Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums
Rutherford B. Hayes
The Papers of Rutherford B. Hayes, the Nineteenth President of the United States
The microfilm edition of the papers of Rutherford Birchard Hayes represents one of the last major collections of nineteenth century presidential papers to be microfilmed. Although Hayes is best remembered as the victor of the “stolen election” of 1876, scholars have begun to reconsider and reassess his presidency and the period commonly referred to as the Gilded Age. It is the hope of the editors of this project that this collection of material, over 170 linear feet, will further enhance historical research in these areas.
The origins of The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center can be traced back to 1910, when the family of President Hayes deeded Spiegel Grove, their father’s estate, to the state of Ohio. The gift which was transacted through Colonel Webb C. Hayes, the President’s second son, specified that a fire-proof building should be erected by the state as a library and museum to contain the family’s gift of the former Chief Executive’s personal library, papers, and personal effects.
The following year, on May 31, 1911, the Ohio General Assembly authorized an appropriation of $50,000.00 for the building and equipment of the Hayes Commemorative Library and Museum Building on the grounds of Spiegel Grove. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in 1912. The new library and museum were dedicated on May 30, 1916. A “library annex,” doubling the size of the original structure, was opened to the public on October 4, 1922, the one hundredth anniversary of Hayes’ birth. Subsequent additions in 1967 further increased the dimensions of the library and museum building to its present state. In addition to the library and museum building, the Hayes Presidential Center has grown to include the Hayes residence, the twenty-five acre estate, and a guest house.
Prior to the completion of the nation’s first presidential library in 1916, the Rutherford B. Hayes Papers were kept in Executive Mansion filing boxes in the Hayes residence. The President himself began to arrange his family’s manuscripts in alphabetical order near the close of his life. In the 1930s the papers were systemically indexed under subject headings by the Remington Rand Corporation, and later microfilmed on 16mm film. The alphabetical arrangement of the Hayes Papers was subsequently abandoned in favor of chronological filing, and an alphabetical index to the papers listing each individual manuscript by author(s) was made. The microfilm edition follows this chronological arrangement.
The microfilm edition was made possible by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Special gratitude is expressed to Fred Shelley and Frank G. Burke, the past and present directors of the NHPRC, for their support and encouragement throughout the many years of this project. Watt P. Marchman, the former director of the Hayes Presidential Center, deserves special mention for initiating the project and his guidance as project director. Unscheduled delays and untimely technical problems delayed by several years the completion of the microfilm edition of this historically important body of presidential papers. Through the process of trial and error and many hours of intense study, the project staff managed to overcome their handicap of inexperience in the art of micrographics and learn that there is more to microfilming than pushing a button.
Earl W. Crosby, Stanley C. Harrold, Jr., Ruth E. Smith, and David S. Weber helped to process the papers for filming, as well as help with the preparation of the guidebooklet and the filming of the documents. Ms. Petrene Wilkins provided invaluable assistance in her dual role as camera operator and micrographics technician for the project. Special attention also should go to Mrs. U.B. Lust for her diligence and patience in transcribing many of the indistinct documents found in the collection. Others who have contributed to the project include Mrs. Janice Haas, Richard C. Townsend, and other members of the Hayes Center staff.
The Hayes Center also wishes to acknowledge the support and cooperation of the many repositories throughout the country who provided the Center with photocopies of Hayes manuscripts from their collections. A list of these contributing institutions follows the introduction. The Archives-Library Division of the Ohio Historical Society merits special consideration and appreciation for the transferal of the Rutherford B. Hayes Governor’s Papers and pertinent Ohio Executive Department letterpress copy books relating to Rutherford’s governorship to the Hayes Presidential Center.
Thomas A. Smith
Curator of Manuscripts
The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center
January 7, 1983
List of Cooperating Institutions
A list of institutions which have provided The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center with photocopies of Hayes material:
Alabama Department of Archives
Albany Institute of History and Art
American Antiquarian Society
American Jewish Archives
American Philosophical Society
Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan
Boston Public Library
The Bostonian Society
Brigham Young University
Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society
Case Western Reserve University
Chattanooga Public Library
Chicago Historical Society
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
Cincinnati Historical Society
Cincinnati Law Department
Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
Cleveland Public Library
Clinch Valley College of the University of Virginia
Clyde (Ohio) Museum
Clyde Public Library
The Connecticut Historical Society
Connecticut State Library
Department of the Army, Hdqtrs. U.S.A. Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey
Detroit Public Library
The Filson Club
The Henry E. Huntington Library
Illinois State Historical Society
Indiana Historical Society
Indiana State Library
Iowa State Department of History and Archives
Lancaster County (Pennsylvania) Historical Society
Library of Congress
Lincoln National Life Foundation
Litchfield (Connecticut) Historical Society
Maine Historical Society
Mansfield (Ohio) Public Library
Maryland Historical Society
Massachusetts Historical Society
Michigan State University
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
Minneapolis Public Library
Minnesota Historical Society
Missouri Historical Society
Morristown National Historical Park
Nebraska State Historical Society
New Hampshire Historical Society
New Jersey Historical Society
New London (Ohio) Public Library
Museum of New Mexico
New York Historical Society
New York Public Library
New York State Library
New York State Library, SUNY, Department of Education
State of North Carolina, Department of Cultural Resources, Archives Branch
Ohio Historical Society
The Ohio State University
The Ontario County (New York) Historical Society
Historical Society of Pennsylvania
The Free Library of Philadelphia
Pierpont Morgan Library
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library
The Rosenberg Library
St. John’s Seminary, Camarillo, California
Sandusky County (Ohio) Courthouse
Seneca County (Ohio) Museum
The Smithsonian Institution
South Carolina Department of Archives and History
William Howard Taft Memorial Association
Tennessee Historical Society
Tennessee State Library and Archives
Texas State Library
Toledo-Lucas County (Ohio) Public Library
United States Military Academy
University of California at Berkeley
University of California at Los Angeles
University of Chicago
University of Illinois
University of Iowa
University of Michigan, William L. Clements Library
University of North Carolina
University of Oregon
University of Rochester
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
University of Virginia
Vermont Historical Society
Virginia Historical Society
Virginia State Library
State of Washington, Department of General Admission
The Washington State Historical Society
Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri
West Virginia Department of Archives and History
West Virginia University
Western Kentucky University
Western Reserve Historical Society
William and Mary College
The State Historical Society of Wisconsin
Wyoming Historical and Genealogical Society, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Yale University Law School
Rutherford B. Hayes Chronology
1822. October 4. Born in Delaware, Ohio, the last of five children of Rutherford and Sophia Birchard Hayes.
1836. Enrolled in Norwalk (Ohio) Academy, a Methodist school run by Jonah Chaplin.
1837. Fall. Enrolled in Isaac Webb’s Preparatory School in Middletown, Connecticut.
1838. Early November. Enrolled at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio.
1842. August 3. Graduated valedictorian of his class.
1842. Fall. Began studying law in the office of Thomas Sparrow, brother of Dr. William Sparrow, president of Kenyon College.
1843. August 28. Entered Dane Law School at Harvard as a member of the “middle class.”
1845. March 10. Admitted to the Ohio bar at Marietta.
1845. August 27. Awarded a Bachelor of Laws degree from Harvard University.
1845-1849. Practiced law in Lower Sandusky, now Fremont, Ohio.
1850-1861. Practicing attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio.
1852. December 30. Married Lucy Ware Webb, formerly of Chillicothe, Ohio.
1853. December 26. Established partnership in Cincinnati with Richard M. Corwine and William K. Rogers; law firm known as Corwine, Hayes and Rogers.
1856. Fall. Delegate to the state Republican convention in Columbus; campaigned for John C. Fremont, the Republican nominee for President.
1858. December 9. Appointed City Solicitor by the Cincinnati City Council, incumbent Samuel Hart died in office.
1859. April. Elected City Solicitor, leading Republican ticket.
1861. April 1. Defeated in his bid to be re-elected City Solicitor.
1861. April 15. Responded to Lincoln’s call for volunteers by joining home guard unit.
1861. June 27. Commissioned a Major in the Twenty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
1861-1865. Distinguished himself as an able field commander in the campaigns of the Twenty-Third Ohio in western Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley, rising to the rank of Brevet Major General of Volunteers.
1864. October 17. Elected to the House of Representatives (Thirty-Ninth Congress) from Ohio’s Second District.
1865. June 8. Resigned his commission in the army to ready his affairs before taking his seat in Congress.
1865. December 4. Took his seat in the House of Representatives.
1866. October. Re-elected Representative to Fortieth Congress.
1867. June 19. Nominated for governor of Ohio on Union Party ticket.
1867. July 20. Resigned his seat in Congress.
1867. October 8. Elected governor of Ohio, defeating Allen G. Thurman, the Democratic candidate.
1868. January 13. Inaugurated governor at Columbus.
1869. October 12. Re-elected governor, defeating Democratic Congressman George H. Pendleton by some 7,500 votes.
1870. January 10. Inaugurated governor for the second time.
1872. January. Refused offer to run for the United State Senate against John Sherman.
1872. June. Delegate to Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, where he served as a member of the platform committee.
1872. August 6. Reluctantly accepted the nomination for Congress from Republicans of Ohio’s Second District.
1872. October. Lost his bid for Congress by 1,500 votes, running ahead of the Republican ticket.
1873. March. Declined President Grant’s appointment as Assistant United States Treasurer at Cincinnati.
1873. May 3. Moved to Fremont and settled at Spiegel Grove, avowing that he had retired from politics.
1874. January 21. Sardis Birchard, his uncle, died, leaving bulk of his estate to Hayes, including Spiegel Grove, his home in Fremont, Ohio.
1875. June 2. Nominated by Republicans at state convention in Columbus to run for governor.
1875. October 12. Elected governor by 5,500 votes; name immediately mentioned as a presidential possibility.
1876. January 10. Inaugurated governor for an unprecedented third time.
1876. March 29. Selected as favorite son candidate of Ohio delegates to the National Convention to be held in Cincinnati.
1876. June 14-16. Nominated for President by the Republican National Convention on the seventh ballot; William Almon Wheeler of New York chosen for Vice-President.
1876. November 7. Disputed election; Samuel J. Tilden one electoral vote shy of a majority with 184; Hayes received 166 votes, with nineteen votes questioned.
1876-1877. November-February. Election controversy.
1877. January 26. The Electoral Count Act passed by Congress, creating an Electoral Commission composed of five Senators, five Representatives, and five Supreme Court Justices.
1877. February 28. Electoral Commission awards last of contested electoral votes to Hayes, giving him the presidency by the margin of one vote.
1877. March 1. Hayes and his family start for Washington.
1877. March 2. Congress declares Hayes and Wheeler duly elected with 185 votes to 184 for Tilden and Hendricks; Hayes resigns the governorship.
1877. March 3. Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite privately administered oath of office to Hayes after dinner at the Executive Mansion so the nation would have a President on Sunday, March 4.
1877. March 5. Publicly inaugurated as the nineteenth President of the United States, stressing in his inaugural address the importance of settling the “Southern Problem.”
1877. March 15. Appointed Frederick Douglass United States Marshal of the District of Columbia.
1877. April 24. Removed military support from remaining two carpetbag governments in Louisiana and South Carolina, officially bringing Reconstruction to an end.
1877. June. Beginning of war with Nez Percé Indians and Chief Joseph.
1877. June 22. Civil service reform implemented in the executive department by executive order.
1877. July. Great Railway Strike, federal troops sent to four states to suppress the rioters.
1877. October. War with Nez Percé Indians ended with surrender of Chief Joseph.
1877. October 6. Elected trustee of the Peabody Education Fund.
1877. October 16. Appointed John Marshall Harlan of Kentucky to the Supreme Court.
1877. December 30. Celebrated Silver Wedding Anniversary in the White House.
1878. February 28. Vetoed the Bland-Allison Act, Congress passing it over his veto the same day.
1878. July 11. Suspended Chester A. Arthur and Alonzo B. Cornell from the New York Customs House.
1878. September 28. Received first native Chinese ambassador, Chen Lan Pin, in Washington.
1879. March 1. Vetoed Chinese Exclusion Bill on the ground that it violated the Burlingame Treaty of 1868.
1879. May 10. First telephone placed in the White House.
1880. March 8. Special message emphasizing American control of interoceanic canal sent to Congress.
1880. September-November. Made an extended tour of the western United States, first time a United States President went to the West Coast while still in office.
1880. November 17. Treaty negotiated with China giving the United States the right to supervise and limit, but not prohibit, Chinese immigration.
1880. December 15. Appointed William Burnham Woods of Georgia to the Supreme Court.
1881. January 26. Appointed Stanley Matthews of Ohio to the Supreme Court.
1881. March 4. Retired from the Presidency, returning to his Spiegel Grove estate in Fremont, Ohio.
1881. Spring. Appointed a trustee of the Western Reserve University; became more active in the affairs of the Peabody Fund.
1882. May 3. Joined the Grand Army of the Republic and Ohio and National Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.
1882. May 18. Chosen first president of the John F. Slater Fund.
1883. September 7. Selected president of the National Prison Association.
1883. December. Appointed a trustee of Mount Union College.
1884. Appointed a trustee of Ohio Wesleyan University.
1887. January. Appointed a trustee of The Ohio State University
1888. October 17. Chosen commander of the National Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion, a position he held until his death.
1889. June 25. Death of his wife, Lucy Webb Hayes, in Fremont.
1890. April-May. Visited Bermuda with his daughter Fanny.
1892. October 20. Named president of the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society.
1893. January 17. Died at his home in Fremont.
Rutherford Birchard Hayes, the nineteenth President of the United States, was born in the small central Ohio town of Delaware on October 4, 1822. Five years earlier, his parents, Rutherford and Sophia Birchard Hayes, had migrated from Dummerston, Vermont, to a farm they acquired on the Ohio frontier. Several months before the future President’s birth, his father died from a fever, leaving an expectant wife with two young children, Lorenzo and Fanny Arabella.
The presence of her bachelor brother, Sardis Birchard, eased Sophia’s task of raising a family in the West. He supplied paternal influence and guidance in the absence of Rutherford’s father, but, in 1826, Sardis left the Hayes household in Delaware to become a prosperous pioneer merchant and Indian trader in Lower Sandusky, now Fremont, Ohio. Over the years, he would continue to help Hayes in his education, legal career and business ventures. Sardis also would develop the beautiful wooded Spiegel Grove estate which Hayes inherited upon his uncle’s death in January 1874.
Hayes grew up in the village of Delaware in a two-story brick house on the northeast corner of William and Winter Streets. Because of Rutherford’s sickly nature and a drowning accident in 1825 which claimed the life of his older brother Lorenzo, Sophia attempted to protect her surviving son by shielding him from the outside world. This atmosphere engendered very close family ties for all concerned. From his mother, “Ruddy” received his intense pride and special feeling about his Yankee or New England heritage. This sentiment prompted him years later to make several journeys to his ancestral home and to trace the lineage of his family. His sister Fanny was a constant companion during childhood. Rutherford’s earliest recollections of her were as a nurse and protector when he was three or four years old. Always a personal confidant until her death in 1856, Fanny, more than anyone else, was responsible for directing her brother down the path which ultimately led him to the Presidency.
Sophia supplied the basic essentials of her son’s education by teaching him to read, write and spell. From 1830 to 1835, he attended district school in Delaware. At Sardis’ insistence, Hayes entered Norwalk Seminary in 1836. After spending a year at this Methodist boarding school in Norwalk, Ohio, Rutherford did not want to further his education, but desired to emulate his uncle’s adventurous life in Lower Sandusky. Sardis thought differently, however, and enrolled his nephew at Isaac Webb’s Maple Grove Academy in Middletown, Connecticut. Hayes completed his preparatory studies in 1838, and at the urging of his mother attended Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, instead of Yale, which his uncle had chosen. During his four years there, the future president initiated many important lifelong friendships with classmates such as Guy M. Bryan of Texas, Stanley Matthews and William K. Rogers of Ohio. The young scholar manifested an interest in politics, displaying whiggish sentiments and enthusiastically engaging in political debates as a member of the Philomathesian Society. He culminated his illustrious college career by delivering the valedictory address at his commencement exercises in August 1842, and later would become a member of Phi Beta Kappa twenty-two years after Kenyon College was granted a charter in 1858.
While at Kenyon, Hayes developed an interest in pursuing a legal career. In the fall of 1842, he began to study law by reading Blackstone’s Commentaries in the office of Sparrow and Matthews in Columbus, Ohio. Unlike many of his contemporaries, the aspiring attorney decided to complete his preparations by attending law school. Consequently he enrolled at Dane Law School of Harvard University in the fall of 1843. Here the Kenyon graduate spent three terms studying under some of the most distinguished jurists of the day, including Simon Greenleaf and Justice Joseph Story.
Rutherford returned to Ohio in early 1845 and was admitted to the bar at Marietta on March 10. He then established a law practice in Lower Sandusky, his uncle’s home. Although Sardis was in need of constant legal advice, his nephew could not secure enough work to keep himself busy. Hoping to rectify this unfortunate situation, he formed a partnership, in early 1846, with Ralph Pomeroy Buckland, a prominent attorney in the town. Even with a partner, Hayes did not find practicing law in Lower Sandusky to his liking. Routine legal matters could not compete with the excitement generated by the outbreak of hostilities between the United States and Mexico. Thinking that a soldierly life would strengthen his constitution, in June of 1847 he traveled to Cincinnati in hopes of securing an appointment as an officer in some volunteer company. During the course of his journey, he stopped in Delaware and Columbus to visit with his mother and sister. It was on this brief sojourn that he met Lucy Ware Webb, who in 1852 would become his wife.
In Cincinnati local physicians advised the potential warrior against going to Mexico for reasons of health. So instead of joining the army, he made a lengthy trip to New England with his cousin John Rutherford Pease. Hayes returned to Lower Sandusky in the fall of 1847 with his health much improved, and immediately involved himself with matters relating to civic improvements and politics. A Whig like his uncle, he helped to campaign for Zachary Taylor in 1848, and was placed on that party’s central committee for Sandusky County in 1847.
During December 1848, Rutherford Hayes and Sardis Birchard set out for Texas to visit the former’s Kenyon College classmate, Guy M. Bryan. They did not return to Lower Sandusky until the end of April 1849. The three and one-half months Rutherford spent in Texas had a profound impact in shaping his views towards the South and would prove important in later years. Southern society fascinated the Ohio Whig, and his reception in Texas convinced him that honorable men could overcome sectional differences.
Several trips to Cincinnati had prompted Hayes to consider moving to the West’s largest and most active city, where the prospects seemed brighter for a promising young lawyer. Upon his return from Texas, he dissolved his partnership with Ralph P. Buckland, but the cholera epidemic of the summer of 1849 prevented his immediate removal to the Queen City. Before leaving for his new home, Hayes played an important role in changing the name of Lower Sandusky to Fremont in honor of the “Pathfinder,” John Charles Fremont.
Arriving in Cincinnati in December 1849, the young lawyer rented one-half of an office in the Law Building on Third Street. He spent his first years in Cincinnati building his law practice, appearing at social functions and making new friends. He soon became a member of the recently organized Literary Club of Cincinnati and the Odd Fellows, the only secret organization he ever joined. Rutherford also attended meetings of the Sons of Temperance, frequently giving addresses there and elsewhere. He gained public attention in Cincinnati in 1852 when he was appointed to handle the criminal case of Samuel Cunningham, a young man accused of grand larceny.
Even though the court sentenced Cunningham to three years in prison, Hayes performed well enough to win appointment to assist in the defense of the accused murderess Nancy Farrer. His approach to this case was a claim of insanity for the defendant, and he won a new trial and eventual acquittal on the grounds that Farrer was of “unsound mind.” The woman was confined to a mental institution and Hayes’ reputation rose considerably. Concurrent association with the spectacular murder trials of James Summons and Henry LeCount further enhanced his standing in the legal profession.
Almost immediately after setting up his law practice, Rutherford began to call on Lucy Webb. The daughter of Maria Cook and Dr. James Webb, Lucy (1831-1889) was a devout and unusually well-educated young lady for her day. She had attended the female academy of Ohio Wesleyan College in Delaware before enrolling at the Wesleyan Female College in Cincinnati, from which she graduated in June 1850. Diary notations reveal his growing attraction to the young girl whom he had met several years earlier at the sulphur spring in Delaware, Ohio. After a courtship of nearly two years, Rutherford and Lucy married on December 30, 1852. Their union was blessed with eight children, five of whom lived to adulthood: Birchard Austin (1853-1926); Webb Cook (1856-1934); Rutherford Platt (1858-1927); Fanny (1867-1950); and Scott Russell (1871-1923). Three children, all boys, died in infancy.
Before the year 1853 was over, Hayes argued two cases before the Ohio Supreme Court, those involving Nancy Farrer and James Summons. In December of that year, he and his Kenyon College classmate, William K. Rogers, joined the law firm of Corwine, Smith and Holt. Under this new arrangement, Rutherford received one-third interest in and profit from the new firm of Corwine, Hayes and Rogers. Because of poor health, Rogers left the firm in 1856 to go to Minnesota. When he failed to return from his leave of absence he was dropped from the firm.
Local events in Cincinnati inspired Hayes to become increasingly active in the legal aspects of fugitive slave matters, and he freely offered his services in the aid of runaway slaves and their friends. In March 1855, he became involved in the case of Rosetta Armstrong, a black woman facing trial under the Fugitive Slave Act. His masterly defense resulted in the young woman’s freedom. Although he was looked upon as a defender of fugitive slaves, Hayes did not welcome the notoriety associated with these cases.
While advancing his legal career in Cincinnati, Hayes gradually immersed himself in local and national politics. In 1856 he enthusiastically campaigned for the Republican presidential candidate, John C. Fremont. By 1858 he had become strongly associated with the Republican cause in the Queen City. In December of that same year, a divided City Council selected Hayes by a margin of just one vote to fill the vacancy of City Solicitor. This first public office came as a result of a compromise when a single Democrat joined forces with Republicans and Know-Nothings to provide the decisive vote on the thirteenth ballot. Shortly after his appointment Hayes dissolved his partnership with Richard M. Corwine.
The new City Solicitor served for two years, winning election in his own right in April 1859. His excellent record did not prevent him from being a victim of local reaction to the secession crisis. In April 1861 a coalition of Democrats and Know-Nothings defeated him and the rest of the Republican slate. He returned to private law practice in partnership with Leopold Markbreit, but the flow of national events made the association of short duration. After President Lincoln’s call for volunteers, Rutherford quickly joined a company of home guards composed of members of his literary club. He later offered his services to Governor William Dennison, who appointed him Major in a newly formed regiment, the Twenty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
The new Major spent the first months of the war at Camp Chase outside Columbus attending to routine military matters. Because of his legal training and his reputation, he served for a time in the capacity of judge advocate general on the field headquarters staff of General William S. Rosecrans in Virginia. Promotion to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on October 24, 1861, placed Hayes second in command of the Twenty-Third O.V.I. He soon assumed de facto command of the regiment and within a year earned the grade of Colonel of the Twenty-Third Ohio. Two years later, October 19, 1864, he achieved the rank of Brigadier General of Volunteers for gallantry and distinguished service in the Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1864. A final promotion, Brevet Major General of Volunteers, became effective March 13, 1865. Although Hayes never participated in battle as a general, he gained distinction and the confidence of his men as one of the “good colonels” and regimental commanders.
Hayes and the Twenty-Third Volunteer Infantry operated for most of the war in the rugged mountain terrain of western Virginia. His first combat came in August 1861 at the Battle of Carnifax Ferry. In September 1862 during the Antietam campaign, Hayes played an important role in the Union victory at South Mountain. In the course of the action, he sustained a wound in his left arm above the elbow. Both he and his regiment won the praise of their superior officers for their gallant actions under extremely heavy enemy fire.
Their major activity of the following year was to participate in the pursuit of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and his band of raiders in Ohio. During Sheridan’s 1864 campaign, Hayes and the Twenty-Third Ohio saw some of the heaviest fighting of the war. After participating in the earlier engagements of Cloyd’s Mountain, New River Bridge, and Lexington, he and his men fought successive battles in the Shenandoah Valley at Lynchburg, Winchester, Berryville, Opequan, Fisher’s Hill, and Cedar Creek. During this last engagement, he helped to rally the federal troops and saved the day for General Philip H. Sheridan. While in the Valley, Hayes acquired a deep admiration for General George Crook, the commander of the Army of West Virginia.
Like many of his contemporaries, Hayes would find positive features in his military service. Even though he had several horses shot beneath him and was wounded on four different occasions, the vigorous wartime experiences helped to improve his health. The injury to his left arm proved annoying in later life, but it was not incapacitating. The war would help to shape his views towards the South by making him aware of the immense task of reconstructing and restoring the defeated section. While in the army he formed many lasting friendships and associations and developed a deep respect and love for his fellow comrades in arms. These attitudes would prove useful in postwar political contests, for Hayes could legitimately claim support as the “soldier’s friend.” Lucy Hayes, in ministering to the needs of the sick and wounded during many camp visits, also won the admiration of the troops. In later years, she and Rutherford enjoyed attending soldier’s reunions. The former commander actively participated in a variety of post-Civil War military organizations such as the Grand Army of the Republic, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, and the Society of the Army of West Virginia.
In October of 1864, the citizens of the Second Congressional District in Cincinnati rewarded Hayes for his meritorious and gallant service by electing him to Congress. The nomination resulted from the efforts of William Henry Smith, who later would help him secure other nominations. Even though going to Congress was one of his ambitions, the Colonel refused to leave active military duty to campaign for his election. He professed the view that “An officer fit for duty who at this crisis would abandon his post to electioneer for a seat in Congress ought to be scalped.” During his brief tenure in the Thirty-Ninth and Fortieth Congresses, March 4, 1865 to October 31, 1867, Congressman Hayes enjoyed his services as chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress. As a party regular, he voted for the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, supported the Congressional plan for Reconstruction, and favored the full payment of the public debt created during the war.
Although he rarely deviated from the Republican party line, he had misgivings about the harsher aspects of the Radical Republican program. The bitterness of the divisive Congressional debates at that time greatly disturbed him. His solution to the thorny problem of suffrage was a universal education qualification to confer voting rights in state and national elections. On a December 1866 Southern excursion with several other members of Congress, Hayes gained a much better understanding of the problems of the postwar South.
Shortly after he had been re-elected to a second term, Congressman Hayes admitted to his uncle that he was not suited for the life of a legislator in Washington. He spent most of his time administering to the needs of his constituents and taking care of pension claims and other matters relating to soldiers. He rarely attended any of the social functions in the nation’s capital.
Acceptance of the Republican candidacy for the office of governor of Ohio in June 1867 offered him a creditable excuse for exit from Congress. He owed his nomination both to the machinations of William Henry Smith and to the controversy over Negro suffrage. To secure the passage of a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing Negroes the right to vote, Ohio Republicans needed a strong candidate for governor. Unimpeachable character and morals, a distinguished war record, and the fact that he was not too closely identified with the Radicals made Hayes an ideal candidate. In the ensuing election, he defeated a formidable Democratic opponent, Allan G. Thurman, by less than 3,000 votes. At the same time, Ohio voters rejected the state amendment guaranteeing Negro suffrage by 38,000 votes.
Inaugurated on January 13, 1868, the Governor renewed his stand for equal voting rights and fought the proposed Democratic repeal of Ohio’s assent to the fourteenth amendment. In June 1869 the state Republican convention in Columbus renominated Hayes by acclamation. Campaigning in favor of the ratification of the fifteenth amendment and a sound fiscal policy based on hard currency, he defeated George H. Pendleton of Cincinnati, the Democratic challenger, by some 7,500 votes. When he later assessed his first two terms as governor of Ohio (1868-1872), Hayes listed the following as among his most notable accomplishments: the initiation of a state geological survey; the state’s assumption of control of a soldier’s and sailor’s home in Xenia, Ohio; the establishment of an agricultural and mechanical college which later became known as The Ohio State University; the implementation of reforms in the state’s penal and mental institutions; and Ohio’s ratification of the fifteenth amendment and other Negro suffrage legislation. He also took great pride in his efforts to preserve Ohio’s historical heritage.
After holding elective office for more than seven years, Governor Hayes yearned for the opportunity to retire from public life. He refused to run for an unprecedented third term and declined an offer from a group of insurgent Republicans in January 1872 to contest the Senate seat held by John Sherman. In May he attended the Liberal Republican Convention in Cincinnati as a casual observer. Although dissatisfied with Grant’s record as President and sympathetic with this reform movement’s cause, he remained a party regular. As a delegate to the Republican National Convention, he supported Grant’s renomination.
That fall the former governor reluctantly ran for Congress in Cincinnati’s upper middle-class Second District, where political leaders feared a swing to the Liberal Republican-Democratic coalition led by Horace Greeley. Although he outpolled the local Republican ticket, he lost in his bid for a third Congressional term. As a reward for his party loyalty, President Grant offered him the position of Assistant United States Treasurer at Cincinnati. Disdaining any further connections with current politics, he politely declined the appointment.
Assuring himself that he was finished with politics for good, Hayes and his family moved to Fremont, Ohio, in May 1873. With Spiegal Grove as his home, he settled down to enjoy the leisurely life of a country squire. During these years of political repose, Rutherford busied himself with such matters as caring for his ailing uncle, improving his estate, founding the Birchard Public Library and Sandusky County Pioneer and Historical Association in Fremont, and developing his land investments. Republican reverses in 1873 and 1874, however, cut short his retirement to private life. He yielded to his party’s call and accepted the Republican nomination for governor on June 2, 1875. Carefully handling cultural issues such as parochial education while adhering to sound money principles, he defeated the incumbent Democrat William Allen to become Ohio’s first three-term governor.
Political victory in 1875 brought Hayes national attention as a possible presidential candidate in 1876. Not only did the governor-elect consider the possibility in his diary, but friends also started to work for his nomination. In the fall of 1875, he went to Pennsylvania on an extended political trip, and in January 1876, Senator John Sherman and William Henry Smith publicly began to promote him as the state’s favorite son. On March 29, the Ohio Republican Convention unanimously endorsed their Governor for President. At the 1876 Republican National Convention held in Cincinnati, Governor Hayes was one of nine candidates vying for the top spot on the ticket. His advisers let the forces of Benjamin H. Bristow lead the fight against the pre-convention favorite, James G. Blaine. This strategy allowed Hayes to edge Maine’s “Plumed Knight” on the seventh ballot as a compromise candidate. To balance the ticket, the convention selected William A. Wheeler, a New York Congressman, as the party’s vice-presidential choice.
In his letter of acceptance, Governor Hayes stressed the need for civil service reform in the federal government, reconciliation between the North and the South, sound currency, and a single presidential term. With remarkable confidence in his party’s prospects, the Ohio governor stayed in Columbus performing his normal duties and keeping in contact with both national and local Republican leaders. Consistent with the views expressed in his written statement, he took a strong stand against soliciting campaign contributions from party regulars who held government jobs. Although this stance alienated certain Stalwarts, it appealed to reform-minded citizens. The candidate maintained both his sound money principles and his temperance beliefs during the campaign, but refrained from using them as major issues in order not to offend potential Greenbackers and anti-prohibitionists.
In late October, Hayes recorded in his diary his concern over a contested election. The November results proved that these fears were well-founded. Although the Democratic candidates, Samuel J. Tilden and Thomas A. Hendricks, appeared to receive a plurality of the popular vote in excess of 250,000, the Republicans challenged the electoral count for nineteen votes in three contested states, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. The Democrats responded by challenging one of Oregon’s electoral votes. The climax to the strangest and most controversial election in our nation’s history came when a special commission, created by Congress for deciding the vote, resolved to award all the contested electoral votes to Hayes.
The margin of victory was by one electoral vote, 185 to 184, and the final result was announced only two days prior to Inauguration Day. Governor Hayes was enroute to Washington when he received the news. At the urging of the Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish, he took the oath of office from Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite at a private dinner party given by the Grants on March 3 to forestall the dangers of an interregnum. Since the traditional inaugural day of March 4 fell on a Sunday, Hayes held the public inauguration on Monday, March 5, on the steps of the Capitol. Before a crowd of 30,000 spectators he became the nineteenth President of the United States.
Although Rutherford B. Hayes occupied the Executive Mansion for only four years, 1877-1881, his Presidency signaled an end to the excesses of the Grant era. He followed his maxim, “He serves his party best, who serves his country best.” In many respects the new administration reversed the erosion of executive power which had occurred during the Johnson and Grant years. In advancing the cause of civil service reform and adhering to campaign promises of a single term, Hayes helped to restore people’s confidence in the Chief of State. The President jealously guarded the executive appointment and pardoning prerogatives in bitter clashes with the Senate. His relatively successful use of the veto, especially against legislative riders to appropriation bills, enhanced the power and prestige of the Presidency. Resistance to senatorial pressures for the appointment of party favorites allowed Hayes to assemble a distinguished and capable cabinet. His original cabinet officers included Charles Devens, Attorney General; William M. Evarts, Secretary of State; David M. Key, Postmaster General; George W. McCrary, Secretary of War; John Sherman, Secretary of the Treasury; Carl Schurz, Secretary of the Interior; and Richard W. Thompson, Secretary of the Navy. Nathan Goff, Jr., Horace Maynard, and Alexander Ramsey later joined the Hayes cabinet holding the respective posts as Secretary of the Navy, Postmaster General, and Secretary of War.
During his term of office Hayes not only had to contend with a hostile and largely Democratic Congress, but also had to face questions regarding the legitimacy of his title to the Presidency. The most important challenge came from the Potter Commission of 1878. The President remained supremely confident of his position, and just as he expected, the investigation boomeranged on its Democratic investigators. Wholesale Democratic frauds were revealed and published in the press in the form of decoded cipher telegrams. The President interpreted the campaign of 1880 as a final vindication, since the Democrats passed over Governor Tilden; and the Republican victor, James Garfield, had been closely associated with the Hayes side of the election controversy.
“The Great Railway Strike” and the accompanying riots during the summer of 1877 presented a major test to the new administration. President Hayes had to exert his authority as commander-in-chief of the military forces by responding to requisitions for federal troops in states where the governors were not able to maintain order with state militia. His decision to answer governors’ requests by the use of federal force, where necessary, set a precedent for future federal strike policy where the national government assumed the protection of private property as well as public property. Hayes, while willing to limit the violent actions of the workers, also expressed the belief that “judicious control of capitalists” combined with “education of the strikers” might provide a “real remedy” to the emerging problems of industrialization.
In the realm of Southern affairs, Hayes attempted to implement a program based on the principles of cooperation and conciliation, as expressly set forth in his inaugural address. As evidence of his good intentions, in April 1877, he withdrew military support from the two remaining carpetbag governments in Louisiana and South Carolina. Initially he favored a national program of internal improvements for the South. In hopes of broadening the Republican base of support in the South, he appointed several southern Democrats, such as David M. Key of Tennessee, to important federal positions, and made several well-publicized trips to Dixie. However, this much criticized departure from traditional Republican policy floundered on the rock of Southern intransigence.
The President devoted considerable time attempting to solve the nation’s economic and monetary problems. A staunch opponent of free and unlimited coinage of silver, he advocated a financial program embracing the economic doctrines of strict adherence to the gold standard and the resumption of specie payments. Hayes worked with his trusted friend and adviser, Secretary of the Treasury John Sherman, to achieve these goals. Under Sherman’s astute guidance, specie payments were resumed in January 1879. Although overridden, the President took pride in his veto of the Bland-Allison Silver Purchase Act in February 1878. He credited the economic upswing after the five year depression of 1873 to his financial policies.
Two other areas which claimed a major share of President Hayes’ attention were Indian relations and foreign affairs. With the aid of Carl Schurz, the Secretary of the Interior, the administration departed from traditional treatment of the American Indian. Hayes regarded all American Indians as citizens rather than “aliens” or “wards” and stressed the need for Indian education. Schurz, a fiery German-born liberal, initiated needed reforms in the Indian service, and thwarted a movement to transfer control of the Bureau of Indian Affairs back to the War Department. Hayes and Schurz laid the groundwork for future Indian policy. One really serious difficulty in the administration’s Indian program was the removal of the Poncas. This problem, inherited from the Grant government, plagued Hayes throughout his term.
In the arena of foreign affairs, the President and his Secretary of State, William M. Evarts, tried to increase the professionalism of the diplomatic corps by reorgainizing the Department of State and promoting career officers whenever possible. The administration actively encouraged American trade and commerce abroad and asserted the right of the United States to intervene in matters involving an interoceanic canal. Hayes and Evarts followed a generally conciliatory foreign policy, and finally recognized the Diaz regime in Mexico and received the first Chinese minister to the United States. Both actions relieved potential diplomatic problem areas, as did the veto of the Chinese Exclusion Act on March 1, 1879. An additional point of interest was Hayes’ service as arbiter of a boundary dispute between Paraguay and Argentina.
Another important facet of President Hayes’ four years in office was the amount of time he spent traveling throughout the United States. Called “Rutherford the Rover” by his detractors, Hayes made four extended trips and numerous shorter junkets while he was President. Included in his travels were official visits to New England, the South, the Midwest, and the West. His Great Western Tour of 1880 marked the first time a United States President had visited the West Coast while still in office. Hayes looked upon these trips as an effective means by which to promote unity, to dispel dissension, and to restore harmony in a nation which had been badly divided by the Civil War.
In his personal life as well as his political activities, Hayes offered something of a contrast to his hard-drinking predecessor. Despite their controversial abolition of wine in the White House, the first family managed to entertain with both elegance and variety during their four years in Washington. In fact, these functions highlighted the Washington social season. As part of his civil service reform, Rutherford Hayes refused to appoint relatives to government posts, and did not seek to turn any private profit from his political positions. The President personally displayed the model virtues of the best side of the Victorian era - hard work, modesty and sobriety, and integrity - as an example to the American people.
With the accession to power of James A. Garfield on March 4, 1881, Rutherford B. Hayes retired from the Presidency. Having looked forward to a return to private life and their home in Fremont, both Rutherford and Lucy were glad their four years in Washington had come to an end. However, Hayes quickly became one of the most active ex-Presidents the country has ever known, following his own advice that a former President should “like every good American citizen, be willing and prompt to bear his part in every useful work that will promote the welfare and happiness of his family, his town, his state, and his country.”
Dedicated to serving the public as a private citizen and philanthropist, the ex-President delivered numerous speeches and patriotic addresses; championed many educational, humanitarian, and reform causes; and once again became active in the affairs of Fremont. Continuing to manifest an interest in education, Hayes served as trustee of The Ohio State University, Western Reserve University, Ohio Wesleyan University, and Mount Union College. He was an avid supporter of industrial or manual arts training and an advocate of universal education. He saw the former as a means for all classes of people to develop character and self-reliance, while the latter offered the best way to eliminate social injustice and advance social harmony in American life. As a promoter of Negro education, Hayes served as trustee and chairman of the executive committee of the Peabody Education Fund and as the first president of the John F. Slater Fund. He participated in the Lake Mohonk conference on Indian problems and in 1890 and 1891 presided over two similar conferences which focused on the Negro. The National Prison Association selected Hayes, long a champion of prison reform, as its second president. In addition, he served as president of the Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, Ohio and national commander of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion, and president of the Twenty-Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry Association.
Lucy’s death, on June 25, 1889, saddened the final years of his life. Hayes remained active until early January 1893, when he was stricken with severe chest pains while on business in Cleveland. He insisted on returning home to Fremont where, on January 17, he quietly passed away in his beloved Spiegel Grove home. In a manner befitting a former President, Rutherford B. Hayes was laid to rest in Fremont’s Oakwood Cemetery beside his beloved Lucy. Former President and President-elect Grover Cleveland, Governor William McKinley, and the entire Ohio State Legislative Assembly attended the funeral ceremonies.
In April 1915, the remains of the former President and Mrs. Hayes were removed to a knoll within the wooded grounds of Spiegel Grove. The site, which was designated as a state memorial, is marked by a granite monument designed by President Hayes in 1889 and quarried from the ancestral farm in Dummerston, Vermont.
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