|1881||1857-61||James Buchanan||1829-37||Andrew Jackson|
|1974-77||1921-23||Warren Harding||1817-25||James Monroe|
|1901-09||1865-69||Andrew Johnson||1845-49||James Polk|
|1909-13||William Taft||1897-1901||William McKinley||1945-53||Harry Truman|
|1933-45||Franklin Roosevelt||****David Rice Atchison||1789-97||George Washington|
Supreme Court Senators & Representatives Other Politicians
During his few weeks as Vice President, Harry S Truman scarcely
saw President Roosevelt, and received no
briefing on the development of the atomic bomb or the unfolding
difficulties with Soviet Russia. Suddenly these and a host of other
wartime problems became Truman's to solve when, on April 12, 1945,
he became President. He told reporters, "I felt like the moon, the
stars, and all the planets had fallen on me." Truman was born
in Lamar, Missouri, in 1884. He grew up in Independence, and for 12
years prospered as a Missouri farmer. He went to France during World
War I as a captain in the Field Artillery. Returning, he married
Elizabeth Virginia Wallace, and opened a haberdashery in Kansas
City. Active in the Democratic Party, Truman was elected a
judge of the Jackson County Court (an administrative position) in
1922. He became a Senator in 1934. During World War II he headed the
Senate war investigating committee, checking into waste and
corruption and saving perhaps as much as 15 billion dollars. As
President, Truman made some of the most crucial decisions in
history. Soon after V-E Day, the war against Japan had reached its
final stage. An urgent plea to Japan to surrender was rejected.
Truman, after consultations with his advisers, ordered atomic bombs
dropped on cities devoted to war work. Two were Hiroshima and
Nagasaki. Japanese surrender quickly followed. In June 1945
Truman witnessed the signing of the charter of the United Nations,
hopefully established to preserve peace.Thus far, he had followed
his predecessor's policies, but he soon developed his own. He
presented to Congress a 21-point program, proposing the expansion of
Social Security, a full-employment program, a permanent Fair
Employment Practices Act, and public housing and slum clearance. The
program, Truman wrote, "symbolizes for me my assumption of the
office of President in my own right." It became known as the Fair
Deal. Dangers and crises marked the foreign scene as Truman
campaigned successfully in 1948. In foreign affairs he was already
providing his most effective leadership. In 1947 as the Soviet
Union pressured Turkey and, through guerrillas, threatened to take
over Greece, he asked Congress to aid the two countries, enunciating
the program that bears his name--the Truman Doctrine. The Marshall
Plan, named for his Secretary of State, stimulated spectacular
economic recovery in war-torn western Europe. When the Russians
blockaded the western sectors of Berlin in 1948, Truman created a
massive airlift to supply Berliners until the Russians backed down.
Meanwhile, he was negotiating a military alliance to protect Western
nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, established in
1949. In June 1950, when the Communist government of North
Korea attacked South Korea, Truman conferred promptly with his
military advisers. There was, he wrote, "complete, almost unspoken
acceptance on the part of everyone that whatever had to be done to
meet this aggression had to be done. There was no suggestion from
anyone that either the United Nations or the United States could
back away from it." A long, discouraging struggle ensued as U.N.
forces held a line above the old boundary of South Korea. Truman
kept the war a limited one, rather than risk a major conflict with
China and perhaps Russia. Deciding not to run again, he
retired to Independence; at age 88, he died December 26, 1972, after
a stubborn fight for life.
Often referred to as the first "dark horse" President, James K. Polk was the last of the Jacksonians to sit in the White House, and the last strong President until the Civil War. He was born in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, in 1795. Studious and industrious, Polk was graduated with honors in 1818 from the University of North Carolina. As a young lawyer he entered politics, served in the Tennessee legislature, and became a friend of Andrew Jackson. In the House of Representatives, Polk was a chief lieutenant of Jackson in his Bank war. He served as Speaker between 1835 and 1839, leaving to become Governor of Tennessee. Until circumstances raised Polk's ambitions, he was a leading contender for the Democratic nomination for Vice President in 1844. Both Martin Van Buren, who had been expected to win the Democratic nomination for President, and Henry Clay, who was to be the Whig nominee, tried to take the expansionist issue out of the campaign by declaring themselves opposed to the annexation of Texas. Polk, however, publicly asserted that Texas should be "re-annexed" and all of Oregon "re-occupied." The aged Jackson, correctly sensing that the people favored expansion, urged the choice of a candidate committed to the Nation's "Manifest Destiny." This view prevailed at the Democratic Convention, where Polk was nominated on the ninth ballot. "Who is James K. Polk?" Whigs jeered. Democrats replied Polk was the candidate who stood for expansion. He linked the Texas issue, popular in the South, with the Oregon question, attractive to the North. Polk also favored acquiring California. Even before he could take office, Congress passed a joint resolution offering annexation to Texas. In so doing they bequeathed Polk the possibility of war with Mexico, which soon severed diplomatic relations. In his stand on Oregon, the President seemed to be risking war with Great Britain also. The 1844 Democratic platform claimed the entire Oregon area, from the California boundary northward to a latitude of 54'40', the southern boundary of Russian Alaska. Extremists proclaimed "Fifty-four forty or fight," but Polk, aware of diplomatic realities, knew that no course short of war was likely to get all of Oregon. Happily, neither he nor the British wanted a war. He offered to settle by extending the Canadian boundary, along the 49th parallel, from the Rockies to the Pacific. When the British minister declined, Polk reasserted the American claim to the entire area. Finally, the British settled for the 49th parallel, except for the southern tip of Vancouver Island. The treaty was signed in 1846. Acquisition of California proved far more difficult. Polk sent an envoy to offer Mexico up to $20,000,000, plus settlement of damage claims owed to Americans, in return for California and the New Mexico country. Since no Mexican leader could cede half his country and still stay in power, Polk's envoy was not received. To bring pressure, Polk sent Gen. Zachary Taylor to the disputed area on the Rio Grande. To Mexican troops this was aggression, and they attacked Taylor's forces. Congress declared war and, despite much Northern opposition, supported the military operations. American forces won repeated victories and occupied Mexico City. Finally, in 1848, Mexico ceded New Mexico and California in return for $15,000,000 and American assumption of the damage claims. President Polk added a vast area to the United States, but its acquisition precipitated a bitter quarrel between the North and the South over expansion of slavery. Polk, leaving office with his health undermined from hard work, died in June 1849.
On New Year's Day, 1825, at the last of his annual White House
receptions, President James Monroe made a pleasing
impression upon a Virginia lady who shook his hand: "He is tall and well formed. His dress plain and in the old
style.... His manner was quiet and dignified. From the frank, honest
expression of his eye ... I think he well deserves the encomium
passed upon him by the great Jefferson, who said, 'Monroe was so
honest that if you turned his soul inside out there would not be a
spot on it.' " Born in Westmoreland County, Virginia, in 1758,
Monroe attended the College of William and Mary, fought with
distinction in the Continental Army, and practiced law in
More nearly than any of his predecessors, Andrew Jackson was elected by popular vote; as President he sought to act as the direct representative of the common man. Born in a backwoods settlement in the Carolinas in 1767, he received sporadic education. But in his late teens he read law for about two years, and he became an outstanding young lawyer in Tennessee. Fiercely jealous of his honor, he engaged in brawls, and in a duel killed a man who cast an unjustified slur on his wife Rachel. Jackson prospered sufficiently to buy slaves and to build a mansion, the Hermitage, near Nashville. He was the first man elected from Tennessee to the House of Representatives, and he served briefly in the Senate. A major general in the War of 1812, Jackson became a national hero when he defeated the British at New Orleans. In 1824 some state political factions rallied around Jackson; by 1828 enough had joined "Old Hickory" to win numerous state elections and control of the Federal administration in Washington. In his first Annual Message to Congress, Jackson recommended eliminating the Electoral College. He also tried to democratize Federal officeholding. Already state machines were being built on patronage, and a New York Senator openly proclaimed "that to the victors belong the spoils. . . . " Jackson took a milder view. Decrying officeholders who seemed to enjoy life tenure, he believed Government duties could be "so plain and simple" that offices should rotate among deserving applicants. As national politics polarized around Jackson and his opposition, two parties grew out of the old Republican Party--the Democratic Republicans, or Democrats, adhering to Jackson; and the National Republicans, or Whigs, opposing him. Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and other Whig leaders proclaimed themselves defenders of popular liberties against the usurpation of Jackson. Hostile cartoonists portrayed him as King Andrew I. Behind their accusations lay the fact that Jackson, unlike previous Presidents, did not defer to Congress in policy-making but used his power of the veto and his party leadership to assume command. The greatest party battle centered around the Second Bank of the United States, a private corporation but virtually a Government-sponsored monopoly. When Jackson appeared hostile toward it, the Bank threw its power against him. Clay and Webster, who had acted as attorneys for the Bank, led the fight for its recharter in Congress. "The bank," Jackson told Martin Van Buren, "is trying to kill me, but I will kill it!" Jackson, in vetoing the recharter bill, charged the Bank with undue economic privilege. His views won approval from the American electorate; in 1832 he polled more than 56 percent of the popular vote and almost five times as many electoral votes as Clay. Jackson met head-on the challenge of John C. Calhoun, leader of forces trying to rid themselves of a high protective tariff. When South Carolina undertook to nullify the tariff, Jackson ordered armed forces to Charleston and privately threatened to hang Calhoun. Violence seemed imminent until Clay negotiated a compromise: tariffs were lowered and South Carolina dropped nullification. In January of 1832, while the President was dining with friends at the White House, someone whispered to him that the Senate had rejected the nomination of Martin Van Buren as Minister to England. Jackson jumped to his feet and exclaimed, "By the Eternal! I'll smash them!" So he did. His favorite, Van Buren, became Vice President, and succeeded to the Presidency when "Old Hickory" retired to the Hermitage, where he died in June 1845.
At the 1896 Republican Convention, in time of depression, the wealthy Cleveland businessman Marcus Alonzo Hanna ensured the nomination of his friend William McKinley as "the advance agent of prosperity." The Democrats, advocating the "free and unlimited coinage of both silver and gold"--which would have mildly inflated the currency--nominated William Jennings Bryan. While Hanna used large contributions from eastern Republicans frightened by Bryan's views on silver, McKinley met delegations on his front porch in Canton, Ohio. He won by the largest majority of popular votes since 1872. Born in Niles, Ohio, in 1843, McKinley briefly attended Allegheny College, and was teaching in a country school when the Civil War broke out. Enlisting as a private in the Union Army, he was mustered out at the end of the war as a brevet major of volunteers. He studied law, opened an office in Canton, Ohio, and married Ida Saxton, daughter of a local banker. At 34, McKinley won a seat in Congress. His attractive personality, exemplary character, and quick intelligence enabled him to rise rapidly. He was appointed to the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Robert M. La Follette, Sr., who served with him, recalled that he generally "represented the newer view," and "on the great new questions .. was generally on the side of the public and against private interests." During his 14 years in the House, he became the leading Republican tariff expert, giving his name to the measure enacted in 1890. The next year he was elected Governor of Ohio, serving two terms. When McKinley became President, the depression of 1893 had almost run its course and with it the extreme agitation over silver. Deferring action on the money question, he called Congress into special session to enact the highest tariff in history. In the friendly atmosphere of the McKinley Administration, industrial combinations developed at an unprecedented pace. Newspapers caricatured McKinley as a little boy led around by "Nursie" Hanna, the representative of the trusts. However, McKinley was not dominated by Hanna; he condemned the trusts as "dangerous conspiracies against the public good." Not prosperity, but foreign policy, dominated McKinley's Administration. Reporting the stalemate between Spanish forces and revolutionaries in Cuba, newspapers screamed that a quarter of the population was dead and the rest suffering acutely. Public indignation brought pressure upon the President for war. Unable to restrain Congress or the American people, McKinley delivered his message of neutral intervention in April 1898. Congress thereupon voted three resolutions tantamount to a declaration of war for the liberation and independence of Cuba. In the 100-day war, the United States destroyed the Spanish fleet outside Santiago harbor in Cuba, seized Manila in the Philippines, and occupied Puerto Rico. "Uncle Joe" Cannon, later Speaker of the House, once said that McKinley kept his ear so close to the ground that it was full of grasshoppers. When McKinley was undecided what to do about Spanish possessions other than Cuba, he toured the country and detected an imperialist sentiment. Thus the United States annexed the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. In 1900, McKinley again campaigned against Bryan. While Bryan inveighed against imperialism, McKinley quietly stood for "the full dinner pail." His second term, which had begun auspiciously, came to a tragic end in September 1901. He was standing in a receiving line at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition when a deranged anarchist shot him twice. He died eight days later.
was born on Dec. 29, 1808, in Raleigh, N. C., the younger of two
sons. His father was a porter who died in 1811 after saving a man
from drowning. His mother supported the family by spinning and
weaving cloth in their Raleigh cottage. At the age of 14, Johnson
was apprenticed to a tailor. Already showing signs of the ambition that drove him all his life,
Johnson learned the basics of reading and writing from the foreman
of his shop and trained himself as a public speaker. By the time he
was 16, Johnson was restless and dissatisfied with the limits his
apprenticeship placed on his life. In 1827 he moved with his family,
finally settling in Greeneville, in the eastern Tennessee hill
country, where he opened his own tailor shop. In the same year he
married Eliza McCardle, who furthered his education and helped him
prosper in his business. In Greeneville, Johnson's personal
magnetism, native ability, and powerful will made him a leader of
the town's younger skilled artisans. In the social ferment of the
late 1820's and early 1830's, when Andrew Jackson and his advisers
both capitalized on and promoted a new spirit of egalitarianism,
Johnson and his friends were inspired to try to replace the town's
traditional political leaders. In 1829, Johnson and several other
artisans were elected to the Greeneville town council, and in 1831
he was elected mayor. Attracted by the anti-aristocratic rhetoric of
Jackson and his political intimates, Johnson and his friends allied
with hundreds of likeminded budding political organizations to form
the new Democratic Party. The spirit of democracy meshed well with Johnson's own resentments
and ambitions. Poor in his youth and still a tailor without
pretensions of social rank, he stressed the egalitarian,
anti-aristocratic strain of Jacksonian democracy, as well as its
distrust of government at all levels. An active, powerful
government, insisted Johnson and other radical Jacksonians, was
subject to manipulationby the rich and powerful. He maintained that
the Constitution should be construed strictly and opposed national
government encroachments on "states' rights." But unlike many
Democrats, he urged that similar principles be applied to the state
governments. This led him into conflict with the western Tennessee
Democratic leaders--slaveholders who dominated the party.
Johnson was elected to the state legislature in 1835, 1839, and
1841, and to the U.S. Congress in 1843. He expressed his
constitutional principles by voting consistently against the tariff,
internal improvements, higher salaries for government employees, or
any other "extravagance." Gerrymandered out of Congress in 1852 by a
Whig legislature, he won the Democratic nomination for governor in
1853, finally gaining control of the party from his Tennessee
opponents. He barely defeated the Whig candidate and served two
terms from 1853 to 1857, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Although Johnson himself owned a few slaves and loyally defended
slavery and "states' rights," his relations with proslavery
Democratic leaders were strained. Within the framework of Tennessee
state politics, Johnson was the spokesman of the nonslaveholding
interests of the state. In the Senate his most treasured proposal
was the Homestead Bill, a measure that would have given 160 acres
(65 ha) of western land to anyone who would settle on and cultivate
it for five years. Such a program would have precluded the large
plantations associated with slavery. Southern congressmen opposed it
bitterly, while the new, antislavery Republican party of the North
favored it. These tensions were exacerbated in 1860, when Johnson cooperated
with Tennessee Democrats who favored Stephen A. Douglas for the
presidency. Douglas had alienated most Southern Democrats by
refusing to endorse their right to take slaves anywhere in the
western territories. But Johnson himself had slight commitment to
the expansion of slavery there, and he hoped that he would get
Douglas's support as a compromise presidential candidate if he and
his enemies fought to a stalemate. When the struggle led to the
division of the Democratic party, Johnson supported the pro-Southern
nominee, John C. Breckinridge. His dalliance with Douglas, however,
had already injured him with most Southern Democrats.
Johnson's association with the Democrats ended completely when he
worked to prevent Tennessee from joining the secession movement
after Lincoln's election in 1860. Allying with pro-Union Whigs, for
several months he fought old Democratic enemies to a standstill. But
when war came, western and central Tennessee voted overwhelmingly to
join the South. Only eastern Tennessee held out, and Johnson with
it--the only Southern senator to refuse to go with his state.
Johnson's position, which forced him and his family to flee
Tennessee, made him a hero in the North. In Congress he came into
close contact with Republicans and prowar Democrats, now cooperating
in the so-called Union party. When Union forces gained control of
central Tennessee in 1862, Lincoln appointed Johnson military
governor.Lincoln hoped that Johnson would be able to create a new civilian
government loyal to the Union, but the attempt met with scant
success. The few Unionists were badly divided between those who
hoped to retain slavery and conciliate pro-Confederates and those
who wished to abolish slavery and punish traitors. Johnson took a
position in between. While he urged bold steps to restore civil
government, both groups held back, convinced that most Tennesseans
would not cooperate until Confederate troops still in the state were
crushed, which did not occur until December 1864. Within three
months Tennesseans held a convention, framed a new state
constitution, and elected a new governor and congressman.
Warren Harding was born in Corsica, Ohio, on November 2, 1865, He
attended Ohio Central College, studied
law, and became editor and publisher of the Marion Star, a country
newspaper in Marion, Ohio. He married Florence Kling DeWolfe in
1891, who was considered a major force in his rise to national
prominence. Harding entered politics as a dependent of Republican
Senator Joseph Foraker and served in the Ohio Senate and as
lieutenant governor of the state. He was elected to the U.S. Senate
in 1914 but resigned from it in 1920 after winning a landslide
election over Woodrow Wilson as the Republican candidate for
president. At the time of his nomination, and for years afterward,
he was widely regarded as having been the choice of the party
machine bosses, but a more recent study has shown that Harding
simply was the party's most logical and available nominee.
James Buchanan, the 15th PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
(1857-1861), served during the beginning
of the secession crisis that led to the Civil War. Of Scottish-Irish
descent, he was born on Apr. 23, 1791, in Cove Gap, near
Mercersburg, Pa., the son of James Buchanan, a prosperous
storekeeper, and his wife, Elizabeth Speer.
Young James received an academy education and attended Dickinson
College, Carlisle, Pa., graduating in 1809. He then studied law in
Lancaster, where he began practice in 1813. Although a FEDERALIST in
political sympathies, he supported the prosecution of the War of
1812 and participated as a volunteer in the defense of Baltimore.
After serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
(1814-16), Buchanan devoted attention to his law practice, which
soon prospered. In 1819 he became engaged to Ann Coleman, daughter
of a wealthy Lancaster iron manufacturer, but as a result of a
misunderstanding the engagement was ended. Her sudden death shortly
thereafter left Buchanan desolate. He never married.
In 1820, Buchanan was elected to the U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
With the collapse of the Federalist party, he supported Andrew
JACKSON for the presidency. In the late 1820s he emerged as the
leader of the Amalgamation party, the dominant faction of
Pennsylvania Jacksonians. Buchanan retired from CONGRESS in 1831 but later that year accepted
Jackson's offer of the ministry to Russia. He remained at St.
Petersburg from 1832 to 1834, where he concluded a commercial
treaty. Shortly after his return he was elected to the U.S. SENATE,
where he served from 1834 to 1845. Mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 1844, Buchanan
became (1845) secretary of state in the cabinet of President James
K. POLK. Although Polk personally directed the formulation of
foreign policy, Buchanan worked diligently in matters relating to
the consummation of the annexation (1845) of Texas, the settlement
of theOregon Question, and the Mexican War. He retired from office
at the end of the Polk administration in 1849. Buchanan was a
serious contender for the DEMOCRATIC nomination in 1852 but lost to
Franklin PIERCE, who named him minister to Great Britain. His
mission in London (1853-56) accomplished little but benefited him
politically, for he remained aloof from the controversy over the
Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854).
Distinguished jurist, effective administrator, but poor politician, William Howard Taft spent four uncomfortable years in the White House. Large, jovial, conscientious, he was caught in the intense battles between Progressives and conservatives, and got scant credit for the achievements of his administration. Born in 1857, the son of a distinguished judge, he was graduated from Yale, and returned to Cincinnati to study and practice law. He rose in politics through Republican judiciary appointments, through his own competence and availability, and because, as he once wrote facetiously, he always had his "plate the right side up when offices were falling." But Taft much preferred law to politics. He was appointed a Federal circuit judge at 34. He aspired to be a member of the Supreme Court, but his wife, Helen Herron Taft, held other ambitions for him. His route to the White House was via administrative posts. President McKinley sent him to the Philippines in 1900 as chief civil administrator. Sympathetic toward the Filipinos, he improved the economy, built roads and schools, and gave the people at least some participation in government. President Roosevelt made him Secretary of War, and by 1907 had decided that Taft should be his successor. The Republican Convention nominated him the next year. Taft disliked the campaign--"one of the most uncomfortable four months of my life." But he pledged his loyalty to the Roosevelt program, popular in the West, while his brother Charles reassured eastern Republicans. William Jennings Bryan, running on the Democratic ticket for a third time, complained that he was having to oppose two candidates, a western progressive Taft and an eastern conservative Taft. Progressives were pleased with Taft's election. "Roosevelt has cut enough hay," they said; "Taft is the man to put it into the barn." Conservatives were delighted to be rid of Roosevelt--the "mad messiah." Taft recognized that his techniques would differ from those of his predecessor. Unlike Roosevelt, Taft did not believe in the stretching of Presidential powers. He once commented that Roosevelt "ought more often to have admitted the legal way of reaching the same ends." Taft alienated many liberal Republicans who later formed the Progressive Party, by defending the Payne-Aldrich Act which unexpectedly continued high tariff rates. A trade agreement with Canada, which Taft pushed through Congress, would have pleased eastern advocates of a low tariff, but the Canadians rejected it. He further antagonized Progressives by upholding his Secretary of the Interior, accused of failing to carry out Roosevelt's conservation policies. In the angry Progressive onslaught against him, little attention was paid to the fact that his administration initiated 80 antitrust suits and that Congress submitted to the states amendments for a Federal income tax and the direct election of Senators. A postal savings system was established, and the Interstate Commerce Commission was directed to set railroad rates. In 1912, when the Republicans renominated Taft, Roosevelt bolted the party to lead the Progressives, thus guaranteeing the election of Woodrow Wilson. Taft, free of the Presidency, served as Professor of Law at Yale until President Harding made him Chief Justice of the United States, a position he held until just before his death in 1930. To Taft, the appointment was his greatest honor; he wrote: "I don't remember that I ever was President."
Gerald Rudolph Ford, the 38th President of the United States, was
born Leslie Lynch King, Jr., the son of Leslie Lynch King
and Dorothy Ayer Gardner King, on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska. His
parents separated two weeks after his birth and his mother took him to
Grand Rapids, Michigan to live with her parents. On February 1, 1916,
approximately two years after her divorce was final, Dorothy King
married Gerald R. Ford, a Grand Rapids paint salesman. The Fords began
calling her son Gerald R. Ford, Jr., although his name was not legally
changed until December 3, 1935. He did not know until 1930 that Gerald
Ford, Sr., was not his biological father. The future president grew up
in a close- knit family which included three younger half-brothers,
Thomas, Richard, and James. Ford attended South High School in Grand Rapids, where he excelled
scholastically and athletically, being named to the honor society and
the "All-City" and "All-State" football teams. He was also active in
scouting, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout in November 1927. He earned
spending money by working in the family paint business and at a local
restaurant. From 1931 to 1935 Ford attended The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor,
where he majored in economics and political science. He held various
part-time jobs to supplement his scholarship. A gifted athlete, Ford
played on the University's national championship football teams in 1932
and 1933. He was voted the Wolverine's most valuable player in 1934 and
was chosen for the East team in the annual East-West Shrine Game in San
Francisco. He graduated with a B.A. degree in June 1935. In August 1935
he played in the College All-Star football game against the Chicago
Bears. He received offers from two professional football teams, the Detroit
Lions and the Green Bay Packers, but chose instead to take a position as
boxing coach and assistant varsity football coach at Yale hoping to
attend law school there. Yale officials denied him admission, because of
his full-time coaching responsibilities, until the spring of 1938 when
he did enter law school. Among those he coached were Robert Taft, Jr.
and William Proxmire. Ford earned his LL.B. degree in 1941, graduating
in the top 25 percent of his class in spite of the time he had to devote
to his coaching duties. His introduction to politics came in the summer
of 1940 when he worked in Wendell Willkie's presidential campaign.
After returning to Michigan and passing his bar exam, Ford and a U of M
fraternity brother, Philip A. Buchen (who later served on Ford's White
House staff as Counsel to the President), set up a law partnership in
Grand Rapids. He also taught a course in business law at the University
of Grand Rapids and served as line coach for the school's football team.
He had just become active in a group of reform-minded Republicans in
Grand Rapids, calling themselves the Home Front, who were interested in
challenging the hold of local political boss Frank McKay, when the
United States entered World War II.
As the last of the log cabin Presidents, James A. Garfield attacked
political corruption and won back for the Presidency a
measure of prestige it had lost during the Reconstruction period.
He was born in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, in 1831. Fatherless at two, he
later drove canal boat teams, somehow earning enough money for an
education. He was graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts in
1856, and he returned to the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (later
Hiram College) in Ohio as a classics professor. Within a year he was
made its president.
Garfield was elected to the Ohio Senate in 1859 as a Republican. During
the secession crisis, he advocated coercing the seceding states back
into the Union.
In 1862, when Union military victories had been few, he successfully led
a brigade at Middle Creek, Kentucky, against Confederate troops. At 31,
Garfield became a brigadier general, two years later a major general of
Meanwhile, in 1862, Ohioans elected him to Congress. President Lincoln
persuaded him to resign his commission: It was easier to find major
generals than to obtain effective Republicans for Congress. Garfield
repeatedly won re-election for 18 years, and became the leading
Republican in the House.
At the 1880 Republican Convention, Garfield failed to win the
Presidential nomination for his friend John Sherman. Finally, on the
36th ballot, Garfield himself became the "dark horse" nominee.
By a margin of only 10,000 popular votes, Garfield defeated the
Democratic nominee, Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock.
As President, Garfield strengthened Federal authority over the New York
Customs House, stronghold of Senator Roscoe Conkling, who was leader of
the Stalwart Republicans and dispenser of patronage in New York. When
Garfield submitted to the Senate a list of appointments including many
of Conkling's friends, he named Conkling's arch-rival William H.
Robertson to run the Customs House. Conkling contested the nomination,
tried to persuade the Senate to block it, and appealed to the Republican
caucus to compel its withdrawal.
With the assassination of President McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, not quite 43, became the youngest President in the Nation's history. He brought new excitement and power to the Presidency, as he vigorously led Congress and the American public toward progressive reforms and a strong foreign policy. He took the view that the President as a "steward of the people" should take whatever action necessary for the public good unless expressly forbidden by law or the Constitution." I did not usurp power," he wrote, "but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power." Roosevelt's youth differed sharply from that of the log cabin Presidents. He was born in New York City in 1858 into a wealthy family, but he too struggled--against ill health--and in his triumph became an advocate of the strenuous life. In 1884 his first wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt, and his mother died on the same day. Roosevelt spent much of the next two years on his ranch in the Badlands of Dakota Territory. There he mastered his sorrow as he lived in the saddle, driving cattle, hunting big game--he even captured an outlaw. On a visit to London, he married Edith Carow in December 1886. During the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt was lieutenant colonel of the Rough Rider Regiment, which he led on a charge at the battle of San Juan. He was one of the most conspicuous heroes of the war. Boss Tom Platt, needing a hero to draw attention away from scandals in New York State, accepted Roosevelt as the Republican candidate for Governor in 1898. Roosevelt won and served with distinction. As President, Roosevelt held the ideal that the Government should be the great arbiter of the conflicting economic forces in the Nation, especially between capital and labor, guaranteeing justice to each and dispensing favors to none. Roosevelt emerged spectacularly as a "trust buster" by forcing the dissolution of a great railroad combination in the Northwest. Other antitrust suits under the Sherman Act followed. Roosevelt steered the United States more actively into world politics. He liked to quote a favorite proverb, "Speak softly and carry a big stick. . . . " Aware of the strategic need for a shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific, Roosevelt ensured the construction of the Panama Canal. His corollary to the Monroe Doctrine prevented the establishment of foreign bases in the Caribbean and arrogated the sole right of intervention in Latin America to the United States. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating the Russo-Japanese War, reached a Gentleman's Agreement on immigration with Japan, and sent the Great White Fleet on a goodwill tour of the world. Some of Theodore Roosevelt's most effective achievements were in conservation. He added enormously to the national forests in the West, reserved lands for public use, and fostered great irrigation projects. He crusaded endlessly on matters big and small, exciting audiences with his high-pitched voice, jutting jaw, and pounding fist. "The life of strenuous endeavor" was a must for those around him, as he romped with his five younger children and led ambassadors on hikes through Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. Leaving the Presidency in 1909, Roosevelt went on an African safari, then jumped back into politics. In 1912 he ran for President on a Progressive ticket. To reporters he once remarked that he felt as fit as a bull moose, the name of his new party. While campaigning in Milwaukee, he was shot in the chest by a fanatic. Roosevelt soon recovered, but his words at that time would have been applicable at the time of his death in 1919: "No man has had a happier life than I have led; a happier life in every way."
Assuming the Presidency at the depth of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt helped the American people regain faith in themselves. He brought hope as he promised prompt, vigorous action, and asserted in his Inaugural Address, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Born in 1882 at Hyde Park, New York--now a national historic site--he attended Harvard University and Columbia Law School. On St. Patrick's Day, 1905, he married Eleanor Roosevelt. Following the example of his fifth cousin, President Theodore Roosevelt, whom he greatly admired, Franklin D. Roosevelt entered public service through politics, but as a Democrat. He won election to the New York Senate in 1910. President Wilson appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and he was the Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1920. In the summer of 1921, when he was 39, disaster hit-h-e was stricken with poliomyelitis. Demonstrating indomitable courage, he fought to regain the use of his legs, particularly through swimming. At the 1924 Democratic Convention he dramatically appeared on crutches to nominate Alfred E. Smith as "the Happy Warrior." In 1928 Roosevelt became Governor of New York. He was elected President in November 1932, to the first of four terms. By March there were 13,000,000 unemployed, and almost every bank was closed. In his first "hundred days," he proposed, and Congress enacted, a sweeping program to bring recovery to business and agriculture, relief to the unemployed and to those in danger of losing farms and homes, and reform, especially through the establishment of the Tennessee Valley Authority. By 1935 the Nation had achieved some measure of recovery, but businessmen and bankers were turning more and more against Roosevelt's New Deal program. They feared his experiments, were appalled because he had taken the Nation off the gold standard and allowed deficits in the budget, and disliked the concessions to labor. Roosevelt responded with a new program of reform: Social Security, heavier taxes on the wealthy, new controls over banks and public utilities, and an enormous work relief program for the unemployed. In 1936 he was re-elected by a top-heavy margin. Feeling he was armed with a popular mandate, he sought legislation to enlarge the Supreme Court, which had been invalidating key New Deal measures. Roosevelt lost the Supreme Court battle, but a revolution in constitutional law took place. Thereafter the Government could legally regulate the economy. Roosevelt had pledged the United States to the "good neighbor" policy, transforming the Monroe Doctrine from a unilateral American manifesto into arrangements for mutual action against aggressors. He also sought through neutrality legislation to keep the United States out of the war in Europe, yet at the same time to strengthen nations threatened or attacked. When France fell and England came under siege in 1940, he began to send Great Britain all possible aid short of actual military involvement. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt directed organization of the Nation's manpower and resources for global war. Feeling that the future peace of the world would depend upon relations between the United States and Russia, he devoted much thought to the planning of a United Nations, in which, he hoped, international difficulties could be settled. As the war drew to a close, Roosevelt's health deteriorated, and on April 12, 1945, while at Warm Springs, Georgia, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage.
On April 30, 1789, George Washington, standing on the balcony of
Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York, took his oath
of office as the first President of the United States. "As the first of
every thing, in our situation will serve to establish a
Precedent," he wrote James Madison, "it is devoutly wished on my part,
that these precedents may be fixed on true principles."
Born in 1732 into a Virginia planter family, he learned the morals,
manners, and body of knowledge requisite for an 18th century Virginia
He pursued two intertwined interests: military arts and western
expansion. At 16 he helped survey Shenandoah lands for Thomas, Lord
Fairfax. Commissioned a lieutenant colonel in 1754, he fought the first
skirmishes of what grew into the French and Indian War. The next year,
as an aide to Gen. Edward Braddock, he escaped injury although four
bullets ripped his coat and two horses were shot from under him.
From 1759 to the outbreak of the American Revolution, Washington managed
his lands around Mount Vernon and served in the Virginia House of
Burgesses. Married to a widow, Martha Dandridge Custis, he devoted
himself to a busy and happy life. But like his fellow planters,
Washington felt himself exploited by British merchants and hampered by
British regulations. As the quarrel with the mother country grew acute,
he moderately but firmly voiced his resistance to the restrictions.
When the Second Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia in May
1775, Washington, one of the Virginia delegates, was elected Commander
in Chief of the Continental Army. On July 3, 1775, at Cambridge,
Massachusetts, he took command of his ill-trained troops and embarked
upon a war that was to last six grueling years.
David Rice Atchinson
Within the courthouse of Plattsburg, Missouri, there is a statue bearing the inscription, "David Rice Atchison, 1807-1886, President of the United States for One Day." The circumstances were the transition of office from President James Polk to Zachary Taylor. According to the law at that time, President Polk stepped down as President on Sunday, March 4, 1849. Zachary Taylor was a deeply religious man and refused to be inaugurated on a Sunday. Thus, according to ascension laws, the office falls to Vice President George M. Dallas, However, his term also ended on March 4. Thus the Presidential line then falls to the President Pro Tem of the Senate, who was Brother David Rice Atchison. The problem was debated in the Congress for several hours, and it was agreed that Brother Atchison, although never inaugurated, was legally and by the Constitution, President of the United States from noon on March 4, 1849, until noon on March 5, 1849.
Brother Atchison was a member of Platte Lodge No 56, in Platte City, Missouri.
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