GARFIELD, James A. (1831-1881). Letter signed ("J. A. Garfield"), as Member of House of Representatives, to Capt. A. W. Stiles, Washington, D. C., 28 December 1876. 2 pages, 8vo, on House of Representatives stationery.
GARFIELD EXPRESSES ALARM OVER THE DISPUTED HAYES-TILDEN ELECTION. An important commentary on this deadlocked 1876 election. "We do not yet know precisely what the Democrats mean," Garfield says, "but they talk as though they mean mischief. We must stand firmly by the law and maintain our rights in the case. If, when the votes are counted, it does not appear that Governor Hayes is fairly elected no man would wish to see him declared so. But if he has been fairly elected it must be declared and he must be inaugurated and the men who resort to violence to prevent it must take the consequence of their violence..."
Hayes came in second in the popular vote count against Samuel J. Tilden, but neither won the necessary majority of Electoral College votes. The counts of three Southern states came in dispute: Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, as well as the lone Electoral vote of Oregon. For a few weeks, it seemed as if tensions might erupt into renewed Civil War. Congress created a 15-man Commission to review the disputed ballots--five Senators, five House members (including Garfield) and five Supreme Court Justices. In February 1877 the Commission voted 8-7 along strict party lines to award all three Southern states to Hayes. But the victory came at a considerable political cost: In return, Hayes promised Southerners that Washington's strict Reconstruction policies in the South and the presence of Federal troops would all be ended. Old Confederates would return to power in the statehouses, and the civil rights gains won in the war would all be rolled back. This "Compromise of 1877" would eventually cause Garfield to regret his support for Hayes. "The policy of the President," he later griped, "has turned out to be a give-away from the beginning..." (DeGregorio, Complete Book of U. S. Presidents, 290).