Republican Redistribution of the Wealth


Republican President Rutherford B. Hayes was known as “His Fraudulency” while in office due to his bargained victory in the face of a popular election loss and Republican vote manipulation in still-occupied Southern States. Apparently to his future regret, Hayes had fought in blue to ensure the victory of Lincoln’s combination of centralized government and business interests which would usher in the Gilded Age and its multitude of robber barons. It was Lincoln, desperate for military victory over his fellow Americans to the South, who relied upon private financiers like the unscrupulous Jay Cooke to creatively finance his war at all costs.

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"


Republican Redistribution of the Wealth:

“Another one of

[Hayes’s] causes was the control of the growing inequality of wealth. At a time when laissez-faire predominated, and when it was believed that the iron law of wages could not be disturbed…his concern about this subject was quite unusual and forward-thinking.  More equal distribution of property was a question he discussed with his friends.

Believing that in America a permanent aristocracy of wealth should not be allowed, he thought the answer might be a limitation on inheritance with the public the beneficiary of the remainder of the estate.

When in May 1886 the riot on Haymarket Square in Chicago brought about a popular revulsion against violence, he was so wholly in favor of suppressing it by force as the general public. “Strikes and boycotts,” he had thought for some time, “are akin to war, and can be justified only on grounds analogous to those which justify war, viz., intolerable injustice and oppression.”

But he still believed that labor did not get its fair share of the wealth it created, and he endorsed President Grover Cleveland’s message calling for the establishment of a Commission of Labor to consider and settle industrial disputes.  At [a] funeral…he met the railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, and he could not overlook the inconsistency of permitting such vast power to be vested in the hands of one man.  He thought that great wealth must be controlled and railroad kings curbed.

He also felt that the taxation system was unfair, taking a much smaller share of the estate of millionaires than of ordinary citizens. “The real difficulty is with the vast wealth and power in the hands of the few and the unscrupulous who represent or control capital,” he wrote. As he summed it up, “Lincoln was for a government of the people. The new tendency is “a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.”  This type of social conscience was rare and marked Hayes as an early progressive.”

(Rutherford B. Hayes, Hans L. Trefousse, Times Books, 2002, pp. 140-141)