« PreviousContinue »
BLAINE'S SPEECH; BELKNAP IMPEACHMENT.
strange coincidence at this very time (1871) the Atlantic and Pacific, the Missouri, Kansas and Texas and the Union Pacific railroads evinced a desire to become possessed of about the same amount of Little Rock and Fort Smith Railroad first mortgage bonds and land grant bonds. The sale of these bonds realized a sum that more than enabled Blaine to discharge his obligations, and the inference was that the railroad had bought these bonds from Blaine at a profit with a purpose.
The subject was brought up in the House in April, 1876, and in May a committee was appointed to investigate. In taking testimony a man by the name of James Mulligan stated that he had some incriminating letters written by Blaine to another party. Blaine by a subterfuge came into possession of them and by the advice of his counsel refused to return them, claiming that they contained nothing of a public nature, and that, as the person to whom they were written no longer wished to retain them, they naturally and of right reverted to the one who wrote them (Blaine).
also refused to allow the investigating
committee to see them, but on June 5 made a speech in the House defending his actions and in a highly dramatic manner at the same time read the letters, of course omitting any parts that might damage his case (though to how great an extent these might have incriminated him only he knew). But while he misstated facts, and was full
of evasions, his eloquence completely dominated his audience and practically settled the case in his favor though it did not prove his innocence.* As the committee could not induce Blaine to allow them to see the letters, they adjourned after one or two meetings and never made a report.†
Beside all this the Centennial year witnessed the impeachment of W. W. Belknap, the Secretary of War, who was charged with accepting gifts from post-traders, as a bribe for favors. Belknap resigned on March 2 and the Senate sitting as a high court of impeachment, tried him. On August 1 by a vote of 37 to 25 the disgraced officer escaped without further punishment.‡
The result of the election was very close. While it was known absolutely that Tilden had a popular majority of over 200,000, each party claimed that its candidate had a majority in the electoral college (185 being necessary to a choice). The Republicans conceded that Tilden had 184 electoral votes and it was soon known that
Hayes only had 165. There was no thought of fraud in the returns mak
ing up these totals, but in three States
Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina, having 19 votes the Repub
Congressional Record, p. 604, 44th Congress, 1st session.
Rhodes, vol. ii., pp. 194-206; and the lives of Blaine by Hamilton, pp. 335-362; Stanwood, pp. 144-176; Crawford, pp. 314-373; and Ridpath, pp. 129-133.
House Reports Nos. 186, 345, 791, 44th Congress, 1st session; Miscellaneous Document No. 84: Hoar, Autobiography, vol. i., pp. 364–368; Garland's Grant, p. 441 et seq.
licans claimed to have won out and in Oregon there was a dispute over one elector. If, If, therefore, the Republicans could establish their claims to the entire 20 votes, the election of Hayes was assured.*
A violent contest over the returns from these four States now ensued and agents of each party were dispatched to guard their respective interests. It was claimed that vast sums of money were used by each party to buy the elections, and the country became wild with excitement as the contest progressed. President Grant on November 10, ostensibly to secure a "square deal," ordered troops to guard the legal boards of canvassers in the performance of their duties and also to see that no frauds should be perpetrated on either side. These troops were to be sent chiefly to Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina. "No man worthy of the office of President," Grant said "would be willing to hold the office if counted in, placed there by fraud.
* * *
The country cannot afford to have the result tainted by the suspicion of illegal or false returns."||
A request was now sent from Louisiana that representatives of both
Bigelow's Tilden, vol. ii., pp. 1-16; Haworth, Hayes-Tilden Election, pp. 45-49.
House Ex. Doc. No. 30, pp. 22-24, 44th Congress, 2d session.
These despatches are quoted in Curtis, Constitutional History, vol. ii., pp. 409-410; Bigelow's Tilden, vol. ii., pp. 17-19.
Blaine, vol. ii., p. 581. See also his message of January 29, 1877, Richardson, Messages and Papers, vol. vii., pp. 422-424, where the same sentiments are expressed.
parties from other States be sent to see that the votes in that State were honestly counted. The Republican "visiting statesmen" of course declared that the action of the Louisiana election board had been fair and that the Republican State ticket had been elected by a majority of over 4,000 votes.* The Democrats denied these statements and sent contrary returns to Washington. The settlement of the dispute was therefore left to a higher tribunal. In Florida the canvassing board, evidently influenced by some outside agency, turned a majority of over 90 for Tilden into a majority of 925 for Hayes by the rejection of the votes of several counties. As a compromise, however, they declared that George F. Drew, the Democratic candidate for governor, had been elected. A double set of certificates was then sent from this State for future decision. The dispute over the presidential vote in South Carolina was practically settled
*Report of the Potter Committee in 1878-79, House Report No. 140, 45th Congress, 3d session; also the report of the "visiting statesmen," Senate Ex. Dac. No. 2, 44th Congress, 2d session. See also J. M. Bundy, Life of James A. Garfield, pp. 156-60; and on the entire situation, Haworth, Hayes-Tilden Election, pp. 81-121 and authorities cited.
For an analysis of the testimony in the Louisiana case see Bigelow's Tilden, vol. ii., pp. 33-54; and for the legal aspects of the count, Jeremiah S. Black, The Electoral Vote of Louisiana, in Essays and Speeches of J. S. Black, pp.
The figures vary widely. See Senate Report No. 611; House Report No. 140; House Misc. Doc. No. 35, 44th Congress, 2d session; John Wallace, Carpet-Bag Rule in Florida; Haworth, Hayes-Til den Election, pp. 57-80; Bigelow's Tilden, vol. ii. pp. 21-32.
THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION BILL.
by the middle of November when it became certain that the Republicans had a small majority in the popular vote. On the appointed day the Republican electors cast their votes for Hayes. Nevertheless the Democrats went through the same form for Tilden and the actual decision was deferred to the Electoral Commission.* Oregon likewise sent contested returns.†
On December 6 the electors in the various States cast their votes, and as the Republicans had succeeded in capturing the returning boards in the disputed States the result showed that Hayes was elected by 185 votes to 184 for Tilden. As the votes were yet to be counted by the president of the Senate it was foreseen that the Democrats would carry the struggle into that body and again protest the votes.
The Democrats now laid plans to thwart the Republican designs. On December 14, 1876, Proctor Knott, a Democrat, introduced a resolution in the House calling for the appointment of a committee of seven members of each House to draft a measure for counting the electoral votes before a tribunal "whose authority no one. could question, and whose decision all will accept as final."
*Haworth, Hayes-Tilden Election, p. 151 et seq.; Reynolds, Reconstruction in South Carolina, p. 399; The South Carolina Case, in Essays and Speeches of J. S. Black, pp. 616-621.
For details of which see Haworth, Hayes-Tilden Election, pp. 157-167.
Haworth, Hayes-Tilden Election, p. 190 et seq.
Though this was contrary to precedent and the usual custom, the Republicans agreed to it, and the joint committee was appointed. On January 18, 1877, the plan was completed and reported. It provided that the two Houses should meet in joint session, February 1, the president of the Senate to be presiding officer. There were to be two tellers, one appointed by each House. When there should be any objection to the votes of a State from which there was but a single return such objection was to be made in writing and signed by at least one member of each House. The two Houses should then vote separately upon the question at issue and no vote or votes were to be rejected except by the affirmative vote of both Houses. Should there be more than one return from a State, such returns were to be opened and read by the tellers and then submitted to a commission of 15 to be composed of five members of each House and five associate justices of the Supreme Court. Four of these justices were from the first, third eighth and ninth circuits and they were to select one of their associates as the fifth judicial member. The decision of the commission or a majority thereof was to be final, unless overruled by the action of both Houses. This plan was submitted in the form of a bill the famous Electoral Commission Bill; it was passed in the Senate January 25, by a vote of 47 to 17, and in the House, January 26, by