Investigated in this paper is a detailed account of the South Carolina contested Congressional election held October 19th, 1870 in the 2nd Congressional district for the 42nd Congress between Christopher Columbus Bowen and Robert Carlos De Large. De Large as the challenger was declared the victor and Bowen as incumbent became the contestant in a protracted 3 year period to determine a winner.
The South Carolina State Board of Canvassers certified the race within the mandated 20 day period after formal vote counts under South Carolina’s newly passed Election Law of March 1870. (1869 -1870 General Assembly, 1870 Act, No 284, pp 393 -397. ) The 1870 Election Act emulated the Januray 24th 1870 adopted Resolution in the United States House of Representatives introduced by Albert C. Barr of Illinois to declare the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Elections to act “as a Judicial body according to the rules of law. ” The Resolution passed 140 -23 in the 2nd Session of the 41st Congress. (House Journal p 190, Congressional Globe pp 709 -710. ).
Affirmed by the force of law and a first in South Carolina’s history, contestants in elections were allowed to take testimony, present evidence and charges. The 1870 law provided for provisions to prosecute for election crimes and administer oaths to voters and election officials. Contested elections became a public trial rather than the House of Representatives Standing Committe on Elections position to collect evidence and render a decision.
The race was contested under South Carolina’s Election law of 1870 and the Federal law of 1851 to govern the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Elections. Both laws derived from the Constitution.
Article 1, Section 5 explicitly states “Each House shall be the judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own members. Article 1, Section 6 exactly states “The Senators and Representatives shall receive a compensation for their services, to be ascertained by law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.”
Congressman were paid $5,000 per annum however on March 3, 1873, on the last day of the 42nd Congress, Representatives voted itself a 50% pay increase from $5,000 to $7500 then later rescinded at the beginning of the 43rd Congress. (Who should Govern Congress?, Access to Power and the Salary Grab of 1873, 2005, p 1). Bowen and De Large both benefited from Congressional allowance to pay expenses during the contested period while the salary to De Large remains under question despite abilty to be seated as a Congressman.
Prior to passage of the 1851 law, contested elections were governed under the first election law of 1798 yet the act expired in 1804 as contested elections then lacked procedures to collect evidence and precedents as cases were decided at the inclination of the House of Representatives Election Committee. ( Contested Congressional Elections, C.H. Rammelkamp, Political Science quarterly, 1905, p 424). The 1851 enactment offered a formal mode of procedure to collect evidence, take testimony and provide a time period to expedite cases.
A contestant to an election must file a notice in writing within 30 days to the contestee along with an outline of specified charges. The contestee was given 30 days to respond to the charges to include why the election was valid. ( rammelkamp, p 425.). Within 60 days, issues and charges were known and enunciated. The next 60 days were allotted to take and transcribe testimony and submit other related materials.
Section three of the 1851 bill allows for a Federal, State or local judge to subpeona witnesses. ( Contested Congressional Elections, C.H. Rammelkamp, Political Science quarterly, 1905, p 425). De Large was represented by Attorney Charles W. Buttz and Bowen by Attorney H. Noah to question witnesses, submit evidence and argue points of law. Sworn testimony was taken by each Notary Public in the respective courthouses of Charleston, Colleton, Barnwell and Beaufort. ( Hind’s Precedents, Vol 1, 2 and 3).
Section seven of the 1851 law provides for the final results to send under seal to the Clerk of the House of Representatives and transmitted to the House Election Committee. The Election Committee then reviews evidence, ascertains any additional evidence, subpeona witnesses to include attorneys, contestants and contestees. A decision is imparted by committee vote to adjudicate the seat to either the contestant, contestee or to vacate the seat and declare a new election.
From 1865 -1903 in the 39th to 56th Congresses, 19 seats were rarely declared vacated by the House of Representatives Elections Committe from a total of 467 contested cases. ( Contested Congressional Elections, C.H. Rammelkamp, Political Science quarterly, 1905, p 429). A total of 29 seats were contested in the 41st Congress from 1869 to 1871, a record high year from 1789 yet the 54th Congress from 1895 to 1897 surpassed the 29 total to achieve 38 cases. From passage of the 1851 law, 359 cases were contested and 19 seats vacted.
While the 1851 law provided an administrative capability to resolve contested elections, South Carolina’s 1870 Act organized election races to prevent a contested preference. Section two allowed every male citizen without distinction to race, to vote if a resident of South Carolina for 1 year or a resident of the county for 60 days. (1870 Law). South Carolina’s passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution in March 1869 not only granted Blacks the right to vote but the 1870 Election was the first time to exercise voter privileges.
Republican Governor Robert Scott as mandated by Section three appointed, at least 60 days prior to an election, three Commissioners of Election for each county. County Election Commissioners then appointed three Managers of Elections for each election precinct of the county and Section 4 allows a Clerk to asssist in Election duties. Clerks maintain Poll lists of voter names and ensure only voters handle ballots. All Election Commmissioners are required to take an oath of office.
Election Managers in Section six are required to administer oaths to voters to ascertain qualification of voters and ensure voters non duplication to vote at multiple precincts.
State Constables and Peach officers are required at Polling places. “Violations of illlegal voting, intimidation, force, deception, fraud, bribery, or by undue influence to obtain, procure or control a vote is punished by fine of not less than $100 nor more than $1000. “An imprisonment sentence is mandated by no less than three months nor more than 12 months. (1870 Law).
After election, a designated representative must deliver within three days all Poll Lists and Ballot boxes to the Commissioner of Elections. (1870 Law, Section 15). The Commissioners of Elections on the next Tuesday after the Wednesday election then forms a County Board of Canvassers and administers oaths. (1870 law Section 16 and 17). The County Board of Canvassers must count votes within 10 days after elections and results are transmitted to the State Board of Canvassers: Governor Scott, Secretary of State F. Cardozo, State Auditor Reuben Tomlinson and Attorney General D.H. Chamberlain. (1870 law, Section 18).
The State Board of Canvassers is then formed by the Secretary of State on or before November 10th for the purpose of canvassing votes. The State Board of Canvassers next certifies elected respresentatives and a certificate was transmitted to the Clerk of the House of Representatives to declare De Large the winner.
The 40th, 41st and 42nd Congressional terms for seated Congressman ran from March to March and Congressional sessions were apportioned into three sessions to align calendar days to legislative days.
The 40th Congress began March 4, 1867 to December 1, 1867 to connect 42 calendar days to 42 legislative days. Session two began December 2, 1867 to November 10th, 1868 to acclimate 186 calendar days to 186 legislative days. Session three began December 7th, 1868 to March 3rd, 1869 to correspond 58 calaendar days to 58 legislative days.
The 41st Congress ran from 1869 to 1871 as the 1st session began March 4, 1869 to April 10th, 1869 to connect 26 calandar days to 26 legislative days. Session 2 commenced December 6, 1869 to July 15th, 1870 to allocate 164 calendar days to 164 legislative days. Session 3 originated December 5th, 1870 to March 3rd, 1871 to align 64 calandar days to 64 legislative days.
The 42nd Congressional term to the election of October 1870 ran from March 4th, 1871 to March 1873 and the 1st session began March 4, 1871 to April 20, 1871.
The October 19th, 1870 election was held between the 2nd and 3rd session of the 41st Congress to end July 15th, 1870 to resume December 5th, 1870. October 19th reflected the third Wednesday of the month and this date was mandated by the 1870 law to designate a permanent day for elections held every two years. (1870 Law, section 1, pp 393). Despite the election and disputed claims, Bowen remained the formal Congressman representing the 2nd Congressional district until March 1871 then vacated when De Large was seated.
The 40th Congress from 1867 – 1869 encompassed 226 house seats and formed by 47 Democrats, 173 Republicans, two conservative to include one Republican and 1 independent Republican. The 41st Congress from 1869 -1871 incorporated 243 house seats and formulated by 67 Democrats, 171 Republicans and five conservatives. The 42nd Congress from 1871 -1873 originated as 243 house seats and devised by 104 Democrats, 136 Republicans and constituted one liberal Republican, one independent Republican and two conservatives. (house of Representativs).
Based on the 1840 Census and the Apportionment Act of 1842, house seats were mandated at 223 and a requirement to elect representatives from Single Member Districts composed of contiguous territory rather than the previous practice of election from at large seats on a statewide voter basis. The 1850 Apportionment act increased the size of the house to 233 but lowered again to 223 by the act of 1862. The 1872 act required congressional districts to contain an equal number of persons. 1/70,680 residents for South Carolina. (league of women voters, south carolina, right to vote initiative, History of creating congressional districts)
From the 1860 to 1880 Census, South Carolina began at 5 Congressional seats and added two seats to 7 by 1880. South Carolina’s population in 1870 was 705,808 to include 289,607 Whites, 415,814 Blacks, Free Colored and 402,406 slaves. Native born accounted for 097,532. Males included 363,902 and 361,704 females.
The counties of Barnwell population recorded 35, 724, Beaufort 34,359, Colleton 25.410 and Charleston 88,803.
The Election between Bowen and DeLarge as written in the final January 24th, 1873 Congressional Election Committee report contained abuses and irregularities. As stated by Congressman and Election Committee member George Hoar of Massachusetts on the House of Representatives floor “its impossible to determine who was elected”. ( Congressional Globe, January 24th, 1873, pp 842 -847). Misdeeds, crimes, fraud, bribery, corruption and many perversions to votes, voters, ballot boxes, illegal voting, intimidation and military surveillance at ballot boxes led to a protracted 3 year trial to render a decision.
Republican C.C. Bowen as he was customarily known was the incumbent and held the Congressional seat in the 40th and 41st Congress for one term from July 20, 1868 to March 3rd 1871. (House of Representatives). De Large as a mullatto and identified as black was the Republican challenger who held a 1968 seat in South Carolina’s lower state House of Representatives, the General Assembly. (House of Representatives). De Large served on the Railroad and Ways and Means Connittees. (Fairfied Herald, July 22, 1968).
Bowen contested the election upon the South Carolina Board of County Canvassers declaration to certify De large as victor. On November 7, 1870, Attorney General D. H. Chamberlain and State Auditor Reuben Tomlinson protested the decision and demanded a full investigation required under law. ( Hind’s Volume 3, pp 418).
Both Bowen and De Large contained ostentatious dispositions. During
Bowen bigamy, De Large fight 1869, republican by necessity, Bowen treason
corrupt Gov Scott support De large, Not bowen cause freedman’s bureau,