Not only did Grant's popularity plummet during his second term, the nation's economy went south as well. The railroad boom, which emerged immediately after the Civil War, collapsed in 1873. This started a domino effect, which caused banks to close, stock markets to dive, and unemployment rates to soar.
Grant, appearing out of touch with political reality, let it be known that he was available for a third term, but Congress voted against such an idea. From all this chaos, the Democratic Party began their return to political relevance.
The Republicans Select a Dark Horse
The early front runner for the Republican nomination was James G. Blaine of Maine. Others receiving consideration were Oliver Morton of Indiana, and Roscoe Conkling of New York.
In the background stood Rutherford Hayes, Governor of Ohio, but he was thought of more as a running mate for either Conkling or Blaine. However, when the dust settled in the Republican nomination process, it was the dark horse, Hayes, who rose to the top of the ticket. The Republicans favored Hayes for several reasons.
Democrats Nominate Tilden
At their convention in St. Louis, the Democrats quickly settled on Samuel J. Tilden, who was govenor of New York, as their standard bearer. Tilden was a confirmed bachelor who had become rich as a corporate lawyer and resided in a large mansion near Gramercy Park in Manhattan.
The Democratic Platform
During the campaign season of 1876, Tilden put forth a plan to return the country to "Jeffersonian democracy." The nation's bankers and factory owners were pleased with Tilden's ideas, but rural farmers and common working folk saw little hope in Tilden's candidacy.
The Republican Platform
On the other hand, Hayes, under the Republican platform, called for the nation to embrace the following ideas.
Problems at the Voting Booth
On election night it appeared that Tilden had won a close race, but Republicans questioned the voting processes in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida, claiming that Democrats in those states had intimidated Republican voters to keep them away from polling places. Each of the three states submitted two "certificates of election" which conflicted. Hayes needed all three of the questionable states to win the presidency, but Tilden needed only one.
Election Results - Hayes Declared the Winner
Hayes became convinced he was the winner and fought hard to prove it. Tilden, too, thought he was the rightful winner, but eventually he began to falter in his efforts. On March 2, 1877, after months of legal wrangling and back room political deals, Rutherford B. Hayes was declared the winner. He received the news while traveling by train to Washington.
|Presidential Candidate||Vice Presidential Candidate||Party||Popular Votes||Electoral Votes|
|Rutherford B. Hayes||William A. Wheeler||Republican||4,036,298||185|
|Samuel J. Tilden||Thomas A. Hendricks||Democratic||4,300,590||184|
|Peter Cooper||Samuel F. Cary||Greenback||81,737||0|
|Green Clay Smith||Gideon Tabor Stewart||Prohibition||9,522||0|
|James B. Walker||Donald Kirkpatrick||American||2,636||0|
Source: Historical Statistics of the United States, 1789-1945, By United States. Bureau Of The Census, p. 289.