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Rutherford B. Hayes

rutherford birchard hayes
nineteenth president of the united states

interesting facts
In 1879, President Hayes installed the first telephone in the White House. At first it was hardly used, because there weren't many other phones in Washington to call.

"He serves his party best who serves the country best." - F
"I would prefer to go into it if I knew I was to die or be killed in the course of it, than to live through and after it without taking any part in it" - Rutherford wrote in his diary writing about the Civil War.

Born in Delaware, Ohio on October 4, 1822, Rutherford B. Hayes grew up in a brick house with his mother, Sophia Hayes and his uncle Sardis Birchard (his father died a two months before he was born). Before Ruddy was two years old his brother, Lorenzo, then nine years old, was drowned while skating. Mrs. Hayes determined to protect little Ruddy, who was delicate, from all perils. She would not allow him to play with the boys in the neighborhood or go to school; and she herself taught him reading and spelling. The boy's sole companion was his sister Fanny, a bright, active girl two years older than himself. The two children read together and played together. Fanny loved poetry; she was also a tomboy and could always think of something exciting to do.

At 14, Rutherford was sent to a school in Norwalk, Ohio. The next year he attended an academy in Middletown, Conn. At 16 he entered Kenyon College, in Gambier, Ohio. The next year Fanny married William Platt, who had a jewelry store in Columbus. Mrs. Hayes gave up the old home to live with the Platts in Columbus.

Rutherford was a serious student, and his diary (which he kept all his life) shows that he tried constantly to improve his character as well as his mind. At 19 he wrote: "I am determined to acquire a character distinguished for energy, firmness, and perseverance." He resolved also to "preserve a reputation for honesty and benevolence." He even decided to stop laughing "entirely in future, if I can" because "the tendency to carry it to extremes is so great." His chief interest in school was debating, in which he excelled. His recreations were fishing, playing chess, and reading novels (though he called novels "trash").

After graduating from Kenyon, Hayes spent a year in Fanny's home reading law and studying German and French. Then his Uncle Sardis furnished money for him to study at the Harvard Law School. Hayes was almost 21 when he arrived in Cambridge, Mass. Dressed in a modish manner, he looked like a proper Bostonian. He studied until he was weary and tried hard to be still more serious. "Trifling remarks, boyish conduct, are my crying sins. Mend! Mend!" In January 1845 he received the bachelor of laws degree.

Instead of returning to Columbus, Hayes went into a law office in Lower Sandusky (later called Fremont), where his Uncle Sardis lived. He spent nearly five years in the small village waiting for clients. Then he became restless and despondent and had spells of weeping. After a vacation in the East, he decided to move to Cincinnati, then a growing, thriving city.

In Cincinnati, Hayes and another young man rented an office and partitioned off one corner for a bedroom. Hayes joined the Literary Club, where he made influential friends, and the Sons of Temperance, for whom he made his first public speech. He also entered local politics in the new Republican party. Within a few years he had made a name for himself as a criminal lawyer and began to think of marriage.

Hayes's mother chose a girl for him. She was Lucy Ware Webb, whom Hayes had first met at his home in Delaware when she was 15. They became engaged after she was graduated from Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati and were married in December 1852. Hayes was then 30. Lucy, nine years younger, was warmhearted, popular, and very religious. "A better wife I never hoped to have," Hayes confided to his diary. Their first son, Birchard Austin, was born in 1853.

Hayes, despite his hopes for compromise, on the issue of the Civic War was a strong supporter of the federal Union. As soon as the Civil War broke out and the North called for troops in April 1861, he became involved. "I would prefer to go into it if I knew I was to die or be killed in the course of it, than to live through and after it without taking any part in it," he wrote in his diary. For the next four years he served ably in the Union Army.

Hayes was nominated and elected to Congress while still in the army, but he refused to leave his command until the war was over. He took his seat in the House in December 1865 and was reelected in 1866. He made few speeches and took no part in the bitter debates over reconstruction but voted consistently with his party.

In 1867 and again in 1869 Hayes was elected governor of Ohio. He proved a capable and economical administrator. He took great interest in prison reform and in hospitals for the mentally ill. His beloved sister Fanny had been hospitalized more than once for mental illness.

In 1873 Hayes declared he was finished with politics and moved his family to his uncle's house at Fremont, called Spiegel Grove. His uncle died the next year and left the bulk of his large estate (chiefly land) to Hayes. The Hayeses now had five children (three had died in childhood). The oldest boys, Birchard, Webb, and Rutherford, were at college. At home were Fanny, seven; and Scott Russell, four. Hayes was the leading citizen of Fremont and was listed in the directory as a "capitalist."

Hayes's retirement was brief. After one year he was persuaded to run for Congress; but the Democrats swept the country in 1874 and he was defeated. Ohio itself had elected a Democratic governor in 1873. The Republicans, knowing Hayes to be a good vote getter, nominated him for governor again in 1875. Hayes's success in a hard-fought campaign made him a presidential possibility in 1876.

During the election of 1876 James G. Blaine of Maine, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination. However, a congressional investigating committee had recently charged Blaine with using his political influence to benefit a railroad company. The Republican national convention therefore nominated Hayes for president. Congressman William A. Wheeler of New York was nominated for vice president. The Democrats nominated Samuel J. Tilden, reform governor of New York, who had broken the notorious Tweed ring, which had corrupted politics in New York City. The Greenback Party, representing the interests of debt-ridden Midwestern and Southern farmers, nominated industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper of New York. When the votes came in, Tilden won the popular vote by a thin margin of 250,000 votes. However, both Hayes and Tilden claimed victory in the electoral votes. To settle the dispute, the Electoral Commission of 1877 was appointed, consisting of five U.S. senators, five U.S. representatives, and five U.S. Supreme Court justices. Seven of these men were Democrats, and seven were Republicans. The 15th member was expected to be Justice David Davis, who had no clear party affiliation. Before the commission voted, however, Davis resigned from the Court to become senator from Illinois. A Republican justice filled his place, giving the Republicans a majority on the commission. It awarded all the disputed electoral votes to Hayes, who was declared elected by 185 to Tilden's 184. It is thought that the Southern Democrats and the Hayes supporters reached a friendly agreement, called the Compromise of 1877, even before the commission voted. According to this theory, Hayes, if elected, was to withdraw troops from South Carolina and Louisiana, put through appropriations to rebuild the war-torn South, and name a Southerner to the Cabinet.

The presidency was weak and Congress strong when Hayes moved into the White House. Powerful senators had impeached President Johnson and overawed Grant. They expected to control Hayes also and were by no means pleased with the tone of his inaugural address. The people of the country, however, applauded his much-quoted statement, "He serves his party best who serves his country best." Hayes incurred the enmity of many Republican leaders by carrying out the "bargain." The "carpetbag" governments to which Hayes owed his election at once collapsed, and the South thereafter became solidly Democratic. In April 1877 the last Federal troops were withdrawn from the South, and the long bitter period of reconstruction that followed the Civil War was at last ended.

Hayes next attacked the corrupt "spoils system"--the giving of government jobs to party workers as a reward for securing votes. In this he had the help of his secretary of the interior, Carl Schurz. Congress refused to pass civil service legislation or to appropriate money for examinations; but Hayes did succeed in awakening public interest, and civil service reform clubs sprang up in many states.

The worst abuses of the spoils system were in the customhouse of New York City. Hayes incurred the bitter enmity of Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York by dismissing Conkling's political friends from the top posts. One of the officials he dismissed was Chester A. Arthur, collector of the port of New York, who was later to become the twenty-first President of the United States. The other official he dismissed, Alonzo B. Cornell, became governor of New York in 1879.

The Money Question: Hayes was anxious to return the country to the gold standard by carrying out the provisions of the Specie Resumption Act passed in Grant's administration. This act called for making United States paper money redeemable in coin by Jan. 1, 1879. Hayes's secretary of the treasury, John Sherman of Ohio, sold bonds to build up a gold reserve to be used on the day of resumption of specie payments.

In Congress there were inflationist groups in both the major parties that wanted plentiful, cheap money. There was also the small Greenback party, which demanded a larger circulation of paper money. These groups passed, over the president's veto, the Bland-Allison Act of 1878, which required the secretary of the treasury to purchase not less than 2 million dollars of silver bullion each month and coin it into dollars. Silver dollars had not been coined since 1806. Because of their weight and bulk they proved unpopular, and most did not circulate but remained in the treasury.

Resumption of specie payments began quietly on Jan. 1, 1879. Knowledge that every paper dollar was worth a gold dollar gave confidence to the businessmen, and the run on the treasury that had been expected did not take place. Foreign trade revived, and the depression began to lift. When Hayes left the White House the country was again prosperous.

Events During Haye's Administration 1877-81

Cabinet and Supreme Court of Rutherford B. Hayes

  Civil Service reform begun.
Federal troops removed from the South and Reconstruction ended (1877).
Halifax award in fisheries dispute with Great Britain (1877).
Miners' strikes ("Molly McGuire" outrages) and railroad strikes (1876-77).
Right of states to regulate railroad rates upheld (1877).
Greenback party at height of its power (1878).
Bland-Allison Act passed over the president's veto (1878).
Specie payments resumed (1879).

  Vice-President. William Almon Wheeler (1877-81).
Secretary of State. William M. Evarts (1877-81).
Secretary of the Treasury. John Sherman (1877-81).
Secretaries of War. George W. McCrary (1877-79); Alexander Ramsey (1879-81).
Attorney General. Charles Devens (1877-81).
Secretaries of the Navy. Richard W. Thompson (1877-80); Nathan Goff (1881).
Postmasters General. David M. Key (1877-80); Horace Maynard (1880-81).
Secretary of the Interior. Carl Schurz (1877-81).
Appointments to the Supreme Court. John Marshall Harlan (1877-1911); William B. Woods (1881-87).



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