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Grand jury indicts governor over disputed election results

January
31
1872

On this day in 1872, a Reconstruction-era grand jury indicted Republican governor E. J. Davis for "willfully, unlawfully and feloniously [making] a false and untrue tabular statement" of the election results for the Third District congressional seat. Dewitt Clinton Giddings, the Democratic candidate, won the election by a majority of 135 votes over his Radical Republican opponent, William T. Clark, but the state returning board delayed certifying the election because Davis concluded that fraud had taken place and called for an investigation. Republican officials charged that local Democrats had used intimidation to keep blacks from voting. The board decided to invalidate the vote from Limestone, Freestone, Bosque, Brazos, and Washington counties, giving the seat to Clark. The House seated Clark on January 10, 1872, but without prejudicing Giddings's right to contest. Congress agreed to take up the matter of the disputed election. Giddings worked diligently and uncovered a mass of evidence showing fraud on the part of the Radicals, but Clark, relying on the Republican majority in the House to support him, responded with little more than statements from party officials. The committee on elections concluded that Giddings was entitled to the seat. The House concurred in this report, and on May 13, 1872, Giddings took his seat. The federal circuit court found Davis not guilty.

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