Who is Rutherford Hayes?

Rutherford Birchard Hayes was the 19th President of the United States, serving from 1877 to 1881. He was born on October 4, 1822, in Delaware, Ohio, and is known for his presidency marked by civil service reform and efforts to reconcile the country after the divisive Reconstruction era.

Early Life and Education

Rutherford Hayes grew up in Ohio, where his father operated a successful farm. He received a quality education, attending local schools and later the Norwalk Seminary and Kenyon College. After completing his studies, he studied law at Harvard Law School and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1845.

Political Career

Hayes embarked on a political career, beginning with his election to the Cincinnati City Council in 1850. He later served in the Ohio State Senate and became known for his advocacy of temperance and educational reforms.

Governor of Ohio

In 1867, Hayes was elected as the Governor of Ohio, where he implemented progressive policies such as prison reform and increased support for public education. His success as governor brought him national recognition and set the stage for his future political aspirations.

Election of 1876

The election of 1876 was a highly contentious and disputed one. Hayes, representing the Republican Party, faced Samuel Tilden, the Democratic candidate. The results were disputed in several states, leading to a controversial electoral commission decision that ultimately awarded Hayes the presidency.


Hayes assumed the presidency on March 4, 1877, and his administration focused on reconciling the nation after the bitter divisions of the Civil War and Reconstruction. He sought to reform the civil service system, emphasizing merit-based appointments and attempting to reduce corruption.

Reconstruction Policies

Hayes pursued a policy of conciliation and withdrew federal troops from the South, effectively ending Reconstruction. This decision was met with both praise and criticism, as it marked a significant shift in federal involvement in the region.

Civil Service Reform

One of Hayes’ most notable achievements was his commitment to civil service reform. He established the Civil Service Commission to ensure that government positions were awarded based on merit rather than political patronage.

Foreign Policy

During his presidency, Hayes prioritized international relations and worked to improve diplomatic ties. He negotiated the Treaty of Washington in 1871, which settled several long-standing disputes between the United States and Great Britain.


Rutherford Hayes’s presidency is often remembered for his efforts to reconcile the nation and promote civil service reform. His commitment to merit-based appointments and his willingness to withdraw federal troops from the South marked a significant shift in American politics.


Rutherford Hayes played a crucial role in shaping the United States during a challenging period of history. His presidency marked a turning point in civil service practices and the nation’s approach to reconstruction after the Civil War. Hayes’s legacy continues to influence American politics and governance.


Q1: Was Rutherford Hayes a popular president?

While Hayes’s presidency was marked by controversy due to the disputed election, he was generally well-regarded for his integrity and commitment to reform. However, his popularity varied depending on political affiliations and regional differences.

Q2: What were Hayes’s views on civil service reform?

Hayes was a strong advocate for civil service reform. He believed that government positions should be awarded based on merit rather than political favoritism. He established the Civil Service Commission to oversee the hiring and promotion of federal employees based on their qualifications and abilities.

Q3: How did Hayes approach foreign relations?

Hayes placed a significant emphasis on improving diplomatic relations with other countries. He pursued a policy of peaceful negotiation and sought to resolve conflicts through diplomacy rather than military action. His most notable achievement in foreign policy was the successful negotiation of the Treaty of Washington, which settled disputes between the United States and Great Britain.

Q4: What were some of Hayes’s notable achievements as Governor of Ohio?

As Governor of Ohio, Hayes implemented various progressive policies. He focused on prison reform, advocating for improved conditions and rehabilitation programs. He also prioritized public education, working to expand access to quality schooling for all Ohioans.

Q5: How did Hayes’s presidency impact the Reconstruction era?

Hayes’s presidency marked a turning point in the Reconstruction era. By withdrawing federal troops from the South, he effectively ended the era of federal intervention in the region. While this decision was praised by some for promoting reconciliation, it also led to setbacks for civil rights and the rights of African Americans.

Q6: Did Hayes serve more than one term as president?

No, Hayes served only one term as president. He chose not to seek re-election in 1880 and retired from politics after his presidency ended in 1881.

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