Explore the history of elections in America

In 1845, Congress designated the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November as Election Day for presidential elections by federal law. Today, we invite you to explore the history of elections in America with resources from the Gilder Lehrman Institute archives! Go HERE for Voting and Election Laws and History.

Election Day resources

Why the 1876 election was the most divisive in U.S. history

Allegations of voter fraud and intimidation. A back-room deal. The Hayes-Tilden election was so controversial it spawned today’s vote-counting process.

In 1876, a decade after the U.S. Civil War, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes competed against Democrat Samuel Tilden in a bitterly contested presidential election. Ultimately, Congress appointed Hayes the winner in a back-room deal with consequences that reveberate today.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

BY ERIN BLAKEMORE PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 7, 2022

In 1876, the nation was still scarred and divided by the Civil War, which had ended a decade earlier. During the war’s aftermath, approximately four million enslaved people were freed, and a Republican-controlled Congress moved swiftly to protect their rights and restore the Confederacy to the Union. Southern states, meanwhile, chafed at their loss of political and social power. Then came a presidential election that changed everything. Deemed the nation’s most divisive ever—until 2020, that is—the election of 1876 ended with an unusual compromise. And its weighty consequences still resound today. Here’s what you need to know. (More)

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