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President Hayes: Cabinet Members

Instructor: Evan Thompson

Evan has taught high school History and has a bachelor's degree in history with a master's degree in teaching.

Rutherford Hayes' Cabinet was largely composed of respected people with lots of accomplishments. Two of them led especially interesting lives. Read on to learn about them.

Cabinet of Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford Hayes' Cabinet was full of respected men with a long list of accomplishments. President Hayes did not believe in the Spoils System, where a president rewarded those who aided his election with appointments to federal positions, so most of his appointments were done based on merit, angering some of the higher-ups in the Republican party. Let's look at his distinguished Cabinet.

President Rutherford B. Hayes
President Rutherford B. Hayes

Secretary of State

William M. Evarts (1818-1901) was appointed by President Hayes to be the Secretary of State on March 7, 1877, and confirmed by the Senate on March 10. After graduating from Yale and from Harvard Law College, Evarts moved to New York City in 1840. He began his professional career as a lawyer in 1841. His reputation grew during the 1840s, ultimately earning him an appointment to be the Assistant US District Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1848-1853. In 1861, he was a Republican candidate for a US Senate seat from New York but lost. When President Andrew Johnson faced an impeachment trial in 1868, Evarts was his chief attorney. Also in 1868, shortly after Johnson was acquitted, he was appointed to be the Attorney General of the US after Johnson's first choice was rejected by the Senate. His post as AG ended in 1869 when Ulysses S. Grant became president, and he resumed private practice. After the disputed Presidential Election of 1876, Evarts served as counsel for the Republican Party during its arguments before the Electoral Commission. After Hayes was inaugurated, he appointed Evarts. Despite opposition from some Republican senators, including Senator James Blaine of Maine (who felt that he, as one of the top members of the party, should have been the nominee instead), Evarts' appointment was confirmed. While Secretary, he had a stance toward Mexico that was controversial. Ever since Mexican Independence was formally obtained in 1821, they had had several regime changes. The U.S. governmental policy up to that point had been to recognize every new Mexican government regime when it gained full control, but Evarts reversed custom when Porfirio Diaz seized control. He attached conditions to the recognition, one being the permission of the U.S. military to pursue any Native American raiders into Mexico if need be. Evarts did eventually remove the caveats of recognition, but he did not change the pursuit into Mexico stance until 1880.

William Evarts, Secretary of State
William Evarts, Secretary of State

Secretary of the Treasury

John Sherman (1823-1900) was appointed by President Hayes and confirmed by the Senate to be the Secretary of the Treasury, beginning his service on March 10, 1877. Before his appointment, Sherman, General William T. Sherman's younger brother, served in Congress, representing Ohio. The Republican was first elected to the House in 1854 and continued as a representative until the Ohio legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate in 1861. During his tenure in the House, he became known as an expert on fiscal matters. While in the Senate, he rallied support to help pass the Legal Tender Act of 1862 and introduced the National Bank Act in 1863. He stayed in the Senate until he became Secretary of the Treasury in 1877.

John Sherman, Secretary of the Treasury
John Sherman, Secretary of the Treasury

Secretary of War

George Washington McCrary (1835-1890) of Iowa served as Secretary of War from March 1877 until his resignation in 1879. He began practicing law in Iowa in 1856 and began his political career shortly thereafter. He served in the Iowa State Assembly from 1857 through 1860, when he was elected to the state Senate, where he served from 1861 to 1865. In 1869, he was elected to the U.S. House, and he served there until his appointment as Secretary of War. While in the House, he chaired the House Committee of Elections, who suggested that an electoral commission arbitrate the disputed Election of 1876. After Hayes' victory, McCrary's appointment as Secretary of War spurred some accusations of the appointment being done in return for a favor. McCrary stayed on as Secretary of War until he resigned in 1879 to accept an appointment to the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

George Washington McCrary, Secretary of War
George Washington McCrary, Secretary of War

Alexander Ramsey (1815-1903) succeeded McCrary as Secretary of War. He was born and raised in Pennsylvania, where he practiced law before being elected to the U.S. House in 1842 as a Whig. He served two terms in the House before he accepted a nomination by President Zachary Taylor to serve as the first governor of the Minnesota Territory. When Minnesota became a state in 1857, he ran for governor but lost. However, in 1860, he won, and he served as governor until the legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate in 1863. He was governor during the U.S.-Dakota War in Minnesota in 1862. During the war, in which the Dakota were driven westward out of Minnesota, Ramsey infamously stated that the Dakota needed to either be exterminated or permanently driven out of Minnesota. He served in the U.S. Senate until 1875.

Alexander Ramsey, Secretary of War
Alexander Ramsey, Secretary of War

Attorney General

Charles Devens (1820-1891) of Massachusetts served as Attorney General from March 1877 until March 1881. He had quite a life! After graduating from Harvard and studying law at Cambridge, he practiced law in Massachusetts from 1841 to 1849 and again from 1854 to 1861. From 1849 to 1853, he was United States marshal for Massachusetts. In 1861, he entered service in the Civil War. In October 1861, while a colonel, he was wounded -- the button on his jacket saved his life. He was promoted to Brigadier General, and in 1862 he was severely wounded during the Battle of Harrison's Landing. He had his horse shot from under him at the Battle of Antietam but was not wounded, which is saying something since Antietam is the bloodiest one-day battle in the history of the North American continent (22,717 killed, wounded, or captured). He was severely wounded once again in May of 1863 at the Battle of Chancellorsville, where his division was nearly annihilated by an attack led by Stonewall Jackson, who was mortally wounded by friendly fire at the end of this battle. After the war, he served as a military governor during Reconstruction until 1866, when he resigned and returned to Massachusetts. Before he could resume his law practice, he accepted an appointment to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, where he served until President Hayes nominated him to be Attorney General of the United States.

Charles Devens, Attorney General
Charles Devens, Attorney General

Postmaster General

David M. Key (1824-1900) of Tennessee, a Democrat, was appointed Postmaster General by President Hayes in March 1877. His appointment kept a promise made by Hayes to appoint a Democrat to his cabinet. (Postmaster General was a cabinet position until 1971, and in 1877, it was a prestigious position.) His career began as a lawyer in 1850 in Tennessee, where he practiced law until the Civil War broke out in 1861. After serving in the American Civil War as an officer in the Confederate Army, he retired to civilian life as a farmer. He was part of the Tennessee Constitutional Convention in 1870 and served in state office until 1875 when he was chosen by the legislature to be a U.S. Senator. He failed to win re-election in 1877, but Hayes chose him to be in the cabinet, where he remained until Hayes appointed him to the U.S. District Court in Tennessee.

David M. Key, Postmaster General
David M. Key, Postmaster General

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