“Let every man, every corporation, and especially every village, town, city, county, and state, get out of debt and keep out of debt. It is the debtor that is ruined by hard times.”
“Conscience is the authentic voice of God to you.”
The period after the Civil War – the Reconstruction Era – was a difficult, violent time for the country. The Republicans and Democrats wouldn’t work together. Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency was marked by corruption (dishonesty). People were fed up and looking for an honest man to be President. Rutherford B. Hayes never wanted to be President, but he was honest. He was in the right place at the right time. He quietly tried to restore integrity and dignity to the White House and the government.
- Rutherford Hayes was born October 4, 1822, in Delaware, Ohio.
- Hayes was a serious student. He graduated at the top of his class at Kenyon College and studied law at Harvard.
- Hayes was so poor when he opened his law office that he slept in the office, rather than keeping a home.
- He soon became a successful lawyer. During the Civil War, he led a group of volunteer soldiers. He did so well that he was appointed as a general.
- Hayes married Lucy Ware Webb in 1852. They had 8 children, three of whom died as babies.
- Hayes later served as a congressman and Governor of Ohio. He helped black people get the right to vote. He started the Ohio State University. He made laws to get rid of dishonest politicians.
- The Presidential election was close between Hayes and the Democratic nominee, Samuel J. Tilden; Congress argued for several months over who was the winner.
- Finally, the two parties made a deal. Hayes would be President if the Republicans would withdraw federal troops from the South.
- Hayes was the first President to use a telephone. The White House phone number was “1.”
- Hayes was a strict President. He wanted an honest government. He didn’t allow alcohol, smoking, dancing or cards at the White House. Some politicians didn’t like his rules.
- Hayes refused to run for office again. He went home to Ohio. He died in 1893.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Did President Hayes’ wife influence his policies?
Answer: Hayes and his wife agreed on most questions of politics and morals. Lucy was the first college-educated First Lady. She supported women’s rights and the temperance movement, which sought to ban alcohol. She was nicknamed “Lemonade Lucy” because she served lemonade and other soft drinks instead of alcohol at the White House.
Visit FirstLadies.org to learn more about Rutherford and his strong wife, Lucy.