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Rutherford B. Hayes
President Rutherford B. Hayes

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Rutherford Birchard Hayes Was Born
October 4, 1822

On the night of the 1876 presidential election, Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes went to bed early. He assumed that he had lost the election to his opponent, Democrat Samuel J. Tilden. Tilden did win the popular vote that night, but the Republicans challenged the validity of the electoral votes from three states. (Under the Electoral College, each state chooses electors to vote for the president.) A candidate must win the electoral vote to become president.

Congress appointed a special Electoral Commission to make a decision on the matter. The commission was made up of five senators, five members of the House of Representatives, and five Supreme Court justices. In the end, the commission determined that Hayes was elected president by a margin of one electoral vote. Because of the tension surrounding his election, Hayes's first official duty was done in secret.

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