnot.
LAMB: That`s how they`d find out at home.
LAMB: Through the telegraph.
MORRIS:So, when the first counts came in, there was -- was there a published account, if there was, and what was it?
MORRIS:The -- almost all the national newspapers -- the major newspapers -- the day after the elections said that Tilden had won.
LAMB: How many electoral votes?
MORRIS:Well they were giving him then over 200 electoral votes because they were counting...
LAMB: Oh, I see...
MORRIS:... they were counting the votes in the southern states as Tilden`s because he had...
LAMB: South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida votes were going to Tilden.
MORRIS:Right. So I think he had maybe 203, 207 electoral votes. By those accounts. The only two newspapers I think in the country, major newspapers, that didn`t conceded the election to Tilden were "The New York Times" and the "New York Herald" who both said it was too close to call.
LAMB: So in those days the president took over, what, March 4th?
MORRIS:Yes, March 4th.
LAMB: It wasn`t the January 20th -- they had a long time in this process.
LAMB: What did Mr. Sickles do that changed everything? How did he -- how did this whole thing get thrown into a commission?
MORRIS:After Sickles sent his telegrams and a whole follow-up telegrams to the Republican governors of these three southern states, again, Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana, the -- what was known as visiting statesmen from both parties rushed down to these states -- in fact, William Chandler, no relation to Zachariah -- was a -- was a -- a yes -- that`s William Chandler -- he was a member of the Republican commission, national committee.
He took, I think, a literally a carpetbag filled with $10,000 to Florida to disperse among effective members of the Florida Election Commission or other people, influential people.
The -- with the three states contesting their electoral votes, it fell to the Election Commissions in those three southern states to decide who would get the certification which was sent to Washington for the Electoral College which I think was December 6th would be the final for the pro forma reading of the returns.
The Republicans sent on one slate of electoral votes saying that Hayes had won the election. The Democrats, who had elected governors in those three states, but they hadn’t taken office yet. They sent opposing slates, opposing certificates, saying that Tilden was entitled to the electoral votes. Neither the Senate or the House could agree on which of these different electoral votes to accept. And there was a big debate whether the president pro-temp of the Senate, who was empowered under the Constitution to open the votes. The Constitution says “and then they shall be counted.” Whether it was his decision which of the two competing slates of electorate votes could be opened.
The House of Representatives was controlled by the Democrats, and they said that he could only open the votes when the Electoral College met on December 6. And he would have to set aside any challenged votes, which meant that the election would have been thrown into the House of Representatives, as it had been in 1824 and back before that in 1800, which would have meant that Tilden would have been elected by a huge majority in the House of Representatives.
LAMB: So what happened?
MORRIS:Because they couldn’t agree on who had the power essentially the Electoral College results, for the only time in American history they came up with what was known as the Electoral Commission.
Which was composed of 15 members -- it was supposed to be seven Democrats, seven Republicans, and one Independent, taken from five members of the House, five members of the Senate, and five Supreme Court justices.
As I say, there was supposed to be one Independent who would be the swing vote, and that was Supreme Court Justice David Davis of Illinois.
But, before the Electoral Commission could meet and start hearing evidence into who deserved the electoral votes, Davis was elected to the U.S. Senate from Illinois in a total disaster for the Democratic Party, the Democrats in Illinois thinking that they, perhaps, would influence Davis` vote on the Electoral Commission, the legislature elected the Senate then and they -- they elected Davis to the U.S. Senate.
LAMB: As a Democrat.
MORRIS:As a Democrat.
LAMB: And he was supposed to be an Independent?
MORRIS:He was supposed to be an Independent, and he immediately resigned from the Electoral Commission, partly it`s been alleged so that he didn`t have to have the responsibility of deciding who had won the election. So, that -- there were no more -- there were no more independents on the Supreme Court.
So they picked who they thought was the most likely to be independent in his thought among the Republican Supreme Court justices and that was Joseph Bradley of New Jersey.
So that left eight Republicans and seven Democrats on the Electoral Commission and after weeks of hearings and testimony and test votes and back and forth, the Electoral Commission voted eight to seven in each case to give the electoral votes to Rutherford B. Hayes and the Republicans.
LAMB: Did it surprise anybody?
MORRIS:No, it didn`t -- it certainly didn`t surprise Tilden who pretty much from the day after the election seemed to act like he didn`t feel like he was going to ever be inaugurated president anyway.
It was very frustrating to his supporters that he didn`t take a stronger stand on his right to be inaugurated.
LAMB: Where did they get the authority to create a commission?
MORRIS:They just -- they passed a bill and said that they had the authority.
LAMB: Didn`t require an amendment to the Constitution?
MORRIS:No, not an amendment, it was just a bill that they passed creating the electoral commission.
LAMB: Why didn`t they do this again any time?
MORRIS:I don`t know for sure except it was such a -- such a controversial mess the first time around that I don`t guess they ever dared to do it again.
LAMB: Was there -- was it a clear-cut case in Louisiana and in Florida and in South Carolina that Republican votes -- I mean that the Republican -- that Hayes won those three? Was it clear?
MORRIS:Not at all, it was -- Tilden was some 7,000 votes ahead in Louisiana, and in Florida and South Carolina it was very close. Only a few hundred votes either way.
But the Electoral Commission -- I`m sorry, not the Electoral Commission, the Election Commissions -- in those three states were all controlled by Republicans and they all threw out enough Democratic votes which were challenged on the basis that black voters had been intimidated and kept from the polls in these states and so districts which had gone to Tilden were thrown out and his votes were given to Hayes instead, so that was the whole -- that was the crux of the whole issue was who -- who actually had control of these votes, whether it was -- whether it was Hayes and the Republicans or Tilden and the Democrats.
LAMB: This fellow right here was a member of the Commission, who is he?
MORRIS:That`s James A. Garfield. Who later became president. In fact, he was also a visiting statesman to Louisiana during the whole post-election dispute.
LAMB: This fellow right here?
MORRIS:That`s Senator John Sherman, William Sherman`s brother, and a very strong Hayes supporter who later became Treasury Secretary under Hayes.
LAMB: What was he like?
MORRIS:He was a very -- very partisan Republican and very much a Hayes backer. He was also a visiting statesman to Louisiana during the controversy.
LAMB: This fellow right here, Mr. Hampton.
MORRIS:That`s Wade Hampton, who was elected governor of South Carolina. He had been a confederate general during the Civil War, much wounded -- was -- before the Civil War was the -- was the richest man in South Carolina.
LAMB: And Rutherford B. Hayes said he would only be a one-term president?
MORRIS:Yes. Hayes promised in his acceptance letter that hew would only serve one term, primarily because there was so much controversy over the use of federal employees being used to run or support presidential campaigns so Hayes to blunt the issue of reform promised ahead of time that he would only serve one term so that there would be no question of his being reelected by -- by federal employees.
LAMB: What was the reaction after Hayes was declared the winner? In the country?
MORRIS:By then, it was almost something like maybe 2,000 -- it had been going on for four months and people were I think somewhat exhausted by then. Before then, though, there was a lot of talk and a lot of rumbling about possible violence. There were rumors that the Democratic Party was forming a secret army known as the Sons of Liberty or the Tilden Minutemen that would march on Washington and set -- set Tilden in the White House by force.
Ulysses S. Grant took it -- took the rumors seriously enough that he brought additional troops into Washington to guard the bridges and the old Civil War forts and had warships sailing up and down the Potomac in case this phantom Democratic Army suddenly appeared and tried to descend on Washington.
LAMB: How many Union troops or American troops at that time were still based in the South to protect the Southern states from whatever -- I mean, so they would have a decent government?
MORRIS:There were only a few thousand really by then, and they were based in Louisiana and South Carolina. A few went to Florida after the election to guard against any unrest but they had already gone returned to their bases by the end of the election, so it was more a symbolic presence than a -- than a large number. The whole army itself was only I think about 25,000 troops by 1876.
LAMB: What kind of promises were made either from Samuel Tilden or from Rutherford B. Hayes about what they would do if they were elected in regards to the South?
MORRIS:Well Hayes and Tilden both personally tried to stay above the fray. But, Hayes` people in Washington had a series of meetings with Southern Democrats in which they said that in return for the Southern Democrats not going along with the other members of the House of Representatives and trying to block Hayes` inauguration, that Hayes, once he became president, would remove the last federal troops, which were propping up the Republican governors in Louisiana and South Carolina and in effect end reconstruction symbolically as well as literally.
LAMB: One of the things you point out and I wanted to ask in relationship to today is that once Hayes won the election he then came to Washington to assume the presidency on a train provided by somebody by the name of Tom Scott. And how did that relate to the whole campaign?
MORRIS:Tom Scott was a -- was a railroad tycoon, had been involved, figured prominently in James G. Blaine`s whole scandal in which he supposedly loaned Blaine the money to buy back some worthless stock.
So, the Republican Party itself was very -- very much committed to national expansion and to the transcontinental railroad so there was a symbiotic relationship between the railroad magnates and the Republican Party.
And there was so much symbolic that -- that Hayes road into Washington on one of Tom Scott`s private railroads. The ironic thing is that Ulysses S. Grant was supposed to leave office on March 4th, but it fell on a Sunday so Hayes could not be inaugurated president until March 5th, which was Monday.
The Republicans were still so worried that the Democrats might try something at the last minute that Hayes was secretly inaugurated president -- secretly sworn in as president -- at the White House two days ahead of time.
LAMB: So this picture is kind of a phony situation where he was sworn in in public.
MORRIS:That`s right, he was -- he was sworn in in public, but as I say in the book he -- he was already president so this was al just a sort of a bogus exercise.
LAMB: What did Sam Tilden do after he lost?
MORRIS:Immediately after he lost, he took a long trip to Europe. H came back. He was not in the best of health. In fact, he had always been fairly frail. And he had had a slight stroke a couple of years before the 1876 election so he came back, there was a lot of talk about him running for president in 1880, but he said that he wasn`t physically up to the task and as it transpired, James A. Garfield won the presidency in 1880 over Winfield Scott Hancock by, I think, the smallest margin in history in popular votes, I think he was 10,000 votes ahead.
Everyone in both parties said that had Tilden run in 1880, he probably would have been elected in a landslide, so in a sense Tilden lost out twice for the presidency, once in 1876 and once by declining to run in 1880.
LAMB: What impact and they called him "Your Fraudulency" meaning the whole thing was a Fraud -- Mr. Hayes -- what impact did this election have on his presidency in your opinion?
MORRIS:Well I think he entered, entered the presidency under a real cloud -- as you say he was called "His Fraudulency" or "Rutherfraud B. Hayes" or "Old Eight to Seven" or the "Great Usurper." "The New York Sun," which was a Democratic newspaper, habitually when they ran his photograph after he was president would print the word "fraud" across his forehead.
So, he came in with a very, very slight mandate and by reliving the final troops from the South, he`s been sort of historically criticized as -- as the president who ended reconstruction. However, I think reconstruction by that point would have ended no matter who was president. Certainly Tilden would have removed the troops, too.
And in fact, Grant a year before the election had -- had already signaled that he was unwilling to send troops back into the southern states to try to yet again keep control of southern Democrats from taking over or retaking power in their individual states.
LAMB: You mention the "New York Post" being anti-Rutherford B. Hayes -- they flipped, then, since a hundred years ago. They`re on the other side now.
MORRIS:Yes, a lot of those newspapers have flip-flopped since then and certainly the "The New York Times" is the most prominent example of a paper that was strongly pro-Republican and is now, you know, considered more or less a Democratic...
LAMB: What`s your next book?
MORRIS:My next book I`m doing a new book on Stephen Crane. It ties into my interest in Civil War and Civil War literature.
LAMB: We`re out of time, Ray Morris, Jr. This is the book; it`s called "Fraud of the Century."
The 1876 Race between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden. Mr. Hayes won 185 electoral votes to 184 for Mr. Tilden.
We thank you very much for joining us.
MORRIS:Thank you for having me.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2003. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.