Review: By One Vote: The Disputed Presidential Election of 1876

By One Vote: The Disputed Presidential Election of 1876
by Michael F. Holt

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (October 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 070061608X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700616084

ByOneVoteTheDisputedPresidentialElectionOf1876The election of 1876 is one of the more interesting and contentious elections in our history.   This book covers the issues, nominations, voting and decision process of that election.  It provides the reader a look at a very different America with a different set of issues and concerns.  The Civil War is an active memory with some southern states still under Reconstruction Governments.   The majority of the Southern states are Democratic strongholds and America is coming to grips with ex-Confederates in public office.  U. S. Grant’s scandal plagued presidency is ending.  Monetary policy, always questionable, is a major issue.  The nation and the parties are divided and trying to keep party faithful in the fold.  The Republican Party is badly split after the liberals bolted or sat out the 1874 elections.  In a bitter contested election, the winner of the popular vote loses the election by one vote in the Electoral College.

The author does his best but cannot fully engage the reader.  Major problems are the complexity of the monetary question and the author’s writing style.  The monetary question is cover to the best degree possible.  However, this complex important issue cannot be covered in a book this size.  The author does a good job but the importance of the issue to the various factions is never clear.  The majority of the time, we are given to understand how the parties try to sweep problems under the rug and elect a president.  The author has an academic writing style.  This can be hard to follow, as some of the sentences are complex, compound is the correct word for much of the sentence construction.  Each word will warn the reader that the sentence structure can be hard to follow.  My last objection is that Florida is a critical state in this election with a set of voting problems.  The author can never resist the temptation to remind the reader that this happened in our time too.

What is right with the book?  A number of things, the author draws excellent word portraits of the people involved.  He understands the times and communicates them well.  He captures America emerging from Reconstruction, turning its’ back on the Freemen in the South and ignoring racism in the rest of the nation.  While this is about the election of 1876, the author takes the time to show how Grant’s reelection in 1872 and the elections of 1874 have created the situation for 1876.  While this is not a “page turner” or the easiest of reads, it is a good book with valuable information.  As the title says, this book is worth the effort to read!


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