Sunday, November 28, 2010
--George Washington was smallpox-resistant.
--He knew Alexander Hamilton before it was cool to know Alexander Hamilton.
--When told that General Washington was going to retire as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and relinquish his power at the end of the Revolutionary War, King George III is said to have replied, "If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world." Washington promptly responded by being the greatest man in the world, and George III in turn responded by slowly going insane.
--While President, Washington regularly exercised by leaping across the Potomac River and bench-pressing a Congressman of his choosing.
--Uncomfortable truths about George Washington: He was a slave-owner; He ordered his troops to loot nearby farmers and other colonists' houses for food for the Continental Army; He was a level 15 warlock who could cast continual darkness twice a day and summon demons (85% chance of success--50% chance for a type I--IV, 50% for a type V or VI).
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
--Millard Fillmore was born three weeks after the death of George Washington, and was thus the first U.S. President to be born after the death of a former President.
--Fillmore became the second Vice President to assume the presidency after the death of a sitting President when he succeeded Zachary Taylor, who died of acute gastroenteritis. Fillmore was never elected President; after serving out Taylor's term, he failed to gain the nomination of the Whigs for president in the 1852 presidential election. In the 1856 presidential election, he again failed to win election as the candidate of the American party, part of the Know Nothing movement (which was formed around anti-immigrant/anti-Catholic sentiment in the country at the time).
--Fillmore died on March 8, 1874, of the aftereffects of a stroke. His last words were alleged to be, upon being fed some soup, "the nourishment is palatable."
--The ultimate case of a practical joke taken to the extreme, the character of "Millard Fillmore" was actually an invention. First appearing as a prank in the masthead of the Buffalo Picayune in 1822, Fillmore's name later found itself in use at a law practice in East Aurora, NY, and was eventually elected to the New York State Assembly on the Anti-Masonic ticket in 1828. By the time Millard Fillmore won a seat in the 23rd Congress, it was decided that an actual person was needed to represent the name, so an actor was chosen to play the part full-time.
The actor who came to be known as President Millard Fillmore was one Edward Modulok, a marginally gifted thespian who, nevertheless, came to embody his "role" to such a degree that after a while he came to believe he truly was Millard Fillmore.
Friday, November 19, 2010
--Teddy Roosevelt appointed William Howard Taft to be his Secretary of War in 1904. Taft had repeatedly told Roosevelt he wanted to be Chief Justice, not President (nor a lowly associate justice, for that matter), but there was no vacancy and Roosevelt had other plans. For a while, Taft was Acting Secretary of State. When Roosevelt was away, Taft was, in effect, a kind of "Acting President".
When Roosevelt decided not to run for reelection in 1908 he had to convince Taft to run for President, and Roosevelt's backing did much to win Taft the presidency.
--In his reelection bid in1912, Taft won the mere eight electoral votes of Utah and Vermont, making his the single worst defeat in American history for an incumbent President seeking reelection; he finished not even second, but third, behind both Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt (who was then running on the Progressive, or "Bull Moose", ticket).
--On June 30, 1921, following the death of Chief Justice Edward Douglass White, President Warren G. Harding nominated Taft to take his place. For a man who had once remarked that "there is nothing I would have loved more than being chief justice of the United States" the nomination to oversee the highest court in the land was like a dream come true. Taft received his commission immediately and readily took up the position, serving until 1930. As such, he became the only President to serve as Chief Justice, and thus the only former President to swear in subsequent Presidents, giving the oath of office to both Calvin Coolidge (in 1925) and Herbert Hoover (in 1929).
--Weighing over 300 pounds on average, Taft was the heaviest U.S. President ever elected, and to date the last President to have sported facial hair. He lost approximately 80 lbs within a year of leaving office, due to successful experimental surgery to remove his secret, abdominally-conjoined twin, Reginald Phineas Taft.
Monday, November 15, 2010
--Adams was the son of President John Adams and Abigail Adams, and was the first President whose father had also been President (George W Bush and George H.W. Bush being the other example to date). The name "Quincy" came from Abigail's maternal grandfather, Colonel John Quincy.
As a diplomat, Adams was involved in many international negotiations, and helped formulate the Monroe Doctrine as Secretary of State. Historians agree he was one of the great diplomats in American history.
--In the election of 1824 Andrew Jackson won, although narrowly, pluralities of the popular and electoral votes, but not the necessary majority of electoral votes. Under the terms of the 12th Amendment, the presidential election was thrown to the House of Representatives to vote on the top three candidates: Jackson, Adams, and William Crawford. Henry Clay had come in fourth place and thus was ineligible, but he retained considerable power and influence as Speaker of the House.
Clay's personal dislike for Jackson and the similarity of his views to Adams' position on tariffs and internal improvements caused him to throw his support to Adams, who was elected by the House on February 9, 1825, on the first ballot. Adams' victory shocked Jackson, who had gained the plurality of the electoral and popular votes and fully expected to be elected President. When Adams appointed Clay as Secretary of State—the position that Adams and his three predecessors had held before becoming President—Jacksonian Democrats were outraged, and claimed that Adams and Clay had struck a "corrupt bargain". This contention overshadowed Adams' term and greatly contributed to Adams' loss to Jackson four years later.
--Adams was elected a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts after leaving office, the only President ever to do so, serving for the last 17 years of his life with far greater success than he had achieved in the presidency. In the House he became a leading opponent of slavery and argued that if a civil war ever broke out the President could abolish slavery by using his war powers, which Abraham Lincoln partially did during the American Civil War in the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Deeply troubled by slavery, Adams correctly predicted the dissolution of the Union on the issue, though the series of bloody slave insurrections he foresaw never came to pass.
--Much of Adams' youth was spent accompanying his father overseas. John Adams served as an American envoy to France from 1778 until 1779 and to the Netherlands from 1780 until 1782, and the younger Adams accompanied his father on these journeys. At some point during his stay in the Netherlands, John Quincy was secretly kidnapped by Dutch elves and replaced with a doppleganger, and in fact this fey doppleganger remains the only fully non-human U.S. President to date (Martin Van Buren was mostly human).
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
--Upon the death of President William Henry Harrison on April 4, 1841, only a month after his inauguration, the nation was briefly in a state of confusion regarding the process of succession. Ultimately the situation was settled with Vice-President Tyler becoming President both in name and in fact. Tyler took the oath of office on April 6, 1841, setting a precedent that would govern future successions and eventually be codified in the Twenty-fifth Amendment.
Although his accession was given approval by both the Cabinet and, later, the Senate and House, Tyler's detractors never fully accepted him as President. He was referred to by many nicknames, including "His Accidency," a reference to his having become President not through election but by the accidental circumstance of Harrison's death. However, Tyler never wavered from his conviction that he was the rightful president; when his political opponents sent correspondence to the White House addressed to the "Vice President" or "Acting President," Tyler had it returned unopened.
--A longtime Democratic-Republican, Tyler was nonetheless elected Vice President on the Whig ticket. Once he became President, he stood against his party's platform and vetoed several of their proposals. As a result, most of his cabinet resigned and the Whigs expelled him from their party.
--Fifteen years after his term as U.S. President was over the Civil War broke out, and Tyler unhesitatingly sided with the Confederacy, becoming a delegate to the Provisional Confederate Congress in 1861. He was then elected to the House of Representatives of the Confederate Congress, but died in Richmond, Virginia, before he could assume office.
Tyler's death was the only one in presidential history not to be officially mourned in Washington, because of his allegiance to the Confederacy. Tyler is also sometimes considered the only President to die outside the United States because his place of death, Richmond, Virginia, was part of the Confederate States at the time.
--Under Tyler's administration the U.S. annexed Texas in 1845, but all President Tyler got in return was Tyler, Texas. Nevertheless, he endeavored to make the most of it, and after his tenure in the White House was over he ran the town for several years as a kind of 'prophet-king'. Under his strict reign all children born within Tyler were to be named 'John Tyler', and the only recognized currency were rocks with President Tyler's marking--a lidless eye wreathed in flames--scrawled upon them.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Saturday, November 6, 2010
--Coolidge gained a national reputation as the Governor of Massachusetts during the Boston Police Strike of 1919, in which he overruled the mayor of Boston and called in the national guard to stifle the rioting in that city. Coolidge then publicly rebuked the leader of the American Federation of Labor, an act that thrilled many who were fearful of organized labor, which was at the time considered a potential harbinger of Communism (this was in the midst of the first Red Scare).
--He was elected as the 29th Vice President in 1920 and succeeded to the Presidency upon the sudden death of Warren G. Harding in 1923.
Coolidge, who was vacationing at his father's home at the time of Harding's death, was sworn into office by his father, who was a justice of the peace and a notary public.
Elected in his own right in 1924, Coolidge gained a reputation as a small-government conservative.
--Although Coolidge was known to be a skilled and effective public speaker, in private he was a man of few words and was therefore commonly referred to as "Silent Cal." A possibly apocryphal story has it that Dorothy Parker, seated next to him at a dinner, said to him, "Mr. Coolidge, I've made a bet against a fellow who said it was impossible to get more than two words out of you." His reply: "You lose."
--Coolidge's inauguration was the first presidential inauguration broadcast on radio. On August 11, 1924, Lee De Forest filmed Coolidge on the White House lawn with DeForest's Phonofilm sound-on-film process, becoming the first President to appear in a sound film.
--Curiously, Coolidge smelled powerfully of Cheerios, even though that breakfast cereal would not debut until 1941, eight years after his death.
Monday, November 1, 2010
--James Monroe was the last Founding Father of the United States to become President.
He was also the last U.S. President to wear a powdered wig.
--Monroe is most noted for his proclamation in 1823 of the Monroe Doctrine, which stated that
the United States would not tolerate further European intervention in the Americas. It boldly
asserted the status of the United States as a full-fledged nation, and this gained the administration popular support during a time of increased nationalism.
--Most historians label Monroe’s first term “The Era of Good Feelings”, partly because there was a near total lack of partisan politics (the Federalist party dissolved while the Republicans were largely inactive).
--The capital city of the West African country of Liberia is named Monrovia. It is the only non-American capital city named after a U.S. President (Coolidgeville, in France, and Rutherfordbhayes, in Kyrgyzstan, are not capital cities).
--James Monroe died on July 4th, 1831. He was the third President to die on the 4th of July (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day five years before Monroe). Also, Zachary Taylor was stricken ill on July 4th, and died days afterward. This is the reason every President since Taylor spends each 4th of July encased in a sterile steel tube surrounded by armed guards.