Rutherford B. Hayes's Presidency

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Was Rutherford B. Hayes a good president or not? Did he do anything important?

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Rutherford B. Hayes (1822–1893) was ranked 29th out of 44 presidents in a recent poll of political scientists. His mediocre ranking was certainly influenced by the dubious way he became president after the disputed 1876 election.

Born in Ohio, Hayes had great success in his academic, civilian, and military pursuits before becoming president. After graduating as valedictorian from Kenyon College in 1842, he earned a law degree at Harvard. He did well as a lawyer. He was attracted to the Republican party because of his anti-slavery views. During the Civil War, he was wounded and became a major general. After the war, he served as governor of his state.

In 1876, Hayes faced the Democrat Samuel Tilden in the presidential election. He lost the popular vote but he eventually received disputed Electoral College votes, giving him a 185-184 advantage in the Electoral College. In exchange for the disputed votes, he promised to pull Northern troops out of the South and end Reconstruction. His opponents called his presidency "His Fraudulency."

He accomplished little during his presidency (1877–1881). He fought for civil service reform, but this came about only after he left the presidency (Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act 1883). His efforts to promote civil rights for blacks were thwarted by the House of Representatives. American workers resented Hayes because he sent federal troops against them in the Railroad Strike of 1877. Hayes had promised to leave the White House after one term, and he kept that promise.

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