Review of Hans L Trefousse’s Rutherford B Hayes

A sympathetic and fast-paced book, Trefousse’s treatment of our nineteenth President offers a balanced view of Hayes’ life. Two of the eight chapters addresses the first and last half of this single term in office while the other six address the major chapters of his life growing up, serving in the Civil War, his work as congressman and governor of Ohio, and a fair assessment of his presidency and life. His book is part of the American President Series published by Henry Holt and Company.

Citing a variety of sources, primary and secondary, Trefousse provides the reader with a picture of a man that was considered honest despite the fact that his opponents painted him as a fraud who stole the 1876 election from his Democratic opponent Samuel J. Tilden. I was presently surprised to read of Hayes’ very progressive stance on civil rights, education, prison reform, and women’s suffrage and his very conservative economic views that supported gold backed currency. Of greater note was his desire for Civil Service reform that required examination tests and a requirement that those engaged in the US Civil Service not use their offices for political purposes.

Each year my family and I make our annual visit to Cedar Point amusement park in northern Ohio along the Lake Erie shoreline located about 1 hour from the town of Fremont and the Rutherford B Hayes Presidential Museum. Now that I have read Trefousse’s biography, I am going to make a stop in Fremont this summer and spend time at the Hayes Museum.

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