Archive for the ‘White House’ Tag
Fillmore’s portrait by an unidentified artist dates to about the time he retired from the House of Representatives in the early 1840s. National Portrait Gallery
Millard Fillmore (1800 – 1874)
The 13th President of the United States, 1850 – 1853
AKA: The Accidental President, The Wool Carder President, The American Louis Philippe
From: New York
College: One of eight US Presidents that did not attend college
Married to: Abigail Powers (1826 – 1853), Caroline Carmichael (1858 – 1874)
Children: Millard, Mary
Party: Anti-Masonic (before 1832), Whig (1832 – 1856), American (1856 – 1860)
Photo by Matthew Brady
Previous Jobs: Lawyer, New York State Assemblyman, New York State Comptroller, Chancellor of the University of Buffalo, US Representative, Vice President
In His Words: “The Government of the United States is a limited Government. It is confined to the exercise of powers expressly granted and such others as may be necessary for carrying those powers into effect; and it is at all times an especial duty to guard against any infringement on the just rights of the States.”
“An honorable defeat is better than a dishonorable victory.”
“God knows that I detest slavery, but it is an existing evil, for which we are not responsible, and we must endure it, and give it such protection as guaranteed by the Constitution, till we can get rid of it without destroying the last hope of free government in the world.”
Not true: Millard Fillmore did not install the first bathtub in the White House.
A piece authored by HL Mencken was published in the New York Evening Mail on December 28, 1917 — 33 years after Fillmore died! — that credited Fillmore with the plumbing innovation. It was all a hoax, though … but it was a hoax that came to be cited as fact for decades after the piece was published.
Mencken eventually admitted that the article was not true, but not before Millard Fillmore had his reputation besmirched. Poor guy; his reputation wasn’t that good to start with!
True: Millard Fillmore was born in a log cabin, and grew up very poor on the New York frontier, in the Finger Lakes region.
He was apprenticed to a cloth maker at age 15, where he learned to card wool.
He was a compromise candidate when he became the Vice Presidential nominee for Zachary Taylor.
As the Vice President, he of course served as President of the Senate during Taylor’s Presidency. He came to support what is now known as the Compromise of 1850, and he championed its final passage early in his Presidency. That legislation was intended to calm emotions and help strengthen the republic, but in the end it only inflamed divisive passions further. It was composed of five separate bills:
- Texas surrendered its claim to New Mexico.
- California was admitted to the Union as a free state.
- The slave trade in Washington DC was banned (though slavery was not).
- New Mexico and Utah were named US territories with no clear ruling about slavery within their borders.
- The Fugitive Slave Act required Federal law officers to return runaway slaves to their owners.
Fillmore directed Commodore Perry to travel to Japan and open that nation to trade with the west. Fillmore directed Perry to use the guns on his steamships to persuade Japanese representatives if they refused to allow Perry to present Fillmore’s letter to the Emperor. The threat was not necessary, and trade with Japan became a reality.
Fillmore threatened to use the US Military on three occasions to help enforce domestic law: against Texas, when that state’s militia was about to invade the territory of New Mexico; against South Carolina, when that state was rumored to be near secession; and against a citizen revolt that attempted to lead a coup against Cuba … and failed.
The Whig party would not nominate him as their candidate in 1854. He eventually became a third party candidate representing the racist “Know Nothing” American Party … which he joined perhaps not because of their ideology, but because it was the best political platform available to him at the time. He lost, winning only the state of Maryland, and retired from politics.
He was not a weak President, but is often seen as such, since his actions failed to save the Union and prevent the Civil War. Today, his legacy is as much about what isn’t true as it is what he actually accomplished.
The Official Portrait: Congress commissioned George P. A. Healy to paint six Presidential portraits: John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, James K Polk, Franklin Pierce and Millard Fillmore. Fillmore was finished in 1857; the rest were all complete by 1859. At that point, the paintings were then stored in the White House attic, as framing had not been budgeted. It was left to Andrew Johnson to frame and suitably display the paintings after the Civil War.
Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: Fillmore Still Dead, Still Misquoted
Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: Mencken’s Hoax
Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: Sources on Millard Fillmore
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Aileen Conkey, © Harris & Ewing Studio
Harry S Truman (1884 – 1972)
The 33rd President of the United States, 1945 – 1953
AKA: Give ‘Em Hell Harry
College: Spalding’s Commercial College (withdrew), University of Missouri – Kansas City (withdrew)
Married to: Bess Wallace
Previous Jobs: Railroad timekeeper, clerk, mailroom clerk, farmer, Captain in the National Guard, haberdasher, judge of the County Court, US Senator, Vice President
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; transfer from the National Gallery of Art; gift of Mrs. Augustus Vincent Tack, 1952
In His Words: “Have fired 500 rounds at the Germans, at my command, been shelled, didn’t run away thank the Lord and never lost a man. Probably shouldn’t have told you but you’ll not worry any more if you know I’m in it than if you think I am. Have had the most strenuous work of my life, am very tired but otherwise absolutely in good condition physically mentally and morally.” (letter to Bess Wallace, 1918)
“People are very much wrought up about the Communist bugaboo.”
“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a Republican. But I repeat myself.”
“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose your own.”
“I am not worried about the Communist Party taking over the Government of the United States, but I am against a person, whose loyalty is not to the Government of the United States, holding a Government job. They are entirely different things. I am not worried about this country ever going Communist. We have too much sense for that.”
In his farewell address to the American people given in January 1953, President Truman referred to this concept very specifically in asserting that, “The President–whoever he is–has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.”
“Some of my best friends never agree with me politically.”
“Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know whether you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me. I’ve got the most terribly responsible job a man ever had.” (the day after he became President)
“No government is perfect. One of the chief virtues of a democracy, however, is that its defects are always visible and under democratic processes can be pointed out and corrected.”
“If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don’t want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances. Neither of them thinks anything of their pledged word.”
“If wars in the future are to be prevented the nations must be united in their determination to keep the peace under law.”
On the atomic bomb: “We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans. We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan’s power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us.”
“I have read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an eight ulcer man on a four ulcer job … Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes and perhaps a supporter below.” (Letter to critic Paul Hume, as quoted in TIME magazine, December 18, 1950)
On tight money: “It reflects a reversion to the old idea that the tree can be fertilized at the top instead of at the bottom — the old trickle-down theory.“
Truman was so widely expected to lose the 1948 election that the Chicago Daily Tribune ran this incorrect headline. Historians now believe that pollsters used telephone surveys to predict Dewey’s victory, and thus did not properly estimate the number of Truman voters that did not have telephones.
Not true: In Truman’s book Plain Speaking, he did say this:
“My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference.”
The often-quoted next line, however, never was written by Truman:
“I, for one, believe the piano player job to be much more honorable than current politicians.”
It is not known who applied that sentence to Truman’s actual quote.
True: His middle initial, S, was a tribute to both of his grandfathers’ names, but did not stand for anything.
He met his future wife, Bess, when he was 6 years old … in Sunday School at their Baptist church.
He proposed to Bess in 1905. She turned him down . There were married in 1919 after an extended courtship.
Truman was not accepted for an appointment to West Point, and then rejected by the National Guard because of his poor eyesight. He overcame his 20-50 eyesight and passed the vision test by memorizing the eye chart.
In 1940, Truman used his chairmanship of the Committee on Military Affairs to investigate the fraud and abuses he saw on the military bases as the nation prepared for war. The press dubbed it “The Truman Committee,” and its success launched Truman to the national stage.
President Truman made some of the most crucial decisions in history. As WWII reached its final stage, Japan rejected a proposed surrender. Truman, after consultations with his advisers, ordered atomic bombs dropped on two Japanese cities devoted to war work: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese surrender quickly followed.
In 1948, President Truman ordered desegregation of the armed forces.
In 1951, he was part of the first transcontinental TV broadcast.
The first family lived across the street from the White House in Blair House during the extensive renovations of the White House, 1948 – 1952.
The Official Portrait: Martha Greta Kempton studied at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts before emigrating to the US in 1926. After painting Bess Truman, she painted 5 portraits of Harry Truman, the first of which became the Official White House Portrait.
Martin Van Buren (1782 – 1862)
The 8th President of the United States, 1837 – 1841
AKA:The American Talleyrand, The Careful Dutchman, The Enchanter, The Great Manager, The Master Spirit, Martin Van Ruin, Matty Van, The Mistletoe Politician, Old Kinderhook, The Little Magician
From: New York
College: One of 8 US Presidents that did not attend college
Married to: Hannah Hoes
Children: Abraham, John, Martin, Smith
Party: Democratic-Republican (Before 1825), Democratic (1825 – 1848), Free Soil (1848 – 1854)
Previous Jobs: Lawyer, New York Attorney General, US Senator, Governor of New York, Secretary of State, Minister to the United Kingdom, Vice President
In His Words: “It is easier to do a job right than to explain why you didn’t.”
“The less government interferes with private pursuits, the better for general prosperity.”
“Those who have wrought great changes in the world never succeeded by gaining over chiefs; but always by exciting the multitude. The first is the resource of intrigue and produces only secondary results, the second is the resort of genius and transforms the universe.”
Not true: Van Buren was a political ally of Aaron Burr, a fellow New Yorker. A rumor about their relationship — that Van Buren was Burr’s illegitimate son — survived into the 20th century, when Gore Vidal included it in his novel, Burr. There was never any proof of a familial relationship.
True: Van Buren was the first President born a US Citizen.
He was also our first and only ESL President: the first President not to speak English as his first language. He grew up speaking Dutch.
He was the architect of the Democratic Party; after he organized it around his election, the party was firmly established as a national force.
Twentieth Century etymologist Alan Walker Read has published research asserting the wide usage of the phrase “O.K.” (okay) started during the presidential campaign and subsequent presidency of Martin Van Buren.
The Official Portrait: Chicagoan George P. A. Healy painted the official White House portrait of Van Buren. He received a Congressional commission in 1857 to paint portraits of several presidents, some of whom had sat for him in the 1840s. The portraits were of John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce. Finished by 1859, the portraits were stored in the White House attic, as no funds had been provided for framing them. After the Civil War President Andrew Johnson obtained funding to frame them and hung the portraits in the Cross Hall.
Benjamin Harrison was 7 years old at the time of his Grandfather William Henry Harrison’s inauguration as President, but he did not attend the ceremony.
Benjamin Harrison (1833 – 1901)
The 23rd President of the United States, 1889 – 1893
AKA: The Front Porch Campaigner, The Human Iceberg
College: Miami University (of Ohio)
Married to: Caroline Lavinia Scott
Children: Russell Benjamin and Mary “Mamie” Scott Harrison
Previous Jobs: Lawyer, City Attorney, Reporter for the Supreme Court of Indiana, Brigadier General, US Senator
In His Words: “”Come on, boys! We’ve never been licked yet, and we won’t begin now.” – at the battle of Peach Tree Creek.
“We Americans have no commission from God to police the world.”
“I knew that my staying up would not change the election result if I were defeated, while if elected I had a hard day ahead of me. So I thought a night’s rest was best in any event.”
“I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth will starve in the process.”
Not true: His Great Grandfather was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his Grandfather was President … but Benjamin Harrison was not born into a life of privilege. He grew up on a farm in Ohio with his father. His first school was a small log cabin, where he sat on seats made of planks with no backs, and so high that his feet did not touch the floor. He only attended school in the winter, as in the summer he had to work on the farm.
True: Although he could warmly engage a crowd with his speeches, he was cold and detached when speaking with people on an individual basis.
Benjamin Harrison had the White House wired for electricity, but he and his wife would not touch the switches for fear of electrocution. The frequently slept with the lights on.
Six new states were admitted to the Union during Harrison’s tenure: North Dakota (1889), South Dakota (1889), Montana (1889), Washington(1889), Idaho (1890) and Wyoming (1890).
Theodore Roosevelt called Harrison “a cold-blooded, narrow-minded, prejudiced, obstinate, timid old psalm-singing Indianapolis politician.”
Harrison was, regretfully, America’s last bearded president.
The Official Portrait: Eastman Johnson painted the official White House portrait of Benjamin Harrison in 1895. He also painted the official portrait of Grover Cleveland, who both preceded and succeeded Benjamin Harrison as President of the United States.
Johnson was a co-founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and is best known for his portrayals of everyday people.
This charcoal and chalk sketch on paper is owned by the National Portrait Gallery, and is thought to be an early working drawing for the painting that now hangs in the White House.
Big Mo: Benjamin Harrison
“The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States…” — U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 3, clause 2
A few weeks ago, our largest commonwealth voted to begin the process to become a state in the United States of America.
Since then, approving editorials have appeared in Washington, Boston and other US cities.
The White House has declared their support for what would be our 51st state:
“Congress should now study the results closely, and provide the people of Puerto Rico with a clear path forward that lays out the means by which Puerto Ricans themselves can determine their own status.”
So What Happened?
Puerto Rico had an election, and 54% stated they do not support continuing as a US Commonwealth. This is the first time that a majority of Puerto Rican voters have voted against the status quo.
There was a second question, and this is where it gets a bit dicey. 61% chose statehood, 33% chose a semi-autonomous “sovereign free association” and 6% chose outright independence. Oh, and 33% left the 2nd question blank.
In this over-heated political stew, everyone points fingers at what they want the results to mean. In this case, 480,000 voters, or roughly 1/3, did not vote on the 2nd question. 61% of the actual voters chose statehood, but if you count those that didn’t vote on this question (but did on the first), then the total of yes votes is less than 50% of those that stood in the voting booths.
Apparently, the pro-commonwealth group (which lost the first question 54% to 46%) told their supporters to leave the 2nd question blank. This strategy allows them to claim a victory through non-participation.
To further confuse, the pro-statehood Governor lost his bid for re-election. His pro-commonwealth opponent won, making it unlikely that the state will move forward with its statehood request any time soon.
Puerto Rico would become our second island state, but the first state where most discourse is in Spanish.
The US Constitution is very clear: the US Congress has 100% control of the process. And, if a simple majority of our Senators and Representatives vote for Puerto Rican statehood next month, then they are a state. Immedidately. That is not expected, of course. Historically, Congress has passed “enabling legislation” that has shown previous territories desiring admission into the Union what the correct next steps should be. They can put any strictures they wish on the process.
- Utah petitioned Congress for 50 years before they were finally admitted as a state. Their enabling legislation specified that polygamy must be outlawed in their state constitution before they could be admitted.
- The Dakotas, Montana and Washington didn’t have to wait that long, but their enabling legislation did specify that grazing contracts on public lands could be for no longer than 5 years — soon amended to ten years — when the four states were admitted.
- Oklahoma was told that it would be admitted, but only as a combination of two territories: the Indian territory of Sequoyah and the rest of what became the unified state of Oklahoma. The petitioning territory of Sequoyah was not to be admitted alone as a state.
What will Puerto Rico face if enabling legislation is passed?
- They’ll probably be directed to convene a constitutional convention to create the new state’s government (and remember, their new Governor is against the entire process).
- Congress might require a provision that English be the only official language (currently, Spanish and English are sanctioned).
- Puerto Rico will lose the ability they have as a commonwealth to send their own teams to the Olympic games.
- They will for the first time have to pay … income tax.
As a wise man once said, be careful what you wish for.