Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Tilden, Samuel Jones
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Tilden, Samuel Jones
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TILDEN, Samuel Jones (1814-1886), American statesman, was born at New Lebanon, New York, on the 9th of February 1814. He studied at Yale and at the university of New York, but ill-health prevented him from finishing his course. He studied law and rose rapidly to the first rank at the New York bar. From boyhood he had had a fondness for politics, but had sacrificed it to the practice of law. After 1860 he drifted into New York State politics, and became chairman of the Democratic State Committee in 1866. The Tweed “ring” in New York city dreaded him, and in 1869 attempted to remove him from his chairmanship. Tilden then became the soul of the legal attacks upon the “ring,” and worked for the removal of the corrupt judges who were their tools; and in the “ring trials” he accomplished the mathematical feat of ascertaining and demonstrating from bank-books the principle on which the spoils had been divided. In 1874 he was elected governor of the State by the Democrats. For years another “ring” had been making money out of the State canals. This, too, Tilden succeeded in breaking up. In 1876 the National Democratic Convention nominated him for the presidency, the Republicans nominating Governor Hayes of Ohio. The result was the disputed election of 1876-77, when each party secured about the same number of electors outside of the three Southern states of Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana. The Democrats had a majority in these States; but the returning boards, by rejecting votes which they believed had been obtained by fraud or intimidation, gave their States to the Republicans. Two sets of certificates were therefore sent to Washington, and as no provision had been made in the United States constitution for a dispute of this kind there was no power authorized to decide between the two parties. In this emergency Tilden consented to the appointment of an extra-constitutional body, an “electoral commission,” to decide disputed cases, the decisions of which were to hold good unless reversed by concurrent vote of the two houses. The commission decided all the cases in favour of the Republican candidates, and Tilden was defeated. He continued in retirement until his death, which took place at Greystone, New York, on 4th August 1886.