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Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia on December 28, 1856, just as the nation was heading toward Civil War. His father, Rev. Joseph Wilson, owned slaves, and was a member of the clergy who defended slavery as an institution. Both of Wilson's parents identified with the Confederacy during the war and they cared for wounded soldiers at their church. Wilson's father briefly served as a chaplain to the Confederate Army. Wilson claimed that his earliest memory was of hearing that Abraham Lincoln had been elected and that a war was coming. He told the story of remembering, as a child, standing for a moment at General Robert E. Lee's side and looking up into his face. It is unclear whether the memory is an accurate one or an embellishment.

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In June of 1902, Wilson became president of Princeton University. While in that role, Wilson discouraged African-Americans from applying for admission to the university. He considered them to be inferior in many ways, including intellectually. The previous year, in 1901, he had written a book entitled History of the American People, in which he wrote that the Ku Klux Klan was justified in their actions, stating that the Klan "began to attempt by intimidation what they were not allowed to attempt by the ballot or by any ordered course of public action".

Wilson stated that he believed slavery was wrong, but on economic labor grounds, rather than for moral reasons. He often described the slavery system in the South in a supportive light, viewing masters as patient paternal figures to "indolent" slaves. His view of Reconstruction was similar to that held by many white southerners, that the south was demoralized by northern carpetbaggers and that overreach on the part of the Radical Republicans justified extreme measures on the part of white southerners.

As President, Wilson set back many advancements made by African-Americans up to that point. He worked closely with Southern Democrats, who were an important part of his base. In Wilson's first month in office, Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson brought up the issue of segregating workplaces in a cabinet meeting and urged the president to establish it across the government, in restrooms, cafeterias and work spaces. Treasury Secretary William G. McAdoo, who would later become Wilson's son-in-law, permitted lower-level officials to racially segregate employees in the workplaces of those departments. By the end of 1913 many departments, including the Navy, had work spaces segregated by screens, and restrooms, cafeterias were also segregated. Wilson defended his administration's segregation policy in a July 1913 letter responding to Oswald Garrison Villard, publisher of the New York Evening Post and founding member of the NAACP. Wilson argued that segregation removed "friction" between the races.

Wilson's change in federal practices was protested in letters from members of all races. Mass meetings, newspaper campaigns and official statements by church groups expressed opposition to the policy. African-Americans who had crossed party lines to vote for Wilson, were bitterly disappointed, and protested the changes.

Archibald Grimké, head of the D.C. branch of the NAACP and a founding member of the national organization, coordinated a series of protests and mass meetings, including one October 1913 rally that attracted a crowd of nearly 10,000 to the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal church just a few blocks from the White House. Highlighting Wilson’s campaign slogan of “New Freedom,” Grimké called the president’s racial policies an attempt “to insult, to humiliate, to degrade, and to reduce [African-Americans] to a new slavery.”

Wilson defended his policy, as in a letter to the contemporary well-known African-American Minister Rev. H.A. Bridgman, editor of the Congregation and Christian World. During his election campaign, Wilson had promised African Americans that he would deal generously with racial injustices, but he did not deliver on those assurances. Segregation and government offices, and discriminatory hiring practices had been present in previous administrations, but the Wilson administration continued and escalated the practice.

When the United States entered the first world war, Wilson's War Department drafted hundreds of thousands of African-Americans into the army. Military policy established during the Civil War was continued, which meant that these soldiers were kept them in "all-black" units commanded by white officers. For the most part they were kept out of combat. When a delegation of African-American soldiers protested the discriminatory actions, Wilson replied that "segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen."

Wilson showed the film The Birth of a Nation in the White House. The film glorified the Ku Klux Klan and portrayed African-Americans as uncivilized and primitive. The film contained a quote from Wilson: "The white men were roused my a mere instinct of self-preservation, until at last there had sprung into existence a great Ku Klux Klan, a veritable empire of the south, to protect the southern country." Thomas Dixon, Jr., author of The Birth of a Nation's source play and novel The Clansman, was a former classmate of Wilson's at Johns Hopkins University. Dixon arrange the screening at the White House for Wilson, members of his cabinet, and their families. Wilson was reported to have said about the film, "It is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true". This quote has been disputed however and many believe that it was falsely attributed to Wilson by Dixon. Whether or not it is an accurate quote however, it certainly accords with Wilson's past writings.

During Wilson's term, the government began requiring photographs of all applicants for federal jobs. Wilson told African-American leaders that he sincerely believed this was in their interest. Wilson signed a bill banning miscegenation in the District of Columbia and segregating DC streetcars. He appointed white southerners to his administration who introduced segregation into their previously unsegregated departments. He replaced all but two of his predecessor’s African-American appointees with white men.

The racially prejudiced changes brought about by Wilson were perhaps best summed up by Booker T. Washington, who said in August of 1913, "I have never seen the colored people so discouraged and bitter as they are at the present time."

During Wilson’s two terms in office, white administrators refused to hire or appoint qualified African-American applicants, wrote negative personnel reports on existing employees and denied promotions to longtime workers. These efforts had a crippling effect on the community, restricting their opportunity for economic advancement and job security available to educated black people.

There is a movement to remove Wilson's name from a number of locations in Washington D.C. As editorial writer Chris Myers Asch wrote in an editorial in the Washington Post on December 11, 2015:

"Given Wilson’s concerted attack on the District’s black community, the city should take steps to change the name of Wilson High. Doing so would not erase history; rather, it would acknowledge and respect a fuller, richer local history. Instead of honoring an aggressive white supremacist, we should embrace his nemesis, a man who articulated a sharply different vision of a democratic, egalitarian city that all of us can appreciate. Let’s call it Archibald Grimké High School."
It was the nation's first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton who had chartered the first national bank in the United States. Hamilton saw the importance of a strong bank as part of a strong central government. But after Hamilton left office, the first national bank would not last long. In 1795, the new Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott, Jr. informed Congress that, due to the state of government finances, more money was needed. This could be achieved either by selling the government's shares of stock in the bank, or by raising taxes. Wolcott preferred the former choice and a (Jeffersonian) Republican Congress agreed, above Hamilton's objections. Hamilton tried to organize opposition to the measure, but was unsuccessful. Sixteen years later, in 1811, the Senate tied on a vote to renew the bank's charter. James Madison's Vice President George Clinton broke the tie and voted against renewal. The bank's charter thus expired in 1811.

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But five years later, after near defeat in the War of 1812, Madison came to better appreciate the need for a strong central bank and in 1816, the bank was succeeded by the Second Bank of the United States. The Second Bank of the United States was located in Philadelphia. Although it was technically a private corporation, the bank handled all fiscal transactions for the U.S. Government, and was accountable to Congress and the U.S. Treasury. Twenty percent of its capital was owned by the federal government, the bank's largest stockholder. Four thousand private investors held the remaining 80% of the bank's capital. The majority of the stocks were held by a few hundred wealthy Americans.

The biggest job of the bank was to regulate the public credit issued by private banking institutions. The bank did this by setting the interest rate at which it would lend money to the smaller state banks. The Second Bank was chartered by President James Madison in 1816. Thought its main branch was in Philadelphia, it had twenty-five branch offices nationwide by 1832.

The bank's charter was coming up for renewal, and this became a major issue during the general election campaign of 1832. The bank's president Nicholas Biddle and pro-bank National Republicans led by Henry Clay clashed with the administration of Andrew Jackson, who preferred to have banking power in the hands of state banks.

Under Biddle's leadership, the bank had become a powerful banking institution that produced a strong and sound system of national credit and currency. From 1823 to 1833, Biddle expanded credit steadily, but with wise restraint. By the time of Jackson's inauguration in 1829, the national bank appeared to be on solid footing. The U.S. Supreme Court had affirmed the constitutionality of the bank in 1819 the precedent-setting case of McCulloch v. Maryland. The bank had also helped American currency to remain healthy and stable and public perceptions of the central bank were generally positive.

But the bank came under attack by the Jackson administration in December 1829, on the grounds that it had failed to produce a stable national currency, and that it lacked constitutional legitimacy. Both houses of Congress launched committee investigations and their reports were supportive of the bank. Jackson rejected these findings, and called the bank as a corrupt institution, dangerous to American liberties.

Biddle tried to reach a compromise with Jackson and his cabinet to secure the bank's re-chartering. Its term was due to expire in 1836. But Jackson persisted in his opposition to the bank. Biddle in turn reached out to pro-bank National Republicans led by Henry Clay. The led to what became known as the Bank War and led to a showdown in the 1832 election.

On July 10, 1832 Jackson used his veto to reject a bill calling for the re-charter of the bank. Congress was unable to overturn the veto. Jackson won reelection in November of 1832 on his anti-bank platform, convincing the public of the evils of the bank. He removed all federal deposits from the bank and in 1833, federal revenue was diverted into selected private banks by executive order, ending the regulatory role of the Second Bank of the United States.


A brief financial crisis followed, with each side vilifying the other. Some blamed on Jackson's executive action. while others Blamed Biddle for causing the panic. In February 1836, the bank became a private corporation under Pennsylvania law. An even greater financial crisis followed, due to the shortage of hard currency that Jackson had counted on, causing the Panic of 1837. This lasted for approximately seven years. The Bank suspended payment in 1839 and was liquidated in 1841. However this also spelled disaster for the Democratic Party in 1840, when William Henry Harrison was elected as the first Whig President, defeating incumbent (and Jackson's hand-picked successor) Martin Van Buren, who was pejoratively called "Martin Van Ruin" because of the Panic.
When many scholars list the worst mistakes made by Presidents, a common entry is the decision made by James Madison to take the nation to war against Great Britain at a time when the country had a small standing army and a navy many believed to be no match for the Royal Navy.


When Madison became President in 1809, the Federalist party had weakened and some of its former members had joined Madison's Republican party. This didn't mean that Madison had no opposition, he found that within his own party which split into rival factions. The largest faction was probably the "War Hawks" who were led by House Speaker Henry Clay. American animosity against the British was high, following the quasi-war during the Adams administration and the failed Embargo Act. The continued British impressment of American sailors and British encouragement of native American aggression against settlers in the west fueled the nation's desire for war.

The War Hawks were emboldened by the fact Napoleon had won a decisive victory at the Battle of Austerlitz in 1805, and as a consequence, the British had their eyes in another direction. Congress repealed Thomas Jefferson's Embargo Act shortly before Madison became president. America's new "nonintercourse" policy was to trade with all countries including France and Britain if restrictions on shipping were removed. In April 1809, Madison's efforts to get the British to cease the impressment practices were rejected by British Foreign Secretary George Canning and by August 1809, diplomatic relations with Britain were at a low point. Madison first resisted calls for war. In his Political Observations written on April 20, 1795, Madison stated:

"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."

During his first State of the Union Address in November 1809, Madison asked Congress for advice concerning the British-American trade crisis. He expressed concern about the possibility of war. But by spring 1810, Madison was asking Congress for more appropriations to increase the size of the Army and Navy in preparation for war with Britain. Largely due to peace in Europe, the United States economy began to recover early in Madison's presidency. By the time Madison was standing for reelection in 1812, the Peninsular War in Spain had spread, while Napoleon invaded Russia, and the entire European continent was once again embroiled in war.

On June 1, 1812, Madison sent a message to Congress listing American grievances against Great Britain, and asked for a declaration of war. After Madison's message, the House of Representatives deliberated for four days behind closed doors before voting 79 to 49 for a declaration of war. The Senate agreed by 19 to 13 . The war formally began on June 18, 1812, when Madison signed the measure into law and proclaimed it the next day. This was the first time that the United States had declared war on another nation, and the Congressional vote would prove to be the closest vote to formally declare war in American history. None of the 39 Federalists in Congress voted in favor of the war; critics of war subsequently referred to it as "Mr. Madison's War".

The United States entered the War of 1812, while the Napoleonic Wars were taking place in Europe. Napoleon intended to force other European countries to join his embargo on Britain. As Great Britain increased naval pressure against Napoleon, it did the same against American ships. Britain used its navy to prevent American ships from trading with France. The United States, which was a neutral nation, saw this act as a violation of international law. The Royal Navy boarded American ships on the high seas and impressed its sailors for its own navy. Madison considered on par with an invasion of American soil. Britain also armed Indian tribes in the Northwest Territory and encouraged them to attack settlers, even though Britain had ceded this territory to the United States by treaties in 1783 and 1794.

The War Hawks deemed this a "second war of independence". But the war came at a time when Madison faced formidable obstacles. These included a divided cabinet, divisions within his own party, a recalcitrant Congress, obstructionist governors, and incompetent generals, together with militia that refused to fight outside their states. Popular support for the war was sectional. There were serious threats of secession from New England, which continued to trade with Canada and refused to provide financial support or soldiers. The problems were made worse due to Jefferson's and Madison's dismantling of the system built by Hamilton and the Federalists. They had reduced the military, closed the Bank of the U.S., and narrowed the tax system. They distrusted standing armies and banks, and the dismantling of the federalist taxation system meant they could not finance the quick hiring of mercenaries. By the time the war began, Madison's military force consisted mostly of poorly trained militia members.

The senior command at the War Department and in the field proved incompetent. For example, General William Hill surrendered his army at Detroit to a smaller British force without firing a shot. Things weren't much better in the Treasury. War was difficult to fund, because the national bank had been closed and major financiers in the Northeast refused to help.

Madison's plan for for the U.S. to seize Canada, cutting off food supplies to the West Indies, giving him a good bargaining chip at the peace talks. But the US invasion efforts failed. Madison had thought that state militias would rally to invade Canada, but the governors in the Northeast failed to cooperate. Their militias either sat out the war or refused to leave their states for action. The British armed American Indian tribes in the Northwest, including several tribes allied with the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh.

There were some American successes, in some unexpected places. The British lost control of Lake Erie at the naval Battle of Lake Erie in 1813. General William Henry Harrison caught up a British Army in retreat at the Battle of the Thames, where he destroyed the British and Indian armies, killed Tecumseh, and destroyed Indian power in the Great Lakes region. But in retaliation, the British raided Washington in 1814. Madison fled the capital with his wife Dolley Madison rescuing White House valuables and documents shortly before the British burned the White House, the Capitol and other public buildings.

It was two future presidents, Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison who had destroyed the main Indian threats in the South and West, respectively. An American naval shipyard was built up at Sackets Harbor, New York, where thousands of men produced twelve warships. American frigates and other vessels, such as the USS Constitution (dubbed "Old Ironsides"), the USS United States, the USS Chesapeake, the USS Hornet, the USS Wasp, and the USS Essex, won some significant naval battles on the Great Lakes. The U.S. fleet on Lake Erie went up against a superior British force there and destroyed or captured the entire British Fleet on the lake. Commander Oliver Perry reported his victory with the simple statement, "We have met the enemy, and they are ours." Around 1,800 British ships were captured.

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The defense of Ft. McHenry, which guarded the seaway to Baltimore, against one of the most intense naval bombardments in history led Francis Scott Key to write the poem that was set to music as the U.S. national anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner."

With the war resulting in a stalemate, peace talks began , resulting in the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the war in February 1815, with no territorial gains on either side. But news of the treaty traveled slowly back across the Atlantic. It was after the treaty had been signed that General Andrew Jackson put together a force including regular Army troops, militia, frontiersmen, Creoles, Native American allies and Jean Lafitte's pirates. The Battle of New Orleans took place two weeks after peace treaty was drafted (but before it was ratified). At the battle Jackson's forces repulsed the British invasion army in the most decisive victory of the war. The victory gave the nation a tremendous boost of morale and many believed that the victory at New Orleans had forced the British to surrender. This view, while inaccurate, led to the post-war euphoria that persisted for a decade.

Napoleon was defeated for the last time at the Battle of Waterloo in June of 1815, near the end of Madison's presidency. Madison's reputation as President improved and Americans finally believed the United States had established itself as a world power. It is difficult to imagine how things would have turned out if Madison had not called for a declaration of war, but many of the events of the War of 1812 helped to shape much of North America as it exists today.
On May 5, 1987, Congressional hearings began into something which became known as the Iran-Contra Affair. Opponents of President Ronald Reagan were hoping to find evidence which would implicate the President in an illegal "arms for hostages" deal. While the was no evidence found to show that Reagan was involved in any illegal activity, the incident left Reagan's image as commander-in-chief tarnished and made him appear out of control with what was taking place in his administration's foreign affairs sector on his watch.

The Iran-Conta scheme concerned an operation to free seven American hostages being held by a terrorist group with Iranian ties. A plan was concocted by which Israel would ship weapons to Iran, and then the U.S. would resupply Israel and receive the Israeli payment. The Iranian recipients promised to do everything in their power to effect the release of six U.S. hostages. The plan became an arms-for-hostages scheme, in which members of the executive branch sold weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of the American hostages. Much of the plan was devised by Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North of the National Security Council in late 1985. North's plan included a scheme by which a portion of the proceeds from the weapon sales was diverted to fund anti-Sandinista and anti-communist rebels, or Contras, in Nicaragua.

One of the human interest stories that came out during the hearings was the story of North's secretary, Fawn Hall. She began work at the National Security Council for North on February 26, 1983. Her mother, Wilma Hall, was secretary to Robert McFarlane, Reagan's national security advisor and North's superior. McFarlane was also a major player in Iran-Contra. In June of 1987, 28 years ago, she began two days of testimony in front of Congress. She confessed to altering and shredding a large number of documents (so many that the office shredder jammed), and smuggling others, in her boots and inside her clothing to give them to North on November 25, 1986. North had been fired by then after his role in orchestrating potentially illegal aid to the Nicaraguan contras became public. During her other testimony, she said "Sometimes you have to go above the law." Hall was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony against North.

President Ronald Reagan was a supporter of the Contra cause, but despite accusations to the contrary, no conclusive evidence has been found showing that he authorized the diversion of the money raised by the Iranian arms sales to the Contras. After the weapon sales were revealed in November 1986, Reagan appeared on national television and stated that the weapons transfers had indeed occurred, but that the United States did not trade arms for hostages. An investigation into these allegations was hampered when large volumes of documents relating to the scandal were destroyed or withheld from investigators.

On March 4, 1987, in a nationally televised address, Reagan accepted full responsibility for his own actions and for those of his administration, including activities undertaken without his knowledge. In the same broadcast, he stated that "what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages."

Several investigations ensued, including those by the United States Congress and the three-man, Reagan-appointed Tower Commission. Neither of these groups found any evidence that President Reagan himself knew of the extent of the multiple programs. In the end, fourteen administration officials were indicted, including then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Eleven convictions resulted, some of which were vacated on appeal. The rest of those indicted or convicted were all pardoned in the final days of the presidency of George H. W. Bush, who had been vice-president at the time of the affair.

Following is a portion of President Reagan's televised address of March 4, 1987.

It is often said that hindsight is 20/20, and what often looks like a clear mistake at one point in time, may not have been so clear at the time it was made. We know now that intelligence reports about Iraq's capability to deploy weapons of mass destruction, and their intention to use them on Americans, were highly inaccurate and the cost of invading Iraq, both in terms of human life as well as financial, is considered by many to be the biggest mistake of the Presidency of George W. Bush. But at the time, it was a decision that had the support of many legislators from both parties.

On September 11, 2001, after Al Qaeda terrorists were able to bring about an attack on US soil, the reality of the potential for significant loss of life became clear and the nation's priority became that or insuring that something like this never happened again. President George W. Bush promised justice for those behind the attacks, something everyone was calling for, and he was determined to prevent those with malicious intent towards the United States from carrying out their intentions. While no evidence existed of a connection between the 911 terrorists and the nation of Iraq, a separate concern existed about the question of whether or not Iraq had acquired nuclear capability. The problem was exacerbated by Iraq's refusal to comply with a UN resolution allowing nuclear inspectors into the country.

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After the 911 attacks, the United States along with other nations launched military action in Afghanistan, where the ruling Taliban government was allowing the Al Qaeda terrorists to maintain a base of operations. The military commander of that operation was United States General Tommy Franks. According to Franks, early on during the Afghanistan operation, he was told by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on November 27, 2001 to look at military options for Iraq at the request of President Bush. Shortly after Christmas of 2001, General Franks went to Texas to meet President Bush. Franks fully briefed President Bush and some of the members of the Cabinet on plans for Desert Storm II, a potential invasion of Iraq, which he had been planning at Rumsfeld's request.

In his January 29, 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush began publicly commenting on Iraq, which he included as part of an "axis of evil" and "a grave and growing danger" to U.S. interests because of their possession of "weapons of mass destruction". In 2002, Central Intelligence Agency reports contained assertions that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was planning on recommencing nuclear weapons programs. It was also alleged that Saddam had not accounted for Iraqi biological weapons and chemical weapons material in violation of UN sanctions, and that some Iraqi missiles had a range greater than allowed by the UN sanctions. An October 1, 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction was prepared. President Bush received a summary of this document and the US intelligence community investigated a possible tie between Sadaam Hussein and the Al Qaeda terrorists who carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In late 2002 and early 2003, President Bush urged the United Nations to enforce Iraqi disarmament orders. On November 13, 2002, under UN Security Council Resolution 1441, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei led UN weapons inspectors in Iraq. There was controversy about Iraqi compliance with inspection requirements. UN inspection teams left Iraq despite at the US request after they were alerted to the possibility of US invasion, despite their requests for more time to complete their inspection. The U.S. sought a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of military force pursuant to the United Nations Charter. This was met with vigorous opposition from several nations including Russia and China. The U.S. withdrew its request for UN approval and began to prepare for an invasion of Iraq.

On March 18, 2003, President Bush told Congress that he had determined the following:
(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone would neither adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor lead to enforcement of the UN Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq;
(2) acting outside of a UN sanctioned attack would be taking the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations who planned harm to the United States, much like the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

The war effort was joined by more than 30 other nations, the largest being the United Kingdom and Australia. The Bush Administration called this the "coalition of the willing".

The invasion of Iraq commenced on March 20, 2003. It's stated goal was to pre-empt Iraqi WMD deployment and remove Saddam Hussein from power. The Iraqi military was quickly defeated and Iraq's capital city of Baghdad, fell on April 9, 2003. On May 1, 2003, President Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq in a speech from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. This speech would become known as his "Mission Accomplished" speech due to a banner with that slogan in view overhead. In the speech, President Bush stated: "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country. In this battle, we have fought for the cause of liberty, and for the peace of the world."

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The initial success of U.S. operations had increased President Bush's popularity. But the fighting was not over. U.S. and allied forces faced a growing insurgency led by sectarian groups inside of Iraq. The Bush Administration faced criticism in subsequent months following the report of the Iraq Survey Group, which did not find the large quantities of weapons that the regime was believed to possess. On December 14, 2005, while discussing the WMD issue, Bush acknowledged "It is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong." Bush continued to assert that the war had been necessary and he said that he would have made the same decision if he had known more.

In the midst of this criticism, U.S. government officials revealed classified employment information about Valerie E. Wilson (also known as "Valerie Plame") that she was a covert operative of the United States CIA investigating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Mrs. Wilson's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, alleged that members of the Bush administration leaked his wife's covert identity to the press as political retribution for his criticism of the administration in a New York Times Op-Ed piece he wrote that was published on 6 July 2003. Wilson's allegations led to a federal grand jury investigation and subsequent conviction on perjury and obstruction of justice charges against the Vice-President's Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Jr. Libby's trial began on January 16, 2007. Libby was convicted on March 6, 2007, on four counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements, and he was acquitted of one count of making false statements.

Iraqi elections and a referendum to approve a constitution were held in January and December 2005. Voter turnout was estimated at less than 50%. In 2004 through 2006 the situation in Iraq deteriorated and the resulting instability let to increased criticism of Bush's policies. Demands were made within the United States to set a timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq. Sectarian violence in Iraq at the end of 2006 increased negative impressions of Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq. More than 3,000 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq while the number of Iraqi deaths was estimated at 654,965, (in a range of 392,979 to 942,636.)

In 2006 a National Intelligence Estimate concluded that the Iraq war had increased Islamic radicalism and increased the terror threat. The report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group led by Republican James Baker came out in late 2006. The report concluded that the situation in Iraq was "grave and deteriorating". It recommended that the Bush administration take the following course of action:
(1) launch a diplomatic offensive with Iraq's neighbor states, particularly Iran, to help achieve stability, and
(2) redeploy U.S. forces to shift their focus from combat and security operations to that of supporting the Iraqi army, with the expectation that U.S. combat forces not necessary for force protection could be withdrawn from Iraq by March 2008.

President Bush admitted by the end of 2006 that there were strategic mistakes made in Iraq, but he maintained he would not change the overall Iraq strategy. Bush said that it was necessary to "stay the course" in Iraq. On November 28, 2006, facing mounting criticism for his Iraq war policy, Bush told the NATO Summit 2006 in Latvia "There's one thing I'm not going to do: I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete."

On January 10, 2007 Bush addressed the U.S. about the situation in Iraq. In his speech, he announced new initiatives, including most notably the "surge" of 21,500 more troops for Iraq, as well reconstruction proposals costing 1.2 billion dollars. The "surge" was opposed by many influential politicians in Washington, including some Republicans, such as Senator Chuck Hagel and Senator Norm Coleman. On February 16, 2007, the House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop "surge" in Iraq by a vote of 246-182. In early march Bush requested an additional 8,000 troops be added to the surge.

On July 31, 2008, Bush announced that due to increased stability in Iraq, the additional American forces were being withdrawn. The consensus between the White House and the Pentagon was that the war had "turned a corner". According to the U.S. Defense Department, in December 2008 the "overall level of violence" in the country had dropped 80% since before the surge began in January 2007, and the country's murder rate had dropped to prewar levels.


George W. Bush left office on January 20, 2008 at the end of his second term. The winding down of U.S. involvement in Iraq accelerated under President Barack Obama. The U.S. formally withdrew all combat troops from Iraq by December 2011. Rightly or wrongly, many historians and those in the media continue to judge George Bush on a decision he made in 2002, based on knowledge subsequently acquired. In his 2010 memoir, Decision Points, Bush said he considered his biggest accomplishment to be keeping "the country safe amid a real danger".
The Mexican War added territory to the United States, something many people would argue that was a good thing. It also hastened civil war, and many people, including Abraham Lincoln, allege that it was started on false and fraudulent grounds. This was one of the biggest controversies during the Presidency of James K. Polk, and many questioned Polk's grounds for going to war. One issue concerned whether on not Polk could send the Army to Mexico in the first place, or whether he needed Congressional approval to do so. The second issue concerned whether the army that Polk sent had proper cause to enter Mexico once they were there.

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The Constitution was unclear on these issues. It gave Congress the power to declare war, while making the President the Commander in Chief. In 1827, the US Supreme Court ruled in the case Martin v. Mott that it was constitutional for Congress to vest the president with the discretionary authority to decide whether an emergency had arisen and to raise a militia to meet such a threat of invasion or civil insurrection.

When Polk was elected President in 1844, his predecessor, John Tyler, urged the lame duck Congress to pass a joint resolution admitting Texas to the Union. Congress did so on February 28, 1845. Texas promptly accepted the offer and officially became a state on December 29, 1845. The annexation angered Mexico. Texas had been a part of Mexico until 1836 when the Texans declared their independence following their own war with Mexico. Mexican leaders warned Texans that annexation with the US would lead to war. Six days after the joint resolution passed Congress, Polk declared in his inaugural address that only Texas and the United States would decide the question of the annexation of Texas.

After the Texas annexation, Polk turned his attention to California, hoping to acquire the territory from Mexico. He was especially interested in San Francisco Bay as an access point for trade with Asia. In 1845, he sent diplomat John Slidell to Mexico to offer to purchase California and New Mexico for $24–30 million. The Mexicans were upset when they learned that Slidell was there to purchase additional territory and not to offer compensation for the loss of Texas. The Mexicans refused to recognize Slidell's credentials. In January 1846, under the auspices of protecting the Texas and also to increase pressure on Mexico to negotiate, Polk sent troops under General Zachary Taylor into the area between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. This was territory that was claimed by both the U.S. and Mexico.

Prior to Texas's independence, the Nueces River was recognized as the northern boundary of Mexico. Spain had fixed the Nueces as a border in 1816, and the United States ratified it in the 1819 treaty in which the United States purchased Florida and renounced claims to Texas. After Mexico's independence from Spain, American and European cartographers still fixed the Texas border at the Nueces. When Texas declared its independence, however, it claimed as its territory an additional 150 miles of land, to the Rio Grande. With the annexation of Texas in 1845, the United States adopted Texas's position and claimed the Rio Grande as the border.

Slidell returned to Washington in May 1846, having been rejected by the Mexican government. Polk saw this treatment of his diplomat as an insult. In Polk's mind, this itself was ample cause of war. He prepared to ask Congress for a declaration of war on this ground alone. However in the meantime, Taylor crossed the Rio Grande after some of his men were attacked at the Rio Grande. He briefly occupied Matamoros. Taylor's forces prevented ships from entering the port of Matamoros. A few days before Polk intended to make his request to Congress, he received word that Mexican forces had crossed the Rio Grande area and killed eleven American soldiers in the disputed territory. Polk decided to make this his "casus belli" (cause for war).

Polk addressed Congress on May 11, 1846. In his speech, he told Congress: "Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil." Polk claimed the move was a defensive measure. Expansionists supported his action. Some Whigs said that the movement was an invasion of Mexico rather than a defense of Texas. On May 13, Congress declared war, with a vote of 40-2 in the Senate and 174-14 in the House.

A number of Whig members of Congress, including Illinois Congressman Abraham Lincoln, challenged Polk's version of events. They were in the minority, and Congress overwhelmingly approved the declaration of war. Many Whigs feared that opposition would cost them politically by casting themselves as unpatriotic for not supporting the war effort. (Does this sound familiar?) In the House, antislavery Whigs led by John Quincy Adams voted against the war.

Ohio Senator Tom Corwin accused Polk of involving the United States in a war of aggression. Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina abstained from voting. He predicted, correctly, that the war would aggravate sectional strife.

Lincoln, who was then a freshman Whig Congressman, questioned whether the "spot" where blood had been shed was really U.S. soil. On December 22, 1847, he introduced what became known as the "Spot Resolutions". Congress never voted on these, and Lincoln's action earned him a derisive nickname, "spotty Lincoln," by one Illinois newspaper.

Other prominent citizens expressed concern about the war, particularly in New England. Henry David Thoreau refused to pay his $1 Massachusetts poll tax because he believed the war an immoral advancement of slavery. Former President John Quincy Adams called the war a southern expedition to find "bigger pens to cram with slaves." Charles Sumner, a noted abolitionist, also condemned the war. The Massachusetts state legislature resolved the war an unconstitutional action because it was initiated by order of the President with the "triple object of extending slavery, of strengthening the slave power and of obtaining the control of the free states."


The war ended in 1848 with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The war had serious consequences for Polk and the Democrats. The Whigs went into the next election denouncing the war as an immoral act of aggression carried out through abuse of power by the president. In the 1848 election, however, the Whigs nominated General Zachary Taylor, a war hero, and celebrated his victories. On the one hand, the Whigs could be seen as supporting the soldiers who fought in the war, while opposing the politician who had sent those men to war. The strain of managing the war effort caused Polk's health to declined toward the end of his presidency. He died less than two months after leaving office.

Ironically, when Lincoln became President, he extended the war powers of the president, something he had criticized Polk for doing.

Happy Thanksgiving From Potus Geeks

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. This is a holiday in which many Presidents have been a part of, from Washington to Biden. In fact even before there was the office of President of the United States, there was Thanksgiving. During the American Revolutionary War the Continental Congress appointed one or more thanksgiving days each year, recommending the observance of these days in each of the states. The First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving was given by the Continental Congress in 1777 from its temporary location in York, Pennsylvania, while the British occupied the national capital at Philadelphia. George Washington, then the leader of the revolutionary forces in the American Revolutionary War, proclaimed a Thanksgiving in December 1777 as a victory celebration honoring the defeat of the British at Saratoga.


On Thursday, September 24, 1789, the first House of Representatives voted to recommend the First Amendment of the newly drafted Constitution to the states for ratification. The next day, Congressman Elias Boudinot from New Jersey proposed that the House and Senate jointly request of President Washington to proclaim a day of thanksgiving. As President, on October 3, 1789, George Washington issued a proclamation that created the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the national government. His proclaimation read as follows:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Washington again proclaimed a Thanksgiving in 1795 and President John Adams declared Thanksgivings in 1798 and 1799. James Madison renewed the tradition in 1814, in response to resolutions of Congress, at the close of the War of 1812. Madison also declared the holiday in 1815.

In the middle of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863. Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been observed annually in the United States.

Lincoln's successors as president followed his example of annually declaring the final Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving. But in 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt broke with this tradition. November had five Thursdays that year and Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving. With the country still in the midst of The Great Depression, Roosevelt thought an earlier Thanksgiving would give merchants a longer period to sell goods before Christmas. Increasing profits and spending during this period, Roosevelt hoped, would help bring the country out of the Depression. Republicans decried the change, calling it an affront to the memory of Lincoln. People began referring to November 30 as the "Republican Thanksgiving" and November 23 as the "Democratic Thanksgiving" or "Franksgiving".


Since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented the President of the United States with one live turkey and two dressed turkeys, in a ceremony known as the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. John F. Kennedy was the first president reported to spare the turkey given to him and Ronald Reagan was the first to grant the turkey a presidential pardon, which he jokingly presented to his 1987 turkey. (The turkey was spared and sent to a petting zoo). George H. W. Bush made the turkey pardon a permanent annual tradition upon assuming the presidency in 1989, a tradition that has been carried on by every president each year since.

Happy Birthday Old Rough and Ready

On November 24, 1784 (238 years ago today), Zachary Taylor, the 12th President of the United States, was born in Barboursville, Virginia. Taylor is another somewhat obscure president that I like, mainly for two reasons: (1) because he was unpretentious and (2) when he was elected, the Whigs in congress thought that he was a weak leader and they expected him to do as they told him. He surprised them by being his own man. If he hadn't died less than two years into his term, I think he would have actually been a very strong and a very memorable president.

Taylor was born on a plantation in Orange County, Virginia, to a prominent family of Virginia planters. He was the third of five surviving sons in his family (a sixth died in infancy) and had three younger sisters. His father, Richard Taylor, had served as a lieutenant colonel in the American Revolution. His mother was Sarah Dabney (Strother) Taylor. Taylor was a second cousin of James Madison, the fourth president.

Taylor's family joined the westward migration out of Virginia and settled near modern day Louisville, Kentucky, on the Ohio River. Taylor's father came to own over 10,000 acres of land throughout Kentucky and he had 26 slaves. In June of 1810, Taylor married Margaret Mackall Smith, known as "Peggy". The couple had six children. Taylor's daughter Sarah was the first wife of Confederate States President Jefferson Davis. Sarah died at the age of 21 from malaria. Taylor's youngest son Richard was a Confederate general during the civil war.

Taylor was initially uninterested in politics. He was a successful general in the Mexican War, winning battles at Palo Alto and Monterrey against greater odds. He was relieved of most of his command not because of incompetence, but the reverse. He was such a good commander that President James K. Polk was worried about the popular general becoming too popular. (The strategy didn't work, Taylor ended up succeeding Polk as President anyhow). In total Taylor had a 40-year military career in the United States Army, serving in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, and the Second Seminole War, before gaining notoriety in Mexico. He wasn't much for fancy military dress and he became known as "Old Rough and Ready." There is a story told of how, when soldiers would arrive looking for General Taylor, they would mistake him for a civilian because he would be out of uniform and wearing an old straw hat. It is said that Taylor would play along with the charade for a time to get a laugh.

Taylor ran for president as a Whig in the 1848 presidential election. The Whigs selected him as their candidate even though no one was sure what his politics were. It is said that he had never even voted before. Taylor defeated Democrat Lewis Cass. At the time he was a planter and slaveholder based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Northerners expected him to be a moderate on the issue of slavery while southerners expected that, as a southerner and a slaveholder, Taylor would be on their side on the issue of expansion of slavery into the territories. He surprised them on that issue. As president, Taylor angered many Southerners by taking a moderate stance on the issue of the expansion of slavery. He urged settlers in New Mexico and California to bypass the territorial stage and draft constitutions for statehood, setting the stage for the Compromise of 1850.

Taylor died July 9, 1850, 16 months after his inauguration. The cause of death is believed to be gastroenteritis. Conspiracy theorists believed that Taylor may have been poisoned and on June 17, 1991 his remains were exhumed and transported to the Office of the Kentucky Chief Medical Examiner for examination. Samples of hair, fingernail, and other tissues were removed, and radiological studies were conducted. The remains were returned to the cemetery and reinterred, with appropriate honors.

Analysis conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory revealed no evidence of poisoning, as arsenic levels were too low. The analysis concluded he had contracted "cholera morbus, or acute gastroenteritis". The report added that the cure may have been worse than the disease. His doctors treated him with "ipecac, calomel, opium and quinine (at 40 grains a whack), and bled and blistered him too."
When the United States entered the First World War, Congress passed legislation similar to the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Part of this legislation was practical and necessary in a wartime environment in which foreign government was ready to interfere with the domestic tranquility of the United States. Other parts went too far, and resulted in the jailing of critics whose only crime was to disagree with their government.


The Espionage Act of 1917 was legislation which made it a crime to interfere with the American war effort or with military recruitment. It also made it an offense to attempt to aid a nation at war with the U.S. But because there were groups of Americans, including those from certain European nations, whose opposition to the war was intense, this law was viewed by some as inadequate. Wartime violence on the part of some groups persuaded some lawmakers that the law was insufficient to address another problem, that of instances of public disorder in which vigilante groups sought to punish unpopular speech with acts of violence against those they believed to be undermining their own government. The sentiment behind Congress's efforts to address the problem were not entirely without merit. Congress's goal was to enhance the government's authority to prevent mobs from doing what the government could not do.

So in 1918, Congress passed the Sedition Act, an law that extended the Espionage Act of 1917 to cover a broader range of offenses, including speech and the expression of opinion that was critical of the government or the war effort of which cast them in a negative light or interfered with the sale of government bonds.

The Sedition Act prohibited the use of language that was "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive" about the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces or that caused others to view the American government or its institutions with contempt. Those who were convicted under the act generally received sentences of imprisonment for five to 20 years. The act also allowed the Postmaster General to refuse to deliver mail that offended the Act.

The Act applied only to times "when the United States is in war." The U.S. was in fact in a declared state of war at the time of passage, that being the First World War. Around fifteen hundred prosecutions were carried out under the Espionage and Sedition Acts, resulting in more than a thousand convictions.

When the law was being debated, there was considerable opposition in the Senate, with the leading critics being Republicans Senators Henry Cabot Lodge and Hiram Johnson. Lodge opposed the Act's restrictions of free speech, while Johnson believed that the laws already in place were adequate. Former president Theodore Roosevelt voiced opposition as well, siding with his friend Lodge. President Woodrow Wilson and his Attorney General Thomas Watt Gregory defended the bill. But they did oppose proposals that would have moved prosecutorial authority from the Justice Department to the War Department.

The final vote for passage was 48 to 26 in the Senate and 293 to 1 in the House of Representatives, with the sole dissenting vote in the House cast by Representative Meyer London of New York.

Officials in the Justice Department hoped that the law's presence would be sufficient to quell offensive speech without the necessity for a great deal of enforcement. This proved to be wishful thinking. Surprisingly (or not), most U.S. newspapers showed no opposition toward the act and in fact many of the leading papers led the movement in support of its enactment.

The legislation came very late in the war, just a few months before Armistice Day. But there were still a number of notable prosecutions. These Marie Equi, who was arrested for giving a speech at the IWW hall in Portland, Oregon that was critical of the Wilson administration. She was convicted after the war was over.

In April 1918, the government arrested industrialist William Edenborn, a naturalized citizen from Germany, at his railroad business in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was accused of speaking "disloyally" when he allegedly belittled the threat of Germany to the security of the United States.

Perhaps the most famous case was that of Socialist Party leader and former Indiana Congressman Eugene V. Debs. In June 1918, Debs was arrested for violating the Sedition Act by undermining the government's conscription efforts. He had given speeches urging Americans to resist the draft. He was sentenced to ten years in prison. He served his sentence in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary from April 13, 1919, until December 1921, when President Warren Harding commuted Debs' sentence to time served, effective on Christmas Day. In March 1919, at the suggestion of Attorney General Thomas Watt Gregory, President Woodrow Wilson released or reduced the sentences of some two hundred prisoners convicted under the Espionage Act or the Sedition Act. But he refused to pardon or commute the sentence of Debs. Wilson wrote: "While the flower of American youth was pouring out its blood to vindicate the cause of civilization, this man, Debs, stood behind the lines sniping, attacking, and denouncing them. This man was a traitor to his country and he will never be pardoned during my administration."

The act was rendered inoperative by the end of the war. Rather than reducing criticism of government, a new wave of anti-government sentiment was created. Attorney General Mitchell Palmer waged a public campaign, which he intended to supplement his own campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in 1920. He was in favor of a peacetime version of the Sedition Act. He sent a op ed piece to newspaper editors in January 1919, setting out why he thought this was needed. He claimed that there were foreign-language factions and other radical elements who were attempting to create unrest. He testified before Congress in favor of such a law in early June 1920. Despite this, Congress took no action on his controversial proposal. But public opinion turned against him. Even the conservative Christian Science Monitor wrote on June 25, 1920: "What appeared to be an excess of radicalism was certainly met with an excess of suppression."


By the end of his second term in office, Congress had turned against Woodrow Wilson. It repealed the Sedition Act on December 13, 1920. When Warren Harding commuted the sentence of Eugene V. Debs on Christmas Day of 1921, he met with Debs at the White House. Debs had been described as a model prisoner, respected by inmates and prison guards alike. When Harding met Debs, he is reported to have said "Well, I've heard so damned much about you, Mr. Debs, that I am now glad to meet you personally."

Happy Birthday Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States and the only President from New Hampshire, was born on November 23, 1804 (218 years ago today.) Pierce was a Democrat and a "doughface" (a Northerner with Southern sympathies). Prior to becoming president, Pierce served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. He also fought in the Mexican-American War and became a brigadier general in the Army. His private law practice in his home state was so successful that he was offered the position of Attorney-General in the Cabinet of James K. Polk, which he turned down, because that would have meant a significant drop in his income.


Pierce was born in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, the son of Benjamin Pierce, who was a former revolutionary war soldier, later a general and governor of the state. Franklin Pierce attended Bowdoin College in Maine where he began his lifelong friendship with the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne. He became a lawyer and at age 27 was the youngest member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He later served as a member of the US Senate. In 1834 he married Jane Appleton, who had many opposite character traits to those of her husband.

Pierce served in the Mexican-American War as a brigadier general of volunteers. He was later accused by his political enemies of cowardice during the war, but in his memoirs, Ulysses Grant, who also fought in that war, disputed this allegation and said that Pierce was a gallant soldier.

When Pierce returned home from the war, his private law practice was so successful that he was offered several important positions, which he turned down. He was nominated as the party's candidate for president on the 49th ballot at the 1852 Democratic National Convention. He was a compromise candidate after Lewis Cass, James Buchanan, William Marcy and Stephen Douglas couldn't garner enough support to win the nomination. In the presidential election, Pierce and his running mate William Rufus King defeated the Whig Party ticket of Winfield Scott and William A. Graham by a 50 percent to 44 percent margin in the popular vote and 254 to 42 in the electoral vote.

The Pierces has three sons, all of whom died in infancy. His last born son Benny was killed tragically when the train taking Pierce to his inauguration derailed and eleven year old Benny was decapitated. Jane Pierce saw this as a punishment from God and resented her husband's political ambitions. Jane Pierce was devastated by the incident.

As president, Pierce made many divisive decisions which were widely criticized. His popularity in the Northern states declined sharply after he supported the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which replaced the Missouri Compromise and renewed debate over the expansion of slavery in the American West. This in turn led to a high level of violence in the Kansas territory between the pro and anti-slavery forces. Pierce's credibility was further damaged when several of his diplomats issued the Ostend Manifesto, a proposal that the United States offer to buy Cuba from Spain, or go to war with the Spanish if the offer was refused.

Despite a reputation as an able politician and a likable man, during Pierce's presidency he failed to moderate the increasingly bitter factions that were driving the nation towards civil war. The Democratic party abandoned him in the 1856 election and Pierce was not renominated to run in the election. After losing the Democratic nomination, Pierce is quoted as saying "after the presidency, what is there to do but drink?" He struggled with alcoholism and his marriage to Jane Pierce was strained. After leaving office, the Pierces spent three years traveling to Europe and to the Bahamas. His reputation was hurt more during the Civil War when he opposed many of the policies of Abraham Lincoln, and when personal correspondence between Pierce and the Confederate President Jefferson Davis was found in a Union army raid on the home of Davis and leaked to the press. Pierce was confronted by an angry mob at his home in Concord following the death of Abraham Lincoln because his house was not decorated in black bunting, as was the custom. He went out to addressed the mob and managed to calm them down by speaking about his service to the nation.

Franklin Pierce died in Concord, New Hampshire, at 4:49 am on October 8, 1869, at the age of 64 from cirrhosis of the liver. President Ulysses S. Grant, who later defended Pierce's Mexican War service in his memoirs, declared a day of national mourning. Pierce was buried next to his wife and two of his sons, all of whom had predeceased him, in the Old North Cemetery in Concord, New Hampshire.


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