The presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes

The Presidential controversy of 1876 opened a period of sharp struggle over doctrines of great import to the commonwealth. The Republican nominee, Rutherford B. Hayes, was declared elected by the Electoral Commission, though Tilden, the Democratic candidate, had the larger popular vote, which stood, Hayes, 4,033,950, Tilden, 4,284,885. The new administration commanded general respect for quality and character. "One of the first acts of President Hayes' administration was to remove a prominent cause of ill-feeling between the two sections of the country, in the withdrawal of the United States troops that had sustained the Republican State governments in South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana. With this withdrawal all distinction in the political relations of the States ceased, and the States named fell quickly under Democratic control." The President showed active sympathy with the movement for Civil Service reform. A commission had been appointed in 1871, whose report urged that fitness, and not political favoritism, should be the ground of appointment to government offices. The efforts of the President were loyally followed by his colleagues, and the merit system made substantial headway against the established practice by which the victors claimed the spoils. The public began to see the practical advantage of having and retaining servants who had proved their worth during four years of apprenticeship. The idea of swapping experienced for inexperienced officials for no better reason than the greed of political hangers-on was admittedly in contradiction to all the principles and practices that have made the nation so great, despite such survivals of crude politicianism.

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