Thursday, December 22, 2005

Did Lincoln Have Mental Problems? Why Did Wilson Fail Us?

Did Lincoln Have Mental Problems? Why Did Wilson Fail Us?Adversities Suffered by U. S. Presidents. This is a column by Allen Cornwell which looks at some of the personal failings of American Presidents.

One of the biggest was alcoholism. Here is the part of the article which focuses on that:

A number of Presidents suffered from alcoholism, including Grant, Buchanan and Franklin Pierce (and probably others). Many Presidents enjoyed drinking and also the business side of spirit-making. George Washington was considered the largest whiskey distiller in the country at that time. He was also known to be a red wine lover, and his monthly wine bill at Mount Vernon was sometimes included more than 100 bottles a month; he entertained, of course –sometimes. Washington was known to personally put away a number of glasses at dinner, and then retire to his study with friends or alone --- and have more. It is also known that Tom Jefferson acted as Washington’s wine advisor since he considered himself an expert in the field and had even started his own winery.

Grant seemed to have a chronic problem that started early on in his military career and continued in the White House and afterward. Although his administration was corrupt, most historians agree that Grant was an honest man, and also a compassionate one, yet one must wonder if he was out of touch or just drunk. Recent historians suggest that Grant really did not have a drinking problem, but instead suffered from stress-induced migraine headaches giving the impression of a “hangover”. While this is a respectable opinion it is difficult to accept this since there are numerous eyewitness accounts of the General being intoxicated.

Franklin Pierce’s story is a sad one. He was known to be inexperienced, but ambitious, and at that time, was the youngest man to be elected President. A train accident in Washington just a month prior to his inauguration changed his administration and life dramatically. The Pierce’s eleven year-old son was crushed to death while in the company of his parents. Mrs. Pierce became a recluse for the remainder of her life, and this horrible incident totally diluted Pierce’s focus and increased his drinking problems. Pierce, like Buchanan, was a President faced with a changing world trying to deal with the issue of slavery, an issue that neither president was strong enough to confront. Pierce’s one-term administration was less than notable, and he became more increasingly out of touch with the country. He is the only sitting President, who desired a second term but was not nominated by his party.

James Buchanan stood at the threshold of the events leading up to the Civil War. There is much speculation regarding Buchanan’s drinking during those years. Some historians note that he was in control of his senses, while others doubt that he could have been. It is not clear how Buchanan’s drinking influenced his decision-making, but he was known to have been kicked out of college because of it. It is interesting to note that during his Presidency on Sunday mornings, he rode his horse over to the Jacob Bailey distillery in Washington to pick up a new 10-gallon cask of whiskey. The President loved entertaining, and he especially enjoyed the great laughs that came when he poured his friends a glass of libation with a label that said “Ole JB’s Whiskey”. Buchanan was an experienced politician and enjoyed taking positions on both sides of a sensitive issue. This approach worked well until it came to slavery, when both parties turned on him. It is interesting to speculate if Buchanan had been strong enough and certainly sober enough to lead, and had taken a position that was heartfelt and not politically motivated, how that would have affected history? One has to wonder about both Pierce and Buchanan and their places in history. Collectively these Presidents served the last eight years prior to the pot boiling over and the start of the American Civil War. What could they have constructively added to defuse the war, if anything? Why were these men so weak, and why did they falter at such a turning point in our history? Was it depression, drinking, or simply a real lack of vision as to what lay ahead?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Why The United States Bank Was Closed

Why The United States Bank Was Closed - The closing of the US Bank in 1832 was arguably the most controversial action ever undertaken by a US President up to that time. This site presents President Jackson's essay explaining his reasons for doing so.

From the site:

A BANK of the United States is in many respects convenient for the Government and useful to the people. Entertaining this opinion, and deeply impressed with the belief that some of the powers and privileges possessed by the existing Bank are unauthorized by the Constitution, subversive of the rights of the States, and dangerous to the liberties of the people, I felt it my duty, at an early period of my administration, to call the attention of Congress to the practicability of organizing an institution combining all its advantages, and obviating these objections. I sincerely regret that, in the act before me, I can perceive none of those modifications of the Bank charter which are necessary, in my opinion, to make it compatible with justice, with sound policy, or with the Constitution of our country.

Every monopoly, and all exclusive privileges, are granted at the expense of the public, which ought to receive a fair equivalent. The many millions which this act proposes to bestow on the stockholders of the existing Bank must come directly or indirectly out of the earnings of the American people. It is due to them, therefore, if their Government sell monopolies and exclusive privileges, that they should at least exact for them as much as they are worth in open market.

The value of the monopoly in this case may be correctly ascertained. The twenty-eight millions of stock would probably be at an advance of fifty per cent, and command in market at least forty-two millions of dollars, subject to the payment of the present bonus. The present value of the monopoly, therefore, is seventeen millions of dollars, and this the act proposes to sell for three millions, payable in fifteen annual installments of two hundred thousand dollars each.
It is not conceivable how the present stockholders can have any claim to the special favor of the Government. The present corporation has enjoyed its monopoly during the period stipulated in the original contract. If we must have such a corporation, why should not the Government sell out the whole stock, and thus secure to the people the full market value of the privileges granted? Why should not Congress create and sell twenty-eight millions of stock, incorporating the purchasers with all the powers and privileges secured in this act, and putting the premium upon the sales into the Treasury.

Friday, December 16, 2005

New coins to roll out ex-presidents

New coins to roll out ex-presidents. This is a great idea for generating interest in coin collecting! Starting in 2007, four new Presidential dollar coins will be released by order of year of service.

Of course, President Cleveland will get two different coins for his two terms sperated by four years.

From the site:

Coin collectors can look forward to a new series of gold-colored dollar coins depicting portraits of former presidents, according to a report published Friday.

USA Today, citing legislation sent to President Bush on Thursday, said the U.S. Mint will produce four coins each year beginning in 2007 in the order in which the presidents served.

Keeping with tradition, the report said no living presidents will appear on the coins, and the Statue of Liberty will be on the reverse side of the dollars. Grover Cleveland will be on two coins because he served non-consecutive terms, the newspaper said.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

2005 White House Historical Association White House Christmas Ornament

2005 White House Historical Association White House Christmas Ornament. The ornament this year focuses on President Garfield.

A history of President Grafiled is included.

It notes:

James Garfield, the youngest of four children on a small farm in rural Cuyahoga County, Ohio, was born on November 19, 1831. Left fatherless at age of two, Garfield had to toil on the family farm throughout his childhood. Later he hired out as a farm hand, carpenter, and barge driver to support his widowed mother and to earn tuition to attend college. He studied at Geauga Academy (now Hiram College) of Ohio and Williams College in Massachusetts, graduating in 1856. Garfield returned to Hiram College as a classics professor and became its president in 1857.

Garfield credited the Gospel for saving his life and turning him from work on a canal boat to the pursuit of education and preaching. After a religious experience at age 19, he was baptized in the Church of the Disciples of Christ. He began preaching almost every Sunday, and eventually was ordained a minister in his church.

Elected to the Ohio Senate in 1859 as an antislavery Republican, Garfield left the legislature to join the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1862, when Union military victories were scarce, he led the 18th Brigade at Middle Creek, Kentucky, to a dramatic victory over a superior number of Confederate troops. He rose in the ranks from lieutenant colonel to brigadier general after the battle at Middle Creek. Ohioans elected him to Congress in 1862, but Garfield remained in military service. For his bravery at the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863, he was promoted to major general. Garfield finally resigned his commission in December 1863 to take his seat in Congress at the request of President Lincoln. He won re-election for the next 18 years, emerging as the leading Republican in the House. As a congressman and president, Garfield became a faithful and contributing member of the local Disciple church, which has since grown to become the National City Christian Church of Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Inaugural Address of Calvin Coolidge

Inaugural Address of Calvin Coolidge. This is the text of the speech that President Wilson gave when he was sworn into office on March 4th, 1925.

From the site:

No one can contemplate current conditions without finding much that is satisfying and still more that is encouraging. Our own country is leading the world in the general readjustment to the results of the great conflict. Many of its burdens will bear heavily upon us for years, and the secondary and indirect effects we must expect to experience for some time. But we are beginning to comprehend more definitely what course should be pursued, what remedies ought to be applied, what actions should be taken for our deliverance, and are clearly manifesting a determined will faithfully and conscientiously to adopt these methods of relief. Already we have sufficiently rearranged our domestic affairs so that confidence has returned, business has revived, and we appear to be entering an era of prosperity which is gradually reaching into every part of the Nation. Realizing that we can not live unto ourselves alone, we have contributed of our resources and our counsel to the relief of the suffering and the settlement of the disputes among the European nations. Because of what America is and what America has done, a firmer courage, a higher hope, inspires the heart of all humanity.

These results have not occurred by mere chance. They have been secured by a constant and enlightened effort marked by many sacrifices and extending over many generations. We can not continue these brilliant successes in the future, unless we continue to learn from the past. It is necessary to keep the former experiences of our country both at home and abroad continually before us, if we are to have any science of government. If we wish to erect new structures, we must have a definite knowledge of the old foundations. We must realize that human nature is about the most constant thing in the universe and that the essentials of human relationship do not change. We must frequently take our bearings from these fixed stars of our political firmament if we expect to hold a true course. If we examine carefully what we have done, we can determine the more accurately what we can do.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington

Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington. Webcast by Daniel Epstein. He is a poet, dramatist and biographer with 12 books in print. Epstein has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and Prix de Rome from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

First president disappoints at auction

First president disappoints at auction. The first President just could not deliver. Despite being valued at 10 to 15 million, a 1797 painting of George Washington went for a mere 8.1 million. Perhaps the New York Public Library should preserve such valued treasures for the sake of patrons now and in the future. Is the quick buck (particularly a smaller than expected one) really worth it?

From the site:

The Wednesday sale of a portrait of George Washington will help the New York Public Library to procure more books and manuscripts -- but not as many as predicted.

The painting by renowned artist Gilbert Stuart, which depicts America's first president during his final year in office, was expected to command between $10 million and $15 million, according to Sotheby's in Manhattan. Instead, it sold for a mere $8.1 million.

The buyer's name was not immediately disclosed. The final price includes an auction house commission of 20 percent of the first $200,000 and 12 percent of the rest.

A wealthy merchant-trader named William Constable commissioned the painting of a seated Washington, a sword and document in his lap, for Alexander Hamilton in 1797. Hamilton was the nation's first secretary of the treasury.