10 Major Accomplishments of Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States
This article transports you to the life and accomplishments of Rutherford B. Hayes, the US president who oversaw the end of Reconstruction Era (1865 – 1877). A financial conservative and moderate reformer, President Hayes’ administration (1877 – 1881) injected high level of dignity and integrity into the White House.
Here are the 10 major accomplishments of Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States
Fought gallantly in the American Civil War
At the start of the American Civil War in 1861, Rutherford B. Hayes was a middle-aged man with three children. Regardless of his age and his family commitments, he was still quick to volunteer in the Union forces. Through some political connections, Ohio Governor William Dennison appointed him as a major in the 23rd Ohio Volunteers. The 40-year old Hayes had no prior military experience. However, he made up for this by being a quick learner and working very hard for his unit.
This earned him the respect and trust of his men. Additionally, his superiors trusted him. At the Battle of Opequon Creek, he led his men gallantly against Confederate soldiers. Shortly after the battle he was promoted to brigadier general.
During the Antietam Campaign (i.e. the Battle of South Mountain in Maryland), Hayes even suffered a leg injury after a musket ball fell on him. He was saved by the medical treatment given to him by Dr. Joseph Webb, his brother-in-law. By the close of the Civil War, Hayes had risen up to the rank of breveted major general.
U.S. House of Representative (1865 – 1867)
While the Civil War was drawing to an end in 1865, folks in Hayes’s home state nominated him for the U.S. House of Representatives seat. Although he accepted the nomination, he declined to return to his home state and campaign. He stayed with the Union forces until General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate Army surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865.
Regardless, Hayes was still elected to serve to represent his state in the U.S. House of Representatives. His first term in the House was not so memorable. He kept quite a low profile in Congress. Historians believe that he missed his family dearly. That was probably the reason why he spoke sparingly in the House. He was however the chair of the Committee on the Library. The committee once made a $100,000 appropriation for books.
Governor of Ohio for three terms
In 1867, he resigned from the House after he chose to contest for governor of Ohio. Hayes would go on to serve as the 29th and 32nd governor of Ohio – i.e. 1868 -1872 and 1876 – 1877.
A passionate believer of education, Hayes rolled out so many educational programs in his state.
His most significant achievement as governor came when he pushed for the ratification of the 15th Amendment. The amendment forbade the denial of voting rights of citizens on the basis of race, color, or previous state of servitude. Considering the fact that President Ulysses S. Grant fought for civil rights for blacks in the South, Hayes fully backed Ulysses S. Grant’s bid for a second term in the White House.
Additionally, Hayes heavily involved in the establishment of Ohio State University.
He became the 19th U.S. President
As the 1876 presidential election approached, many Republicans saw Hayes as the ideal candidate for the Republican Party because his upstanding and honest behavior had won him much admiration.
At the polls, Hayes was up against Governor Samuel J. Tilden (Democrat) of New York. In the popular vote, Tilden won by pulling 4,300,000 votes as against Hayes’s 4,036,000 votes. However, the results from Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina were deeply contested by both parties. In December 1876, Congress had to set up a special Electoral Commission, which comprised of 8 Republicans and 7 Democrats. In the end, the commission pronounced Hayes winner of the election, wining 185 electoral votes versus Tilden’s 184. This decision came to be known as the Compromise of 1877.
Some aggrieved Democrats subsequently took to calling Hayes “Rutherfraud” and “His Fraudulency”. Regardless of the criticisms, Hayes gave a brilliant conciliatory speech at his swearing in ceremony in March 1877.
Focused on bringing long-lasting peace and reconciliation
Although he was very reconciliatory in his approach to governance, Hayes did not shy away from defending the Constitution and the Reconstruction Amendments (13th, 14th, and 15th). He believed that safeguarding those amendments were needed for a harmonious nation that had gone through a brutal four-year civil war.
The Hayes’s administration worked tirelessly to heal the nation and bring back the confidence people once had in the federal government. Ultimately, the level of trust the public had in Hayes worked in his favor by presenting him the needed support for his policies.
President Hayes was not afraid to make compromises once in a while. For example, he agreed to offer the South subsidies to help them rebuild their economy. For the sake of national unity, he also agreed to remove troops from Louisiana and South Carolina. His conciliatory messages and financial conservative policies were well received by the American public.
Supervised the end of the Reconstruction era
President Rutherford B. Hayes reasoned that the continuous presence of federal troops in the South posed a huge barrier to reconciliation. In order to water down the hatred in the South, he removed all troops from the South (i.e. New Orleans, Louisiana, and Columbia, South Carolina). This in a way brought to an end the Reconstruction era (1865-1877).
In return, the South assured Hayes’s administration that the civil rights and voting rights of African Americans in the South would be protected. Sadly, they reengaged on their promises shortly after the troops were removed from those states. White supremacist organizations (most notably the KKK) and racial segregation laws (i.e. Jim Crow laws) flourished en masse. Leading up to the 20th century, Democratic Party-controlled houses in the South reversed all the civil rights gains enshrined in the Reconstruction Amendments. This lasted until the 1950s and 1960s, when the likes of MLK, Rosa Parks and Malcolm X fought for black lives and desegregation across the country.
Protected African American rights in the South
As a result of Hayes’ commitment to protecting the civil, economic and political rights of African Americans in the South, the likes of Frederick Douglass featured prominently during his administration. He opted to not take a radical stance against the South. Instead, he sought to collaborate with them and appeal to the collective conscience of the nation. The Hayes’s administration was one characterized by very few racial tensions in the South.
Another significant accomplishment of President Rutherford B. Hayes came in February 1879, when he signed the Belva Bill into law. The law allowed women to make cases in all federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. As a result, Belva Lockwood (1830 – 1917) became the first woman in America’s history to present a case before the Supreme Court.
Supported Native Americans
Hayes was brilliant at spotting the good policies of his predecessor, Ulysses S. Grant, and then improving upon those policies. One example of such laudable initiatives was the support he gave to Native Americans. He worked very hard to see to it that Native Americans received citizen status, just like any other American in the country. During Hayes term of office, the number of forced removals of Native Americans from their lands diminished.
He went against the grain and lent his support to Asian immigrants
Starting around the mid-19th century, the United States experienced an influx of Asian immigrants, particularly from China. This caused quite a lot of anger among Americans that had to compete with the immigrants for jobs.
Congress introduced a number of bills to completely immigration from Asia. However, Hayes vetoed them in 1879. He offered a better immigration policy to handle the problem. He opted for non-discriminatory immigration policies. Sadly, his policy was struck down two years after he left the White House.
Championed education for black youth in the South
Deliberately choosing to serve only one term in office, Hayes retired to his Spiegel Grove home in Fremont, Ohio in 1881.
He proceeded to commit his retirement years to developing African Americans in the South. He focused on educational programs, which he believed had the power to create economically and socially prosperous African American communities.
Hayes also reasoned that through education of African Americans, racial inequality and tensions could be reduced. Hence, many of the initiatives he focused on were aimed at securing equal educational opportunities for the blacks.
Restored trust and prestige to office of the president
Lincoln’s death, Andrew Jackson’s impeachment trial, and Ulysses S. Grant’s somewhat corrupt administration had shaken the trust Americans had about politicians in Washington. President Hayes worked very hard to restore the trust Americans had in the White House during Lincoln’s presidency.
He was completely against the reintroduction of partisan-based appointment of civil servants. He maintained that the civil servants should be appointed based on properly defined and objective criteria. This and many more works of his brought him into conflict with Roscoe Conkling of New York. However, none of his political opponents could dissuade him for keeping the civil service and his federal appointments politically neutral and nepotism-free.
Legacy of Rutherford B. Hayes
He has been described as a very intelligent president who realized that radical reforms and policies could tip the nation into further chaos. Hence, he opted for gradual reforms and initiatives. So were his economic policies. Hayes promoted financial conservatism. He was content with securing incremental economic gains that brought much needed relief to the nation after the Panic of 1873.
Quick facts about Rutherford B. Hayes
Born – Rutherford Birchard Hayes
Date and Place of Birth – October 4, 1822, Delaware, Ohio
Date and Place of Death – January 17, 1893, Fremont, Ohio
Most Famous For – 19th U.S. President (1877- 1881); managing the end of Reconstruction
Parents – Rutherford Hayes (farmer) and Sophia Birchard
Wife – Lucy Ware Webb (married in 1852)
Children – Birhard Austin, James Webb Cook, Rutherford Platt, Joseph Thompson, George Crook, Fanny, Scott Russell, Manning Force
Education – Kenyon College (graduated in 1842), Harvard Law School (graduated in 1845)
Political Party – Republican Party
Elected offices – US Congress (1865 – 1867), Governor of Ohio (1868 – 1876)
President of the United States – 18th U.S. President (1869 – 1877)
Predecessor – Ulysses S. Grant
Successor – James A. Garfield
Nickname – “Rud”