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Rutherford B. Hayes

Grant was succeeded in the White House by Rutherford B. Hayes, the nineteenth President of the United States (1877). Hayes had taken a brave part in the Civil War, had been governor of Ohio, and was greatly respected for his many good qualities.

When called to be President, Hayes frankly said that in government positions there should be “no dismissal except for cause, and no promotion except for merit.” Besides, he always thought and openly said that the South would get along much better if the United States troops were withdrawn. Still, owing to a dispute about the counting of votes, no one knew at first whether he or his rival Samuel J. Tilden had been elected. As the quarrel could not be decided otherwise, a commission of five congressmen, five senators, and five judges was chosen to settle the matter, and their decision was in favor of Hayes.

True to his principles, Hayes immediately called back the troops, an order which most people in the country considered very wise. Southerners were now left to settle their own affairs, and they have done it so wisely that no one has ever regretted Hayes’s action, although some of his enemies had predicted that it would make trouble.

During Hayes’s one term there were several great strikes among coal miners and railroad employees. These strikes spread all through New York and Pennsylvania, and even in the West. At one time there were more than one hundred and fifty thousand men out of work; and the strikers grew so unruly at Pittsburg that they destroyed much property, and ceased rioting only when the troops were called out to subdue them.

Already in 1868 our minister Burlingame had made a trade treaty with China, but when Hayes became President, Congress passed a bill to prevent the Chinese from coming over here. Hayes vetoed this bill and in 1878 received the first real Chinese embassy in the White House. There, their jewels, gorgeous costumes of finest silk, and gay peacock feathers caused a great sensation.

The most important event during Hayes’s term was that the government said it was ready to pay gold in exchange for every “greenback” issued during the war. But now that the people knew they could get gold in exchange for the paper money whenever they wanted it, they decided to keep on using bills, because they are so much easier to carry than coin. At the same time, Congress passed a Silver Bill, providing that the government should buy and coin a certain amount of silver every month, using sixteen times as much silver in a silver dollar as of gold in a gold dollar.

Before Hayes’s term ended, a dispute about fisheries between Canada and the United States was settled in a friendly way, by our paying Great Britain five and a half millions for the right to fish along the Canadian coast.

Hayes and his wife helped the cause of temperance and set a good example for the whole country, by refusing to have any kind of wine or strong drink on their table in the White House.

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