Knowing the Presidents: Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford B. Hayes 

Nineteenth President, 1877-1881


In an election decided by the House of Representatives, Rutherford B. Hayes defeated Democratic candidate Samuel Jones Tilden in the most controversial election in American history to date. Tilden received a quarter of a million more popular votes than Hayes, prompting Democrats to refer to the newly elected president as “His Fraudulency.”


Reconstruction effectively ended in the South as the Democratic Party turned to violence in order to keep white supremacy in control. Rutherford B. Hayes was unable to combat the violence, as most of the 25,000 soldiers in the federal army were deployed in the West.

The economic crisis beginning in 1873 deepened, resulting in the Great Strike of 1877, in which violence characterized the unorganized resistance of railroad workers across the eastern seaboard.

Temperance activists found an ally in Hayes when he banned liquor from the White House.

Major Acts:

Because of government corruption, Rutherford B. Hayes inaugurated major efforts at reforming the nation’s civil service.

Hayes incorporated more humane policies toward Native Americans and ended the practice of removing them from their homelands.

The 1875 Specie Resumption Act carefully built up the federal government’s gold supply. Prosperity returned, and by the end of Hayes’s presidency, the economy had made a stunning comeback.


Rutherford B. Hayes is remembered for his responsible executive leadership and his sterling personal character. Regarding his presidency, Hayes declared that “it would be difficult to find one which began with so rough a situation, and few which closed with so smooth a sea.”