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By One Vote: The Disputed Presidential Election of 1876 (American Presidential Elections) Paperback – October 15, 2008
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"A marvelous example of Michael Holt’s brand of political history, By One Vote is rich in the details of political maneuver, but also full of fresh and provocative insights."—Michael Perman, author of The Road to Redemption: Southern Politics, 1869–1879
"Holt uncovers what really happened in the 1876 election and provides a clear window on the ambiguity of America’s political process, an ambiguity still unresolved in today’s America."—Heather Cox Richardson, author of The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865–1901
"A first rate accomplishment by a superb scholar."—Joel H. Silbey, author of The American Political Nation, 1838–1893
From the Back Cover
"A marvelous example of Michael Holt's brand of political history, By One Vote is rich in the details of political maneuver, but also full of fresh and provocative insights."--Michael Perman, author of The Road to Redemption: Southern Politics, 1869-1879
"Holt uncovers what really happened in the 1876 election and provides a clear window on the ambiguity of America's political process, an ambiguity still unresolved in today's America."--Heather Cox Richardson, author of The Death of Reconstruction: Race, Labor, and Politics in the Post-Civil War North, 1865-1901
"A first rate accomplishment by a superb scholar."--Joel H. Silbey, author of The American Political Nation, 1838-1893
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The author does his best but cannot fully engage the reader. Major problems are the complexity of the monetary question and the author's writing style. The monetary question is cover to the best degree possible. However, this complex important issue cannot be covered in a book this size. The author does a good job but the importance of the issue to the various factions is never clear. The majority of the time, we are given to understand how the parties try to sweep problems under the rug and elect a president. The author has an academic writing style. This can be hard to follow, as some of the sentences are complex, compound is the correct word for much of the sentence construction. Each word will warn the reader that the sentence structure can be hard to follow. My last objection is that Florida is a critical state in this election with a set of voting problems. The author can never resist the temptation to remind the reader that this happened in our time too.
What is right with the book? A number of things, the author draws excellent word portraits of the people involved. He understands the times and communicates them well. He captures America emerging from Reconstruction, turning its' back on the Freemen in the South and ignoring racism in the rest of the nation. While this is about the election of 1876, the author takes the time to show how Grant's reelection in 1872 and the elections of 1874 have created the situation for 1876. While this is not a "page turner" or the easiest of reads, it is a good book with valuable information. As the title says, this book is worth the effort to read!
But he goes far beyond these events to drive home the events leading up to the disputed election of 1876. He begins with Grant's victory for reelection in 1872 and proceeds to show how this seeming landslide win was actually a more fragile victory. He goes into detail of the events which turned the fortunes of the Republicans for the worse, starting with the nationwide economic collapse of the fall of 1873. He details the Republican losses in the elections of 1873, and the total rout of the party in 1874. While things improve somewhat for the Republicans in the 1875 elections, they certainly appear to be significant underdogs for 1876. A very strong aspect of the book is the great lengths that Holt goes to in showing how the Republican's were able to turn things around in 1876 in spite of the continuing depression. They decreased the Democrats' margin in the House of Representatives from 74 to 9. He explains the strategy that the Republicans' employed to pull off this impressive comeback.
Holt pays a great deal of attention to the Blaine Amendment and the Republicans' strategy of making the prohibition of public funding of religious schools into a significant part of their campaign. The book gives solid attention to the fight for each party's nomination, both of which were contested, with the Republican fight taking seven ballots.
Appendix A gives seven tables with complete election results and comparisons between the voting 1872, 1874, and 1876, that add clarity to understanding the campaign and election at hand. He also drives home the point that the election of 1876 had the greatest turnout of eligible voters (81.8%) in our nation's history. Appendix B is Hayes' entire inaugural address. It shows him to be the extremely intelligent, caring, and understanding leader that historical accounts have by in large overlooked. He wasn't just another bearded Republican President between the Civil War and McKinley.
I'll admit that much of the economic issues and the Specie Redemption Act that Holt covered at great length left me somewhat confused. For those with a stronger background in economics, or who make a greater effort to understand the dynamics and forces at play with the depression and our currency, this is not necessarily the drawback that other reviewers have seen it to be. As the nation was mired midway through a six-year depression, currency issues were clearly a key component of the election.
I do recommend this tome without reservation, especially if you are keen on US History/politics, the Civil War, the Gilded Age, and the period of reconstruction.