Citizens called him “His Fraudulency” because he won the election despite loss of the popular vote. Immigrants’ issues defined his presidency. He slashed the budget and threatened civil servants’ jobs. Some label him the most controversial president ever. You might assume this diatribe describes our current president. But while the two men share similarities, this story features Rutherford B. Hayes, who led our country at the time B. Clark Wheeler and others founded Aspen.
Hayes prevailed in the election of 1876. Congress had approved Colorado’s statehood in August, so that election also determined who would serve in the legislature. Candidates declared themselves either a Democrat for Tilden or a Republican for Hayes because the legislature would select the state’s three presidential electors. As happened in other western states, Republicans dominated and Colorado selected electors for Hayes.
Following the Civil War, northern Lincoln Republicans, so-called “carpetbaggers,” traveled to the South to court the favor of new voters, African Americans. Federal troops protected these Republicans as they gained control and ran the government of three southern states. But Democrats suppressed the African American vote in the South through widespread efforts during the election of 1876.
Although Democrat Tilden won the popular vote with a margin of 300,000 out of 8 million votes nationwide, Republicans challenged the Electoral College tally. Congress awarded the disputed 20 electoral votes from the South to Hayes and thereby clinched a Republican presidency. But it did so through an unwritten compromise: Hayes agreed to serve only one term, which increased prospects…
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