Compromise of 1877 facts for kids

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Keppler-Conkling-Mephistopheles
A political cartoon by Joseph Keppler depicts Roscoe Conkling as a character Mephistopheles (the Devil) while Rutherford B. Hayes strolls off with the prize of the "Solid South" depicted as a woman. The caption quotes Goethe: "Unto that Power he doth belong Which only doeth Right while ever willing Wrong."

The Compromise of 1877 was a purported informal, unwritten deal that settled the intensely disputed 1876 U.S. presidential election. It resulted in the United States federal government pulling the last troops out of the South, and formally ended the Reconstruction Era.

Through the Compromise, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes was awarded the White House over Democrat Samuel J. Tilden on the understanding that Hayes would remove the federal troops whose support was essential for the survival of Republican state governments in South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana.

The compromise involved Democrats who controlled the House of Representatives allowing the decision of the Electoral Commission to take effect. The outgoing president, Republican Ulysses S. Grant, removed the soldiers from Florida. As president, Hayes removed the remaining troops from South Carolina and Louisiana. As soon as the troops left, many white Republicans also left, and the "Redeemer" Democrats took control. They already dominated most other state governments in the South. What was exactly agreed is somewhat contested as the documentation is scanty.

Black Republicans felt betrayed as they lost power and were subject to discrimination and harassment to suppress their voting. At the turn of the 20th century, most black people were effectively disenfranchised by state legislatures in every southern state, despite being a majority in some.

Terms of compromise

The compromise essentially stated that Southern Democrats would acknowledge Hayes as president, but only on the understanding that Republicans would meet certain demands. The following elements are generally said to be the points of the compromise:

  1. The removal of all U.S. military forces from the former Confederate states. At the time, U.S. troops remained in only Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida, but the Compromise completed their withdrawal from the region.
  2. The appointment of at least one Southern Democrat to Hayes' cabinet. (David M. Key of Tennessee was appointed as Postmaster General.)
  3. The construction of another transcontinental railroad using the Texas and Pacific in the South (this had been part of the "Scott Plan," proposed by Thomas A. Scott of the Pennsylvania Railroad; he had initiated negotiations resulting in the final compromise).
  4. Legislation to help industrialize the South and restore its economy following Reconstruction and the Civil War.
  5. The right to deal with blacks without northern interference.

In exchange, Democrats would accept the Republican Hayes as president by not employing the filibuster during the joint session of Congress needed to confirm the election.

Results

After the Compromise, a few Democrats complained loudly that Tilden had been cheated. There was talk of forming armed units that would march on Washington, but President Grant was ready for that. He tightened military security, and nobody marched on Washington.

Hayes was peacefully inaugurated. Points 1 and 2 of the compromise took effect. Hayes had already announced his support for the restoration of "home rule," which would involve federal troop removal, before the election. It was not unusual, nor unexpected, for a president, especially one so narrowly elected, to select a cabinet member favored by the other party. Points 3 and 4 were never enacted; it is possible there was no firm agreement about them.

Whether by informal deal or simply reassurances already in line with Hayes's announced plans, talks with Southern Democrats satisfied the worries of many. This prevented a Congressional filibuster that had threatened to extend resolution of the election dispute beyond Inauguration Day 1877.


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