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Template:Infobox President Rutherford Birchard Hayes (October 4, 1822 – January 17, 1893) was the 19th President of the United States from March 4 1877 to March 4 1881 and was twice the Governor of Ohio 1868-1872 and 1876-1877.

Hayes was born in Delaware, Ohio and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1845. He practiced law in Lower Sandusky (now Fremont) and was a city solicitor for Cincinnati 1858-1861. He served in the American Civil War and rose to the rank of major-general in 1864 and also served in the US congress 1864-1867 as a Republican before being elected the Governor of Ohio. In 1876, he won the Republican party presidential nomination but believed he had lost the Election to Democrat Samuel J. Tilden.

Hayes was elected President by one electoral vote after the highly disputed election of 1876. Losing the popular vote to his opponent, Samuel Tilden, Hayes was the only president whose election was decided by a congressional commission.

During his otherwise uneventful presidency, he ordered federal troops to suppress The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 and he kept his promise to southerners by extracting troops from the South, effectively ending the era of Reconstruction. He reformed the civil service by alienating political spoils seekers and advocated the repeal of the Tenure of Office Act. He chose not to run for a second term.

Early life[]

Hayes was born in Delaware, Ohio[1], on October 4, 1822. His parents were Rutherford Hayes (January 4, 1787 Brattleboro, Vermont – July 20, 1822 Delaware, Ohio) and Sophia Birchard (April 15, 1792 Wilmington, Vermont – October 30, 1866 Columbus, Ohio). His father, a storekeeper, died ten weeks before his birth,[2] thus making Hayes the second U.S. president born after the death of his father, Andrew Jackson being the first. An uncle, Sardis Birchard, lived with the family and served as Hayes's guardian. Close to Hayes throughout his life, Birchard became a father figure to him, schooling a young Hayes in Latin and Ancient Greek, and contributing much to his early education.

Hayes attended the common schools and the Methodist Academy in Norwalk. He graduated from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio in August 1842 at the top of his class[3]. He was an honorary member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Delta Chi chapter at Cornell), though he had already graduated after the Fraternity Chapter was Chartered. After briefly reading the law in Columbus, he graduated in 2 years from Harvard Law School in January 1845. He was admitted to the bar on May 10, 1845, and commenced practice in Lower Sandusky (now Fremont). After dissolving the partnership in Fremont in 1849, he moved to Cincinnati and resumed the practice of law.


Rutherford and Lucy Hayes on their wedding day, December 30, 1852.

On December 30, 1852, Hayes married Lucy Ware Webb.[4] They had eight children, seven sons and a daughter. (Sardis, James, Rutherford, Frances, Scott, and three sons who died young).

In 1856, Hayes was nominated for but declined a municipal judgeship; however, in 1858 he accepted an appointment as Cincinnati city solicitor by the city council and won election outright to that position in 1859, losing a reelection bid in 1860.

Military service[]

Upon moving to Cincinnati, Hayes had become a member[5] of a prominent social organization, the Cincinnati Literary Club[5], whose members included Salmon P. Chase and Edward Noyes among others, and upon outbreak of the Civil War the Literary Club made a military company. He was also a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F)[6] Appointed a major[7] in the 23rd Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, by Ohio Governor William Dennison Jr.[8], he originally served as regimental judge-advocate, but was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and proved competent enough at field command that by August 1862, he had been promoted to Colonel and soon after received command of his original regiment after being wounded in action at the Battle of South Mountain, Maryland on September 14. Though other presidents served in the Civil War, Hayes was the only one who was wounded (five times in all).[9]

Brevetted to Brigadier General in December 1862, he commanded the First Brigade of the Kanawha Division of the Army of West Virginia and turned back several raids. In 1864, Hayes showed gallantry in spearheading a frontal assault and temporarily taking command from George Crook at the Battle of Cloyd's Mountain and continued with Crook on to Charleston. Hayes continued commanding his Brigade during the Valley Campaigns of 1864, participating in such major battles as the Battle of Opequon, the Battle of Fisher's Hill, and the Battle of Cedar Creek.[8] At the end of the Shenandoah campaign, Hayes was promoted to Brigadier General in October 1864 and brevetted Major General. Hayes had been wounded three more times and had four horses shot from under him during his campaigning.[10]

Hayes and McKinley[]

While commanding the 23rd Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Hayes met William McKinley Jr.[11], who would later become the 25th President of the United States. The two become fraternal brothers of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.[12] Hayes promoted McKinley twice under his military command, including once for an act of bravery at Antietam. During Hayes' first Ohio gubernatorial race, McKinley engaged in political campaigning and rallying for Hayes' election by "making speeches in the Canton area".[13] Later, as Governor of Ohio, Hayes provided political support for his fellow Republican and Ohioan during McKinley's bid for congressional election.

Political service[]

Hayes began political life as a Whig[14], but in 1853 joined the Free Soil[15] party as a delegate, nominating Salmon P. Chase for Governor of Ohio.[15]

While still in the Shenandoah in 1864, Hayes received the Republican nomination to Congress from Cincinnati. Hayes refused to campaign, stating "I have other business just now. Any man who would leave the army at this time to electioneer for Congress ought to be scalped." Despite this, Hayes was elected and served in the Thirty-ninth and again to the Fortieth Congresses and served from March 4, 1865, to July 20, 1867, when he resigned, having been nominated for Governor of Ohio. Through the powerful voice of his friend and Civil War subordinate James M. Comly's Ohio State Journal (one of the state's most influential newspapers), Hayes won the election and served as governor from 1868 to 1872. He was an unsuccessful candidate in 1872 for election to the Forty-third Congress, and had planned to retire from public life, but was drafted by the Republican convention in 1875 to run for governor again and served from January 1876 to March 2, 1877. Hayes received national notice for leading a Republican sweep of a previously Democratic Ohio government.

Election of 1876[]

A dark horse nominee (James G. Blaine had led the previous six ballots) by his convention, Hayes became president after the tumultuous, scandal-ridden years of the Grant administration. He had a reputation for honesty dating back to his Civil War years. Hayes was noted for his ability not to offend anyone. Henry C. Adams, a prominent political journalist and Washington insider, asserted that Hayes was "a third rate nonentity, whose only recommendation is that he is obnoxious to no one." Because of Hayes' relative anonymity and perceived insignificance, his opponent in the presidential election, Democrat Samuel J. Tilden, was expected to win the presidential election. Tilden had won the popular vote by about 250,000 votes (with about 8.5 million voters in total).


Hayes/Wheeler campaign poster

Four states' electoral college votes were contested. To win, the candidates had to muster 185 votes: Tilden was short just one, with 184 votes, Hayes had 165, with 20 votes representing the four states which were contested. To make matters worse, three of these states (Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina) were in the South, which was still under military occupation (the fourth was Oregon). Additionally, historians note, the election was not fair because of the fraud and intimidation perpetrated from both sides. A popular phrase of the day called it an election without "a free ballot and a fair count." For the next four years, Democrats would refer to Hayes as "Rutherfraud B. Hayes" for his allegedly illegitimate election, as he had lost the popular vote by roughly 250,000 votes.

To decide the results of the election peacefully, the two houses of Congress set up the bi-partisan Electoral Commission to investigate and decide the winner. The Commission consisted of 15 members: five from the House, five from the Senate and five from the Supreme Court. The Commission consisted of 7 Democrats, 7 Republicans, and Justice David Davis, an Independent. After his election to the Senate, Davis resigned his seat on the Court and on the Commission. Joseph P. Bradley, a Supreme Court Justice, replaced him. Bradley was a Republican and the commission voted 8 to 7 – along party lines – to award Hayes all the contested electoral votes.

Key Ohio Republicans like James A. Garfield and the Democrats, however, agreed at a Washington hotel on the Wormley House Agreement. Southern Democrats were given assurances, in the Compromise of 1877, that if Hayes became president, he would pull federal troops out of the South and end Reconstruction. An agreement was made between them and the Republicans: if Hayes' cabinet consisted of at least one Southerner and he withdrew all Union troops from the South, then he would become President. This agreement restored local control over the Southern states, and ended national control over the state and local organs of government in the former Confederate states.

Presidency 1877–1881[]


Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite administering the oath of office to Rutherford B. Hayes , March 5, 1877. Photo by Brady

Because March 4, 1877 was a Sunday, Hayes took the oath of office in the Red Room of the Executive Mansion (White House)[16], becoming the first president to take the oath of office in the White House. This ceremony was held in secret, because the previous year's election had been so bitterly divisive that outgoing President Grant feared an insurrection by Tilden's supporters and wanted to ensure that any Democratic attempt to hijack the public inauguration ceremony would fail, Hayes having been sworn in already in private.[16] Hayes took the oath again publicly on March 5 1877 on the East Portico of the United States Capitol, and served until March 4, 1881. Hayes' best known quotation, "He serves his party best who serves his country best," is from his 1877 Inaugural Address. Above all, Hayes' intended for his Inaugural Address to soothe the wounds of a nation still scarred from the Civil War. With the phrase: "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" Hayes signaled the end of the Reconstruction Era. [17]

Civil service reform[]

At the time of Hayes' Inauguration a new political issue was heating up - Civil Service Reform. Since the administration of Andrew Jackson the Spoils System, where politicians gave government appointments to supporters, had reigned in Washington. Hayes, posturing as a moderate, decided that reforms had to be made, especially with the memory of the Grant Administration scandals still vivid. Hayes found himself in a very delicate position. His moderate stance annoyed reformers who felt he wasn't going far enough and infuriated the spoils system republicans. The faction of the Republican party associated most closely with the Spoils system was the "Stalwarts". Hayes' goal was to "depoliticize the civil service" without "destroy[ing] Republican party organizations." [18] Braving the political climate, Hayes issued an executive order that forbade federal office holders from taking part in party politics and protected them from receiving party contributions. When Hayes enforced this order at the New York Customs House, the nation's largest revenue collection agency, it created conflict with Senator Roscoe Conkling, who controlled civil service appointments in New York state and lead the "Stalwarts". Hayes had two goals: a) clean up corruption in the customhouse and b) remove some of Conkling's political power. Conkling had been a political rival during the 1876 election and Hayes wanted to curb much of Conkling's influences.[19] Hayes realized that he would have to end the unwritten rule of "courtesy of the Senate" where Senators appointed men to government positions in their states. During a congressional recess Hayes sacked Chester A. Arthur and his second-in-command and replaced them with Edwin A. Merritt, a rival of Conkling, and Silas W. Burt, a strong reformer, respectively. The stunning victory for the President was made more remarkable by the political climate of the time. Since Andrew Johnson's presidency Congress had asserted more and more power. By standing up to Conkling and his political machine, Hayes had expanded the power of the presidency and paved the way for the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 (ironically Chester Arthur would sign the Act into law just 5 years after being sacked).

Domestic policy[]

File:Arthur NYcustoms house cartoon.jpg

Hayes kicking Chester A. Arthur out of the New York Customs House.

Hayes' most controversial domestic act – apart from ending Reconstruction – came with his response to the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. Employees of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad[20] walked off the job and were joined across the country by thousands of workers in their own and sympathetic industries. When the labor disputes exploded into riots in several cities, Hayes called in federal troops, who, for the first time in U.S. history, fired on the striking workers, killing more than 70. Although the troops eventually managed to restore the peace, working people and industrialists alike were displeased with the military intervention. Workers feared that the federal government had turned permanently against them, while industrialists feared that such brutal action would spark revolution similar to the European Revolutions of 1848.

On the economic front Hayes had to deal with monetary concerns still left over from the Civil War. In order to pay for the war, the US government had issued Greenbacks or paper money not backed by specie (gold or silver). Debtors (generally farmers in the Mid-west and West) wanted to increase the circulation of Greenbacks because the resulting inflation would decrease their debts.[21] Creditors (generally Eastern industrialists and bankers) wanted to put the US back on the gold standard. Hayes came to believe that a hard money policy (returning to the Gold standard) would ensure prosperity and so he fully supported the 1875 Specie Resumption Act.[22] Hayes' administration gradually increased the government's supply of gold. By 1879 the Greenback was attached to the value of gold. The economic boom that followed the Panic of 1873 is credited to the return to the Gold standard along with good fortune.

Perhaps one of the biggest political challenges Hayes ever faced in his administration was the so called "Battle of the Riders". In the elections of 1878 the Democrats captured control of both houses of Congress. The Democrats, in an effort to strengthen their chances in the 1880 elections, began adding riders - pieces of legislation that "ride" to passage on another bill- to necessary appropriations bills. The democrats' riders targeted federal election enforcement laws that prevented fraud and voter intimidation. Determined not to give in, Hayes vetoed the bills with the riders citing two reasons: a)every citizen has the right "to cast one unintimidated ballot and to have his ballot honestly counted" [23] and b) "the riders were an unconstitutional attempt to force legislation on the President"[24] The Democrats could not overcome Hayes' vetoes and eventually gave up the fight. Their efforts also backfired because Hayes' tenacity had united the Republicans heading into the 1880 elections. The "Battle of the Riders" thus ended with a victory for presidential power.

Foreign policy[]

In 1878, Hayes was asked by Argentina to act as arbitrator following the War of the Triple Alliance between Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay against Paraguay. The Argentines hoped that Hayes would give the Gran Chaco region to them; however, he decided in favor of the Paraguayans. His decision made him a hero in Paraguay, and a city (Villa Hayes) and a department (Presidente Hayes) were named in his honor. Schools, roads, a soccer team (the Los Yanquis, Spanish for the Yankees), and a regional historical museum were named for him. At the Rutherford B. Hayes elementary school in Villa Hayes is a bronze bust of Hayes, which was donated by the Hayes family in the 1950s.[25][26]

File:President Rutherford Hayes 1870 - 1880 Restored.jpg

Hayes, c. 1870 - 1880, taken by Mathew Brady and Levin Handy.

Hayes attempted to build the Panama Canal, as he thought that a Central American canal should be under US control.[27] The French were then making plans to build a canal designed by Ferdinand de Lesseps. De Lesseps would later be forced to appear in a congressional committee to testify about the international connections of his company.[28] However, the canal was delayed for political reasons, including the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty. The canal would be built under American control years later under Theodore Roosevelt.

File:Left Puck.jpg

An 1881 Puck cartoon show James A. Garfield, Hayes' successor in the presidency, finding a baby at his front door with a tag marked "Civil Service Reform, compliments of R.B. Hayes". Hayes is seen in the background dressed as a woman and holding a bag marked "R.B. Hayes' savings, Fremont, Ohio".

Civil Rights[]

Hayes withdrew troops from the Reconstructive states and as a gesture of good will decorated Confederate war graves on Memorial Day, 1877. Hayes wanted to assimilate African Americans into White society with paternalistic protection by encouraging the growth of Republican Reconstruction ideals in states that were reluctant to enforce civil rights. Hayes did not regard making deals with Democrats as abandoning civil rights agenda for African Americans. However, by 1878, Hayes' opinions about Reconstruction had changed: "My task was to wipe out the color line, to abolish sectionalism; to end the war and bring peace...I am reluctantly forced to admit that the experiment was a failure."[29] During the Hayes administration "Jim Crow" laws spread around the country that prevented African Americans from voting. Hayes was reluctant to redeploy federal troops to enforce the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The withdrawal of federal troops within the first two months of the Hayes Presidency is considered by many historians as "the great betrayal" to African Americans. Without federal protection for them, segregation of public accommodations and white supremacy in politics was permitted in many states throughout the country. Republicans abandoned African American voters who were left to fend for themselves.[29]

Hayes vetoed bills repealing civil rights enforcement four times before finally signing one that satisfied his requirement for black rights. However, his subsequent attempts to reconcile with his Southern Democrat opposition by handing them prestigious civil service appointments alienated fellow Republicans and undermined his own previous attempts at civil service reform. Hayes also vetoed a bill that would have prevented further Chinese immigration into the United States. [29]

During his presidency, Hayes signed many bills, including one that for the first time allowed female attorneys to argue cases before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Notable legislation[]

Other acts include:

  • Desert Land Act (1877)
  • Bland-Allison Act (1878)
  • Timber and Stone Act (1878)

Significant events during his presidency[]

  • Munn v. Illinois (1876)
  • Installation of the first telephone in the White House[30]
  • Great Railroad Strike (1877)
  • Yellow Fever Outbreak (1878)

Administration and Cabinet[]


Official White House portrait of Rutherford B. Hayes

Template:Infobox U.S. Cabinet

Supreme Court appointments[]

Hayes appointed two Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States:


File:EEETC 061.jpg

The Hayes' home called Spiegel Grove in Fremont, Ohio.

File:EEETC 070.jpg

Rutherford and Lucy Hayes' grave at Spiegel Grove.

Hayes did not seek re-election in 1880, keeping his pledge that he would not run for a second term. He had, in his inaugural address, proposed a one-term limit for the presidency combined with an increase in the term length to six years.

Hayes served on the Board of Trustees of Ohio State University, the school he helped found during his time as governor of Ohio, from the end of his Presidency until his death.

File:Hayes in 1886.jpg

Hayes in 1886.

Rutherford Birchard Hayes died of complications of a heart attack in Fremont, Sandusky County, Ohio, at 12:00 p.m. on Tuesday January 17, 1893. His last words were "I know that I'm going where Lucy is." Interment was in Oakwood Cemetery[31]. Following the gift of his home to the state of Ohio for the Spiegel Grove State Park, he was re-interred there in 1916.


Hayes was the youngest of four children. Two of his siblings, Lorenzo Hayes (1815–1825) and Sarah Sophia Hayes (1817–1821), died in childhood, as was common then. Hayes was close to his surviving sibling, Fanny Arabella Hayes (1820–1856), as can be seen in this diary entry, written just after her death:

July, 1856. My dear only sister, my beloved Fanny, is dead! The dearest friend of childhood, the affectionate adviser, the confidante of all my life, the one I loved best, is gone; alas! never again to be seen on earth.

With Lucy Ware Webb, Hayes had the following children:

  • Birchard Austin Hayes (1853–1926)
  • James Webb Cook Hayes (1856–1934)
  • Rutherford Platt Hayes (1858–1927)
  • Joseph Thompson Hayes (1861–1863)
  • George Crook Hayes (1864–1866)
  • Fanny Hayes (1867–1950)
  • Scott Russell Hayes (1871–1923)
  • Manning Force Hayes (1873–1874)

Writings and speeches[]

Monday, March 5, 1877 Inaugural Address:

I shall not undertake to lay down irrevocably principles or measures of administration, but rather to speak of the motives which should animate us, and to suggest certain important ends to be attained in accordance with our institutions and essential to the welfare of our country.[32]
Many of the calamitous efforts of the tremendous revolution which has passed over the Southern States still remain. The immeasurable benefits which will surely follow, sooner or later, the hearty and generous acceptance of the legitimate results of that revolution have not yet been realized. Difficult and embarrassing questions meet us at the threshold of this subject.[32]
With respect to the two distinct races whose peculiar relations to each other have brought upon us the deplorable complications and perplexities which exist in those States, it must be a government which guards the interests of both races carefully and equally.[32]

See also[]

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32x28px American Civil War portal


External links[]

Preceded by
Ulysses S. Grant
President of the United States
March 4, 1877 – March 4, 1881
Succeeded by
James A. Garfield
Preceded by
William Allen
Governor of Ohio
1876 – 1877
Succeeded by
Thomas L. Young
Preceded by
Jacob D. Cox
Governor of Ohio
1868 – 1872
Succeeded by
Edward F. Noyes
United States House of Representatives

Template:USRSB Template:S-ppo

Preceded by
Ulysses S. Grant
Republican Party presidential candidate
Succeeded by
James A. Garfield
Preceded by
Ulysses S. Grant
Oldest U.S. President still living
July 23, 1885 – January 17, 1893
Succeeded by
Benjamin Harrison

Template:US PresidentsTemplate:USRepPresNomineesTemplate:Governors of OhioTemplate:Hayes cabinet

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