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Jimmy Carter has the distinction of being the only President to have reported seeing an unidentified flying object. His sighting is said to have taken place one evening in 1969 (two years before he became Governor of Georgia). Carter was preparing to give a speech at a Lions Club meeting. At about 7:15 p.m EST, one of the guests called his attention to a strange object that was visible about 30 degrees above the horizon to the west of where he was standing. Carter described the object as being bright white and as being about as bright as the moon. He said that the object appeared to move closer to where Carter was, but to have stopped beyond a stand of pine trees some distance from him. The object is then said to have changed color, first to blue, then to red, then back to white, before appearing to recede into the distance.This event was witnessed by about ten or twelve other people, and was in view for ten to twelve minutes before it passed out of sight.

In an interview about the incident that he gave in 1973, Carter said:

"There were about twenty of us standing outside of a little restaurant, I believe, a high school lunch room, and a kind of green light appeared in the western sky. This was right after sundown. It got brighter and brighter. And then it eventually disappeared. It didn't have any solid substance to it, it was just a very peculiar-looking light. None of us could understand what it was."

In another interview given in 2005, Carter said:

"All of a sudden, one of the men looked up and said, 'Look, over in the west!' And there was a bright light in the sky. We all saw it. And then the light, it got closer and closer to us. And then it stopped, I don’t know how far away, but it stopped beyond the pine trees. And all of a sudden it changed color to blue, and then it changed to red, then back to white. And we were trying to figure out what in the world it could be, and then it receded into the distance."

There is some controversy about the date of the sighting. According to the report that Carter filed with the International UFO Bureau four years after the incident, this took place in October 1969. However investigators say that according to Lions Club records, this occurred nine months earlier. According to a meeting report that he filed with the Lions Club, Carter gave his Leary speech on January 6, 1969, not in October. Other evidence suggests that the January 1969 date is more plausible. Carter visited the Leary Lions Club in his capacity as district governor of the Lions Club and his term ended in June 1969. The Leary Lions Club disbanded several months before October 1969.

According to an investigation carried out in 1976, (an election year in which Carter was elected President), most of those present at the meeting either did not recall the event. According to Fred Hart, the only guest contacted who remembered seeing the object: "It seems like there was a little—like a blue light or something or other in the sky that night—like some kind of weather balloon they send out or something ... it had been pretty far back in my mind."

Some have hypothesized that the object that Carter witnessed really the planet Venus, but Carter does not believe the object was Venus, explaining that he was an amateur astronomer and knew what Venus looked like. Carter also said that he did not believe that any extraterrestrials have visited Earth. He also stated he knows of no government cover-up of extraterrestrial visits and that the rumors that the CIA refused to give him information about UFOs are not true.

During his 1976 election campaign, he is said to have told reporters that, as a result of it, he would institute a policy of openness about UFO information if he were elected to office. He said:

"One thing's for sure, I'll never make fun of people who say they've seen unidentified objects in the sky. If I become President, I'll make every piece of information this country has about UFO sightings available to the public and the scientists."

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Despite this pledge, once elected, Carter distanced himself from disclosure, citing "defense implications" as being behind his decision."
Zachary Taylor, the 12th President of the United States, was buried in Louisville, Kentucky. Twice. Taylor was the second president to die while holding the office of President. When Taylor died, rumors began that his death may have not been from the causes attributed, and that he was actually the victim of foul play. These rumors persisted for over a century, well into the latter part of the 20th century, and likely they continue in some circles to this day. They gained so much strength that in 1991, Taylor's body was exhumed and an examination was performed by the Kentucky state medical examiner to determine whether or not Taylor had been poisoned.

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On Independence Day, the fourth of July in 1850, Taylor attended some of the holiday celebrations in Washington. While there, he consumed raw fruit and iced milk after attending holiday celebrations. He was attending a fund-raising event at the Washington Monument, which was then under construction. Over the course of the next several days, he became severely ill, suffering from an unknown digestive ailment. His doctor diagnosed the illness as "cholera morbus", which was a mid–nineteenth-century term for a number of different intestinal ailments. There was nothing suspicious about this at the time because several of his cabinet members had come down with similar illnesses.

Taylor developed a fever that concerned his attending physicians. Even Taylor himself was not optimistic about his chances of recovery as he began to feel worse. On July 8th, Taylor told one of his medical attendants, "I should not be surprised if this were to terminate in my death. I did not expect to encounter what has beset me since my elevation to the Presidency. God knows I have endeavored to fulfill what I conceived to be an honest duty. But I have been mistaken. My motives have been misconstrued, and my feelings most grossly outraged."

Taylor's condition worsened and finally he died at 10:35 p.m. on July 9, 1850. He was 65 years old.

Taylor was interred in the Public Vault of the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. for just over three months, from July 13, 1850 to October 25, 1850. This was always understood to be a temporary resting place for Taylor. In late October of 1850 his body was transported to the Taylor Family plot where his parents were buried, on the old Taylor homestead plantation known as 'Springfield' in Louisville, Kentucky. Today this sight is known as the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.

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Almost immediately after his death, rumors began to circulate that Taylor was poisoned by pro-slavery Southerners. Despite being a slaveholder himself during his life, as well as a southerner, Taylor was opposed to the spread of slavery in the territories obtained from Mexico during the Mexican War. Nothing much was done to follow up on these theories, but in the latter part of the 20th century, conspiracy theories began to gain traction again, perhaps because of distrust of governments in the wake of Watergate.

In 1978, Hamilton Smith wrote a scholarly article in the Journal of the Forensic Science Society, theorizing that Taylor had been assassinated. Smith based his assassination theory on the timing of drugs, the lack of confirmed cholera outbreaks, and other reasons.

In the late 1980s, Clara Rising, a former professor at University of Florida, persuaded 84 year old John McIlhenny of Baton Rouge Louisiana, then Taylor's closest living relative, to agree to an exhumation of Taylor's body so that his remains could be tested for possible arsenic poisoning. She was able to obtain the necessary consents and court order and on June 17, 1991, Taylor's remains were exhumed and transported to the Office of the Kentucky Chief Medical Examiner. Samples of Taylor's hair, fingernail, and other tissues were removed, and radiological studies were conducted. The remains were returned to the cemetery and reinterred, with appropriate honors, in the mausoleum shown in the photo above.

Neutron activation analysis tests were conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. These tests failed to find any evidence of poisoning. The tests concluded that Taylor's arsenic levels were too low to support proof of poisoning. The analysis concluded Taylor had contracted "cholera morbus, or acute gastroenteritis". At the time of Taylor's death, Washington had open sewers, and his food or drink may have been unsanitary. Unfortunately, any potential for Taylor's recovery was frustrated by the state of medical science at the time. His doctors treated him with ipecac, calomel, opium and quinine. They also bled him, another erroneous medical treatment then in use.

In 2007, Clara Rising's book The Taylor File: The Mysterious Death of a President was published. While Professor Rising maintains her belief that Taylor was poisoned in order that Millard Fillmore, a man more sympathetic to the plight of the slaver power, would become president, many more historians and forensic scientists disagree with this conclusion.

An interesting Cspan video about Taylor's exhumation can be found here.
James Buchanan usually wins the prize for "worst president ever" and in fact two books have been written about him with that phrase in their title. Buchanan was a northerner, but he sought support among southerners by supporting their right to own slaves. He apparently did not see slavery as a moral issue, but rather as a legal one, and since it was permissible under the Constitution, Buchanan had no qualms about southerners owning other human beings of a different skin color. His home state did not permit slavery. But it turns out that Buchanan did in fact purchase slaves. But he did so only in order to give them their freedom.

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In 1834, Buchanan was campaigning to become his state's US Senator. His home state of Pennsylvania had passed the Gradual Abolition Act in 1780, and by 1834 Pennsylvania was no longer a slave state. But the move for the abolition of the "peculiar institution" had not yet grown to the point of political popularity. When Buchanan went to visit his family before the election, he learned that his sister Harriet, who lived in Virginia with her husband, a minister, owned two slaves—a mother and daughter named Daphne and Ann Cook. According to Buchanan's leading biographer Philip S. Klein, “this was political dynamite.” Buchanan believed that if word got out about his being a slave-holding family, this might prematurely end his political career. To solve the problem, Buchanan took it upon himself to purchase the two slaves and then free them.

While the two former slaves were technically "free", they continued to be work for Buchanan. Buchanan was single and had no wife to manage his household, as was the traditional division of responsibility in marriages of his day. In 1834, he hired Esther Parker, the daughter of a local innkeeper, as his housekeeper. Known as “Miss Hetty,” she served him for 34 years. But she had no servants to manage. Buchanan turned a contract of slavery into a contract of indenture. The "sales documents" giving him ownership of the two included an agreement that Daphne, then 22, would be indentured to his service for seven years. Her 5-year-old daughter, Ann, was required to serve Buchanan for 23 years. Though "free", the mother and child Cook were bound to continue to work for Buchanan.

The slavery issue came to a boil in the build-up to Civil War, although Buchanan managed to to avoid becoming embroiled in the conflict over slavery in the four years leading up to his Presidency in 8566. In the preceding years he had been living and working in London as the Ambassador to the Court of St. James.

Although slavery was illegal in Pennsylvania, indentured servitude continued there long after it had been abandoned in most states. Throughout his political career, Buchanan was branded as a “Doughface”, a derogatory term used to identify a Northerner who sympathized with Southerners when it came to slavery. He had refused to support the Wilmot Proviso, a proposed law that would have banned slavery in all of the territory the United States gained from Mexico (including Texas) at the end of the Mexican-American War. He also supported returning escaped slaves to their masters. As President he tried to dodge the contentious issue, relying instead on the Supreme Court's decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford, a decision Buchanan is thought to have influenced. Buchanan contacted some of the justices to urge them to support the majority position that Congress had no right to outlaw slavery, penned by Chief Justice Roger Taney.

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The Cooks were not the only slaves that Buchanan "purchased." According to his nephew James Buchanan Henry, his uncle the president bought freedom for other slaves in Washington, and then brought them to Pennsylvania, “leaving them to repay him if they could out of their wages.” The number of times he did so is not clear, as most of his private papers were burned at the time of his death. It appears however that reports that Buchanan purchased the freedom of a number of enslaved people were not based on as noble of reasons as might first be suspected.
Millard Fillmore was born and raised in a cabin in upstate New York. His only reading material was said to be a Bible, a hymnal, but despite the paucity of reading material accessible to him as a child, Fillmore grew up with a love of books, an fact often overlooked when consideration is given to the 13th President. When Fillmore became President in July of 1850 following the death of President Zachary Taylor, one of his favorite sources of reading material was the Library of Congress.


It was one of Fillmore's predecessors, James Madison, who came up with the idea of creating a congressional library, something he first proposed in 1783. The Library of Congress was formally established April 24, 1800 when President John Adams signed an act of Congress providing for the transfer of the seat of government from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington. Part of the legislation appropriated $5,000 "for the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress and for fitting up a suitable apartment for containing them." Eventually a collection consisting of 740 books and three maps which were housed in the new United States Capitol.

On January 26, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson signed a bill that allowed the president to appoint the librarian of Congress and establishing a Joint Committee on the Library to regulate and oversee it. The new law also extended borrowing privileges to the president and vice president. During the War of 1812, the British army burned Washington in August of 1814. They destroyed the Library of Congress and its collection, which by that time had numbered over 3,000 books. Within a month, Thomas Jefferson offered to sell his personal library as a replacement. Jefferson needed the money an Congress accepted his offer in January 1815, appropriating $23,950 to purchase his 6,487 books. The measure did not have unanimous support. New Hampshire representative Daniel Webster wanted to return "all books of an atheistical, irreligious, and immoral tendency."

Despite this opposition, Jefferson's collection of books was quite amazing for its time. He had spent 50 years accumulating a wide variety of books in several languages and on subjects such as philosophy, history, law, religion, architecture, travel, natural sciences, mathematics, studies of classical Greece and Rome, modern inventions, hot air balloons, music, submarines, fossils, agriculture, meteorology and even cooking. He said: "I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection. There is, in fact, no subject to which a Member of Congress may not have occasion to refer."

On the morning of December 24th of 1851, the Library of Congress caught fire. The Captain of the Capitol Police had opened the doors of the Capitol at about six o’clock on Wednesday morning, when everything appeared to be fine. About eight o’clock, he could smell the odor of fire and on opening the door, a portion of the library was found to be on fire, and the flames spread with great rapidity. The fire companies had been kept up late by a fire the previous night, causing them to arrive late. A lot of time was lost in bringing the engines into position.

President Millard Fillmore sprang to action. He had been enjoying the holidays with his family early on Christmas Eve morning. Fillmore was alerted to the call of the Washington, D.C. fire chiefs calling out “Fire! Fire! The Library of Congress is on fire.” The call was met with eight fire “engines,” which were wagons loaded with water barrels and hoses, pulled by draft horses. Millard Fillmore rushed from the White House to roll up his sleeves and serve as a volunteer fireman. He and several of his cabinet members, as well as other congressmen, pitched in to help to try to put out the fire. The president also ordered some US Marines to come from the Washington Navy yard and join the bucket brigade. The volunteers kept working for the rest of that day and overnight until noon on Christmas Day. It was reported that Fillmore personally was at the front of the line, very close to the fire.

Despite the best efforts of the fire fighters, 35,000 books were burned, including two-thirds of those purchased from Thomas Jefferson. The loss was a significant one for President Fillmore. He pressed for Congress to appropriate funds to rebuild the Library of Congress. He was also able to obtain funding to establish a Presidential White House Library. Fillmore spent $65.62 out of the White House account before the library was even approved by Congress, in order to purchase Noah Webster’s Dictionary. He and his wife Abigail selected all the books eventually that were purchased for the Presidential Library, based on recommendations from local book sellers. He obtaining cost estimates and perused book catalog.

Congress approved the purchase of one thousand and fifty books for the new Library of Congress and Presidential Library. Fillmore wanted to insure a separation of church and state pursuant to interpretations of the First Amendment, so no religious works were purchased, other than the Bible. The fictional works purchased were mostly written by British authors, except for the books of Washington Irving, author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. The library also did contained the collected works of Benjamin Franklin as well as writings from Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and even Andrew Jackson.

As far as my research has been able to discern, the cause of the fire was attributed to a faulty chimney.
Grover Cleveland is famous for being the only President to serve non-consecutive terms in office. But in 1880 Ulysses Grant tried to accomplish that task. Grant served two terms as President from 1868 to 1876. In those days there was no prohibition against serving for more than two terms as President (as there is today thanks to the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution). Grant had left office with his popularity sullied by a number of scandals within his administration. He embarked on a round-the-world tour after leaving office where he was very well received. He returned home with much of his former popularity restored. That made Grant believe that he could be elected President again, especially after seeing how many of his reforms for the protection of former slaves in the south had been undone by his successor, Rutherford B. Hayes.


Grant's supporters were known as "Stalwarts". They believed that the victorious party should reward its supporters with government jobs and other patronage appointments. Grant believed in that also, which was what got him in trouble when he was President. One of the leaders of the Stalwarts was an egotistical New York Senator named Roscoe Conkling. He hoped that Grant would once again be President and he would be the power broker for all of the patronage jobs in New York, the most lucrative of which was the Collector of the Port of New York. That job had been held by Conkling supporter and fellow Stalwart Chester Alan Arthur. Arthur had been fired by that job by President Rutherford B. Hayes, who believed that such jobs should be awarded on merit, not based on political connections.

The opponents of the Stalwarts were pejoratively known as "Half-Breeds". They supported civil service reform and they believed that since George Washington didn't get a third term as President, neither should Grant. Their leader was former Speaker of the House James G. Blaine, Senator from Maine. The 1880 Republican Party nomination convention pitted Grant against Blaine. At the convention, Conkling proposed that delegates should take a pledge to support the eventual nominee of the party in the general election. When three West Virginia delegates declined to be so bound, Conkling sought to expel them from the convention. Ohio Congressman James Garfield rose to defend the men, and his speech attracted massive support from the crown, which turned against Conkling. Conkling withdrew the motion.

The convention deadlocked. The first ballot showed Grant leading with 304 votes and Blaine in second with 284, with 379 votes needed to win. Benjamin Harrison, an Indiana delegate, tried to break the deadlock by shifting a few of the anti-Grant votes to Garfield, who wasn't even a candidate. Garfield gained 50 votes on the 35th ballot, and the stampede began. On the next ballot, nearly all of the Sherman and Blaine delegates shifted their support to Garfield, giving him 399 votes and the Republican nomination. Garfield's supporters knew that they needed the support of the Stalwarts to win the important state of New York in the general election. To obtain that faction's support for the ticket, former New York customs collector Chester A. Arthur, a member of Conkling's political machine, was chosen as the vice presidential nominee.

During the election campaign, Garfield met with Conkling. The New York senator believed that he had obtained Garfield's agreement that Conkling would have final say on all political appointments in New York. Garfield believed that he had promised no such thing. On election day, less than two thousand votes, of the more than 9.2 million popular votes cast, separated the two candidates, but in the Electoral College Garfield had an easy victory over Hancock, 214 to 155. He had won the important state of New York.

Garfield's first decision which angered Conkling was his selction of the Maine senator as Secretary of State. Conkling had believed that he might get that position. Then, to spite the New Yorker even more, the only position in the cabinet given to someone from the Empire State was the appointment of Thomas Lemuel James as Postmaster General. This infuriated Conkling. James was not a Stalwart. The resulting squabble with Conkling occupied much of Garfield's brief presidency. It reached a climax when the president, at Blaine's instigation, nominated Conkling's enemy, Judge William H. Robertson, to be Collector of the Port of New York. This was one of the prize patronage positions below cabinet level.

Conkling became irate. He accused Garfield of reneging on his promise to let Conkling approve patronage appointments in his state, a deal that Garfield denied ever making. Conkling also raised the time-honored principle of senatorial courtesy. Garfield believed the practice was corrupt. He would not back down and threatened to withdraw all nominations unless Robertson was confirmed. As he put it, he intended to "settle the question whether the president is registering clerk of the Senate or the Executive of the United States."

Conkling had a plan to re-establish his power. He and his New York colleague, Senator Thomas C. Platt, resigned their Senate seats. The believed that when the state legislature sent them back to the senate it would show Garfield that they had the backing of the powerful state party machine. But the move backfired on Conkling, The New York legislature elected others in their places. Robertson was confirmed as Collector and Garfield's victory was clear. But as a measure to keep his support in New York, Garfield returned to his practice of balancing the interests of party factions, and nominated a number of Conkling's Stalwart friends to other offices.


That July, Garfield was shot at the Washington DC train station by a crazed Stalwart supporter named Charles Guiteau. He cried out "I am a Stalwart and Arthur will be President!" For a time some thought that Arthur and Conkling may have put Guiteau up to the act, but it soon was clear that Guiteau was a crazed loner. Garfield died from his wounds (and likely from medical malpractice) that September and Arthur did become President. Conkling thought that this might be good news for him and he hoped that he might have influence over the President who was once his subordinate. He was mistaken. Arthur surprised everyone by refusing to kowtow to Conkling and by supporting civil service reform.

On March 12, 1888, during the Great Blizzard of 1888, Conkling attempted to walk three miles from his law office on Wall Street to his home on 25th Street near Madison Square. Conkling made it as far as Union Square before collapsing. He contracted pneumonia and died several weeks later, on April 18, 1888.
John Adams and Alexander Hamilton were both Federalists. Both opposed Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic-Republican faction. That doesn't mean however that the two men were friends, or even political allies. When Adams ran for re-election for President against Thomas Jefferson in 1800, he did so with not-so-friendly fire coming from Hamilton's wing of the Federalist Party, while also being attacked by Jefferson's supporters. Their enmity likely stemmed from the fact that Hamilton saw himself as George Washington's successor as leader of the Federalists after Washington's farewell. He had been Washington's closest advisor. But Hamilton was never going to be President. He had not been born in the United States, and he was also the child of unmarried parents. He was also publicly embarrassed by a scandal involving his affair with Maria Reynolds, which left him relegated to exercising any power that he had in the political backrooms.

In May 1798, a French privateer captured a merchant vessel off of the New York Harbor. This led to an increase in attacks on American ships, leading to an undeclared naval war known as the Quasi-War. President John Adams knew that his nation would be unable to win a major conflict, both because of its internal divisions and because France at the time was dominating the fight in most of Europe. He approved the practice of having American ships harass French ships to stem the French assaults on American interests. In May, shortly after the attack in New York, Congress created a separate Navy Department.

The prospect of a French invasion of the U.S. mainland led for calls to build up the army. Hamilton and Federalists from his wing of the party wanted to see a large army created. But Jeffersonian Republicans were afraid that large standing armies were a threat to liberty. In May, a "provisional" army of 10,000 soldiers was authorized by Congress. In July, Congress created twelve infantry regiments and provided for six cavalry companies. These numbers exceeded what John Adams had wanted, though they were less than what Hamilton felt was needed.

Federalists pressured Adams to appoint Hamilton, who had served as Washington's aide-de-camp during the Revolution, to command the army. For good reason, Adams was distrustful of Hamilton. Instead he asked his former boss, George Washington to command the army. Washington was surprised bu the request, but agreed to do so if certain conditions were met. One condition of his acceptance was that he be permitted to appoint his own subordinates. He wished to have Henry Knox as second-in-command, followed by Hamilton, and then Charles Pinckney. On June 2, Hamilton wrote to Washington stating that he would not serve unless he was made Inspector General and second-in-command. Washington agreed to Hamilton's request.

Adams had intended to appoint Republicans Aaron Burr and Frederick Muhlenberg to make the army appear bipartisan, but Washington's list of subordinates consisted entirely of Federalists. Adams relented and agreed to submit to the Senate the names of Hamilton, Pinckney, and Knox, in that order. Knox refused to serve under these conditions. Adams wanted to give to Hamilton the lowest possible rank, while Washington and many other Federalists disagreed. On September 21, Adams received a letter from Secretary of War James McHenry that Washington was threatening to resign if Hamilton was not made second-in-command. Adams felt that he was forced to accede to this request. At the time, First Lady Abigail Adams was quite ill, which likely added to the President's reluctance to force the issue.

Alexander Hamilton's desire for high military rank and his push for war with France put him into conflict with Adams. Because of Washington's advanced age, Hamilton was the army's de facto commander. He exerted effective control over the War Department, taking over supplies for the army. But Adams built up the Navy, adding six fast, powerful frigates, most notably the USS Constitution.

The Quasi-War continued, but there was a noticeable decline in war fever, once news arrived of Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of the Nile. In October, Adams heard from his Minister to France, Elbridge Gerry, that the French wanted to make peace and would properly receive an American delegation without any bribes required. That December in his address to Congress, Adams relayed these statements while expressing the need to maintain adequate defenses. The speech angered both Federalists, including Hamilton, who had wanted a a declaration of war. Hamilton secretly promoted a plan in which American and British troops would combine to seize Spanish Florida and Louisiana, under the guise of deterring a possible French invasion. Adams was opposed to the scheme. He and Hamilton's other critics saw signs of an aspiring military dictatorship being planned by Hamilton.

On February 18, 1799, Adams surprised many by nominating diplomat William Vans Murray on a peace mission to France. The decision was made without consulting his cabinet. Abigail Adams described it as a "master stroke." To placate Republicans, he nominated Patrick Henry to accompany Murray and the Senate immediately approved them on March 3. Henry declined the nomination and Adams chose William Richardson Davie to replace him. Hamilton strongly criticized the decision.

Adams spent seven months from March to September of 1799 in his home of Peacefield. He returned to Trenton, where the government had set up temporary quarters due to the yellow fever epidemic on October 10, A letter arrived from the French Minister Talleyrand confirming that American negotiators would be received. Shortly after, Hamilton, in a breach of military protocol, arrived uninvited at the city to speak with the president, urging him not to send the peace commissioners but instead to ally with Britain. Adams later wrote of this meeting, "I heard him with perfect good humor, though never in my life did I hear a man talk more like a fool." Adams rejected Hamilton;s proposal and on November 15, the commissioners set sail for Paris.

In the 1800 election, Hamilton worked to defeat not only the rival Democratic-Republican candidates, but also his party's own nominee, John Adams. Republicans accused Federalists of subverting republican principles through punitive federal laws and of favoring Britain to promote aristocratic, anti-republican values. Jefferson was portrayed as a man of the people, while Adams was labelled a monarchist. James T. Callender, a Republican propagandist secretly financed by Jefferson, degraded Adams's character and accused him of attempting to make war with France.

But opposition to Adams from within the Federalist Party was at times equally intense. Hamilton was hard at work, attempting to sabotage the president's reelection by maintaining his own attacks on Adams's character. He requested and received private documents from both the ousted cabinet secretaries and Wolcott. He wrote a letter which he sent to a few Federalist electors. Upon seeing a draft, several Federalists urged Hamilton not to give the letter further distribution. Hamilton ignored their advice. On October 24, he sent out a pamphlet strongly attacking Adams's policies and character. His letter included personal insults, vilifying the president's "disgusting egotism" and "ungovernable temper." He called Adams "emotionally unstable, given to impulsive and irrational decisions, unable to coexist with his closest advisers, and generally unfit to be president." Oddly, it ended by saying that the electors should support Adams and Pinckney equally. Aaron Burr had covertly obtained a copy and the pamphlet became public knowledge and was distributed throughout the country by Republicans, who rejoiced in the intra-party bickering among the Federalists. The pamphlet destroyed the Federalist Party, but it also ended Hamilton's political career, and helped ensure Adams's defeat.

When the electoral votes were counted, Adams finished in third place with 65 votes, and Pinckney came in fourth with 64 votes. Jefferson and Burr tied for first place with 73 votes each. Because of the tie, the election devolved upon the House of Representatives, with each state having one vote and a supermajority required for victory. On February 17, 1801, on the 36th ballot, Jefferson was elected by a vote of 10 to 4 (two states abstained). To add to the agony of his defeat, Adams's son Charles, a chronic alcoholic, died on November 30. Anxious to rejoin Abigail, who had already left for Massachusetts, Adams departed the White House before dawn on March 4, 1801. He did not attend Thomas Jefferson's inauguration.
Warren G. Harding is one of four presidents to die in office of natural causes. Or was he? Conspiracy theorists surmise that Harding was actually murdered and that his murder was covered up. This theory has been promoted by a number of sources, including a disreputable former FBI agent named Gaston Means, who wrote a book about his "investigation" into the alleged conspiracy.


In June of 1923, President Warren G. Harding set out on a cross-country "Voyage of Understanding", a kind of national dog-and-pony show in which Harding hoped to showcase his policies and escape the stench of scandal back home. Rumors of a number of scandals within Harding's administration were just coming to the surface, and while Harding was never directly implicated in them, at the time of his western trip, he was certainly aware of them. He asked his Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover, “If you knew of a great scandal in our administration, would you for the good of the country and the party expose it publicly or would you bury it?” Hoover recommended that Harding expose the scandal, stating that at least Harding could get credit for doing the honorable thing. But Harding never got the chance to take that advice.

Harding's political advisers had given him a physically demanding schedule, even though he had ordered it to be cut back. He gave speeches in Kansas City, in Hutchinson, Kansas, in Denver, and in many other stops along the tour. He visited Yellowstone and Zion National Parks, and dedicated a monument on the Oregon Trail. On July 5, Harding embarked on USS Henderson in Washington state. He became the first president to visit Alaska, stopping at Seward to take the Alaska Central Railway to McKinley Park and Fairbanks.

On the way back, Harding's ship stopped at Vancouver Harbor on July 26, where Harding became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Canada. He was greeted dock-side by the premier of British Columbia and the mayor of Vancouver. Thousands lined the streets of Vancouver to watch as the motorcade of dignitaries moved through the city to Stanley Park, where Harding spoke to an audience estimated at over 40,000. In his speech he proclaimed, "You are not only our neighbor, but a very good neighbor, and we rejoice in your advancement and admire your independence no less sincerely than we value your friendship." Harding also played golf at a Vancouver golf course, but completed only six holes before becoming too tired to continue.

From Vancouver, Harding went to Seattle and then to San Francisco, arriving at the Palace Hotel on July 29th, where it is believed that he developed pneumonia. His public events were cancelled. By the afternoon of August 2, he appeared to be recovering. That evening, around 7:30 pm, while Florence Harding was reading a flattering article to the president from The Saturday Evening Post titled "A Calm Review of a Calm Man", he began twisting convulsively and collapsed. Doctors attempted stimulants, but were unable to revive him. Harding died at the age of 57. His death was initially attributed to a cerebral hemorrhage, but it was most likely the result a heart attack.

Naval physicians surmised that he had suffered a heart attack. However, this diagnosis was not made by Dr. Charles Sawyer, the Surgeon General, who was traveling with the presidential party. Sawyer recommended to Mrs. Harding that an autopsy be performed to determine the actual cause of death, but Mrs. Harding refused permission for the autopsy. Her refusal brought out the conspiracy theorists of the day, leading to speculation that the President had been the victim of a plot.

Harding was succeeded by Vice President Calvin Coolidge, who was sworn in by his father, a justice of the peace, in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. Harding's body was returned to Washington, where it was placed in the East Room of the White House pending a state funeral at the United States Capitol. White House employees at the time were quoted as saying that the night before the funeral, they heard Mrs. Harding speak for more than an hour to her dead husband. One of the most controversial remarks attributed to Mrs. Harding at the time was: "They can't hurt you now, Warren."


Harding was entombed in the receiving vault of the Marion Cemetery, Marion, Ohio, in August 1923. Following Mrs. Harding's death on November 21, 1924, she too was temporarily buried next to her husband. Both bodies were moved in December 1927 to the newly completed Harding Memorial in Marion, which was dedicated by President Herbert Hoover in 1931.

In 1930, a former private investigator with a sketchy reputation named Gaston Means wrote an exploitative book, called The Strange Death of President Harding. In the book, Means suggested that many people had a motive to murder the President, including Mrs. Harding. Means claimed that Mrs. Harding poisoned the President. But Means lacked the pedigree of a reliable informant. He was a convicted perjurer who had corruptly used his office as an FBI agent, selling his services to local Washington bootleggers during Prohibition.

In 1924, following Harding's death, Congress held hearings on the Justice Department's role in failing to oversee their Prohibition duties under the Volstead Act. Means testified against former Attorney General Daugherty. In his testimony he admitted to handling bribes for senior officials in the former Harding Administration. The congressional investigation revealed evidence of Means's role in the issuance of Prohibition-era liquor permits. Means was indicted for perjury and tried before a jury. In his testimony, Means accused both Harding and Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon as being part of a cover-up. The jury did not believe him. Means was found guilty of perjury and sentenced to two years in federal prison.

In his book, The Strange Death of President Harding, published in 1930, means alleged that Harding had been consciously complicit in all of the major scandals of his administration. In the book, Means claimed that the President had been murdered by his wife, First Lady Florence Harding, with assistance from the couple's personal physician, Charles E. Sawyer. Mrs. Harding's alleged motivation was that she had become aware of her husband's corruption and marital infidelity and wanted to protect his reputation.

In 1933, a counter-exposé published in Liberty Magazine, claimed that the book was a hoax. Mae Dixon Thacker said that she had ghostwritten the book for Mean and that Means had cheated her out of her share of the profits. Means himself later admitted that the book was untrue according to another questionable source, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. That didn't present Means from collecting and keeping all of his royalties

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Any credibility that Means had was eroded further following the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in 1932. Means was contacted by the Washington socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean, owner of the Hope Diamond, who asked him to use his connections in the East Coast underworld to assist in the recovery of the Lindbergh child. Means claimed that he knew the whereabouts of the victim and offered his services as a go-between. He asked for $100,000 to pass on to the kidnappers. McLean sent the money to Means, who kept the cash for himself. A co-confederate of his fed McLean false details and Means later came to McLean at her home again and said he needed an additional $4,000 to pay the expenses of the kidnappers. She gave him the money once again. Means met McLean in a southern resort, promising to deliver the baby. He showed up with a man he introduced as the "King of the Kidnappers", who told her how and when the baby would be delivered. When the missing baby did not show up, Means demanded another $35,000. Failing to raise it, the heiress demanded all the money back. Means said he he would do so. He later pretended that he had given the money to a messenger to deliver to her. McLean called the police, Means was captured, and later found guilty of grand larceny. He was sentenced to serve 15 years in a federal penitentiary but the money was never recovered. Means died in 1938 while serving his sentence at the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas.
In 2000, 2009 and 2017 the non-profit cable TV network C-SPAN has gathered a group of prominent historians together to rank the Presidents of the United States from best to worst, based on 10 criteria: crisis leadership, public persuasion, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with Congress, vision (setting an agenda), pursuance of equal justice for all, and performance within the context of the times. In each rating the current sitting president is excluded, mindful of how in many cases, an appreciation of a President's performance is acquired with the passage of time, though not as appreciated when that President is in office.

The Presidents: Noted Historians Rank America's Best and Worst Chief Executives is a three part examination of the rankings of all of the Presidents from Washington to Obama, followed by a speculative academic discussion of how President Donald Trump may someday be evaluated, based on the lessons of past Presidencies.

The first part of the book contains a discussion by three noted historians on the question of how to rank US Presidents. One of these historians notes how President John F. Kennedy criticized the process of such rankings, stating that "no one has the right to grade a president - not even poor James Buchanan - who has not sat in his chair, examined the mail and information that came across his desk, and learned why he made his decisions." Historians may not agree with Kennedy's chastisement of giving a President a failing grade. But the perspectives of these historians point out the pitfalls in the practice of ranking the Presidents: (1) Perspectives change over time as history evolves our value system, making the President who was yesterday's fool become a man of great principle and a wise forward thinker, with the benefit of hindsight. (2) Whether historians like to admit it, all have biases, and those biases become apparent, usually to everyone except the historian who owns them. The first section of this book is perhaps its most interesting section for the perspectives expressed on the subject of ranking Presidents.

The second and longest section of the book contains a discussion of each president, in order of his most recent ranking, from first (Abraham Lincoln) to last (Lincoln's predecessor, poor James Buchanan). But rather than examine each president and discuss what positive and negative factors contributed to his place in the race, the editors took a rather lazy approach and have instead simply included an edited transcript of a CNN interview with one of that president's biographer. In many cases, the interview focuses on a section of the president's life or one event in it. (For example, the section on Barack Obama talks about some of the women he dated before his current wife, while the section on Abraham Lincoln focuses on the period between his election and his inauguration.) Often these sections seem to make the case that a highly ranked President had flaws that may make the high rating undeserved (such as how Lyndon Johnson was corrupted by power) while the sections on some of the lower ranked Presidents make the case for the subject deserving a higher ranking (as in the case of the sections on Warren Harding or Franklin Pierce.)

This isn't to say that the sections on each President are not interesting. To the contrary, they are very enjoyable to read. This just seems like such an academically lazy way to discuss each Presidency in the context of a book about ranking the Presidency. It is a series of vignettes rather than what the book's title implies - a discussion of why each President is ranked as he is.

The final section, in which the trio of historians discuss the Trump Presidency is rambling and pedantic. There are some very good points that are made in this section, but these points could have been made much more efficiently and much more clearly in the form of an article that trimmed the fat of the meandering dialogue which was once again a needless short-cutting of the work required to properly tackle this subject. The final article in the book is intended as a discussion of the correlation between the presidency and the pursuit of equal justice, but it is problematic for the subtle way in which the author credits the Presidents from one particular party, while omitting the achievements of those from the other party. In politics no single party is possessed of all the heroes nor all the villains.

The book is worth reading as a refresher of all of the Presidents and their spectrum of personalities, abilities and accomplishments. It is unfortunate that such a worthwhile subject as a review of how, where and why all of the Presidents are ranked was not approached with more effort and organization and with the structure and discipline that the ranking system itself was created. Each of the historians are respected and very academically credible. The problem is not in their opinions, but in how the editors of the book have organized and presented them.
In 1990, President George H. W. Bush made news by stating his dislike for vegetable considered by many to be a part of a healthy diet. The New York Times called it "a proclamation that every child, and many adults, have dreamed of making." The proclamation concerned broccoli. The president made headlines by announcing that he never ever wanted to see another sprig of broccoli on his plate. He made the statement to a reporter for the magazine U.S. News and World Report. He told the reporter: "I do not like broccoli." He meant it. The president imposed a ban on broccoli aboard Air Force One. He told the reporter, "And I haven't liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I'm President of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli!" The subject arose during a news conference that President Bush was having about developments in Europe.

Bush was said to have had a healthy appetite whether on board the Presidential plane or otherwise. The Times reporter described how the president "eats with a shoveling motion, bent over his plate, sometimes sticking his napkin into his shirt like a bib so he won't soil his shirt and tie." This was confirmed by his former speechwriter Peggy Noonan, who said the the president eats "like a big teen-age boy, unembarrassed by hunger." Noonan's reports were confirmed by another aide compared his diet as similar to that of a teenager. Pete Teeley said, "Junk food is his lifestyle."

Bush's pronouncement upset many nutritionists, who were concerned about the influence that the President wielded. Bush presented as very healthy and fit. They were afraid that the chief executive could start a trend that would undo much of the progress that had been made in the promotion of healthy lifestyles. When President Bush expressed a taste for pork rinds, sales jumped 11 percent. Another White House employee named James Pinkerton commented to the Times, "People are definitely looking for relief from the masochism of the fitness craze, and if the President will let them off the hook and let them become kinder, gentler and flabbier, we'll all be grateful." White House staff let the cat out of the bag about Bush's snacking, and liking of beef jerky, nachos, tacos, guacamole, chile, refried beans, hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecued ribs, candy, popcorn, ice cream and cake

Pete Teeley expressed some amazement that the President, who jogs regularly, can "eat like a horse" without its affecting his weight. Bush maintained a steady weight of 190 pounds and his cholesterol was at a healthy level. But sometimes his unhealthy eating habits met caused problems for his dinner guests. Once President Bush had breakfast with Denver Broncos Quarterback John Elway. The meal caused Elway to miss that night's Monday Night Football game. Coach Dan Reeves complained that the President had fed Denver's star player "the worst-looking thing you can imagine: creamed chip beef."

First Lady Barbara Bush was more sensible on the subject of healthy eating. The president referred to his wife as "a total totalitarian" when it came to broccoli and other green vegetables. She threatened to serve him a meal of broccoli soup and salad, a broccoli main course, and then, in Mrs. Bush's words, "finish it with a little broccoli ice cream."

In response to news of the comment, George Dunlop, president of the Washington-based United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, arranged for a large donation of two truckloads of the vegetable to the White House, a gesture that was met with appreciation by the First Lady. Dunlop called broccoli "a green beam of light" referencing from one of President Bush's famous thousand points of light. He presented the First Lady with a ribboned vegetable bouquet. The two truckloads which contained 10 tons of the California-grown vegetable, were donated to a capital-area food bank. The First Lady responded by saying "Millie [her dog] and I thank you for the broccoli. We'll eat it." As for her husband however, Mrs. Bush said "If his own blessed mother can't make him eat broccoli, I give up." She added, "I am never going to eat pork rinds, ever." The broccoli growers, not giving up on their president, also sent along a sheet of recipes, on green paper, for broccoli stir-fried, sauced, baked, souped or casseroled.

The President's statement actually helped sales of the vegetable. "We're doing a brisk business, and it's because of the President," according to Steve Adlesh, director of sales at Apio Produce of Guadalupe, Calif. "Broccoli has never enjoyed so much publicity." He said that since the President's comments, broccoli sales had suddenly risen by 10%.

Over a quarter century later, a 92 year old former President Bush received a letter from a 5 year old boy named Cooper who defended the vegetable (even though his twin brother agreed with Bush's dislike for the vegetable.) In a tweet President Bush praised the young man's love of healthy eating, but said that it was not moving enough to persuade him to like broccoli.
Benjamin Harrison was President of the United States from 1889 to 1893 after defeating Grover Cleveland in the election of 1888. Cleveland received more popular votes, but lost the electoral college by narrowly losing the states of New York (Cleveland's home state) and Indiana (Harrison's home state). Much is made of the fact that Cleveland won the popular vote, but what is often overlooked in that statistic is that in the south, there was tremendous suppression of African-American voters, most of whom would have cast their votes for the Republican candidate if given the opportunity. Nevertheless, Cleveland would win the rematch between the two men in 1892 when Cleveland would take back the majority of the votes in the two key states he lost four years earlier.

Harrison is often mocked for his fear of the new technology of electricity. He had electricity installed in the White House for the first time by Edison General Electric Company in 1891. He and his wife never touched the light switches himself, for fear of being electrocuted. But while this may seem strange today, this was a reasonable fear for the Harrisons, given how crude household electric wiring could be at the time. Some contend that he and his wife would sometimes sleep with the lights on, but other historians believe that this seems unlikely. Most sources claim that his domestic staff would operate the light switches exclusively.

When electric lighting was installed in the White House in 1891, few people at the time had enough faith in the new technology to use it exclusively. The electrical work at the White House was planned as part of a well-funded project for wiring the State, War & Navy building next door. The Edison company installed a generator for both buildings. The generator was housed in the State, War & Navy's basement, with the wires strung across the lawn and introduced into the White House under the conservatory. The relatively new method of illumination was initially intended to be only a supplement to gaslight. Wires were buried in the plaster, and round switches installed in each room for turning the current on and off. President and Mrs. Harrison refused to operate the switches because they feared being shocked and left the operation of the electric lights to the domestic staff.

The latter part of the 19th century was an exciting time for technological advancements and Harrison was not the Luddite that many portray him to be. Harrison was the earliest president whose voice is known to be preserved. His voice was recorded and kept on a wax phonograph cylinder in 1889 by Gianni Bettini. Here is that recording:

Harrison's embracing of technology wasn't limited to his home. Over the course of his administration, Harrison used technological advances to strengthen his nation's naval power. When he took office there were only two commissioned warships for the Navy. In his inaugural address he said, "construction of a sufficient number of warships and their necessary armaments should progress as rapidly as is consistent with care and perfection." Harrison's Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy oversaw the rapid construction of vessels, and within a year congressional approval was obtained for building of the warships Indiana, Texas, Oregon, and Columbia. By 1898, during the term of President William McKinley and with the help of the Carnegie Corporation, ten modern warships, including steel hulls and greater displacements and armaments, had transformed the United States into a legitimate naval power. Seven of these had begun during the Harrison term.

Prior to his Presidency, Harrison had served with courage, bravery and distinction in the Civil War. The mocking stories of his fear of electricity are both exaggerated and understandable in light of the state of electrical safety at the time.


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