1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hayes, Rutherford Birchard

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HAYES, RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD (1822-1893), nineteenth president of the United States, was born in Delaware, Ohio, on the 4th of October 1822. He received his first education in the common schools, graduated in 1842 at Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio, and was a student at the law school of Harvard University from 1843 until his graduation in 1845. He was admitted to the bar in 1845, and practised law, first at Lower Sandusky (now Fremont), and then at Cincinnati, where he won a very respectable standing, and in 1858-1861 served as city solicitor. In politics he was at first an anti-slavery Whig and then from the time of its organization in 1854 until his death was a member of the Republican party. In December 1852 he married Lucy Ware Webb of Chillicothe, Ohio, who survived him. After the breaking out of the Civil War the governor of Ohio, on the 7th of June 1861, appointed him a major of a volunteer regiment, and in July he was sent to western Virginia for active service. He served throughout the war, distinguished himself particularly at South Mountain, Winchester, Fisher's Hill and Cedar Creek, and by successive promotions became a brigadier-general of volunteers and, by brevet, a major-general of volunteers. While still in the field he was elected a member of the National House of Representatives, and took his seat in December 1865. He was re-elected in 1866, and supported the reconstruction measures advocated by his party. From 1868 to 1872 he was governor of Ohio. In 1873 he removed from Cincinnati to Fremont, his intention being to withdraw from public life; but in 1875 the Republican party in Ohio once more selected him as its candidate for the governorship. He accepted the nomination with great reluctance. The Democrats adopted a platform declaring in favour of indefinitely enlarging the volume of the irredeemable paper currency which the Civil War had left behind it. Hayes stoutly advocated the speediest practicable resumption of specie payments, and carried the election. The “sound-money campaign” in Ohio having attracted the attention of the whole country, Hayes was marked out as a candidate for the presidency, and he obtained the nomination of the Republican National Convention of 1876, his chief competitor being James G. Blaine. The candidate of the Democratic party, Samuel J. Tilden, by his reputation as a statesman and a reformer of uncommon ability, drew many Republican votes. An excited controversy having arisen about the result of the balloting in the states of South Carolina, Florida, Oregon and Louisiana, the two parties in Congress in order to allay a crisis dangerous to public peace agreed to pass an act referring all contested election returns to an extraordinary commission, called the “Electoral Commission” (q.v.), which decided each contest by eight against seven votes in favour of the Republican candidates. Hayes was accordingly on the 2nd of March 1877 declared duly elected.

During his administration President Hayes devoted his efforts mainly to civil service reform, resumption of specie payments and the pacification of the Southern States, recently in rebellion. In order to win the co-operation of the white people in the South in maintaining peace and order, he put himself in communication with their leaders. He then withdrew the Federal troops which since the Civil War had been stationed at the southern State capitals. An end was thus made of the “carpet-bag governments” conducted by Republican politicians from the North, some of which were very corrupt, and had been upheld mainly by the Federal forces. This policy found much favour with the people generally, but displeased many of the Republican politicians, because it loosened the hold of the Republican party upon the Southern States. Though it did not secure to the negroes sufficient protection in the exercise of their political rights, it did much to extinguish the animosities still existing between the two sections of the Union and to promote the material prosperity of the South. President Hayes endeavoured in vain to induce Congress to appropriate money for a Civil Service Commission; and whenever he made an effort to restrict the operation of the traditional “spoils system,” he met the strenuous opposition of a majority of the most powerful politicians of his party. Nevertheless the system of competitive examinations for appointments was introduced in some of the great executive departments in Washington, and in the custom-house and the post-office in New York. Moreover, he ordered that “no officer should be required or permitted to take part in the management of political organizations, caucuses, conventions or election campaigns,” and that “no assessment for political purposes on officers or subordinates should be allowed”; and he removed from their offices the heads of the post-office in St Louis and of the custom-house in New York — influential party managers — on the ground that they had misused their official positions for partisan ends. In New York the three men removed were Chester A. Arthur, the collector; Alonzo B. Cornell, the naval officer of the Port; and George H. Sharpe, the surveyor of the customs. While these measures were of limited scope and effect, they served greatly to facilitate the more extensive reform of the civil service which subsequently took place, though at the same time they alienated a powerful faction of the Republican party in New York under the leadership of Roscoe Conkling. Although the resumption of specie payments had been provided for, to begin at a given time by the Resumption Act of January 1875, opposition to it did not cease. A bill went through both Houses of Congress providing that a silver dollar should be coined of the weight of 412½ grains, to be full legal tender for all debts and dues, public and private, except where otherwise expressly stipulated in the contract. President Hayes returned this bill with his veto, but the veto was overruled in both Houses of Congress. Meanwhile, however, the preparations for the return to specie payments were continued by the Administration with unflinching constancy and on the 1st of January 1879 specie payments were resumed without difficulty. None of the evils predicted appeared. A marked revival of business and a period of general prosperity ensued. In his annual message of the 1st of December 1879 President Hayes urged the suspension of the silver coinage and also the withdrawal of the United States legal tender notes, but Congress failed to act upon the recommendation. His administration also did much to ameliorate the condition of the Indian tribes and to arrest the spoliation of the public forest lands.

Although President Hayes was not popular with the professional politicians of his own party, and was exposed to bitter attacks on the part of the Democratic opposition on account of the cloud which hung over his election, his conduct of public affairs gave much satisfaction to the people generally. In the presidential election of 1880 the Republican party carried the day after an unusually quiet canvass, a result largely due to popular contentment with the then existing state of public affairs. On the 4th of March 1881 President Hayes retired to his home at Fremont, Ohio. Various universities and colleges conferred honorary degrees upon him. His remaining years he devoted to active participation in philanthropic enterprises; thus he served as president of the National Prison Association and of the Board of Trustees chosen to administer the John F. Slater fund for the promotion of industrial education among the negroes of the South, and was a member, also, of the Board of Trustees of the Peabody Education fund for the promotion of education in the South. He died at Fremont, after a short illness, on the 17th of January 1893.

There is no adequate biography, but three “campaign lives”

may be mentioned: Life, Public Services and Select Speeches of Rutherford B. Hayes, by James Quay Howard (Cincinnati, 1876); Life of R. B. Hayes, by William D. Howells (New York, 1876); and a Life by Russell H. Conwell (Boston, 1876). See also Paul L. Haworth, The Hayes-Tilden Disputed Presidential Election of 1876

(Cleveland, O., 1906).
(C. S.)