The Presidents of the United States
Almost everybody knows about the first few presidents, those rich white slave owners who believed in freedom for all. And almost everybody knows about the most recent presidents, because, well... they're recent. So here at HGP we're concentrating on those presidents in-between, those presidents between Hoover and Jackson, with the exception of Lincoln, because everybody knows about him, too. In honour of Presidents’ Day, we’ve been doing one a year since 2007. If we live long enough, we'll eventually get around to all of them.
7. Andrew Jackson Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States (1829-1837), was born into poverty on March 15, 1767, so deep in the Carolina woods that it wasn't ever clear which Carolina his family lived in. (Freidel) To date, Jackson is the only president who was a prisoner of war (even though he was only 14 at the time), captured as a boy by the British during the Revolutionary War. His two brothers, along with his mother, died as a direct result of the Revolution, which is why Jackson, understandably, never really cared for the British. (Bradley) Though Jackson didn't have much formal education, and what little he had was interrupted by the Revolution, following that war he read for the law in North Carolina, and went on to become a prosecuting attorney in the territory west of North Carolina, in what would soon become Tennessee. (Andrew Jackson) Jackson was a very successful lawyer in Tennessee, and eventually bought a mansion, "the Hermitage," along with enough slaves to run it, in his adopted state of Tennessee. (Freidel) Jackson apparently never considered the moral implications of slavery. He grew up with slavery, and he bought and sold slaves. Slaves were just a part of life (though there were certainly those at the time who thought slavery was odious). He supported the westward expansion of slavery and was opposed to the rising tide of those who sought to end slavery. Ending slavery, he knew, would divide the country. Therefore, he was opposed to abolishing slavery, as well as even debating it, if, for no other reason, simply to keep the country together. (Feller) Jackson's success as a lawyer led to his initial involvement in national politics, serving both as Tennessee's first Representative, and then later as a Senator. Both early forays into politics were brief, with Jackson not serving the full run of either office. On his return to Tennessee, among other things, Jackson was elected Major General of the Tennessee militia. It was through that position that he became a national hero in the War of 1812, both for his victory over the Creek Indians in the Battle of Tohopeka, and over the British in the Battle of New Orleans, (Bradley) even though the war had officially ended before the battle occurred. News traveled a bit more slowly back then. (Andrew Jackson) Following the War of 1812, Jackson, pretty much on his own authority, invaded the Spanish possession of Florida. Understandably, Spain was a bit perturbed, but Jackson was backed by then Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, and the short of it was that Spain was effectively booted out of yet another one of its possessions. (Bradley) Jackson's military prowess, more than anything else, led to his national popularity, and that led him to run for president in 1824. (Bradley) When the votes were counted, none of the four candidates running for office had a majority of electoral votes. Jackson (who led in popular votes) ultimately lost the election to John Quincey Adams (who finished second in popular votes), but only after William H. Crawford (who finished third) effectively removed himself from contention by having a stroke, and Henry Clay (who finished fourth) threw his support to Adams. In what Jackson called a "'corrupt bargain,'" Clay became Adams' Secretary of State. Four years later, in a re-match, Jackson soundly defeated Adams. (Andrew Jackson) Even so, the 1828 campaign was particularly nasty, with Jackson and his wife, Rachel, being portrayed as adulterers. And, technically, they were. Andrew and Rachel were first married (unknowingly) before Rachel's divorce from her first husband was finalized, so technically they weren't married at all. And that meant they were "living in sin." Even though they were remarried after the mistake had been discovered, it was still enough to cause public acrimony, especially among Jackson's foes. People cared about such things then. Even though Jackson won the election, his wife died before he could take office. Many (including Jackson) blamed her death on the personal attacks on her character. Jackson never remarried. (Bradley) Not that any of this sounds familiar... Jackson, who would become the first president from west of the Appalachians (Bradley), ran his campaign in 1828 as an outsider, pitting himself against the "corrupt" Washington elites, even though Jackson had plenty of experience in politics before he ran for president, having served in both the House and the Senate, and even having lost in his first bid to become president, which he claimed was "rigged." (Inskeep) Jackson was the first president that won by directly appealing to the mass voters. (Bradley) He "...sought to act as a direct representative to the common man." Of course, at that time, the "common man" who was allowed to vote in the United States was just that, a man, and, more so, a white man who owned land. (Freidel) As president, Jackson pretty much did as he pleased, ignoring advice from just about everybody. Indeed, Jackson was so polarizing that it led (eventually) to the creation of today's two party system, with Jackson representing the Democrats, which would become the modern day Republican party, in opposition to the Whigs (namely Daniel Webster and Clay), which would eventually become the modern day Democratic Party. (Andrew Jackson) Jackson also sought to reform the government by removing long-standing officials from public office. Many, though, believe Jackson's true goal was revenge, going after those people who had opposed him in the election of 1824 and replacing them with cronies who were arguably just as corrupt, if not more so. (Feller) Like many national leaders before Jackson, what to do with the Native Americans – all those Indians who were still living east of the Mississippi – was a definite concern. Even though Jackson fought in many battles against Native Americans, he apparently had no major problems with them as people. Indeed, he adopted two Native American boys, "'[savages] that fortune [had] thrown into his hands." Neither child survived to adulthood. (Klein) However, Jackson believed "...he could judge the Indians' true welfare better than they..." and "...he regarded tribes resident within the states not as independent sovereign entities but as wards of the government and tenants-at-will." (Feller) When it came to how states treated Native Americans, regardless of treaties the various tribes had signed with the Federal Government, Jackson pretty much let them do as they pleased, allowing Georgia, for instance, to steal millions of acres of land from the Cherokee Indians that had been promised to them by the Federal Government, and confirmed by the Supreme Court. (Andrew Jackson) This valuable land was then sold to Jackson's friends, as well as Jackson himself. (Inskeep) Along those lines, as far as Jackson was concerned it was perfectly acceptable for Native Americans to own land, and even have tribal jurisdiction over that land... just as long as that land wasn't anywhere white folk wanted to live, namely, anywhere east of the Mississippi River. (Feller) This led to the Indian Removal Act, which eventually removed the Cherokees altogether from Georgia in 1838, with thousands of them dying on the Trail of Tears on their way to reservations in Oklahoma. (Andrew Jackson) For the most part, the deals offered to the Native Americans were good (aside from the Tribal Americans having no real choice), offering to pay fair prices for the tribal lands and removing the Indians in a humane way. However, the actual execution of the deals was horrible. Though Jackson did not necessarily like what was happening to the Native Americans, he didn't dislike it enough to do anything about it. (Feller) Protective tariffs, which were designed to "foster domestic industry," and federally subsidized infrastructure improvements – both collectively known as the American System of Economic Development – also plagued Jackson's presidency. The South believed both were designed to siphon money from the South to the North. What it came down to, predictably, was that those who lived in states that benefitted from these policies loved them, and those who didn't, hated them. Overall, Jackson supported protective tariffs, but not improving the country's infrastructure, even though poor roads had severely hampered the military in the War of 1812. (Feller) Jackson's second term was marked by a shift in policy on the Bank of the United States, which had long served as a national bank. Jackson was opposed to the Bank because it depended largely on banknotes – the folding stuff, and not on specie – coins. Jackson believed that our economy should be based on actual wealth – the precious metals that, at that time, the coins were made of (in particular, gold and silver), and not on the assumed wealth represented by pieces of paper. Though Jackson couldn't eliminate bank notes completely, he was able to enact the Specie Circular, which required that only gold and silver could be used in the purchase of federal lands. The end result was a demand for coin currency that the banks could not meet, and that caused a rippling effect of bank failures, and ultimately led to the economic crash of 1937, which Jackson left for his predecessor, Martin Van Buren, to deal with. (Bradley) Ironically, even though Andrew Jackson "detested paper money," trusting only gold and silver, his portrait has appeared on 5, 10, 50, and 10,000 dollar bills (which is a lot easier than carrying around 10,000 one dollar bills), as well as the Confederate 1,000 dollar bill, and his portrait is still on the 20 dollar bill. (Klein) Andrew Jackson was a man of many nicknames. "Old Hickory" (as in, "tough as old hickory") was a nickname given to him by the men he commanded in the War of 1812 for his refusal to abandon them, even though he was given orders to do so. Jackson was given the nickname "Sharp Knife" by the Creek Indians because of his refusal to negotiate, and generally for the nasty treatment he gave both the Creeks and the Red Sticks. (Andrew Jackson Gains His Nicknames) It's surprising, though, that Jackson doesn't have a nickname for shooting people. It is estimated that Jackson was in anywhere from five to 100 duels in his life, apparently finding shooting people to be an easy way to solve disputes. In fact, he lived out his life with two bullets in his body (one that barely missed his heart), both from duels, and he killed at least one man in a duel. (Klein) Jackson almost had a third bullet in his body, becoming the first president to survive an assassination attempt. A man named Richard Lawrence, who is described as a "deranged house painter" (watch out for those guys) tried to shoot Jackson... twice with two different guns. Each gun misfired, allowing Jackson to attack the man with his cane. (Klein) Jackson was also known for his gambling, once losing his grandfather's entire inheritance while on a gambling trip, presumably not at any Native American owned casinos. (Klein) And it was under Jackson's presidency that running water was finally made available in the White House. (Bradley) After Jackson left the White House in 1837, he retired to the Hermitage, where he died on June 8, 1845. (Andrew Jackson) Work Cited "Andrew Jackson." 2018. History. 18 Jan. 2018 http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/andrew-jackson "Andrew Jackson Gains His Nicknames." 14 Apr. 2015. National Park Service. 18 Jan. 2018. https://www.nps.gov/natr/learn/historyculture/andrew-jackson-gains-his-nicknames.htm Bradley, Harold Whitman. "Andrew Jackson: President of the United States." 2018. Encyclopædia Britannica. 18 Jan. 2018. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Andrew-Jackson Feller, Daniel. "Andrew Jackson: Domestic Affairs." 2017. Miller Center. 18 Jan. 2018. https://millercenter.org/president/jackson/domestic-affairs Freidel, Frank, and Hugh Sidey. "7. Andrew Jackson." 2006. The Presidents of the United States of America. 18 Jan. 2018. https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/andrew-jackson/ Inskeep, Steve. "Donald Trump and the Legacy of Andrew Jackson." 30 Nov. 2016. The Atlantic. 19 Jan. 2018. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/trump-and-andrew-jackson/508973/ Klein, Christopher. "10 Things You May Not Know About Andrew Jackson." 15 Mar. 2017. History. 18 Jan. 2018. http://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-andrew-jackson
8. Martin Van Buren Martin Van Buren, the 8th President of the United States (1837-1841), was the first of the forgettable Presidents. Born on December 5,1782, shortly after the United States declared its independence, Martin Van Buren “was the first president to be born a citizen of the United States and not a British subject.” (Martin Van Buren) And that’s pretty much it. He was born in Kinderhook, New York, to Dutch parents; after politics he returned to Kinderhook, New York; and in 1862, he died and was buried in Kinderhook, New York. His father ran a tavern and farmed... in Kinderhook, New York. And that’s where Van Buren got involved in politics, apprenticing to a local lawyer from 1796 to 1803, when he opened his law practice... in Kinderhook, New York. In 1807, “he married his cousin and childhood sweetheart Hannah Hoes.” The couple had four children, and after just 12 years of marriage, Hannah died of tuberculosis. Van Buren never remarried. (Martin Van Buren) Van Buren rose through New York state government from 1812-1820, and in 1821 he was elected to the US Senate. Perhaps his most savvy political move, he was instrumental in forming a coalition government that eventually became the Democratic party, which eventually became the Republican party. As such, he was instrumental in getting Andrew Jackson nominated for president in the 1828 election. (American President) As a reward for his loyalty, Jackson made Van Buren his secretary of state during his first term, and Vice President during his second. In 1836, Van Buren defeated William Henry Harrison to become the 8th President. (8. Martin Van Buren) Shortly after Van Buren took office in 1837, the economy went down the crapper, and it stayed there for the rest of his presidency as “...the United States was wracked by the worst depression thus far in its history.” (8. Martin Van Buren) And if that weren’t bad enough, Van Buren was saddled with a prolonged war with the Seminole Indians. Following through with a policy of “removal” started by Andrew Jackson, in 1838 he sent 7000 soldiers to remove the last of the Cherokees, around 2,000, forcing them to walk all the way to Oklahoma on the trail of tears. (Trail of Tears) To Van Buren’s credit, though, he became increasingly opposed to slavery, especially the expansion of slave states, which is why he refused to endorse the annexation of Texas, that, and not wanting to go to war with Mexico. (8. Martin Van Buren) That move alone lost him the Southern vote in his bid for a second term, the economy lost him the Northern vote, and Van Buren was easily defeated by William Henry Harrison in 1840. In 1844, Van Buren once more tried for the presidency, but was unable to get the Democratic nomination. And then again, in 1848, but since the Democrats still wanted nothing to do with him, he ran on his own ticket, the Free Soil party, whose main issue was slavery. (American President ) “In the end, Martin Van Buren failed to win a single state and received only 10 percent of the vote.” (Martin Van Buren) That was the end of Van Buren’s political aspirations. In 1862, “barely a year after he Civil War broke out,” Van Buren died. (Martin Van Buren) Work Cited “8. Martin Van Buren.” 2006. The White House: Presidents. 23 Dec. 2013. http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/martinvanburen “American President: Martin Van Buren.” Miller Center. 23 Dec. 2013. http://millercenter.org/president/vanburen “Heights of presidents and presidential candidates of the United States.” 21 Dec. 2013 Wikipedia. 23 Dec. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heights_of_presidents_and_presidential_candidates_of_the_United_States “Martin Van Buren.” 2013. History. 23 Dec. 2013. http://www.history.com/topics/martin-van-buren “Trail of Tears.” History. 2013. 23 Dec. 2013. http://www.history.com/topics/trail-of-tears
9. William Henry Harrison It would almost seem that the ninth president of the United States, William Henry Harrison, was doomed for a career in politics. After all, Benjamin Harrison was his father. Not to be confused with the future President Benjamin Harrison, who was William Harrison’s grandson, the elder Harrison had signed the Declaration of Independence and was a governor of Virginia. But William Henry originally planned on being a doctor. However, he was forced to drop out of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia and take a commission in the Army when his father died in 1791. (1 William Henry Harrison) Shortly thereafter, in 1795, Harrison married Anna Tuthill Symmes. Harrison’s future father-in-law, believing that a military career wasn’t suitable for marriage, opposed the union, so William and Anna eloped, (1 William Henry Harrison) and then commenced having ten children. (American President) In the Army, Harrison was stationed on the western frontier du jour, which, at the time, was pretty much the Midwest, and there he distinguished himself as an “Indian fighter” and quickly rose through the ranks. (2 William Henry Harrison) More importantly, though, he got himself a good nickname: “Old Tippecanoe,” for it was at the battle of Tippecanoe that he gained most of his fame in battling those pesky Indians, who had the crazy notion that your home is worth fighting for. (American President) But what do you expect from savages? It was also during that time that Harrison developed a very effective way to get the Native Americans to sign the treaties that ceded to the United States government well over 50 million acres of land, often at the bargain price of a penny an acre (if even that). First, you defeat them with your troops, then you ask them to sign, and if they don’t sign, you defeat them again. (American President) In 1798 Harrison resigned his commission and entered politics, eventually becoming Governor of the freshly minted Indiana Territory, (2 William Henry Harrison) a position he held for the next 12 years until the start of the War of 1812. At that time he rejoined the Army, and went back to fighting the Native Americans, who were now allies of England. It was in 1813, at the battle of Thames, that Harrison’s forces finally killed his old nemesis Tecumseh, and that pretty much ended any organized resistance from Native Americans in central North America. (9. William Henry Harrison) And, in turn, that made Harrison a hero. (William Henry Harrison (1773-1841)) And what better career for a war hero than politics? Following his military career, Harrison became a Representative in Congress, (2 William Henry Harrison) served in the Ohio State Senate, and was even a US Minister to Colombia. (American President) Unfortunately, Harrison made the mistake of being critical of Andrew Jackson’s war with the Seminole Indians in Florida, and when Andrew Jackson came into office in 1829, the only connection Harrison had with the government was down at the unemployment office. (American President) Eight years later, a collation of politicians, who were tired of Andrew Jackson and fairly well convinced that they would be equally tired of Van Buren, too, created a new political party, the Whigs (which borrowed it’s name from an anti-monarchy political party in England). Their strategy was to run four different candidates and so split the vote that nobody would win the Electoral College, leaving it to the House of Representatives to decide, where, apparently, the Whigs thought they stood a better chance of winning. However, their plan failed, and Van Buren won in a TKO in a clean fight, with Harrison coming in a strong second. (American President) In a preview of what was to come in American politics, the Harrison/Van Buren re-match of 1840 focused more on the characters of the individuals while avoiding any real issues. (William Henry Harrison (1773-1841)) Van Buren was despised by the general public for being an aristocratic “dandy,” (American President) whereas Harrison ran as the “log cabin and hard cider” candidate, which, at that time, was the equivalent to being a beer drinkin’ good ol’ boy. (2 William Henry Harrison) But mostly Van Buren was despised for having the bad luck of being president during the worst economic collapse our young nation had seen so far. (American President) And it didn’t hurt that Harrison had a great slogan: “Old Tippecanoe and Tyler, too.” (American President) Tyler, of course, being Tyler Perry. All of that combined in giving Harrison an electoral landslide in 1840, even though he won by less than 150,000 popular votes, (9. William Henry Harrison) proving, once again, that popularity is over-rated. In a shrewd political move, Harrison caught a cold during his inaugural address, which developed into pneumonia, and after serving right at a month, he died, becoming the first president to die in office. (9. William Henry Harrison) And you know, that’s a record that nobody else is going to ever take away from him. Work Cited “9. William Henry Harrison.” The White House. 13 Jan. 2013. http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/williamhenryharrison “American President: William Henry Harrison (1773-1841).” 2012. Miller Center: University of Virginia. 13 Jan. 2013. http://millercenter.org/president/harrison “William Henry Harrison.” 2012. History. 2013. http://www.history.com/topics/william-henry-harrison “William Henry Harrison.” 2012. NNDB: Tracking the Entire World. 14 Jan. 2013. http://www.nndb.com/people/886/000031793/ “William Henry Harrison (1773-1841).” 2000. Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. 14 Jan. 2013. http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/hall2/whharriss.htm
11. James K. Polk: This President Goes All the Way to Eleven James "Just Call Me Jimmy" KaNox Polk was the 11th President of the United States. Sandwiched between Johnny Tyler and Zachary "Not Zachariah" Taylor, he served only one term, from 1845 to 1849, and is best known for a massive land grab, adding more territory to the United States than any other president with the exception of Mort Humgartner, but you don't know about him yet. Polk was born in November of 1795 to a privileged North Carolina family. After college, which is what privileged children do, he went into politics, where he became buddies with fellow North Carolinian-who-also-became-a-Tennessean Andy Jackson. And if you don't remember our 7th President, Andrew Jackson, he was so polarizing he caused the creation of the modern two party system, and we all know how well that's working. He even claimed a Presidential election in which he lost was rigged (never mind that it probably was). Stop me if any of this sounds familiar. Jackson was especially nasty when it came to anybody who wasn't white. He waged wars on the Native Americans, stole their land, and was responsible for the Trail of Tears – a forced death march if ever there was one. And let's not forget the black folk. Jackson grew up with slavery. He bought and sold slaves (as did Polk). He supported the westward expansion of slavery and opposed anyone trying to end it. His argument for not ending slavery was that it would cause a war. Never mind the money he was making off of slavery. You know, there just isn't a whole lot to like about this guy. And he was Polk's buddy. In fact, Polk, who served in the House of Representatives during Jackson's presidency, was known as one of Jackson's Chief Lieutenants. Back to Polk. After serving as Speaker of the House, Polk became the Governor of Tennessee, his adopted home state. In 1848 he quite successfully stumbled back into national politics. Polk was originally being groomed as the vice-presidential candidate running with Martin Van Buren, who apparently wasn't content with already having been the 8th President. But then Polk's buddy Andrew Jackson got involved, and he convinced Polk that doing what the public wants is what wins elections, and the public was wanting a land grab. Since Van Buren wasn't for annexing Texas, the party dropped him at the convention and made Polk their candidate, and Polk won. And that's the definition of a dark horse – a little known candidate, opponent, or whatever who rises from seeming obscurity and unexpectantly wins. And win he did, because Polk was willing to give the people what they wanted. And what they wanted was Manifest Destiny – the belief that American expansion over… well… everything, was the Will of God; therefore, it was both justified and inevitable. God says it's OK. You can take all you want. And Polk got most of what the people wanted. In fact, the only place he didn't get everything was in Canada. Originally Polk had wanted everything south of Alaska (54-40 or Fight!) and west of the Continental Divide, which is all of western Canada – all of British Columbia, the Yukon, and a good hunk of the Northwest Territories and Alberta. Britain, who was running Canada at the time, said, "What the bloody hell?" Fortunately, we avoided a war, and eventually we signed a treaty that gave us everything south of the 49th Parallel, except for Vancouver Island, and Canada got all of that. So stop asking. Shortly thereafter, in 1845 we annexed Texas. Promises made, promises kept. As you know from your Lone Star history, after winning its independence from Mexico in 1836 Texas was its very own Republic, capital "R" and everything. President Van Buren wanted to make that territory part of the United States from the start, but Mexico was still a bit pissy about having lost all that land, and was still deluding themselves that they would ever get it back, so they were threatening war if the US actually did annex it. They'd put up with Texas as their neighbor, but not the entire United States. I mean, seriously, can you blame them? The threat of war with Mexico was enough to keep Van Buren (both times), Harrison (that's Henry William), and Tyler from annexing Texas, but not Polk. Surprisingly, though, Mexico did not go to war… not then. Polk then tried to buy everything else he wanted from Mexico, but Mexico said, "Gracias, pero, no." So we just took it anyway in 1848, in the Mexican-American war. We ended up getting over half of the entire land mass of the entire country of Mexico. Any way you look at it, that's a lot of land. No wonder they didn't want us as neighbors. We got all of present day California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, along with a good hunk of Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, and Montana. Although we may have gotten those parts of Wyoming and Montana in the Canada deal. It gets confusing. Thing is, we got it all. In all, Polk added the entire West Coast to America, hell, pretty much the entire West, including all of the Southwest. And the people loved him for it. But, yeah, that's pretty much it. That's pretty much all he's known for. God wanted us to have all that land, and Polk took it. Amen. Of course, with all that new real estate came the quandary of expanding slavery, which would become one of the deciding issues in the Civil War, but that wasn't Polk's problem. He was through with it all. Polk had promised to serve only one term, and that's all he served. He returned home to Tennessee and died just three months after he left office. Talk about upstaging the new president.
13. Millard Fillmore: 13th in a Series (collect them all) Barrack Obama (Ol’ Number 44), in a recent interview, stated that he staked his entire political career on the presidency of Millard Fillmore. Said Obama, “If a man with a first name like ’Millard’ can get elected, so can I.” Millard Fillmore was born in 1800 in upstate New York, which is really more west than up, but nobody seems to care. According to noted historian Mandrake Chapman, Millard was named after either “his Great Aunt Mildred, or a duck. Quite possibly both.” Fillmore’s family was dirt poor, and not very good dirt at that. Millard’s father, sick of his own failures, was determined that his children should grow up to be anything but farmers, so he had Millard apprenticed to someone who had something to do with sheep. From there, quite naturally, Fillmore became a lawyer. Politics were inevitable. Fillmore rose through the local ranks to the New York State Assembly, and from there rumbled right on into the big times, becoming a Representative and then the Vice President under Zachary Taylor, who only agreed to let Fillmore on the ticket if he would go out with his sister. Taylor tried to renege on his deal when his sister refused to go out with Fillmore, but Fillmore insisted that he had upheld his end of the deal, regardless if they had never actually gone out. In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court agreed. Fillmore was given an office and told not to come out for the next four years, or the President’s death, whichever came first. The President’s death came first. Millard Fillmore came to office when, in the summer of 1850, in a shrewd political move that ultimately backfired, President Zachary Taylor dropped dead. Though a slave owner himself, Taylor had been opposed to the spread of slavery. Go figure. So Taylor had been working toward giving new states the right to choose slavery or not. Naturally, the Southern states stood in opposition. After all, the right to choose went against everything that slave owners believed in. With Taylor conveniently out of the way, Fillmore was able to push forward the Compromise of 1850, which was where the North pretty much let the South do whatever they wanted, and in exchange the South put off having the Civil War until somebody else was in office. Preferably somebody Fillmore didn’t like. Everybody was pleased for the most part, except maybe the blacks. But what’s the discomfort of a few blacks compared to keeping our country together? Perhaps Fillmore is best known for having the first bathtub installed in the White House, causing one to wonder what they did before then. Lord knows, Fillmore’s not known for anything else. Fillmore, as a tribute to his shrewd politics, did not get nominated in 1852, and by 1853 was drawing unemployment. Four years later, Fillmore once again ran for president. Having formerly belonged to the Whig Party (in fact, he is known as the last Whig President, or maybe it was the last president to wear a wig), and not being invited to either the Democrat’s or the Republican’s parties, he ran on the Know Nothing ticket. Apparently the public took him at his word and he lost that election, too. Fillmore was nothing more than a political annoyance for the rest of his life, dying in 1874. Reportedly his last dying words were, “See... I did keep the country from a civil war....”
14. Franklin Pierce (#14 on the NASCAR circuit) According to the White House's bio site, President Pierce (1804-1869) was Prez from 1853-1857. He was a Democrat, which today would mean he was a Republican, or something like that. A veteran of the Mexican War, he became a small time New Hampshire politician. He was truly an unknown who got nominated for the presidency because he survived all the elimination rounds. He did win the election, but not by much. Slavery was a big issue at the time, an issue that Pierce would probably have been content to ignore. Pierce, though, did work to expand the United States (as he said, for our own security). Of course, that brought up the whole question of whether those new states would be slave states or free states. This even led to the purchase of what is now pretty much southern Arizona for a southern transcontinental train route (the one that was supposed to go through Rock Ridge). Of course, if the train goes south, then that land would be settled quicker, and would more than likely be slave states. Ya gotta love Pierce for that. If you can't tell, he was pretty much a tool for the southerners. Unfortunately (for Pierce and Kansas) a bill was passed (thanks to the untiring work of the socially conscious Stephen Douglas) that allowed residents in new territories to decide for themselves whether or not they wanted slavery (and who better to decide what is sinful than the sinners?). When that fails (or the vote doesn't go your way), you can start shooting, which is exactly what happened in Kansas. Even though Pierce's term ended on a peaceful note, more or less, he wasn't nominated to run again. Buchanan won the Democratic nomination and the presidency, and, of course, after Buchanan was the little known president, Abraham Lincoln. After his presidency, Pierce changed his first name to Hawkeye went on to star on the sitcom M*A*S*H. After the show ended, following the Compromise of 1981, he put forth legislation that all Internet sites that might be used for research be required to include at least one paragraph of complete nonsense, thereby marking those students who plagiarize the Internet as the complete losers that they are. Unfortunately, Pierce's Bill was turned down in committee, mostly because Al Gore hadn't invented the Internet yet.
15. James Buchanan We don’t care about his presidency. We just want to know about his sex life. Well, we really don’t. We’re just doing it so Clinton won’t feel picked on. Let’s face it. The guy was flaming. Buchanan was the only president who never married. I don’t know how much more proof you’d need than that. The man across the street when I was growing up never married, and we all had him pegged for gay, too. But then, if he’s a fruit, why was he ever engaged, to be married, to a woman? Could’ve been a cover. I’ve heard of people doing that. But then apparently, after what one historian calls “an unspecified indiscretion,” she left him, and then she promptly died. I’ve heard of people doing that, too. Thankfully, Buchanan, in his time of bereavement, had the company of friends. In particular, there was William Rufus King. King, who was also known as “Aunt Fancy” by folks in Washington (DC, that is) was Buchanan’s long time live-in companion. In all fairyness… I mean, fairness, I’ve known of guys living together before. Of course, they were all gay, but that doesn’t mean Buchanan was, does it? And really, truly, who gives a damn? Nobody’s being anointed the first heterosexual president. Why should we care who the first gay president is? Even if it is Buchanan. And it probably is. Back before any of this gay nonsense was ever brought up, Buchanan was born somewhere in Pennsylvania on April 23, 1791, the second of eleven children. You know what they always say about the middle child. Well… they go to law school. After graduating from Emily Dickinson College for the Performing Arts with a degree in law, he was elected as a State Representative in 1814 and served two terms before moving on to the House of Representatives in 1820. Pay attention. There may be a quiz. For no apparent reason, Buchanan was appointed minister to Russia by President Andy Jackson. When they finally let him come back, he was elected to the Senate, and shortly thereafter, well, 12 years, he was appointed Secretary of State under James Polk. And then he became President Franklin Hawkeye Pierce’s Minister to Great Britain. Traveling has it’s advantages. If nobody really remembers you, it’s a lot harder to dig up dirt, so Buchanan became the Democratic nominee in 1856 – back when being a Democrat meant everything it doesn’t today, and nobody apparently cared about your sex life, either. Rumor has it before he was a Democrat he was a Federalist, but nobody seemed to care about that, either. Talk about an apathetic lot! With the Civil War making its way up the road, in his inaugural address, which was reputably written by Argnard Harnish, the same person who wrote the inaugural address for the Titanic, Buchanan reassured the good people that they had nothing to worry about. After all, it was just a legal question that the Supreme Court would take care of, right? And we all know how well the Supreme Court handled the entire question of keeping another human being against her or his will as your own personal property. And take care of it they did! They came up with the Dred Scott Act. Surprise! They said that slaves were property. Reportedly, there was dancing in the streets of Savannah, but that has never been confirmed. To calm the North and forever settle the question of his sanity, Buchanan thought the best thing to do was make Kansas a slave state. Kansas had other ideas, and so did half of his party. The result was that the Democratic party split into Northern and Southern factions. Just ask Sarah Palin: A party that splits in two has no hope of winning. It was a foregone conclusion that little known Abraham Lincoln, running as the Republican, would win the presidency even though his name didn’t even appear on any Southern ballets. That beats hanging chad by a long shot. It was also a foregone conclusion that once Lincoln was elected, the South would secede. Buchanan tried to avoid the South’s secession by appointing Northerners to the Cabinet seats vacated by Southerners who resigned. When that didn’t work, he took a more direct approach and hid out in the game room until his presidency was over and he could go back home where he was reasonably sure that no one would ever bother him again. It was seven years later in 1868 that he died. Reportedly, he commented to his biographer shortly before his death, “See. I told you that whole Civil War thing would blow over.” James Polk… James Madison… James Monroe… James Carter… James Garfield… and now, James Buchanan… It seems a bit more than just a coincidence, don’t you think? Work Plagiarized ”15. James Buchanan.” The White House. 19 Feb 2011. http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/jamesbuchanan Lil, Gramma. “Was James Buchanan Our First Gay President?” Soda Head. 19 Feb. 2011. http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/was-james-buchanan-our-first-gay-president/question-49802/ “Our Queer President.” 15 Oct. 1999. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 19 Feb. 2011. http://lindholm.jp/chinf_buc.html
17. Andrew "Please Don't Call Me Andy" Johnson: Number 17 in a Series Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency at one of the most crucial times in American history, following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in April of 1865. The Civil War had just ended, and the biggest political issue of the day was how to deal with the South, and especially with all of those people who had been formerly held as slaves. Even the most apt of presidents would've been challenged by such a task. Johnson, who was a talented politician, wasn't talented enough. Born into poverty in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1808, at a young age Andrew and his brother became indentured servants to a local tailor. After two years, the brothers both broke their "bond" and ran away, never to return. In 1826, when he was just 18, Johnson moved to Tennessee. A year later he married Eliza McCardle, and together they had five children, three sons and two daughters. Andrew Johnson never attended school – any school. Even though he had taught himself to read, it was his well educated wife, Eliza, who greatly improved Andrew's education. (Kelly) More than likely because Johnson had always been considered an excellent speaker, he quickly found his way into politics. He became the mayor of Greenville, Tennessee, when he was only 22, and in 1835 was elected to the Tennessee legislature. In 1843, he was elected to the the US House of Representatives. He left Congress in 1853 to become the governor of Tennessee, which he quit in 1857 to become a Senator. (Andrew Johnson) His early political aspirations included railing against the "Southern plantation aristocracy," and even campaigning for free farms for the poor. (17. Andrew Johnson) Indeed, it was Johnson who first introduced legislation that would eventually become the Homestead Act in 1862 (Andrew Johnson) And then came the Civil War. When Tennessee succeeded from the Union at the start of the Civil War, Johnson didn't, becoming the only Southern Senator to remain loyal to the North (Andrew Johnson) This made him loved in the North, and hated in the South. In 1862 President Lincoln appointed him Military Governor of Tennessee. And in 1864, because of his loyalty to the North, he was chosen as the Lincoln's running mate for his second term, (17. Andrew Johnson) replacing Hannibal Hamlin, who had served as Lincoln's first Vice President. (Hannibal Hamlin) Hamlin never really wanted to be the vice president. He left a position in the Senate where he truly had power, to one in which he felt, at best, a figurehead. One of the few things Hamlin is known for is banning alcohol from the congressional floor, undoubtedly changing the tenor of politics in Washington forever, but not necessarily for the better. Say what you will about Hamlin, he was a loyal guy, and did the best he could, even encouraging Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. All that just to be dumped at the end of Lincoln's first term, which is probably why he went on to oppose Johnson over Reconstruction. (Hannibal Hamlin) Andrew Johnson served as Lincoln's Vice President for just six weeks (42 days) before Lincoln was assassinated. (Andrew Johnson) Only John Tyler served less time as Vice President, replacing William Henry Harrison after only 31 days in office. (Lists of Vice Presidents of the United States by Time in Office) Even so, Johnson barely escaped assassination himself. As part of the plot to assassinate Lincoln, other assassins were assigned to kill both Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State Seward. Seward, though, attacked, was not killed. And Johnson was not attacked at all, the assassin assigned to him having "lost his nerve." (Andrew Johnson) Johnson started his presidency with the support of the "Radical Republicans," who sought for major changes in the South as part of Reconstruction. They found out in a hurry, though, that Johnson didn't support those changes. (The Impeachment) In retrospect, it seems that Abraham Lincoln, an opponent of slavery, had a vice president who was not. After all, Johnson did own slaves. (List of Presidents of the United States who Owned Slaves). And Johnson went on record stating that the US Constitution guaranteed citizens the right to own slaves. (Andrew Johnson) As well, he sought to limit the rights of freed slaves. Indeed, the bigger mystery might be why Johnson chose to stay in the Senate after Southern succession. As president, Andrew Johnson favoured a more "conciliatory" stance with the South, opposing such things as the 14th Amendment, which guaranteed citizenship for all Blacks, because he saw it as too divisive. (Hannibal Hamlin) As well, Johnson set into motion policies that would pardon all Southern combatants if they would swear their loyalty to the Union, including many of those who held positions of leadership in the Civil War. Even though his legislation granted freedom to all Blacks, he allowed the South to keep many of the pre-war restrictions on their former Slaves. In short, not much changed in the South, especially if you weren't White. And Johnson did all this while Congress was not in session, which didn't set very well with any of those folks who really wanted to give the former slaves their 40 acres and two mules – the Radicals. (17. Andrew Johnson) What followed was a string of events – vetoes and overrides of vetoes and firings and reinstatements and firings again and even arrests – that finally resulted in impeachment. (The Impeachment) The Radicals in Congress wouldn't seat any Representative or Senator from the South, and Johnson vetoed legislation which would've improved the lives of former slaves, only to have his vetoes over-ridden. (17. Andrew Johnson) It is said that Johnson "...had no interest in compromise." But that was OK, because both Congress and the Senate didn't need to compromise. They had a majority. (The Impeachment) Finally having had enough, the House of Representatives voted to impeach the president on February 24, 1868. (The Impeachment) Andrew Johnson become the first, though not the last, president to be impeached. (Andrew Johnson) As a quick Civics lesson, impeachment is not a removal from office. It is only "a statement of charges," much like being indicted for a crime. According to the Constitution (Article 2, Section 4), the House of Representatives has the sole power to impeach a president, to bring him up on charges, which only requires a simple majority. The Senate, then, is where the president is tried. A conviction by the Senate requires a "super majority" – two thirds, 67 out of 100. The only things conviction on impeachment charges can do are to remove a president from office, and/or to bar him from holding future offices. Any possible civil or criminal charges are left to the respective courts after the president is removed from office. (Impeachment) The biggest charge against Johnson was that he violated the Tenure of Office Act, which had been passed over Johnson's veto, by firing his Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton. The Tenure of Office Act attempted to limit who the president could assign to his cabinet, requiring that all hiring and firing be first approved by the Senate. (The Impeachment) Johnson could've easily been impeached. The Republicans held more than the two-thirds majority they needed to do so. The only reason he wasn't impeached is because there were enough representatives who were more concerned with insuring the balance of powers and the office of the president in general. (The Impeachment) Therefore, Johnson was left to finish the few months left of his presidency. Even though Johnson was the sitting president, and even though he wanted to run again, his own party did not nominate him in 1868, instead going with somebody whose name only comes up on Jeopardy!, Horatio Seymour. Seymour lost the presidency to Ulysses S. Grant. (Andrew Johnson) Perhaps the one really good thing that Andrew Johnson accomplished during his tenure was the acquisition of the Alaska territory from Russia in 1867, but even that wasn't appreciated at the time. Originally the purchase was called "Seward's folly" or "Seward's Icebox," after Secretary of State William Seward, because most folks considered Alaska to be worthless frozen wasteland. They quickly changed their minds in 1896 with the Klondike Gold Rush. (Treaty with Russia) Andrew Johnson tried to stay in politics following his presidency, though he lost attempts at both the Senate (1869) and the Congress (1872). However, in 1875 he was once again elected to the Senate, becoming the only president to have served in the Senate both before and after being a president. But his victory was short lived. He died after serving only a few months, at the age of 66, on July 31, 1875. (Andrew Johnson) Work Cited "17. Andrew Johnson." The White House. 18 Jan. 2019. https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/andrew-johnson/ "Andrew Johnson." 21 Aug. 2019. History. 18 Jan. 2019. https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/andrew-johnson "Hannibal Hamlin." 2019. Biography. 18 Jan. 2019. https://www.biography.com/people/hannibal-hamlin-9326788 "Impeachment." History, Art, and Archives. 18 Jan. 2019. https://history.house.gov/Institution/Origins-Development/Impeachment/ "The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson (1868) President of the United States." United States Senate. 18 Jan. 2019. https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/briefing/Impeachment_Johnson.htm Kelly, Martin. "10 Facts to Know About Andrew Johnson." 11 Jan. 2019. ThoughtCo. 18 Jan. 2019. https://www.thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-andrew-johnson-104322 "List of Vice Presidents of the United States by Time in Office." 2 Nov. 2018. Wikipedia. 18 Jan. 2018. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Vice_Presidents_of_the_United_States_by_time_in_office "List of Presidents of the United States who Owned Slaves." 18 Jan. 2019. Wikipedia. 18 Jan. 2019 ,. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Presidents_of_the_United_States_who_owned_slaves "Treaty with Russia for the Purchase of Alaska." 25 Apr. 2017. 18 Jan. 2019. https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/alaska.html
18. Hiram “Just Call Me Ulysses” S. Grant Ulysses S. Grant, our eighteenth president, is the only president named after a famous book that nobody has actually read, and whose initials are the same as the country that he led. And it’s all because of a clerical error. Until he entered the military academy at West Point, his name was Hiram Ulysses Grant, but they screwed it up, and his name became Ulysses S., with the S meaning absolutely nothing, just like the S in Harry Truman’s name. (10 Fascinating Facts) As well, Grant and Truman are the only two presidents whose middle name starts with an S. (Cahn) Now what are the chances of that? Born in 1822, Grant grew up on a farm in Ohio. Grant was able to attend various grammar schools, and apparently liked it enough to want to go on to college and become a math teacher. Somebody has to do it. His father, though, when presented with cost of such a venture, opted for military school instead, and Grant was whisked off to West Point. (Ulysses S. Grant) Coincidentally, or ironically, depending on your perspective, he was classmates with Lee at West Point. Lee was considered a better student. Lee and Grant also served together in the Mexican War, (Ulysses S. Grant) because war is what people who graduate from West Point do, though I don’t think they have an actual major for “War.” Though I wouldn’t be surprised if you could take “War 101.” It’s probably required. After the Mexican War, Grant got married and tried to settle down, first as a farmer, and then as a clerk in his father’s business, neither of which he was any good at. Fortunately for Grant, the Civil War broke out, and he quickly rose through the ranks, eventually becoming the head military commander of the entire North. And that gave him the opportunity to meet up with his old buddy Lee. They did a lot of catching up at the pre-treaty luncheon at Appomattox. (Ulysses S. Grant) After the Civil War, Grant hung up his cleats and became a politician, where he rose incredibly fast as well. He was elected President in 1868. (Ulysses S. Grant) As far as Grant is concerned, the leading argument among scholars is just how bad of a president was he? Grant wasn’t that bad of a guy. After Emancipation, he made sure newly freed slaves were protected and cared for. He signed the 15th Amendment into law, giving Black men the vote. (Ulysses S. Grant) Better than that, he gave Black people a voice in government, including elected offices. (Ulysses S. Grant: The 18th) He tried to protect Native Americans from White encroachment. He wanted free, public education for everybody, boys, girls, black, white. Even the Irish. And he made Yellowstone the country’s first National Park. Gold stars all around. (Ulysses S. Grant) Of course, pretty much all of that went away in the Hayes Administration, except for Yellowstone. It’s still there. (Ulysses S. Grant: The 18th) But then, Grant wasn’t that good, either. Grant may have been a great General and a pretty decent humanitarian, but he apparently didn’t have a clue on how to be a president, because he didn’t have a clue about politics. (Ulysses S. Grant: The 18th) Let that be a lesson for those who want to elect inexperienced people to jobs that really require experience. Grant is considered to have been honest above reproach, but naïve beyond belief. He’d take gifts there should’ve been laws against, and let people influence him to the point where a couple of fellas almost cornered the gold market, creating general havoc in the process. Seriously, he just assumed that other politicians would always do the right thing. (Ulysses S. Grant: The 18th) It’s a wonder he was re-elected. That’s what a good ad campaign can do for you. After leaving office in 1877, Grant toured the world with his wife, got scammed out of his life’s savings, and wrote The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, which is considered to be the best presidential memoir yet, but you have to wonder how stiff the competition is. Grant died in 1885 from throat cancer, leaving forever the mystery of just who is buried in Grant’s tomb? (Ulysses S. Grant) And here’s the answer: Grant’s tomb is the largest mausoleum in North America, but Grant’s not buried there... because Grant wasn’t buried. His crypt is above the ground, and ya gotta be below the ground to be buried. That’s just just how it works. (10 Fascinating Facts) Work Cited “10 Fascinating Facts about President Ulysses S. Grant.” 27 Apr. 2022. National Constitutional Center. 07 Feb. 2023. https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/10-fascinating-facts-about-president-ulysses-grant#:~:text=Ulysses%20wasn't%20his%20real,doesn't%20stand%20for%20anything. Cahn, Lauren. “Can You Guess the Middle Name of Every U.S. President?” 23 Dec. 2022. Reader’s Digest. 07 Feb. 2022. https://www.rd.com/list/middle-name-of-every-president/ “Ulysses S. Grant.” 21 Feb. 2022. National Park Service. 07 Feb. 2022. https://www.nps.gov/people/ulysses-s-grant.htm “Ulysses S. Grant: The 18th President of the United States.” The White House. 07 Feb. 2023. https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/ulysses-s-grant/
19. Rutherford B. Hayes Rutherford Birchard Hayes (no relation to Isaac) was born in 1822 in Ohio, the state he called home until he died there of a heart attack in 1893. (Rutherford B. Hayes, 2006) In between he was a lawyer, a congressman, the governor of Ohio, and the 19th president of the United States (that’s the United States of America, not Mexico). Stop me if any of this sounds familiar... When Hayes became president in 1876, the office of the presidency had gone from one of respect to that of a joke. The First President Johnson, who became president after Lincoln’s assassination, was so awful that he barely escaped being impeached, only to be followed by eight years of almost constant scandal under Grant. (Polakoff) Keeping in mind that back in 1876, the Democrats are what we now call Republicans, and the Republicans are what we now call Democrats, Hayes barely won the election over the Democratic candidate Samuel J. Tilden. In fact, Tilden won the popular vote by around 250,000 votes, but held just a one vote lead in the Electoral College with three southern states still being contested: South Carolina, Louisiana, and, of course, Florida. In those three states, each party declared their candidate the victor, which led to Hayes being the only president whose election was decided by a congressional commission. (Card) The Commission declared Hayes the victor only two days before he assumed office on March 4, 1877. (Polakoff) If nothing else, Hayes is known for bringing an air of respectability back to the Presidency. With what definitely does not sound familiar, Hayes felt ambivalence “when his political ambition clashed with his strict sense of morality, which told him that a man might gladly accept high office but should not actively seek it.” (Polakoff) As well, Hayes appointed men to his staff based on their ability to do the job (whether they were in his party or not), not on what political favours he owed. He also sought to reform the Civil Service. (Polakoff) Not surprisingly, doing things for the good of the country rather than the good of his party didn’t make him friends with many politicians. (Polakoff) Even though the Civil War had ended more than a decade before Hayes took office, there was still the niggling question of what to do with the South. Northern troops were still stationed in Louisiana and South Carolina, and though African Americans had been declared free, they were living in terror in many of the Southern states, such as Mississippi. The problem was how to return complete power to the Southern states and still guarantee the rights – and safety – of free African Americans. Even though Hayes was willing to grant many concessions to the South, including appointing Southerners to his cabinet and withdrawing all federal troops from the South (which ended Reconstruction), the Republican party was still soundly trounced in the 1878 mid-term elections. (Polakoff) While dealing with the ever-troublesome South, during Hayes presidency, railroad workers who refused to take yet another pay cut so the rich railroad barons could be even richer, went on strike. The domestic violence that followed was only surpassed by the Civil War. Even though Hayes, for his part, handled the crises relatively well, that’s not the sort of thing a president wants for his...or her legacy. (Polakoff) After four years, which also included some minor skirmishes with Mexico, questions about the Panama Canal, and the first of many immigration reforms (this time involving Chinese immigrants in western states), Hayes concluded that it was good enough, and he kept his promise to only serve one term. (Polakoff) Following his service, Hayes “became the most active former chief executive prior to Jimmy Carter,” (Polakoff) devoting his time to helping the poor, minorities, and immigrants, believing “...that education and manual training would help all people achieve better lives.” He was also concerned with, “...improving conditions in prisons, and promoting universal education.” (Card) Go figure. Several “firsts” for Hayes include his being “the first president to take the oath of office in the White House” and having the first telephone and typewriter in the White House. He also began the tradition of the children’s Easter Egg Roll on the White House Lawn in 1878. (Card) And, following his death, he became the first president to have a presidential library. (Rutherford B. Hayes, 2015) Hayes also signed the “Act to Relieve Certain Legal Disabilities of Women,” in 1879, which made it legally possible for women attorneys to argue cases before any US federal court, and that’s exactly what Belva Lockwood did in 1880, becoming the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court. (Rutherford B. Hayes, 2015) As well, Hayes wife Lucy is known for several “firsts.” She was the first First Lady to graduate from college, (Rutherford B. Hayes, 2015), and the first First Lady to be called “First Lady.” (Card) Showing her affiliation with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, she also got all alcoholic beverages removed from the White House. (Rutherford B. Hayes, 2006) So it only goes to show that you can never have the good without also having the bad. Work Cited Card, Nan. “Biography of Rutherford B. Hayes.” 2005. Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. 06 Feb. 2015. http://www.rbhayes.org/hayes/president/ Polakoff, Keith Ian. “Rutherford B. Hayes.” 2002. Encyclopedia.com. 06 Feb. 2015. http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Rutherford_Birchard_Hayes.aspx “Rutherford B. Hayes.” 2006. The White House. 06 Feb. 2015. http://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/rutherfordbhayes “Rutherford B. Hayes.” 2015. History. 03 Feb. 2015. http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/rutherford-b-hayes
20. James A. Garfield (1831-1881) Among other things, Garfield is recognized as the last president to live in a log cabin, or eat the syrup, or maybe both. Kinda makes ya wonder who the last president will be who lived in a duplex. Garfield was opposed to the political corruption that had been rampant during Reconstruction, and in under a year made people actually respect the office of the Presidency once again. For that alone he should be the most honored President of them all. But how soon we forget. Originally from Ohio, he went to college in Massachusetts, learning, among other things, how to spell Massachusetts. He went on to become a classics professor at the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (Ol’ WREI), which was a lot easier then because there were fewer classics, and he quickly became the president of that esteemed institution (now known as Hiram -- as in Hiram Walker -- College). In 1859, Garfield became a Republican senator from Ohio, though back then the Republicans were more interested in actually governing our country than such things as gay marriage and stem cell research. In fact, the whole question of gays would not occur until the ‘90s, nearly ten years after Garfield’s death. Garfield saw service for the Union Army during the Civil War, but was recalled to the Senate by Lincoln because it was a lot harder to find decent Senators than decent commanders. Given the history of the North’s commanders during the Civil War, that’s not saying much. So in Congress Garfield stayed for the next 18 years. Then, in 1880, he was given the Republican nomination for the President pretty much as an after thought when the guy that Garfield was trying to get nominated (Pat Robertson, or something like that) didn’t get it. It was pretty much a case of, “Hey, how about you?” The rest is history, which can be said for anything. Garfield mostly spent his Presidency bickering over who would run the Custom’s House, which to this day is still a highly prized job in Washington. Once that issue was settled (and I’m sure everybody remembers how from their grammar school days), Garfield spent the rest of his Presidency dying. On July 2nd (the day before my sister’s birthday), 1882 (69 years before my sister’s birthday), Garfield was shot by a pissed attorney who didn’t get the government appointment that he’d hoped for from Garfield. Garfield managed to hang on until September 19, and was even treated by Alexander Graham Bell, who had better success with his telephone. On becoming President after Garfield’s death, Grover Cleveland was reported to have said, “Wow, that was easy.” Cleveland later had a city in Ohio and a character on Sesame street named after him. Garfield managed to remain dead for the next 90 or so years, when he was reincarnated as a cartoon cat.
21. Chester A. Arthur (1881-1885) Born in 1829, Chester Alan Arthur is the only president who didn’t have a last name. The son of poor Irish immigrants, they were forced to leave it behind when they came to America. Arthur eventually became a lawyer, as lawyers often do, and, after practicing a few years, was appointed Collector of the Port of New York Customs House. Upholding the Republican tradition of appointing everybody he knew to work under him, whether they were really needed or not, he soon angered then President Hayes (great-great grandfather of Shaft), who was upholding the Democratic tradition of disliking everything any Republican did. Unable to have him thrown out of a petty office for what many saw as rampant corruption and cronyism, they did the next best thing and had him nominated for Vice President under James Garfield, the only cat to successfully run for president. Arthur then became the vice president when James Garfield beat General Winfield Scott Hancock for presidency in 1880. However, a small, group of disgruntled comedians who had already written four years’ worth of jokes based on Hancock’s name alone, had Garfield assassinated in 1881, and Chester became the 21st President. In 1882, Arthur became the first president to enact a Federal immigration law. The law sought to exclude paupers, criminals, and lunatics. Unfortunately, it was doomed for failure since these individuals blended in too easily with those people who were already here. In an effort to save the law, Chinese immigrants were successfully added to the list. As President, Alan sought to be truly bi-partisan, though no one is certain why. He succeed in getting Congress to pass the Pendleton Act in 1883, which created the Civil Service Commission. The Pendleton Act made many government positions obtainable through an examination alone, and then made it impossible for those individuals to be fired...ever. It is estimated that there are currently over 400 government employees who continue to be paid even though they are technically dead. Also in 1883, Chester signed the Tariff Act, which sought to get rid of the extra money the government had at the time. For some reason, this was seen as embarrassing to the government. For whatever other reason, this ticked off people out west and in the south, and that was good enough to rally them against him in his re-election attempt. The Republican Party failed to get him renominated for President in 1884, and his kidneys, also Republicans, failed him in 1886 as well. Arthur was followed in office by Grover Cleveland, the only president named after a Sesame Street character and a city.
22. & 24. Grover Cleveland Grover Cleveland, who could always count on the Ohio Muppet vote, was born on March 18, 1837, and died June 24, 1908. He was president from March 4, 1885 to March 3, 1889, and then again from March 4, 1893 to March 3, 1897. OK. Enough already with the name jokes. Grover Cleveland was a genuinely nice, decent, honest man, though most of that is probably redundant, or at least should be. He won the popular vote for president three times, which isn’t something many people other that Franklyn D. Roosevelt can say, and, according to many prominent conspiracy theorists, probably should’ve won all three terms. But if that would’ve been the case, he wouldn’t have the distinction of being the only president to serve two terms, but not back to back. In 1884 he beat some guy named Blaine from Maine (no kidding). Then, trying for his second term, he lost the presidency in 1888 to William Harrison, even though he won the popular vote. He then ran again against Harrison in 1892, only this time he won by a landslide. While campaigning for his first term, it was revealed that Cleveland could possibly be the father of a child born to Maria Halpin, who named the boy Oscar Folsom Cleveland. (OK, Oscar and Grover are really stretching the name thing.) There were apparently two other men who could’ve been the father (that must’ve been one helluva party), but she chose Cleveland (and his name… somewhat) in hopes that he would marry her. He didn’t. But Cleveland never denied it, mostly because the other two men were already married. And he provided somewhat for the child’s care, though not like he ever let him use the front door. When the scandal broke, Cleveland chose a controversial strategy: He told the truth. And, surprisingly, it worked. Like I said, he was a nice guy, or a firm believer in the Guy Code. Oscar Folsom, by the way, was the name of one of the other men that Miss Halpin was involved with. He was also the father of Francis Folsom, whom Grover married in 1886, during his first term when she was just 21. Do the math. Grover was 49 at the time. Of course, given the times, this didn’t cause too much of a scandal in itself. What did cause a scandal, though, was that he was his wife’s godfather, which means that he wasn’t related to her at all, but still… I mean… just what does that mean? It means that they went on to have five children: three daughters and two sons. Their first daughter, Ruth, is supposedly who Baby Ruth candy bars are named after. Of course, when the Curtiss Candy Company chose that name, it was 17 years after the Clevelands’ daughter died (tragically young), but coincidentally at the peak of the famous baseball player’s popularity. The candy company even managed to sue (and win against) another company that was selling a Babe Ruth candy bar that Babe Ruth actually endorsed, because Babe Ruth’s actual name was too close to Baby Ruth. Is this a great country or what? Cleveland’s first term went swimmingly... well, after he put all that sex stuff behind him. And by “well,” we mean that he really didn’t do anything memorable. I mean, really, what did he do? He was Ulysses S. Grant’s sixth cousin, but that was something he could’ve done without becoming president. He was the only president ever married in the White House, but that’s not a skill you would study for. As president, he holds the Guinness Book of World Records in vetoing bills, at least at that time. He vetoed more bills than the first 21 presidents combined. And how much difference would any of those bills have made? He made the railroads give back a bunch of land they really would’ve rather kept, and he passed the Interstate Commerce Act, which was the first Federal attempt at regulating the railroads. That’s good, but other than that, he is known for… what? And let’s be serious, though I am not doubting the importance of regulating the railroads, other presidents have done a lot cooler stuff. Just look at Teddy Roosevelt. But then, maybe having a really boring president has its points. And he had two terms to do it in. The only thing memorable about his second term is that the economy went all to hell, as it is wont to do, and then it no longer mattered to the public how much of a nice, decent man Cleveland was. He never tried for a fourth term, back when such things were allowed. He retired from politics after leaving the White House in 1897. He found retirement to be quite unsatisfactory, and died in 1908.
23. Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) There have been five sets of presidents who have shared last names. For instance, William Henry Harrison (#9) and Benjamin. Can you name the other four... without looking them up first? The answers are at the end of this essay. Politics ran in Harrison's family. Aside from his presidential grandfather, his great grandfather had been one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence and a Virginia governor, and his father was a US Congressman from Ohio. (Benjamin Harrison) Ben was born on August 20, 1833, in North Bend, Ohio, a small town in the extreme southwest corner of Ohio across the river from Kentucky. (Benjamin Harrison) Following a fairly idyllic childhood, Harrison attended college, graduating from Miami University in Ohio in 1852 with a degree in law. Shortly after he graduated, he married his long time sweetheart, Caroline Lavinia Scott, and in 1854, the couple moved to Indiana where Harrison practiced law. (Benjamin Harrison: The 23rd President of the United States) Harrison served from 1862 to 1865 as a Colonel in the 70th Volunteer Infantry for the Union in the Civil War. Following the War, Harrison returned to Indiana, where he became increasingly involved in politics. (Benjamin Harrison) In 1876 he ran for the Governor of Indiana, but was defeated. He was more successful in his bid for the US Senate, and served as a senator from 1881 to 1887. (Benjamin Harrison: The 23rd President of the United States) Following the Senate, Harrison ran for the presidency. It's easy for any candidate to complain about corruption during an election, especially without having to actually prove it. However, the 1888 election had plenty of proof... on both sides. Both parties, that of the incumbent Democratic challenger Grover Cleveland and Harrison, the Republican challenger, were guilty of paying people to vote. After all, if you really don't care who wins, why not make a little cash with your vote? Aside from that, the Democrats were accused of bribery, and the Southern Democrats (who sided with the Republicans) were busy suppressing the Black vote. In the end, Cleveland won the popular vote by only 90,000 votes, but lost the electoral college (which is all that really matters) 233 to 168. Four years later Cleveland ran against Harrison once again, winning this time. (Roos) By the way, five presidents have lost the popular vote, but still won the presidency (and two of those lost both the popular and the electoral vote). Can you name them? The answers are also at the end of this essay. Harrison's presidency was known for... really... not much. There were the usual problems with tariffs and taxes. There were various Acts that were signed into law (such as the Sherman Anti-Trust Act). And there were alliances (such as the Pan American Union) and acquisitions. Six states were added to the Union under Harrison (North and South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming), more than any other presidency. (Benjamin Harrison) Mostly, Harrison's presidency was known for corruption, but not from Harrison. Just everybody else. (Benjamin Harrison) Regardless, being honest yourself but being surrounded by people who are not is never going to help you win elections. If anything, Harrison should be known for his stand on racial equality. He opposed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and he was in favour of educating the children of former slaves, believing "...that education was necessary to help the black population rise to political and economic equality with whites." As well, he sought to pass legislation that would protect the civil rights of Black Americans, in particular, their right to vote in the South. Unfortunately, not even his own party supported these issues. (Benjamin Harrison) Even more unfortunate is that Harrison didn't extend, or even try to, civil rights for Native Americans. It was on his watch that 146 Sioux (if not more) were massacred at Wounded Knee. (Benjamin Harrison) Harrison's first wife, Caroline died at the White House while he was in office, probably from tuberculosis. (First Lady Biography) In 1896, following his presidency, he married Mary Lord Dimmick, who was the niece of his first wife, and nearly 30 years younger than Benjamin. (Spetter) Harrison died five years later, on March 13, 1901. **** And Now the Answers! The five sets of presidents that have shared the same last name are John Adams and John Quincy Adams, William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison, Andrew Johnson and Lyndon Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt, and George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. Of those five sets, all but one were related to each other. John Quincy Adams (#6) was the son of John Adams (#2). Benjamin Harrison (#23) was the grandson of William Henry Harrison (#9). George W. Bush (#43) was the son of George H. W. Bush (#41). And Franklin Roosevelt (#32) was a fifth cousin (whatever that might be) of Teddy Roosevelt (#26). It was only the Johnsons – Andrew and Lyndon – who were not related to each other. (US Presidents Who Were Related to Each Other) However, just because you don't share a last name doesn't mean you're not related. James Madison (#4) and Zachary Taylor (#12) were second cousins. And Franklin Roosevelt, aside from being related to Teddy, was related to a total of 11 presidents, both by blood (the Adamses, the Harrisons, and Grant) and by marriage (Madison, Taft, Taylor, Van Buren, and Washington). (US Presidents Who Were Related to Each Other) Those presidents who won the presidency but lost the popular vote are John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump. The last three, Harrison, Bush, and Trump, won by having more electoral votes. J.Q. Adams and Hayes, on the other hand, not only lost the popular vote, but they also lost the electoral college vote. (Roos) Little known election stuff: One does not win the presidency by simply having more electoral votes than her or his opponent (a plurality). One must also have a majority of the electoral votes – more than half. So if there are more than two candidates who get electoral votes, it's possible none of them will get a majority. And if that's the case, then it is left to Congress to decide who, among the top three electoral vote getters, becomes president. Their decision need not have anything to do with the number of votes the chosen winner originally got, either electoral or popular. In the case of John Quincy Adams, he lost both the popular and the electoral vote to Andy Jackson, but the House of Representatives chose Adams nevertheless. Yeah. You wanna talk about people screaming about corruption. (Roos) Hayes "victory" was not quite as straight forward. When the chads had settled, neither he nor the only other opponent, Samuel Tilden, had a majority of the electoral votes. Tilden was one shy of the majority (he needed 185), and Hayes only had 165. But there were still three states (Florida.. again, Louisiana, and South Carolina) worth a total of 20 electoral votes where the results were contested. The final solution was to create a bipartisan Federal Election Commission, which ultimately decided to give all 20 of those electoral votes to Hayes, making him the president, and a lot of other people unhappy. (Roos) Work Cited "Benjamin Harrison." 23 Jan. 2021. Wikipedia. 27 Jan. 2021. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Harrison "Benjamin Harrison: The 23rd President of the United States." The White House. 27 Jan. 2021. https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/benjamin-harrison/ "First Lady Biography: Caroline Harrison." National First Ladies' Library. 27 Jan. 2021. http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=24 Roos, David. "Five Presidents Who Lost the Popular Vote but Won the Election." 23 July 2020. History. 27 Jan. 2021. https://www.history.com/news/presidents-electoral-college-popular-vote Spetter, Allan B. "Benjamin Harrison: Life in Brief." 2021. Miller Center. 27 Jan. 2021. https://millercenter.org/president/bharrison/life-in-brief "US Presidents Who Were Related to Each Other." 21 Feb. 2017. Factmonster. 27 Jan. 2021. https://www.factmonster.com/us/government/executive-branch/us-presidents-who-were-related-to-each-other#:~:text=John%20Quincy%20Adams%20(the%206th,12th%20president)%20were%20second%20cousins.
25. William McKinley (1843-1901) William McKinley is the only president to have a mountain named after him: Mount Denali. He was actually elected for president twice (from 1897 to 1901), but truly only served one full term, having been assassinated six months into his second term, on September 14, 1901. And, all things considered, he truly wasn't that bad of a president. Both times McKinley won the presidency, he beat the Democrat William Jennings Bryan. For those of you who remember your high school history class (as opposed to those of us who barely remember high school at all), the big argument during both of those elections was what the United States should base its currency on. A Brief Tutorial: Money has to be based on something. I mean, if you have a silver coin, it's worth whatever the current value of silver is. But what if you have the folding kind? If your $100 bill were based on the current value of paper, it wouldn't be worth just a whole lot. As it is now, the value of money in the United States is supposedly based on the value of everything in the United States: your home, your job, your bank account, the fillings in your kids' teeth, and so forth. All that gold in Fort Knox? Yeah. It's just for show. It wasn't always that way, though. Until 1971 the value of money, be it a penny or a $500 bill, was actually tied to all that gold. Now... it's tied to such things as supply and demand, national debt, manufacturing, and so forth. To fully understand what determines the value of money, see: Ponzi. If all of that is confusing... join the club. It's always been confusing. From time to time, people realize that the value of everything they have is pretty much tied to wishful thinking, and then they panic, and then banks fail, and then people jump out of tall buildings. And that was no different way back when Bryan was arguing that our money ought to be tied to something tangible, such as silver. McKinley, on the other other hand, argued that, yeah, we can do that, but it's only going to cause the price of things to rise... inflation. And he probably was right. Not that inflation is necessarily a bad thing. However, the voters thought it was, and Bryan ended up losing the election... in 1896, 1900, and 1908. You'd think he'd get the idea after the first two times... but I digress. McKinley was also a big fan of protective tariffs. Even though the McKinley Tariff ended up getting him voted out of office (as a Congressman) in 1890, it didn't keep him from being elected as Ohio's governor from 1891 to 1893. There he wasn't so bent on tariffs, but once he became president, he brought them back with a vengeance. And they worked. A Brief Tutorial: A tariff is a tax on foreign imports. Say you have a choice between a television produced in Mexico and one produced in Missouri. Regardless of how many flags you have flying in your front yard, all things equal you're going to buy the cheapest one. I mean... yeah... I'd love to be patriotic, and I'd love to buy American... but I got bills to pay. We all do. So what the tariff does is it makes the cheaper imports more expensive. So we buy the American-made TV... or whatever. In the short run, that increases demand for American products. That demand pumps money into the American economy, and it also creates a demand for more workers to make those TVs, so unemployment goes down, too. But there's a downside... If production is not able to keep up with that demand, then that causes inflation. Basically, the factories aren't able to make TVs fast enough to keep up with all the TVs everybody wants, so those few TVs they can make go to whomever is willing to pay the most. And then one day everybody realizes that they only needed one TV anyway. And, you know, really, you don't need a TV at all. And suddenly nobody's buying TVs. So those factories lay off all their workers, who had just bought new homes and washing machines... all on credit, and now the banks don't have money coming in, and everything just goes all to hell. As it did in 1907, and then again in 1929, and then again in 2008, and then again... well, you get the idea. It's a bit like going on vacation with a credit card. You can have a great time while you're in Florida. But those bills are going to come due. But back to McKinley... McKinley was the last president to have served in the Civil War (on the Union side... you know, the side that won), and the only president to have started his military service as an enlisted private. He started at the bottom and worked his way up. So there, those of you who don't believe the American Dream is possible! He went on from there to become a politician, as people often do. And in there somewhere he married Ida Saxton, who became known as Mrs. McKinley. As president, McKinley defeated Spain in the Spanish-American War (1898), which gave the United States the territories of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Cuba. We never really wanted Cuba, and eventually we got rid of the Philippines, too, but we still possess Guam and Puerto Rico. And, yes, even though they are not states, citizens of those two places are still considered US citizens, contrary to what other elected US officials might believe. Under McKinley we also picked up the independent territory of Hawaii, which eventually did become a state. For the most part, McKinley is credited by many with having finally united an America still fractured from the Civil War, as well as ushering in a time of prosperity. There are others, though, who claim that McKinley just brought back old-time protectionism and imperialism. These include people like William Jennings Bryan and Leon Czolgosc. Leon was an anarchist who decided the best way to deal with McKinley was to shoot him. And he did. McKinley hung on for eight days, and then turned it all over to Teddy Roosevelt, his VP, on September 14, 1901. Bully.
28. Woodrow Wilson Thomas (Don’t Call Me “Tommy”) Woodrow (Just Call Me “Woody”) Wilson was the 28th President of the United States, serving from 1913 to 1921. Before becoming president, Wilson was a college professor at the prestigious Princeton University (he remains our only president to have earned a doctorate). From there, he became governor of New Jersey. Wilson, who won WWI and received the Nobel Peace Prize, is often seen as an “...advocate for democracy and world peace,” and “...is often ranked by historians as one of the nation’s greatest presidents.” (Woodrow Wilson, Topics) Or not. To be sure, Wilson did accomplish several “positive” things as president (depending on your perspective, of course). There’s the Underwood Act that lowered tariffs. He came up with a “graduated Federal income tax.” He strengthened the country’s monetary supply with the passage of the Federal Reserve Act. He enacted antitrust legislation by establishing the Federal Trade Commission. And he passed legislation prohibiting child labour as well as limiting “railroad workers to an eight-hour day.” (Woodrow Wilson, History and Grounds) And let’s not forget Women’s Suffrage. Even though Wilson was originally opposed to the idea of giving women the vote, with the help of Wilson’s daughter, women gained the right to vote in 1920, during his presidency (Woodrow Wilson Biography). As well, even though prohibition (which can only be viewed as a complete failure) came into effect during his presidency, Wilson was opposed to it. He vetoed the Volstead Act, but was overridden by Congress. Prohibition would last until 1933. (Woodrow Wilson, Topics) That’s a long time to go without a drink, and there were many people who could’ve used a stiff drink during his presidency, including African Americans. Wilson was the first Southerner elected president following the Civil War (he was originally from Virginia). Unfortunately, he was a Southerner who favoured the South... the Old South. One of the few places that had been de-segregated by 1913 when Wilson took office was federal civil service, and Wilson promptly overturned those policies, bringing back such things as segregated restrooms and even screens to separate black workers from their white counterparts. In Wilson’s own words, “segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by [African Americans].” (Barnett) What a guy! According to W.E.B. Du Bois (who initially supported Wilson based on his promises of helping African Americans achieve greater equality), “Altogether the segregationist and discriminatory policies of Wilson in his first six months alone were .... the ‘gravest attack on the liberties’ of African Americans since Emancipation.” (Barnett) Wilson, in a career that is filled with irony, got his doctorate at Johns Hopkins, which would become the leading institution to change America’s entire healthcare industry from one that even into the 20th Century still routinely “bled” patients and relied almost solely on doctor “intuition,” to one that became science-centered. Imagine that. Had it not been for the medical infrastructure, such as it were, the United States may not have survived as a nation. (Woodrow Wilson, History and Grounds) Regardless of everything positive (and negative) Wilson may have accomplished in office, his presidency is defined by two inseparable events: World War One and the Great Influenza pandemic. Wilson was first opposed to involving America in a foreign war, and he narrowly won re-election in 1917 based on the slogan "he kept us out of war." But then, because of several events, it became obvious that the United States could not allow Germany and its allies to win the war in Europe, if for no other reason than to “Make the world safe for democracy.” (Woodrow Wilson, Topics) And the only way to do that was for the United States to fight, and there’s no point in fighting if you don’t intend to win. And Wilson intended to win. When the United States finally entered the Great War, Wilson was determined to win at any cost. A loss, after all, could’ve meant the end of our country as we knew it. If we were going to war, according to Wilson, our commitment would have to be total. No part of our country would be exempt. For instance, Wilson’s Administration instituted a “work or serve” policy. If one were not directly involved in producing war-related goods in the US (such as working in a munitions factory or as a nurse), then one would be sent to the front. Even professional baseball players were not exempt. (Barry) Perhaps the most controversial move Wilson made concerned public morale. It was not only seen as unpatriotic to speak critically (at all) of our involvement in the war, but it actually became illegal. First Amendment Rights were all but lost. People could be jailed for even questioning the loss of their Civil Rights, and many were. Unless the media could report the positive, then they weren’t to report anything at all... or, even better, they were to make up something good. (Barry) Enter the Great Influenza pandemic in 1918, which is a must study for anybody who is opposed to vaccinations. The pandemic was most lethal between 1918 and 1919, but it lingered on for many years after that. It is estimated that the Great Influenza was the most deadly outbreak of disease in the history of the world, even deadlier than the Black Plague of the Middle Ages. All told, it killed more people off the battlefields of WWI than those who died from fighting – on all sides combined. (Billings) The Great Influenza is often called the Spanish Flu, because early reports were that it started in Spain (among other places). The pandemic – a disease that infected the entire world – was quite obvious when it arrived somewhere, and it was quite obvious when it traveled from that area to somewhere else – usually by troop transports. And if you trace it all back to a starting point, Haskell County, Kansas (in the extreme southern center of the state), gets that honor. (Barry) I doubt if there’s a tourist attraction there. There’s a couple of ways to look at the Great Influenza. After all, it only killed 5% of the entire world population, which means 95% of the people were not killed, and probably less than 50% were infected. With odds like that you could break the house in Vegas. But 5% of the world population, even in the early part of the 20th Century, was a lot of people. It is estimated that anywhere from 20 million people (on the really low side) to 100 million people (on the more realistic side) died. We can’t be exact for any number of reasons. For instance, nobody really knew how many people lived in the Eskimo villages in North America, and by the time aid workers got there, nobody was left. Entire towns were wiped out. They couldn’t even count the dead bodies because they had been dragged off by wild dogs. And even in places where we knew how many people were there to begin with, like Philadelphia, there came a point where people stopped counting the dead. There were simply too many. If you were still alive, you had more important things to do than worry about the dead. (Barry) Indeed, many people died from starvation – in major cities – because aid workers were either too sick themselves, or (more likely) were too afraid to enter into their homes to help them. (Barry) One woman, who lived through the influenza, reports being so ill she couldn’t get out of bed and take care of her children. She knew somebody had died when they stopped coughing. She was too sick to mourn the deaths of her own children. And that’s where this horrible story turns back on President Wilson. The media were not allowed to report anything “bad” for fear it would affect our morale, by order of the President. Indeed, a survey of newspaper accounts, especially early on in the pandemic, finds almost no mention at all of the disease, and Wilson never addressed the problem publically. Never. (Barry) Even today the official White House site for Presidential Biographies does not mention the Great Influenza pandemic that so defined Wilson’s presidency. Not a single word. We could expect that site to put a positive spin on the Presidents, but History.com? Or Biography.com? They don’t mention the pandemic relative to Wilson, either. Wow. What information came from the government, both local and national, was that everything was alright. There was nothing to worry about. After all, it was just the flu. Reality, though, didn’t support that point of view. It’s hard to believe that everything is OK when there are bodies piled “like cordwood” on porches, or simply left in the beds where they died (where people slept next to them because they were too sick to do anything else). There was simply nobody left well enough to deal with the bodies, and even if they wanted to, there were no coffins. (Barry) Still don’t want to get your yearly flu shot? In short, people were left on their own. And when people are left on their own, then there is no society. As well, if you can’t believe the government, truly, if everything the government seems to be saying goes against reality, then that only leaves fear. Lesson Number One: Be honest with the public. Sure, almost all health professionals turned their attention toward the pandemic (indeed, it’s all they did), but they were sorely hampered by not having honest information from the start. That, and the government’s refusal to stop infected troops from being transported across the US and then on to Europe. After all, not sending troops to Europe, even troops who were sick and dying upon arriving in European ports (not to mention those who didn’t survive the voyage), could’ve been seen as a sign of weakness by the enemy. And wherever those troops went, they spread the disease. (Barry) By the time the media started ignoring the government’s rules on “keeping up the morale” (pretty much after the War had already ended), the influenza had already done most of its damage. On the ironic side, though, the influenza pandemic probably shortened World War One. It’s hard to fight a war when both sides are too sick to care. (Barry) But then, on the even more ironic side, it is quite possible that the pandemic may have inadvertently led to World War Two (the sequel). Wilson, himself, became ill with influenza while he was in Europe at the peace talks following the Great War. Originally France, where the majority of the War was fought, wanted Germany punished. Among other things, France wanted Germany to give up disputed territory and to pay reparations. They wanted so much money that Germany would be crippled for a very long time. Wilson, who knew that no good would come from punishing Germany (or any of Germany’s allies), refused to give into France’s demands, to the point that he was planning on leaving the conference. Then Wilson caught the flu. Whereas Wilson refused to compromise going into the peace talks, after his sickness, he pretty much compromised on everything. Sure, he still got the League of Nations (which eventually became the United Nations), but we all know how effective they were in keeping world peace. Instead of participating in the peace process (which Wilson had originally wanted), Germany was told what they had to accept, and that left them angry with nothing to lose. A bad combination. (Barry) So was Wilson a really good president, or a really bad president? Or maybe somewhere in-between. Perhaps the only way to answer such a question is to ask if he made the United States and the world better, or worse? Work Cited Barnett, Randy. “Expunging Woodrow Wilson from Official Places of Honor.” 25 June 2015. The Volokh Conspiracy. 06 Jan. 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/06/25/expunging-woodrow-wilson-from-official-places-of-honor/ Barry, John M. The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History. New York: Penguin Books, 2004. Billings, Molly. “The Influenza Panic of 1918.” Feb. 2005. Stanford. 06 Jan. 2016. https://virus.stanford.edu/uda/ “Woodrow Wilson Biography.” 2016. Biography.com06 Jan. 2016. http://www.biography.com/people/woodrow-wilson-9534272 “Woodrow Wilson.” History and Grounds: Presidents. 06 Jan. 2016. https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/woodrowwilson “Woodrow Wilson.” 2016. History.com. 06 Jan. 2016. http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/woodrow-wilson Things You May Not Have Known About WWI World War One “officially” began in July of 1914 with the death of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, who was the presumptive heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was assassinated in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (now Bosnia). Both Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were killed by Serbian separatists who wanted an independent Serbia. They were assassinated on June 28, 1914. June 28 marks the anniversary (more or less) of when Serbia lost its independence in 1389 to the Turks. Solely a coincidence, June 28 was also Franz Ferdinand’s and Sophie’s wedding anniversary. Serbia was annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the former Ottoman Empire in 1908. The first assassination attempt, a bomb thrown at his Ferdinand’s car, failed when the bomb rolled off the back of their car. Gavrilo Princip, a 19 year old Serbian separatist, happened to be “loitering” on the street where the archduke’s procession happened to take a wrong turn. He shot both Ferdinand and Sophie at point-blank range, but was stopped before he could shoot himself. And so it goes. The US entered the War in April of 1917. The War “officially” ended on November 11, 1918 – On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. November 11 was originally referred to as Armistice Day, a day set aside to commemorate peace. In the United States, it is now referred to as Veterans’ Day, a day set aside to commemorate those who have served in the Armed Forces. Though it was not the first time chemical and biological agents had been used in a war, WWI saw the most wide-spread use of it ever (and prompted the “banning” of its use in warfare). World War One was the first time airplanes were used directly in a war, even though their use was more tactical (such as observation) than strategic (actually fighting). An estimated 17 million people died directly from the War; another 20 million people were wounded. Around seven million of those who died were civilians. Over 53,000 Americans were listed as dead or missing. The country with the greatest number of dead or missing directly attributed to combat was Germany, with over two million, followed by Russia, which had over 1.8 million, then France, with over 1.1 million, and then Britain, with around 730,000. WWI was called “The War to End all Wars.” Many historians see both World War One and World War Two as the same war, with a lull in direct combat from the “official” end of WWI to the “official” beginning of WWII in September 1939. The Cold War, and all of its “proxy” battles was a direct result of WWII. It is estimated that there are more memorials for those who served (and died) in WWI than any war ever fought.
29. Warren G. Harding Warren Gamaliel Harding, our twenty-ninth President, served from 1921 to 1923, and is generally seen as the worst president ever... well, so far. Ironically, perhaps, it's not all the scandals that plagued both Harding's private and political lives that gave him such a bad reputation, but that he had no vision for where he wanted the country to go. (Warren G. Harding: Life in Brief) In all fairness, not many people at the time wanted the country to go anywhere. To put Harding in perspective, he followed Woody Wilson, whose presidency included World War I and the Great Influenza pandemic. It's debatable which killed more, the War or the Flu, but the end result was that tens of millions of people died all over the world, including the United States. It wasn't a pleasant time. The country was ready for a return to "normalcy," and Harding was the ticket. Harding was born in the same year the Civil War ended, on November 2, 1865, in the present-day town of Blooming Grove, Ohio. In 1891, Harding married the wealthy Florence Kling De Wolfe, who had a child from her previous marriage. Harding and his wife had no children of their own. (Warren G. Harding." History) All Harding wanted from life was to publish a small town newspaper, which he did. But his wife wanted more for her husband, so she encouraged him (as only a wife can) to go into politics. (Freidel and Sidey) Indeed, his wife once remarked, “I have only one real hobby–my husband.” (Warren G. Harding." History) Harding did well in Ohio politics, mostly because he did as he was told by the "machine bosses." He served both in the Ohio state Senate and as the Lieutenant Governor (though he lost his bid to be the Ohio Governor in 1910). (Warren G. Harding." History) Doing "well" meant that Harding basically did nothing. As a senator, he was absent for more sessions than he attended, bowing out of debates on such issues as prohibition and women's suffrage. The up-side was that he "had few enemies because he rarely took a firm enough stand on an issue to make any." And that eventually led to his presidential nomination. (Warren G. Harding: Life in Brief) Harding was groomed for the presidency by his close friend, Harry Daugherty, if for no other reason than Harding "...looked like a president." And apparently he did. Harding gained national recognition by delivering the nominating address at the 1912 Republican Convention, for President Taft. Then, in 1914, he was elected to the US Senate, where he served until his inauguration in 1921. (Freidel and Sidey) When the principle candidates in the 1920 Republican Convention became deadlocked, they turned to Harding, who became their candidate and won the general election by a landslide – an actual landslide, not what Harding thought was a landslide. (Freidel and Sidey) The Republicans could pretty much put anything in front of Harding and he would sign it. Among other things, they slashed taxes (mostly for corporations and the wealthy), restricted imports, opposed organized labour, and put strict limitations on immigration. But who could complain? After all, he was only fulfilling his campaign promise to have "Less government in business and more business in government." (Freidel and Sidey) But then came the scandals. Harding once admitted to his close friends that the presidency "was beyond him." Even though he did appoint a few capable men to high offices, such as Herbert Hoover and Andrew Mellon, the majority of his appointees became known as "the Ohio gang" – a bunch of "dishonest cheats." (Warren G. Harding: Life in Brief) Perhaps Harding's worst political appointee, and "one of the slickest," was Harry Daugherty, who became his political manager and was later named Attorney General. Daugherty was almost impeached by Congress, and had two indictments for frauding the government. (Warren G. Harding: Domestic Affairs) Then there was Charles Forbes, the director of the Veterans Bureau, who "diverted alcohol and drugs from Veterans hospitals to bootleggers and narcotics dealers and took payoffs from contractors building hospitals." What a guy! Forbes served two years for that. (Warren G. Harding: Domestic Affairs) And let's not forget Albert Fall, who gave us the Teapot Dome Scandal. Fall was Harding's secretary of the interior, who "secretly allowed private oil companies to tap the Teapot Dome oil reserve in Wyoming and the Elk Hills oil reserve in California..." making at least $300,000 in bribes. With inflation, that would be over four million dollars today. Like Forbes, Fall was one of the few who went to prison, and even then, it was for less than a year. (Warren G. Harding: Domestic Affairs) Possibly Harding's biggest flaw as a politician, and even a person, was that he "could not say 'no' to his friends." Even Harding's own father said it was good that Warren was a man. Had he been a girl, said his father, he never would've said "no" to the boys, and would've been "in the family way all the time." (Warren G. Harding: Domestic Affairs) As such, Harding seemed more concerned with being liked by his friends than being an effective president. He enjoyed playing poker, drinking whiskey (which was illegal at the time), smoking cigars, and generally hanging out with the boys. (Warren G. Harding: Life in Brief) During one game of cards, Harding lost the entire White House china set. (Warren G. Harding: Domestic Affairs) Harding also enjoyed the women. Plural. One of the women, Carrie Phillips, who was a German sympathizer during WWI, was paid "hush money" by the Republican Party. (Warren G. Harding: Life in Brief) Explicit love letters confirmed in 1963 Harding's 15 year affair with Phillips. (Warren G. Harding Biography) Another woman, Nan Britton, who was 30 years younger than Harding, "was given a job in Washington, DC, so that she could be near Harding." Their affair continued until Harding's death, and the two probably were having sex in the Oval Office. (Warren G. Harding: Life in Brief) Is it me, or does a lot of this really sound familiar? Following Harding's death, Nan Britton publicly admitted that the father of her daughter was Harding. However, it wasn't until 2015, through DNA testing, that it was conclusively proven. (Warren G. Harding Biography) No matter how bad Harding was, and he was bad, he did accomplish a few good things. He established the General Accounting Office to audit government expenditures, he was pro-farm, and unlike Wilson, who he followed, "Harding was generally tolerant on civil liberties, honestly criticizing the unfair treatment of African Americans." He even once delivered an address to a segregated crowd (at the University of Alabama, no less), "on the virtues of racial equality and the evils of segregation. (Warren G. Harding: Domestic Affairs) Harding's Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, once urged Harding to make "a great scandal of [his] administration" public, but Harding didn't, fearing "the political repercussions." And those repercussions would come, only not to Harding, just to his reputation. Harding died while in office, suffering a fatal heart attack on August 2, 1923, while in San Francisco. (Freidel and Sidey) Had Harding survived, his memory would probably be worse than it already is, well, for those of us who remember him, for many scandals came to light once he was safely removed from prosecution six feet under. (Harding's Scandals.) Even Harding's death wasn't without scandal. The gossip mill speculated that Harding hadn't died from a heart attack at all. The rumour was that he was poisoned by his wife – either to save him from the inevitable corruption charges, (Warren G. Harding Biography) or because fidelity was apparently not a term that Harding was very familiar with. There was no autopsy. (Warren G. Harding Biography) Harding was followed in office by his Vice President, Calvin Coolidge. (Warren G. Harding. History) Work Cited Freidel, Frank, and Hugh Sidey. "Warren G. Harding." 2006. The Presidents of the United States of America. 02 Feb. 2017. https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/warrenharding "Harding's Scandals." 2017. History: Warren G. Harding. 02 Feb. 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/warren-g-harding/videos/hardings-scandals?m=528e394da93ae&s=undefined&f=1&free=false "Warren G. Harding Biography." 13 Aug. 2015. Biography.com. 02 Feb. 2017. http://www.biography.com/people/warren-g-harding-9328336#the-harding-administration "Warren G. Harding: Domestic Affairs." 2017. American President. 02 Feb. 2017. http://millercenter.org/president/biography/harding-domestic-affairs "Warren G. Harding." 2017. History. 02 Feb. 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/warren-g-harding "Warren G. Harding: Life in Brief." 2017. American President. 02 Feb. 2017. http://millercenter.org/president/biography/harding-life-in-brief
31. Herbert Clark Hoover – A Man of Mixed Reviews Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States (1929-1933), was born in Iowa in 1874. His father, Jessie Clark Hoover, a blacksmith, died when he was six from a heart attack, and his mother, Huldah Minthorn Clark, died three years later from pneumonia, leaving Herbet, his older brother, Theodore, and his younger sister, Mary, orphans. (Herbert Hoover: Presidential Library and Museum) It also (eventually) would make Hoover the only president who was an orphan. Herbert, but apparently not his brother or sister, moved to Newberg, Oregon, of all places, to live with his aunt and uncle. When Hoover was 20 he went off to college at the newly opened Stanford University, which is pretty much between San Francisco and San Jose, for those of you who are geographically disinclined. There he got a degree in Engineering. (“President Herbert Hoover”) After graduating in 1895, he took that degree and became an international mining engineer, and was quite successful. It was that career that took him and his wife to China in 1900. (“President Herbert Hoover”) There, Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry (who was his college sweetheart), were trapped under heavy fire for a month in Tientsin during the Boxer Rebellion. His wife worked in the hospital, and Hoover used his engineering knowledge to build barricades. He even risked his life at one point to rescue children. (“Herbert Hoover: The 31st President of the United States”) This is good stuff. A few years later, Hoover happened to be in London when Germany declared war on just about everybody as part of WWI. He ended up helping over 120,000 tourists get home, and then turned his attention to feeding Belgium, which had been overrun by Germany. When he returned home, President Wilson appointed Hoover head of the Food Administration, where he managed to keep sending food overseas while not having to ration at home. Quite a feat. (“Herbert Hoover: The 31st President of the United States”) After WWI ended, Hoover was instrumental in supplying food to Europe, including Bolshevik Russia, which many saw as questionable, but not Hoover. He is quoted as saying, “Twenty million people are starving. Whatever their politics, they shall be fed!” Ya gotta love this guy. (“Herbert Hoover: The 31st President of the United States”) Hoover was so admired in the United States for his humanitarian efforts that both parties wanted him for their candidate in 1920. Wow. What a thought. Wanting a man for President who is a decent, capable individual, regardless of his politics. Hoover, in what can be seen as perhaps the world’s second best example of bad timing, didn’t run then. Instead he went on to serve, and serve well, as Secretary of Commerce under both Presidents Harding and Coolidge. (“President Herbert Hoover”) Hoover, in the uncontested best example of bad timing, did accept the Republican nomination for president in 1928 when Coolidge decided not to run again. Hoover won in a landslide, even though he never held an elected office before (or after, as far as that goes). (“President Herbert Hoover”) Hoover had done such a great job feeding the world before he was president, that everybody was sure poverty would become a thing of the past in America with Hoover in the White House. (“Herbert Hoover: The 31st President of the United States”) Then everything went to hell just six months after he was inaugurated when the stock market took a head dive in September, 1929, and the entire world followed shortly thereafter. Try as he might, Hoover didn’t stand a chance, and he became the scapegoat for the Great Depression. (“Herbert Hoover: The 31st President of the United States”) It has been commented that Hoover sucked so bad at being president that a vacuum cleaner was named after him. Whereas that would be great if it were true... it’s not. The vacuum in question was invented by James Spangler, who sold the invention to William H. “Boss” Hoover in 1908. (Hoovering for the Masses) William Hoover is no relation to Herbert. As far as that goes, Herbert isn’t related to J. Edgar Hoover, either. (Howard) What is true, though, is that Hoover (Herb, not Bill or John) went from being universally loved to universally despised pretty much overnight. When the economy collapsed, Hoover refused to give federal aid to those suffering. Instead, he went with indirect help through public work projects and loans to states, which didn’t help at all, causing Hoover – who was once known as a “master of emergencies” to lose all credibility with the public. (“President Herbert Hoover”) And that’s pretty much it for Hoover’s presidency. Well, yeah. During his term Prohibition was repealed, but it wasn’t Hoover’s fault. Hoover wanted to keep the production and consumption of liquor illegal. (“Herbert Hoover”) Cheers! Pretty much, Hoover floundered through the rest of his term, and even though he ran for re-election in 1932, he lost in landslide to Franklin Roosevelt. It can be argued that Hoover wasn’t racist, or, perhaps, not as racist as he could’ve been, though saying that you could’ve been worse is generally not a compliment. Hoover did not tolerate overt discrimination, and he appointed more African Americans to government positions than his predecessors. Nevertheless, his Civil Rights record left a lot to be desired. For instance, he didn’t push for an anti-lynching law. And that leaves one wondering, “Good Lord! Why in the world not?!” I mean, what possible argument could there be for not wanting a law that prohibits lynching? As well, he promoted the “lily white strategy,” which removed people of colour from positions of leadership in the Republican Party. All of which resulted in many black voters, especially in the South, switching to the Democratic Party during his tenure. (“Herbert Hoover”) There’s not much argument when it comes to Hoover’s record with Mexican-Americans. During the Great Depression, when nothing else worked, Hoover sought to put the blame on Mexican Immigrants. Sound familiar? In what some critics have stated meets the criteria for ethnic cleansing, over one million Mexican-Americans were deported back to Mexico under Hoover, the majority of whom were American citizens. (“Herbert Hoover”) Still, Hoover continued to help with humanitarian issues after WWII, helping President Truman feed war-torn Europe. He also wrote over 40 books, and devoted a lot of his time to various social causes, such as the Boys Club. (“President Herbert Hoover”) Hoover died in 1964 at the age of 90, having outlived his wife by 20 years. (“Herbert Hoover”) Overall, Hoover gets mixed reviews. As a humanitarian, he generally receives high marks... well, if you don’t add in the Mexican-Americans and the Black folk. But ya kinda gotta, don’cha think? And you really can’t get away with saying, “Well, everybody was prejudiced back then...” because they weren’t. And then there’s his presidency. As a president... I mean... wow. Truly, it was just a case of bad timing. Had Hoover been President from, say, 1924 to 1928, he probably would’ve done great. As it were, any President who has ever served probably would’ve floundered in the Great Depression. But then, the American Public has never been willing to give a president a pass on the mess he’s inherited. Once he’s in office, whatever happens is on him. So in the end, perhaps the best you can say about Hoover is that he could’ve been worse. Works Cited “Herbert Hoover.” 29 Jan. 2024. Wikipedia. 9 Feb. 2024. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Hoover “Herbert Hoover: Presidential Library and Museum.” National Archives. 18 Feb. 2024. https://hoover.archives.gov/exhibits/years-adventure-1874-1914 “Herbert Hoover: The 31st President of the United States.” The White House. 9 Feb. 2024. https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/herbert-hoover/ “Hoovering for the Masses.” Science Museum. 18 Feb. 2024. https://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/objects-and-stories/everyday-wonders/invention-vacuum-cleaner#:~:text=Hoovering%20for%20the%20masses,-The%20British%20association&text=Asthmatic%20American%20inventor%20James%20Spangler,to%20William%20Hoover%20in%201908.&text=His%20invention%20proved%20to%20be,truly%20practicable%20domestic%20vacuum%20cleaner. Howard, Spencer. “Hoover Heads.” 18 May 2022. National Archives. 18 Feb. 2024. https://hoover.blogs.archives.gov/2022/05/18/do-you-know-your-hoovers-an-historical-field-guide/#:~:text=Boss%E2%80%9D%20Hoover-,William%20H.,Edgar%20Hoover). “President Herbert Hoover.” National Archives. 9 Feb. 2024. https://hoover.archives.gov/hoovers/president-herbert-hoover
Presidential Name Trivia Next time you’re at a party and you’re wanting to impress everybody, there’s no better way than with presidential trivia. It’s also a great way to get everybody to go home early. So here you go! 17 presidents had no middle name at all – George Washington was the first, and Teddy Roosevelt was the last. Of the first 28 presidents, it’s easier to name those who did have a middle name: John Quincey Adams (which is the only way we know him from his father), Bill Henry Harrison (which is the only way we know him from his grandson), James KaNox Polk, Franklin K Pierce, Hiram Ulysses S Grant, Rutherford Birchard Hayes, and Chester Alan Arthur. Winning honourary mention is Harry S Truman, whose middle name was only the initial “S” – without a period – which he was given to honour both his grandfathers, Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon Young. He added the period after he became president because he was told it was improper grammar by the editors of the Chicago Style Manual, and he didn’t want to be a bad example for America’s youth, for who proper grammar has always been oh, so important. (Harry Truman Biography: Fun Trivia Fact) Along with Truman, two other presidents only had an initial for a middle name, James K. Polk and Ulysses S. Grant – with or without the period. Four of our presidents went by their middle names: Hiram Ulysses Grant, Stephen Grover Cleveland, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, and John Calvin Coolidge, but we can count Cleveland twice if we want, being the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. Two of our presidents actually changed their middle names – or had their middle names changed for them: Grant and Ford. When Grant arrived at West Point, they messed up his name, dropping his first name completely, and adding an S as his middle initial. Like most things with the government, it’s just easier to go with what they have than to change it back to what it should be. And then there’s Ford. Besides being the only president who wasn’t elected as either a president or a vice president, he’s the only president that pretty much trashed his entire original name. He started life as Leslie Lynch King, Jr., which is a name that would never get anybody elected, much less appointed. His mother left his abusive birth father when Ford was just 16 days old. After a few years she remarried, this time to a guy named Gerald Rudolff Ford. Gerald Jr. eventually took his adoped father’s name, with the only difference being the spelling of “Rudolph,” and adding the “Junior.” (Gerald Ford) Work Cited “Gerald Ford.” 8 Feb. 2023. Wikipedia. 10 Feb. 2023. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerald_Ford#:~:text=Gerald%20Rudolph%20Ford%20Jr.%20(%2F,States%20from%201974%20to%201977. “Harry Truman Biography: Fun Trivia Fact.” 2023. Harry S. Truman Little White House, Florida’s Only Presidential Museum. 08 Feb. 2023. https://www.trumanlittlewhitehouse.org/key-west/president-truman-biography#:~:text=Did%20you%20know%20that%20Harry,Shipp%20Truman%20and%20Solomon%20Young.