ELECTORAL VOTES OF 1876
by DAVID DUDLEY FIELD.
THE ELECTORAL VOTES OF 1876:
Who Should Count Them, What Should
Be Counted, and the Remedy
for a Wrong Count.
DAVID DUDLEY FIELD.
D. Appleton and Company,
549 & 551 Broadway.
Copyright by D. Appleton and Company, 1877.
THE ELECTORAL VOTES OF 1876.
WHO SHOULD COUNT THEM,
WHAT SHOULD BE COUNTED, AND
THE REMEDY FOR A WRONG COUNT.
The electoral votes of 1876 have been cast. The certificates are now
in Washington, or on their way thither, to be kept by the President of
the Senate until their seals are broken in February. The certificates
and the votes of thirty-four of the States are undisputed. The
remaining four are debatable, and questions respecting them have
arisen, upon the decision of which depends the election of the
incoming President. These questions are: Who are to count the votes;
what votes are to be counted; and what is the remedy for a wrong
count? I hope not to be charged with presumption if, in fulfilling my
duty as a citizen, I do what I can toward the answering of these
questions aright; and, though I happen to contribute nothing toward
satisfactory answers, I shall be excused for making the effort.
The questions themselves have no relation to the relative merits of
the two candidates. Like other voters, I expressed my own preference
on the morning of the election. That duty is discharged; another duty
supervenes, which is, to take care that my vote is counted and allowed
its due place in the summary of the votes. Otherwise the voting
performance becomes ridiculous, and the voter deserves to be laughed
at for his pains. His duty--to cast his vote according to his
conscience--was clear; it is no less his duty to make the vote felt,
along with other like votes, according to the laws.
The whole duty of a citizen is not ended when his vote is delivered;
there remains the obligation to watch it until it is duly weighed, in
adjusting the preponderance of the general choice. Whatever may be the
ultimate result of the count, whether his candidate will have lost or
won, is of no importance compared with the maintenance of justice and
the supremacy of law over the preferences and passions of men.
It concerns the honor of the nation that fraud shall not prevail or
have a chance of prevailing. If a fraudulent count is possible, it is
of little consequence how my vote or the votes of others be cast; for
the supreme will is not that of the honest voter, but of the dishonest
counter; and, when fraud succeeds, or is commonly thought to have
succeeded, the public conscience, shocked at first, becomes weakened
by acquiescence; and vice, found to be profitable, soon comes to be
triumphant. It is of immeasurable importance, therefore, that we
should not only compose the differences that, unfortunately, have
arisen, but compose them upon a basis right in itself and appearing to
be right also.
WHO SHOULD COUNT THE VOTES?
This is the first question. What is meant by counting? In one sense,
it is only enumeration, an arithmetical operation, which in the
present instance consists of addition and subtraction. In another
sense it involves segregation, separation of the false from the true.
If a hundred coins are thrown upon a banker's counter, and his clerk
is told to count the good ones, he has both to select and to
enumerate. He takes such as he finds sufficient in metal and weight,
and rejects the light and counterfeit. So when the Constitution
ordains that "the votes shall then be counted," it means that the true
ones shall be counted, which involves the separation of the true from
the false, if there be present both false and true. In regard to the
agency by which this double process is to be performed, the words of
the Constitution are few: "The President of the Senate shall, in the
presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open
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