When the world feels a little crazy, I tend to look to the past. If an event has occurred before, then we can get past it again. The world survived the Spanish Flu, so there must be a way past Covid-19. After the past few weeks, I found myself looking up previous Presidential problems.
In 1876, the race for President was as close as it has ever been in this country. Many had assumed that Ulysses S. Grant would run for a third term (back when that was still an option). When he did not, the nation was caught up in deciding for Samuel J. Tilden of the Democratic Party, or Rutherford B. Hayes of the Republican Party.
The results were close. Extremely close. In the end, Hayes was named the nineteenth President by a difference of one electoral vote. One can only imagine the outburst if Twitter and the internet existed back then.
Just like today, there were cries of scams. (It was later found that both parties had engaged in fraudulent activities.) It was not until just before his inauguration that Hayes received word that the Democrats would honor his appointment.
Hayes had two inaugurations. His public one was held two days after his first one. The initial and official swearing in was done in private. There were fears that his election would cause a massive run on the ceremony. More than one hundred and forty years later, we see a motivated crowd rushing to challenge proceedings.
Yet the country survived. In 1878 the Democratic-led House of Representatives started an investigation and talked of removing Hayes from office. Hayes refused to exit, stating that he would remain until he was impeached.
“I should defend my office and the independence of the Executive against any intruder.”
Eventually, the Democrats accepted his Presidency and the country moved on.
Here we are. Finding ourselves talking of possible fraud, crowds with guns, and attempting impeachment. At some point the country will move on and the world will keep turning.
People are passionate about their country and their government. That is a good thing.
We should care. We should have a government that represents us and our hopes. At the same time, we need to care for and respect each other. We need to support the nation, not only the figurehead.
After four years, Hayes was more than ready to leave office. His wife agreed. “I wish it was at an end”, she stated. The country had made it through the rough patch and the conflict was rarely mentioned again.
“Coming in, I was denounced as a fraud by all the extreme men of the opposing party, and as an ingrate and a traitor by the same class of men in my own party. Going out, I have the good will, blessings, and approval of the best people of all parties and sections.”
Wounds heal. Grudges are forgotten. Life goes on.
The variables may change. The timeline advances. But the experiment that is Democracy keeps being worked on. We do not have all the solutions. It is all very much in progress. While we may turn to the past for guidance, we should not allow ourselves to take backwards steps.
Excelsior. Onward. Let us keep striving for better.
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