Samuel Tilden's Speech to the Manhattan Club
Conceding the Election of 1876
New York Herald, Wed., June 13, 1877, p. 3, c. 2.
MR. TILDEN'S SPEECH.
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Manhattan Club:-I accepted your invitation under the idea that this was to be a merely social meeting, the special occasion of which was the presence in this city of Mr. Hendricks and of Governor Robinson and Lieutenant Governor Dorsheimer. One of your guests, Mr. Hendricks, embarks tomorrow on a foreign excursion for rest and recreation. He will carry with him our best wishes for a prosperous voyage, pleasant visit and a safe return, and for the health and happiness of himself and family.
I have been availing myself, for similiar purposes, of a brief interval, and find myself now, with some reluctance, drawn away from those private pursuits. But the occasion and the apparent general expectation seem to require that I should say a word in respect to public affairs, and especially that I should allude to the transaction which, in my judgment, is the most portentous in our political history.
Everybody knows that, after the recent election, the men who were elected by the people President and Vice President of the United States were "counted out," and men who were not elected were "counted in" and seated .
NO PERSONAL WRONG.
I disclaim any thought of the personal wrong involved in this transaction. Not by any act or word of mine shall that be dwarfed or degraded into a personal grievance, which is, in truth, the greatest wrong that has stained our national annals. To every man of the four and a quarter millions who were defrauded of the fruits of their elective franchise it is as great a wrong as it is to me. And no less to every man of the minority will the ultimate consequences extend. Evils in government grow by success and by impunity. They do not arrest their own progress. They can never be limited except by external forces.
MUST NOT BE CONDONED.
If the men in possession of the government can, in one instance, maintain themselves in power against an adverse decision at the elections, such an example will be imitated. Temptation exists always. Devices to give the color of law, and false pretences on which to found fraudulent decisions, will not be wanting. The wrong will grow into a practice, if condoned-if once condoned.
In the world's history changes in the succession of governments have usually been the result of fraud or force. It has been our faith and our pride that we had established a mode of peaceful change to be worked out by the agency of the ballot box. The question now is whether our elective system, in its substance as well as its form, is to be maintained.
THE QUESTION OF QUESTIONS.
This is the question of questions. Until it is finally settled there can be no politics founded on interior questions of administrative policy. It involves the fundamental right of the people. It involves the elective principle. It involves the whole system of popular government. The people must signally condemn the great wrong which has been done to them. They must strip the example of everything that can attract imitators. They must refuse a prosperous immunity to crime. This is not all. The people will not be able to trust the authors or beneficiaries of the wrong to devise remedies. But when those who condemn the wrong shall have the power they must devise the measure which shall render a repetition of the wrong forever impossible.
BE OF GOOD CHEER.
If my voice could reach throughout our country and be heard in its remotest hamlet I would say. "Be of good cheer. The Republic will live. The institutions of our fathers are not to expire in shame. The sovereignty of the people shall be rescued from this peril and be re-established."
THE TWEED RING.
Successful wrong never appears so triumphant as on the very eve of its fall. Seven years ago a corrupt dynasty culminated in its power over the million of people who live in the city of New York. It has conquered or bribed, or flattered and won almost everybody into acquiescence. It appeared to be invincible. A year or two later its members were in the penitentiaries or in exile. History abounds in similiar (sic) examples. We must believe in the right and in the future. A great and noble nation will not sever its political from its moral life. (Applause.)