GRANT, Ulysses S. Autograph draft telegram signed twice ("U.S. Grant") as President, TO WILLIAM T. SHERMAN, Philadelphia, PA, 10 November 1876. 2 pages, 8vo (7 1/16 x 4½ in.), on pages one and three of a four page sheet, with an autograph note signed "Given to C.C. Sniffen, private secretary" on page two, evidence of mounting on page four, otherwise fine.
ASSURING HONESTY IN THE ELECTION OF 1876: "NO MAN WORTHY OF THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENT WOULD BE WILLING TO HOLD IT IF 'COUNTED IN' OR PLACED THERE BY ANY FRAUD"
Grant's draft of an important telegram to his former comrade-in-arms, sent in the midst of the controversial election of 1876. After four years of bloody civil war, Radical Republicans sought to punish the South for the rebellion and assure the rights of emancipated slaves. To insure compliance with Federal authority, Congress passed the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution and initiated several Reconstruction Acts which placed the South under the authority of the United States military. The Grant Administration fought to maintain Reconstruction despite increased violence against Republican officials and free blacks, but, by 1876, northerners grew increasingly focused upon the expanding economy and less concerned about conditions in the land of their former enemies. Beyond that, many voters grew less interested in the Radical Republican agenda: "it was the ravings of northern Democratic politicians, who inflamed the prejudices of white men in every political campaign, that caused so many Northerners to fear the consequences of the radical program" (Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction, p. 194).
The re-emergence of Democratic power in the South and the decline of the Radical Republican agenda guaranteed that the Presidential Election of 1876 would be closely contested. The Republicans chose Civil War veteran Rutherford B. Hayes as their candidate, while the Democrats nominated reformer Samuel Tilden. The extremely close election was marred by Republican corruption in several states, particularly in Florida and Louisiana where many Democratic ballots were unjustly declared invalid. The results were further tainted throughout the South when White Democrats intimidated Black voters from casting ballots for Hayes. Shortly after the election of November 7, Grant travelled to Philadelphia where he would preside over the closing ceremonies at the Centennial Exhibition on the 10th. On that day, while attending dinner at the home of George W. Childs (1829-1894), Grant penned this draft for a telegram to be delivered to his General-in-Chief, expressing his concern: "Instruct Gen. [Christopher] Augur in La. and Gen. [Thomas] Ruger in Fla. to be vigilant with the force at their commands to preserve peace and good order, and to see that the proper and legal boards of canvassers are unmolested in the performance of their duties. Should there be any grounds of suspicion of fraudulent counting on either side it should be reported and denounced at once. No man worthy of the office of President would be willing to hold it if 'counted in' or placed there by any fraud." Grant emphasizes the importance of a fair election: "Either party can afford to be disappointed in the result but the Country cannot afford to have the result tainted by the suspicion of illegal or false returns."
Tilden led in both Florida and Louisiana, but Republican officials there ruled many Democrat's votes invalid, leaving Tilden one electoral vote short of winning the election. To determine how the electoral votes of the disputed states would be distributed, a commission composed of eight Republicans and seven Democrats was selected. When the committee voted along party lines to give Hayes the two states and the Presidency, an uproar ensued among Democrats. Tilden intervened, urging his supporters to accept the outcome. Hayes, in a bargain termed "the Compromise of 1877," offered to appoint a Democrat to his cabinet and to end military occupation of former Confederate states.
Provenance: Joseph Rubinfine, 1984.