Presidential Election Chaos When Black Lives Didn’t Matter

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

A nation that somehow survived the chaos of the 1876 election can survive the expected chaos of the 2020 election.

You’re no doubt aware of the predictions of chaos if the presidential election is close, due to several states changing the deadlines for mail-in ballots.


If the predictions come true, the nation will survive the chaos, based on history. After all, it survived the extremely chaotic election of 1876.

That election was between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden, to see who would replace incumbent President Ulysses S. Grant, whose administration had been tarnished by various scandals, especially scandals regarding the politically-powerful railroads, which had been paying off members of Congress with shares of stock in exchange for subsidies and land grants.

Like today, race was a big issue of the day.  It is not a stretch to say that unresolved racial issues back then laid the foundation for Black Lives Matter today.


In essence, Republicans were the party committed to ensuring that freed blacks were able to exercise their voting rights in the former Confederacy. Democrats, on the other hand, wanted to maintain Southern white supremacy, resorting to unspeakable violence if necessary.

Black lives didn’t matter much to Democrats after the Civil War.

To stem the violence, Grant had sent federal troops into the South, a military intervention that raised constitutional issues of states’ rights and further exhausted a nation already exhausted from the Civil War and the debts from the war. Southern blacks had won many elected offices because of military protection, but when the protection waned, so did their political power.


Blacks weren’t the only targets of racism. Irish immigrants in the North and South were hated about as much as blacks. Later, Italians and other Southern Europeans would replace the Irish as targets.

Ignorant of history, ‘woke’ Americans typecast all of the 100 or so white ethnic groups as coming from privilege, without realizing that Southerners put Italians in the same socioeconomic class as blacks, restricted them to black schools, and lynched eleven of them in New Orleans.

In 1876, Harper’s Weekly ran a political cartoon displaying ugly caricatures of blacks and the Irish on its cover by popular cartoonist Thomas Nast, who made a racist equivalence in the cartoon between “ignorant voters” of the Irish immigrant North and the black South.

An aside:  Several other liberal publications, including The Atlantic and The New York Times, have a sordid history in terms of racism, imperialism, and other issues, going back to the 19th century and much of the 20th century. Maybe their fixation on white guilt today is a projection of their own guilt onto those who don’t deserve such guilt.

Anyway, back to the election of 1876.

It would take a couple of pages to detail all of the shenanigans surrounding the election, so an overview will have to suffice here. Let’s begin with an excerpt from the book, The Republic for Which It Stands, by Richard White:

The Democrats had relied on fraud, violence, and coercion to suppress the black vote, and the Republicans marshaled fraud of their own and their control of the returning [election] boards to count out the Democrats. Even the Democrats agreed that Hayes had carried South Carolina in a corrupt and violent election where there were more votes cast than adult males. In Florida, first the courts and then the new Democratic legislature had intervened, resulting in three different counts, one for Hayes and two for Tilden. In Louisiana, the head of the electoral commission, with his eye on the main chance, tried to sell the results to the highest bidder, but although there is some evidence that both sides nibbled, they did not bite. The attempt failed.  Both states gave their electoral votes to Hayes.

The drama continued when Democrats got an elector in Oregon invalidated, which resulted in a tie in the Electoral College.  Congress then had to convene and officially count the votes, but couldn’t reach agreement on the count because of differing interpretations of the Twelfth Amendment and disputes over the constitutionality of its own rules.

Neither side wanted the election decided in the House or Senate. If the election were decided by having the president of the Senate count the votes, Hayes would win. If it were decided in the House, Tilden would win.

Civil War hero George McClellan, a Democrat and first commander of the Army of the Potomac, threatened to raise troops and march on Washington.

To break the stalemate, both sides agreed to create a Federal Electoral Commission, drawn from the Supreme Court, Senate and House. But that also split along partisan lines, until a compromise was reached and the impasse was broken by an associate justice of the Supreme Court, who voted for Republican Hayes. To get the vote, Hayes had to agree to not deploy federal troops in the South and leave the fate of Southern blacks in the hands of Southern Democrats. As a result, Democrats retained the House, Republicans retained the Senate, and the nation missed an opportunity to heal its racial wounds.

It would take another nine decades before the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, both of which were followed by Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and Great Society. All of these did much to advance equal rights and economic opportunities for blacks, but the last two also produced misguided welfare programs that led to the breakup of two-parent families, leaving most young black males today without a father in the household.

This is one of the leading causes, if not the leading cause, of crime, poor test scores, and economic disparities among African Americans—a causal relationship that is largely pooh-poohed by Democrats, who see traditional families as a white thing (and an Asian thing). This runs counter to their cliché that black lives matter, but at least they’re now saying that black lives matter, which is not what they said in 1876.


As we move through 2023 and into the next election cycle, The Prickly Pear will resume Take Action recommendations and information.

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