February 26, 1877
|Controversial 1876 presidential election
Representatives of Republican presidential candidate Rutherford B. Hayes met with southern Democrats in Washington, D.C., to resolve the controversial presidential election of 1876.
Hayes's Democratic opponent, Samuel Tilden, had actually won the most popular votes by a narrow margin (less than 170,000) and even led in the electoral college by a vote of 184-165. (The electoral college is a group of representatives from all of the states who meet after a presidential election and officially select the president and vice president. Usually, their vote reflects exactly what the people of each state have already decided in the general election.) But as a result of fraud and violence in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida, the Hayes-Tilden election results were in doubt. A total of twenty electoral votes were at stake, enough to turn Hayes's defeat into victory.
After months of arguing, the two political parties reached a complicated agreement. The Democrats supported Hayes's election as president in exchange for several promises from the Republicans. The most important one involved removing the last federal troops who were supporting the government's Reconstruction policies in the South. Once those troops left, Reconstruction quickly came to an end.