Rutherford B. Hayes: 1877 - 1881: (The American Presidents Series)
(Hans Trefousse, Arthur M. Schlesinger)
The disputed election of 1876 between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden, in which Congress set up a special electoral commission, handing the disputed electoral votes to Hayes, brings recent events into sharp focus.Historian Hans L. Trefousse explores Hayess new relevance and reconsiders what many have seen as the pitfalls of his presidency. While Hayes did officially terminate the Reconstruction, Trefousse points out that this process was already well under way by the start of his term and there was little he could do to stop it. A great intellectual and one of our best-educated presidents, Hayes did much more in the way of healing the nation and elevating the presidency.
Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior and President
Who was the real Rutherford B. Hayes? Was he a great or inconsequential president? How did his early life and career shape his later years? How did his triumphs and failures alter our history? And why should we care? Ari Hoogenboom's masterful life of Hayes definitively answers those questions and shows why our nineteenth president deserves far greater recognition than he's received in the past.
The first biography of Hayes in nearly fifty years, Hoogenboom's book recreates the rapidly changing world of Victorian America as experienced by one of its most reflective and perceptive figures. The Hayes that emerges is a much more progressive and far-sighted leader than previously suggested. He was, Hoogenboom argues, neither a Southern sympathizer nor an exemplar of the "Greedy Gilded Age." Rather, he was a devout, pragmatic champion of equal rights.
Hayes's colorful life was rooted in his frontier experiences in Ohio and galvanized on Civil War battlefields, where he survived five wounds and was ultimately promoted to major general. No other president was under fire on the front lines as much as Hayes.
Hayes's image as president (1877-1881), however, has not been quite so shining. He has been blamed for Reconstruction's failure and damned for an apparent bargain that guaranteed his election in exchange for withdrawing military support of Republican governments in the South. He has also been criticized for championing the gold standard, for breaking the Great Strike of 1877, for inconsistent support of civil-service reform, and for being an ineffectual politician.
Hoogenboom contends that these evaluations are largely false. Previous scholars, he says, have failed to appreciate Hayes's limited options and have misrepresented his actions in their depictions of an overly cautious, nonvisionary president. In fact, he was strikingly modern in his efforts to enlarge the power of the office, which he used as his own bully pulpit to rouse public support for his goals.
Chief among these goals, Hoogenboom shows, was equality for all Americans. Throughout his presidency and long afterwards, Hayes worked steadfastly for reforms that would encourage economic opportunity, distribute wealth more equitably, diminish the conflict between capital and labor, and ultimately enable African-Americans to achieve political equality. Although he fell far short of his ideals, his unwavering commitment deserves our attention and respect.
The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes
Mark Twain, who captured the essence of the Gilded Age, predicted that, in time, the "real and substantial greatness" of the Hayes presidency would cause it to "stand out against the horizon of history in its true proportions." This volume, an assessment of all significant aspects of the Hayes administration, may bring about just such a reappraisal. It is am important reevaluation of the administration that officially ended the Reconstruction era.
Hoogenboom covers all issues, decisions, and developments of consequence during the Hayes presidency--from the withdrawal of troops from Louisiana and South Carolina that signaled the end of Reconstruction, through the Great Strike of 1877--the most violent general strike in American history--to the Nez Perce War and the removal of the Poncas to the Indian Territory.
Hayes began his term with a vast segment of the population convinced that he had been elected by fraud. The election returns of four states were disputed in his race against Democrat Samuel J. Tilden; when a special commission awarded all disputed returns to Hayes, many indignant citizens concluded that he was not legally entitled to reside in the White House. In addition to that sever handicap, Hayes faced a hostile Congress, controversy over the last remaining Republican governments in the South, urgent demands for civil service reform, and severe economic depression.
Hoogenboom credits Hayes with being a patient reformer, principled but practical, cautious yet courageous. He vetoed popular legislation that would expand the currency and exclude Chinese laborers from the migrants allowed into the United States. He defeated congressional attempts to force him to make appointments. He vetoed appropriation bills that would destroy laws enforcing voting rights under the Fourteenth ad Fifteenth amendments. He did not attempt the impossible task of reforming the entire civil service, but supported the merit system in the New York Customhouse and Post Office and achieved excellent results. His restrained, legalistic response to the Great Strike saved lives and property. In foreign affairs, he took positions that anticipated both the Open Door with respect to China and the Theodore Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. Against great odds, Hayes defended the prerogatives of his office and enhanced its power and prestige.
This new interpretation contradicts the widely held view that Hayes was an inept politician and an ineffective leader. It was Hayes's character and personality, Hoogenboom argues, that set his presidency apart in the Gilded Age. His honesty and decency echoed the pristine values of the early American Republic, while his attempts to rally support by emphasizing issues and policies--rather than by relying on political organization--anticipated the style of twentieth-century presidents.
This book is part of the American Presidency Series.