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Judge Bradley Decides

December 18, 2019

The Democrats had hoped Associate Justice David Davis would serve on the Electoral Commission and be the deciding vote in favor of their candidate.  By resigning from the Court he became ineligible, and the only remaining Justices were all Republicans.

Associate Justice Joseph Bradley then became the fifteenth member of the Electoral Commission instead of David Davis.  Some believed he would favor the Democrat Electors from Florida.  Abram Hewitt, a prominent Democrat from that era tells the following story.

“…[an] intimate friend of Judge Bradley… had just left Judge Bradley after reading his opinion in favor of counting the vote of the Democratic electors of the state of Florida.  Such a judgment insured the election of Tilden to the Presidency with three votes to spare above the necessary majority.  We parted, therefore, with the assurance that all further doubt as to the Presidency was at rest.  I attended the delivery of the judgment the next day without the slightest intimation from any quarter that Judge Bradley had changed his mind.”

What happened?  Bradley was visited by two old friends who had his ear.

Hewitt continues:  “Their appeals to Judge Bradley were said to have been reinforced by the persuasion of Mrs. Bradley.  Whatever the fact may have been, Judge Bradley himself in a subsequent letter addressed to the Newark Daily Advertiser admitted that he had written a favorable opinion which on subsequent reflection he saw fit to modify.”

The decision of the Electoral Commission was reported to Congress on February 23, 1877.  Inauguration Day was March 4.  The Democrats had only one desperate option left.

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