The centennial of the United States was celebrated with great fanfare — fireworks, exhibitions, pious calls to patriotism, and perhaps the most underhanded political machination in the country’s history: the theft of the presidency from Samuel Tilden in favor of Rutherford B. Hayes. This was the Gilded Age, when robber barons held the purse strings of the nation, and the party in power was determined to stay in power. Gore Vidal’s novel 1876 gives us the news of the day through the eyes of Charlie Schuyler, who has returned from exile to regain a lost fortune and arrange a marriage into New York society for his widowed daughter. And although Tammany Hall has faltered and Boss Tweed has fled, the effects of corruption reach deep, even into Schuyler’s own family.
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