1876–Hayes Acceptance Letter–Corey Bruce
This letter was written by Rutherford B. Hayes on July 8, 1876 as an acceptance of his nomination as the Republican Candidate for the office of President of the United States of America. He, however, did not present this speech, which was common in political rhetoric of the time. He begins his speech and spends a majority of the speech not discussing his policies on the War, reconstruction, and the economy, rather discussing various resolutions made by the convention. Hayes begins with the fifth resolution of the declaration of principles of the convention, which explains how the system has changed, and appointing power has been passed down to congress, where offices act as rewards for party services rather than public services. He claims that the system destroys the independence of the separate departments of the government. One appeal to the way he addresses the current flaws in the system is his constant reference to the founders of this government and the preservation of those ideals. The irony of this lies in the fact that both parties (Hayes and Samuel Tilden, a Democrat from New York) mounted “mudslinging campaigns” displaying strong party ties. Rutherford expresses his loyalty to the Republican Party stating that his views are “in accordance with the convention’s principles.” Even his own nomination was strewn with partisan corruption as leaders of the reform republicans met privately to nominate him even though James G. Blaine held the higher popular vote for the Republican Party.
Another interesting claim of his was the fact that he does not propose the option for re-election and will not be running for a second term regardless of the results of his term in Presidency. He believes that the two-term policy can evoke temptation to use the patronage of office to promote re-election causing those in office to make decisions that will heighten the likelihood of re-election rather than basing decisions off what is best for the nation. Hayes refers to his potential election to office as a <duty> and he carries that ideograph throughout the speech while promoting an “intelligent and honest administration of the government, which will protect all classes of citizens in their political and private rights.”
By the end of the speech, Hayes finally touches on his policies and promises. Because both Hayes and Tilden were both in favor of civil service reform and an end to reconstruction, Hayes focused briefly on the economy, currency issues, the public school system, and people’s rights before closing his speech. He addresses the condition of the Southern States and the constitutional rights of all people. The Constitution plays a large role in Hayes’ argumentative style when acknowledging the Southern States. He preaches equality and the rights of those states, like all states, to “obtain for themselves the blessings of honest and capable local government.” If he is elected, he will “regard and cherish” the truest interests of the South; the interests of the white and of the colored people both and equally. He again uses the Constitution to support the argument that “a division of political parties, resting merely upon distinctions of race, or upon sectional line, is always unfortunate, and may be disastrous.” At this point he is able to tie in his policies on Southern succession, reconstruction, and people’s rights to his initial argument against partisan division and in favor of a civil policy, which will “wipe out forever the distinction between the North and South in our common country.”
<Unity> is another ideograph that becomes prominent throughout the speech. The idea of unity within the government and political parties is spread to the larger concerns of the North and South in regards to sectionalism. Hayes’ goal in his speech is to focus the intentions and operations of the government as well as the people of the states on common good, people’s rights as stated in the Constitution, and to frame the Office of the American Presidency in terms of a duty towards and representation of the citizens of the States and the Nation as a whole.
Rutherford B. Hayes goes on to win the election of 1876 by a measly one electoral vote while losing the popular vote at 47.5%.