Compromise of 1877 Facts for Kids

What was the Compromise of 1877?

  • The Compromise of 1877 was an informal settlement between the Democratic representatives of the South and the Republican allies led by Rutherford Hayes. 
  • The 1876 election in the United States of America was one of the most disputed elections in America’s history.
  • The Compromise of 1877 was devised to resolve the conflicts borne out of the post-election process of that year.
  • The 1876 election was a presidential election between Republican Rutherford Hayes and Democrat Samuel J Tilden after President Ulysses S Grant refused to run for office for the third time. 
  • The results of this election are the most disputed to date because although Rutherford Hayes came out as the final winner, Samuel Tilden had received the most popular votes during the first count. 
  • There were several accusations made against both parties of cheating, violence, intimidation, and bribery. Even today the result of this election is much debated. 
  • The Compromise of 1877 was an unwritten agreement whereby the Democrats would concede the elections to the Republicans only in exchange for the complete removal of the federal troops from the south.
  • This effectively led to the end of the Reconstruction Era resulting in the disenfranchisement of the African-Americans voters in the south.
  • In the compromise, the Southern Democrats promised to protect the civil and political rights of African-Americans after the federal troops left.
  • However, the southern wing of the Democratic party called the Democratic Redeemers, enforced white supremacy instead.
  • The Compromise of 1877 further widened the gap between the white and the black populations of America.
  • The Compromise of 1877 is one of the most important chapters in the history of African-Americans. 
  • The creation of an all-white government in the south without the protection of the federal army destroyed all hope of upliftment for the Black community.

Read about Reconstruction Era Facts

Historical Background

  • The American Civil War was fought between the northern states of America and the southern states of America mainly due to their disagreements about the enslavement of the African American people. 
  •  The northern states were loyal to the Union led by Abraham Lincoln and were opposed to slavery while the southern states disagreed with the north and left the Union to form the Confederate States of America. 
  • In 1861, the southern states declared that they will no longer be a part of the Union and organized a resistance movement against the US constitutional government. 
  • The Confederates were able to unite many southern slave states to fight against the Union, however, they were not recognized as a joint entity by any foreign country, nor by the US government.
  • The two sides enlisted soldiers and fought the civil war for 4 years. About 750,000 soldiers are said to have martyred on both sides along with an unknown number of civilians.
  • The American Civil War is the deadliest war the US had ever seen. It cost more American lives than any other until the Vietnam War.
  • It was fought mainly in the southern states and as a result, much of the infrastructure of the southern states like the railroads were completely destroyed. 
Compromise of 1877: General Robert E. Lee surrenders at Appomattox Court House 1865
General Robert E. Lee surrenders at Appomattox Court House 1865
  • In 1865, the southern states surrendered to the Union. The first surrender occurred on April 9 when Confederate General Robert E Lee gave in to the forces led by Union General Ulysses Grant at the Battle of Appomattox Court House.
  •  As a consequence, the Confederacy was dissolved and slavery in the southern states was abolished. About 4 million enslaved Black people became free as a direct result of the Union victory. 
  • After the civil war, the US government focused on rebuilding the war-torn nation and also made efforts to grant civil rights to the African-American population.
  • This era in American history is called the Reconstruction Era. Three constitutional amendments were made after the civil war to guarantee civil rights to the Freed People. 
  • Though the end of the war had brought relief to the African-American population, it also gave rise to 3 visions of the American Civil War.
  • They was the reconciliationist vision which primarily focused on dealing with the death and devastation caused by the civil war, the White supremacist vision which resented the abolishment of slavery and focused on the maintenance of the White political and cultural dominance in the southern states, and emancipationist vision which focused on the complete freedom and equality of African-American population. 

Key Events and Important Figures

  • Soon after the civil war had ended, a stage actor called John Wilkes Booth assassinated Republican President Abraham Lincoln due to his anti-slavery stance.  
  • The Vice President at the time was Andrew Johnson, who was a slave owner and a Democrat from Tennessee. Johnson was mainly interested in reuniting the southern states with the Union as the new president. 
  • Therefore, he was lenient while drafting policies against the ex-Confederates. He was not as passionate as President Lincoln to upgrade the rights of the African-Americans.
  • President Johnson and the Democratic Party were opposed to the voting rights of the African-Americans and did not share the vision of the emancipationists. 
  • This weakness in the Reconstruction policies by President Johnson’s government led to violence against the African-Americans during the congressional elections of 1866. 
  • The Memphis Riots and the New Orleans Massacre took place in 1866 and were mainly targeted against the Black population. 
  • However, the victory of Republicans in the Congress that year allowed them to pass the 14th amendment to the constitution. It federalized the rights of the Freedmen and dissolved the southern state legislatures until new state constitutions were formed. 
  • The Republicans set out to create a free labor economy with the help of the US Army and the Freedmen’s Bureau. 
  • They were responsible for protecting the rights of the freed people and negotiating labor contracts for African Americans. 
  • They were also given the responsibility to set up schools as well as churches in the South for the African-Americans. 
  • Thousands of teachers, businessmen, missionaries, and politicians moved to the South to uplift the Black community.
  • However, the southerners were extremely hostile to anyone who came to the south with the intention of abolishing slavery. 
  • ‘Carpetbaggers’ was a derogatory term used to discourage the migration of the northerners to the south. 
  • In the same year, the Freedmen’s Bureau and Civil Rights bill was passed by the congress and sent to President Johnson for his signature. 
  • The bill included the provision to make the Bureau a more permanent organization for helping the newly freed slaves and refugees. 
  • The second part of the bill defined every person born in the United States of America as a national citizen irrespective of his race and hence deserving of equality before the law. 
  • President Johnson vetoed the bills but that did not stop Congress. They overrode his vetoes and passed the law anyway. 
  • This was the first time in US history that a major bill became law despite being vetoed by the president. 
  • Congress tried to impeach the President but failed to do so by one vote in the senate. 
  • The voting rights of the African-Americans caused immense discomfort to the white supremacists and they formed a terrorist group called the Ku Klux Klan to murder Black people and Republicans such as Arkansas Congressman James Hinds. 
  • In 1868, with the election of President Ulysses Grant more concrete actions were made to secure the rights of the African-Americans and punish those who caused impediments. 
  • The Enforcement Acts wiped out the Ku Klux Klan but did very little to soothe the differences between the Northern and Southern Republicans. 
  • Another slur ‘scalawags’ was widely used to describe those who supported the Reconstruction. Those who opposed the Reconstruction were called Redeemers. 
  • In 1874, the Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives after the financial crisis also known as the Panic of 1873. The support for Reconstruction in the north dissipated rapidly.
  • It also gave rise to increased violence against the Black community and the resurgence of White supremacy.

The 1876 Election and Results

  • Due to mounting pressure, President Ulysses Grant refused to run for office for the third time. Before he left the office he removed the federal troops from Florida.
  • Republican Rutherford Hayes competed against Democrat Samuel J Tilden in what became the most controversial election in the history of America. 
  • The election was marred by several controversies related to corruption, threats, and violence. 
  • Results of the elections did not indicate a clear winner, even though Democrat Samuel Tilden won 203 votes in the electoral college as opposed to the 165 received by Republican Rutherford Hayes.
  • Due to various allegations of fraud in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida the outcome was vigorously challenged. 
  • In South Carolina the extent of the fraud was visible because the number of eligible voters exceeded 100% which was impossible. 
  • About 20 votes were found to be undecided and an electoral commission was set up to conclude the results. 
  • To ensure that the commission was fair and just, an equal number of Democrats and Republicans were nominated for the commission with one independent candidate.
  • However, David Davis, the independent candidate backed off from the nomination and in his place, Republican Joseph Bradley was selected. 
  •  The commission met on January 31, 1877, and considered all returns that were lawful at first glance to be valid. 
  • The 20 disputed votes, however, were given to Republican Hayes by 8 out of 15 committee members, declaring him a winner with 185 votes against Democrat Tilden’s 184. 
  • President Rutherford Hayes was publicly sworn in on March 5, 1877. 

Compromise of 1877 in Detail

  • The Democratic Party was opposed to the results but agreed to acknowledge Republican Rutherford Hayes as president only under certain terms and conditions. These conditions are called the Compromise of 1877. 
  • The first condition was to completely remove the presence of the US military forces from the Confederate states. The remaining forces in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida were completely removed as a result. 
  • The second condition was to include one Democrat from the South in President Hayes’ cabinet. The Republicans agreed to the condition by appointing David M Key from Tennessee as the Postmaster General. 
  • The third condition was to build a transcontinental railroad through the Texas and Pacific Railway Company. It was a plan created in 1871 by the Federal Charter and would connect the city of Marshall in Texas to San Diego in California. 
  • The fourth condition was to provide legislation and assistance in industrializing the southern states. This was an effort to restore the economy of the South after the devastation from the civil war and the Reconstruction era. 
  • The last condition and the most important one in the compromise were related to the treatment of the African-Americans in the South. 
  • The Democrats demanded that the North must keep out of the affairs related to the rights of the southerners over the Black population. 
  • The Democrats demanded that the Republicans accept all the demands. If they did not then they will further challenge the outcome of the election by employing a filibuster during the joint session of Congress. 
  • The Republicans conceded to the first two demands concerning the federal troops present in the southern states and the inclusion of a Democrat in Hayes’ cabinet.
  • However, the third and fourth conditions were never met. The verbal assurances calmed the concerns of many Democrats but no action was taken on those demands possibly due to weak negotiations. 
  • The fifth condition was perceived by the Black Republicans as a betrayal because without the support of the federal government all efforts of the Reconstruction era would become useless. 
  • They accused President Hayes of bending to the rules of the Democrats simply for securing his presidency. 
  • The Compromise of 1877 effectively ended the Reconstruction Era and soon the Democrats formed governments in the south based on the concept of white supremacy. 
  • This led to discriminatory laws against the African-Americans and stalled any progress in the emancipation of the Black population. 
  • The laws enacted to segregate the white population from the people of color were called Jim Crow laws. 
  • The African-American people were separated from the white population in public transportation, restaurants, public parks, etc. 
  •  The suppression of the Black community continued under the Jim Crow laws all the way to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.