Monday, February 19

Presidents Day Precedents

" I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." With these words 42 men (There actually have only been 42 presidents: Grover Cleveland was elected for two nonconsecutive terms and is counted twice, as our 22nd and 24th president) have served as president, so it is fitting on this august day to reflect on the precedents that our former Presidents have set.

Who gets to be President?

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

Seven presidents born before there was a United States were technically English subjects, but were all born in the Continental US. Martin Van Buren, the eighth president in U.S., was the first president to be born in the United States of America.

All in the Family: Presidents related to earlier presidents

  • James Madison: half first cousin twice removed of George Washington
  • John Quincy Adams: son of John Adams
  • Zachary Taylor: second cousin of James Madison
  • Grover Cleveland: sixth cousin once removed of Ulysses Grant
  • Benjamin Harrison: grandson of William Henry Harrison
  • Theodore Roosevelt: third cousin twice removed of Martin Van Buren
  • Franklin Roosevelt: fourth cousin once removed of Ulysses Grant, fourth cousin three times removed of Zachary Taylor, fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt
  • Harry Truman: great-great-great nephew of John Tyler
  • Richard Nixon: seventh cousin twice removed of William Taft, eighth cousin once removed of Herbert Hoover
  • George Bush: fifth cousin four times removed of Franklin Pierce, seventh cousin three times removed of Theodore Roosevelt, seventh cousin four times removed of Abraham Lincoln, eleventh cousin once removed of Gerald Ford
  • George W. Bush: son of George Bush

By Popular Demand, You are a Loser

Four Presidents won the popular vote but lost the presidency: Andrew Jackson won the popular vote but lost the election to John Quincy Adams (1824); Samuel J. Tilden won the popular vote but lost the election to Rutherford B. Hayes (1876); Grover Cleveland won the popular vote but lost the election to Benjamin Harrison (1888); Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election to George W. Bush (2000).

Speech, Speech!

Washington's inauguration speech was 183 words long and took 90 seconds to read. It was hard for him to read because of his false teeth. William Henry Harrison delivered the longest Inaugural address, at 8,445 words, on March 4, 1841—a bitterly cold, wet day. He died one month later of pneumonia, believed to have been brought on by prolonged exposure to the elements on his Inauguration Day.

What's in a Name?

With such nicknames such as Sir Veto, The Last of the Crooked Hats, the Wool Carder President, Wobbly Willie, and Duckpin, presidents have always inspired their sycophants and detractors to creative wordsmithing.

Presidents--in their own words

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." George Washington

"The happiness of society is the end of government." John Adams

"One man with courage is a majority." Thomas Jefferson

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." James Madison

"A little flattery will support a man through great fatigue." James Monroe

"May our country be always successful, but whether successful or otherwise, always right."
John Quincy Adams

"I know what I am fit for. I can command a body of men in a rough way; but I am not fit to be President." Andrew Jackson

"As to the Presidency, the two happiest days of my life were those of my entrance upon the office and my surrender of it." Martin Van Buren

"But I contend that the strongest of all governments is that which is most free." William Henry Harrison

"Popularity, I have always thought, may aptly be compared to a coquette—the more you woo her, the more apt is she to elude your embrace." John Tyler

"With me it is exceptionally true that the Presidency is no bed of roses." James K. Polk

"The idea that I should become President seems to me too visionary to require a serious answer. It has never entered my head, nor is it likely to enter the head of any other person." Zachary Taylor

"It is not strange . . . to mistake change for progress." Millard Fillmore

"We have nothing in our history or position to invite aggression; we have everything to beckon us to the cultivation of relations of peace and amity with all nations." Franklin Pierce

"The ballot box is the surest arbiter of disputes among freemen." James Buchanan

"Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose - and you allow him to make war at pleasure." Abraham Lincoln

"If the rabble were lopped off at one end and the aristocrat at the other, all would be well with the country." Andrew Johnson

"The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times." Ulysses S. Grant

"It is now true that this is God's Country, if equal rights—a fair start and an equal chance in the race of life are everywhere secured to all." Rutherford B. Hayes

"I have had many troubles in my life, but the worst of them never came." James A. Garfield

"If it were not for the reporters, I would tell you the truth." Chester A. Arthur

"It is the responsibility of the citizens to support their government. It is not the responsibility of the government to support its citizens." Grover Cleveland

"We Americans have no commission from God to police the world." Benjamin Harrison

"Unlike any other nation, here the people rule, and their will is the supreme law. It is sometimes sneeringly said by those who do not like free government, that here we count heads. True, heads are counted, but brains also . . ." William McKinley

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt

"The intoxication of power rapidly sobers off in the knowledge of its restrictions and under the prompt reminder of an ever-present and not always considerate press, as well as the kindly suggestions that not infrequently come from Congress." William H. Taft

"If you want to make enemies, try to change something." Woodrow Wilson

"My God, this is a hell of a job! I have no trouble with my enemies . . . but my damn friends, they're the ones that keep me walking the floor nights." Warren G. Harding

"I have never been hurt by anything I didn't say." Calvin Coolidge

"Peace is not made at the Council table or by treaties, but in the hearts of men." Herbert Hoover

"I sometimes think that the saving grace of America lies in the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans are possessed of two great qualities- a sense of humor and a sense of proportion." Franklin D. Roosevelt

"You can not stop the spread of an idea by passing a law against it." Harry S. Truman

"I can think of nothing more boring for the American people than to have to sit in their living rooms for a whole half hour looking at my face on their television screens." Dwight D. Eisenhower

"Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president but they don't want them to become politicians in the process " John F. Kennedy

"If government is to serve any purpose it is to do for others what they are unable to do for themselves." Lyndon B. Johnson

"Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you. Those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself." Richard M. Nixon

"We . . . declared our independence 200 years ago, and we are not about to lose it now to paper shufflers and computers." Gerald Ford

"The best way to enhance freedom in other lands is to demonstrate here that our democratic system is worthy of emulation." James E. Carter

"I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself." Ronald W. Reagan

"Whose life would be on my hands as the commander-in-chief because I, unilaterally, went beyond the international law, went beyond the stated mission, and said we're going to show our macho? We're going into Baghdad. We're going to be an occupying power — America in an Arab land — with no allies at our side. It would have been disastrous. We don't gain the size of our victory by how many innocent kids running away — even though they're bad guys — that we can slaughter. ... We're American soldiers; we don't do business that way." George H.W. Bush

"If you live long enough, you'll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you'll be a better person. It's how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit." William J. Clinton

"We will bring the terrorists to justice; or we will bring justice to the terrorists. Either way, justice will be done." George W. Bush

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