A lesson from history on hope for tomorrow
A disputed election.
Fears of outside election tampering and tainted ballots.
Harassment at the polls by paramilitary groups.
While, indeed, it sounds like the 2020 presidential election a few months ago, it also pertains to the presidential election of 1876.
I figured, what better way to spend Presidents’ Day this week than by hanging out with one — in this instance, the 19th president of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes.
Braving snow and cold weather, I set off with my two granddaughters for Fremont, Ohio, where Hayes lived and where he died. As far as presidential libraries and homes go, I was impressed by the experience. While COVID-19 concerns have limited some of the total experience, it still was worth it. And, more importantly, from my perspective, was that I learned new and interesting facts.
History always has been amazing to me, because of the lessons that can be learned from long ago that are just as applicable today.
I had no idea, for instance, that the election of Hayes was one of the most controversial elections in our nation’s history — at least until this past November.
To me, it is interesting that two presidents who shared the same party could be connected over 125 years later by that election chaos. The two seem like polar opposites of one another.
Former President Donald Trump tried everything in his power to remain in office, while Hayes, on election night — thinking he had lost — went to bed early, as he was at peace with the fact he would probably lose.
Immediately the next day, however, Republican leaders began investigating election irregularities. Indeed, evidence of election tampering was found in the South involving voters of color being harassed by paramilitary groups backed by Democrats. Results from Oregon, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina were disputed, and, like this past year, chaos pretty much ensued.
The Electoral College met Dec. 6 in state capitals around the country. Unfortunately, the voters in the four contested states remained divided, and each party sent in votes for their respective party’s candidate. Not knowing how to proceed, the fraction in the political process threatened to destroy the country over the next three months.
Congress established an Electoral Commission to decide the dispute. The commission, made up of eight Republicans and seven Democrats, determined all the contests in favor of Hayes by eight-to-seven votes. The final electoral vote: 185 to 184, only after Democrats received a promise that federal troops would be removed from the South.
After all the election posturing and allegations of this past November, who would have thought that, back in 1876, the country experienced much of the same debate?
The country survived that, and, thus, I am confident the country will survive our current turmoil.
Hayes, who said from the beginning he would serve only one term in office, left office stating, “I can say in truth I left this great country prosperous and happy.”
If you believe like I do that history often repeats itself, then, based on the Hayes presidency, there is indeed hope for tomorrow.