Saturday, October 4, 2008

Raise the Rutherford!

Happy Birthday – Part II
Rutherford B. Hayes Celebrates his Birthday

A continuing, slightly humorous series to raise awareness of Rutherford B. Hayes and erect a statue of him in Cincinnati.

As my handful of readers knows, today is Rutherford B. Hayes’s birthday. To mark the occasion there will be a party tonight. But I thought I would post some excerpts from his online diary and letters at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center that he wrote on October 4 through the years.

Cincinnati. October 4, 1858.
Dear Lucy:--This is my birthday. The only unusual celebration will be an address to the good people of Walnut Hills tonight. We are having a most prodigious political excitement. The like has not been seen within the memory of the oldest inhabitant. Meetings, torchlight processions, cannonading, bonfires, singing, and illuminations every night, "Sundays excepted." Do you want to see any of these sights? Corwin, the Governor, will speak Thursday night and on Saturday night the greatest torchlight procession of the canvass will take place. On Monday night next there will be another by the Democrats. If you want to see the Saturday night affair, I will try to come up about Friday and bring you down on Saturday afternoon. Write at once if you would like it. Possibly you would rather be away.

October 4, 1877.
Fifty-five years old today! Lucy absent, gone to New York. My official life in the Presidency has so far been successful, in the main, and happy. The country does seem to be coming back to the ancient concord; and good people approve what I am trying to do.
My family affairs are satisfactory. The three grown boys are truthful, honest, moral, and gentlemanly. Birchard is conscientious, scholarly, but not so practical yet as I hope he will become. Webb is full of sense of the practical sort. Ruddy not yet quite equal to the others, but improving, and is like both. Fanny, now ten years old, is very sensible, does not take jokes, defends her absent friends, is like Mother Hayes. Scott is a handsome little fellow of six - seven in February.
I must resolve on this birthday to do better in the future than ever before. With good health and great opportunities, may I not hope to confer great and lasting benefits on my country?
I mean to try. Let me be kind and considerate in treatment of the unfortunate who crowd my doorway, and firm and conscientious in dealing with the tempters. The Southern question seems to be on a good footing. The currency also. The Mexican question is perplexing. The improvement of the civil service, I must constantly labor for.

Note: In 1877 he is less than one year in to his Presidency. Reconstruction has ended and the "Mexican question" I assume refers to Porfirio Diaz’s overthrow of the Sebastián Lerdo de Tejada government in 1876 and some subsequent "unlawful invasions" by Mexicans in to Texas. (Referenced in the 1877 State of the Union.)

The fourth, my birthday. Fifty-seven years old. Let me try to live during my remaining years a useful life. To make others happy and to make men and women better to the extent of my power - this must be my aim.

October 4. Friday. [1889]
My birthday -- sixty-seven. It brings freshly and painfully to mind the absence from my side of my cherished Lucy. When I last was here in the spring at the centennial of the Government she was with me! Alas, how it weakens the hold of this life -- of earth upon me! How easily I could now let go of life!

Note: Lucy Webb Hayes died June 25, 1889. Hayes dies January 17, 1893. The photo below, from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center Photograph Collection, was taken after Lucy Hayes passed away. A description of who is in the photo can be found here.

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