Wednesday, January 17, 2007

January 17, 1893:

Rutherford B. Hayes Dies

After his presidency, which by all accounts Rutherford B. Hayes found disagreeable, he retired to his northern Ohio home, Spiegel Grove. He remains there to this day, buried with his wife Lucy Hayes. It's a convenient stop off the Ohio Turnpike to see them, and on most days the place probably isn’t crowded.

Hayes, 19th President of the United States -- but whose claim to that office was by far the shakiest -- died this day in 1893.

“[In retirement] his qualms over the 1876 election never left him, but he rarely displayed signs that he felt guilty or embarrassed,” wrote Lloyd Robinson in The Stolen Election (1968). “He had tired to be a good President, and if he had failed, it was because stubborn, greedy men had opposed him… Deeply shaken, he rode in the funeral procession of his martyred successor, President Garfield, in 1881. Four years later, with ex-President Arthur beside him, Hayes took part in the final ceremonies for Ulysses S. Grant. Then, in 1886, it was Arthur who went to the grave, and Hayes rode in the carriage with President Cleveland at the funeral… His closing years were clouded, too. Alone among men who had lived in the White House, Hayes had come to power improperly, and every retelling of the story of 1876 wounded him.

“When he died… in his seventy-first year, he was laid to rest with the magnificent befitting a true President. Troops paraded; muffled drums were beat; President Cleveland stood with his head bared under the gray, wintry Ohio sky. The entire Ohio legislature was there, and so was Gov. William McKinley, himself marked for the White House and tragedy.”

The legacy of the Stolen Election of 1876 might have been bitter, but one thing more pleasant that Hayes started lives on -- the White House Easter Egg Roll (the 2004 roll is pictured with today's post). A short history of the roll is here.

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