Thursday, February 14, 2008

President's Day Weekend Special Number

In celebration of the Presidents' Day Weekend holiday,

Michael5000 Salutes the Obscure Presidents!

...I mean, haven't you always wondered? I did a little research, leaning heavily on the Wikipedia. If you happen to have any actual knowledge about any of these guys, please share!

John Tyler (1841-45) - A Vice-President who was promoted in the field when President William Henry Harrison kicked the bucket one month into his term. Tyler was on watch when Texas was annexed to the United States and when Florida became a state. An advocate of states' rights and the separation of church and state, Tyler was quick with a veto and slow to use Federal force when patience and negotiation could yield better results. By all accounts a very nice guy, although his slaves might have had something to say about this, if anyone had asked.

Zachary Taylor (1849-50) - A career army officer who got talked into running for President as a Whig, despite a conspicuous lack of any political experience on his resume. Only after the inauguration did the Whig leadership catch on that Taylor disagreed with almost their entire platform. Despite being a Southern slaveholder, Taylor was against the expansion of slavery. So, pretty much everybody was mad at this guy. Just when things were getting interesting, he died of cholera, or heatstroke, or something, during the second year of his term.

Millard Fillmore (1850-53) - Succeeding Taylor was his Vice-President, Millard Fillmore, who had been placed in that role mostly just to make sure a New York state party boss named Weed didn't get the job. Where Taylor had been a slaveowner determined to restrict the spread of slavery, Fillmore detested the practice but was determined to give it its full Constitutional protection. His great achievement, in fact, was coming up with a comprehensive solution to the slavery issue. It lasted for several months.

Franklin Pierce (1853-57) - Pierce, a good attorney but a rotten President, undid whatever Fillmore had accomplished by engineering the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed the spread of slavery into the territories. A New Hampshire attorney with Southern sympathies, Pierce proved to be easily led and easily overwhelmed. His successor James Buchanan is famous for greasing the skids as the country slid towards civil war, but Pierce set in motion many of the problems that Buchanan would fail to confront. Not nominated by his party for a second term, Pierce was later exposed as a Confederate sympathizer and was a highly unpopular figure as he gradually drank himself to death.

Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-81) - A compromise candidate, Hayes lost the popular vote but was appointed by a Congressional commission after voting irregularities in Florida, among other places, threw the electoral vote into uncertainty. The deal-making that accompanied his appointment forced him to gut the civil rights legislation of Reconstruction, although to his credit he tried to preserve the rights of former slaves as much as was politically possible. He pleased no one at all by siccing federal troops on striking railroad workers in 1877. Other than that, he has a low historical profile because he happened to sit a quiet watch.

Chester A. Arthur (1881-85) - Rising to the Presidency after the assassination of James Garfield, Arthur was a longtime player of the game of political patronage who, once responsible for governing the country, became an advocate of civil service reform. He did much to lower the level of corruption in the country's political institutions. Like Hayes, he is obscure because he served during a relatively uneventful period. It probably didn't seem uneventful at the time.

Benjamin Harrison (1889-93) - Tariffs, anti-trust legislation, whether or not to annex Hawaii.... the big national political issues of the late Nineteenth Century are a great cure for insomnia. After winning a notoriously crooked election, Harrison appears to have done his honorable best to guide the ship of state, and his best seems to have been neither outstanding nor especially shabby.

No, no, it's not a quiz. They're all accurate. At least, I think they are.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. 5000,

First off Happy V-Day! and thanks for posting my heart-ripper on your blog ..he doesn't get out much.

I knew nothing about U.S. presidents so I made an activity ages ago for both me and the cyber kiddies out there:

Yes, more shameless self-promotion.

Enjoy! :-)

Cartophiliac said...

My friend has a hobby... he has visited the gravesite of nearly every dead president (only 5 to go...)

Rebel said...

Harrison should get an award for "looks most like Santa Clause"

Rebel said...



Michael5000 said...

@Professor M: Excellent Presidential Linkage! Followers of the link will also be able to find your map exercises, of which I am quite fond.

@Carto: Your friend is a loon. In a very good way. I loves me some arbitrary travel projects.

I like his "rate the dead Presidents" page too, in concept, although in practice it seems to have been coopted by the nutjobs.

@rebel: Excellent point! A right jolly old elf!

Arthur gets the nod for "looks most like a walrus."

In my researches, I noticed that the girl grad students sometimes rank Pierce as the "hottest" American President, so his service was not entirely in vain.

Rebel said...

I don't know... I think Eisenhower's pretty hot... gotta love a man in uniform!

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

Chester A. Arthur has some really unique facial hair. I've never seen anything quite like it. Also, he kind of has a Mr. Belvedere thing going, which is, of course, very endearing.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

Mike, you're on the blogroll. I will now be assured to become smarter, just from failing your quizes.

zane said...

Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew soldiers from the South. The promise to do so helped get him the nomination. His wife,Lucy Ware Webb Hayes, was known as Lemonade Lucy. She would not allow alcoholic beverages in the White House.

Pierce may have been handsome, but his life was tragic. His only surviving child was killed in a train accident at the age of 11 years. His wife, Jane Means Appleton Pierce, considered it an act of God, who didn't want the boy to interfere with Pierce's duty as President. She was ill during Pierce's term and died rather young.

John Tyler was the first Vice President to become President due to death. He followed William Henry Harrison, who served less than a month before succumbing to pnuemonia. John Tyler fathered the most children of any president. His first wife Leticia Christian Tyler had 8 children. His second much younger wife, Julia Gardiner had 7. William Henry Harrison, the man who preceded him, had the most children by one wife, 10. Rutherford and Lucy Hayes had 8.
John Tyler sided with the Confederacy and was viewed in the North as a traitor.

Benjamin Harrison ran for President three times, losing twice. He was the 23rd president. Grover Cleveland, the only president to serve split terms, was the 22nd and 24th president.
He was the only grandson of a president to ever be elected. His grandfather was William Henry Harrison. He was married twice. His much younger second wife was the neice of his first wife. His second marriage was something of a scandal and he became estranged from his children.

Fillmore was also married twice.

I am sure you can find all this. I am a history major but teaching doesn't pay enough. That's why I changed professions.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyable. I cannot remember his name but there was a technicality president for only 24 hours (maybe less). Maybe he was the place holder for W. H. Harrison's successor? I will have to investigate!