Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford B. Hayes photographed in Civil War uniform in 1861

Rutherford B. Hayes photographed in Civil War uniform in 1861

Rutherford B. Hayes was the nineteenth President of the United States. He served from 1877 to 1881. He was born October 4, 1822 in Delaware, Ohio. His father had died three months before his birth, but had left Hayes’s mother well off. He graduated first in his class from Kenyon College in 1842, and went on to law school at Harvard, graduating in 1845. He began to practice law in Fremont, Ohio, then moving to Cincinnati in 1849.

Hayes gained notice defending fugitive slaves and became friends with people who founded the Republican Party in Ohio. He married Lucy Webb in 1852, who would become the first college, educated First Lady, having graduated from Wesleyan Female College in Ohio. Together they had eight children, of whom five (four sons and a daughter) survived to adulthood.

In 1858, the City Council of Council of Cincinnati appointed him City Solicitor to fill a vacancy. He ran and won in 1859, but was defeated in 1861. He then helped organize the 23rd Ohio volunteers and was commissioned as a Major. The regiment joined the fighting in West Virginia and he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, then Colonel.

He was brave and distinguished soldier. He was wounded severely in his arm in Maryland and, after subsequent battles in Virginia, was promoted to Brigadier General, and then received a battlefield promotion to Major General in March 1865. He was ultimately wounded four times and had four horses shot out from under him.

Hayes’ admirers had nominated him for Congress in 1864, but he refused to campaign, feeling that his service during the war took precedence. Ultimately, he was elected anyway, and took office in December, 1865. He was re-elected in 1866. He was then nominated for Governor of Ohio in 1867 and resigned his Congressional seat. He won the office by 8000 votes. He was re-elected in 1869 and served until 1872, when he ran unsuccessfully for Congress.

Hayes retired to his estate but was nominated again for Governor in 1875 by the Republicans. He won again, and served through much of 1877 when, on the seventh ballot, he was nominated to run for President against Samuel Tilden, the Democratic Governor of New York. Tilden had a solid national reputation and Hayes figured tilden would win election.

Hayes was correct. The final popular vote favored Tilden by 2500,000 votes, and the Electoral College showed Tilden winning 203-166. However, the Republicans challenged the returns from South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana, as well as Oregon, claming blacks had been prevented from voting. A tremendous amount of political horse-trading ensued and an electoral commission was formed. In the end, the House proclaimed Hayes the winner in the Electoral College, 185-184, just fifty six hours before the inauguration was to take place. Hayes was fifty-four.

Hayes acknowledged how he had come to the Presidency in his inaugural address. He commented that he owed his election to the suffrage of disenfranchised votes and to the agreement of the two parties. Nonetheless, he resolved to be the President for all of the people, affiliation notwithstanding.

Hayes tried hard but could not overcome the stigma attacked to his election. Democrats controlled the House during the first two years of his term, and then won the Senate as well for his last two years. He had little chance of passing legislation he wanted.

There was the first great national strike by railway workers in 1877 and he was forced to send in Federal troops to curb the violence. When Congress passed a law supporting the issuing of “cheap” silver dollars, Hayes vetoed the bill, but it was overridden. The economy began to improve, but Hayes had to call a special session of Congress to get enough money to pay the armed forces.

Hayes tried his best to rid the system of political patronage, thus angering both parties. He wished to reform Civil service, but Congress refused. There continued to be sporadic Indian wars, most notably by Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce and Hayes issued an executive order banning the sale of guns to Indians.

Hayes in his last message to Congress, made a number of bold requests. He asked for Federal aid to education so popular education could be free. He called for completion of a building for the Library of Congress and the completion of the Washington Monument. He asked again for the reform of civil service, and further asked that full attention be given as regarded the continued oppression of freed salves in the South. He also called on Mormons to cease polygamy.

Hayes had run a friendly and convivial White House, in keeping with his own personage and that of his wife. Lucy was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and, as such served nothing stronger than lemonade at State Dinners. Her nickname was “Lemonade Lucy”.

In his final executive order, he banned the sale of alcohol at all army camps and forts. He wrote strongly of the need to ensure the rights, particularly those guaranteed by the Constitution, for all citizens, again calling attention to minorities. Knowing he could not win, he did not stand for re-election.

Hayes retired to Ohio and he and Lucy lived a quite life. They spent much of their time with family and working on charitable enterprises. Lucy died in 1889 and Hayes in 1893. His last words were “I am going where Lucy is.”

Rutherford B. Hayes Facts

  • President No.: 19th
  • When did Rutherford B. Hayes serve? 1877-1881
  • What was Rutherford B. Hayes’s party? Republican
  • Where was Rutherford B. Hayes from? Ohio
  • Who was Rutherford B. Hayes’s wife? Lucy Ware Webb Hayes
  • When was Rutherford B. Hayes born? October 4, 1822
  • Where was Rutherford B. Hayes born? Delaware, Ohio
  • When did Rutherford B. Hayes die? January 17, 1893
  • Where did Rutherford B. Hayes die? Fremont, Ohio
  • Which college did Rutherford B. Hayes attend? Kenyon College, Harvard Law School
  • What was Rutherford B. Hayes’s Jobs Before President? Lawyer, Congressman, Governer of Ohio
  • What was Rutherford B. Hayes’s height? 5 feet 8 inches
  • What was the population when Rutherford B. Hayes was president? 50,155,783
  • What hobbies did Rutherford B. Hayes have? Croquet, driving, shooting
  • What transportation did Rutherford B. Hayes use? Train
  • How did Rutherford B. Hayes communicate? Letter, telegram


Rutherford B. Hayes Inaugural Addresses

Rutherford B. Hayes State of the Union Addresses


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