You get six clues:
- His father died of malaria before he was born;
- His election was marred by fraud and intimidation on both sides;
- The final count was disputed in four regions, three of which were under military occupation at the time (and whose supreme commander was the new President’s supporter);
- The inauguration ceremony was held in secret because of fears of an insurrection by the opposition;
- During his reign, his troops killed dozens while quelling a protest; and
- Two of his four children died before reaching their second birthday, one of tropical disease.
Answer: The 19th President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-81).
It’s easy to forget that we are not so distant from the conditions we mostly associate with developing nations.
Consider the 12th President, Zachary Taylor (1849-1850). Three of his five children died of malaria in a disease-ridden swamp called Washington DC.
Or consider the abject poverty and working conditions in George Orwell’s semi-autobiographical account of Paris and London of the 1930s.
Easy as it is to forget, it’s easier still to underestimate the time it may take for today’s poor nations to improve their own health, education, and corruption.
To the citizens of developing countries, this might or might not be a comforting thought. And just think, in a century’s time you too can look forward to… more close, disputed elections that reek of corruption.