The Compromise Of 1877

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate October 2001

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Given the political setting of the late 1800's, there was plenty of room for improvement, as the efforts to rebuild our country after the Civil War seemed to have stalled completely and the sentiment was such that there still appeared to be a war, if not literally, at least politically. The scene was set for a major political battle in the presidential election of 1876, with Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden fighting for the presidency. What happened next has been a puzzle that resisted solution for many decades before C. Vann Woodward researched with such painstaking detail the actual content of the Compromise of 1877. History scholars specializing in the period have suspected that the compromise concealed much more than it revealed. Prior to Woodward, most that have dug in like archeologists have found little fruit for their labors. As Woodward phrases it in the book, the problem might never have yielded to a direct attack.

Most of his information came from his much broader investigation and by pure chance. Woodward has tracked down masses of previously unknown yet important material and from it he has formed what is still a fresh, incisive, and revealing work. In this work, Woodward shows us that the Compromise of 1877 was far more than what came out of the Wormley Conference, particularly regarding the timeframe, people, and the true issues involved.

The presidential election of 1876 took place in an atmosphere of unbearable tension as far as the South was concerned. The stubbornness of the slave states in resisting the consequences of their defeat had unfortunately been matched by the like stubbornness of the victors in denying their beaten opponents the minimum of self-government and economic opportunity, which might have made their situation bearable. The true election resulted in a...

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