Rutherford B. Hayes

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Rutherford B. Hayes
Rutherford Hayes by Huntington.jpg
19th President of the United States
Term of office
March 4, 1877 - March 4, 1881[1]
Political party Republican
Vice President William Wheeler
Preceded by Ulysses S. Grant
Succeeded by James Garfield
Born October 4, 1822
Delaware, Ohio
Died January 17, 1893
Fremont, Ohio
Spouse Lucy Webb Hayes
Religion Methodist

Rutherford Birchard Hayes[2] was the 19th President of the United States of America, serving from 1877 to 1881. Hayes, a leading Ohio Republican was nominated because Ohio was a close and large state state. Previously he served one term as governor of Ohio, and served in Congress as a Radical Republican who supported Reconstruction. He gained local fame as a general in the Civil War. He was a relatively conservative chief executive who left little mark, but exemplified the honest, hard-working party leadership of the Third Party System. He was the beneficiary of the "Compromise of 1877" that ended opposition to his election, and ended Reconstruction.


Hayes was a Victorian gentleman from a Yankee family that had resettled in Ohio. His father died before he was born, but his rich bachelor uncle Sardis Birchard took him under wing. He graduated from the local school, Kenyon College, and was the first president to attend Harvard Law School (Ll.B. 1845). He became a leading lawyer in Cincinnati, and inherited wealth from his uncle. His diary plainly reveals the ambivalence he felt when his political ambition clashed with his strict sense of morality, which told him that a man might gladly accept high office but should not actively seek it.

Civil War

Hayes served in the army as colonel of the 23rd Ohio during the Civil War. He was wounded at the battle of South Mountain in Maryland. He was later on promoted to a brigade commander and saw action in the Shenandoah Valley. During the war Hayes was wounded five times and had his horse shot out from under him five times. For his bravery he was promoted to Brigadier General.


Hayes had fewer popular votes than his opponent Samuel J. Tilden, and so entered the White House with his title clouded by the disputed election of 1876. Opponents called him "His Fraudulency" and "Rutherfraud B. Hayes," but soon he began to reassert the authority of the presidency and the sarcasm faded away. Hayes promoted Civil Service Reform to reduce the corruption inherent in the linkage between vote-seeking and office-holding. He named well-known reformers in high offices, and, ordering the last troops out of South Carolina and Louisiana, ended Reconstruction. He hoped to revive the Republican party in the South by persuading business-oriented conservatives (most of them ex-Whigs) to join a national party that would support their economic interests more effectively than the Democrats did. He failed because the South was polarized on race. Committed to the gold standard—the only basis, Hayes thought, of a sound currency—in 1878 he vetoed the Bland-Allison Silver Purchase bill, which called for the partial coinage of silver, but Congress passed it over his veto. He and First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes refused to serve alcoholic beverages, even at state functions; they called her "Lemonade Lucy."


  • Bridges, Roger D. ""The Betrayal of the Freedmen? Rutherford B. Hayes and the End of Reconstruction?" (1996) online edition
  • DeSantis, Vincent P. Republicans Face the Southern Question (1959), looks at GOP attempts to find a substitute for their failed Reconstruction program.
  • Holt, Michael F. "Another Look at the Presidential Election of 1876" (2006) Hayes Lecture on the Presidency online
  • Hoogenboom, Ari. Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior and President (1995), the standard scholarly biography.
  • Hoogenboom, Ari. The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes (1988), the standard scholarly survey
  • Hoogenboom, Ari. "Inaugurating a 'Most Successful Administration (2002) Hayes Lecture on the Presidency online
  • Hoogenboom, Ari. "Rutherford B. Hayes and African-Americans," (1996) online edition
  • Hoogenboom, Ari. Outlawing the Spoils: A History of the Civil Service Reform Movement, 1865-1883 (1961), the standard history.
  • Jordan, David M. Roscoe Conkling of New York (1971), on Hayes's toughest enemy
  • McPherson, James M. "Coercion or Conciliation? Abolitionists Debate President Hayes's Southern Policy," New England Quarterly 39 (1966) in JSTOR
  • Plesur, Milton. America's Outward Thrust (1971), argues Hayes's foreign policy was a forerunners of the more aggressive policies of McKinley and Roosevelt.
  • Polakoff, Keith Ian. The Politics of Inertia (1973), standard history of the disputed election of 1876 and its settlement.
  • Simpson, Brooks. "The Good Colonel: Rutherford B. Hayes Remembers the Civil War," (2003) Hayes Lecture on the Presidency online
  • Trefousse, Hans L. Carl Schurz (1982), biography of the cabinet member closest to Hayes.
  • Vazzano, Frank. "Rutherford B. Hayes and the Politics of Discord," Historian, 68 (Fall 2006), 519–40.

Primary sources

  • Bishop, Arthur ed. Rutherford Hayes, 1822-1893 (1969), contains lengthy excerpts from his most important state papers.
  • Williams, Charles R. ed. Diary and Letters of Rutherford B. Hayes (5 vol 1922–1926); searchable online edition, 3000 pages
  • Williams, T. Harry. ed., Hayes: The Diary of a President (1964), one volume abridged edition with many insights into Hayes' character and personality.



External links