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Summary

If Rutherford B. Hayes's significance as chief executive had faded in the public memory, nothing brought it back into our consciousness more than the similarities between the controversial elections of 1876 and 2000. In 1876, Hayes's opponent, Samuel Tilden, won the popular vote and led the Electoral College, but the returns in several states were in dispute. A special electoral commission convened and handed the presidency to Hayes. Newspapers of the time cried of "the iniquity in Florida." Yet this cry of foul was only one of several obstacles facing the new president.

After years of Grant-era corruption, the Republican Party looked to the earnest and upright Hayes to revitalize their flagging and scandalized party. As the volume of protest over election results increased, the Southern Democrats threatened to oust Hayes, and so he was forced to conciliate. To the dismay of the more conservative Republicans, he struck a deal to end military occupation of the South, thus ending the Reconstruction. In retrospect, as historian Hans L. Trefousse points out, it was this decision that helped unify the country and which restored legitimacy to the Oval Office.

As chief executive, Hayes's accomplishments were mixed. His conservative financial policies helped lift the country's economic depression, and he was able to reform the civil service and quell the 1877 labor uprising. But many of his well-intentioned goals, such as a bill that would help fund education for black children, were never realized, and many contemporary historians fault him for his lack of action on these fronts.

Rather than pursue a second term, Hayes decided to retire, maintaining his reputation for temperance, authority, and stability. Ultimately, it was Hayes's ability to compromise in order to help revitalize a floundering and factionalized nation that serves as his real legacy.

©2002 Hans L. Trefousse (P)2003 Audio Renaissance, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC

Critic reviews

"[A] thoughtful [and] useful look at an honest, if obscure, political leader, who, the author argues, rightfully won his office." ( Kirkus Reviews)

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Edwin
  • Edwin
  • 06-01-04

No Depth

This book read like a timeline of his actions and accomplishments - a Cliff Notes - a third grader's report on "What I did this summer". I must be spoiled afer reading the 2 volume bio (4 parts) of John Adams, the 2 volume bio of Teddy Roosevelt (The Rise of TR and Theodore Rex) and the excellent bio of Truman by David McCullough.

Hans Trefousse continually refers to Ari Hoogenbloom as a source of reference. When Ari's version comes out I'm getting it. Maybe everyone else should wait for that version, too. I was glad when this book was finished.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 14-11-19

A man of integrity

I learned a great deal about Hayes the president and Hayes the man. They were the same. He was a man of great integrity and the Author made his light shine even brighter. Thank you for the enjoyable 5 hours of my life. Looking forward to more books!!!!

1 person found this helpful

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  • grimm79
  • 11-06-19

Personal but a little basic.

The narration was high caliber, though a little slurred at times. Great sound. Was this biography really meant for kids? I probably would have been bored with this audio book in my youth, but found it a little basic as an adult.

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  • Karl Clark
  • 14-01-19

kill the music

The story and information were very good. The worst part about this book is the Music between sections. Very bad idea to add music. 🤨

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  • jason leclerc
  • 19-12-18

ok listen

the story wasn't bad and over not a bad listening book. but the audio was robotic and voice was electronic like. couldn't find any other audio book on a lesser known president

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  • Patrick
  • 04-05-15

Good & efficient bio but lacking in analysis

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Amongst TIME's 10 Forgettable Presidents this may actually his gift to the US as like the defence attorney of his pre political life he defend in his single term the institution of the Presidency.

Nicknamed "Rutherfraud" due to the 1876 election's contested nature which the author draws comparisons throughout to the 2000 Bush v Gore Florida count problems. His presidency is one that follow this, the end of reconstruction, a Grant administration that was filled with political patronage/corruption, and a Democratic Party focused on obstruct black equality.

This efficient biography takes you through his early life & education, career as an accomplished defence attorney, military service in the civil war and his political life, as well as quick retirement chapter.

I like Hayes after this book but the biography lacks a story or hypothesis about what made tick. This is most noticeable in the second half of the book where the reader expects more analysis.

The warrior aspect is a common theme in his other two biographies but I'm left feeling he was always a defence attorney in his thinking. One gets the sense his diary is dry and provides little insight but I'm guessing as the author never suggests it. I'd like to revisit Hayes with a biography more comprehensive which this descent President deserves.

Overall worth a read to be introduced to a President that might be forgotten but is worth remembering. "He serves his party best who serves his country best" - his words he lived by.

What didn’t you like about Ira Claffey’s performance?

The performance is dry but 3 stars - I thought from the sample the quality of sound would be worse it was actually ok. However, the post-production of music at cut points for the CD is very annoying. The music volume makes it difficult to hear the narrator.

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  • DB
  • 16-12-20

This is a children’s book

This is a children’s book without any depth or analysis. The style of the narrator emphasizes the pedantic tone of the text. Unless you are in middle school don’t waste your time.

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  • joe schmo
  • 05-02-17

disappointing

I wanted to learn about Rutherford B. Hays... I was just hoping to do so with some excitement or intrigue monologue. this was incredibly boring on a subject I am genuinely interested in learning. I will decline to listen to more books by this author and narrator.

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  • L. Voss
  • 12-03-19

A dull biography of a dull man

This is a worthy of plodding biography of a dull man. The music between sections is very distracting and totally unnecessary but it's a thorough and detailed biography.