The Compromise of 1877
was an informal, unwritten
deal that settled the disputed 1876 U.S. Presidential election
Through it, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes was awarded the White House over Democrat Samuel J. Tilden on the understanding that Hayes
would remove the federal troops that were propping up Republican
state governments in South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana.
Consequently, the incumbent President,
Republican Ulysses Grant
, removed the
soldiers from Florida before Hayes as his successor removed the
remaining troops in South Carolina and Louisiana. As soon as the
troops left, many Republicans also left (or became Democrats
) and the
" Democrats took control.
The compromise essentially stated that Southern Democrats would
acknowledge Hayes as President, but only if the Republicans acceded
to various demands:
- The removal of all Federal troops from the former Confederate States.
only remained in Louisiana, South
Florida, but the Compromise finalized the
- The appointment of at least one Southern Democrat to Hayes'
cabinet. (David M. Key of Tennessee was Postmaster General).
Hayes had already promised this.
- The construction of another transcontinental railroad using
the Texas and Pacific in
the South (this had been part of the "Scott Plan," proposed by
Thomas A. Scott, which initiated the process that led
to the final compromise);
- Legislation to help industrialize the South.
Points 1 and 2 took effect almost immediately; 3 and 4 were not
recognized until 1930.
The formal agreement made the southern Democrats very happy, and
there was no filibuster. There was no serious effort made to fund a
railroad or provide other federal aid. An opposing interest
group representing the Southern Pacific successfully
thwarted Scott's Texas and Pacific scheme and ultimately ran its
own line to New
Historians argue that the agreement should not be called a
compromise (Peskin, 1973). Others emphasize that the Republican
party abandoned the Southern Blacks (DeSantis, 1982) to racist
Democratic party rule. In any case, Reconstruction
ended, and the supremacy of the Democratic Party in the South was
cemented with the ascent of the "Redeemer"
that displaced the Republican governments. After the Compromise of
1877, white supremacy generally caused the South to vote Democratic
in elections for federal office (the "Solid
") until 1966.
- Benedict, Michael L. "Southern Democrats in the Crisis of
1876-1877: A Reconsideration of Reunion and Reaction". Journal of Southern History
46 (November 1980): 489-524; Says the Compromise was reached before
the Wormley Hotel meetings discussed
by Woodward (1951)
- DeSantis, Vincent P. "Rutherford B. Hayes and the Removal of
the Troops and the End of Reconstruction". In Region, Race and
Reconstruction Ed. by Morgan Kousser and James McPherson. New
York: Oxford University
Press, 1982. 417-50. Provides a more complex account of Hayes's
- Allan Peskin, "Was There a Compromise of 1877?" Journal of American History
(1973) v 60#1, pp 63-75 (Admits that Woodward's interpretation is
almost universally accepted but since not all terms were met it
should not be called a compromise.)
- Polakoff, Keith Ian. The Politics of Inertia: The Election
of 1876 and the End of Reconstruction. Louisiana State University
Press, 1973. Argues the Compromise reflected decentralized
parties and weak national leaders
- C. Vann Woodward. Reunion and Reaction: The Compromise of
1877 and the End of Reconstruction (1951), emphasizes the role
- C. Vann Woodward. "Yes, There Was a Compromise of 1877"
Journal of American History (1973) v 60#2, pp 215-23.
(Rebuts Peskin; the main terms were indeed met.)