Archive for the ‘White House’ Tag

Portraits: Millard Fillmore   4 comments

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

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

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:

  1. Texas surrendered its claim to New Mexico.
  2. California was admitted to the Union as a free state.
  3. The slave trade in Washington DC was banned (though slavery was not).
  4. New Mexico and Utah were named US territories with no clear ruling about slavery within their borders.
  5. 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, official White House portrait



Big Mo

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: Fillmore Still Dead, Still Misquoted

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: Mencken’s Hoax

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: Sources on Millard Fillmore

Portraits: Harry S Truman   Leave a comment

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Aileen Conkey,© Harris & Ewing Studio

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

From: Missouri

College: Spalding’s Commercial College (withdrew), University of Missouri – Kansas City (withdrew)

Married to: Bess Wallace

Children: Margaret

Party: Democratic

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

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."

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 Tribune ran this incorrect headline.

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.

Harry Truman, official White House Portrait

Harry Truman, signature

Portraits: Martin Van Buren   Leave a comment

Martin Van Buren daguerreotypeMartin 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.

Martin Van Buren, Official White House Portrait

Martin Van Buren Signature


Big Mo

Portraits: Benjamin Harrison   Leave a comment

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 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

From: Indiana

College: Miami University (of Ohio)

Married to: Caroline Lavinia Scott

Children: Russell Benjamin and Mary “Mamie” Scott Harrison

Party: Republican

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.

Sketch of Benjamin HarrisonThe 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.

Benjamin Harrison, Official White House Portrait



Big Mo: Benjamin Harrison

51   Leave a comment

Puerto Rico “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.

Puerto Rico would become our second island state, but the first state where most discourse is in Spanish.

What’s Next?

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.
Puerto Rico flagMore

Viva La Estididad De Puerto Rico!

Catch Some Wide Eye

The Pro-Commonwealth Viewpoint Is Different

Washington Times On English

Oklahoma Historical Society

Ohio’s Enabling Act of 1802

Utah’s Very Interesting Path To Statehood

Wikipedia’s Summary Of Statehood Issues


Portraits: Warren G Harding   Leave a comment

Warren Gamaliel Harding (1865 – 1923)

The 29th President of the United States, 1921 – 1923

AKA: No nicknames found

From: Ohio

College: Ohio Central College

Married to: Florence King

Children: Marshall (a step-son)

Party: Republican

Previous Jobs: journalist, teacher, insurance man, Lieutenant Governor of Ohio, Senator

In His Words:  “In the great fulfillment we must have a citizenship less concerned about what the government can do for it and more anxious about what it can do for the nation.”

“Let the black man vote when he is fit to vote; prohibit the white man voting when he is unfit to vote.”

“Our most dangerous tendency is to expect too much of government, and at the same time do for it too little.”

“The black man should seek to be, and he should be encouraged to be, the best possible black man and not the best possible imitation of a white man.”

“I don’t know what to do or where to turn in this taxation matter. Somewhere there must be a book that tells all about it, where I could go to straighten it out in my mind. But I don’t know where the book is, and maybe I couldn’t read it if I found it.”

Photo of Harding's Painter,, 1922Not true: A quote frequently attributed to Harding is not his quote; it was actually an exchange between a journalist and Senator Boies Penrose, 1919:

“I don’t know much about Americanism, but it’s a damn good word with which to carry an election.”

“What is Americanism?” “Damn if I know, but it’s going to be a damn good word with which to carry an election.”

True: Harding married the daughter of his political rival … and his father-in-law disowned the couple, and did not speak to them for 8 years.

Nine years later, his father-in-law secretly bought Harding’s debt and tried to call the loans for immediate payment.

Harding was nominated on the tenth ballot at the Republican Convention, and Mrs. Harding was so startled she accidentally stabbed her husband’s campaign manager with her hat pins.

Harding was the first sitting Senator elected President.

Warren G. Harding was the first president to give a speech over the radio.

Some conspiracy theorists believe Harding was killed, or perhaps the victim of medical malpractice.  The truth is we don’t know, and his wife insisted on an immediate autopsy, with the President’s body embalmed and on its way to its final rest within hours.

The Official Portrait: Edmund Hodgson Smart painted the official White House portrait of Harding in June, 1922.  Smart was famous for painting world leaders, and also painted Kiing Edward VII of Britain, Marshall Foch of France and Admiral William Sims of the US Navy.

Warren Harding, Presidential Portrait

Warren Harding signature

Portraits: John Tyler   Leave a comment

John Tyler (1790 – 1862)John Tyler circa 1850 Daguerreotype

The 10th President of the United States, 1841 – 1845

AKA: His Accidency (from his opponents; he was the first President be elevated to the office after the death of his predecessor)

From: Virginia

College: The College of William & Mary

Married to: Letitia Christian, Julia Gardiner

Children: Mary, Robert, John Jr, Letitia, Elizabeth, Anne Contesse, Alice, Tazewell, David Gardiner, John Alexander, Julia Gardiner, Lachlan, Lyon Gardiner, Robert Fitzwalter, Pearl

Party: Independent, 1841 – 1862; Whig, 1834 – 1841; Democratic, 1824 – 1834; Democratic-Republican, before 1825

Previous Jobs: lawyer, Chancellor of the College of William & Mary, US Congressman, Governor of Virginia, US Senator, President pro tempore of the US Senate, Vice President

In His Words: “Popularity, I have always thought, may aptly be compared to a coquette – the more you woo her, the more apt is she to elude your embrace.”

“I can never consent to being dictated to as to what I shall or shall not do. I, as President, shall be responsible for my administration. I hope to have your hearty co-operation in carrying out its measures. So long as you see fit to do this, I shall be glad to have you with me. When you think otherwise, your resignations will be accepted.”

“So far as it depends on the course of this government, our relations of good will and friendship will be sedulously cultivated with all nations.”

“For how can the example of a democratic America be resisted? Do you not perceive that a light is breaking forth everywhere? That this same free America has already civilized a continent, which when we were boys was almost all in a wilderness state?”

“In 1840 I was called from my farm to undertake the administration of public affairs and I foresaw that I was called to a bed of thorns. I now leave that bed which has afforded me little rest, and eagerly seek repose in the quiet enjoyments of rural life.”

“If the tide of defamation and abuse shall turn, and my administration come to be praised, future Vice-Presidents who may succeed to the Presidency may feel some slight encouragement to pursue an independent course.”

Not true: Tyler is now a US citizen, but was not when he died!  After leaving office in 1845, Tyler worked to resolve the differences between the North and the South, but when he could not get Virginia to compromise, he supported secession.  He was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives, but died before taking his seat.  He’s often thought of as a traitor, and was actually not a citizen when he died.  He’s the first President whose death was not recognized by the US government.  His citizenship was restored over 100 years later by President Carter.

True: Tyler was vehemently against the slave trade, but was supportive of slavery itself.  He believed in the ascendancy of the white man over the black man.

After he did not support key Whig policies after he assumed the Presidency, the Whigs dropped this sitting President from their party!

President Tyler would often play his violin at White House parties. At one time he wanted to be a concert violinist.

During his Presidency, Florida was admitted as a state, Texas was annexed and Tyler extended Monroe Doctrine protection to Hawaii.

Tyler was one of two Presidents widowed while in office (Wilson was the other).

When President Harrison died in 1841, our country faced for the first time the transition for the elected Vice President to assume the office of the Presidency.  It was no certain thing, with all of the turmoil of the mid-19th century.  President Tyler asserted himself immediately and properly, ensuring future generations could count on a smooth transition of power.

President Tyler would often play his violin at White House parties. At one time he wanted to be a concert violinist.

Tyler would return unopened any mail – any mail – that failed to address him properly as president.

The Official Portrait: One of several presidential portraits painted by George P. A. Healy.  This painting is dated 1859, and was displayed in the White Blue Room as recently as 2009.

I am fascinated with the contempt for journalism shown in this portrait!


Portraits: Franklin Pierce   Leave a comment

Franklin Pierce (1804 – 1869)

The 14th President of the United States, 1853 – 1857

AKA: Young Hickory of the Granite Hills, Handsome Frank (proof that most never saw him!)

From: New Hampshire

College: Bowdoin College, Northampton Law School

Married to: Jane Appleton

Children: Franklin, Frank Robert, Benjamin

Party: Democrat

Previous Jobs: Lawyer, state representative, US Representative, US Senator

In His Words:  “You have summoned me in my weakness. You must sustain me by your strength.”

“Do we not all know that the cause of our casualties is the vicious intermeddling of too many of the citizens of the Northern States with the constitutional rights of the Southern States, cooperating with the discontents of the people of those states? Do we not know that the disregard of the Constitution, and of the security that it affords to the rights of States and of individuals, has been the cause of the calamity which our country is called to undergo? And now, war! war, in its direst shape — war, such as it makes the blood run cold to read of in the history of other nations and of other times — war, on a scale of a million of men in arms — war, horrid as that of barbaric ages, rages in several of the States of the Union, as its more immediate field, and casts the lurid shadow of its death and lamentation athwart the whole expanse, and into every nook and corner of our vast domain.”

“Frequently the more trifling the subject, the more animated and protracted the discussion.”

Not true: Pierce was branded a coward by some after he passed out and was carried from the battlefield at the Battle of Churubusco, part of the Mexican American War.  Here’s what happened:

In 1847, Pierce was serving in the US Army, and was promoted to Brigadier General.  He took command of the army marching on Mexico City.  During the Battle of Contreras, he was injured when his horse stepped into a crevice, breaking its leg and pinning Pierce underneath.  Contemporary accounts say he was seriously injured, including a sprained knee.

He returned to the battlefield the next day, but had to be tied into the saddle.  His pain proved to be so great, however, that he passed out and had to be carried from the field.  His political opponents branded him a coward.  However, in his memoirs, Ulysses S Grant (who was not a political ally of Pierce’s) said that the negative description was “unfair and unjust.”  He further stated that Pierce was “a gentleman and a man of courage.”

Pierce returned to command and led his brigade in its capture of Mexico City.

True:  Pierce saw much tragedy in his life.  For example, all 3 of his sons died before he was inaugurated as President.

Franklin Pierce was the first President to have a Christmas tree in the White House.  He was also the first to install a bathtub in the White House, which was somewhat controversial, as many people of the time thought taking baths was not healthy and would make you sick.

Pierce gave his 3,319-word inaugural address from memory, without the aid of notes.

During his administration, bloodshed over the issue of slavery followed the passage of Kansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and re-opened the question of slavery in the West.  Pierce worked with Senator Stephen A Douglas, who was advocating building a railroad to the west from Chicago, while simultaneously asserting that it was each state’s right to decide the question of slavery in their territory.  Part of that effort resulted in the purchase of what is now the southern part of Arizona and New Mexico for $10,000,000 from Mexico.

Pierce was the only elected President who sought but did not win his party’s nomination for a second term.

The Official Portrait: George Healy painted the official White House portrait of Franklin Pierce in 1858 after an earlier sitting in 1853.  Healy painted most of the presidents in the mid-19th century.

Portraits: Dwight Eisenhower   2 comments

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890 – 1969)

The 34th President of the United States, 1953 – 1961

Normal Rockwell’s Dwight Eisenhower

AKA: Ike

From: Born in Texas, raised in Kansas

College: United States Military Academy

Married to: Mamie Geneva Doud

Children: Doud Dwight and John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower

Party: Republican

Previous Jobs: Night supervisor at a creamery, US Army, US Chief of Staff of the Army, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Chief of Staff of the Army, University President, NATO Supreme Commander

In His Words:  “Neither a wise man or a brave man lies down on the tracks of history to wait for the train of the future to run over him.”

“There is one thing about being President — nobody can tell you when to sit down.”

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.”

“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”

“The one quality that can be developed by studious reflection and practice is the leadership of men.”

“Un-American activity cannot be prevented or routed out by employing un-American methods; to preserve freedom we must use the tools that freedom provides.”

Not true: There’s a viral email that makes the rounds stating that “Operation Wetback,” which ran during Eisenhower’s administration, deported 13,000,000 illegal immigrants.  It’s stated this program also swept up and deported large numbers of legal residents and citizens.  Though the program did exist, it resulted in less than 100,000 deportations, and perhaps an additional 500,000 illegal immigrants leaving the country before they were apprehended.  The program was controversial and there were reports of abuse, but not nearly on the scale alleged by the viral emails.

True: Eisenhower was responsible for the lives of millions during WWII, as he was in charge of war planning, and later implementing those plans, in Europe.  He oversaw the invasion of Italy and the liberation of western Europe from Nazi control.  He was the first General elected President since Ulysses S Grant, and is one of only 5 Presidents that did not hold an elected office before becoming President.

The Official Portrait:

This painting is the official portrait of the President. The artist,  J. Anthony Wills from Houston, Texas painted 5 copies of the portrait. One of them hangs in the White House and one is at his Presidential Library in Abilene, KS. The location of the other three copies is unknown.


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