President Rutherford B. Hayes removed the remaining federal troops in the South
from guarding the statehouses in South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana. It
marked the symbolic end of Reconstruction. Subsequently, white-only, Democratic
“redeemer” governments came to power in those states.
On February 28, Congress overrode a veto by President Hayes to enact the
Bland-Allison Act. Under its provisions, the U.S. Treasury had to buy $2-4
million in silver each month at the market rate from mines in the American West,
and mint the silver into legal-tender coins. The Hayes administration bought the
minimum amount, thereby limiting the impact of silver on the economy. The law
made the United States officially bimetal, but gold remained the dominant coin.
The return of economic prosperity reduced the urgency of the money question
until the 1890s.
Specie Resumption Act:
The Specie Resumption Act (passed
in 1875) went into effect on January 1, 1879. It required the federal government
to redeem (legally exchange) greenbacks (paper currency) with gold.
Republican National Convention:
The Republican National Convention met in Chicago on June 2-8. The two leading
contenders for the presidential nomination were Senator James G. Blaine of Maine
and ex-president Ulysses S. Grant. Other candidates included Treasury Secretary
John Sherman and Senator George Edmunds of Vermont. None of the leaders were
able to gain a majority, so delegates turned to Congressman James Garfield of
Ohio, who won the presidential nomination on the 36th ballot. Instead of
following tradition by allowing delegates to choose the vice-presidential
nominee, Garfield oversaw the selection of Chester Arthur, a protégé of the
powerful Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York. The Republican platform endorsed
protective tariffs, veterans’ pensions, railroad and corporation grants; opposed
unrestricted Chinese immigration; and waffled on the civil service issue.
Democratic National Convention:
The Democratic National Convention met in Cincinnati on June 22-23. General
Winfield Hancock won the presidential nomination on the third ballot, defeating
Senator Thomas Bayard of Delaware and Speaker of the House Samuel Randall of
Pennsylvania. William English, a former congressman, received the
vice-presidential nomination. The hopes of delegates that the wealthy English
would substantially finance the campaign and win his home state of Indiana were
On November 2, 1880, Republican James Garfield was elected president with an
Electoral College margin of 214-155 over Democrat Winfield Hancock. Garfield
narrowly edged Hancock in the popular vote, 48.3%-48.2%. Republicans recaptured
control of both houses of Congress by slim margins.
Burlingame Treaty Revision:
The Burlingame Treaty of 1868 had protected unrestricted immigration between
China and the United States. In response to anti-Chinese sentiment in the United
States, particularly on the West Coast, the outgoing Hayes administration signed
a revision of the Burlingame Treaty in November 1880. It allowed the American
government to suspend (but not prohibit) the immigration of Chinese laborers to
the United States. For more information, see HarpWeek’s website on