6 January 2001

The US Congress certifies George W Bush winner of 2000 presidential elections.

On this day in 2001, more than five weeks after balloting ended, Vice President Al Gore, the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee, presided over a joint session of Congress that certified George W. Bush of Texas, the Republican nominee, as the winner. The disputed outcome in Florida caused the delay. It was resolved when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, on Dec. 12 to halt a statewide manual recount of the ballots ordered, in a 4-3 vote, by the Florida Supreme Court.

Bush’s margin of victory at that point was less than one half of one percent. The high court’s ruling gave him Florida’s 25 electoral votes. That, in turn, gave him 271 votes to Gore’s 266 — one more than the 270 required to be declared the winner. It paved the way for Bush to take the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2001, thereby becoming the nation’s 43rd president.

Although Gore finished second in the electoral vote, he received 543,895 more popular votes than Bush. This marked the fourth election in U.S. history in which the winner failed to get a plurality of the popular vote. The others were the elections of 1824, 1876 and 1888.

Gore failed to win the popular vote in his home state, Tennessee, which both he and his father had represented in the Senate, making him the first major-party presidential candidate to have lost his home state since Democrat George McGovern lost South Dakota in 1972.

Furthermore, Gore lost West Virginia, a state that had voted Republican only once in the previous six presidential elections. He also lost Arkansas, the home state of two-term President Bill Clinton, after having largely shunned Clinton’s help during his own presidential campaign. A victory in any one of those three states would have given Gore enough electoral votes to win the presidency without Florida.

Bush lost Connecticut, the state of his birth. He was also the first Republican to win the presidency without winning Vermont or Illinois, the second Republican to win the presidency without winning California — James A. Garfield in 1880 was the first — and the only victorious Republican to fail to receive any electoral votes from California.

6 January 1721

The Committee of Inquiry on the South Sea Bubble publishes its findings.

The South Sea Bubble of 1720 was one of the first but by no means the last or the worst of capitalism’s great bubbles. As with all the others, it made some rich and impoverished many. In a single year, obsessive trading in the stocks of Britain’s South Sea Company increased the price from just over £100 to almost £1,000 per share. Before 1720 was out, the price had plunged to well below its starting-point.

The South Sea Company, founded to consolidate and reduce state debt and to have a monopoly trade in the South Seas – the Spanish-controlled territory of Latin America had managed to disguise the fact that it could not turn a profit on either venture. The former because the dividend returns promised to investors outstripped the interest the Crown was prepared to pay. The latter because, for most of the life of the South Sea Company, Britain was at war with Spain and – consequently – the chances that Spain would grant extensive trade rights within its own sphere of influence to a British company were, shall we say, remote. The bubble brought share trading into disrepute. Traders and investors alike were seen as venal and corrupt, seeking something for nothing – the solid something reflected in the bubble’s shimmering surface.