Everyone agreed that 1876 would see a close election, and that Democrat Tilden would win. Post-election developments posed an unexpected problem: ""Which was more honest-a Republican victory brought about by dishonest counting, or a Democratic victory brought about by preventing voters from casting their ballots?"" New York Times editor John C. Reid, a Republican, first realized on election night that Republican Hayes would carry the Electoral College if the uncertain states of Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina reported for him; Reid's subtle maneuvers ushered in four months of bribery and falsification of returns until a special Electoral Commission had to be established to determine which sets of returns to accept. Even then the fifteenth member's vote was crucial because the others were known to split 7-7, and he was disqualified because of a subsequent election. Tilden was accused of parsimony when he refused to pay some electors; Pulitzer had earlier noted Hayes' integrity: ""He has never stolen. Good God, has it come to this?"" ""Returning Board Hayes,"" as he was known thereafter, took the oath but never felt comfortable about his victory. Did it make a difference? A resounding yes, according to Mr. Robinson: ""it called back and cancelled the accomplishments of the Civil War"" for Negroes because Hayes reinstated white Democratic southerners in appreciation of their support. The author follows the key figures--party bosses and other pols--with clarity and dexterity, charting rising emotions and accumulating pledges in a scandalous procedure. And it could happen again. . . .