Get smarter, faster. Subscribe to our daily newsletter.
The most contentious election in American history happened in 1876
The 2020 election cycle is not yet as wild as the 1876 election that made Rutherford B. Hayes president.
- The 2020 election cycle is wild, but the 1876 elections were even more contentious.
- In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes became President despite losing the popular vote.
- That election included allegations of widespread fraud, violence, and was decided by a special Congressional committee.
If you think the 2020 election has been a nerve-wrecking mess that threatens the very foundations of our country, it isn't yet nearly as bad as U.S. politics can get. The most contentious election in American history likely happened about 144 years earlier, in 1876. That year saw the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes become elected President despite losing the popular vote to the Democrat Samuel J. Tilden in an election that had the highest voter turnout in U.S. history at 81.8 percent.
After the first round of vote-counting, Tilden, who was the governor of New York, led Hayes, the Governor of Ohio, by 184 electoral votes to 165. But results from three states were still being disputed with both sides claiming victory – Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Oregon's count was also in question on account of a Republican elector being disqualified for holding a government office, with a Democrat elector certified instead.
Remember, both the Republican and Democratic parties of that time were very different. Under the leadership of President Abraham Lincoln, the Republican party banned slavery in the U.S., flirted with progressive economic ideas, and even supported women's suffrage. The Democrats were at the time the party of the defeated South. It's important to note that in the 20th century, the parties switched their bases of support and key positions almost diametrically.
Back in 1876, both parties rushed their representatives to the states where the election was still undecided, trying to affect the counting of the votes. Republicans on the canvassing boards of the states in limbo argued that a tremendous amount of fraud and intimidation took place in specific districts – a cause for invalidating those votes. Indeed, Democratic operatives were known to rely on paramilitary groups like the Red Shirts and the White League to suppress Black and white Republican voters. The groups disrupted their meetings and rallies and was not above using violence.
Samuel J. Tilden | Rutherford B. Hayes. Taken between 1865 and 1880.
Credit: Library of Congress
Once they returned, the Republican-run state canvassing boards managed to disqualify enough votes for Hayes to win in each of the states, getting all of their delegates. This provoked outrage from the Democrats, who certified their own electors. When the electors in the four contested states voted on December 6, 1876, two sets of opposing electors met and cast their ballots, setting up an explosive scenario that had to be resolved by the U.S. Congress.
The situation in the country was tense. Some tried to obstruct Hayes's inauguration, a shot was fired in the direction of his residence, while military force had to be brought in by President Grant around Washington. As America was possibly headed for another Civil War, cooler heads on both sides started to prevail.
To resolve the crisis, a special fifteen-member electoral commission was established that included congressmen and Supreme Court justices. This commission announced their decision just two days before the inauguration. They voted 8-7, strictly along party lines, to give the electoral votes under contest to Hayes.
Unhappy with the outcome, Democrats, who had the majority in the House of Representatives, threatened vote-counting delays, postponements, and filibusters. With Hayes and the Republicans having little sway in the South, they informally agreed to what's been dubbed the Compromise of 1877. Hayes got the 20 electoral votes in question and became President, winning just by one electoral vote. It return, Tilden accepted the results and the Democrats got remaining federal troops withdrawn from the last two occupied Southern states – South Carolina and Louisiana. This effectively ended the period of Reconstruction following the Civil War.
The Republicans also agreed to provide federal subsidies for a transcontinental railroad that would go through the South. While Democrats pledged to support and protect the civil and voting rights of African Americans, after the troops left, they largely abandoned any such pretenses, disenfranchising Black voters and establishing a segregated society with white supremacy at its core.
Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite administering the oath of office to Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877.
Credit: Library of Congress
Hayes was peacefully inaugurated in 1877 and had a modest run as the leader of the country, instituting some civil service and civil rights reforms. After the one-term Presidency, Hayes did not run for re-election and promoted social and educational issues. It is regarded that his main achievement was perhaps restoring faith in the presidency, after the executive power waned in the wake of Abraham Lincoln's assassination.
If you want to know more, check out this great lecture by Professor Michael F. Holt from University of Virginia, who wrote "By One Vote: The Disputed Presidential Election of 1876" on this topic:
- A Look Back at 1992: How Bill Clinton Engaged Younger Voters ... ›
- Last five American presidents seen as illegitimate in dangerous trend ›
How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
Meteorologists propose a stunning new explanation for the mysterious events in the Bermuda Triangle.
One of life's great mysteries, the Bermuda Triangle might have finally found an explanation. This strange region, that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been the presumed cause of dozens and dozens of mind-boggling disappearances of ships and planes.
A unique exoplanet without clouds or haze was found by astrophysicists from Harvard and Smithsonian.
- Astronomers from Harvard and Smithsonian find a very rare "hot Jupiter" exoplanet without clouds or haze.
- Such planets were formed differently from others and offer unique research opportunities.
- Only one other such exoplanet was found previously.
Munazza Alam – a graduate student at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian.
Credit: Jackie Faherty
Jupiter's Colorful Cloud Bands Studied by Spacecraft<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8a72dfe5b407b584cf867852c36211dc"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GzUzCesfVuw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Scientists discover burrows of giant predator worms that lived on the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- Scientists in Taiwan find the lair of giant predator worms that inhabited the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- The worm is possibly related to the modern bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois).
- The creatures can reach several meters in length and famously ambush their pray.
A three-dimensional model of the feeding behavior of Bobbit worms and the proposed formation of Pennichnus formosae.
Credit: Scientific Reports
Beware the Bobbit Worm!<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1f9918e77851242c91382369581d3aac"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_As1pHhyDHY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The idea behind the law was simple: make it more difficult for online sex traffickers to find victims.