Hayes, Rutherford B.

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Rutherford B. Hayes

Keith Ian Polakoff

RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES entered the White House when the powers and prestige of the presidency were at a particularly low ebb. During the term of Andrew Johnson, Congress had reclaimed the initiative, previously exercised by Abraham Lincoln, in shaping Reconstruction policy. It had restricted the president's authority over appointments and removals of officeholders. It had even seized upon Johnsons' attempt to replace one of his own cabinet advisers as a pretext for impeaching him and almost removing him from office. Then the eight years of the Grant administration that followed were so frequently marked by scandal that in December 1875 an overwhelming majority of both Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives voted against the principle of a third term.

Hayes himself was, in an unusual respect, beholden to his fellow Republicans in Congress. The outcome of the 1876 presidential election was the subject of a prolonged and potentially dangerous dispute. Democrats were sure they had elected Samuel J. Tilden. Republicans were equally certain that their opponents had carried several southern states by fraud and intimidation. In three of these statesLouisiana, Florida, and South Carolinalocal Republicans used their control of the canvassing boards to throw out questioned Democratic votes and declare both the Hayes electors and the Republican state tickets elected, while the Democrats in turn cried foul.

Normally, the presidential electors met in their respective state capitals long after the actual result was known. Their votes were then transported to Washington and routinely tallied by the president of the Senate before a joint session of Congress. It was strictly a ceremonial occasion. This time the existence of rival sets of electoral votes from the three southern states and the ambiguity of the constitutional language describing the official counting procedure led a bipartisan majority in Congress to create a special electoral commission to determine which votes should be counted. The commission was supposed to be politically balanced, consisting of five senators (three Republicans and two Democrats), five representatives (two Republicans and three Democrats), and five associate justices of the Supreme Court (two Republicans, two Democrats, and independent David Davis; but the one independent refused to serve and was replaced by a third Republican). Only after the commission had ruledin a series of 87 party-line votesin favor of the Hayes electors and the Republican minority had weathered the threat of a filibuster in the Democrat-controlled House was Hayes officially declared presidenton 2 March 1877, two days before he assumed office.

To compound the situation further, Hayes had a limited base of support within his own party. He only emerged as the nominee of the Republican National Convention because a deadlock developed between the supporters of the front-runner, James G. Blaine of Maine, and various lesser contenders. Since Blaine's opponents included men as disparate as machine politicians Roscoe Conkling of New York and Oliver P. Morton of Indiana, and reformer Benjamin H. Bristow of Kentucky, they could only put their full strength behind someone else. That created an opportunity for Hayes, then in an unprecedented third term as governor of Ohio.

Hayes had been a lawyer, a Union officer wounded several times while leading his troops in battle, a dependable supporter of the Radical Republican plan during the early Reconstruction Congresses, and a staunch regular in the election of 1872all of which reassured the likes of Conkling and Morton. At the same time, the reform elements drew encouragement from his advocacy of the gold standard, freedom from involvement in machine politics, and unquestioned personal integrity. And, of course, Hayes was a proven vote-getter in the pivotal Buck-eye State, which all Republicans believed they had to carry to retain the presidency. He was, in short, supremely "available."

Hayes was the very model of a Victorian gentleman. A native Ohioan (born 4 October 1822), he was a graduate of Kenyon College in his home state. After attending Harvard Law School, he built a solid reputation as an attorney in Lower Sandusky (later Fre-mont) and, after 1850, in Cincinnati. Already prosperous, in 1875 he inherited the substantial estate of the merchant uncle who had provided for him since infancy. Hayes was by no means a scholar, but he enjoyed reading, mostly American history and biography, and welcomed the company of scholars. Above all, he hungered for respectability. 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. In the White House, Rutherford and Lucy Webb Hayes would decline to serve alcoholic beverages, even at state functions.

That same hunger for respectability helps explain the alacrity with which he accepted the advice of former Senator Carl Schurz of Missouri, whom he had never met, regarding his formal letter of acceptance of the Republican presidential nomination. Schurz was the acknowledged mastermind of the Liberal Republican revolt of 1872 and the foremost spokesman of the "best men," as the highly educated, upper-middle-class reformers modestly thought of themselves. Schurz urged Hayes to express himself boldly on the need for a sound currency, southern reconciliation, and civil service reform. On each issue Hayes did so, even employing some of Schurz's suggested language. He was especially blunt in his denunciation of the spoils system, which, he said, "destroys the independence of the separate departments of government, . . . tends directly to extravagance and official incapacity, . . . [and] degrades the civil service and the character of the government.. . . It ought to be abolished. The reform should be thorough, radical, and complete." The reformers were impressed, but party regulars were not. Senator Conkling sat out the rest of the campaign at his home in upstate New York.

A Contentious Beginning

Throughout his presidency Hayes adhered to the policies enunciated in his letter of acceptance. He also demonstrated a political independence that regained for the presidency some of its lost authority and prestige. Furthermore, he set the tone for his administration right at the outset, when he named the men he wanted in his cabinet. For postmaster general (the richest patronage-dispensing position), he chose David M. Key of Tennessee; for secretary of the interior, Carl Schurz; and for secretary of state, William M. Evartsrespectively, a southern Democrat, a Liberal Republican, and the attorney for the defense in the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson. Blaine, Conkling, and the other Republicans were outraged. Only the certainty that the Democrats would supply the necessary votes to confirm these choices if the Republicans did not gained their grudging acquiescence.

Almost immediately Hayes prepared to kick over another hornet's nest by implementing his pledge of civil service reform. He ordered an inquiry into the management of the New York Customhouse, the central component of Senator Conkling's machine. The resulting report described a pattern of overstaffing, incompetence, and petty bribery and sharply criticized the collector, Chester A. Arthur, and other officials. This faultfinding was not entirely fair: Conkling's allies in the customhouse were honest and capable, and Arthur had actually improved overall efficiency. When President Grant's short-lived Civil Service Commission proposed regulations to govern the appointment of civil servants, Arthur put them into effect, even though he still required custom-house employees to perform political services in addition to their regular jobs and continued to assess them 26 percent of their salaries for partisan purposes. On the whole, New York's merchants were satisfied with Arthur's performance. It was the patrician reformers who complained, because the existing system enabled the Conkling organization, and not them, to control the Republican party in New York.

After reading the report on the customhouse, Hayes wrote his secretary of the treasury, fellow Ohioan John Sherman, in May 1877:

The collection of the revenues should be free from partisan control, and organized on a strictly business basis.. . . Party leaders should have no more influence in appointments than other equally respectable citizens. No assessments for political purposes, on officers or subordinates, should be allowed. No useless officer or employee should be retained. No officer should be required or permitted to take part in the management of political organizations, caucuses, conventions, or election campaigns.

Hayes did not specify that employees should not be required to be Republicans, but only that they should not be allowed to use their official positions as a base from which to manage state and local politics. He aimed his blow at the Conkling type of organization, not against the Republican party itself. Moreover, he later made it clear that he did not object to the collection of "voluntary contributions" from officeholders, only forced assessments. In practice, this proved to be a distinction without a difference. Accordingly, Hayes's reforms, even when extended throughout the executive branch, represented no more than a modest beginning.

The Southern Question

Simultaneously with his civil service initiative, Hayes set about charting a new course in regard to the South. The "southern question," as Republicans were apt to refer to it, actually had two distinct components: Could the black people be protected in the enjoyment of the economic, legal, and political rights they had won as a consequence of the Civil War, and could the Republican party prevent the South from being made over into a Democratic monolith?

Few, if any, Republicans believed the two components could be separated. The Democrats had fought the granting of civil rights to blacks with every means at their disposal. In Mississippi and elsewhere they had regained power by instituting a virtual reign of terror. Neither were Republican charges of fraud and intimidation in 1876 without foundation; in a completely free election Hayes would have carried several southern states and his party would have elected at least a score of additional congressmen. Moreover, if the Democratic party succeeded in the future in establishing a "solid South," it would need to carry only New York and either Indiana or Ohio to recapture the presidency. By concentrating their campaign resources in those three northern states, the Democrats could conceivably relegate the Grand Old Party to minority status.

The trouble was that by early 1877 the two surviving southern Republican governments, in Louisiana and South Carolina, were mere shadows of their former selves, able to preserve an illusion of authority only because of the presence of federal troops outside their respective statehouses. And, as President Grant publicly acknowledged near the end of the electoral dispute, "the entire people are tired of the military being used to sustain a State Government." Was there, then, an alternative approach to the South, one that abjured direct federal intervention, that would ultimately bring an accretion of strength to the Republican party by somehow splitting the white vote?

Hayes had given this matter some thought prior to the election and appeared resigned to a negative answer. Schurz had wanted him to include in his letter of acceptance the dual declaration "that the equality of rights without distinction of color according to the constitutional amendments must be sacredly maintained by all the lawful power of the government; but that also the constitutional rights of local self-government must be respected." Hayes immediately recognized the flaw in Schurz's reasoning, objecting to the use of the phrase " 'local self-government,' in that connection. It seems to me to smack of the bowie knife and revolver. 'Local self-government' has nullified the 15th amendment in several States, and is in a fair way to nullify the 14th and 13th." But he could find no alternative solution.

In the end, his letter restated Schurz's thoughts in his own words:

The moral and material prosperity of the Southern states can be most effectually advanced by a hearty and generous recognition of the rights of all by alla recognition without reserve or exception. With such a recognition fully accorded, it will be practicable to promote, by the influence of all legitimate agencies of the general government, the efforts of the people of those states to obtain for themselves the blessings of honest and capable local government. If elected, I shall consider it not only my duty, but it will be my ardent wish, to labor for the attainment of this end.

During the electoral dispute several friends of Hayes, mostly journalists rather than politicians, explored the possibility of an accommodation with various southern Democrats. They persuaded themselves that many antebellum Whigs, Douglas Democrats, and others with business interests felt straitjacketed by the rigid economic policies of the laissez-faire-minded Democracy. These supposedly disgruntled Democrats could be influenced not only to acquiesce in Hayes's inauguration, but in time perhaps even to change their partisan allegiance. What was needed to bring about this shift was the restoration of home rule, a generous share of the federal patronage, and liberal support for internal-improvement projects, especially an enlarged subsidy for the Texas and Pacific Railroad. In fact, Hayes's friends were pursuing a chimera. The southerners' overriding concern was the withdrawal of the soldiery from the statehouses in Columbia and New Orleans so that the Democrats could install their own governments. It was Hayes's belated confirmation that he would take such a step that brought the filibuster in the House of Representatives to an end on 2 March 1877.

Nevertheless, the notion of a realignment of southern politics along other than racial lines died hard. It was the dream that inspired Hayes's appointment of Key, a Confederate colonel who had voted for Tilden, as postmaster general. Key became a loyal member of the administration, defending Hayes's policies and advising the president on the appointment of other southern Democrats to lesser positions. But none of the men appointed publicly adhered to the Republican party, so no lasting strength was gained by this new departure. Besides, the majority of southern offices necessarily continued to go to Republicans. For example, nearly all of the state officials who had helped secure southern electoral votes for Hayes were taken care of. The Republican party could not simply turn its back on the past.

Even the promised withdrawal of the troops required careful handling. Republicans Daniel H. Chamberlain of South Carolina and Stephen B. Packard of Louisiana claimed to have been elected governors of their respective states on the basis of essentially the same returns that had placed Hayes in the White House. As one presidential adviser remarked, "You cannot dismiss those gentlemen with a wave of the hand." In particular, Hayes could not afford to alienate the half-dozen southern Republican senators whose terms had not yet expired by appearing too readily to consign them to certain political oblivion; his working majority in the upper chamber was very tenuous.

Proceeding cautiously, Hayes invited Chamberlain and Wade Hampton, the Democratic claimant in South Carolina, to Washington for separate visits in late March. Chamberlain was told frankly what was coming. Hampton was pressed for assurances that black rights would be protected and responded in the desired manner. After both men returned to Columbia, Hayes ordered the soldiers to their barracks. On 10 April, Chamberlain quietly turned over his official papers and effects to Hampton, and the Reconstruction era in South Carolina was over.

Louisiana took a little longer, given its violent history, including a bloody Democratic coup d'état attempt in 1874. Hayes sent a commission to New Orleans to report on the state of affairs there. The commission members understood that the president was seeking more than information. He needed a means to break the impasse created by the existence of two complete rival governments. Hayes's emissaries arranged for local businessmen to provide the inducements that lured enough Republican lawmakers to join the Democratic legislature to give it a clear majority of members whose election was conceded by both sides. Thus, when Hayes finally withdrew the federal troops on 24 April, Packard had no choice but to capitulate.

Amos T. Akerman, a Georgia Republican who had served for eighteen months as President Grant's attorney general during the struggle to suppress the Ku Klux Klan, took a dim view of the new conciliatory approach to southern affairs. "I really wish success to the effort of Mr. Hayes to win the good will of the Southern Democrats to his administration," he wrote, "but I see no signs of success." And he went on to predict, "They will give him some surface compliments and accept office from him and then laugh at him for his folly (as they will deem it) in letting them take him in."

Akerman was right. In May, James M. Comly, one of the journalists who had helped conjure up the vision of a conservative-led, business-oriented southern Republican party, visited Louisiana and reported back to his friend in the White House, "The 'old Whig' sentiment I spoke of petered out before we reached New Orleans. There is nothing to hang an old Whig party on. The truth is there does not seem to be anything except the Custom House to hang anything on." Hayes at first refused to believe it. In September, accompanied by a sizable entourage, he traveled to Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia. Everywhere he went he was warmly received by local political and business leaders. He seemed oblivious to the fact that he was granting official recognition to the southern Democrats, not they to him. Back in Washington, he boasted to his diary, "The country is again one and united! I am very happy to be able to feel that the course taken has turned out so well."

But reality could not forever be denied. In March, Hayes had been confident that enough southern Democrats would break with their party's leadership in the House to choose a Republican as Speaker. In fact, with this prospect in mind he fairly insisted that the House Republican leader, James A.

Garfield, withdraw as a candidate for the Senate from Ohio. The Democratic party was hardly free of sectional tensions, but no one should have been surprised that the southerners joined in reelecting Samuel J. Randall to the speakership when Congress reconvened in the fall. Garfield was left empty-handed.

During the Hayes administration, as in the years preceding it, no substantial effort was made to establish the kind of infrastructure that would be needed to sustain a southern Republican party, regardless of the nature of its leadership. No newspapers were founded to disseminate Republican ideas. No Republican speakers of national stature ventured southward. Offices were bestowed now on Republicans, now on Democrats, but the two were not required to work together in the interest of revitalizing the party machinery. Most damning of all, only Democrats shared the platform with Hayes on his southern tour. No one remembered how President Jefferson had extended his party's organization into the New England bastion of Federalism at the beginning of the century.

In the fall elections of 1878 the Republicans paid the price for their lack of foresight. In the entire South only six Republican congressmen survived the Democratic onslaught. The Democrats retained their majority in the House and took control of the Senate. Hayes finally had to admit, "By State legislation, by frauds, by intimidation and by violence of the most atrocious character colored citizens have been deprived of the right of suffragea right guaranteed by the Constitution, and to the protection of which the people of those States have been solemnly pledged."

The Depression and Its Effects

Hayes took office in the midst of one of this nation's longest and most severe depressions. Farm prices were low, unemployment was high, manufacturing was stagnant. As always in such conditions, the railroad industry, with its high fixed cost of operation, was particularly hard hit. Long-distance lines engaged in rate wars as they competed for the reduced volume of passenger and freight traffic. In time, weaker companies were forced into receivership when they could not maintain interest payments to bondholders. Inevitably, the railroads sought to re-trench their costs by further reducing wages that were already meager. Brakemen in early 1877 received $1.75 a day for twelve hours of exceedingly hazardous work; at the end of a run, moreover, they often either had to lay over at their own expense or pay full passenger fare to return home. Firemen, conductors, and engineers were paid little better. No wonder, then, that when the Baltimore and Ohio declared another 10 percent wage reduction for 16 July of that year, spontaneous strikes began in Baltimore and in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and quickly spread throughout the states of the Middle Atlantic, the Midwest, and the West, bringing much of the nation's freight transportation system to a halt. Worse, the pent-up anger of the strikers and unemployed workers erupted in widespread destruction of railroad property. In Pittsburgh alone a roundhouse, depot, 125 locomotives, 2,000 freight cars, and other equipment were burned. Except in the Civil War, violence on such a scale had never been witnessed in the United States.

State militiamen were too poorly trained and organized to control the situation. In Pittsburgh they fired on people indiscriminately, killing and wounding scores. Immediately, panicky governors appealed to the president for help in restoring order. To his credit, Hayes refused to be stampeded. Without direct precedents to guide him, he checked the language of the Constitution and insisted that the governors specify both that their legislatures were not in session and could not be speedily summoned, and that they were confronted with domestic violence they were powerless to suppress. In every instance the mere appearance of federal troops was enough to halt any continuing disorder.

Yet, the administration inexorably assumed the role of strikebreaker. Postal authorities tried to negotiate an agreement under which the mails in strike-bound areas would be carried on special trains that the workers would allow to move unimpaired. The companies refused. In the end, the government declared any passenger train carrying mail to be a mail train and threatened to prosecute anyone who interfered with it, and the railroad workers acquiesced. Even more one-sided was the action of the judiciary. Federal judges ruled that railroad workers could not strike against lines in receivership without damaging property interests under the custody of the courts. They authorized federal marshals to use military force if necessary to execute their orders. And so the great railroad strike was broken.

In retrospect, the railroad workers did not suffer a total defeat. Once the burning and looting stopped, public opinion was generally favorable to them. The losses sustained by the struck companies were so tremendous that they henceforth treated their employees more respectfully. Within a few years the wage cuts of the depression years were rescinded. Long after he left the White House, Hayes reflected, "Free government cannot long endure if property is largely in a few hands and large masses of people are unable to earn homes, education, and a support in old age." At the time he was not so sympathetic. Still, his handling of the strike had probably kept the government in as neutral a position as the circumstances would permit.

The depressed state of the economy also greatly complicated the task of managing the interrelated issues of the currency and the national debt. During the Civil War the debt had increased forty times over, soaring from less than $2.50 per capita to $75 per capita, or a staggering total of $2.8 billion. Most of this debt was in the form of bonds, but a portion was composed of legal-tender notes (the so-called green-backs, in practice very much like today's paper currency in that they were non-interest bearing and not explicitly backed by specie). After the war, the government undertook to refund the immensely burdensome bonded debt at a lower rate of interest and over a longer repayment schedule. To make the new terms attractive, treasury officials had to be able to offer firmer assurance than they had in connection with the original bond issues that both principal and interest would be repaid in gold. Making such a promise credible in turn required that the country move toward the resumption of specie payments, whereby citizens holding paper currency could exchange it for gold at full face value.

The question that haunted the postwar years was whether specie payments could be resumed without reducing the volume of legal-tender notes in circulation. Contraction of the currency would make credit tighter and exacerbate the problem of falling prices brought on by the depression. Debtors (who might be farmers, workingmen, shopkeepers, manufacturers, or railroad magnates) quite naturally objected to repaying loans in dollars that were worth more than those they had borrowed. Many of them, in fact, wanted some degree of currency expansion to stimulate higher prices, like the ones they remembered from the prosperous war years.

Hayes was fortunate in this situation to have a secretary of the treasury who well understood both the politics and the economics of these matters, fellow Ohioan John Sherman (who, incidentally, had also been the first politician of national importance to endorse Hayes for the presidency). Sherman was a moderate who cared more for practical resultsnot least among them, the preservation of the Republican party's political majoritythan for abstract principles. As a senator in 1875, he had authored the Specie Resumption Act. This complex measure had been designed, above all, to maintain Republican unity until after the approaching presidential election. Among other things, it authorized the treasury to stockpile a substantial gold reserve by direct purchase or by the sale of additional bonds, in order to cushion a resumption of specie payments on 1 January 1879, a date that was regarded as safely distant.

Meanwhile, the stagnant economy and the continuing downward spiral of commodity prices and wages created growing public pressure for moderate currency inflation. Advocates of an enlarged green-back currency presented the most sophisticated proposals, reasoning that such a flexible circulating medium could be more readily adapted to changing economic conditions and yet would have sufficient strength because it was backed by the collective confidence of the nation in its government and economic system. Neither was the idea lacking in popularity. Independent Greenback and Greenback-Labor candidates for Congress in 1878 captured better than 10 percent of the national vote and ran especially well in the midwestern and southern states. But the simple remonetization of silver was easier to comprehend and quickly outstripped the appeal of greenbackism as an inflationary device.

Sponsored by Democrat Richard P. Bland of Missouri, a bill that provided for the free and unlimited coinage of silver dollars at their traditional ratio of 16 to 1 with gold sailed through the House of Representatives in November 1877. This measure deeply alarmed creditors because a standard silver dollar contained only about 90 cents worth of silver at the metal's current market price. Treasury officials fore-saw a flood of silver pouring in upon the mint, resulting not in increasing the currency but rather in driving gold into hiding. Private obligations would then be repaid in cheapened dollars, and specie resumption and refunding of the national debt would be indefinitely postponed. Accordingly, in the Senate, Republican William B. Allison of Iowa amended the Bland bill to restrict the issuance of new silver dollars to between 2 million and 4 million per month. Secretary Sherman recognized that in this form the measure was responsible in its content and beneficial to the Republican party in its principal effects. In view of the overwhelming congressional support, he wondered whether Hayes should not sign it, but Hayes sided with the gold monometallists, such as Schurz, and vetoed the bill on 28 February 1878, calling it "a grave breach of the public faith." Both houses easily overrode the veto the same day.

Hayes reassured investors that the government would continue to meet its obligations in gold, while Sherman concentrated on amassing a gold reserve that reached $130 million. Signs of economic recovery, combined with the growing likelihood that the treasury would in fact be able to redeem any legal-tender notes presented, increased public confidence in the use of paper currency. Two weeks before 1 January 1879, greenbacks at last achieved par with gold in private transactions. On the day set by law, more gold was presented to treasury offices in exchange for paper than paper for gold. Resumption of specie payments was thus achieved without disrupting the economy. Four months later, the refunding of the last Civil War bonds was also completed. Although hardly spectacular, the Hayes administrations' handling of these abstruse problems had certainly been effective.

The Reassertion of Presidential Prerogatives

The long congressional session that began in October 1877 was also marked by the first of two struggles between Hayes and members, now of his own party and then of the opposition, over the prerogatives of the presidential office. Because Hayes prevailed in each instance, the executive branch regained ground that had been lost during the two previous administrations in the perennial power struggle with the legislative branch. The immediate issues of contention were of limited consequence in their own right, but as with so much of what happened during Hayes's term, the implications for the future were considerable.

Hayes initiated the first of these tests of will when he decided that changes had to be made in the management of the New York Customhouse. Grant's appointees continued to take an active part in Senator Conkling's political machine. Alonzo Cornell, in particular, clung to his post as chairman of the New York Republican party even as he served as a naval officer, a direct violation of Hayes's instructions concerning reform of the civil service. So, in October 1877, Hayes nominated Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., Edwin A. Merritt, and L. Bradford Prince to replace collector Arthur, surveyor George H. Sharpe, and Cornell, respectively. Conkling allowed Merritt to be confirmed by the Senate, but he invoked "senatorial courtesy" to block the appointments of Roosevelt and Prince. ("Senatorial courtesy" was the notion, found nowhere in the Constitution, that a nomination to office in one of the states should not be made until after it had been cleared with that state's ranking senator of the president's party.) By a vote of 31 to 25, a majority of the Senate sided with Conkling on this point.

The imperious New York senator and his supporters did not reckon with Hayes's stubbornness in support of a principlein this case, "the divorce of the Legislature from the nominating power," which he considered "the first step in any adequate and permanent reform" of the civil service because it would keep the offices involved out of politics. After Congress finally adjourned in June 1878, he suspended Arthur and Cornell in accordance with the terms of the almost forgotten Tenure of Office Act and replaced them on an interim basis with Merritt and Silas W. Burt. Finally, in the lame-duck session of the Forty-fifth Congress, Democratic senators, availing themselves of the opportunity to fish in troubled Republican waters, joined a minority of Hayes's own party to end Conkling's obstructionism. Their motivation was frankly partisan, but their action nevertheless had the effect of upholding the principle Hayes repeatedly enunciated.

The Democrats provoked the second battle by attempting to repeal or restrict the president's power to enforce the Federal Elections Law of 1871. This statute provided for the appointment of federal supervisors in congressional districts where there were allegations of irregularity in the conduct of elections. To guarantee that the supervisors would not be impeded in the performance of their duties, they could call on the local United States marshal to deploy as many deputies as the situation required. The law had been invoked not only in the South but in various large northern cities, notably New York, where Tammany Hall had engaged in massive vote fraud in 1868.

The Democrats' strategy was to attach riders to needed appropriation bills in the House of Representatives in the belief that they could then compel the Republican Senate to accept their terms. They first tried this ploy during the hectic last days of the electoral dispute. The House added to the army appropriation bill a rider that prohibited the use of any funds to support the claims of the Republican state governments in Louisiana and South Carolina. The Senate removed the rider, necessitating a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two houses. The Democratic members of the committee refused to modify their version, and Congress adjourned without the appropriation being approved. This forced Hayes to call a special session in October 1877. By then, of course, the matter of the state governments had been resolved, and an appropriation was more easily adopted.

In the short lame-duck session that began in December, after the elections of 1878 had assured the Democrats control of both houses in the next Congress, they renewed their attempt to destroy the last vestiges of Reconstruction. The House appended to several fiscal 1879 appropriation bills riders repealing the elections law, a measure that permitted the president to employ the army to maintain order at the polls, and the jurors' test oath that barred former Confederates from service on federal juries. The Senate refused to concur, and again Congress adjourned without breaking the deadlock.

Hayes immediately called a special session of the new Forty-sixth Congress for March 1879. With the Senate no longer Republican, the president himself became the key to resisting the Democratic effort to turn back the clock. The Democratic majorities were slender, so it was certain that a veto could not be overridden. But would the Democrats then force parts of the government to shut down in order to get their way?

Hayes readily admitted that the jurors' test oath had outlived its usefulness and that the other statutes in question might legitimately be revised. However, he opposed outright repeal of the elections law and insisted that the federal government had the same obligation to safeguard the polls in congressional elections that the states had in other contests. The Democrats countered that the Constitution made the conduct of all elections primarily a problem for state regulation. Above all, Hayes was determined never to yield to the Democratic scheme to coerce him into accepting provisions of which he disapproved by holding hostage the appropriations needed to operate the government.

In late April, Congress passed an army bill with a rider barring any civil or military official from protecting federal elections from fraud or violence. Hayes returned the bill with a strongly worded veto. Two weeks later, Congress made the same objectionable provisions the subject of a separate bill, which Hayes also vetoed. At the end of May the Democrats in Congress tried again, using an omnibus bill appropriating funds for the executive, judicial, and legislative branches. This time they attached riders that permitted federal supervisors and deputy marshals to observe the conduct of congressional elections but denied them the authority either to prevent fraud and violence or to punish violations of the law after they had occurred. Again, Hayes responded with a veto.

During the last week of June, with the new fiscal year only a few days off, the logjam finally began to break. Congress sent Hayes a bill for the judicial branch alone that repealed the jurors' test oath and forbade any payments to deputy marshals for enforcing the elections law. Refusing to back down, Hayes fired off another veto message. In the meantime, the Democrats passed separate bills for the executive and legislative branches and for the army. They contained no riders, and Hayes signed them into law. Next he signed a revised bill for the judiciary that repealed the jurors' oath and simply omitted any appropriation for the marshals. He had already indicated his willingness to see the oath dispensed with, so the element of coercion was no longer involved.

In a last defiant gesture before adjourning on 30 June, Congress adopted a separate appropriation bill for the federal marshals that again restricted their use in connection with elections. Once more Hayes vetoed it. As late as May 1880, Congress passed the same bill for the marshals, and Hayes predictably sent it back. Only then did he get an unrestricted appropriation. In the end, the president obtained everything that he wanted, demonstrating that it was possible, by being steadfast, to uphold the independence of the executive branch.

Rethinking Indian Policy

When Hayes was in the White House, the northeastern quarter of the United States was entering the period of its most rapid urban and industrial development. By contrast, the western half of the country was still being staked out. Settlement by ranchers and farmers inevitably meant clashes with nomadic Indians. The annihilation of Custer's regiment at the Little Big Horn dominated the news soon after Hayes's nomination for the presidency. His first year in office witnessed the defeat of the Sioux, mostly by starvation, and the long pursuit of Chief Joseph and his Nez Percé across a thousand miles of the northern Rockies in desperate flight toward refuge in Canada. The next fall the northern Cheyenne slipped away from the army in the Indian Territory in a futile effort to return to their ancestral hunting grounds.

Hayes and Secretary of the Interior Schurz inherited the policy of concentrating the western tribes on compact reservations, but soon came to believe that more humane methods of dealing with the Indians had to be found. Their sympathies were aroused in part by the disaster Schurz unwittingly inflicted upon the eight-hundred-member Ponca tribe. The Grant administration had, by mistake, given the agricultural Ponca's land in Dakota Territory to the Sioux. Schurz ordered the forcible removal of the Poncas to a small tract in the Indian Territory. Numerous members of the tribe died en route. Upon arrival at their strange destination, the survivors found both the climate and the land unsuitable. They, too, tried unsuccessfully to return home.

Genuinely committed to better treatment of Indians, Schurz appointed a commission to investigate the conduct of the Indian Bureau (now Bureau of Indian Affairs). The commission predictably found a pattern of cheating the Indians by unscrupulous agents, compounded by sloppy accounting and inadequate supervision. Schurz moved quickly to remedy the situation. He instituted a code of regulations for bureau employees, revised reporting and accounting systems, ordered unannounced inspections, and for the first time required traders to be licensed and bonded. Because Schurz was the most vigorous of the cabinet secretaries in implementing Hayes's civil service reforms, the caliber of bureau personnel improved. Schurz also supported the experiments in Indian education conducted at Hampton Institute by Richard Henry Pratt, which led to the establishment of the Carlisle Indian School in 1879. When opponents of the new peaceful emphasis sought to transfer the bureau back to the War Department, Schurz helped organize the coalition in the Senate that staved off the move. Thereafter the Interior Department was unquestionably preeminent in determining policies toward the Indians.

In 1881, Helen Hunt Jackson published her stirring protest against American mistreatment of the Indians, A Century of Dishonor. Her interest in the subject had first been awakened by the plight of the Poncas, and Schutz fared badly in her interpretation. Her criticism was largely undeserved. Schurz had long been in correspondence with many of the eastern humanitarians who preceded Jackson in their concern. In 1879 and 1880 he undertook two lengthy inspection tours of western reservations to ascertain firsthand what he was dealing with. But it was easier to see the shortcomings in federal policies than to know how to change them. Schurz deserves credit for initiating the process of reform. President Hayes supported him throughout and used his annual messages to Congress to lobby for Indian citizenship, individual farm ownership, and the education of Indian children in American methods of agriculture. Hayes and Schurz thus pointed the way toward the positive, nonexpropriatory aspects of the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887. At the same time, they did not foresee, and probably would not have understood, the negative effects of acculturation.

A Limited Diplomacy

Hayes's presidency was a quiescent period in American foreign relations. The State Department employed only fifty-one people in Washington, from assistant secretaries to clerks. The armed forces were maintained on a similar scale. Congress in 1877 imposed a limit of twenty-five thousand officers and men on the army and seventy-five hundred on the navy. The largely wooden fleet would have been ill matched against some Latin American nations. The country felt so secure behind its ocean frontiers that Hayes used the secretaryship of the navy for his only fully political cabinet appointment: Richard W. Thompson of Indiana, derided as "the ancient mariner of the Wabash," although a decent executive, knew nothing of ships or strategy. Secretary of State Evarts devoted his energies principally to upgrading the quality of the foreign service and improving its efficiency in handling routine matters. He required consuls to study the language and history of their host countries. He also instructed them to gather detailed economic statistics, which were then made available monthly to American merchants and manufacturers in hopes of stimulating increased exports of American products to Europe, Latin America, and Asia.

Only three diplomatic issues of consequence arose in the late 1870s. The most serious dispute was with Mexico. Shortly before Hayes became president, Porfirio Díaz seized power in Mexico City but was unable immediately to extend his control throughout the country. Marauding Indians took advantage of the situation to conduct raids into western Texas and southeastern New Mexico. As a consequence, Evarts and Hayes refused to recognize the Díaz government, while Secretary of War George McCrary authorized army units in Texas to pursue bandits across the border. Unfortunately, no action was better calculated to awaken Mexican fears of further territorial aggrandizement by the United States. Not until April 1878 did Evarts reverse himself and recognize Díaz. Even then, it took another year for Díaz to suppress the border raids and two years for McCrary to withdraw his offensive order. Thereafter, a mutual interest in the economic development of Mexico gradually drew the two countries closer together.

A similar truculence characterized the American response to Ferdinand de Lesseps' French Panama Canal Company. This time Hayes himself set the tone, telling Congress in a special message of March 1880 that "the policy of this country is a canal under American control." He explained that the canal would be "virtually a part of the coastline of the United States," which was emerging as a two-ocean power. Yet Hayes simultaneously opposed any attempt by the American government to build an isthmian waterway, preferring that it be strictly a private undertaking. Because the French government also declined to involve itself directly, that is what de Lesseps' project became. In need of vast sums of capital, the French promoter then began to sell stock to American investors. To this end he hired Navy Secretary Thompson as the chairman of the American Committee of his Panama Canal Company. A chagrined Hayes was forced to dismiss his wayward cabinet adviser. The staunch nationalism Hayes displayed in this episode was at once a logical extension of past American continental expansion and a forerunner of the more active involvement in world affairs that future Republican presidents would pursue.

Hayes devoted many of his official addresses to the need to overcome sectional and racial prejudices. The problem did not extend just to the South. In 1876, in response to growing agitation in California and Oregon, both major party platforms demanded strict limitations on Chinese immigration. Chinese laborers had built most of the railroads on the west coast and were currently employed in diking and draining the Sacramento delta to create some of California's richest farmland, but that did not endear them to workers of European descent. In 1879, Congress passed a law setting a limit of fifteen Chinese immigrants on any single ship, thus directly contravening the terms of the Burlingame Treaty of 1868, which permitted unrestricted immigration. As he did on other occasions when Congress overstepped its bounds and intruded upon presidential authority; Hayes vetoed the bill. Evarts then sent a commission to China to negotiate both a commercial treaty and an agreement under which the Chinese regulated the immigration of laborers to the United States according to American wishes. Both compacts were ratified shortly before Hayes left office. The effect, of course, was to uphold the sanctity of treaties rather than to protect the equality of peoples.


Considered altogether, the achievements of the Hayes administration were not dramatic. Hayes had not previously been involved in national politics in an important way. He accepted the Republican presidential nomination more as a rare personal honor than as an opportunity to carry into effect a particular agenda. Once elected, he assumed the leadership of a government that, following the failure of Reconstruction, had already retreated to playing a more limited role in the lives of the American people, and he saw no reason to reverse that trend. As he noted in his diary, "We are in a period when old questions are settled, and the new are not yet brought forward." Rather, he contented himself with enhancing the efficiency with which the government carried out the limited functions of the past. Thus, he appointed a strong cabinet loyal to his own views and devoted his attention to such matters as reforming the civil service, resolving the conflict over the southern state governments, and battling for his own understanding of a sound currency. Limited government did not imply a passive presidency, as the many clashes with Congress over the respective prerogatives of the executive and legislative branches showed.

Hayes characteristically pledged in his letter of acceptance to serve only one term. At the end of four years he was satisfied that his performance as chief executive had strengthened his party and enhanced public esteem for the office he held. After James A. Garfield had been nominated by the Republican party to succeed him (Hayes approved of this choice, although he had personally preferred Secretary of the Treasury Sherman), he embarked upon a twoand-a-half-month cross-country excursion to California, Puget Sound, and Santa Fe via railroad, steamship, stagecoach, army ambulance, ferryboat, and yacht. This was the grandest by far of a series of tours, designed to promote national unity, that had taken the president into the Deep South, up to northern New England, and across the Midwest as far as the Dakota Territory to see the wheat harvest.

He returned from the west coast just in time to cast his vote for Garfield. His fellow Ohioan was elected in another close contest, and the Republicans regained control of both houses of Congressa result for which Hayes rightly believed he deserved some credit. Hayes retired to the life of a private citizen in Fremont, Ohio, as comfortable with his term in office as perhaps any president since. His health was still excellent, and he became the most active former chief executive prior to Jimmy Carter, devoting himself to civic affairshigher education, prison reform, and veterans reunionsuntil three days before his death, of a heart attack, on 17 January 1893.


Ari Hoogenboom, Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior and President (Lawrence, Kans., 1995), is the best biography of the nineteenth president, as Hoogenboom's The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes (Lawrence, Kans., 1988), is the best overall account of his administration. Arthur Bishop, ed., Rutherford B. Hayes, 18221893 (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., 1969), contains a useful chronology of Hayes's life and lengthy excerpts from his most important state papers. T. Harry Williams, ed., Hayes: The Diary of a President, 18751881 (New York, 1964), affords the best insight into his character and personality.

Keith Ian Polakoff, The Politics of Inertia: The Election of 1876 and the End of Reconstruction (Baton Rouge, La., 1973), details the disputed election of 1876 and its settlement. William Gillette, Retreat from Reconstruction, 18691879 (Baton Rouge, La., 1979), is critical of Hayes's southern policy. Terry L. Seip, The South Returns to Congress: Men, Economic Measures, and Intersectional Relationships, 18681879 (Baton Rouge, La., 1983), compares the voting records of southern Democrats and Republicans of the Reconstruction era. James M. McPherson, "Coercion or Conciliation? Abolitionists Debate President Hayes's Southern Policy," in New England Quarterly 39 (1966), illustrates how frustrating this intractable problem could be for those who cared deeply about it. Vincent P. De Santis, Republicans Face the Southern Question: The New Departure Years, 18771897 (Baltimore, 1959), is an excellent account of the Republican attempts to find a substitute for their failed Reconstruction program.

Ari Hoogenboom, Outlawing the Spoils: A History of the Civil Service Reform Movement, 18651883 (Urbana, Ill., 1961), is the best general account of the civil service reform movement from 1865 through the passage of the Pendleton Act in 1883. John G. Sproat, The Best Men: Liberal Reformers in the Gilded Age (New York, 1968), incisively analyzes the liberal reformers who had so much influence on Hayes. Hans L. Trefousse, Carl Schurz: A Biography (Knoxville, Tenn., 1982), is an excellent biography of the cabinet member closest to Hayes. David M. Jordan, Roscoe Conkling of New York: Voice in the Senate (Ithaca, N.Y., 1971), ably portrays one of Hayes's principal opponents.

Robert V. Bruce, 1877: Year of Violence (Indianapolis, Ind., 1959), is a lively account of the great railroad strike. Walter T. K. Nugent, Money and American Society, 18651880 (New York, 1968), presents the most lucid account of the currency debates after the Civil War. Milton Plesur, America's Outward Thrust: Approaches to Foreign Affairs, 18651890 (DeKalb, Ill., 1971), treats Hayes as one of the forerunners of the more aggressive McKinley and Roosevelt.

Recent works include Ari Hoogenboom, Rutherford B. Hayes: One of the Good Colonels (Abilene, Tex., 2000), and Hans L. Trefousse, Rutherford B. Hayes (New York, 2002).

Hayes, Rutherford B.

views updated May 23 2018

19 Rutherford B. Hayes

Excerpt from his Inaugural Address

Given on March 5, 1877; reprinted on Bartleby.com (Web site)

The winner of a controversial election officially greets the nation as president

"Only a local government which recognizes and maintains inviolate the rights of all is a true self-government.…"

Ohio governor Rutherford B. Hayes (1822–1893) went to bed election night believing he had lost the 1876 race for the presidency. Hayes, a Republican, seemed to hopelessly trail Democratic New York governor Samuel J. Tilden (1814–1886) in the electoral college, the group of state-selected delegates who actually pick the president. But Hayes's strongest supporters were not ready to give up. One of them, former U.S. congressman Daniel E. Sickles (1819–1914) of New York, sent urgent telegrams that night to Republican leaders in South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, and Oregon, historian Ari Hoogenboom wrote in The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes. "With your state sure for Hayes, he is elected. Hold your state," the telegrams read. By three o'clock in the morning, Sickles heard back from Daniel H. Chamberlain (1835–1907), governor of South Carolina, where federal troops had been stationed for the past month to prevent the intimidation of African American voters. "All right," Chamberlain responded. "South Carolina is for Hayes. Need more troops. Communication with interior cut off by mobs."

The First Florida Election Fiasco

The 1876 election was not just a battle for the White House. In Florida and several other Southern states, it was a struggle for the governor's mansion—and thus the political control of the state. Throughout the South, local Democrats were building up the political strength to vote out the unpopular Republican carpetbaggers, Northerners who supported the Reconstruction efforts to ensure equal rights for African Americans. That struggle in Florida pitted Republican governor Marcellus Lovejoy Stearns (1839–1891) against Democratic challenger George Franklin Drew (1827–1900).

With the stakes so high, it is not surprising that both sides tried to manipulate the outcome of the 1876 election in Florida. Ballots for the Democratic candidates were printed with Republican symbols to trick illiterate voters (those who could not read or write) who wanted to vote for the Republican candidate, as noted in Ari Hoogenboom's The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes. Both sides stuffed extra ballots into the boxes, and election officials delayed the results from faraway precincts so the numbers could be changed, if needed. In the 1888 book Carpet-Bag Rule in Florida, former state senator John Wallace described how many African American Republican voters followed instructions to "vote early and often":

From the Georgia line to the capital [of Tallahassee] was a distance of twenty miles, with three or four precincts [election districts] between those points. They started early in the morning and voted at every precinct on that line of march to the capital, and each time the same man would vote under an assumed name. It can be fairly estimated that at least five hundred votes were secured in Leon county alone by this method.

In precincts overrun by fraud, the votes from the entire polling place were thrown out. The Republican officials in Florida threw out the right combination of precinct returns to give a nine-hundred-vote lead to Republican presidential candidate Rutherford B. Hayes. Those votes from Florida, along with disputed votes in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Oregon, clinched the presidency for Hayes. "With fraud rampant [widespread], it is impossible to determine who would have won a fair election," Hoogenboom wrote.

Ironically, Florida found itself at the center of another disputed presidential election in 2000, when Republican candidate George W. Bush (1946–) and Democratic challenger Al Gore (1948–) were separated by several hundred votes in the state that would decide the presidency. In a couple of counties, a confusing ballot design was blamed by thousands of Gore supporters who said they accidentally voted for another candidate. Contributing to the controversy were the "punch card ballots" in which voters used a metal-tipped pen to punch a hole next to their candidate's name. Officials debated how to count ballots that had not been entirely punched through, but only dented. Ultimately the dispute landed in the U.S. Supreme Court, which found in favor of Bush.

So began the contested election of 1876, an unusual chapter in American political history that would bring an end to Reconstruction (1865–77), the difficult efforts to re-shape the South after the American Civil War (1861–65) with equal rights for ex-slaves. It would take months to untangle the election controversy, amid allegations of voter intimidation, ballot box-stuffing, and other charges (see box). In the meantime, Southern leaders used their votes as bargaining chips, offering their support in exchange for a new Reconstruction policy that would allow Southern whites to resume control of their states. Ultimately a panel of Supreme Court justices and congressmen would vote 8-7, along party lines, to reward the disputed votes in South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, and Oregon to Hayes, giving the Republican the exact number of votes he needed to clinch the presidency.

Born and raised on an Ohio farm, Hayes graduated from Harvard Law School and defended captured runaway slaves during the 1850s. He joined the Union army when the Civil War broke out, and he was wounded five times before his honorable discharge as a major general. After the war, he spent two years in Congress supporting the Radical Republican Reconstruction efforts to rebuild the South with equal rights for African Americans. Later, as governor of Ohio, he helped establish Ohio State University and secure the approval of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing African American men had the right to vote (see Chapter 16).

At the 1876 Republican Party convention, Hayes originally ranked fifth among the men seeking the presidential nomination. But he became the compromise candidate, an acceptable second-choice among the party's various factions. Ethical and reform-minded, Hayes promised to be an improvement over the scandal-ridden administration of President Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885; served 1869–77), a fellow Republican (see Chapter 17). As part of his campaign, Hayes promised to give white Southerners greater control over their governments once it was clear the rights of African Americans would be respected.

Reconstruction was a bitter period for many in the South. Under the Reconstruction Act of 1867 (see Chapter 10), Congress gave Southern African American men the right to vote and hold office, but barred certain ex-Confederates from doing the same. Carpet-baggers, the name for Northerners who entered Southern politics, became hated figures as they pushed for African Americans' rights (and, according to suspicious Southerners, manipulated African American voters for their own gain; see Chapter 14). Some angry whites joined groups like the Ku Klux Klan (see Chapter 15), a group endorsing white supremacy, to intimidate African Americans from voting or holding office. This only lengthened the stay of federal troops sent to the South to try to maintain peace.

By 1876, much of the country had grown weary of Reconstruction. Most white Southerners still resented the federal presence in their states, and a growing number of Northerners felt the policy was too harsh. Hayes wanted a "peaceful Reconstruction" that would give white Southerners a greater hand in rebuilding their region while protecting the hard-won equal rights for African Americans. But the contested election of 1876 sped up his plans: In a behind-the-scenes deal referred to as the Compromise of 1877, the contested states threw their votes behind Hayes in return for promises that federal troops would be removed from the South.

John Mercer Langston (1829–1897), an ex-slave from Virginia who served one term in the U.S. Senate, believed Hayes's peaceful Reconstruction plan would be an "inestimable [countless] blessing" for African Americans, according to an 1877 speech reprinted in Reconstruction: Opposing Viewpoints. Langston believed the removal of federal troops would dissolve the hard feelings between African Americans and whites, allowing everyone to pursue their lives in peace. "Relieved from too pressing and absorbing political excitement, he [the African American man] will cultivate industry more thoroughly and advantageously, locate his family, educate his children, accumulate wealth, and improve himself in all those things which pertain to dignified life," Langston said.

But that feeling was hardly universal. Chamberlain, the South Carolina governor who pledged his state to Hayes, only to lose his own reelection, called Hayes's compromise an "overthrow" of the Reconstruction state governments, according to an 1877 speech reprinted in Reconstruction: Opposing Viewpoints. "It consists in the abandonment of … the colored race to the control and rule … of that class at the South which regarded slavery as a Divine Institution, which waged four years of destructive war for its perpetuation [continuation], which steadily opposed citizenship and suffrage [voting rights] for the negro.…"

Hayes knew the plan would be controversial. But after a decade of Reconstruction efforts that saw increasing resentment and violence, he was convinced it was time for a change. In his Inaugural Address, delivered three days after the contested election was officially called in his favor, Hayes hoped to reassure the South of his friendly intentions. He believed everyone would benefit under a government that made African Americans and whites equal partners, without the weight of federal intrusion. He hoped the rights of African Americans would remain protected under such an arrangement.

Things to remember while reading an excerpt from Hayes's Inaugural Address:

  • After the Civil War, the South went through a tense Reconstruction period. Congress gave Southern African American men the right to vote and hold office, but barred certain ex-Confederates from doing the same. The presence of federal troops to enforce these changes only added to the feeling that the North was forcibly imposing a new order on the South.
  • Hayes, a major general in the Union army during the war, opposed slavery and supported equal rights for African Americans. He wanted to make sure African Americans' rights to vote, hold office, and participate in society remained intact.
  • A dispute over all the votes in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Florida, as well as one vote in Oregon, threw the 1876 election into chaos. While Hayes and his opponent, Samuel J. Tilden, both claimed the electoral college votes from those states, local leaders used the votes as bargaining chips. In a behind-the-scenes deal known as the Compromise of 1877, those states threw their support behind Hayes in exchange for a promise to remove federal troops from the South.

Excerpt from Hayes's Inaugural Address


We have assembled to repeat the public ceremonial, begun by Washington, observed by all mypredecessors, and now a time-honored custom, which marks thecommencement of a new term of the Presidential office. Called to the duties of this great trust, I proceed, incompliance withusage, to announce some of the leading principles, on the subjects that now chieflyengage the public attention.…

Many of thecalamitous efforts of the tremendous revolution which has passed over the Southern States still remain. Theimmeasurable benefits which will surely follow, sooner or later, the hearty and generous acceptance of thelegitimate results of that revolution have not yet beenrealized. Difficult and embarrassing questions meet us at thethreshold of this subject. The people of those States are stillimpoverished, and theinestimable blessing of wise, honest, and peaceful local self-government is not fully enjoyed. Whatever difference of opinion may exist as to the cause of this condition ofthings, the fact is clear that in the progress of events the time has come when such government is theimperative necessity required by all the varied interests, public and private, of those States. But it must not be forgotten that only a local government which recognizes and maintainsinviolate the rights of all is a true self-government.

With respect to the two distinct races whosepeculiar relations to each other have brought upon us thedeplorable complications andperplexities which exist in those States, it must be a government which guards the interests of both races carefully and equally. It must be a government which submits loyally and heartily to the Constitution and the laws—the laws of the nation and the laws of the States them-selves—accepting and obeying faithfully the whole Constitution as it is.

Resting upon this sure andsubstantial foundation, thesuper-structure ofbeneficent local governments can be built up, and not otherwise. Infurtherance of such obedience to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, and in behalf of all that itsattainment implies, all so-called party interests lose their apparent importance, and party lines may well be permitted to fade intoinsignificance. The question we have to consider for the immediate welfare of those States of the Union is the question of government or no government; of social order and all the peaceful industries and the happiness that belongs to it, or a return tobarbarism. It is a question in which every citizen of the nation is deeply interested, and with respect to which we ought not to be, in apartisan sense, either Republicans or Democrats, but fellow-citizens and fellowmen, to whom the interests of a common country and a commonhumanity are dear.

The sweeping revolution of the entire labor system of a large portion of our country and the advance of four million people from a condition of servitude to that of citizenship, upon an equalfooting with their former masters, could not occur without presenting problems of thegravest moment, to be dealt with by theemancipated race, by their former masters, and by the General Government, the author of the act of emancipation. That it was a wise, just, andprovidential act,fraught with good for all concerned, is not generallyconceded throughout the country. That a moral obligation rests upon the National Government toemploy its constitutional power and influence to establish the rights of the people it has emancipated, and to protect them in the enjoyment of those rights when they areinfringed orassailed, is also generally admitted.

The evils which afflict the Southern States can only be removed orremedied by the united andharmonious efforts of both races,actuated by motives ofmutual sympathy and regard; and while in duty bound and fully determined to protect the rights of all by every constitutional means at thedisposal of my Administration, I am sincerely anxious to use every legitimate influence in favor of honest and efficient local self -government as the true resource of those States for the promotion of thecontentment andprosperity of their citizens. In the effort I shall make to accomplish this purpose I ask thecordial cooperation of all whocherish an interest in the welfare of the country, trusting that party ties and the prejudice of race will be freely surrendered in behalf of the great purpose to be accomplished. In the important work of restoring the South it is not the political situation alone that merits attention. Thematerial development of that section of the country has beenarrested by the social and political revolution through which it has passed, and now needs and deserves the considerate care of the National Government within the just limits prescribed by the Constitution and wise public economy.

But at the basis of all prosperity, for that as well as for every other part of the country, lies the improvement of the intellectual and moral condition of the people. Universalsuffrage should rest upon universal education. To this end,liberal and permanentprovision should be made for the support of free schools by the State governments, and, if need be, supplemented by legitimate aid from national authority.

Let me assure my countrymen of the Southern States that it is myearnest desire to regard and promote their truest interest—the interests of the white and of the colored people both and equally—and to put forth my best efforts in behalf of a civil policy which will forever wipe out in our political affairs the color line and the distinction between North and South, to the end that we may have not merely a united North or a united South, but a united country.…

What happened next …

Not long after Hayes's speech, federal troops left the South. The move signaled "the peaceful lapse of the whole South into the control of whites," as noted in Reconstruction in Retrospect: Views from the Turn of the Century. While African American men still had the right to vote under the Fifteenth Amendment, Southern states came up with clever ways to keep African Americans away from the polls. Sometimes they put the polling places twenty or forty miles away from African American communities. Or they put the polling place in an area only reachable by boats, and had all boats out for repair on election day. Or a group of whites would stage time-consuming arguments at the polling places, ending just in time for the whites to cast their ballots before the precinct closed to the African Americans waiting in line behind them.

Southerners quickly learned these tricky methods worked. Unlike Klan violence against African American voters, these methods sparked little outrage in the North. In the meantime, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875 (see Chapter 18), which had required restaurants, hotels, railroads, and other businesses to treat African Americans the same as whites. Reconstruction was unraveling, but there was little agreement in Washington about what—if anything—to do about it. By the late 1870s, Democrats and Republicans split control of Congress and the White House, and neither one had enough power to push through a new policy. As noted in Reconstruction in Retrospect: Views from the Turn of the Century, "the legislative deadlock had for its general result a policy of noninterference by the national government, and the whites were left to work out in their own way the ends they had in view."

Thousands of African Americans decided to try their luck elsewhere. In A Narrative of the Negro, Leila Amos Pendleton (1860–c. 1930) wrote that about sixty thousand African Americans left the South in 1879. Many went to Kansas, where the Kansas Freedman's Relief Association helped provide food, clothing, and other supplies until the newcomers got settled. "With the end of Republican power came the end of anything like justice to the Negro," Pendleton wrote. Nearly a century would pass before the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s would resume the push for racial equality.

Did you know …

  • First lady Lucy Webb Hayes (1831–1889) was a devout Methodist who believed strongly in temperance, or the avoidance of alcohol. She refused to serve alcohol at any White House functions—earning her the nickname "Lemonade Lucy"—which was applauded by other members of the temperance movement. The movement achieved its goal in 1919 with the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting the manufacture and sale of liquor. The unpopular amendment was repealed in 1933 by the Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution.
  • Ballot box–stuffing was a common practice in the late 1800s because there were no rules about the size or shape of ballots. This allowed dishonest voters to make a dozen or so mini ballots out of tissue paper, then slip them into the large folded ballot they dropped in the ballot box. Officials had an impossible task of identifying the fake ballots, as some people claimed the tissue ballots were given to African American men so they could vote for the Democratic ticket without drawing attention to themselves. As noted in "The Undoing of Reconstruction," one South Carolina precinct saw 1,163 ballots cast in an 1878 election where only 620 voters existed. The first 620 ballots pulled out by a blindfolded man determined the winner.
  • Daniel E. Sickles, the Republican who sparked the 1876 disputed election with his late-night telegrams to several key states, earned one other eyebrow-raising spot in history. In 1859, Sickles murdered Philip Barton Key (1818–1859), the son of "Star-Spangled Banner" lyricist Francis Scott Key (1779–1843), after learning the younger Key was having an affair with his wife. A jury found Sickles not guilty of murder, however, after his attorney argued Sickles was "temporarily insane"—the first successful use of that controversial defense.

Consider the following …

  • What did Hayes hope to accomplish by "peaceful Reconstruction?" Do you think his hopes were realistic?
  • How did some whites prevent African Americans from voting?
  • What kind of a Reconstruction policy would you recommend for the South after the Civil War?

For More Information

Dunning, William A. "The Undoing of Reconstruction." In Reconstruction in Retrospect: Views from the Turn of the Century. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1969.

Franklin, John Hope. Reconstruction: After the Civil War. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1961.

Hoogenboom, Ari. The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988.

Pendleton, Leila Amos. A Narrative of the Negro. Washington, DC: Press of R. L. Pendleton, 1912. Also available at Documenting the American South: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.http://docsouth.unc.edu/pendleton/menu.html (accessed on September 20, 2004).

"Rutherford B. Hayes: Inaugural Address." Bartleby.com.http://www.bartleby.com/124/pres35.html (accessed on September 20, 2004).

Stalcup, Brenda, ed. Reconstruction: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1995.

Wallace, John. Carpet-Bag Rule in Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1964 [a facsimile reproduction of the 1888 edition].

Predecessors: Those who previously held the office.

Commencement: Beginning.

Compliance: Agreement.

Usage: Custom.

Engage: Occupy.

Calamitous: Disastrous.

Immeasurable: Endless.

Legitimate: Lawful.

Realized: Achieved.

Threshold: Beginning point.

Impoverished: Deprived.

Inestimable: Countless.

Imperative: Urgent.

Inviolate: Unbroken.

Peculiar: Special.

Deplorable: Regrettable.

Perplexities: Uncertainties.

Substantial: Large.

Superstructure: Structure built on the foundation.

Beneficent: Good.

Furtherance: Promotion.

Attainment: Accomplishment.

Insignificance: Obscurity.

Barbarism: Brutality.

Partisan: Political.

Humanity: Humanness.

Footing: Position.

Gravest: Most serious.

Emancipated: Freed.

Providential: Divinely guided.

Fraught: Filled.

Conceded: Agreed.

Employ: Use.

Infringed: Violated.

Assailed: Attacked.

Remedied: Corrected.

Harmonious: Like-minded.

Actuated: Put into action.

Mutual: Common.

Disposal: Availability.

Contentment: Happiness.

Prosperity: Success.

Cordial: Friendly.

Cherish: Hold dear.

Material: Business.

Arrested: Halted.

Suffrage: Voting rights.

Liberal: Generous.

Provision: Arrangements.

Earnest: Sincere.

Hayes, Rutherford B.

views updated May 29 2018

Rutherford B. Hayes

Born October 4, 1822
Delaware, Ohio

Died January 17, 1893
Fremont, Ohio

U.S. president and U.S. general

"[Here] we are, Republicans, Democrats, colored people, white people, Confederate soldiers, and Union soldiers, all of one mind and one heart today! And why should we not be? What is there to separate us any longer?"

Rutherford B. Hayes presided over the end of the Reconstruction era (1865–77). During his administration, a poor American economy improved and much needed reform was brought to the federal government. But Hayes had a frustrating presidency. It began with a bitter election dispute that was finally settled more than three months after election day and only two days before Hayes took office. Conflict between North and South, Republican and Democrat, made it impossible for Hayes to have a successful administration, even though he proved trustworthy, optimistic, and fair-minded.

Studies and practices law

Rutherford Birchard Hayes was born on October 4, 1822, in Delaware, Ohio. He was the youngest of three children of Rutherford and Sophia Hayes, who had moved their family from Vermont to Ohio in 1817 for new opportunities. Hayes's uncle, Sardis Birchard, accompanied the family to Ohio. Hayes's father bought farmland and built a farmhouse while the family lived in the town of Delaware. Hayes's father became a successful farmer, but he died after contracting malaria (an infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes) two months before Hayes was born. Hayes's mother rented the farm to ensure a steady income.

Meanwhile, Hayes's Uncle Sardis became a wealthy banker and paid for a private education for Hayes beginning at age nine. Before then, Hayes had been a sickly child. An excellent student, Hayes went on to Kenyon College in Ohio, where he graduated first in his class in 1842. He began studying law at a firm in Columbus, Ohio, before moving on to Harvard Law School. After graduating from Harvard in 1845, Hayes returned to Ohio and began a practice in East Sandusky with the help of his uncle.

Hayes was not as dedicated to practicing law as he was to his hobbies. He enjoyed travel and reading, particularly works of literature and natural science, and became a local leader in the successful campaign to change the name of the town from East Sandusky to Fremont. In 1846, at age twenty-four, he became friends with Lucy Webb, a bright fifteen-year-old who was allowed to study at the all-male Wesleyan College (now Ohio Wesleyan University). Her two older brothers attended the school, and Lucy had greatly impressed instructors there during a couple of class visits. Hayes met Lucy at a popular swimming spot on the campus. He later recalled in a diary entry that she was a "bright, sunny-hearted little girl, not quite old enough to fall in love with."

Hayes moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1849 and became more focused on law. He also paid a visit to the Webb family, who had moved to Cincinnati so the brothers could attend medical school and Lucy could complete her education at Wesleyan Female Academy. Hayes began courting Lucy, who by then had turned eighteen. They were married in 1852 and would have eight children.

Becomes politically active

Hayes had a thriving law practice in Cincinnati. He began defending runaway slaves who were pursued into Ohio by slave masters, as allowed by the Fugitive Slave Law that was part of the Compromise of 1850. Hayes joined the Republican Party, which was formed in 1854 to attract those who opposed the expansion of slavery or who wanted the institution completely abolished. Beginning in 1858, Hayes served as a lawyer for the Cincinnati City Council, and in 1860 he worked with the campaign of Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865; served 1861-65), who won the presidential election that year.

When the Civil War (1861–65) began, Hayes organized a small group of men and led them in military drills. He was soon appointed major of the Twenty-third Ohio Infantry (foot soldiers). Hayes proved to be an excellent military leader and a brave soldier. He led nine companies of soldiers to safety after they were overwhelmed in a surprise attack in Parisburg, Virginia. He commanded a military unit that held its ground against an attack led by Confederate War general Robert E. Lee (1807–1870; see Confederate Leaders entry). Hayes was severely wounded in the battle and needed several weeks to heal. Lucy Hayes traveled hundreds of miles to be with her husband. She became a nurse for Union soldiers, who commonly called her "Mother Lucy." Hayes was wounded four more times during the war, but he was still fighting when it ended in April 1865. At the end of the war, he was leading an assault on Confederate troops in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Hayes's bravery was well known in Cincinnati from reports in local newspapers. Even while Hayes was on the battlefield, he was nominated by the Ohio Republican Party to run for Congress. He replied to a request to return home for the election by writing, "I have other business just now." Nevertheless, he easily won election in a district that had previously been a stronghold of Democrats.

Hayes took office after the end of the war in 1865. He supported the Republican Reconstruction policy and headed a committee that secured funds to expand the collection of science books in the Library of Congress. After serving two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Hayes was elected governor of Ohio, a position for which he also served two terms. During his tenure, Ohio enjoyed prosperity and Ohio State University was established.

Hayes planned to retire from public life after his second term as governor, but he was convinced by Republicans to return to Congress. Hayes lost his election bid in 1872 and retired from politics at the age of fifty. He and his family moved to Fremont, Ohio, to live with his uncle, Sardis Birchard. When Birchard died in 1874, Hayes inherited his uncle's wealth and mansion, called Spiegel Grove.

Controversial election

The growing strength of the Democratic Party in Northern states led Ohio Republicans to urge Hayes to run for governor again in 1875. His victory in the election brought national attention, and many Republicans touted him as a presidential candidate for the 1876 election. As a popular and brave Civil War veteran from a key state and having moderate political views, Hayes was acceptable to all factions (groups) of the party. The Republican Party national convention was held in Cincinnati that summer. Hayes's supporters packed the convention area. U.S. representative James G. Blaine (1830–1893) of Maine was favored to win the nomination, but Hayes became the nominee after seven rounds of balloting.

Hayes was opposed in the election by New York governor Samuel J. Tilden (1814–1886; see entry). Tilden had a reputation for fighting corruption, an important quality for a candidate to succeed President Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885; served 1869–77; see entry), whose administration was implicated in many scandals. The election was close: The victor needed 185 electoral votes, and Tilden led Hayes 184–165. However, there were problems with returns from four states, totaling twenty electoral votes; Hayes needed to win all four states, and Tilden only one. The three Southern states—Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina—were under Reconstruction governments (state governments under federal supervision) administered by Republicans. Those states each sent two sets of election returns to Congress, one with Hayes as the winner, another sent by local officials, all of whom were Democrats, that had Tilden as the winner. The Oregon situation, meanwhile, was complicated by the revelation that a presidential elector held a federal office, which violated the Constitution. (See box for more on the Electoral College).

The controversy over the election of 1876 would drag on for months. Democrats were sure Tilden had won, but Republicans were certain that voter fraud and intimidation had occurred in Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina. Holding power in those states, Republicans dismissed results counted by Democrats and declared Hayes the winner (and other state Republican candidates were declared winners as well).

Because of the dispute, a bipartisan (neither wholly Democrat nor Republican) majority in Congress voted to create a special electoral commission to determine which sets of votes should count. The commission was intended to be politically balanced: it consisted of five senators (three Republicans and two Democrats), five representatives (two Republicans and three Democrats), four associate justices of the Supreme Court (two Republicans and two Democrats), and one associate judge to be chosen by the four associate judges already selected. It was widely assumed that the fifth judge was to be David Davis (1815–1886), an independent. But he was elected to a vacant U.S. Senate seat in Illinois and turned down the commission appointment. Joseph P. Bradley (1813–1892) was chosen in his place—a Republican, but one whose record was acceptable to Democrats as well.

The controversy lasted three-and-a-half months. The committee's final votes on the winners in the disputed states went strictly along party lines; eight Republicans voted Hayes the winner, and seven Democrats voted Tilden the winner. By taking the electoral votes of the four remaining states, Hayes was officially declared winner of the 1876 presidential election on March 2, 1877, two days before he was to take the oath of office.

How the Electoral College Works

When the U.S. Constitution was being drafted, delegates devised the Electoral College as a way to entrust the responsibility to the people for electing presidents. The delegates agreed that an election based on the popular vote could easily be influenced by partisan politics. They were also concerned that voters in one state might not be well informed about a candidate from another state.

Since 1961, the total of state and District of Columbia electors has been 538; a simple majority of 270 is necessary for election. The presidential candidate who receives the most votes in a particular state wins all of that state's electoral votes (except for Maine and Nebraska, where electoral votes are awarded for winning a congressional district). The number of electors in each state is equal to the total number of senators and representatives it sends to the U.S. Congress.

Presidential electors are designated by each state legislature. Following a general election on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November every four years, the electors meet to officially record the state's electoral votes. They meet simultaneously in all the states on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December of presidential election years. On January 6, their votes are counted in the presence of both houses of Congress.

Ends Reconstruction

In addition to entering office under a cloud of election controversy and facing the anger of Democrats in Congress, Hayes had limited support within his own party. He had narrowly won the party nomination for president at a divided convention. Nevertheless, Hayes governed effectively. He made strong choices for his cabinet members and immediately tackled the major issue of civil service reform. Government jobs had been routinely awarded to people based on political loyalty, instead of skills. Often, the civil servants spent work time on political causes.

Hayes went after the biggest of these so-called "political machines," the New York Customhouse, which collected huge amounts of tax money. The investigation revealed that the Customhouse was overstaffed, and many of its employees did little work. Hayes was successful in getting mild reforms instituted at the Customhouse.

Hayes then turned his attention to the South, where racial problems and political dominance by Democrats were rampant (numerous and chaotic) a decade since the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the Reconstruction era. Two Southern states, Louisiana and South Carolina, still had Reconstruction governments and federal troops to maintain order. Hayes was able to solve disputes between Republicans and Democrats over the governorships of South Carolina and Louisiana. The Democrat stepped aside in South Carolina, and Hayes responded by removing federal troops and ending Reconstruction in the state. A similar arrangement occurred in Louisiana.

Victory for Hayes

The election of 1876 was held in November. Nearly four months later, Rutherford B. Hayes was declared the winner. A special election commission made up of fifteen members voted 8-7 that Hayes was entitled to electoral votes not yet counted. Those votes provided Hayes with a one-vote margin over his challenger, Samuel J. Tilden. Hayes won the presidency and earned the nickname "Old 8 to 7."

On Saturday, March 3, 1877, one day before the end of the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, Hayes attended a dinner with Grant and Supreme Court Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite (1816–1888). The inauguration was set for the next day, a Sunday, but Hayes refused to violate the Sabbath (a religious vow to refrain from work on a holy day), even to be inaugurated president of the United States. After dinner, Hayes was sworn into office by Judge Waite. On Monday, March 5, 1877, Hayes reaffirmed the presidential oath of office in a public ceremony.

Hayes went on a tour in September 1877 to Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Virginia. He was received warmly by local political and business leaders. In Atlanta, Georgia, he made a public speech on the end of Reconstruction: "[Here] we are, Republicans, Democrats, colored people, white people, Confederate soldiers, and Union soldiers, all of one mind and one heart today! And why should we not be? What is there to separate us any longer?" Despite the hopeful words of the president, racial problems persisted and Democrats dominated the region, in some cases by force and violence.

Meanwhile, Hayes addressed other issues. A weak economy since 1873 had hurt farmers as well as workers in urban areas. Strikes began against the railroad industry, interfering with traffic and construction. The Hayes administration worked as impartially as possible, and strikes were slowly resolved. To help ensure economic stability, Hayes insisted on paying off the national debt. He fought soft money measures passed by the Congress (where money would be printed without its value being backed by gold), which included coining silver as well as gold. Hayes consistently vetoed soft money measures in order to maintain stability in the currency. Congress was only successful once, the 1878 Bland-Allison Act, in overriding Hayes's veto. By then, Hayes's policies had helped turn around economic hard times, and Hayes left behind a good economy when he left office in 1881.

Hayes encountered issues relating to Chinese immigrants and Native Americans. Westerners, particularly in California, feared that Chinese laborers would take jobs away from them. As part of an anti-Chinese backlash in California, a constitutional convention was called to revise the state's constitution. Chinese people, as well as the mentally challenged, mentally ill, and criminals were not allowed to vote, and Chinese were prohibited from public jobs in the state. The laws were struck down, but Congress enacted legislation to limit Chinese immigration. Hayes vetoed the bill. Instead, the Hayes administration negotiated a treaty with China that included a provision through which the United States could regulate, limit, and suspend Chinese immigration, but not prohibit it. In return, the United States pledged not to be a part of the opium (a highly addictive drug) trade into China and prohibited China from importing opium into the United States. The treaty was not approved until Hayes left office, and then Congress moved to suspend Chinese immigration to the United States for ten years anyway.

Relations with Native Americans during Hayes's term were unsettling. The Battle of Little Big Horn, where U.S. general George A. Custer (1839–1876) and his regiment were soundly defeated, occurred in 1876. During Hayes's first year in office, U.S. forces defeated the Sioux and the Nez Percé tribes. Committing to better treatment of Native Americans, the Hayes administration reformed the Indian Bureau (nowBureau of Indian Affairs). In general, official relations between the U.S. government and Native American tribes improved, but the Hayes approach of acculturation (encouraging an ethnic group to abandon its conventional behavior to join a larger culture) found little success.

In foreign policy, Hayes faced few issues. Most notably, Hayes made it a policy that the United States would be involved and would police a proposed canal across Central America. Such a canal had been proposed for decades. In 1881, a French company began working on a canal but stopped because of health problems among the crew and lack of funds. The Panama Canal would finally be built in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Meanwhile, the Hayes family enjoyed life in the White House. The couple had eight children born between 1852 and 1872, five of whom survived to adulthood. Lucy Hayes was known as a good singer, and the family kept many cats, birds, and dogs. The couple celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary while in the White House. As with all social occasions, however, no alcohol was served. Lucy Hayes was a member of the temperance movement that believed in abstinence from alcohol. She was nicknamed Lemonade Lucy for her antialcohol stance while in the White House.


Hayes had promised to serve only one term as president and there was little outcry for him to change his mind. He governed during a period when Congress had assumed political power over the presidency for shaping national policy—the period of Reconstruction onward to 1885. Nevertheless, Hayes had served the nation well, with integrity and quiet accomplishments. He was not successful in securing better race relations, but the problem was more national in scope: Whites were reasserting authority in the South after Reconstruction ended, settlers were eroding Native American territories in the west, and Californians were limiting opportunities to Asians. The economy was strengthened during his term.

Before leaving office, Hayes and his wife took a cross-country journey, visiting New Mexico territory and going on to California, then north to Washington. To make the journey, the Hayeses used railroad, steamship, stagecoach, army ambulance, ferryboat, and yacht. After leaving office at age fifty-eight, Hayes retired to Fremont, Ohio. Hayes and his wife remained active at the local level in issues relating to higher education, prison reform, and assistance to Civil War veterans. Hayes died on January 17, 1893, and is buried alongside his wife at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont.

For More Information


Davison, Kenneth E. The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1972.

Hoogenboom, Ari Arthur. The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988.

Otfinoski, Steven. Rutherford B. Hayes: America's 19th President. New York: Children's Press, 2004.

Robbins, Neal E. Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States. Ada, OK: Garrett Educational Corporation, 1989.

Simpson, Brooks D. The Reconstruction Presidents. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Williams, Charles Richard. The Life of Rutherford Birchard Hayes. New York: Da Capo Press, 1971.

Woodward, C. Vann. Reunion and Reaction: The Compromise of 1877 and the End of Reconstruction. Boston: Little, Brown, 1951. Reprint, New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Web Sites

"Diary and Letters of Rutherford B. Hayes." Ohio Historical Center.http://www.ohiohistory.org/onlinedoc/hayes/index.cfm (accessed on July 23, 2004).

The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center.http://www.rbhayes.org/ (accessed on July 23, 2004).

Hayes, Rutherford Birchard

views updated May 29 2018


Rutherford Birchard Hayes was a respected and successful lawyer in his home state of Ohio. He achieved further success while serving in the Union Army during the u.s. civil war, and he went on to gain prominence as a politician from Ohio. His service as governor of Ohio and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives led to his election as the nineteenth president of the United States.

Hayes was born October 4, 1822, in Delaware, Ohio. His father, Rutherford Hayes, died before Hayes was born and Hayes was raised by his mother, Sophia Birchard Hayes, with the help of his uncle, Sardis Birchard, a bachelor. Hayes was enrolled at Norwalk Academy, a Methodist school in Ohio, in the spring of 1836. The next year he joined Isaac Webb's Preparatory School, in Middletown, Connecticut, where Sardis aided with his tuition. In 1838 Hayes enrolled at Kenyon College, in Gambier, Ohio. He graduated first in his class in August 1842 and delivered the valedictory address. After graduating he studied French and German on his own.

He went on to Harvard Law School in 1843 and was later admitted to the Ohio bar. He began practicing law in Lower Sandusky (now Fremont), Ohio, as a partner of Ralph P. Buckland, a leading legal figure in the town. He assumed an active role in politics in 1848 when he worked to elect zachary taylor, the Whig candidate for president. In 1849 he established a law office in Cincinnati, and eventually he became a prominent attorney in the city. In 1852 he was chosen to examine candidates for admission to the Ohio bar. Later that year he married Lucy Webb, whom he had known for nearly eight years.

Hayes developed into a leading and somewhat radical figure in Ohio politics. Like many Republicans he opposed slavery but saw no need to punish the South. He chose other avenues in the fight to end slavery, offering his services to the Underground Railroad, which helped Southern slaves escape to freedom in the North. In 1853 he defended a number of escaped slaves in court. He went on to form a well-known Cincinnati law firm, Corwine, Hayes, and Rogers.

In the 1860 presidential campaign, he worked for the election of abraham lincoln, but with no great enthusiasm. After Lincoln's election at the beginning of the Civil War, Hayes wrote in his diary, "Six states have 'seceded.' Let them go." Nevertheless, when the war broke out, Hayes became active in the Union's military

effort to unify the nation. In 1862 he was promoted to full colonel and given command of the Twenty-third Ohio Regiment. Hayes was wounded four times, once seriously, during the war. His composure in battle gained him the respect of those who served under him.

Hayes's popularity helped his political career. On October 19, 1864, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the Second Congressional District of Ohio. He was reelected in 1866. In 1867 the Ohio republican party nominated Hayes as its candidate for governor. He gained considerable support from Radical Republicans who, like Hayes, opposed President Andrew Johnson's vetoes of legislation calling for military government in the South. On January 13, 1868, Hayes was inaugurated as governor of Ohio. He was reelected governor in 1870 and again in 1875.

Hayes favored a sound fiscal policy with regard to the use of public money, and he opposed public funds for Catholic schools. These issues struck a chord with Republicans throughout the United States, who sought to extend his fiscal policies to the federal level. He received the Republican nomination for president in 1876, to run against samuel j. tilden of New York.

Even before election results were in, Hayes wrote in his diary that he feared a contested election and perhaps even an armed conflict because of it. He apparently anticipated the most complicated election in the nation's history. On November 7, 1880, election results showed that Tilden had won 4.300 million popular votes to Hayes's 4.036 million, giving Tilden 184 electoral votes (one short of the needed majority) and Hayes 166.

A congressional election committee was designated to determine the winner of the election. After months of deliberation, Republicans managed to sway the committee by filling it with Republican loyalists. On March 2, 1877, Congress declared Hayes and his vice presidential candidate, William Almon Wheeler, of New York, the winners of the 1876 election.

In his inaugural address, Hayes stressed the importance of settling the problems left by Union occupation of Southern states. In April 1877 he ordered federal troops out of South Carolina and New Orleans. The era of the Reconstruction of the South initiated by former president ulysses s. grant was over.

During Hayes's administration he renewed the economic policy of satisfying the public debt with government currency, and he opposed measures passed by Congress to freely coin silver. Hayes reformed the process for appointing civil servants. He also signed legislation permitting women to practice law before the Supreme Court.

Hayes refused to run for reelection in 1880, and retired from politics. However, he continued to contribute to the landscape of American life. In 1882 he became the first president of the Slater Fund, founded to aid African American education programs in the South. He later gave a scholarship to a promising young man, w. e. b. du bois, who went on to attend Fisk and Harvard Universities and ultimately became a leading figure in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (naacp). In 1883 Hayes became the first president of the National Prison Reform Association, a post he held for nearly ten years. Hayes was also a trustee of Ohio Wesleyan and Ohio State Universities.

"Politics and law are merely results, merely the expression of what the people wish."
—Rutherford B. Hayes

On January 14, 1893, Hayes suffered severe chest pain while in Cleveland on business for Western Reserve and Ohio State Universities. His son Webb C. Hayes accompanied him to Speigel Grove, in Fremont, Ohio, where his wife had been buried three years earlier. On January 17 Hayes died, at the age of seventy.

further readings

Barnard, Harry. 1954. Rutherford B. Hayes and His America. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.

Bishop, Arthur. 1969. Rutherford B. Hayes, 1822–1893. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana.

Clancy, Herbert J. 1958. The Presidential Election of 1880. Chicago: Loyola Univ. Press.

Davison, Kenneth E. 1972. The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

Hoogenboom, Ari Arthur. 1995. Rutherford B. Hayes, Warrior and President. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas.

——. 1988. The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas.

Morris, Roy. 2003. Fraud of the Century: Rutherford B. Hayes, Samuel Tilden, and the Stolen Election of 1876. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Hayes, Rutherford B.

views updated May 18 2018

Rutherford B. Hayes

U.S. president Rutherford B. Hayes was the victor in one of the most fiercely fought elections in American history.

Hayes was born on October 4, 1822. He was the youngest of five children born to Rutherford and Sophia Hayes in Delaware, Ohio . His father died before Hayes's birth, and his uncle became his guardian. Hayes graduated from Kenyon College in 1842. Three years later, he graduated with a law degree from Harvard. After college, he practiced law in Fremont, Ohio, before moving to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1849, where he eventually took a job as city solicitor (a position equal to a modern district attorney).

Hayes married Lucy Webb in 1852, and the couple had eight children.

From soldier to politician

Hayes fought in the American Civil War (1861–65) and was wounded in battle. While still in the army, he was nominated by the Republican Party to serve in Congress. Hayes accepted the nomination but refused to campaign, citing his obligation to fight for his country as his number one priority. Even without a campaign, he won a seat in the Thirty-ninth Congress and another in the Fortieth. He resigned from his position in 1867 to run for governor of Ohio. He was victorious and served from 1868 to 1872 and again from 1876 to 1877.

Hayes's war record and reputation as a loyal Republican made him a popular presidential nominee for the 1876 election. He ran against New York governor Samuel Tilden (1814–1886). Toward the end of the campaign, Tilden was expected to win. Hayes himself believed his opponent would be the next president of the United States. More registered voters participated in the 1876 presidential election than ever before: 81.8 percent.

In a U.S. presidential election, there are two kinds of votes: popular (total number of votes by individuals) and electoral (assigned to states based on population; the higher the population count, the more electoral votes that state is worth). After all votes had been counted, Tilden clearly won the popular vote. But the electoral votes from Florida , Louisiana , South Carolina , and Oregon were in dispute. A congressional committee was formed to investigate the situation. That committee included five Supreme Court justices, five members from the House of Representatives, and five senators.

The plan was to have seven Democrats, seven Republicans, and one independent. The independent was Supreme Court associate justice David Davis (1815–1886). However, he happened to be elected a U.S. senator and thus could not serve on the committee. His replacement was a Republican, so every vote the committee took after reviewing the evidence resulted in an 8–7 split in favor of Hayes. That resulted in Hayes being awarded all the electoral votes and, therefore, the victory.

In office

Tilden was disappointed but did not dispute the findings. He believed the United States needed to move on. Hayes's years in office were uneventful compared to the conflict under which he entered. He had hoped to overturn the patronage system that controlled the government, but he was unable to do so. The patronage system was an unethical means of controlling bureaucracy in which wealthy men were appointed certain government positions in return for their vote. This put a lot of unqualified, dishonest men in powerful positions and made government ineffective on many levels. Hayes recognized he could not change the way things were, but he refused to participate in the system. Instead, he chose his administration based on individual merit and ability. This served only to turn his fellow Republicans against him.

Hayes promised protection to the African Americans of the war-torn South. At the same time, he encouraged the states to return to a more honest, peaceful way of governing. Despite the victory of the North in the Civil War, the South's attitude toward slavery and African Americans had not changed much. They resented being told how to live their lives, and troops from the Confederate States of America (the group of states that were part of secession from the United States) had been sent to watch over the South as Reconstruction (efforts to rebuild the nation following the Civil War) began. Hayes removed the troops in 1877, essentially ending the period of Reconstruction.

That same year, Hayes was faced with the first nationwide labor strike. Railroad workers had been forced to take pay cuts beginning in 1873. By 1877, they went on strike in hopes of ending the unjust treatment. Hayes sent in federal troops to control the strikes that were erupting throughout the states. In doing so, he ushered in an era when state and federal forces sided with companies against aggravated laborers.

Does not seek reelection

Hayes promised not to seek reelection, and he kept that promise. He was succeeded by another Ohio Republican, former U.S. representative James A. Garfield (1831–1881; served 1881). Hayes lived out his life in retirement at his family estate, Spiegel Grove, in Fremont, and died in 1893.

Rutherford Birchard Hayes

views updated May 14 2018

Rutherford Birchard Hayes

Rutherford Birchard Hayes (1822-1893), nineteenth president of the United States, supervised the Republican party's unsuccessful attempt to build a Southern wing based on old white "Whig" elements.

Rutherford B. Hayes was born Oct. 4, 1822, in Delaware, Ohio. His family, recently moved from New England, was well-to-do. Born 2 months after his father's death, Hayes was dominated by his neurotic mother and sister and patronized by his wealthy uncle Sardis Birchard.

Birchard was a critical influence in Hayes's life and helped pay for his education. Graduating from Kenyon College with highest honors in 1842, Hayes went to Harvard Law School in 1843. In 1845 he moved to Lower Sandusky (now Fremont), Ohio, to practice law under his uncle's sponsorship. Easygoing and pliable, Hayes was inclined to accept the conservative ideals surrounding him, and he adopted his uncle's Whig politics and distaste for abolitionists. The tall, handsome Hayes was a congenial and ready conversationalist, and he enjoyed considerable popularity in the town. Nevertheless, in 1849 he moved to Cincinnati, then the most important city in the West.

The young lawyer's personability and good showing in a celebrated homicide case soon won Hayes some reputation and political notice. Like most Northern Whigs during the late 1850s, Hayes had turned to the Republican party. However, he was not excessively interested in political questions; during the momentous election of 1860 he wrote, "I cannot get up much interest in the contest." He preferred the casual society of the "best people," travel, and occasional lectures on temperance.

War Years

Hayes's life of genteel idleness ended with the Civil War. He accepted a commission as major of the 23d Ohio Infantry. Now, for the first time in his life, he truly reveled in an all-masculine world, and he later looked back on the war as "the best years of our lives." He was brave to the point of recklessness and was wounded four times, once seriously. He rose to the rank of major general. What was more significant, his war record catapulted him into prominence in Ohio politics. While he was still in the military, he was nominated by the Republicans to serve in Congress and was elected without campaigning. He went to Washington for two terms, beginning in 1864.

In 1867 Hayes was elected governor of Ohio. He compiled a "moderate" record on all issues and retired to what he regarded as a permanent private life in 1871. However, in 1875, Republican leaders prevailed on him to stand again for governor, with the possibility of the presidential nomination the next year clearly understood. Successful, he entered his third term.

Disputed Election

Hayes entered the Republican nominating convention of 1876 as a minor candidate. The favorite, James G. Blaine, faced a number of opponents. In addition, the Republicans were sensitive to charges of political corruption, as the administration of Ulysses S. Grant had been blackened by scandal and Blaine had been implicated in a stock manipulation deal. Blaine's rivals withdrew one by one in favor of the deliberately "passive" Hayes.

The election, which pitted Republican Hayes against Democrat Samuel J. Tilden, proved more difficult. Owing to questions of the legitimacy of vote casting and counting in several states, the whole election was questioned and the country plunged into debate. Finally, a congressional commission was established to decide the election. By a curious twist the commission was composed of eight Republicans and only seven Democrats. However, the dispute was settled, and Hayes took office in March 1877 without further serious incident because the Republicans had made informal agreements with Southern Democrats to work toward establishment of a new political alliance between men of means in both the North and the South. Hayes's party thus hoped to drive a wedge between the two wings of its opposition.

Hayes was more than happy with the plan. He was naturally a "Whig" and had been uncomfortable with Grant's "bloody shirt" politics. He did not personally regard deals with the Southern Democrats as abandoning the Republican commitment to Southern blacks; rather, he hoped to win paternalistic protection for them by encouraging the growth of the Republican party among whites.

As president, Hayes withdrew the last Federal troops from the South and, as a symbol of the end of this phase of the Reconstruction, decorated Confederate graves on Memorial Day, 1877. "My task was to wipe out the color line, to abolish sectionalism; to end the war and bring peace," Hayes remembered, but by 1878 he had to state, "I am reluctantly forced to admit that the experiment was a failure."

Though Hayes was as meticulous with detail as ever and dispensed his presidential duties ably, he abhorred active leadership. He pledged to serve only one term, and the Republicans were happy to retire him. Hayes spent his final years in prosperous retirement in Lower Sandusky, distracting himself with active participation in the Grand Army of the Republic and other veterans' organizations. He died on Jan. 17, 1893.

Further Reading

Hamilton J. Eckenrode, Rutherford B. Hayes: Statesman of Reunion (1930), is highly favorable to Hayes but suffers from a blatantly racist approach to the questions of Reconstruction that loomed so large in Hayes's career. Harry Barnard, Rutherford B. Hayes and His America (1954), is a model of thorough historical research and possesses shrewd insights. T. Harry Williams, Hayes of the Twenty-third (1965), is a fascinating account of Hayes's war years. C. Vann Woodward, Reunion and Reaction (1951; rev. ed. 1956), is the indispensable insight into the ending of Reconstruction, and H. Wayne Morgan, From Hayes to McKinley (1969), is the best recent overall account of the period. For the election of 1876 see Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed., History of American Presidential Elections, vol. 2 (1971). □

Hayes, Rutherford B. (1822-1893)

views updated Jun 08 2018

Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893)

President of the united states, 1877-1881


Controversy. The presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes started in public controversy and ended with his having alienated the major factions of his own party. Winning the election of 1876 because of what many considered a corrupt political bargain, Hayes made his reputation by fighting the corrupt spoils system in which federal employees paid for their appointments by giving political support and cash donations to the politicians who selected them.

Early Years. Hayes was born on 4 October 1822 on a farm near Delaware, Ohio, and graduated first in the class of 1842 from Kenyon College. After attending Harvard Law School (1843-1845), he passed the Ohio bar examination and practiced law in Lower Sandusky (later renamed Fremont) until 1850, when he moved to Cincinnati. On 30 December 1852 he married Lucy Webb, whose strong abolitionist and anti-alcohol senti-ments influenced his own views on those issues. In 1855 he helped to organize the Ohio Republican Party, and he served as city solicitor of Cincinnati in 1858-1860. During the Civil War he joined an Ohio regiment as a major. He was wounded in the Union victory at South Mountain, Virginia, in 1862 but continued to command his troops until the end of the war, serving it distinction under Generals George Crook and Philip Sheridan in the crucial Virginia campaigns of 1864 and rising to the rank of brigadier general. After he was mustered out in June 1865 he was breveted major general for his gallant and distinguished services during the campaign of 1864.

Political Career. In October 1864, while still serving in the military, Hayes was elected to the House of Repre-sentatives. After serving one term in the House, he was elected governor of Ohio, winning a second two-year term in 1869. He ran again for the governorship in 1875. His victories in this swing state that sometimes voted Democratic and sometimes Republican made him a good candidate for the presidency in 1876.

The Election of 1876. After emerging as a compromise candidate for various factions of the party opposed to James G. Blaine, Hayes won the Republican presidential nomination on the seventh ballot. Running against Democrat Samuel J. Tilden in the fall, Hayes won some 250,000 fewer popular votes than his opponent, but because of some disputed electoral votes in three southern states the election was still up for grabs. After a bargain with southern congressmen, Hayes received a bare electoral-college majority and won the election. As president he kept the bargain that had gained him the presidency by removing the remaining federal troops from the South and by appointing a southern Democrat to his cabinet. After encountering fierce and successful opposition to his naming Confederate general Joseph E. Johnston as secretary of war, he selected Sen. David M. Key of Tennessee to serve as postmaster-general. Already in ill repute with GOP reformers, Hayes angered Stalwart Republicans, especially those from New York State, by giving jobs to members of the opposition party and by attempting to reform the civil service.

Civil-Service Reform. Hayes believed that federal employees should not be expected or forced to contribute to the political party in power and that they should be selected and promoted on merit, regardless of party. Led by Interior Secretary Carl Schurz, who would lead the Mugwump faction of the Republican Party in 1884, Hayess cabinet began to cut back on political activity among appointees, further enraging the Stalwarts. In 1878 Hayes took on the Stalwarts in New York, their stronghold of power, asking for the resignation of Chester A. Arthur, the collector of customs for the Port of New York, because he would not follow orders to institute the same reforms there. When Arthur refused to re-sign, Hayes replaced him. Hayess victory in this battle, however, earned him the lasting enmity of the Stalwarts, who successfully blocked his attempts to get Congress to pass a civil-service reform act. He left the civil-service question to his successor, James A. Garfield, whose vice president was Chester A. Arthur, the customs officer Hayes had fired.

Later Years. Holding to a promise that he would be a one-term president, Hayes did not seek the Republican presidential nomination in 1880. He returned to Ohio, where he practiced law and played an active role in the temperance campaign and movements for civil-service and prison reform. He died on 17 January 1893.


Ari Hoogenboom, The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1968);

Hoogenboom, Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior and President (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995).

Hayes, Rutherford Birchard

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Hayes, Rutherford Birchard (1822–93) Nineteenth US President (1877–81). As governor of Ohio, he won the Republican nomination for president in 1876. Some of the electoral votes were disputed, but an electoral commission awarded all of them to Hayes, giving him victory over Samuel J. Tilden. As president, Hayes removed all federal troops from the South and tried to promote civil-service reform. He retired after one term.


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Rutherford Birchard Hayes

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