November 27, 2012

The Beards

As some you know, I like to group the presidency into relative phases.

1 - Founding Father (Washington, Adams, Jefferson)

2 - Nation Builders (Madison, Monroe, Quincy Adams)

3 - Expansionists (Jackson, Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk)

4 - Compromisers (Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan)

5 - Civil War Presidents (Lincoln, Johnson, Grant)

and now

6 - Welcome to the beard years, America (Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, Harrison)

For the next few decades, it will be impossible to become president without a lot of unruly hair on your face. I suppose these guys are more like The Reconstructionists, or the The Guys Who Attempt Reconstruction But It Is So Hard.

The two main themes of Hayes' political career were equal rights and social justice, which were both cornerstones of the Republican platform in the 1870s. (Take a minute with that one.)

Hayes was not a genius - fewer and fewer presidents are as we go along - but he was driven and well-liked. He graduated as valedictorian from Kenyon College and then went to Harvard Law before moving back to Ohio, where he started practicing law in Cincinnati and married Lucy (who is awesome, more on her later.) His work on fugitive slave cases brought him to the attention of the Republican party, and the city council eventually elected him City Solicitor (thus inaugurating a tradition of Republicans saying "Hey Rud! You should have this job!" and him being like "Sure!" This will later include a seat in Congress, the governorship, and the presidency. His ambition was almost entirely external.)

Then he met the second love of his life, the 23rd Regiment of Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Don't even try to get Rud to shut up about the 23rd Ohio. He named his fourth son after his Civil War commander, George Crook. (Remember when Zachary Taylor named his daughter after his favorite fort? I love that guy.) He was wounded 4 times, one of which was serious enough that Lucy heard he was dead, and ended the war as a major general, although he was always quick to point out that he never fought as one, his last engagement coming when he was still a colonel.

While still in the army, he was elected to Congress. He refused to take a break to campaign, but won anyway. See? He never had to do anything. He beat a Democratic incumbent by writing open letters to voters. He was sworn in to Congress in December 1865, right in time for the grand showdown between Thaddeus Stevens and Andrew Johnson. He entered a moderate, but was quickly taken by Stevens and ended up voting the radical line on the 14th Amendment, the Civil Rights Act, The Tenure of Office Act, and The Reconstruction Acts.

He resigned from Congress in July 1867 after only a year and a half, although a historic year and a half it was, to run for Governor of Ohio. Some would think it strange to leave Congress during one of the most important times in our nation's history to run Ohio, but hey, when you're Rutherford B Hayes everything seems to work out for you.

1 comment:

  1. So interesting! Similar things happened to Truman who was originally backed by the Democratic political machine in Kansas City, Missouri, though he eventually had to live that down and everything did not work out for him.