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Rutherford B. Hayes (The American Presidents #19)

3.45  ·  Rating Details  ·  242 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
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 r
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published November 5th 2002 by Times Books (first published November 1st 2002)
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It's hard to give this book a fair shake. This is the first time in my reading the presidents mission that I've resorted to a volume of The American Presidents series, and I imagine that the nature of the "assignment" probably put some constraints on author, Hans L. Trefousse. This is a biography of Rutherford B. Hayes— that's undeniable —so I guess it earns points for truth in advertising. Downside? It's pretty darn boring.

Some of the least boring bits:
Hayes took the well-worn path to politic
Rutherford Hayes is my new favorite poster boy for this questionably-advised President's Project. I know I crush on every president I read about, but at number 19, I've reached a point in the endeavour where I can make some educated generalizations. Such as, the Presidents are pretty consistently falling in to categories. There are the Presidents-I've-Heard-Of-Because-They're-So-Great (and they usually are), the Presidents-I've-Heard-Of-Because-They're-So-Bad (and they usually are, with some hap ...more
Jun 08, 2015 Joe rated it liked it
Book Thirty-Nine of my Presidential Challenge.

I believe that Rutherford B. Hayes was a good man. I want to get that out of the way right up front. He treated people with kindness and understanding. He was an optimist who always seemed to think the best of people.

In his entire Presidency, he only really made one mistake...but that mistake was a doozy. For all intents and purposes, Hayes ended Reconstruction in the South. I definitely understand his thinking. He wanted to bring the South back into
Nov 24, 2015 Kirk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
pg 92-93 "But the president had little choice. His predecessor, General Grant, had decided to withdraw support from the disputed governments even before the inauguration, and the country was no longer ready to tolerate military interference in the South. As Ari Hoogenboom has stated so well, Hayes knew that Northern opinion would not long sustain the troops in the South, but from this weak bargaining position he extracted from the rival Democratic governments promises to guarantee the voting and ...more
Jun 23, 2015 MBJ rated it really liked it
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. ...more
David Nichols
Sep 22, 2014 David Nichols rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, biography
Rutherford Hayes, 19th president of the United States, features in THE SIMPSONS' 1993 "Pageant of Obscure Presidents," and his obscurity is apparently well-deserved. The Civil War general and three-term governor of Ohio was elected president in the outrageously dirty election of 1876 (see my review of Michael Holt's book thereon here:, and the shall-we-say unorthodox circumstances of his election crippled his presidency before it began. Hayes further dim ...more
Mar 28, 2011 Mel rated it it was ok
Shelves: us-presidents
This is a superficial biography totally lacking any citations. Hayes was apparently a well educated, honorable and decent guy, but much of this book reads like a campaign promotion. We are repeatedly told that the pretty Mrs. Hayes hosted dandy parties in the White House, although I suspect that not all guests were happy that "Lemonade Lucy" forbade any liquor in the president's home. More historically relevant subjects such as Hayes using federal troops to break worker strikes or his authorizat ...more
Mike Fournier
Apr 21, 2016 Mike Fournier rated it liked it
I didn't learn much about Hayes from this book. I'm going to have to go back and read something more in depth. Withdrawing the federal troops from the South seems like it merits longer mention and insight. Onward and upward.
Chris Burd
Apr 20, 2015 Chris Burd rated it liked it
I might have a new favorite President.

I was tempted to give this one a four star rating, but that might be a bit unfair. The book itself isn't great. There are a few places where ideas are introduced without any context, a few acronyms that aren't explained, and a few jumps forward in time that are a little confusing. However, given how little there is out there on President Hayes, I have to recommend this one if you want to get to know one of the lesser known Presidents.

I don't want my review t
Jun 24, 2016 Meg rated it liked it
Wow. That Reconstruction era was all kinds of messed up and this poor guy didn't stand a chance of succeeding in office. This was Bush v Gore before Bush v Gore! In his Presidential race against Tilden, a Democrat, Tilden won the popular vote. Hayes was elected because he won the Electoral College vote by just a single vote! The Republicans accused the Democrats of all kinds of shenanigans, which led to voter disenfranchisement all throughout the Southern states. So, Hayes thought he had rightfu ...more
This is a short biography of Rutherford B Hayes the 19th President of the US. One of the four Presidents elected without winning the popular vote and elected after an election commission investigated voter suppression in former Confederate states of Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida. It follows his early career as a lawyer in Ohio his service in the Union Army during the Civil War and his rise in Republican politics as a Congressman, Senator and Governor. A compromise choice after James Blai ...more
Stacey Jones
Feb 22, 2016 Stacey Jones rated it really liked it
This brief biography of Rutherford B. Hayes made me want to read more about him, and so I consider it a success. This series of presidential bios is not meant to provide exhaustive or comprehensive studies of each life, but to introduce you to the life of the person who served. This book by Hans L. Trefousse does that very well.

I’m engaged in a project to read biographies of all the presidents in order, at a rate of two per year. I choose the books using the following criteria: The book must be
Oct 23, 2014 Steve rated it liked it

“Rutherford B. Hayes” is Hans Trefousse’s 2002 contribution to The American Presidents Series. Trefousse was an American historian, author and a professor at Brooklyn College for nearly four decades. He was most widely known for his biographies of Andrew Johnson and Rutherford Hayes. Trefousse died in 2010 at the age of eighty-eight.

Like the other half-dozen members of this series I’ve read so far, Trefousse’s text is crisp, concise and comprehensive (thou
Steven Peterson
Aug 21, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
President Rutherford (called "Rud" by friends) is best known, probably, for being a (as his opponents put it) fraudulent president." Of course, this refers to (a) his becoming president while being whipped in the national popular vote and (b) the process by which a couple contested southern states (perhaps ironic given the 2000 contested presidential election, Florida) had their electoral votes assigned to Hayes.

But what else do most people know about Hayes? Probably not much. And this slender
Jennifer Nelson
This is a quick moving, somewhat dry overview of the life of Rutherford B. Hayes, our 19th president. To sum him up, he basically was a “nice guy.” He was very involved in many causes to help society, was charming to be around, and a complete optimist. He did well in school, excelled in his law practice, had a neat and tidy soldiering record in the Civil War, served faithfully as congressman and governor of Ohio, and then ended up president and redeeming himself after a rough start (election woe ...more
Regina Lindsey
Apr 20, 2013 Regina Lindsey rated it liked it
For Valentines Day my husband read the preface of this book and surprised me by giving me a glimpse of what I could expect from Hayes. Admittedly, I was not very familiar with Hayes prior to the read. My reaction to his "report" was, "it sounds like he was a lot like Jimmy Carter". I think there are definitely some similarities in that both were reactionary elections - the electorate choosing the mirror opposite of characteristics that governed the previously administration. But, more obvious, b ...more
Robert Sparrenberger
This is a quick look at the 19th president of the U.S. He is definitely a forgotten president but one that is important due to the interesting election of 1876.

That being said, after reading this I feel like Hayes was the second coming of Christ. The guy had no enemies and everyone loved him. His exploits in the civil war are amazing if you read this account.

I enjoyed he facts about him and his presidency but the slobbering over him was too much.
Christopher Litsinger
After reading this book, I would describe Hayes' presidency as competent, but mostly boring, and the book as probably too short to be competent- often quickly mentioning an event or fact without enough context to understand why it is being included. My favorite quote from Hayes, regarding his concern for income inequality rings quite relevant today: “Lincoln was for a government of the people. The new tendency is ‘a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.’”
Aug 05, 2013 Jessica rated it it was ok
Here's the thing - I think Hayes was probably a good guy who came to power when the Republican party was breaking into factions and the in-fighting caused them from doing, well, anything. The problem is that this book is so poorly written that I'm not sure if that's correct, or I just made that up to make myself feel like I learned something. It's not that the facts aren't there, but the author jumps around a lot and inserts these weird non sequiturs (that sometimes have nothing to do with Hayes ...more
Jessica (booneybear)
Unfortunately, Hans Trefousse does nothing more than write a biography on President Hayes proving that the president was a vanilla president in a world of Ben & Jerry's. Hayes entered the presidency under the scandal of disputed election results which could have made for great drama, however it was barely touched upon. I know the biography was just a short book, but it read as if Mr. Trefousse had a word limit that he would be fined if he went over his allotted word count. There is more than ...more
Ric White
Mar 26, 2016 Ric White rated it liked it
Nothing special. It serves the purpose of informing the reader about Hayes and his journey to the White House. It provides some insightful looks on his motivation, though I doubt some of the author's assertions. All in all, though, I'm just as bored by Hayes now as I was before I read the book.
Fred Kohn
Well, I liked it. Some reviewers said it is poorly written, others said it is dry. I think those are fair criticisms of some parts of the book, but certainly not the whole. I think the author may be rightly accused of playing up Hayes a bit: I suspect he wasn't quite as wonderful a president as he comes across in this book. But then again, this is the first book I've read about the man, and I have nothing to compare it to other than what Wikipedia says. :)
Ed Callahan
Gave useful insight into a relatively obscure president. Most interesting was the comparison between Hayes and the younger bush. Specifically their both winning the presidency based on electoral college votes rather than the popular vote.
Pat Kiser
May 04, 2016 Pat Kiser rated it really liked it
An example of history repeating itself with the disputed 1876 election. Hayes made a better former president than president. He reminds me of Jimmy Carter.
Shawn Thrasher
Dec 19, 2011 Shawn Thrasher rated it it was ok
Definitely a low-gloss look at our 19th president. I'm not sure if this because Han L. Trefousse purposely wrote a low impact book, or Rutherford B. Hayes was just genially uninteresting. The biggest single interesting thing that seemed to have happened to Hayes politically was the nasty disputed election of 1876. That the peak of interesting in this book; the actual tenure of Hayes was sort of dull. Again, was it really dull, or is Trefousse just a dull writer? I don't know enough about either ...more
Jim Digiovanni
Nov 03, 2014 Jim Digiovanni rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
Surprisingly good and interesting.
Kristin Smith
Jun 14, 2015 Kristin Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is hard for me to separate the quality of the book and the person when I read a biography. I think President Hayes was the person I was hoping to stumble upon when I started reading the presidents' biographies. I think he was a good, honest, optimistic person. He did what he thought was right. He led a good term and chose not to seek reelection.
Lethe book was well done, but shallow in research compared to other biographies I have read. It definitely gave a good overview of his life and a litt
Sep 03, 2013 Tom rated it liked it
Rutherford B. Hayes by this account was an honest man and in my opinion a pretty darned good president. Sure he didn't accomplish all he wanted to but significantly, he ended Reconstruction, stuck to a conservative fiscal policy and promoted education for black children. Interestingly he started collecting portraits of Ohio governors while he was governor and began a similar effort for presidents while he was in that office. Odd that no one had thought of that before. He deserves a better book.
Jan 21, 2013 Dan rated it liked it
After the length of the excellent Grant biography I read, this one was blessedly short. However, I found Hayes to be far more interesting than I expected, and I will most likely try to read a more detailed biography of him later. This brief book was a good overview, and if one was in the market for a succinct Hayes bio, one could do far worse. For now, though, on to Garfield. I'm almost halfway through the presidents!
Jul 22, 2008 Tom rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
This fascinating Hayes biography is not quite for casual history fans but anyone with an interest in post-civil war times will find it an enjoyable read.

The correlations between the Tilden v. Hayes and Bush v. Gore elections make this book all the more current and of particular interest to me was the contrasting ways Hayes and Bush dealt with the animosity leftover from a disputed election.
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