cover image FRAUD OF THE CENTURY: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden and the Stolen Election of 1876

FRAUD OF THE CENTURY: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden and the Stolen Election of 1876

Roy Morris, JR.. Simon & Schuster, $27 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-2386-7

For those who think the election of George W. Bush over Al Gore in 2000 represented the nadir of American electoral politics, Morris (The Better Angel: Walt Whitman in the Civil War) provides some muchneeded historical perspective. In 1876, New York Democrat Samuel Tilden almost certainly won the popular vote over Ohio Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. But contested returns in Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina, as well as a legal issue in Oregon, eventually led to a 15-member congressional commission awarding Hayes all 20 contested electoral votes, giving him an improbable one-vote victory in the Electoral College. Well researched and written in clear prose, Morris's account details the stunning sequence of political dirty tricks—including overturning Tilden's nearly 8,000-vote lead in Louisiana—as well as the personalities that conspired to steal the election from Tilden. Although he maintains the decency of both candidates, Morris revives the political legacy of Tilden, portrayed here as a courageous and principled politician who stood up to the corruption of New York's Tammany Hall. Tilden chose to concede the election rather than drag the nation down a dangerous path. "It was an act of supreme patriotism," Morris concludes, "for a man who had won, if not the presidency, at least the election." In sharp contrast to the contested election of 2000, dominated by hanging chads and confusing ballots, Morris's account of the 1876 election reminds us that character can triumph over politics. Agent, Tom Wallace. (Feb.)