"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Samuel J. Tilden


This portrait of Samuel J. Tilden by Frank Fowler hangs in the Hall of Governors in the NY State Capitol in Albany, NY.  This portrait dates from some time before 1888 when the New York Times (April 18, 1888) says it was placed in the Executive Mansion in Albany.
Samuel Jones Tilden (February 9, 1814 – August 4, 1886) was an American politician who served as the 25th Governor of New York and was the Democratic candidate for president in the disputed 1876 United States presidential election. Tilden was the second presidential candidate to lose the election despite winning the popular vote and is the only person to win a majority of the popular vote in a United States presidential election but lose the election. -- Wikipedia.

 Tilden was a reformist “Soft-Shell” Democratic Governor of New York when he ran for President of the United States in 1876.

 The election map only begins to tell the story.

1876 Electoral College

Amidst the largest turn-out of any U.S. Election (81.8%), Tilden won the popular vote: 4,288,546 to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes' 4,034,311. He won 184 electoral votes to Hayes' 165. But there were 20 electoral votes unresolved. An elector from Oregon had been removed for being an elected official. The not-yet reconstructed southern states of Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina each reported 2 slates of electors, reflecting the chaos that reigned in those states. In response Congress created a carefully balanced electoral commission of five representatives and five supreme court justices. The commission was to be evenly split 7 Democats and 7 Republicans overseen by scrupulously neutral Justice David Davis. But Davis was offered a seat in the Senate and dropped out. He was replaced by a more partisan Republican (Joseph P. Bradley) and as might be expected the commission voted along party lines that Hayes be awarded all 20 disputed electoral votes, only days before inauguration. 

The Electoral Commission which Decided Upon the Election of President Hayes 
Composed Of three Republican and two Democratic Senators, three Democratic and two Republican Representatives, three Republican and two Democratic Justices of the Supreme Court; total, eight Republicans and seven Democrats. By a strict party vote the decision was given in favor of Mr. Hayes, who, two days later, March 4, 1877, was inaugurated President of the United States.  -- Voter's Guide, 1900.

But that did not resolve the matter! The Senate Democrats threatened a filibuster, while representatives of the two political parties met at Wormley's Hotel in Washington to hash out the compromise of 1877 by which Hayes would become president in return for ending reconstruction by removing federal troops from the south. 

Thus Tilden lost the election he had clearly won, and civil rights for African Americans were severely set back; the ground set for a century of Jim-Crow.  

Some Democrats urged Tilden to reject the results and take the presidential oath of office, but Tilden declined to do so. On March 3, the House passed a resolution declaring Tilden the “duly elected President of the United States,” but this had no legal effect. Tilden himself stated that, “I can retire to private life with the consciousness that I shall receive from posterity the credit of having been elected to the highest position in the gift of the people, without any of the cares and responsibilities of the office.” Tilden was the second individual, after Andrew Jackson in 1824, to lose a presidential election despite winning at least a plurality of the popular vote. Grover Cleveland (1888), Al Gore (2000), and Hillary Clinton (2016) subsequently won pluralities while losing the electoral vote. Tilden remains the only individual to lose a presidential election while winning an outright majority of the popular vote. -- Wikipedia, Ibid.

Tilden declined to run in the 1880 election and retired to his home, Greystone, in Yonkers where he died on August 4, 1886. His epitaph reads “I Still Trust The People.”


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