Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford B. Hayes

19th President, 1877-1881

Early Life and Pre-presidency

Rutherford B. Hayes Official Presidential portrait by Daniel Huntington, 1884

Rutherford B. Hayes Official Presidential portrait
by Daniel Huntington, 1884

  • Born on October 4, 1822 in Delaware, Ohio.
  • Parents: Rutherford Hayes and Sophia Birchard. Siblings: Lorenzo, Sarah Sophia, and Fanny Arabella.
  • His father died ten weeks before he was born. His maternal uncle, Sardis Birchard, would become his surrogate father.
  • Attended common schools then private schools before enrolling at Norwalk Seminary in 1836. He then enrolled in a preparatory school in Connencticut before enrolling at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio in 1838. He graduated validectorian in 1842.
  • Studied law in Columbus, Ohio then attended Harvard Law School in 1843. He graduated in 1845 and was admitted to the bar in the same year.
  • Opened his law practice in Lower Sandusky, Ohio but business was poor, so he moved to Cincinnati in 1850 and opened his law practice there with a partner.
  • Married Lucy Webb (1831–1889) on December 30, 1852. Children: Birchard Austin (1853–1926), James Webb Cook (1856–1934), Rutherford Platt (1858–1927), Joseph Thompson (1861–1863), George Crook (1864–1866), Fanny (1867–1950), Scott Russell (1871–1923), and Manning Force (1873–1874).
  • Took up the antislavery cause by defending runaway slaves who had crossed the Ohio River into the state from the slave state of Kentucky.
  • Joined the Union Army during the Civil War and served its entire duration. His last campaign was a victory at Cedar Creek. He left the army on June 8, 1865 as major general.
  • In July 1864, while fighting in the War, Hayes’s supporters in the Republican Party nominated him for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Although he was unwilling to leave his post to campaign, he was, nonetheless, elected.
  • Served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1865 to 1867.
  • Elected Governor of Ohio and served from 1868 to 1872. As Governor of Ohio, he pushed for the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment and was mainly responsible for establishing Ohio State University.
  • Re-elected Governor of Ohio in 1875. But in 1876, he was chosen as the Republican Party nominee for President.
  • The 1876 Election was one of the most contentious and controversial elections in U.S. history. Hayes lost the popular vote to the Democratic candidate but trailed the electoral vote with three states still in dispute. He had to win all three states to win the election. An electoral commission awarded him the 20 disputed electoral votes.
  • The Compromise of 1877 is said to be an unwritten agreement between the Republicans and the Democrats who controlled the House. By awarding the presidency to Hayes, he and then President Ulysses S. Grant removed federal troops manning the former Confederate states of Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina.

Presidency

Rutherford B. Hayes Photograph by Mathhew Brady, ca. 1870-1880

Rutherford B. Hayes Photograph by Mathhew Brady, ca. 1870-1880

  • Took his oath of office on March 5, 1877 at the East Portico, U.S. Capitol.
  • In April 1877, Hayes ordered the withdrawal of federal troops from Louisiana and South Carolina, officially ending the Reconstruction in the South.
  • Sent troops to the Mexican border in June 1877 and ordered them to go after bandits, even if it took them into Mexico. Mexico’s President Porfirio Diaz protested the order and sent his own troops to the border. The matter was resolved without fighting when both sides agreed to go after bandits in their respective territories.
  • The Great Railroad Strike in 1877 was Hayes’s first major challenge as the new president. Thousands of railroad workers in several states went on strike to protest wage reductions. Hayes sent federal troops to the protests for fear of violent riots.
  • In June 1877, Hayes issued his first Executive Order forbidding federal employees from taking part in political activities.
  • Hayes vetoed the Bland–Allsion Act of 1878, which required the Treasury to buy as much silver as it could, then circulate it as silver dollars. Congress overrode his veto and the bill was put into effect.
  • The U.S.–Samoan Treaty was ratified on January 30, 1878 by the U.S. Senate. The treaty allowed the U.S. to build a naval and coaling station in Samoa and offered protection to that country if it were threatened by a third country.
  • Hayes arbitrated a territorial dispute between Paraguay and Argentina in 1878. He awarded the Gran Chaco territory to Paraguay, which subsequently renamed a city and a department in his honor.
  • Vetoed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1879 that would have reduced the unrestricted flow of Chinese immigrants allowed under the Burlingame Treaty of 1868. He believed the Act could not be passed without negotiations with China. After such negotiations, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 curtailed further Chinese immigration.
  • Hayes, following his teetotaler wife’s insistence, banned liquor and wine in the White House during his entire term.
  • Under the Specie Repayment Resumption Act of 1875, the Treasury was required to redeem greenbacks for gold. The Act was set to take effect in 1879 during Hayes’s term. Although the government prepared enough gold to exchange for the greenbacks, only a very small amount of the outstanding greenbacks were redeemed by the people.
  • Hayes vetoed the Army Appropriations Bill in April 1879 because it contained a “rider,” a condition that forbade federal troops from guarding the polls to ensure voting rights would be upheld. Hayes vetoed three more versions of the bill until a version without the “rider” was passed. He signed this version into law.
  • An investigation of the New York Custom House in 1879 revealed that not only was it overstaffed, but most of the employees were political appointees by New York Senator Roscoe Conkling. Hayes, seeking to reform appointments to civil service jobs, replaced three supporters of the Senator with his own appointees.
  • Hayes pushed Congress to fund the newly created U.S. Civil Service Commission to ensure that civil service jobs would be awarded based on merit rather than to favored persons. The Pendleton Act of 1883 would address this issue.
  • Hayes’s American Indian policy involves assimilation into white culture, education, training, and an allotment system that gave divided Indian lots to American Indians. He reformed the fraudulent Bureau of Indian Affairs and gave the American Indians the responsibility of policing their territories.

Post-presidency

Rutherford B. Hayes wearing Civil War uniform, 1861

Rutherford B. Hayes wearing Civil War uniform, 1861

  • He retired to Spiegel Grove in Fremont, Ohio with his family. His uncle Sardis Birchard had built the home for the Hayes.
  • Hayes had made a pledge to serve only one term, and he was happy to leave the White House.
  • Appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Ohio State University in 1887.
  • As a private citizen, he championed free public education for children supported by government taxes. He also championed education for the poor and dispensed educational funds for poor blacks and whites in the South.
  • He was chairman of the Lake Mohonk Conference on the Negro Question in 1890.
  • In 1886, he gave a speech about the inequality between the rich, who were few but controlled great wealth, and the poor, who were numerous but had few opportunities.
  • Was deeply saddened by the death of his wife from a stroke in June 1889.
  • Died on January 17, 1893 of heart disease.
  • The funeral procession from Hayes’s home to the cemetery was led by then President Grover Cleveland and Ohio governor William McKinley.
  • William McKinley, who became the 25th President of the United States, was Hayes’s comrade in the army and his political protégé.
  • His final words were “I know that I’m going where Lucy is.”
  • He was first interred at Oakwood Cemetery in Fremont. He was re-interred along with his wife at the Speigel Grove State Park, the site of his former home, in 1915. The home had been donated to the state and was renamed thus.
  • Spiegel Grove was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964.
  • The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center comprising several buildings including the Rutherford B. Hayes Museum and Library is part of the Speigel Grove State Park. The Library, opened in 1916, was the first ever Presidential library.
  • Hayes’s great-great grandson, Stephen A. Hayes, is the President of the Board of Trustees of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center.