Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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TILDEN, Samuel Jones, was born in New Lebanon, Columbia county, N. Y., Feb. 9, 1814. He spent a year at Yale, was graduated at New York university in 1838, was admitted to the bar in 1841, and in 1845 was elected to the assembly. There he took sides with the radical wing of the democratic party, the barnburners (see that title); but when they were forced into national politics as the free-soil party, he retired to the practice of the law. He was little heard of in politics until after the rebellion was suppressed, when he became chairman of the democratic state committee. In this position he came into flat antagonism with the Tweed ring of New York city in 1869-70, and took a leading part in the ring's overthrow in 1871. In 1874 he was elected governor by the democrats, and in this position attacked and overthrew the canal ring of western New York in 1875. He had now become so widely and favorably known that in 1876 his party nominated him for president. It was finally decided (see ELECTORAL COMMISSION) that he had received but 184 out of 369 electoral votes, and was not elected. His supporters have never accepted this decision as morally binding, and have always insisted, that, if Hayes was president de facto, Tilden was president de jure; that the commission's conclusion was reached by so applying legal rules as to exclude necessary testimony; and that the action of the returning boards was so confessedly corrupt that the commission did not dare to examine it. Some one, during the pendency of the case, seems to have concluded that the returning boards were so corrupt that there would be no moral wrong in bribing them to act correctly; and the congressional committee, the so-called "Potter committee," which afterward investigated the election, discovered a great mass of cipher telegrams, which, when deciphered, proved to be negotiations for the purchase of the returning boards. Mr. Tilden denied all knowledge of any such negotiations; but, though none of the telegrams were traced directly to him, all of them were fathered upon persons so nearly connected with him, by marriage or close political confidence, that the whole affair has proved an insuperable barrier to Mr. Tilden's further career. To the standing democratic charge that he had been defrauded of his election, it enabled the republicans to reply that he had only failed in the effort to defraud Hayes of his election. Both parties were thus content to argue from their own premises; and neither ventured to bring the counter-charges to a direct issue in 1880 by renominating the candidates of 1876 See Cook's Life of Tilden; Proceedings of the Electoral Commission; 125 North American Review, 1, 193 (Black's and Stoughton's articles); 27 Nation, 217, 250.


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