President Hayes was an egalitarian and a supporter of social causes, particularly education and civil rights. Closely linked to this was his strong interest in prison reform, and he issued many pardons while in office and came to oppose the death penalty. He believed in the power of education when it came...
President Hayes was an egalitarian and a supporter of social causes, particularly education and civil rights. Closely linked to this was his strong interest in prison reform, and he issued many pardons while in office and came to oppose the death penalty. He believed in the power of education when it came to criminals, and linked crime to poverty. Although presidents today are often active advocates for their favorite causes after leaving the White House, in Hayes’ time it was almost unheard of for presidents to remain in the spotlight once they left national office. However, Hayes boldly determined to spoke out about, and hope to impact, issues that mattered to him after his presidency.
Between 1890 and 1891, he adopted prison reform in an increasingly public way. He went on a speaking tour, addressing the Cincinnati Prison Congress in September 1890 and then crowds in Chicago and Oberlin in the coming months, stretching well into 1891. In November of 1890, he addressed the Chicago Congregational Club, reflecting on many issues, among them reform of the nation’s prisons. During this time, people nationwide interested in this cause contacted Hayes for his thoughts on this subject.
Autograph letter signed, Fremont, OH, March 26, 1891, to Mrs. S.D. Whaley, who was active in church and temperance causes and particularly in jail and prison work. “Dear Mrs. Whaley, I appreciate very warmly your kind letter of the 23rd and am glad to comply with its request. I have often spoken of the disgraceful jails – the last time I was fairly well reported was in Chicago. The report you will find herewith – the paragraph as to jails marked.”
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