With the still-unsettled 2012 Florida results bringing back memories of the Bush v. Gore battle in 2000, it’s a good time to look back at Florida’s first election fiasco—the election of 1876.
Between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden, the 1876 election was one of the most significant in American history. People celebrated the nation’s centennial while preparing to move on after ten years of Reconstruction and eight years of the scandal-ridden Ulysses Grant administration.
Unknown at the time, the election would be among the most controversial in American history; the entire contest rested on a dispute over Florida’s electoral votes. We have an archive of pamphlets, broadsides, and documents— including official signed copies of key Florida court and executive decisions—from the papers of Edward Louden Parris, an attorney for Tilden, who ended up losing the election by way of the “Compromise of 1877.”