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Fraud of the Century: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden, and the Stolen Election of 1876 Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 4, 2003

3.8 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Stop me if you've heard this one: election night comes and goes and the race between two American presidential candidates is too close to call. The popular vote supports the reticent Democrat, but the well-connected Republican is named president after a lengthy and controversial fight over recounts and electoral votes. Of course, we're speaking of the 1876 contest between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden as chronicled in Fraud of the Century by historian Roy Morris Jr. Morris spends much of the book setting the stage by illuminating the characters of both the folksy Hayes from Ohio and the urbane New Yorker Tilden. Though quite different, both men are presented as principled and, ironically enough, committed to wiping out corruption and chicanery. This helps the reader understand the players when the post-election mayhem ensues. The Electoral College is unable to declare a winner after Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida submit multiple "official" ballots with different victorious candidates. Numerous shady deals are worked out to Hayes's favor while forces loyal to Tilden threaten to march on Washington and install their man by force, if necessary. The most damaging result of the mess, according to Morris, is the pervasive mood of distrust and acrimony on the part of Congress, a mood that would contribute to the South's notorious Jim Crow laws. History buffs will appreciate Morris's extensive research but everyone enjoys a good political thriller. --John Moe

From Publishers Weekly

For those who think the election of George W. Bush over Al Gore in 2000 represented the nadir of American electoral politics, Morris (The Better Angel: Walt Whitman in the Civil War) provides some muchneeded historical perspective. In 1876, New York Democrat Samuel Tilden almost certainly won the popular vote over Ohio Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. But contested returns in Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina, as well as a legal issue in Oregon, eventually led to a 15-member congressional commission awarding Hayes all 20 contested electoral votes, giving him an improbable one-vote victory in the Electoral College. Well researched and written in clear prose, Morris's account details the stunning sequence of political dirty tricks-including overturning Tilden's nearly 8,000-vote lead in Louisiana-as well as the personalities that conspired to steal the election from Tilden. Although he maintains the decency of both candidates, Morris revives the political legacy of Tilden, portrayed here as a courageous and principled politician who stood up to the corruption of New York's Tammany Hall. Tilden chose to concede the election rather than drag the nation down a dangerous path. "It was an act of supreme patriotism," Morris concludes, "for a man who had won, if not the presidency, at least the election." In sharp contrast to the contested election of 2000, dominated by hanging chads and confusing ballots, Morris's account of the 1876 election reminds us that character can triumph over politics.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (February 4, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743223861
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743223867
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #942,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Americans all over the country went to bed after election night thinking that the Democrats had won the White House. The Democratic candidate won the popular vote, and while this was conceded by all, the antiquated Electoral College system made the popular vote of decidedly secondary importance. There were races in such states as Florida where the balloting was contested, and outright fraud at many levels was claimed. Election officials headed south to try to provide trustworthy re-counts, but more important were the deals made secretly between the press, the state officials, and the eager Republicans who intended to put their man in office. Only after a Republican member of the Supreme Court cast his vote was there a certified Republican victory, but the outcome will ever be suspect of polling chicanery. So it was that Americans elected a president in 1876. The parallels to the 2000 election are often surprising, but those coincidences are not the point of _Fraud of the Century: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden, and the Stolen Election of 1876_ (Simon & Schuster) by Roy Morris, Jr. The election was indeed stolen, but Hayes's eventual victory and its cost to public confidence in governmental capability meant that Reconstruction was ended and Jim Crow came into power.
Both Hayes and Tilden went to bed on election night assured that Tilden had won. Final returns showed that Tilden had won the popular vote by 250,000, and had 184 of the 185 electoral votes sewn up; there were four states which were late in reporting, and one electoral vote from any of them would have given Tilden the election. It seemed a done deal, but Republicans refused to give up. Alternative counts were produced, and Congress set up an Electoral Commission of fifteen members.
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Format: Hardcover
Roy Morris's history of the 1876 election is a rousing work that brings to life the incredible politcs of America's Victorian Gilded Age. Despite how history has treated the politicians of this era, Morris explains well that both combatants, Ohio Gov. Rutherford B Hayes and New York Gov. Samuel Tilden, would have been worthy of the White House in any era. Morris's respect for Gilded Age politicians was the high point of the book for me. He shows us more than the non-entities history has treated them. Hayes, a real Civil War hero (as opposed to other CW Generals, like "General" Ben Harrison) who was a cagier politician than often given credit for. Tilden, a sickly and brilliant bachelor, a disciple of Martin Van Buren and maybe America's last Jacksonian, is shown as a methodical and brilliant reformer who blew up the Tweed Ring.
Morris also excells at looking at the real issues of the campiagn: government reform, fighting Grantism, and most of all----Reconstruction. The story of the this miserable election bears little resembles to the 2000 election. In 2000, the basic story was a bunch of old people did not vote right. Nobody did anything. In this election, you not only had contested states, but SOUTHERN states who 16 years before had left the union. Since then, carpetbag regimes had taken overm causing near strife across the south. One must remeber that Civil War seemed more imminent in 1876 than 1860. At the heart of this fight was the growing feeling in the North that continued occupation and negro rights was just not worth it anymore.
My one qualm with the book is Morris seems to be blinded by the consequences of blacks by this election. He seems to overlap his sympathy for Tilden to include the former confederate, white Democrats in the South.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really wanted to like this book. I was eager to start it, as the topic sounded utterly fascinating. And the topic was. But I really struggled to finish this book. There is a significant amount of background information and all of the relevant information on the 1876 election itself. It wasn't until I got to the final chapter, which explains how Congress decided the election, that it was any kind of page-turner.

The writing style isn't necessarily bad; I can't quite put my finger on it, but there is a lot of minutiae. My other qualm is the author's blatant bias; the introduction practically depicts Hayes as the evil George W. Bush of the nineteenth century. And while some of the anti-Hayes bias can be found throughout the book, the author does at least concede in the end that the corruption of the 1876 election was the work of the two parties, not of either candidate.

Overall, an amazing story and one worth reading and being familiar with. But I'm not convinced this is the best telling of that story.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful account of a forgotten crises, the election of 1876. This was the election that created the `Southern Block' of unrepentant deep south governors and ended reconstruction, thus handing power back to the same people who had stood strong in the face of Lincoln in 1859. An amazing story of American politics as it was in the late 1800s. The machinations, the political machines, the `smoke filled rooms' and the `gray beards' who were king makers.
This is a riveting, if sometimes disorganized, story of the `stolen election' in which competing delegations from southern states created a crises that in some ways shows the weakness and towering strength of American democracy. The subsequent election of 1880, covered expertly in `Dark Horse' which serves as a good companion to this book, was also tumultuous. A wonderful read the opens up the whole theatre that was Americana in the 1870s. The personalities of Grant and others are exposed in this book as well.
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