Rutherford B. Hayes
What Number President was He?
Rutherford B. Hayes: A Legacy of Reform and Reconciliation
Early Life and Education: Rutherford Birchard Hayes was born on October 4, 1822, in Delaware, Ohio, USA. He grew up in a family of modest means, with his father being a storekeeper and his mother a devoted homemaker. Despite their limited resources, Hayes's parents placed great importance on education, instilling in him a strong work ethic and a love for learning from an early age. Hayes attended local schools and later enrolled at Kenyon College in Ohio, where he excelled academically.
Lawyer and Military Service: After graduating from Kenyon College, Hayes studied law and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1845. His legal career was briefly interrupted when the Mexican-American War broke out, leading him to enlist in the Union Army. Hayes displayed bravery and leadership on the battlefield, rising to the rank of major before the war's conclusion.
Political Ascent: Following his military service, Hayes resumed his legal practice and began to dip his toes into politics. He aligned himself with the newly formed Republican Party due to his anti-slavery stance and belief in civil rights. He held various local offices and served as a U.S. Congressman from 1865 to 1867.
Governorship of Ohio: Hayes's political trajectory continued upward when he was elected as the Governor of Ohio in 1867. He focused on reforming the state's institutions, advocating for prison reform, public education improvements, and temperance measures. His commitment to these causes earned him a reputation as a reform-minded leader.
Contentious Presidential Election of 1876: One of the most defining moments in Hayes's life was the presidential election of 1876. The election pitted Hayes, the Republican candidate, against Samuel J. Tilden, the Democratic candidate. The election results were disputed, with allegations of voter fraud and irregularities. To resolve the impasse, a special electoral commission was established, which eventually awarded the disputed electoral votes to Hayes, securing his victory.
Presidential Legacy: Hayes assumed the presidency on March 4, 1877, facing a deeply divided nation still recovering from the aftermath of the Civil War. One of his most notable accomplishments was his commitment to civil service reform, working to end the "spoils system" and promote merit-based appointments. He also aimed to improve relations with Native American tribes and championed their rights.
End of Presidency and Later Years: In keeping with a promise he made during his campaign, Hayes chose not to seek re-election after serving a single term. After leaving office in 1881, he continued to advocate for various social and political causes, including educational reform and civil rights. He passed away on January 17, 1893, at his home in Fremont, Ohio.
Legacy: Rutherford B. Hayes is remembered as a president who navigated a delicate political climate with integrity and a commitment to reform. His efforts to bridge the gaps between North and South, as well as his advocacy for civil rights and civil service reform, left a lasting impact on the nation. Despite the controversies surrounding his election, Hayes's dedication to unifying a divided nation and championing progressive ideals solidified his place in American history.
The Presidential mania makes mad every man who is at all prominent in Washington. It never seemed to me worth the cost of self-respect, of independence.