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Rutherford B. Hayes (Museum Figure)

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Rutherford Birchard Hayes (October 4, 1822 – January 17, 1893) was an American congressman, governor of Ohio, and the 19th president of the United States from 1877 to 1881. Hayes was a lawyer and staunch abolitionist who defended runaway slaves in court proceedings. He fought and was seriously wounded fighting in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He assumed the presidency at the end of the Reconstruction Era through the Compromise of 1877. In office he ended Army support for Republican state governments in the South, promoted civil service reform, and attempted to reconcile the divisions left over from the Civil War and Reconstruction.


Hayes, an attorney in Ohio, was city solicitor of Cincinnati from 1858 to 1861. When the Civil War began, he left a fledgling political career to join the Union Army as an officer. Hayes was wounded five times, most seriously at the Battle of South Mountain. He earned a reputation for bravery in combat and was promoted to the rank of brevet major general. After the war, he served in the Congress from 1865 to 1867 as a Republican. Hayes left Congress to run for governor of Ohio and was elected to two consecutive terms, from 1868 to 1872, and then to a third term, from 1876 to 1877. In 1876, Hayes was elected president in one of the most contentious elections in national history. He lost the popular vote to Democrat Samuel J. Tilden but he won an intensely disputed electoral college vote after a Congressional commission awarded him twenty contested electoral votes. The result was the Compromise of 1877, in which the Democrats acquiesced to Hayes's election and Hayes withdrew remaining U.S. troops protecting Republican office holders in the South.


Hayes believed in meritocratic government, equal treatment without regard to race. He ordered federal troops to crush the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. He implemented modest civil service reforms that laid the groundwork for further reform in the 1880s and 1890s. He vetoed the Bland–Allison Act, which would have put silver money into circulation and raised nominal prices, insisting that maintenance of the gold standard was essential to economic recovery. His policy toward Western Indians anticipated the assimilationist program of the Dawes Act of 1887. Hayes kept his pledge not to run for re-election, retired to his home in Ohio, and became an advocate of social and educational reform. Biographer Ari Hoogenboom said his greatest achievement was to restore popular faith in the presidency and to reverse the deterioration of executive power that had set in after Abraham Lincoln's death. Although supporters have praised his commitment to civil service reform and defense of civil rights, Hayes is generally ranked as an average president by historians and scholars.




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