The Top-Secret Inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes

When President-Elect Rutherford B. Hayes raised his hand and took the oath of office on the East Portico of the Capitol on March 5, 1877, his supporters breathed a sigh of relief. The ceremony marked the end of a lengthy, acrimonious debate between his Republicans and the Democrats over the results of the previous year’s election. Some even believed the tension might threaten to spill over into another Civil War.

Democratic nominee Samuel Tilden had earned the popular vote, and 184 of the 185 votes he needed in the Electoral College. But allegations surfaced that Tilden’s seeming victory was thanks, in part, to voter intimidation and fraud in key states like Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. A special Congressional committee was formed to sift through the paper trail, leaving the outcome in doubt for months.

Hayes being sworn in ended all speculation. But only a handful of people observing the ceremony knew that the celebration taking place that Monday was merely for show: Hayes had been sworn in during a secret ceremony two days earlier, in the presence of outgoing president Ulysses S. Grant. And history still isn’t quite sure why.

In the years following the Civil War, Reconstruction and bitter feelings had created a state of discontent. For the 1876 election, both of the major political parties knew the country would be looking for a president who was tempered in his actions.

The Democrats sided with Samuel Tilden, who made his name as governor of New York by breaking up a corrupt political scene headed by “Boss” Tweed; Republicans backed Rutherford B. Hayes, a Civil War veteran and Ohio governor who was so moderate in every aspect of his life—he abstained from alcohol—that it would be virtually impossible for him to stir up any radical opposition.

Political pundits who predicted a tight race weren’t disappointed. As the results began trickling in on November 7, 1876, Democrats crowned Tilden as the victor, with a winning popular vote margin of 250,000. But four states—Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Oregon—quickly became areas of contention. Democrats were plagued by allegations of intimidating newly empowered black voters to side with Tilden in three of those key territories; Democrats accused Republicans of foul play in Oregon.

Hayes needed 185 electoral votes. He had 184 to Hayes’s 165. Twenty electoral votes were in doubt. As the weeks went by, no one knew who the President-Elect was.

To break the logjam, Congress appointed a special Electoral Commission to investigate the results. Five Republican Congressmen joined five Democrats and five Supreme Court justices. It took them until February 1877 to come to a majority vote of 8-7 in favor of Hayes. He was President-Elect by one commission vote, possibly the narrowest margin of victory in any presidential election.

That decision did little to soothe the Democrats, who were incensed that their idea of the rightful winner was being denied his seat in the Oval Office. Extensive filibustering took place in the House that delayed acknowledgment of the commission’s decision. Rumors began to swirl that Tilden’s more ardent supporters might show up to Washington armed, with an eye on kidnapping Hayes so Tilden would be invited to take his place. One irate Tilden supporter shot a bullet into the window of Hayes’s home.

As Hayes and his wife, Lucy, began making the trip from Ohio to Washington, they had no idea if he was actually president. They were still traveling when they got the official announcement, which was made on March 2. The Democrats had finally ceded their point, albeit with concessions: They’d gain a Democrat postmaster general, as well as the removal of federal troops from government buildings, effectively ending Reconstruction.

When Hayes arrived in Washington on March 3, he was invited to dinner by outgoing president Ulysses S. Grant. At some point during the evening, Grant took Hayes to the Red Room in the White House and stood nearby as Supreme Court Justice Morrison B. White administered the oath of office. After the kidnapping rumors and the Democratic response, Grant may have desired a private and controlled inauguration that couldn’t be disrupted.

The two returned to dinner, their guests unaware of what had just taken place. As a result, March 3 was a day when the country had two commanders-in-chief.

The (second) Hayes inauguration. Senate.gov

Hayes had his official ceremony two days later. With Democrats appeased by the concessions, there were no disruptions. Still, Grant walked Hayes to the podium, protective of the President-Elect until his last moments as president were completed.

The U.S. Senate’s official reason for Hayes being sworn in early cites the calendar as the main issue. Inauguration day fell on a Sunday that year, and the Constitution contains no explicit protocol for what to do. To not swear in Hayes on Sunday and wait until Monday would technically mean the country would be without a president for a day. Dwight Eisenhower took similar dual oaths in 1957 for that reason.

But few elections had been as hotly contested as Hayes vs. Tilden, with the scars of the war still fresh. Grant may have seen potential for Democrats to disrupt the ceremony to the point where he felt it best to make Hayes’s appointment official as soon as possible. To delay might have meant Grant’s exit on March 4 would leave a void in office.

In the end, Hayes was as advertised, almost demure in his service—he and his wife even banned alcohol from the White House—and exited in 1881 just as quietly as he had come in.

It would’ve taken a true political historian to notice that his March 5 inauguration was a duplicate, but there was one clue for the observant. When Hayes arrived at the East Portico to be sworn in, he was sitting on the right of his carriage, a spot that was always reserved for just one person: the President of the United States.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
geography
Interactive Map Shows Where Your House Would Have Been 750 Million Years Ago
iStock
iStock

Your neighborhood traveled a long way over several hundred million years to reach the spot it occupies today. To trace that journey over the ages, check out Ancient Earth, an interactive digital map spotted by Co.Design.

Ancient Earth, a collaboration between engineer and Google alum Ian Webster and Paleomap Project creator C.R. Scotese, contains geographical information for the past 750 million years. Start at the beginning and you'll see unrecognizable blobs of land. As you progress through the ages, the land mass Pangaea gradually breaks apart to form the world map we're all familiar with.

To make the transition even more personal, you can enter your street address to see where it would have been located in each period. Five hundred million years ago, for example, New York City was a small island in the southern hemisphere isolated from any major land mass. Around the same time, London was still a part of Pangaea, and it was practically on top of the South Pole. You can use the arrows on your keyboard to flip through the eras or jump from event to event, like the first appearance of multicellular life or the dinosaur extinction.

As you can see from the visualization, Pangaea didn't break into the seven continents seamlessly. Many of the long-gone continents that formed in the process even have names.

[h/t Co.Design]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Illustration by Mental Floss / Images: iStock
arrow
The Body
11 Facts About the Appendix
Illustration by Mental Floss / Images: iStock
Illustration by Mental Floss / Images: iStock

Despite some 500 years of study, the appendix might be one of the least understood structures in the human body. Here's what we know about this mysterious organ.

1. THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS CALLED IT THE "WORM" OF THE BOWEL.

The human appendix is small, tube-shaped, and squishy, giving ancient Egyptians, who encountered it when preparing bodies for funerary rites, the impression of a worm. Even today, some medical texts refer to the organ as vermiform—Latin for "worm-like."

2. THE APPENDIX SHOWS UP IN LEONARDO DA VINCI’S DRAWINGS.

The earliest description of a human appendix was written by the Renaissance physician-anatomist Jacopo Berengario da Carpi in 1521. But before that, Leonardo da Vinci is believed to drawn the first depiction of the organ in his anatomical drawings in 1492. Leonardo claimed to have dissected 30 human corpses in his effort to understand the way the body worked from mechanical and physiological perspectives.

3. IT'S ABOUT THE SIZE OF A PINKY FINGER.

The appendix is a small pouch connected to the cecum—the beginning of the large intestine in the lower right-hand corner of your abdomen. The cecum’s job is to receive undigested food from the small intestine, absorb fluids and salts that remain after food is digested, and mix them with mucus for easier elimination; according to Mohamad Abouzeid, M.D., assistant professor and attending surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center, the cecum and appendix have similar tissue structures.

4. CHARLES DARWIN THOUGHT IT WAS A VESTIGIAL ORGAN …

The appendix has an ill-deserved reputation as a vestigial organ—meaning that it allegedly evolved without a detectable function—and we can blame Charles Darwin for that. In the mid-19th century, the appendix had been identified only in humans and great apes. Darwin thought that our earlier ancestors ate mostly plants, and thus needed a large cecum in which to break down the tough fibers. He hypothesized that over time, apes and humans evolved to eat a more varied and easier-to-digest diet, and the cecum shrank accordingly. The appendix itself, Darwin believed, emerged from the folds of the wizened cecum without its own special purpose.

5. … BUT THE APPENDIX PROBABLY EVOLVED TO HELP IMMUNE FUNCTION.

The proximity and tissue similarities between the cecum and appendix suggest that the latter plays a part in the digestive process. But there’s one noticeable difference in the appendix that you can see only under a microscope. “[The appendix] has a high concentration of the immune cells within its walls,” Abouzeid tells Mental Floss.

Recent research into the appendix's connection to the immune system has suggested a few theories. In a 2015 study in Nature Immunology, Australian researchers discovered that a type of immune cells called innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) proliferate in the appendix and seem to encourage the repopulation of symbiotic bacteria in the gut. This action may help the gut recover from infections, which tend to wipe out fluids, nutrients, and good bacteria.

For a 2013 study examining the evolutionary rationale for the appendix in mammal species, researchers at Midwestern University and Duke University Medical Center concluded that the organ evolved at least 32 times among different lineages, but not in response to dietary or environmental factors.

The same researchers analyzed 533 mammal species for a 2017 study and found that those with appendices had more lymphatic (immune) tissue in the cecum. That suggests that the nearby appendix could serve as "a secondary immune organ," the researchers said in a statement. "Lymphatic tissue can also stimulate growth of some types of beneficial gut bacteria, providing further evidence that the appendix may serve as a 'safe house' for helpful gut bacteria." This good bacteria may help to replenish healthy flora in the gut after infection or illness.

6. ABOUT 7 PERCENT OF AMERICANS WILL GET APPENDICITIS DURING THEIR LIFETIMES.

For such a tiny organ, the appendix gets infected easily. According to Abouzeid, appendicitis occurs when the appendix gets plugged by hardened feces (called a fecalith or appendicolith), too much mucus, or the buildup of immune cells after a viral or bacterial infection. In the United States, the lifetime risk of getting appendicitis is one in 15, and incidence in newly developed countries is rising. It's most common in young adults, and most dangerous in the elderly.

When infected, the appendix swells up as pus fills its interior cavity. It can grow several times larger than its average 3-inch size: One inflamed appendix removed from a British man in 2004 measured just over 8 inches, while another specimen, reported in 2007 in the Journal of Clinical Pathology, measured 8.6 inches. People with appendicitis might feel generalized pain around the bellybutton that localizes on the right side of the abdomen, and experience nausea or vomiting, fever, or body aches. Some people also get diarrhea.

7. APPENDECTOMIES ARE ALMOST 100 PERCENT EFFECTIVE FOR TREATING APPENDICITIS.

Treatment for appendicitis can go two ways: appendectomy, a.k.a. surgical removal of the appendix, or a first line of antibiotics to treat the underlying infection. Appendectomies are more than 99 percent effective against recurring infection, since the organ itself is removed. (There have been cases of "stump appendicitis," where an incompletely removed appendix becomes infected, which often require further surgery.)

Studies show that antibiotics produce about a 72 percent initial success rate. “However, if you follow these patients out for about a year, they often get recurrent appendicitis,” Abouzeid says. One 2017 study in the World Journal of Surgery followed 710 appendicitis patients for a year after antibiotic treatment and found a 26.5 percent recurrence rate for subsequent infections.

8. AN INFECTED APPENDIX DOESN’T ACTUALLY BURST.

You might imagine a ruptured appendix, known formally as a perforation, being akin to the "chestbuster" scene in Alien. Abouzeid says it's not quite that dramatic, though it can be dangerous. When the appendix gets clogged, pressure builds inside the cavity of the appendix, called the lumen. That chokes off blood supply to certain tissues. “The tissue dies off and falls apart, and you get perforation,” Abouzeid says. But rather than exploding, the organ leaks fluids that can infect other tissues.

A burst appendix is a medical emergency. Sometimes the body can contain the infection in an abscess, Abouzeid says, which may be identified through CT scans or X-rays and treated with IV antibiotics. But if the infection is left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the abdomen, a serious condition called peritonitis. At that point, the infection can become life-threatening.

9. SURGEONS CAN REMOVE AN APPENDIX THROUGH A TINY INCISION.

In 1894, Charles McBurney, a surgeon at New York's Roosevelt Hospital, popularized an open-cavity, muscle-splitting technique [PDF] to remove an infected appendix, which is now called an open appendectomy. Surgeons continued to use McBurney's method until the advent of laparoscopic surgery, a less invasive method in which the doctor makes small cuts in the patient's abdomen and threads a thin tube with a camera and surgical tools into the incisions. The appendix is removed through one of those incisions, which are usually less than an inch in length.

The first laparoscopic appendectomies were performed by German physician Kurt Semm in the early 1980s. Since then, laparoscopic appendectomies have become the standard treatment for uncomplicated appendicitis. For more serious infections, open appendectomies are still performed.

10. AN APPENDIX ONCE POSTPONED A ROYAL CORONATION.

When the future King Edward VII of Great Britain came down with appendicitis (or "perityphlitis," as it was called back then) in June 1902, mortality rates for the disease were as high as 26 percent. It was about two weeks before his scheduled coronation on June 26, 1902, and Edward resisted having an appendectomy, which was then a relatively new procedure. But surgeon and appendicitis expert Frederick Treves made clear that Edward would probably die without it. Treves drained Edward's infected abscess, without removing the organ, at Buckingham Palace; Edward recovered and was crowned on August 9, 1902.

11. THE WORLD'S LONGEST APPENDIX MEASURED MORE THAN 10 INCHES.

On August 26, 2006, during an autopsy at a Zagreb, Croatia hospital, surgeons obtained a 10.24-inch appendix from 72-year-old Safranco August. The deceased currently holds the Guinness World Record for "largest appendix removed."

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios