Pete Seeger oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Beacon, New York, 2011-07-22.
JM: Well, you’ve said so much through your music and otherwise, and it, um, has sort of picked up and carried our history along. It’s a real honor and a privilege to be with you. Thank you.
PS: Well, thank you, and I’m glad to hear that you’re going to help this nation remember, uh, that extraordinary man. He had only thirteen years to do what he could do. Of course, Lincoln only had five years. Um.
JM: Yeah. Thank you.
PS: Let me tell you another story about -
PS: Which should be interesting - maybe this could help you. I always thought that Rutherford B. Hayes was the worst President we ever had, because he, uh, allowed the troops to go back North after the Civil War and, uh, didn’t try to push through the changes with the troops down there. Incidentally, uh, the song “Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore,” uh, was in a book called Slave Songs written by an officer, a Northern officer, who was stationed in Georgia, southeast Georgia.
Uh, but, uh, there had been a lot of, uh, scandals in Grant’s second administration. Grant was fairly honest, I believe, but the people he was told to appoint were not, and there was one scandal after another after another after another after another in his second term. And the Republicans felt sure they would not get reelected unless they found somebody squeaky clean. They found it in a governor of Ohio, Rutherford B. Hayes, who, uh, had had an [50:00] absolutely impeccable history in Ohio.
And they said when they were running it was a dead tie, uh, and, uh, in the Electoral College. And then the election was thrown into the House, and again it was a dead tie. And Republicans, uh, found one Democrat who would vote for Hayes if he would withdraw federal troops from the South. And it’s possible that Hayes might have said, “Well, I could resign right now, but then they’d do it anyway.” And he was a lawyer. He felt this kind of job should be done by talking anyway, not by guns. He knew the governor of Louisiana, and they both agreed that if they had schools for ex-slaves, uh, sooner or later, they’d all be voting again. But the Ku Klux Klan was too strong. And, uh, so he was out of office.