THE YOUNG SENATOR
On February 1, 1877, Jerome Chaffee presented to the Senate the credentials of Henry M. Teller for his term beginning March 4. This was Henry's initial six-year term. It would not be as exciting as the short term just ending, with the electrifying contested Tilden/Hayes election. That contest would not be resolved for almost another month.
Neither Samuel Tilden nor Rutherford Hayes had gained a majority in the electoral college; twenty votes were being contested. Eventually, a committee composed of senators, representatives, and Supreme Court justices gave all of the votes to Hayes, who thereupon won by one vote (185 to 184). The significance of Colorado's popular and electoral college vote was obvious; without it, Democrat Tilden would have won outright. The Democratic press later charged that the wealth of the leading Colorado Republicans, mostly mining men, overwhelmed the state Democrats. Chaffee and Teller headed the list of the prominent men who “played such an important part in the matter of the presidential succession.” At no time since has Colorado played as significant a role in a presidential election.
The junior senator from Colorado was appointed to the committees on pensions, claims, elections, and—especially important for his state—the military and railroads. He was also appointed later to a “select committee” on the violation of rights of U.S. citizens in the 1878 congressional elections.