Opinion: President Hayes is not a historical figure to celebrate


Kaitlyn Gorsuch

Bust of Rutherford B. Hayes in the rotunda of Hayes High School.

Marta Bourget, Staff Writer

Some people in Delaware are proud to live in the hometown of a president, while others dispute whether or not Rutherford B. Hayes is someone who deserves to be celebrated. With a questionable legacy, Hayes seems to fit the bill of historical figures who should be learned about, not celebrated.
Hayes was born in Delaware, Ohio and went to Kenyon College and Harvard Law School. He served as Governor of Ohio and in the U.S. House of Representatives prior to running for the presidency.
Hayes served as president from 1877 to 1881, winning the Republican nomination over his opponent, the more controversial James Blaine. His opponent in the race was Democrat Samuel J. Tilden from New York.
The election resulted in a standstill. Tilden won the popular vote, but four states were undecided, with each party claiming that their candidate had won the states.
The election didn’t seem to favor Hayes, requiring him to win all four states in order to beat Tilden. Tilden, meanwhile, only needed one more electoral vote.
Fraud and even another Civil War were hot topics while the election results were decided. Fraudulent votes were attempted for both candidates in hopes of speeding up the counts. Furthermore, many worried about how to officially certify the election, since the sitting vice president, Henry Wilson, had died a year prior.
In order to find the winner, the Electoral Commission Act was made. It was composed of 15 people from the House, Senate and Supreme Court. They voted 7:8 in favor of Hayes and he won the presidency.
Some speculate that Hayes made a deal of ending Reconstruction in order to gain presidency. It isn’t completely proven, but the fact remains that Hayes did end Reconstruction and pull federal troops out of the South.
This left Black Southern Americans with even less protection for voting. Southerners and the Ku Klux Klan used poll taxes, literacy tests and violence to discourage Black Americans from voting.
But outside of the U.S., Hayes was much more popular. He was called to settle a land dispute between Argentina and Paraguay. He sided with Paraguay, giving them 60% of the land that they own today. To show thanks, Paraguay has named a city “Hayesville” and a soccer team named “Club Presidente Hayes.”
Winning the election after a standstill was an exciting but questionable way to win office. That alone isn’t necessarily a concrete reason to dislike Hayes, but disregarding Black Americans’ safety, and complying to the demands of racists certainly is.
One’s hometown is an important aspect to celebrate, but paying attention to historical aspects of bigotry, corruption, and lack of action regarding minorities is much more important. President Hayes’ fan base should reconsider their perspective.