Presidential Election of 1876 – Rutherford B. Hayes

rutherfordlucyhayes.jpgThe other combatant in the 1876 election was Republican candidate Rutherford Birchard Hayes. He was born in Delaware, Ohio on October 4, 1822. His father died before he was born. An uncle, Sardis Birchard, lived with the family and became his guardian and lifelong father-figure. He was the youngest of four children. Two of his siblings died young. He remained close to his sister, the surviving one. (left: Rutherford and his wife Lucy shortly after their marriage)

Hayes graduated from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio in 1842 at the top of his class. Then he graduated in 2 years from Harvard Law School in 1845. He was admitted to the bar in 1845 and moved to Cincinnati where he practiced law.

On December 30, 1852 he married Lucy Ware Webb. They had eight children, three of which predeceased him.

He had a distinguished military career during the Civil War. Hayes was the only president who was wounded in the war. He was wounded four times. He was promoted to Brigidier General in 1864.

Hayes started his political career as a Whig, but in 1853 joined the Free Soil party as a delegate. While serving in the war he received the Republican nomination to Congress from Cincinnati. He refused all requests to leave the military and actively campaign. Hayes was elected and served from March 4, 1865 to July 20, 1867 when he resigned because his party nominated him for Governor of Ohio. Hayes won the election and served from 1868 to 1872. In 1872 he was an unsuccessful candidate for Congress. He was going to retire from public life, but was drafted by the Republicans in 1875 to run for governor again. He served from January 1876 to March 2, 1877. He received national attention for leading a Republican sweep of an incumbant Democratic Ohio government.

At the Republican national convention in 1876 he was a dark-horse nominee for president. The favorite and front-runner, James Blaine had led the previous six ballots. Hayes was selected as a compromise candidate in order to break the deadlock.

Then came the controversial election where he apparently lost on Election Day to Samuel Tilden. After the disputed Electoral Votes were awarded, Rutherford B. Hayes was named president. It took until a few days before the end of his predecessor’s term on March 3, 1877 for this to be resolved. He was inaugurated publicly on March 5, 1877. Hayes had secretly taken the oath of office on March 3, 1877 in the White House. This was done out of fear that disgruntled Democrats and voters might disrupt the public inauguration. (below: The public inauguration with Hayes on right taking the oath of office)

hayesoath.jpgHe served as the 19th President of the United States from March 3, 1877 to March 4, 1881. Hayes did not seek re-election in 1880. When he accepted his party’s nomination he had pledged to serve only one term. In his inaugural address he proposed the Constitution be amended to have a one-term limit for the presidency combined with an increase in the term to six years. This proposal never went anywhere. His most famous saying was from his inaugural address:

“He serves his party best who serves his country best”

After his presidency he served on the Board of Trustees of Ohio State University. Hayes died of a heart attack in Freemont, Ohio on January 17, 1893.

 This concludes my examination of the election of 1876.

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