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Rutherford B. Hayes Hardcover – November 5, 2002

3.6 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The American Presidents series offers fresh, concise portraits of the U.S. chief executives. One of the most valuable services of the series is paying attention to "overlooked" presidents. This series entry on the nineteenth president rescues from relative obscurity a man who, in the eyes of the author, a specialist in the Civil War and Reconstruction, should be remembered. Hayes served in Congress, as governor of Ohio, and as a general in the Civil War before his election to the presidency in 1876. It is this election for which he is chiefly remembered, for he is one of only four presidents who have won the electoral vote but not the popular vote. It was to Hayes' credit as an honest and conciliatory man, moderate in thought and action, that he was able to overcome the notion that he was a "fraudulent" president. A fluid and valuable overview. Brad Hooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; First edition (November 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069082
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #191,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A quick read, "Rutherford B. Hayes" touches all the highlights of Hayes�s interesting and varied career. The book draws from the usual sources: Ari Hoogenboom�s and Harry Barnard�s 20th century biographies, Watt Marchman�s work and Hayes�s own extensive diaries and correspondence. It draws to a lesser extent from newspaper accounts and editorials of Hayes�s day, particularly those concerning his political campaigns.
What the book doesn�t do is provide new insight into Hayes himself: arguably the best-educated man ever elected to the presidency, someone who successfully navigated the treacherous political seas of the four decades that began just before the Civil War and ended with the election of McKinley a few years after Hayes�s death in 1893. Hayes�s interests in civil-service reform, literacy, equal rights for blacks, education, technology, penal reform and the establishment of facilities for the insane are all mentioned, but we get little more. His Civil War career (Hayes was in the thick of several battles, was wounded and eventually received a battlefield commission as a major general) merits somewhat more attention, but even that tends to go by in the writer�s apparent rush to finish his story.
Hayes�s post-White House service to the Slater Fund, a 19th century foundation that did much to advance the education of freed slaves, merits a only few lines.
At two points in his narrative the author points out the similarities between Hayes�s situation in the disputed 1877 election and the election of 2000, but he does so in such brief fashion as to suggest he added them at the last minute, perhaps at the urging of an editor.
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Format: Hardcover
I am currently reading a biography of every President. This is the first time I have selected one of the short biographies from the American President series. These biographies are very short, this particular one being 150 pages of text, made even shorter by the relatively small amount of text on each page - I would estimate roughly 2/3 the length of text compared to an "average" book. It is certainly more than manageable to read this book in one sitting.

I was somewhat disappointed by the brevity of the book, which was even more pronounced than I expected. I will, however, review the book based upon its intention, and it was certainly not intended to be a comprehensive biography. The book does manage to present a full biographical sketch of Hayes with an acceptable overview of the issues in his Presidency. Trefousse's writing is straightforward although quite dry and he is overly concerned with comparing the 1876 and 2000 elections in an unsuccessful attempt to give the book a modern connection. Trefousse seems to approach his subject with about the same enthusiasm as a high school history student writing a term paper. The biggest shortcoming of the book however is not the lack of information but its inability to give the reader a true sense of Rutherford B. Hayes, the man.

Ultimately, this book is barely satisfactory and I believe many readers will desire the more in depth biographies of either Ari Higenboom or Harry Barnard - I know I will probably go back and read one of these at some point. This book does, however, fill a need for a modern short biography of our 19th President and is recommendable in that capacity.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The American Presidents Series is a great introduction to the lives and legacies of our chief executives, particularly the one term 19th-century presidents who seem to have blurred into obscurity. I must note here my own belief that James K. Polk, a one term 19th-century president, rises well above the pack. As for the others, I do not mean to demean them, but one does struggle at first to distinguish some of them or remember their accomplishments. I just finished the biography of Rutherford B. Hayes, and it seemed an adequate book about an adequate president. I am glad now to be better informed.

Last year, I scouted around for Hayes' birthplace, and found it marked by a nondescript headstone in a BP gas station in Delaware, Ohio. I thought at the time that there had to be more to this president than this modest and seemingly out of place birthplace memorial suggested. And so I discovered upon reading this book that the election of 1876 turned out to be not only the most interesting fact about Rutherford's presidency, but one of the greatest controversies in American history. Rutherford was never able to shake off completely the allegations that he had obtained the presidency by fraud, although he considered the 1880 election of James A. Garfield, a Republican, a vindication of sorts.

The parallels between the election of 1876 and the machinations of the 2000 presidential election are striking. The result of this discovery is that I now have two more books in my reading queue dedicated exclusively to the subject of these two elections. I was surprised to learn that because of the controversy surrounding the 1876 election, it is hard to read one book and get an unbiased view of what really transpired.
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