In the months following the Election of 1876, but
prior to the inauguration in March 1877, Republican
and Democratic leaders secretly hammered out a compromise
to resolve the election impasse and address other
Under the terms of this agreement, the Democrats
agreed to accept the Republican presidential electors
(thus assuring that Rutherford B. Hayes would become
the next president), provided the Republicans would
agree to the following:
- To withdraw federal troops from their remaining
positions in the South
- To enact federal legislation that would spur
industrialization in the South
- To appoint Democrats to patronage positions
in the South
- To appoint a Democrat to the presidents
Once the parties had agreed to these terms, the
Electoral Commission performed its duty. The Hayes
electors were selected and Hayes was named president
two days before the inauguration.
Why did the Democrats so easily give up the presidency
that they had probably legitimately won? In the
end it was a matter of practicality. Despite months
of inflammatory talk, few responsible people could
contemplate going to war. A compromise was mandatory
and the one achieved in 1877, if it had been honored,
would have given the Democrats what they wanted.
There was no guarantee that with Samuel J. Tilden
as president the Democrats would have fared as well.
To the four million former slaves in the South,
the Compromise of 1877 was the Great Betrayal."
Republican efforts to assure civil rights for the
blacks were totally abandoned. The white population
of the country was anxious to get on with making
money. No serious move to restore the rights of
black citizens would surface again until the 1950s.