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President Rutherford B. Hayes

President Rutherford B. Hayes
Rutherford B. Hayes
by Matthew Brady
Rutherford B. Hayes was the 19th President of the United States.

Served as President: 1877-1881
Vice President: William Wheeler
Party: Republican
Age at inauguration: 54

Born: October 4, 1822 in Delaware, Ohio
Died: January 17, 1893 in Fremont, Ohio

Married: Lucy Ware Webb Hayes
Children: Rutherford, James, Sardis, Frances, Scott
Nickname: His Fraudulency


What is Rutherford B. Hayes most known for?

Rutherford B. Hayes is known for winning one of the closest presidential elections in history. Many say he won by fraud (meaning he cheated) earning him the nickname His Fraudulency. He is also known for trying to reform the government as well as ending the Era of Reconstruction in the south.

Growing Up

Rutherford was the son of a storekeeper in Delaware, Ohio. His father died before he was born, and he was raised by his mother and his uncle. He was a smart child who did very well in school. In 1842 he graduated from Kenyan College as the school's valedictorian. Upon graduation Rutherford decided he wanted to practice law. He then enrolled in Harvard Law School and became a lawyer in 1845.

Rutherford opened his law practice in Cincinnati, Ohio. He became a successful lawyer and often worked defending escaped slaves who had come across the border to Ohio from Kentucky. He met and married his wife Lucy while living in Cincinnati.

General Rutherford B. Hayes
Rutherford B. Hayes - General in the Civil War
Source: Library of Congress

The Civil War

With the start of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, Hayes enlisted in the army. He was involved in a number of battles and was injured several times. At the Battle of South Mountain he was shot in the arm while leading a charge against the Confederates. He also had his horse shot out from under him and was shot in the shoulder in other battles. Hayes' leadership skills were noticed by his superiors, and he rose in rank as the war continued. By the end of the war he had reached the rank of major general.

Before He Became President

Hayes was nominated by the Republicans to run for the House of Representatives before the end of the Civil War. However, he refused to leave his post with the army to campaign saying an "officer fit for duty who at this crisis would abandon his post to electioneer for a seat in Congress ought to be scalped". He won the election anyway and began his career in public service.

As a congressman Hayes worked for the freedom and protection of slaves in the South after the civil war. He wanted to be sure that the southern states would enforce laws protecting former slaves. In 1867 Hayes left the House to become Governor of Ohio.

Presidential Election

When Hayes was elected president in 1876, it was one of the closest elections in history. At first it looked like Hayes had lost. He had fewer electoral votes than his Democratic rival Samuel Tilden. However, several electoral votes were in dispute. Congress had to decide who these votes would go to. They picked Hayes.

The Democrats from the southern states were not happy with this. They said Hayes and the Republicans had cheated. In order to work out a compromise, Hayes and the Republicans agreed that federal troops would be removed from the South. In return, the South agreed to accept Hayes as president. This signaled the end of the Reconstruction.

Rutherford B. Hayes' Presidency

Despite having started his presidency under the shadow of fraud, Hayes wanted to improve the government and protect the rights of people of all races. He spent much of his efforts trying to help protect the rights of black citizens in the southern states. Most of his work, however, was blocked by the Democratic majority congress.

Era of Reconstruction

After the Civil War, the country needed to rebuild. In the south much of the infrastructure was destroyed during the war. Also, state and local governments needed to be reestablished. Laws that the federal government had laid down such as the freedom of slaves and the right for all men to vote needed to be upheld. In order to accomplish all of this, federal troops took over much of the South in what was called the Era of Reconstruction. This lasted for many years and finally came to end under President Hayes.

How did he die?

After Hayes retired he spent the rest of his days working on humanitarian causes such as civil rights and education for the poor. He died of a heart attack in 1893.

Portrait of Rutherford B. Hayes
Rutherford B. Hayes
by Daniel Huntington
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