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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

President Hayes' Advice in 1893: Don't Mess With OSU

COLUMBUS (TDB) -- Rutherford B. Hayes was the 19th president, and the Ohioan moved into the White House in 1876 after a hotly disputed election. The popular vote went to Democrat Samuel Tilden, who might be considered the Al Gore of his era. Hayes kept a diary for most of his life and in an entry for today's date, December 27, he mused a bit about Ohio politics circa 1893. His words as an insider seem to resonate today as a new governor, Ted Strickland, shapes his administration.

Hayes was long out of office, but he remained a nuts-and-bolts political thinker. He was concerned state elected officials could muddle up Ohio's higher education system, particularly the campus in Columbus. And he said filling Ohio's patronage posts with appointees has a political downside because it hurts those who didn't get the job.

Hayes, who would die from a heart condition a few weeks later at age 70, wrote that he took a train down from Cleveland with Gov. William McKinley on Dec. 27, noted the two shared a ''full, good talk" and then he said he penned this letter to McKinley:

"MY DEAR GOVERNOR -- I have slept on the question of reorganizing the University this winter. On both grounds, it would be a mistake. 1. Not best for the cause of education. 2. Not well for your personal standing.

"1. The institution stands well, is growing in favor, needs no change, would be hurt by a seeming partisan nature.
"2. Too much reoganization of State institutions already for your personal interests. All appointments hurt. Five friends are made cold or hostile for every appointment; no new friends are made. All patronage is perilous to men of real ability or merit. It aids only those who lack other claims to public support. Take this for what little it is worth."

The Ohio Historical Society has Hayes' diary online at it is fun to dip in and check out some of the ex-president's thoughts. I wonder if Gerald Ford, who passed away Tuesday, kept any kind of diary or journal that tracked his day-to-day thoughts. It would be fascinating [Ed. note: I changed it from fascination thanks to the keen-viewing reader's comment below.] to learn what he really thought about Richard Nixon, whom he succeeded.

[UPDATE: There is stuff all over the newswires and 'sphere today about Ford, Bob Woodward and the current White House. He confided in the WaPo newsman, who kept his secret until now. But I still wonder if there is a diary.]


  1. Since the days of Hayes or even Ford, political patronage has risen to a whole new level. The thoughts and memoirs of Hayes have no relevance in our political climate today. Are you writing to show you have some knowledge of history or are you trying to make some impact upon your readers. If you cannot do better, then I will not waste my time reading your "little blog".

  2. Sloat: You typo-ed at the end. "Fascination" should be "Fascinating".