Rutherford B Hayes: Warrior and President by Ari Hoogenboom

Genre: Biography
Subject: Rutherford B. Hayes
Setting: USA
Main Characters: RB Hayes,Lucy Hayes
Series: no
Dates Read: July 3 - July 11
Number of pages: 535
Off the Shelf (pre-2012)? Source?: no , Interlibrary Loan
Category for 12 in 12 challenge: History Class

Rutherford B. Hayes, for me, was just the name of the President who followed Grant. I really knew nothing about him. I read another biography which told me about his early life and military adventures during the Civil War but absolutely nothing about his Presidency so I ordered this book from another library and set to work to find out about his Presidency. I will admit to skimming through to his Presidency since I'd already been there and done that.

The Hayes Administration did not start out well. Because of the disputed election results from South Carolina, Louisiana and FLORIDA, the victor was not declared until March 2nd - two days before he was to take office. A special act of Congress and commission were needed to determine which election returns from these three states would be counted. There were questions of fraud, ballot box stuffing, and intimidation of voters - not the cheering that is expected at the end of an election.

Hayes had at the beginning stated that he would only serve one term. During that term he was confronted with numerous diplomatic issues - Chinese immigration and the beginning talks and negotiations regarding the Panama Canal. Domestic problems that he faced centered on the final reconciliation of the South by the removal of federal forces and reinstatement of local government control, redemption of greenbacks and return to specie payments, and his prime goal of civil service reform.

Hayes battled continually with the Democratic Congress because of his desire to reform the civil service and frequently had to veto appropriation bills because of riders that they inserted that would have weakened election laws in the South. Other items he should be remembered for are his stressing of education for all (which he worked on after he left office) and the final funding for the completion of the Washington Monument.

Rutherford B Hayes stated at his inauguration " he serves his party best who serves his country best." It was words he lived by, always believing that if he did what was best for the country, he would never hurt the Republican Party.

Benjamin Harrison said of Hayes on his death "His public service extended over many years and over a wide range of official duty. He was a patriotic citizen, a lover of the flag and of our free institutions, an industrious and conscientious civil officer, a soldier of dauntless courage, a loyal comrade and friend, a sympathetic and helpful neighbor, and the honored head of a happy Christian home. He has steadily grown in the public esteem, and the impartial historian will not fail to recognize the conscientiousness, the manliness, and the courage that so strongly characterized his whole public career."

The book is well-written, easy to read and follow, and apparently well-researched.

"Rutherford Hayes will forever be linked with the Disputed Election of 1876, an unfortunate legacy since he should be counted among the most honest presidents."

If only half of what is told in this biography is true, this man has earned my respect. This is a president I am glad that I found out about. Too bad not more people know of his life.

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