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    Hayes acknowledges acceptance of concessions in order to secure his election

    Rutherford B. Hayes Autograph Letter Signed. One page, 7.75" x 10", Columbus, Ohio; January 18, 1877. This letter is addressed to Edwards Pierrepont, U.S. Minister to Great Britain, marked "Private", concerning disputed presidential election of 1876 and the upcoming electoral commission assembled to decide the contested result. The letter reads in part: "I have your esteemed four of the first of the year. We are still as far as ever from a reset, except as the lapse of time brings us closer to the event. I am of your opinion as to the true construction of the Constitution. Kent and Stone held, I do not doubt, the correct view. But some good Republicans think otherwise, and the Constitution will probably reflect what is called a Compromise, and which may be adopted, with what final result you [illegible] as well as if you were here. It is believed that a few of our Senators prefer the Election of Tilden, as the case stands. But of this I am not well advised. Whatever the result, I shall not regret having written the letter of acceptance, which, it is said, has caused the coolness that now appears..." Accompanied by original transmittal envelope.

    When Hayes wrote this letter to Pierrepont, the presidential election was still unresolved. Democratic candidate Samuel Tilden, governor of New York, appeared to have won the election against Republican Hayes, former governor of Ohio, by winning the popular vote and claiming 184 electoral votes. Republicans leaders challenged the results, however, charging Democrats of fraud and voter intimidation of blacks in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Republicans realized that if they held the three disputed Southern states together with some of the western states, they would achieve a majority in the electoral college and giving the election to Hayes. The contested election caused a constitutional crisis, which Congress addressed by passing a law an electoral commission to settle the election. The Electoral Commission was a temporary body consisting of fifteen members: five representatives, five senators, and five Supreme Court Justices. The commission began deliberations of February 1, 1877, and this is what Hayes probably meant when he wrote Pierrepont that "time brings us closer to the event." Eight members were Republicans; seven were Democrats, and it is no surprise that the commission ultimately voted along party lines to award all twenty disputed votes to Hayes, thus assuring his victory in the Electoral College by a margin of 185-184.

    In this letter, Hayes refers to the possibility of a compromise and his "letter of acceptance, which it is said, has caused the coolness that now appears." What Hayes may well be referring to is the compromise he made with leaders in contested Southern states to ease up on the Congressional Reconstruction in the South. After Hayes received the Republican nomination, he wrote in his acceptance letter that while he was committed to the protection of black rights, he also favored a policy of reconciliation and allowing the Southern states to assume more local rights in observance of the Constitution if Southern leaders would adhere to the 14th and 15th amendments. The result was that Hayes won the support of Southern leaders, which gave him the presidency. Once Hayes assumed office, he ended Reconstruction.

    Edwards Pierrepont (1817-1892) was an American attorney and reformer who served as New York U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney General under President Ulysses S. Grant (1875-1876), during which time he prosecuted the notorious Whiskey Ring, a national tax evasion swindle that involved whiskey distillers, brokers, and government officials, including President Grant's private secretary. On May 22, 1876, President Grant appointed Pierrepont Minister to England, a post he held until the end of 1877.

    An interesting letter written by presidential candidate Hayes on the eve of the critical meeting of the Electoral Commission to decide the 1876 election.

    Condition: Usual mail folds, light uneven toning. Transmittal cover has heavy wear and staining, with stamp cancellations from Columbus, Ohio and London. Annotations in pencil as well as an ink docket by the recipient.




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    April, 2018
    18th Wednesday
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