Hayes, Rutherford Birchard

Hayes, Rutherford Birchard, 1822–93, 19th President of the United States (1877–81), b. Delaware, Ohio, grad. Kenyon College, 1843, and Harvard law school, 1845. He became a moderately successful lawyer in Cincinnati and was made (1858) city solicitor. In the Civil War he began as a major of volunteers, took part in some 50 engagements, was several times wounded, and rose in rank to be (1865) major general of volunteers. Elected to Congress while still in the field, he served (1865–67) as a regular Republican, quietly supporting the radical Reconstruction program. He was three times (1867, 1869, 1875) elected governor of Ohio and was chosen as the Republican candidate for President in 1876, opposing Samuel J. Tilden, the Democratic candidate. The election marked the resurgence of the Democrats and the political reentry of the South into the Union.

The chaotic political conditions brought on by Reconstruction resulted in disputed elections in South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana. This was complicated by the death of an elector from Oregon. Congress created an electoral commission to decide the elections. Although Tilden had won the popular vote by a small majority, the commission awarded all disputed returns to Hayes and thereby gave him a majority of one in the electoral college. Indignation over the obviously partisan decision affected Hayes's administration, which was generally conservative and efficient but no more than that. He withdrew federal troops from Louisiana and South Carolina, and the Reconstruction era was ended. His conciliatory policy toward the South and his genuine interest in civil service reform alienated important Republican groups, notably the “Old Guard” led by Roscoe Conkling. An advocate of hard money, he vetoed the Bland-Allison Act, which was passed over his veto and provided for resumption of specie payments in gold. After his presidential term Hayes was active in philanthropic foundations.

See his diary ed. by T. H. Williams (1964); biographies H. J. Eckenrode (1957, repr. 1963), T. H. Williams (1965), H. Barnard (1994), and H. L. Trefousse (2002); A. Hoogenboom, The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes (1988); studies of the disputed 1876 election by P. L. Haworth, (1906, new ed. 1927, repr. 1966), K. Polakoff (1973), R. Morris (2003), and W. H. Rehnquist (2004).

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