On this day in 1822, future President Rutherford B. Hayes is born in Delaware, Ohio. As a child, Hayes attended private schools and went on to study law at Harvard University, though he was not from a wealthy family. In fact, as a young lawyer, he lived in his office for a time to save money while building his practice.
Hayes, a devout, honest and principled man, earned the nickname “Old Granny” for his attention to manners and his tee-totaling lifestyle. He and his family were also ardent abolitionists and temperance reformers. It was assumed that his wife Lucy insisted that he ban all alcohol from the White House–an act that appalled visiting dignitaries and earned her the nickname “Lemonade Lucy.” However, it was originally Hayes’ idea to force temperance on White House visitors. Advisors and cabinet members would often join Hayes and his family in twice-daily prayer and in singing hymns. As his presidency followed the notoriously corrupt terms of Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant, supporters appreciated Hayes’ sense of fairness and willingness to work with both parties. Detractors and cynics jaded by years of dishonest administrations, however, derided him as a fraud.
Hayes’ presidency was notable for his role in presiding over the end of post-Civil WarReconstruction. In an effort to please Southern Democrats, he agreed to pull the last federal troops out of the former Confederate states, mistakenly believing that Southern politicians would enforce civil rights for black Americans. Hayes resisted partisan pressure in appointing federal positions and fought legislation aimed at preventing Chinese immigration into the United States. Despite campaigning on a pro-labor platform, Hayes disappointed workers when he used federal troops to quell the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. He served only one term, and left office in 1881.