A leader of the Reconstruction era, whose contested election eerily parallels the election debacle of 2000
The disputed election of 1876 between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden, in which Congress set up a special electoral commission, handing the disputed electoral votes to Hayes, brings recent events into sharp focus.
Historian Hans L. Trefousse explores Hayes's new relevance and reconsiders what many have seen as the pitfalls of his presidency. While Hayes did officially terminate the Reconstruction, Trefousse points out that this process was already well under way by the start of his term and there was little he could do to stop it. A great intellectual and one of our best-educated presidents, Hayes did much more in the way of healing the nation and elevating the presidency.
Like our current chief executive, Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893) came to power after a disputed election in 1876, arbitrated by a special congressional electoral commission that handed him the office and left him tarred as "the fraudulent president" for the rest of his term. Trefousse, a history professor emeritus at the City University of New York and biographer of Andrew Johnson, offers a straightforward, by-the-numbers life (part of the Times Books American Presidents series, edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.) that hurries through Hayes's days as an eager student at Kenyon College and Harvard Law School to focus on his Ohio governorship and his single term as president. Hayes effectively ended Reconstruction, withdrawing federal troops and Republican regimes from the South to make way for the Democrats-a controversial move that spelled the end of black rights in the South, though Trefousse argues that Hayes had little choice and the best of intentions in terms of protecting blacks. Though it's not much of a character study, this is a concise, informative account for those who want to brush up on their Reconstruction history.