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Hardcover Centennial Crisis: The Disputed Election of 1876 Book

ISBN: 0375413871

ISBN13: 9780375413872

Centennial Crisis: The Disputed Election of 1876

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Format: Hardcover

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Book Overview

Near midnight on Election Day in November 1876, the returns coming into Republican National headquarters signaled a victory for the Democratic presidential candidate, Samuel J. Tilden.?But alert Republican leaders saw that if all the states still doubtful or disputed went for their candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes would be elected.? Word was sent out to four southern states that their returns were crucial for a Hayes victory.? Thus Chief Justice William...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Broader than just the 1876 election, but that's no condemnation

This book, as it happens, came to my eyes just after I read another book also discussing the 1876 election, by Roy Morris, entitled "Fraud of the Century" (which I have also reviewed). The books could not have been more different. Morris' book is a partisan polemic who uses his book on the 1876 election as a way to criticize the result on the 2000 election, which he considers to be "stolen," just as he does the 1876 election. Rehnquist, of course, could (as one of the most important players in the drama that was the 2000 election) have used 1876 in the same manner to defend the 2000 result. But this is not what he does. Instead, the book provides a lot of political background, so that one can put yourself in the position of an 1876 American. And he gives biographical information about the five Supreme Court Justices on the Electoral Commission, which essentially decided the result, as well as about David Davis, who was intended to be on the Commission, but felt he could not serve when the Illinois legislature chose him to a Senate seat. (Rehnquist points out that Davis' Senate term would not have begun until after the Commission rendered its decisions, so that he probably could have served, but he felt honor-bound to decline to serve.) I had always wondered why the Democrats controlling the Illinois legislature would "shoot themselves in the foot" by choosing Davis; this book actually makes it understandable. Of course, there were fifteen members of that commission, five Senators and five Representatives as well as those five Justices. The Democratic-controlled Senate chose three Democrats and two Republicans while the Republican-controlled House reversed those numbers. (Among those Republicans was James A. Garfield, who became President four years later!) Since Rehnquist felt that those political people would obviously vote according to their partisan inclinations, he concentrates on the Supreme Court Justices. It might have been interesting, however, to know more about some of those Congressional members as well, I think. Another thing that occupies Rehnquist in this book, and which some reviewers seem to have objected to his including, is a summary of the various times that Supreme Court justices have acted outside the judicial arena. But I think that Rehnquist is justified in doing this. He is in this book attempting to decide whether Justice Bradley especially, but also the other four Justices on the Commission, were doing something that judges should not do. And his conclusion, that it was probably not the sort of thing that a Justice should normally do, but in this case it probably was necessary to save the country, seems a reasonable one in the light of the circumstances. I very much preferred this book to Morris' book, and I think, as befits the judicial position of its author, it comes much closer to impartiality. But it is probably as hard to write about 1876 impartially, even more than a century later, as to write about 2000 impar

An Excellent Narrative History from a Unique Point of View

The author presents the facts of case pretty much as a lawyer would. The presentation appears to be complete and detailed. But a professional historian would have taken a different tack. Personally, I feel that Chief Justice Rehnquist presentation was excellent.I particularly liked the Chief Justice's analysis of what might have been Justice Bradley's thought processes in arriving at his opinions. I do not believe that a professional historian could have provided this type of insight into the situation.

Interesting and Readable History

Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist has tackled one of the most insteresting, yet understudied, episodes in presidential election history by detailing the events of the disputed 1876 presidential election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden. While providing ample material highlighting the historical background for the election and its key participants, Rehnquist, quite naturally, focuses on the role of the judiciary in the settlement of the disputed electoral votes. Five key Supreme Court members were a part of the congressionally appointed commission which ultimately decided the outcome of the election, and Rehnquist spares few details in identifying the motives and justifications for their decisions.Unfortunately, Rehnquist completely dodges comparisons between the 1876 election and the disputed 2000 election. No doubt that Rehnquist, who is both a sitting jurist as well as a major player in the final outcome of the 2000 campaign, would have a lot to say about the connections between 1876 and 2000. However, Rehnquist avoids this issue entirely, leaving us without a greater historical connection and context between the two elections.Still, this is a fascinating story of elections, partisanship, aspirations, and egos, one that has timely relevance for a nation that today is sharply divided politically.

Excellent History

This is an excellent history of a somewhat obscure event in American history. C.J. Rehnquist gives the reader a great sense of historical context and a window into life in those times. This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in 19th century American politics.

A very good, if somewhat bloated history

In this book, William H. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the American Supreme Court, looks at the disputed presidential election of 1876. In that election, which pitted Democrat Samuel Tilden against Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, disputes in the election in the states of Florida, Louisiana, Oregon and South Carolina resulted in each of those states sending in not one, but two competing sets of returns! As there was no constitutional provision to cover this eventuality, the two parties set up a commission to determine how the returns should be treated, and, as such, determine who would become President of the United States. The commission found for the Republican Party, which left the Democrats embittered, with charges of fraud and election stealing which have echoed down to this very day.First of all, I must say that I found this to be a very good history. Mr. Rehnquist goes into great depth to give the reader a grasp on all aspects of the controversy, giving an enormous amount of information on the proceedings and the people involved. In fact, it is not too much to say that he gave too much information. As you go through the narrative, the constant, and rather lengthy, digressions begin to get a little wearying, making the history somewhat bloated and disjointed feeling.But, that said, I did find this to be a very interesting look into that dispute, and I now understand a good deal about it that I never did before. The Chief Justice deals with it in a very even-handed manner, pointing out the hypocrisies and underhanded practices perpetrated by both parties; such as the Republicans' use of an all-Republican Returning Board in Louisiana to reject some 13,000 Democratic votes(!), and the Democrats' blatantly illegal double return from Oregon and the terrorist suppression of the African-American vote throughout the South, spearheaded by such groups as the Ku Klux Klan.Overall, I found this to be a very good, if somewhat bloated history. If you are interested in reading an even-handed look at the disputed election of 1876, then I do recommend that you get this book.
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