Rutherford B. Hayes served as the 19th president of the U.S. between 1877 and 1881. He won the highly contested 1877 elections narrowly by defeating the Democratic Party candidate Samuel J. Tilden by one electoral vote. Hayes’ presidency marked the period in which America transitioned from the era of Reconstruction to the modern industrial age. He implemented the proposals of the 1877 Compromise, including the removal of troops from the South, which officially ended Reconstruction (Tindall & Shi, 2016). Although Hayes served for only four years, his presidency is remembered for various notable aspects including, moderate foreign policy, the healthy relationship among arms of the government, and proper use of presidential powers.
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During Hayes’ presidency, America was involved in minimal foreign activities. Hayes maintained a moderate role by undertaking a few international initiatives. For instance, Hayes attempted to oppose the De Lesseps plan for constructing the Panama Canal unsuccessfully. According to Hayes, the building of the canal should have been an entirely American affair (as cited in Tindall & Shi, 2016). The President perceived the involvement of European powers such as the French as an intrusion to American issues. Hayes also engaged in the controversial issue of limiting the Chinese immigrants by vetoing a bill in 1878 that limited the influx of Chinese labor. Beyond the two cases, Hayes attempted to overlook foreign affairs as much as possible.
However, President Hayes’s domestic policy is among the aspects that undermined his legacy. After Reconstruction, Americans shifted their focus and efforts to the Second Industrial Revolution and Westward expansion (Tindall & Shi, 2016). The movement to the west ignited complex problems that required the President’s intervention. The Indians resisted the confiscation of their ancestral land, and in return, the President supported forceful eviction, prompting numerous Indian wars. Indians ended up being mistreated, maimed, killed, and several forced to reservations. Most Americans became furious with the way the President handled the Indian issue.
President Hayes made a firm decision to reform the government by allowing each arm to operate independently. Hayes hardly interfered with Congress or the judiciary during his reign. His focus on independence and the appointment of individuals to service based on merit earned Hayes more enemies. Since the administration of Andrew Jackson, the American government had been marred with an unmerited award of government jobs. Supporters of the ruling party filled the vacancies. Hayes ruined his reputation by deciding to focus on individual qualities and not party affiliations. As a result, his cabinet was comprised of men of high caliber and not political sycophants (Tindall & Shi, 2016). President Hayes exercised his presidential powers properly, resulting in reduced corruption and a spur in economic development. Throughout the Hayes administration, the government limited its intervention on business, allowing industrialists and entrepreneurs to exercise their ideas freely. As a consequence, individuals such as John Rockefeller, Pierpont Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie created huge business empires (Tindall & Shi, 2016). Thus, Hayes utilized the presidential powers appropriately, leading to harmony among arms of government and the booming of the industrial economy.
In short, Rutherford’s presidency was short, but he reformed the government. The deeply entrenched corruption reduced, enabling the various sectors of the economy to flourish. Ideally, Hayes played a role in setting the base for industrial development in America. In foreign issues, Hayes was moderate as he engaged in a few initiatives. America stayed kept a distance from European matters. Nonetheless, Hayes’s domestic policy affected the Indians severely. Due to Hayes’ support, Indians lost their land while others died following wars in the west. Thus, Hayes’s presidency had mixed effects on various aspects.
Tindall, G. B., & Shi, D. E. (2016). America: A narrative history. WW Norton & Company.