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Presidential Tidbits

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Tomorrow our 46th president and 49th vice president will be inaugurated. Here are some tidbits I found interesting and are sharing. These are not necessarily about inaugurations.

George Washington

I posted a blog about the beginning of his presidency. See link at the end of this blog and also my previous blog last week.

John Adams

The first vice president and assumed his position on April 21, 1789, as presiding officer of the Senate but was officially sworn in on June 3, 1789. Before the inauguration, Adams obsessed over what Washington should be called including “His Excellency.” Now put yourself in Washington’s mindset. He was elected to a first-ever position with no instruction book, or in today’s terminology, no documentation. He had to be apprehensive, nervous and knew that whatever he did would create a precedent and template for future generations; plus he had to deal with the different political factions in the nation, making the 12 states [Rhode Island ratified the Constitution a year later] accept the Constitution they signed, conquering the national debt, raising revenue, establishing an armed service among many other really big picture issues. While he had those thoughts and insecurities his #2 was obsessing on way the president should be addressed wanting to equate the position to the royalty Washington put everything he had at risk to fight against. That caused Washington to leave Adams out of the inner circle Washington established to advise him relegating the office of the vice president to relative obscurity. This position pretty much remained that way until maybe Reagan but certainly Clinton gave their vice presidents some real responsibilities.

John Tyler

The first vice president that assumed office when the president died. His actions created the precedent that the vice president becomes president. His enemies, which were many, referred to him as “His Accidency.” Later on he became a traitor by agreeing to be elected to the Confederate Congress. He died before he took his seat.

Zachary Taylor

A slave owner and as president had a mixed position on slavery. His son fought for the South in the Civil War. Martin Van Buren (8th President and a founder of the Democratic party) ran against him as the Free Soil party candidate with an anti-slavery platform and with John Quincy Adams’ son, Charles F. Adams running as his vice president. They received 10% of the popular vote and no electoral votes. Taylor won as a Whig.

Franklin Pierce

He started his term with the tragic death of his son two months after his inauguration. I never thought about him much until we visited his place of birth and home in New Hampshire where we were told about some of his accomplishments. A suggestion is to visit presidential homes and libraries at destinations when you are traveling. As an FYI he was friends with Nathanial Hawthorne, Washington Irving and Jefferson Davis (Pierce was proslavery and very bigoted). Pierce was nominated at the Democratic convention on the 48th ballot and ran against his former commanding officer General Winfield Scott. His vice president William Rufus King did not attend Pierce’s inauguration. He was in Havana, Cuba due to poor health and is the only executive official to take the oath outside the United States. King died a month and a half into his term as Vice President. Franklin Pierce was a distant ancestor of Barbara Bush, wife of the 41st and mother of the 43rd presidents. Pierce, the incumbent president was denied the nomination from his party partly because of his anti-slavery views and Buchanan got the nomination and won. Also running as a third-party candidate was former president Fillmore who ran as a Know-Nothing on an anti-immigrant platform.

Andrew Johnson

Chosen by Lincoln to provide representation of the South. He was pro-South and thwarted Reconstruction. He was also the only president to be impeached until Clinton in 1998.

Rutherford B. Hayes

He lost the popular vote but was given electoral votes in exchange for a promise to end occupation of the South and Reconstruction. He was called “His Fraudulency.”

Grover Cleveland

He won the popular vote for re-election but lost the electoral college vote. When he left the White House his wife told the staff to leave everything as it was since they would be returning in four years; which they did.

Theodore Roosevelt

He was put into the vice presidency to neutralize him as a threat to the policies and politics of those controlling the Republican party. TR became president when McKinley was assassinated early in his second term and won the election for a full term of his own starting in 1905. His handpicked successor William Howard Taft won easily in 1909 but TR wanted the job back in 1912 and started a third party which drew enough votes away from Taft to allow Wilson to become the 28th president. Eugene V. Debs (Socialist) was a fourth candidate but he didn’t get enough votes to make a difference in the end result. Teddy and Taft never spoke again. Taft was the first president to be buried at Arlington and Kennedy was the second and they are the only two presidents buried there.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

He was invited by Herbert Hoover for tea before the inauguration and Hoover proceeded to lecture FDR on how to cure the depression (with methods that Hoover completely failed at) and which completely turned FDR off to him. Photos show the two seething presidents riding together in almost complete silence to the ceremony. They never spoke afterward. It took Truman to resurrect Hoover by calling him into service to work on two important and high-profile projects which Hoover did admirably and got some of his reputation back.

Richard M. Nixon

He was known by his enemies as “Tricky Dick” conceded the 1960 election to Kennedy rather than have a contentious fight over the [well known] voting irregularities in Chicago. He also was gracious when he handed off the presidency to Gerald Ford as the result of Watergate to permit a calm and seamless transition. Likewise, Al Gore stepped aside as a gentleman accepting the Supreme Court ruling granting the presidency to George W. Bush. Al Gore, as Vice President, was president of the Senate and certified the electoral college vote and officially announced the election of George W. Bush two weeks before the 2001 inauguration.

I hope you enjoyed these presidential tidbits on the eve of tomorrow’s inauguration.

I posted some previous blogs on this topic and here are links:

If you have any tax, business or financial issues you want to discuss please do not hesitate to contact me at emendlowitz@withum.com.

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