Thursday, January 08, 2009

Rutherford B. Hayes: Uncontroversial Man Elected Controversially

Sexy pre-beard days.
Rutherford Birchard Hayes, our nation's nineteenth (and possibly most sketchily elected) president, was born in 1822 in Ohio. His father died of typhus before little Ruddy was born, and the family was taken care of by mother Sophia's brother, Sardis Birchard, a well-to-do Ohio merchant. Uncle Sardis made sure Rutherford and his beloved sister Fanny were well taken care of. He insisted Rutherford go to school, and eventually the future president graduated from Kenyon College, becoming an honorary Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity brother. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1845, Rutherford passed the bar and began practicing law in Ohio. He moved to Cincinnati (for all the hot legal action), and eventually met and married Lucy Webb in 1856. She was apparently awesome and actually, like, went to college and whatnot.

 When the Civil War broke out, anti-slavery Hayes decided to form a military company with some of his literary club friends from Cincinnati. This is when he began growing his awesome beard. He became a major in the army, and rose up the ranks to a brevetted major general (whatever that is) by the end of the war. He loved his enlisted men, and they served largely in West Virginia. Under his command was another future president, our dear friend William McKinley. Lucy and her young children would come camp with Rutherford and his troops as often as possible. She was known to "mother" the soldiers and helped tend to injuries, illness, and performed various womanly duties like sewing and having her babies die. Hayes was injured several times during the war, but always returned to his post. According to the 'pedia, he had four horses shot out from under him during military action. Talk about scary. Fucking horses. They should have used motorcycles instead. The Ohio Republican Party nominated him for Congress in 1864, and though refusing to leave the battlefield to campaign, he won and served in the House of Representatives after the war ended. Later he served a few terms as Ohio's governor.

Always with the hand in the coat.
Maybe he had some extra fingers.
He was drafted as a dark horse candidate in the 1876 presidential election and as he was basically inoffensive, eventually become the default nominee. His VP, William A. Wheeler, became a good friend and Hayes kept a large portrait of him hanging in his home after retirement. He was to run in the general against Bourbon Democrat Samuel Tilden. Tragically, Bourbon Democrats were conservatives, and were not actually running a Kentucky whiskey cartel. In an election full of disenfranchisement and widespread voter irregularities (especially in the South), Tilden won the popular vote, but since electoral college votes were contested in a number of states, Tilden was one short for the win-win. Congress set up a somewhat sketchy Electoral Commission to determine the winner (better or worse than the Supreme Court?). In the Compromise of 1877, Democrats agreed to hand the contested votes to Hayes to win by one in the electoral college if he would promise to end Reconstruction in the South and put at least one southerner in his cabinet. Needless to say, it was controversial. Hayes took the oath of office secretly in the White House the day before the public inauguration because of fears of Democratic sabotage.

As president, Hayes tried somewhat but mostly failed to protect black civil rights in the South. He called out federal troops during the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. That was kind of an unpopular move; killing striking workers and whatnot. Hayes had set out to only serve one term, and held to his promise. After his term ended in 1881, the Hayeses moved into the house at Spiegel Grove in what is now Fremont, OH that Uncle Sardis had built and that they had expanded on. Lucy and Rutherford had three sons who lived to adulthood and one favored daughter, Fanny, named for the president's sister. As an ex-president Hayes served as a trustee to the Ohio State University and continued to work for social justice movements until his death from heart attack complications in 1893. Oh, and unlike his drunky-drunk predecessor Grant, Hayes didn't allow any booze or card-playing or fun at all in the White House.


  1. can you PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE write a history textbook someday? one with lots of swearing, alcohol references, and sarcasm????? i feel like i just learned a lot AND it wasn't boring! BRAVO! :)

    also, i miss you! and what the hell am i doing up, reading your blog??? i have to get up at 5:00am!!!!!!!!

  2. I feel so much smarter now!
    I wish someone would film a Civil War reenactment with motorcycles, that would make my day.
    But if I were president, you can bet your money, or someone else's, that there would be a shit-ton of booze in the White House. I think I would open some sort of hip bar in the lobby probably. What kind of a president doesn't allow alcohol or cards? Fuck that!