#20: Garfield: 100 days in office


Sometimes getting assassinated does wonders for your career as a president. For example, look at JFK who although he's fondly remembered, was a much more divisive leader than people today realize.

Sometimes, getting killed in office just makes people forget you. This is unfortunately the case with Garfield who was really neither loved or hated and went from president into a historical foot note after he was assassinated 100 days into his term.

Garfield's legacy can be considered civil service reform, which he supported and Chester Arthur (his Vice President) enacted.

The very idea that he'd be remembered as a man who would reduce the role of 'spoils' politics is ironic. Garfield was elected only with the support of Senator Roscoe Conkling who mobilized the political machine he informally ran in New York to vote for Garfield. Without the support of the very machine that Garfield's reform sought to reduce, Garfield would have lost the election.

The fact that Arthur pushed Garfield's desired reform after he assumed the presidency is even more ironic. Arthur made his career in Manhattan as a loyal party man, coming up through the ranks of Conkling's machine.

I can think of a couple presidents that would have been much more fondly remembered if they had been killed early on in their terms, but we'll never know which category Garfield would have fit into.


Hayes: Contradictions

There was a lot that was ironic about Rutherford B. Hayes.

Hayes had a very liberal view of blacks for his time, wishing for them to have nearly equal rights as whites, the right to vote and believed that through education, they could be integrated into society. It seems strange then that he presided over the end of reconstruction in the South.

He probably would not have personally chosen this path but allowed it as a bargain with the south to win the disputed electoral votes needed to decide his controversial election. Hayes had to fully know that when the South ceased to be a country occupied by federal troops, it would return to its policy of pseudo slavery against blacks through share cropping and black codes.

Rutherford B. Hayes is remembered as a man that sent federal troops in to suppress a huge railroad strike, but privately wrote in his journal and talked to friends about how he wished the desperate people striking could gain the education they needed to enhance their station in life and not resort to rioting.

Hayes was against the inequality that the industrial revolution was creating but was firm against any government policy concerning increasing the money supply that could potentially help the masses of poor farmers in the Midwest and western states.

He was known as the corrupt bargainer who bargained his way into office, but he honored his pledge to serve only one term.

Best of all about Hayes, he helped found The Ohio State University when he served as governor of the state, you'd think that he'd be more popular in Ohio than he is for that alone!