There is an adage that bears repeating, “the best things in life are free”; yet in spite of its hopeful message if you were to ask much of the population there would be a multitude of naysayers. After all, most of what folks are looking for can only be purchased. However there are many who would agree that Mother Nature does offer all her wonders, but often within her generosity are forces she possesses that can eradicate a home with an evening storm, capsize a way-faring vessel with a wave’s thirsty gulp, and destroy a city with a shrug of her fault line.
But to those who are willing to keep hoping and set skepticism aside, you have only to look within your neighborhoods. There are places where one can obtain knowledge, leisure, amusement, and harmony all for free. It is a location that welcomes you during the coldest of winter days and the hottest of summer afternoons. This place you say; all this for free? Upon which I remind you of the public library.
Today’s post brings to you the esteemed thinker: Samuel J. Tilden (1814-1886), a prominent political figure and philanthropist. who was cheated out of the presidency by the electoral college. Born in New Lebanon, New York. His early education was sporadic due to chronic poor health that followed him into adult life where he attended Yale University and studied law at NYU.
A man of great principals, in 1848 he led the revolt of the Democratic party in New York State against the creation of five slave States. He opposed slavery and was an active supporter of the Union during the civil war. Known as a reformer, he fought against bribery and corruption, bringing down New York’s powerful and corrupt Tweed Ring that controlled and defrauded New York City for years.
Tilden was elected the 25th governor of New York. His popularity as a strong advocate against corruption won him the presidential nomination, becoming the Democratic candidate for president in the hotly disputed election of 1876. A look back in history would describe him as having been cheated out of the presidency by the electoral college. However, Tilden’s acceptance of his defeat was most honorable and may have prevented the country civil unrest, even though he won the popular vote against Rutherford r B. Hayes.
Having never married he remained a bachelor and acquired considerable wealth. With no heirs, upon his death he left the majority of his estate in trust for the establishment of a free public library for New York City. This bequest eventually helped build the New York City Library in Manhattan.
I now bring you a Harper’s Weekly cartoon, originally printed in January 27, 1877 and drawn by the famous Thomas Nast. Titled “Compromise- Indeed” it conveys concerns the Electoral Commission Act passed by Congress to resolve the disputed presidential election of 1876.
First image: New York Public Library