#19: Review of “Rutherford B. Hayes” by Hans Trefousse (1877-1881)
I had to read this sucker real quick because our public library just opened back up Monday. This book’s on the shorter side, so I also listened to the podcast that the Washington Post did as part of their Presidents series leading up to the 2016 election here. Big takeaways include: Hayes fulfilled the role that America needed from its President at that particular moment in American History.
Reconstruction was still in effect which I think largely was measured by the presence of Union soldiers in the South. Despite me loving Grant as a person, several bad scandals occurred during his Presidency such as the Whiskey Ring and the Credit-Mobilier scandal. The country needed a President of high moral character which Hayes was. Despite his decision to withdraw troops from the South in exchange for Southerner’s word that they wouldn’t harm African-Americans (which they un did…see the black codes), he ended Reconstruction.
Overall, Hayes seemed to really enjoy his life. He loved to travel, he loved his wife, Lucy, of 30 years. Her death devastated him. He had eight children, only four survived until adulthood though. He was very loyal to his Republican Party, and I bet he would’ve won a second term had he not chosen to retire.
What’s so funny is he described how much he was looking forward to his retirement just as I think it was Washington and Adams both who “were giddy as a schoolboy” to no longer be President. Let this humble you if you have aspirations of being President one day! Seems like a pretty stressful gig if you ask me.
Alright, enough logistics. Now for the fun stuff…
5 fun facts about Rutherford B. Hayes from the book
- He was one of the most educated Presidents out of the first 18. He graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio (as the valedictorian mind you) and then Harvard Law School (the 1st President at that point to have graduated from any kind of Law School…most lawyers were self-educated). He loved to read. Some authors and books he enjoyed were Ralph Waldo Emerson, War & Peace, and Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
- He nominated Theodore Roosevelt (Teddy’s Dad) for New York tax collector. His nomination didn’t go through, but still.
- He read the Bible everyday and “walked rapidly for 10 minutes after each meal.” This reminds me of what my Mom told us about her Dad. Instead of going for walks outside, he’d do walks around the house. I’m sure he was taking after Hayes!
- He banned alcohol from the White House during his Presidency. It was mostly a political move to get temperate advocates on his side.
- He won the 1876 Presidential Election in a very similar way to George W. Bush back in 2000. He lost the popular vote (like George W.) and it came down to Florida. How crazy is this?! It took about four months to get everything straightened out.
- If you’re not aware of this guy who largely inspired me to do this whole blog thing on the Presidents, check his stuff out. He’s your average Joe, and a voracious reader. He started out on the Presidents then moved on to all kinds of biographies. His presidential bios blog and his general bios blog are phenomenal.
- That Washington Post podcast series on the Presidents. They’re short like 30-40 minute interviews on every President with an expert. Great way to learn about a President without having to read a whole book on it!
- I finally finished my list of all the biographies I’ve read and plan to read on the Presidents. Check it out here.
If you have any ideas of something I could do next year to read and tell you guys all about, let me know! Would love to hear what you think is cool.