Karen Guenther


On Saturday, March 3, 1877, Chief Justice Morrison B. Waite, in a private ceremony at the White House, swore into office Rutherford Birchard Hayes of Ohio as the nineteenth president of the United States. This event, culminating four months of controversy, resulted from the decision of a special electoral commission and a subsequent agreement known historically as the Compromise of 1877. Nevertheless, many Democrats still refused to concede the legitimacy of the Republican victory. When Congress reconvened shortly after the inauguration, several prominent House Democrats demanded a thorough investigation of the election. Consequently, in May 1878, the House established the Potter Committee for that purpose. For the next ten months this committee examined evidence relating to possible corruption in the determination of electoral votes for Hayes’s triumph. The investigation, however, only served to discredit several state election officials and to uncover conflicting and inconclusive evidence of electoral fraud.