19. RUTHERFORD B. HAYES
Beneficiary of the most fiercely disputed election
in American history, Rutherford B. Hayes brought to the
Executive Mansion dignity, honesty, and moderate reform.
To the delight of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union,
Lucy Webb Hayes carried out her husband's orders to banish wines
and liquors from the White House.
Born in Ohio in 1822, Hayes was educated at Kenyon College
and Harvard Law School. After five years of law practice in
Lower Sandusky, he moved to Cincinnati, where he flourished as a
young Whig lawyer.
He fought in the Civil War, was wounded in action, and rose
to the rank of brevet major general. While he was still in the
Army, Cincinnati Republicans ran him for the House of
Representatives. He accepted the nomination, but would not
campaign, explaining, "an officer fit for duty who at this
crisis would abandon his post to electioneer... ought to be
Elected by a heavy majority, Hayes entered Congress in
December 1865, troubled by the "Rebel influences ... ruling the
White House." Between 1867 and 1876 he served three terms as
Governor of Ohio.
Safe liberalism, party loyalty, and a good war record made
Hayes an acceptable Republican candidate in 1876. He opposed
Governor Samuel J. Tilden of New York.
Although a galaxy of famous Republican speakers, and even
Mark Twain, stumped for Hayes, he expected the Democrats to win.
When the first returns seemed to confirm this, Hayes went to
bed, believing he had lost. But in New York, Republican National
Chairman Zachariah Chandler, aware of a loophole, wired leaders
to stand firm: "Hayes has 185 votes and is elected." The popular
vote apparently was 4,300,000 for Tilden to 4,036,000 for Hayes.
Hayes's election depended upon contested electoral votes in
Louisiana, South Carolina, and Florida. If all the disputed
electoral votes went to Hayes, he would win; a single one would
Months of uncertainty followed. In January 1877 Congress
established an Electoral Commission to decide the dispute. The
commission, made up of eight Republicans and seven Democrats,
determined all the contests in favor of Hayes by eight to seven.
The final electoral vote: 185 to 184.
Northern Republicans had been promising southern Democrats at
least one Cabinet post, Federal patronage, subsidies for
internal improvements, and withdrawal of troops from Louisiana
and South Carolina.
Hayes insisted that his appointments must be made on merit,
not political considerations. For his Cabinet he chose men of
high caliber, but outraged many Republicans because one member
was an ex-Confederate and another had bolted the party as a
Liberal Republican in 1872.
Hayes pledged protection of the rights of Negroes in the
South, but at the same time advocated the restoration of "wise,
honest, and peaceful local self-government." This meant the
withdrawal of troops. Hayes hoped such conciliatory policies
would lead to the building of a "new Republican party" in the
South, to which white businessmen and conservatives would rally.
Many of the leaders of the new South did indeed favor
Republican economic policies and approved of Hayes's financial
conservatism, but they faced annihilation at the polls if they
were to join the party of Reconstruction. Hayes and his
Republican successors were persistent in their efforts but could
not win over the "solid South."
Hayes had announced in advance that he would serve only one
term, and retired to Spiegel Grove, his home in Fremont, Ohio,
in 1881. He died in 1893.