Monday, March 28, 2005

Coins and presidents

How many different U.S. coins have portraits of presidents on them, and who chooses the presidents?

Even though millions of Americans come in daily contact with pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters, I suspect that very few of us could list the presidents we routinely "handle."

I'll answer your question in short order, but first some little-known background: Article I, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress "to coin money." The first federal building constructed under the new Constitution was the U.S. Mint, in Philadelphia, which in the 1790s served as the nation's capital. It is said that President George Washington, who lived just a few blocks from the mint, personally donated some of the silver for the new republic's first coins.[1] That's better than providing a portrait!

Since the 1790s, the U.S. Treasury Department has been responsible for minting coins. I am told that no president's portrait appeared on a coin until the Lincoln
penny came out in 1909 to commemorate the centennial of the 16th president's birth. (From the 1790s to the 1890s, however, presidential portraits appeared routinely on peace medals that were given to the Indians.) Traditionally Congress has gotten to choose which presidents are on which coins. Presidents are on at least a half-dozen coins in circulation today. They make up the lion's share -- but not all -- of portraits on circulating coins.


As the old saying goes, there are two sides to every coin. The portrait is on the front or obverse side, everything else on the reverse side. Following are the presidential portraits on the obverse side of currently circulating U.S.

- penny: Abraham Lincoln, looking right;

- old nickel (before March 2005): Thomas Jefferson, looking left;

- new nickel (after March 2005): Thomas Jefferson, looking right;

- dime: Franklin Roosevelt, looking left;

- quarter: George Washington, looking left;

- half dollar: John F. Kennedy, looking left.

In addition to the circulating coins, listed above, you may encounter commemorative coins that are also minted by the U.S. Treasury Department:

- bicentennial dollar: Dwight Eisenhower, looking left (1976);

- half dollar: George Washington 250th commemorative coin (1982);

- dollar: Eisenhower centennial silver dollar (1990);

- dollar: Thomas Jefferson 250th silver dollar (1993);

- five-dollar coin: Franklin Roosevelt gold commemorative coin (1997);

- there were also commemorative coins of George Washington and Dolley Madison minted in 1999;[2] she is, I believe, the only first lady whose portrait is on a coin.


On circulating coins until recently, all the portraits but Lincoln's looked left. (Now Jefferson has joined Lincoln in looking right.) Why was Lincoln
virtually alone in looking right? The answer has nothing to do with politics. The portrait of our 16th president was based on a plaque by Victor David Brenner done at the beginning of the 20th century. So taken was President Theodore Roosevelt with Brenner's Lincoln that he asked his Treasury secretary to use the design on a coin that was to be put into circulation in 1909, in celebration of the birth of Lincoln 100 years earlier.[3]


Collectors may get a new burst of coins to collect. Congress is currently considering minting dollar coins to commemorate all our past presidents. This follows the Mint's wildly successful state quarter program, which has generated $5 billion in revenue and turned some 140 million Americans into coin collectors. The coins would be minted at a rate of four presidents per year, starting with George Washington. Only sitting presidents would be excluded.[4]


There is a story about the presidential portraits on each of our coins. Following is from the Website of the U.S. Mint:

The presidents that appear on the obverse (front) side of our circulating coins were all selected by Congress in recognition of their service to our country. However, they were chosen under slightly different circumstances.

Designed by Victor Brenner, the Lincoln
cent was issued in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Felix Schlag's portrait of Thomas Jefferson, which began to appear on the obverse side of the nickel in 1938, was chosen in a design competition among some 390 artists.

The death of Franklin Roosevelt prompted many requests to the Treasury Department to honor the late president by placing his portrait on a coin. Less than one year after his death, the dime bearing John R. Sinnock's portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt was released to the public on FDR's birthday, January 30, 1946

The portrait of George Washington by John Flanagan, which appears on quarters minted from 1932 to today, was selected to commemorate the 200th anniversary of our first president's birth.

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy generated such an outpouring of public sentiment that President Lyndon Johnson sent legislation to Congress to authorize the Treasury Department's new 50-cent pieces. Bearing the portrait designed by Gilroy Roberts, the first Kennedy half-dollars were minted on February 11, 1964.[5]

(Question from Lupe M. of Fresno, CA)


[1] See the U.S. Mint Website at



[4] Jennifer Brooks, "Presidents May Replace Sacagawea on Some $1 Coins," Lansing State Journal, April 27, 2005, p. 1A.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Franklin Roosevelt as a leader

Your two-part question goes to the heart of our mission at the Hauenstein Center. Using the presidents as case studies in leadership, we inquire into what makes some chief executives more effective than others in office, and what makes some greater than others to posterity.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt provides rich case studies in executive leadership and presidential rankings. He was a complex, controversial leader; but whatever combination of DNA and experience made him, he was extremely effective while in office, especially during his first and third terms, and posterity has persistently seen him as one of the most powerful leaders in U.S. history.


Love him or loathe him, most people admit that FDR was an effective leader. Numerous writers have tried to dissect the qualities that made Roosevelt able to attract followers. Better than most, Stanford historian David Kennedy has tagged several characteristics: the 32nd president, he notes, was a quick study; he could connect with people; he was self confident; he was committed to public service; he developed a strong character; he had a clear vision of the nation and its role in the world; he had the political skills to get his vision off the drawing board; and -- he had luck.[1] Let's examine these various elements.

1. FDR was a quick study. He possessed an insatiable curiosity, a boundless appetite for knowledge that combined with his capacity to absorb a striking range of facts through conversation. Talking was his preferred mode of learning -- there were not many books he had the patience to read from cover to cover -- and he supposedly could talk at length about anything.

2. FDR possessed the charisma to connect with large numbers of the American people. A good looking man, in his prime he stood 6 feet, 2 inches tall, and weighed 190 pounds. His stentorian voice made him one of the powerful orators of the twentieth century. It especially helped that he could project his voice, along with a sunny disposition, by means of that newfangled technology, the radio, to millions of people.

After Roosevelt had been in office a week, he delivered his first fireside chat, on March 12, 1933, to announce that the nation's banks would reopen. The president's performance was stellar -- in David Kennedy's words, cultivated yet familiar, commanding yet avuncular, masterful yet intimate. And the response was unprecedented: almost a half million letters poured into the White House over the ensuing week, written by Americans expressing appreciation for the president's reassurance. (For comparison, consider this: during the Hoover administration, the White House mailroom was staffed by one person; after FDR's first week in office, some 70 individuals were needed to staff the mailroom.) It might be said that FDR, like his cousin Theodore Roosevelt, founded the charismatic presidency. In an age of mass democracy, both leaders self consciously harnessed the power of their personality as an instrument of government.

3. FDR possessed vaulting self confidence. Indeed, he possessed such a high degree of self confidence that his utterly untroubled conception of the presidency conformed to the image he cultivated of himself in it. FDR's confidence would enable the president to disagree with advisors when confronting major decisions; his early support of Britain at the beginning of World War II confounded most of them.

4. FDR possessed noblesse oblige, a sense of patrician duty or responsibility toward others. His sense of service was ingrained by his parents, by his extended family (including TR), and by his headmaster and teachers at Groton. He apparently never contemplated any other career than that of public servant. Uncannily like cousin Theodore, FDR rose through the ranks from New York state senator, to assistant secretary of the Navy, to vice presidential candidate, to New York governor, and finally to the presidency. Virtually all his life was spent in public service.

5. FDR possessed a strong character. Look at the way he dealt with the polio he contracted at 39 years of age, and the resulting paralysis that made him handicapped. All those who knew him agreed: he faced the malady with courage, tenacity, and hopefulness. These same character traits would be communicated when, as commander in chief, he sought to encourage a nation struggling against the Great Depression and then against the Axis powers in the Second World War. As David Kennedy puts it, FDR's "polio proved to be a political and even a national asset."

6. FDR possessed a clear vision of America and her role on the world-historical stage. David Kennedy believes the 32nd president "made a shrewd appraisal of the vectors of development that had brought him and his countrymen to their own moment in time -- a rendezvous with destiny, he once called it; and he made a no less shrewd appraisal of what possibilities for change the great engines of history might now be compelled to yield up, if they were skillfully managed."

Take FDR's handling of the Great Depression. To him the Depression was not just another cyclical downturn, but a long-brewing crisis whose dislocations could wreak permanent economic, political, and social havoc if not managed smartly. Capitalism had been largely unregulated for more than a century. It had produced unprecedented wealth for unprecedented numbers of people but it had also been unstable and unsettling for millions of other people. During rough times, the temptation was to abandon free markets for statist isms. In the pressure cooker of the Great Depression, FDR wanted to steer a middle course between unregulated capitalism and socialism. The crisis-management plan he enacted came to be known as the New Deal, which represented new policies and attitudinal changes about the role of the federal government in American life.

Think of what the New Deal meant in U.S. history: Up to the Great Depression, the storyline of American history had been about freedom. During the 1930s, the storyline changed to security. Through such legislation as the National Industrial Recovery Act, National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act), Fair Labor Standards Act, Securities Act, and Social Security Act -- an alphabet soup of programs, as detractors put it -- FDR tried to wrestle industrial capitalism to the ground. His aim was to expand security in American culture and reduce insecurity in modern life. The Depression showed that not enough people felt secure in their homes, secure at their jobs, secure in the marketplace, secure through the life cycle. So in his idiosyncratic, ad hoc way, Roosevelt "tested the Left-most limits of American culture" (David Kennedy's words) to bring about a revolution in security. According to some historians, it is not too much to say that FDR should be credited with saving industrial capitalism in the U.S., for his programs coopted and pre-empted more radical calls for a thoroughgoing revolution. The head of the Socialist Party, Norman Thomas, was once asked if FDR had not carried out socialism's aims in the U.S. Thomas answered, "Yes, he has -- on a stretcher."

Roosevelt's vision also led to boldness in the conduct of foreign affairs. Already in the 1920s and '30s, FDR was committed to transform the American people from isolationists to global citizens. He believed it would be fatal for the U.S. to do nothing in the face of militant Fascism, Nazism, and Communism. Long before Pearl Harbor he stubbornly persisted in wanting to help the British resist the Nazis, over the opposition of a majority of the American people as well as senior advisors like his Army chief of staff, George C. Marshall, and his ambassador to the U.K., Joseph Kennedy.

7. FDR possessed the political skills to get his vision communicated and his programs enacted. By the time he became president, he knew how to get things done. He understood the art of consensus building in Washington and the importance of mass communication to the nation.

8. As for reputation, FDR enjoyed an element of luck. He was in the White House during 12 event-packed years that saw huge developments unfold on the world-historical stage. Having to deal with the greatest economic depression of all time in the 1930s, and the worst totalitarian threat the U.S. ever faced in the 1940s, allowed Roosevelt to take center stage and make the best use of his talents. In photographs he cut a strong figure alongside Britain's great leader, Winston Churchill, and the Soviet Union's powerful dictator, Joseph Stalin.

Indeed, historian Robert Dallek notes that FDR's reputation was saved by World War II. The New Deal stalled out by the late 1930s, and if Roosevelt had been a two-term president, posterity probably would have ranked him in the middle of the pack, near, say, Lyndon Johnson. But the outbreak of war gave FDR a new focus that he handled masterfully. His handling of the war encouraged historians to look more favorably on his handling of domestic crises as well, so he tended to get higher marks all around. Such is the curious way luck works.

It is ironic that presidential rankings work like this, but the presidents who live in the darkest times usually get the greatest spotlight, and thus the highest rankings: Washington during the first unstable years of the republic, Lincoln during the Civil War, FDR during the Great Depression and World War II. Fewer historians and readers are drawn to presidents who kept crisis at bay -- James Monroe, Chester Arthur, Calvin Coolidge. For this reason, historian H. W. Brands jests that presidential historians are the "ambulance chasers" of the profession.


Now, Franklin Roosevelt had his faults -- he was no marble statue. His self confidence could slide into hubris, as when he tried in 1937 to pack the U.S. Supreme Court; his overreaching in effect stopped the New Deal dead in its tracks. Likewise, he sought to stay in office -- successfully, we should add, since he was elected a record four times -- long after he should have retired from public life due to failing health. Also, argument has raged over Roosevelt's economic IQ; more than a few economists and historians have questioned whether his policies actually made the Depression worse.
[2] Further, FDR was the consummate "party man"; no one questions his patriotism, but there is merit to the charge that his agenda was less about doing what was best for the nation and more about undercutting Republicans and making the Democratic Party the permanent governing majority.

On a personal level also, FDR could be duplicitous, as when he lied to Eleanor about the status of his love affair with Lucy Mercer, which supposedly had ended in 1918; recall that it was Lucy Mercer who was at FDR's side when he passed away on April 12, 1945.


Ultimately most presidents are measured by their achievements. Admirers believe that Franklin Roosevelt resolved the historic tension between two major strains in the Founders' thought -- between the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians -- between those who wanted a strong central government, and those who sought to champion the common man. To his admirers, FDR combined the best qualities of both sides of this very American argument -- he embraced "Hamiltonian means to achieve Jeffersonian ends."

David Kennedy observes that FDR had three significant achievements to his credit. First, he successfully steered the nation through the Great Depression by fighting for lasting reforms that kept revolutionary change at bay. Second, he led a reluctant nation through the most devastating war in human history by actions that would minimize the war's negative effects on the U.S., yet maximize our nation's international leadership; let us recall that the United States was the only nation in the world to come through World War II with a higher standard of living than when we entered the conflict.

This combination -- of bringing about lasting reforms during the Depression, of minimizing the war's negative impact while maximizing the nation's international leadership -- contributed to the third great achievement: more than a half century of relative peace and prosperity. FDR's vision, policies, and style did much to make possible the American Century. As wrong-headed as he could be in his day, as controversial as he remains to this day, FDR's presidency nevertheless brought about structural changes that contributed to the U.S. remaining the most prosperous nation in world history, and avoiding a cataclysmic war with its archrival in the nuclear era. All in all, not a bad contribution. It is telling that his vision and policies, his style and manner of being president, would influence subsequent presidents in both parties (not least of whom was Republican Ronald Reagan). That's why Franklin Roosevelt is widely regarded as one of America's greatest presidents.

(Question from Douglas M. of Atlanta, GA)

[1] From start to finish this answer draws heavily from a lecture by Stanford historian David Kennedy, "The Life of FDR and the Meaning of History," given at the National Conference for History Education, held in Los Angeles, October 16, 2003.

[2] See, for example, Jim Powell, FDR's Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression (New York: Random House/Crown Forum, 2003).

[3] James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn, George Washington (New York: Henry Holt/Times Books, 2004), pp. 89-90.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

LBJ and the Texas Hill Country

Question: One of Lyndon Johnson's biographers, Robert Caro, claims that it is impossible to understand LBJ's character without knowing the Texas Hill Country. What exactly is the Texas Hill Country?
From: Vera N. of Los Angeles, CA
Date: March 15, 2005

Gleaves answers: Many Texans believe that the Hill Country is the best part of the Lone Star State. Certainly it is "deep in the heart of Texas." It has a distinctly western feel, a hardscrabble land of scattered cedar, pecan, and oak trees. Geologists call the region the Edwards Plateau, whose raised limestone strata have been incised with canyons and crisscrossed by caves carved by millions of years of erosion. The Hill Country offers scenic entrance points, for it is set off by an escarpment that rises from the plains north of San Antonio and west of Austin. Indeed, if you fly in a westerly direction over central Texas, you can observe the abrupt change in land use from a quiltwork of cropland on the coastal plain to dark green forests alternating with open pasture in the Hill Country. Every April the land bursts into bloom with Indian paint brush, bluebonnets, and other wildflowers.

The Hill Country has not just a vivid natural history, but a fascinating human history. In the mid-19th century, once the Comanche and other Indian tribes were removed from the Hill Country, a variety of ethnic groups of European origin settled there: mostly people whose ancestry was English, Scotish, Irish, German, and Czech. They mixed with people whose ancestry was Mexican (Texas had been a state of Mexico until 1836), and African. During the Civil War, a large number of Hill Country Germans opposed Texas's entry into the Confederate States of America and fought battles on Texas soil on behalf of the Union.

In this independently spirited place, Lyndon Johnson was born on August 27, 1908. His father, a Texas legislator, and his mother, a college-educated teacher, lived in the heart of the Hill Country, near the hamlet of Stonewall, Texas, about an hour west of Austin by car. His ancestors had pioneered the land, and as a child growing up he heard about the hardscrabble existence that they eked from its stoney soils. He also learned of how his ancestors had driven cattle on the Chisholm Trail, which runs past the Hill Country. He knew rural poverty first hand growing up, and worked his way through Southwest Texas State Teachers College in San Marcos, at the edge of the Hill Country; his compassion for others in economic distress sharpened when he taught students of Mexican descent in the little town of Cotulla, not far from the Hill Country.

So the Hill Country is the land that formed the man who would grow up as our nation's last pioneer president. During boyhood he would have learned much about the American experience in a land that was part Southern, part Western, and formerly Spanish and Mexican. He would have been steeped in its fiercely independent way of life. He would have heard the colorful lore of the cowboy way. And he would have known rural isolation and poverty.

After 15 years on Capitol Hill, first as a representative then as a senator, Johnson bought what was called "the old Martin place" on March 5, 1951. The 246-acre spread was near his birthplace and from 1963-1969 would serve as the Texas White House. There was some political calculation in the purchase. As civil rights heated up, LBJ wanted to downplay his Southern roots and emphasize his Western sensibilities.[1] But there can be no mistaking that he loved the Hill Country. Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson called their ranch "our heart's home." It was a sacred refuge.

The 36th president explained what the land meant to him:

"I guess every person feels a part of the place where he was born. He wants to go back to the surroundings that he knew as a child. This is my country, the Hill Country of Texas. And through the years, when time would permit, here is where I would always return, to the Pedernales River, the scenes of my childhood. There's something different about this country from any other part of the nation. The climate is generally pleasant. The sun is generally bright. The air seems to be always clean. And the water is pure. The moons are a little fuller here. The stars are a little brighter. And I don't know how to describe the feeling other than I guess we all search at times for serenity, and it's serene here. And there's something about this section that brings new life, and new hope, and really a balanced and better viewpoint after you've been here a few days."[2]

Since you mention Robert Caro, it should be said that he is convinced the Texas Hill Country had an unusually strong influence on Lyndon Johnson the man and politician. He observes that LBJ "came out of the Hill Country formed, shaped -- into a shape so hard it would never change."[3] When Caro writes in his magisterial multi-volume biography of LBJ that knowledge of the Hill Country is crucial to understanding the 36th president, he backs the assertion up. He and his wife Ina are from New York City, but they spend many months at a time in Austin doing research at the Johnson Library, and walking the land that Johnson knew, loved, and identified with as a Texan.

[1]Hal K. Rothman, LBJ's Texas White House (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2001), pp. 52-63.

[2]My appreciation to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, Austin, and to the National Park Service, Stonewall and Johnson City, Texas, for providing the audio file of LBJ's oral interview.

[3]Robert A. Caro, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, vol. 1, The Path to Power (New York: Knopf, 1982), p. 201.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Hot dog!

Question: Is it true that Queen Elizabeth was once served hot dogs at the White House?
From: Lisa D. of Spring Lake, MI
Date: March 3, 2005

Gleaves Answers: Feeding the Queen hot dogs isn't exactly our idea of the royal treatment, is it? Nevertheless, it is true that during a 1939 royal visit, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt fed King George VI and Queen Elizabeth hot dogs. (The Queen Elizabeth referenced in 1939 was the mother of the current Queen Elizabeth.)

The 1939 six-day visit was historic -- it was the first time a reigning British monarch had ever set foot in the United States. After spending two days in Washington, DC, enjoying the formalities of a typical state visit -- enthusiastic crowds, entertainment, and receptions at the British embassy and the White House -- the royal couple accompanied the Roosevelts to their home in Hyde Park, New York, for a casual evening and a picnic the following afternoon. It was at this picnic, on the porch of the "Top Cottage" hilltop retreat on the Roosevelt estate, that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth dined from a menu that included Virginia ham, smoked turkey, cranberry jelly, green salad, and -- yes -- hot dogs.

For an account of the entire visit, and for excellent links to related documents, visit the FDR Library and Museum's, "The Royal Visit: June 7-12th, 1939."

Thursday, February 10, 2005

How many Johnsons?

Question: My son-in-law and I are having a friendly argument and have a dinner at Olive Garden and $20 riding on this. He says that the only president to be impeached was Andrew Johnson. He claims that Andrew Johnson was president after Grant. I say that there never was a president named Andrew Johnson. There was a president named Andrew Jackson and a president named Lyndon B. Johnson. Please help straighten this out!! Thank you.
From: Susan G. of Lake Charles, LA
Date: February 10, 2005

Gleaves answers: As in so many arguments, you win on some points, and lose on others.

First: There was a president named Andrew Johnson; he was the 17th president of the United States.

Second: He became president upon the death of Abraham Lincoln, served in the White House from 1865-1869, and was succeeded by U.S. Grant.

Third: Andrew Johnson was one of two U.S. presidents who were impeached. Bill Clinton was the other. (Both were acquitted in the Senate trial.)

Looks like your son-in-law should still buy you dinner at the Olive Garden -- after you've paid him $20!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Missouri and presidents

Question: Which presidents had ties to the state of Missouri?
From: Victoria M. of St. Louis, MO
Date: February 9, 2005

Gleaves answers: Any proud Missourian could probably think of more than a half dozen presidents with ties to the Show-Me state.[1] You would have to start with Thomas Jefferson. The third president made the Louisiana Purchase possible in 1803, and Missouri would be carved out of Louisiana within two decades. The very name of the state capital, Jefferson City ("Jeff City," as locals call it), is a tribute to the third president. So is the stunning Gateway Arch, located in the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Indeed, Missouri has the most significant memorials to Thomas Jefferson outside of Virginia, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.

You should also look to our fifth president, James Monroe, since it was during his administration that Missouri's admittance into the Union was fiercely debated; it eventually became a state in 1820, under the terms of the Missouri Compromise.

Our 18th president, Ulysses S. Grant, no doubt had fond memories of a Missouri connection. He married his wife, Julia Boggs Dent, at her home in St. Louis. (Thanks to Web visiter Jack Sauer for this information.)

Democrats held their national conventions in Missouri five times -- on four occasions in St. Louis and once in Kansas City. It proved not to be a fortuitous place for four of the Democratic nominees, as they would go on to lose the following November. Incumbent Grover Cleveland was one of the losers, in 1888. Only once did a Missouri convention launch a successful Democratic candidate, and that was incumbent Woodrow Wilson, in St. Louis, in 1916.

Republicans held their national conventions in Missouri three times, with somewhat more success. In 1896 the Republican National Convention in St. Louis launched William McKinley on his successful bid for the White House. In 1928, the convention in Kansas City sent Herbert Hoover off on his successful race for the White House. However, in 1976, in a particularly dramatic convention (by modern-day standards) that pitted incumbent Gerald R. Ford against Ronald Reagan, Ford came away the wounded victor; he narrowly lost to Jimmy Carter the following November.

That's eight presidents with some tie to the Show-Me state.

Oh -- did I forget to mention Harry S. Truman?
[1]By the way, the sobriquet "Show-Me state" has political if not exactly presidential origins. The archivist's office in Jefferson City points out that its origins can be found during William McKinley administration, right after Theodore Roosevelt's tenure as assistant secretary of the Navy:
"The slogan is not official, but is common throughout the state and is used on Missouri license plates. The most widely known legend attributes the phrase to Missouri's U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver, who served in the United States House of Representatives from 1897 to 1903. While a member of the U.S. House Committee on Naval Affairs, Vandiver attended an 1899 naval banquet in Philadelphia. In a speech there, he declared, 'I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.' Regardless of whether Vandiver coined the phrase, it is certain that his speech helped to popularize the saying." [Source:]

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Party with the most losses

Question: Which major party has lost the most presidential elections?
From: Jo V. of Kansas City, MO
Date: February 8, 2005 (revised February 22, 2005)

Gleaves answers: If you define the start of the Democratic party with Andrew Jackson's presidency (1829-1837), then Democrats have been involved in a total of 46 presidential elections, and they have lost 26 of them (57 percent of the time). The two earliest losses were to Whig candidates, in 1840 and 1848, and the 24 subsequent losses were to Republican candidates.

The Republican party was not established until the 1850s, so Democrats and Republicans have only been going head-to-head since 1856 -- that's 39 elections. As noted, the Democratic candidate went down 24 times to the Republican (62 percent of the time).

Of course, the 1912 election was the wildcard that has to be taken into account. It should have been a Republican victory but was not. The Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, won that election because Republican candidate William Howard Taft and former Republican president Theodore Roosevelt, now running on the Progressive or Bull Moose party ticket, split the GOP vote.

The longest losing streak suffered by Democrats was 20 years in duration, from 1860 to 1880. The second longest losing streak Democrats suffered was 12 years in duration, from 1896-1908.
The Republicans had their losing streak, too, during the era of FDR. Their losing ways lasted 16 years, from 1932-1948.

What has the trend been in the last three to four decades? Since Richard Nixon ran for president in 1968, Democrats have lost seven of the last ten elections (70 percent of the time).

Nobel Prize winning presidents

Question: How many presidents have won the Nobel Prize?
From: Susan E. of Washington, DC
Date: February 7, 2005

Gleaves answers: The Nobel Prize has been given in most years since 1901, in the fields of physics, chemisty, medicine, literature, and for promoting peace. Three U.S. presidents and one vice president have won the Peace Prize in particular.

Theodore Roosevelt was the first U.S. president to win the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. He received the honor in 1906 for his efforts in mediating the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), midwifing the Treaty of Portsmouth signed by Russia and Japan on September 5, 1905, at Portsmouth, NH. TR did not attend the award ceremony but dispatched Herbert H. D. Peirce to accept the prize on his behalf. Deputizing Peirce was fitting: in 1905 Peirce, as a member of the U.S. State Department, was in charge of organizing the deliberations at Portsmouth.[1]

Woodrow Wilson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919 "in recognition of his Fourteen Points peace program and his work in achieving inclusion of the Covenant of the League of Nations in the 1919 Treaty of Versailles." Wilson was too sick to attend the award ceremony in person. Albert G. Schmedeman, United States ambassador to Norway, accepted the prize on Wilson's behalf.[2]

Vice President Charles Dawes won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925, along with Sir Austen Chamberlain. Dawes was a member of Warren Harding's administration as well as Calvin Coolidge's. He became a Nobel laureate in recognition of his work as chairman of the Dawes Committee, which tackled the problem of German reparations.[3] He became vice president-elect when Coolidge was elected in 1924. So he was the nation's Veep when he received the Nobel Peace Prize -- the first and only vice president to have achieved that distinction.

Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development." He was the first U.S. president to accept the prize in person, in a ceremony in Oslo on December 10, 2002.[4] His efforts at Camp David were instrumental in Anwar al-Sadat and Menachem Begin sharing the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978.

In addition to these three presidents and a vice president, a handful of secretaries of state also won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Elihu Root won the Nobel Peace Prize for 1912. Root had served as Theodore Roosevelt's second secretary of state. Root agreed to speak in Oslo on September 8, 1914, but was prevented from doing so by the outbreak of World War I. This is what was said about Root in absentia: "In the ten years during which he held office [as secretary of war and secretary of state], he had to settle a number of particularly difficult problems, some of an international character. It was he who was chiefly responsible for organizing affairs in Cuba and in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. Even more important was his work in bringing about better understanding between the countries of North and South America. When he visited South America in the summer of 1906, he did a great deal to strengthen the Pan-American movement, and in 1908 he founded the Pan-American Bureau in New York. His strenuous efforts to improve relations between the small Central American countries have borne splendid fruit. The most difficult problem with which Root had to deal while secretary of state, however, was the dispute with Japan over the status of Japanese immigrants. Although a final solution of this dispute eluded him, his work on it was nevertheless of great value.After he had left the government, Root gave himself heart and soul to the cause of peace, and he is now president of the great Carnegie Peace Foundation. [As a senator] Root was one of the most energetic champions of Taft's proposal for an unconditional arbitration treaty between the U.S.A. and Great Britain; and in the dispute concerning tolls for the Panama Canal, he supported the English interpretation of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, opposing special privileges for American shipping. When he spoke on this in the Senate last spring, he gained the admiration of all friends of peace."[5]

Frank Kellogg won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929. He served as Calvin Coolidge's second secretary of state, and Herbert Hoover's too. At the presentation ceremony it was said of him: "The movement in favor of the 'outlawry of war,' to proclaim war illegal and to label it a crime, had gained increasing support in the U.S.A. ever since the end of the World War. Mr. Briand, France's great champion of peace, made a point of choosing a memorable date in the American calendar -- April 6, 1927 -- the tenth anniversary of the entry of the United States into the war, to declare himself a disciple of that movement: 'If there were any need between these two great democracies [the United States and France] to testify more convincingly in favor of peace and to present to the peoples a more solemn example, France would be ready publicly to subscribe, with the United States, to any mutual engagement tending, as between those two countries, to "outlaw war," to use an American expression.' And on June 20, 1927, Briand handed to the American ambassador in Paris a draft of a treaty of perpetual friendship between the two countries. According to the draft, the two parties would solemnly declare that they condemned war and renounced it as an instrument of their national policies. On the other side of the Atlantic, Frank B. Kellogg, the U.S. Secretary of State, elevated this proposal to the status of the world pact to which we pay tribute today in the person of its author: 'The Government of the United States is prepared, therefore, to concert with the Government of France with a view to the conclusion of a treaty among the principal Powers of the world, open to signature by all nations, condemning war and renouncing it as an instrument of national policy in favor of the pacific settlement of international disputes.' And from this common action emerged the pact that today binds together almost all civilized nations in the world. Article I of the Pact states the following: 'The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.'"[6]

Cordell Hull won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 for a career devoted to peace. He was Franklin Roosevelt's secretary of state from 1933-1944, and his reward was sealed when FDR called him the "father of the United Nations."[7]

George C. Marshall won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953. His packed resume included being general president of the American Red Cross, President Truman's third secretary of state, Truman's third secretary of defense, U.N. delegate, and originator of the Marshall Plan. At the award ceremony, it was said of Marshall: "Less than four months after entering the State Department, he presented his plan for that tremendous aid to Europe which has become inseparably connected with his name. He stated in his famous speech at Harvard University: 'Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist. Such assistance, I am convinced, must not be on a piecemeal basis as various crises develop. Any assistance that this government may render in the future should provide a cure rather than a mere palliative.' Marshall carried out his plan, fighting for it for two years in public and in Congress."[8]

Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Le Duc Tho, in 1973. After negotiations that lasted nearly four years, a ceasefire agreement was concluded between the U.S. and the Vietnamese Democratic Republic on January 23, 1973. The new secretary of state was unable to attend the award ceremony.[9]









Monday, January 31, 2005

State of the Union message

Question: Where does the tradition of the president giving State of the Union speeches come from?
From: Ron L. of Independence, MO
Date: January 31, 2005

Gleaves answers: On February 2, 2005, President George W. Bush will give the 216th State of the Union message before a joint session of Congress. It is the 30th wartime State of the Union message.[1]

Where does this long tradition come from? The early modern precedent, well known to America's founders, was the British monarch delivering the Speech from the Throne to open each new session of Parliament. More importantly, the chief executive's report to Congress is required by the Constitution. The president "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient...." This passage from Article II, Section 3, is not particularly specific. But it is the sole legal basis for what has become the annual State of the Union message that the president delivers to a joint session of Congress after it convenes each January.

William Safire, himself a drafter of State of the Union messages in the Nixon administration, observes that these mandatory annual reports to the president "have inclined to be lengthy statements of legislative intent; they are a method by which a president takes the initiative in shaping a legislative program for his administration. An exception was FDR's 1941 message, which became known as the 'Four Freedoms Speech.'"[2]


In earlier times, this act of giving information to Congress was not called the "State of the Union message," but the "Annual Message." Indeed, George Washington called his first report to Congress the Annual Message. Aware of the precedent he was setting, he thought it important to deliver the report personally in the form of a speech. So on the morning of January 8, 1790, he stepped into a fancy yellow carriage drawn by six regal horses through the streets of New York. (As one of my favorite historians, John Willson, likes to point out, the first president was a car guy.) Leaving his residence on Cherry Street, he rode to Federal Hall where a joint session of Congress had assembled.

George Washington delivered his First Annual Message to both houses of Congress on January 8, 1790; that speech was the shortest annual message in U.S. history -- less than 1,100 words and needing barely 10 minutes to deliver. As the White House website notes, "The president's focus ... was on the very concept of union itself. Washington and his administration were concerned with the challenges of establishing a nation and maintaining a union. The experiment of American democracy was in its infancy. Aware of the need to prove the success of the 'union of states,' Washington included a significant detail in his speech. Instead of datelining his message with the name of the nation's capital, New York, Washington emphasized unity by writing 'United States' on the speech's dateline."[3]

Another enduring idea from the address was this: "Among the many interesting objects which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defense will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace."

Washington's subsequent annual messages were delivered each autumn.

As in so much else concerning the American presidency, Washington started the precedent. The "from time to time" became an annual fall event. Indeed, Washington delivered eight annual messages in all; his successor John Adams delivered four annual messages in all, also in the autumn months.


Most people assume that all annual messages were speeches. In fact, the majority were not. Beginning with Thomas Jefferson in 1801, the annual message was not delivered as a speech but was submitted to Congress in writing. That's because our third president (1) was a superb writer, (2) disliked public speaking, and (3) rationalized the change on the grounds that a presidential speech before Congress was unbecomingly similar to the British monarch's annual Speech from the Throne; such monarchical trappings were unseemly in a republic. Jefferson's habit of submitting a written message to Congress rather than delivering a speech to a joint session became an unbroken tradition in its own right, lasting from 1801 through the end of William Taft's administration in 1912. Several presidents after Taft, especially those favoring a strict construction of the Constitution (Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, for example), preferred written annual messages.

The timing became routinized as well. From James Monroe's presidency forward, the messages were submitted in December, almost without exception during the first week of the month. Any only oral reading of them was performed by clerks in Congress.


Not until Woodrow Wilson became president in 1913 was the earlier tradition of giving an annual speech to Congress revived. Although it was somewhat controversial, Wilson revived the oratorical State of the Union message because he was a superb rhetorician who liked to strut his stuff; also, by that point the president did not have to worry about being compared to the British monarch. Wilson, following long-established precedent, delivered his annual addresses during the first week of December.

Which brings up a point about the change in timing, since States of the Union are nowadays delivered in January or February. Recall that for many decades only George Washington had delivered a State of the Union message in January; and that, his first. Remarkably, the second time the message would be delivered in the month of January would not occur until 144 years later, when Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the annual address in 1934. The reason for the change is that passage of the Twentieth Amendment moved the inauguration date from March to January, so FDR thought a January message would be more timely. Almost every year he was in office he gave the speech during the first week of the new year. FDR is also the president who began referring to the speech as the "State of the Union message,"[4] words that were lifted straight from the Constitution and stuck in popular discourse.


While a number of annual messages read like laundry lists since they are given over to the president's legislative agenda, several have endured in Americans' collective memory because of their eloquence and the power of their ideas.

In 1823, James Monroe used his Seventh Annual Message to spell out his foreign policy, the Monroe Doctrine, warning European powers to cease entertaining designs to colonize the Western hemisphere.

In 1862, Abraham Lincoln used his Second Annual Message to say that the time had come to emancipate the slaves.

In 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt used his Ninth State of the Union message to proclaim the famous "Four Freedoms."

In 2002, just four months after the deadliest single attack against the U.S. on these shores, George W. Bush used his State of the Union message to declare that an Axis of Evil threatened the nation; the Axis consisted of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.


1st Annual Message: George Washington's on January 8, 1790, in New York City, which then served as the provisional capital of the U.S.

1st Annual Message not delivered as a speech: Thomas Jefferson's, in the new capital of Washington, DC, on December 8, 1801.

1st Annual Message broadcast over the radio: Calvin Coolidge's on December 6, 1923.

1st popular use of the term "State of the Union" to refer to the message: with Franklin Roosevelt's message of 1935.

1st State of the Union message broadcast on television: Harry S. Truman's during the day on January 6, 1947.

1st State of the Union message broadcast live during primetime: Lyndon B. Johnson's on the evening of January 4, 1965.

1st State of the Union message streamed live on the world wide web: George W. Bush's in 2002.

1st broadcast rebuttal to the State of the Union message: in 1966, Republicans countered President Lyndon Johnson's speech. Ever since, it has been the tradition of the party out of the White House to give a response on radio and/or television.

1st State of the Union message delivered in February: Dwight D. Eisenhower on February 2, 1953, appeared before Congress to flesh out the vision he had outlined in his inaugural address two weeks earlier. It was a wartime address delivered during the closing months of the Korean War. The State of the Union message has been given in February only five times since (by Nixon in 1973, Reagan in 1985 and 1986, and Clinton in 1993 and 1997). George W. Bush's message on February 2, 2005, will be the seventh such February message.


Virtually every modern president has used the words "state of the Union" in his message, trailed by some such adjective as "good," "better," or "strong." Since you hail from Independence, Missouri, let's turn to Harry S. Truman. In his 1949 State of the Union message, Truman declared, "I am happy to report to this 81st Congress that the state of the Union is good [emphasis added]. Our Nation is better able than ever before to meet the needs of the American people, and to give them their fair chance in the pursuit of happiness. This great Republic is foremost among the nations of the world in the search for peace."

But as William Safire points out, the tendency toward optimism has not been universal. The first president to say outright that "the state of the Union is not good," was Gerald R. Ford on January 15, 1975. He explained, "Millions of Americans are out of work. Recession and inflation are eroding the money of millions more. Prices are too high, and sales are too slow."

Two presidents did not give an Annual Message -- and they both had a good excuse: William Henry Harrison died one month after his inauguration in 1841, and James A. Garfield died 200 days into his administration in 1881 -- the shortest and second shortest administrations in U.S. history.

After 1789, there was only one calendar year -- 1933 -- in which no Annual Message was given; Hoover had given his last written Annual Message to Congress in December of 1932, and FDR would deliver his first State of the Union message in January of 1934; only 13 months separated the two messages.

In three calendar years there have been two State of the Union messages given to Congress. (1) In 1790, Washington gave his First Annual Message in January, and his second in December. (2) In 1953, outgoing President Harry S. Truman and incoming President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave dueling State of the Union messages within a month of each other. (3) In 1961, outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower and incoming President John F. Kennedy gave dueling State of the Union messages within three weeks of each other.

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan postponed his State of the Union message because of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

On January 19, 1999, President Bill Clinton delivered his Seventh State of the Union message in an unusually tense atmosphere. Exactly one month earlier -- on December 19th -- he had been impeached by the House of Representatives. Then on January 7th the Senate had opened the trial and the president found himself in the midst of heated political and constitutional debate. The Senate did not vote to dismiss the articles of impeachment against the president until February 12, 1999.

On February 2nd, when President George W. Bush enters the House of Representatives to deliver his 2005 State of the Union Message, he will be applauded by members of both parties. Even Democrats will applaud because they are acknowledging the office, not (necessarily) the person who occupies it. Indeed, following long-established tradition, the president will not be introduced by name.


[1]Wartime here includes the five declared wars the U.S. has waged -- War of 1812, Mexican War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II -- and seven additional significant conflicts -- Quasi-War against France, Tripolitan War against the Barbary Pirates, Civil War, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and the Iraq War.

[2]William Safire, Safire's New Political Dictionary (New York: Random House, 1993), s.v. "State of the Union," p. 755.

[3]Visit the White House website:

[4]Word maven William Safire prefers the word "message" to "speech," "address," or "report" when referring to the State of the Union message. [Safire, Political Dictionary, s.v. "State of the Union," p. 755.]

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Bible passages at inaugurations

Question: Is it customary for presidents to swear the oath of office on a Bible? Which passages do they use?
From: Barbara C. of Colorado Springs, CO
Date: January 25, 2005

Gleaves answers: Yes, it is customary. At the beginning of a president's term in office, there are two situations in which Bibles are ceremonially used: (1) at a private swearing in, which several presidents have taken part in, among them Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Dwight Eisenhower; and (2) at the public swearing in that is integral to the inaugural ceremony. Nothing in the U.S. Constitution requires that presidents swear on the Bible or otherwise use the book as part of their inauguration, but our first president, George Washington, started the precedent. At his first inauguration in 1789, he used a Masonic Bible that had been printed in 1767. It was opened to an Old Testament passage. At least three later presidents used Washington's Masonic Bible at their own inaugurations, all of them Republicans: Warren Harding (1921), Dwight Eisenhower (1953), and George H. W. Bush (1989). George W. Bush wanted to use Washington's Bible in 2001, but bad weather kept him from doing so.

Following George Washington's precedent, our nation's chief executives have used the Bible in most if not all inaugurations, as well as in several private swearing in ceremonies. On at least 30 formal occasions, we know that the Bible was opened to Old Testament passages. On at least 10 formal occasions, we know that the Bible was opened to New Testament passages. Following is the breakdown.


The following presidents had the book opened to a specific Old Testament passage:
- Van Buren's inauguration (1837): Proverbs 3:17.
- Andrew Johnson's swearing in (1865): Proverbs 21.
- Grant's second inaugural (1873): Isaiah 11:1-3.
- Hayes's inauguration (1877): Psalm 118:11-13.
- Garfield's inaugural (1881): Proverbs 21:1.
- Arthur's swearing in (1881): Psalm 31:1-3.
- Harrison's inaugural (1889): Psalm 121: 1-6.
- Cleveland's second inaugural (1893): Psalm 91:12-16.
- McKinley's Bible during the first inaugural (1897) was opened to II Chronicles 1:10, and in his second inaugural (1901) it was opened to Proverbs 16.
- Taft (1909): I Kings 3:9-11.
- Wilson's first inaugural (1913): Psalm 119; Wilson's second inaugural (1917): Psalm 46.
- Harding (1921) used Washington's Masonic Bible, opened to Micah 6:8.
- Hoover's Bible at the inauguration (1929) was open to Proverbs 29:18.
- Truman's Bible at his inauguration (1949) was open to Exodus 20:3-17 (the Bible was also opened to a New Testament passage).
- Eisenhower's first inauguration (1953) incorporated George Washington's Masonic Bible opened to Psalm 127:1, plus a West Point Bible opened to II Chronicles 7:14; his second inauguration (1957) had the West Point Bible opened to Psalm 33:12.
- Nixon used two family Bibles, both opened to the same passage during both the first (1969) and second (1973) inaugurals: Isaiah 2:4
- Ford's swearing in (1974): Proverbs 3:5-6
- Carter (1977) used a family Bible opened to Micah 6:8.
- Reagan used the Bible given to him by his mother at both the first (1981) and second (1985) inaugurals, as well as in the private swearing in in 1985. On all these occasions the Bible was opened to II Chronicles 7:14.
- Clinton's second inaugural (1997) featured the King James Bible given to him by his grandmother, opened to Isaiah 58:12
- George W. Bush's second inaugural

The following presidents had the Bible opened at random, and because the Old Testament is so much larger than the New Testament, the book would inevitably be opened to an Old Testament passage:
- The Masonic Bible used in Washington's first inaugural was opened to the page containing Genesis 49:13.
- Lincoln's first inaugural.
- At Cleveland's first inaugural the chief justice who presided over the swearing in opened the Bible at random to Psalm 112:4-10.
- George H. W. Bush had Washington's Masonic Bible opened at random in the middle; also had the family Bible opened to a New Testament passage.

The passage from II Chronicles 7:14 was used in three swearing-in ceremonies. It is a verse of repentence: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."


The following presidents had the Bible opened to a New Testament passage:
- Lincoln's second inaugural (1865) incorporated three passages: Matthew 7:1 and 18:7, and Revelation 16:7.
- Theodore Roosevelt's inaugural (1905): James 1:22-23
- Coolidge: John 1
- Franklin Roosevelt's four inaugurals (1933, 1937, 1941, 1945): I Corinthians 13
- Truman's inaugural: Matthew 5:3-11 (the Bible was also opened to an OT passage)
- George H. W. Bush featured the family Bible opened to Matthew 5. He also had Washington's Masonic Bible opened at random in the middle;
- Clinton's first inaugural (1993) featured the King James Bible given to him by his grandmother, opened to Galatians 6:8.


The following presidents had a Bible with them to mark the beginning of their term but kept it closed, in George W. Bush's case due to bad weather:
- Truman's 1945 swearing in.
- Kennedy's 1961 inaugural.
- Johnson's 1965 inaugural.
- George W. Bush's family Bible was kept closed during the 2001 inaugural, due to bad weather; he had wanted to use Washington's Masonic Bible.

Two additional pieces of information. Pierce had a Bible at the inauguration, but we do not have enough historical information to know whether it was closed or open to a particular passage. We do know that he did not "solemnly swear," but "solemnly affirmed" the oath of office.

And Lyndon Johnson used not a Bible but a missal when he was privately sworn in aboard Air Force I on November 22, 1963, shortly after Kennedy was assassinated.


The three cases in which historians know that no Bible was used (in all three instances Republicans):
- Hayes's private swearing in (1877);
- Arthur's private swearing in (1881);
- Theodore Roosevelt's swearing in at Buffalo, New York, (1901) upon McKinley's death.


While there are eye-witness accounts of every presidential swearing-in and inauguration, we do not have all the details about the use of a Bible at these events. According to the Office of the Curator and Architect of the Capitol, there is not enough information for the following events:
- Washington's second inaugural
- Adams's inaugural
- Jefferson's first and second inaugurals
- Madison's first and second inaugurals
- Monroe's first and second inaugurals
- Quincy Adams's inaugural
- Harrison's inaugural
- Tyler's swearing in (upon Harrison's death)
- Polk's inaugural
- Taylor's inaugural
- Fillmore's swearing in (upon Taylor's death)
- Buchanan's inaugural
- Grant's first inaugural
- Wilson's private swearing in before his second inaugural
- Coolidge's private swearing in by his father at his boyhood home (upon Harding's death)
- Eisenhower's private swearing in before his second inaugural.

Regarding the above, historians cannot say that no Bible was used; they do not know if or which edition was used, or to which passage it may have been opened.


Finally, George Washington not only began the precedent of using a Bible at his inauguration; he also began two related precedents -- (1) adding the words "so help me God" to the constitutionally mandated oath of office, and (2) kissing the Bible after taking the oath. Not all presidents have kissed the Bible as Washington did, but many have.



Monday, January 24, 2005

Numbers of presidents, inaugurations, etc.

Question: Can you explain why there have been 55 inaugurations but only 43 presidents?
From: Susie O. (hometown unknown)
Date: January 24, 2005

Gleaves answers: I do not know your age, but you ask a question that is a favorite among school children and history buffs.

Let's first tackle the number of presidents. George W. Bush is our nation's 43rd president, as your question notes. But -- he is only the 42nd person to serve as president. That is because Grover Cleveland’s two terms (1885-1889 and 1893-1897) were not consecutive, but interrupted by Benjamin Harrison's term (1889-1893), so Cleveland is referred to as the 22nd and 24th president of the United States.

So there have been 43 presidents but 55 inaugurations. Why?
- Exactly 21 presidents have been inaugurated once (Adams, Quincy Adams, Van Buren, Harrison, Polk, Taylor, Pierce, Buchanan, Hayes, Garfield, B. Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Truman, Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Carter, and Bush).
- Exactly 16 presidents have been inaugurated twice (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Lincoln, Grant, Cleveland, McKinley,Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush). That adds up to 32 inaugurations.
- Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated a third and fourth time.

That's how you get to 55 inaugurations in U.S. history.

Not to complicate the picture, but five presidents (Tyler, Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Arthur, and Ford) were not formally inaugurated. That is because they were vice presidents who finished the term of a president who died or resigned. Even though these five did not go through an inauguration, they were, in accordance with Article II, Section 1, of the U.S. Constitution, sworn in.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Cost of Inaugurations

Question: Can we get a comparison of presidential inauguration costs for the last 6 to 10 presidents?
From: Bob S. of Albuquerqui, New Mexico
Date: January 21, 2005

Gleaves answers: Many visitors to have been asking this question or some variation of it. There are two primary costs of inaugurations. One is the cost of the swearing-in ceremony, which is paid for by taxpayers; the funds are appropriated by Congress; in 2001, George W. Bush's swearing-in ceremony cost $1 million. Second is the cost of the balls, the candlelight dinners, the parties, the concerts -- all the festivities that surround the swearing-in ceremony, which are paid for by private donations.

If there is criticism of how much a modern inaugural costs, it is usually directed at this latter cost, the parties and festivities, even though the burden is not borne by taxpayers. Going backward in time, from the most recent to the most distant inaugurals, here are the private-sector costs of the festivities surrounding some inaugurations:

George W. Bush's 2nd inaugural will cost in the neighborhood of $40 million. That's what the Presidential Inaugural Committee is trying to raise through private donations and ticket sales to the nine balls and three candlelight dinners.

George W. Bush's 1st inaugural in 2001 also cost nearly $40 million.

Bill Clinton's 2nd inaugural in 1997 was comparatively lean by the inaugural standards of the times, $23.6 million.

Bill Clinton's 1st inaugural in 1993 cost approximately $33 million.

George H. W. Bush's inaugural in 1989 cost approximately $30 million.

Ronald Reagan's 2nd inaugural in 1985 cost in the neighborhood of the 1981 inaugural, around $20 million.

Ronald Reagan's 1st inaugural in 1981 cost $19.4 million, significantly more than his predecessors. One reason is that inflation had been sky-high between Carter's and Reagan's inaugurations. A second reason is that several balls were added to the festivities. A third is that the swearing-in ceremony was moved to the west front of the Capitol. Because of topography, that aspect of the building is much more dramatic than the east front; it was also symbolic of Ronald Reagan's western roots.

Jimmy Carter's inaugural in 1977 cost $3.5 million. Elected in the wake of the Watergate scandal, he deliberately downplayed anything that appeared to aggrandize the presidency.

Richard Nixon's 2nd inaugural in 1973 cost $4 million. Bob Hope, a Nixon supporter, joked that the three-day extravaganza commemorated "the time when Richard I becomes Richard II."

Lyndon Johnson's inaugural in 1965 cost $1.5 million.

Woodrow Wilson's inaugural was relatively lean since on his orders there would be no ball. He disliked dances. Congress appropriated $30,000 for the event.

James Madison's inaugural ceremony in 1809 cost more than previous inaugurals in part because it was the first to include a ball. Dolley Madison, the federalist era's social maven, had also served as hostess for President Jefferson.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Inaugurations in American history

Question: Which inaugurations have been the most memorable?
From: Brenda T. of Colorado Springs
Date: January 19, 2005

Gleaves answers: The president is the one individual upon whom all the American people can cast their cares. So the formal installation of a president is a major event, the American equivalent of a coronation.

The most significant inauguration in U.S. history was arguably the first. Aware of the importance that this national ritual would take on, George Washington established several precedents during his first inauguration. The swearing-in took place outside. The oath was taken upon an open Bible. Washington added the words "so help me God" to the constitutionally prescribed oath of office. Immediately after the oath, he bent over to kiss the Bible.[1] An inaugural address was given to the Congress assembled inside Federal Hall, the building in New York City that served as the Capitol in those days. The contents of that first inaugural address served as a model for subsequent addresses. Also festivities accompanied the inauguration, including a church service, a parade, and fireworks.[2]

Although inaugurations are like coronations, it's no guarantee that inaugural addresses will be great or even good orations. There have been 55 inaugural addresses, but only a half dozen or so are truly memorable. Many people wonder why this is. Robert Dallek explains that these orations reflect the broadest consensus in American culture. In trying to reach out to as many citizens as possible, presidents do not attempt to be innovative but massage the tried-and-true themes of freedom, unity, American exceptionalism, and the goodness of the American people.


George Washington's first Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789, put the new nation in world historical context: "the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."

Thomas Jefferson's first Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801. After a bitter election that resulted in the first transfer of power from one party to another, he tried to unify the young nation, exclaiming, "We are all Federalists; we are all Republicans."

Abraham Lincoln's second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865, during the closing days of the Civil War, called for "malice toward none," and "charity for all."

Franklin Roosevelt's first Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933, during the depths of the Great Depression, proclaimed, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Franklin Roosevelt's third Inaugural Address, on March 4, 1941, was a paean to the idea and reality of American democracy when Europe and Asia were being ripped asunder by the Axis juggernaut.

John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961, challenged fellow citizens: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Ronald Reagan's first Inaugural Address, January 20, 1981, pressed a new idea to reverse the growth of big government: "In the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem."


The longest inaugural address was William Henry Harrison's in 1841. He delivered the 1 hour 45 minute oration without wearing a hat or coat in a howling snow storm, came down with pneumonia, and died one month later. His was the shortest tenure in the White House.

The shortest inaugural address was George Washington's second, in 1793. Yet he had the most important administration in American history. So the longest inaugural address was followed by the shortest administration in U.S. history, and the shortest inaugural address occurred at the midpoint of the most important administration in U.S. history.

Most meaningful ad libbed line and gesture: George Washington added the words "so help me God" to the oath of office (the original text of which is prescribed by the U.S. Constitution), then bent forward to kiss the Bible. How did these words and this gesture come about? Supposedly the chief justice of New York's Supreme Court admonished Washington and others that an oath that was not sworn on the Bible would lack legitimacy. As no Bible could be found in Federal Hall, where the swearing in was to be held, one was borrowed from a Masonic lodge a few blocks away.

First president inaugurated in Washington, DC: Thomas Jefferson, on March 4, 1801. George Washington had been inaugurated in New York City (1789) and in Philadelphia (1793), and John Adams had been inaugurated in Philadelphia (1797).

First president to eschew his successor's inauguration: John Adams, on March 4, 1801. The campaign of 1800 between the sitting president, Adams, and his vice president, Jefferson, had left deep wounds. Adams was in no mood to celebrate and left town.

Tradition of attending a religious service on the way to the Inauguration: began with Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. George W. Bush is attending St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House.

Striking moment from today's perspective: when Dwight D. Eisenhower asked listeners to bow their heads: "...[W]ould you permit me the privilege of uttering a little private prayer of my own?" Some reference to God, or asking for God's blessings on the United States, has been a part of all 55 inaugural addresses. But Ike's gesture was a first.

Funniest line in a first inaugural address: Presidential historian Paul Boller has read every inaugural address (for which, he says, he deserves a medal), and he claims that there is not a single funny line in the official texts. However, our eighth president, Martin Van Buren inadvertantly made the audience laugh when he said, "Unlike all who have preceded me, the [American] Revolution that gave us existence as one people was achieved at the period of my birth; and whilst I contemplate with grateful reverence that memorable event...." Van Buren meant that he revered the American Revolution, but to the audience it sounded as if he revered his own birth.

Most surprising moment at an inaugural ceremony: on January 20, 1953, when Texas-born Dwight Eisenhower, in the reviewing stand, was lassoed by a cowboy who rode up to him on a horse.

Rowdiest inaugural celebration: at Abraham Lincoln's inauguration, the crowd grew so rambunctious that the police had to be called in.

Dumbest thing a president did at his inauguration: in March of 1841, William Henry Harrison gave his Inaugural Address -- the longest in presidential history, nearly two hours in length -- in a snow storm without wearing a hat or overcoat. He came down with a bad cold that developed into a major respiratory infection (probably pneumonia), and was dead within the month. (Of course, many other presidents have acted similarly in extremely cold temperatures during their inauguration. The night before John Kennedy was sworn in, a cold front hammered the East Coast, leaving snow and frigid temperatures in its wake. Watch the film clip: JFK removed his overcoat before standing up to receive the oath of office and deliver his address.)

Warmest inauguration: Ronald Reagan's first, on January 20th, 1981, when the temperature at the swearing in was 55 degrees.

Coldest inauguration: Ronald Reagan's second, on January 20th, 1985, when the temperature at noon was 7 degrees. The events were moved inside the Capitol. By the way, Congress had to pass a last-minute resolution to give permission to use the Rotunda for the event.

Best book about inaugurations: Presidential historian Paul F. Boller Jr. of Texas Christian University has written the best historical overview titled Presidential Inaugurations.

As a rule, second inaugural addresses are not as long as first ones. As in so much else, George Washington set the example, with an extremely brief second inaugural address that would endure as the shortest in American history. Abraham Lincoln explained why brevity was called for the second time around: "At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented." And then Lincoln went on to deliver arguably the most memorable Inaugural Address in U.S. history, contemplating an inscrutable God's just punishment on the North and South because of the existence of slavery.

[1]Paul F. Boller Jr., Presidential Inaugurations: From Washington's Election to George W. Bush's Gala (San Diego: Harcourt, 2001), p. 13.

[2]From the Library of Congress,

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Second inaugurations

Question: Later this week George W. Bush will be inaugurated for the second time. How many presidents have had the opportunity to be inaugurated twice? What about second Inaugurations when our nation has been at war?
From: Charles M. of Grand Blanc, MI
Date: January 18, 2005

Gleaves answers: Socially the second inauguration of George W. Bush starts today, January 18. Constitutionally his second term begins at midday Thursday, January 20th. This, in accordance with the 20th Amendment: "The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January...." (It's easy to remember that the 20th Amendment puts Inauguration Day on the 20th of January.)

The week's festivities include nine balls, three candle-light dinners, two church services, a concert, and a parade, not to mention the inauguration itself on the west front of the Capitol. The events are not just the last hurrah of a successful campaign for re-election; they're not just about who is on the "A" lists to attend the balls. While there is celebration aplenty in presidential inaugurations, they are more than victory parties. They are among the key events in America's civil religion, anticipated like a coronation or a feast day in the liturgical calendar. These quadrennial benchmarks of the American experience give citizens the opportunity to unify by reaffirming their faith in our nation's promise, as well as their faith in the wisdom of the founders who created our constitutional republic.

That is why it is important for the president to be gracious during his Inaugural Address, whether his first or second. It is why the Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson, after the bitter campaign of 1800 against the Federalist John Adams, tried to bury the hatchet on Inauguration Day, saying, "We are all Republicans; we are all Federalists."

The theme for this week's inauguration of President George W. Bush is "Celebrating Freedom and Honoring Service." While January 20 is the constitutionally mandated day for swearing in the president, various inaugural events will stretch from Tuesday, January 18, till Friday, January 21. Because of 9/11, security will be tighter for this inauguration than for any previous one. It is also estimated that all the music, parades, balls, and services will cost more than any previous inauguration in U.S. history, between $30 million to $40 million. The money to pay for the extravaganza is being raised through private donations and ticket sales by a specially appointed inaugural committee.


Forty-two men have served as president of the United States. Only 37 of them gave one or more inaugural addresses. George W. Bush's inauguration on January 20th will be the 55th inauguration in U.S. history. Bush will be the sixteenth president who will have been inaugurated twice. The pattern at this moment in history is symmetrical. The initial second inauguration was in the eighteenth century:
- George Washington.

Seven second inaugurals occurred in the nineteenth century:
- Jefferson
- Madison
- Monroe
- Jackson
- Lincoln
- Grant
- Cleveland (the only president whose second term was not continuous with the first).

Seven second inaugurals took place in the twentieth century:
- McKinley
- Wilson
- Franklin Roosevelt (who would have two additional inaugurations)
- Eisenhower
- Nixon
- Reagan
- Clinton

One second inaugural occurred in the twenty-first century:
- George W. Bush.

Reinforcing the symmetry is the fact that presidents with the first name "George" form bookends to the 16 second inaugurations that have taken place.


To the question of war, six presidents who were kept for another term went through their Inauguration when the nation was in a significant struggle:
- Jefferson's second Inauguration was in March of 1805, when the U.S. naval blockade in the Mediterranean Sea was winding down the Tripolitan War against the Barbary pirates. (The peace treaty would be signed on June 4, 1805.)
- Madison's second Inaugural Address was devoted to the topic of war. This was a first. No previous inaugural address was so dominated by war talk. Because his second inauguration took place in March of 1813, several months after the outbreak of the War of 1812, he was preoccupied with a conflict that was going badly for the Americans. If fact, his language almost grew strident as he listed the depradations of the British and their Indian allies in the conduct of the war.
- Lincoln's second Inauguration took place in March of 1865, five weeks before the end of the Civil War. His speech is arguably the greatest Inaugural Address, first or second, ever given.
- Franklin Roosevelt's fourth Inauguration was in January of 1945, when the Allies could see light at the end of a totalitarian tunnel.
- Nixon's second Inauguration took place in January of 1973, as the Vietnam War was wrapping up for U.S. sailors, flyers, and troops.
- George W. Bush's second Inauguration is happening as the U.S. is desperate to quell the relentless pounding of terrorist attacks before upcoming elections in Iraq.

Two other inaugurations are worth noting. Dwight Eisenhower's first inauguration took place during the Korean War. And while John Adams did not deliver his Inaugural Address during wartime (March 4, 1797), his oration has thoughtful passages about the meaning of George Washington and the Revolutionary War to American history.

Some people critical of fancy inaugurations assert (especially if their side lost) that wartime inaugurations should be relatively subdued affairs. They cite Franklin D. Roosevelt's example in 1945. It is true that FDR's fourth inauguration limited celebration to a cold luncheon at the White House. In part this was due to all the sacrifices that were required of the American people after four years of total war -- the rationing, the limited consumer items, the limited hotel space; in part, it was because FDR was in no shape for an extravaganza; at death's doorstep, he would pass from this earth within five weeks.

FDR's austerity on that occasion has hardly been the rule historically. For instance, James Madison was a wartime president, and his wife Dolley a social maven. They began the custom of holding balls at the president's inauguration; their first -- the nation's first, too -- was held in peacetime in March of 1809. It was such a hit that he and the first lady were not about to let the War of 1812 stop future celebration. For Madison's second inauguration the lead couple put on a lively ball.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The Veep's last words

Question: What were Vice President Alben Barkley's last words before he died? I think it was a reference to serving God before doing something wrong.
From: Lenn Kornfeld of Amagansett, NY
Date: January 12, 2005

Gleaves answers: You almost hit the bull's eye. Alben W. Barkley, most remembered as Harry S. Truman's vice president (1949-1953), died of a heart attack on April 30, 1956, in Lexington, Virginia. He was addressing a mock Democratic Convention at Washington and Lee University, and his last words were: "I would rather be a servant in the house of the Lord than sit in the seats of the mighty."[1]

The former vice president was a U.S. senator from Kentucky when he died at the age of 78. Indeed, Barkley had spent most of his remarkable career on Capitol Hill, where he served from 1913 to 1949 -- 36 years -- as a representative and senator. As it is the vice president's constitutional duty to preside over the Senate, it was logical for the Democratic party to pick him to be Truman's running mate. After four years as vice president, he wanted to return to Capitol Hill. He sought and won a Senate seat in 1954, and had been in office little more than a year when he was struck down by heart disease.

Three additional facts of note: First, Barkley was the last vice president born in a log cabin (in 1877, in Kentucky). Also, he was first vice president called "the Veep," a moniker given to him by his ten-year-old grandson. Finally, in 1948 Barkley became the first vice president to get hitched while in office; at the age of 71, he married Jane Hadley, who was 38.

[1]If you have the chance, try to visit Barkley's gravesite outside of Paducah, Kentucky. An historical marker off Lone Oak Road (at the entrance of Mt. Kenton Cemetery) cites the last words. Also see the Commonwealth of Kentucky website for its historical markers at

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Second-term mandates

Question: How is a mandate for an elected or re-elected president determined, and how much claim does President Bush have to govern with a mandate in his second term?
From: Michelle W., of Cambridge, MA
Date: January 6, 2005

Gleaves answers: Your question is apt considering what is happening in Washington, DC, today: Congress has gathered to certify the votes of the Electoral College. (And you thought the election was over?)


Does President George W. Bush enjoy a mandate, as he and his supporters claim? First, let's look at the definition: "mandate" comes from the Latin words mandatum or mandare, literally "to put hands on" as if to send someone on a mission, or "to order" someone who has been dubbed to do something.[1] The way you are using the word refers to the strong measure of approval or support that voters give to their representatives when elected by a sizeable majority. Political scientist Thomas Dye defines a mandate even more specifically, as the "perception of popular support for a program or policy based on the [large] margin of electoral victory won by a candidate who proposed it during a campaign." Frequently the winner in even close elections will claim the voters' overwhelming support -- i.e., a mandate -- for their policies and programs. "But," as Dye notes, "for elections to serve as policy mandates, four conditions have to be met:

1. Competing candidates have to offer clear policy alternatives.

2. The voters have to cast their ballots on the basis of these policy alternatives alone.

3. The election results have to clearly indicate the voters' policy preferences.

4. Elected officials have to be bound by their campaign promises."[2]


Using Thomas Dye's criteria, we see that true mandates rarely exist. To the question of whether President Bush's re-election represents a mandate in some meaningful sense of the word, it might be argued that being re-elected is almost by definition a mandate, since the voters are confirming what they already know and sending the signal that they want more of that person's leadership. In addition, there are two other facts that encourage Bush and his followers. First, he got the largest percentage of the popular vote in decades. Second, his coattails helped GOP candidates build leads in both houses of Congress.

And yet, President Bush's re-election was by the smallest margin since 1824, when the popular vote began to be counted. The following analysis, written by Dr. Sheldon Stern (who was the historian at the JFK Library from 1977-1999), appeared in the Boston Globe after the election:

"In their victory statements on November 3, President Bush and Vice
President Cheney tried to spin the election outcome as a 'historic' and
'broad' mandate for their administration. The media largely swallowed this
interpretation. Television, newspaper and Internet commentary proliferated
declaring that the GOP had triumphed on a red tide of votes.

"In fact, the historical record proves precisely the opposite.
President Bush won the popular vote by 2.7% -- the smallest winning
percentage by a second term president since popular vote statistics were
first recorded in 1824:
- Jackson won by 16.8% in 1832;
- Lincoln by 10.1% in 1864;
- Grant by 11.8% in 1872;
- Cleveland by 3.1% in 1892;
- McKinley by 6.2% in 1900;
- TR by 18.8% in 1904;
- Wilson by 3.1% in 1916;
- Coolidge by 25.2% in 1924;
- FDR by 24.3% in 1936;
- Truman by 4.4% in 1948;
- Eisenhower by 15.4% in 1956;
- LBJ by 22.6% in 1964;
- Nixon by 23.2% in 1972;
- Reagan by 18.2% in 1984;
- Clinton by 8.5% in 1996.

"Similarly, Bush won by only 34 electoral votes, with 53.2% of the
total electoral vote. Wilson is the only president to win a second
term with a smaller electoral vote margin (23 votes) and percentage (52.2%).
Second term presidents between 1804 and 1996 have, on average, won 78.7%
of the electoral vote. History would clearly trump spin if media commentators
knew more history."[3]

Although President George W. Bush was re-elected, which in itself reflects a kind of mandate, he does not enjoy the overwhelming support many of his predecessors have, especially with regard to domestic issues. This is not to say that he cannot govern effectively or increase the approval ratings for his policies and programs. But it is to urge caution before waxing enthusiastic about a mandate from the voters.

[1]American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. (2000) and Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Law (1996), s.v. "mandate."

[2]Thomas R. Dye, Politics in America, 4th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2001), pp. 229-30.

[3]Sheldon M. Stern, letter to the Boston Globe, December 21, 2004.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Landslide Lyndon

Question: Where did the moniker "Landslide Lyndon" come from, referring to Lyndon B. Johnson?
From: Pat O. of Gainsville, FL
Date: January 4, 2005

Gleaves answers: Lyndon Johnson did win the 1964 presidential race in a landslide over the hapless senator from Arizona, Barry Goldwater, but that's not when LBJ got his famous nickname. The bigger-than-life Texan picked up "Landslide Lyndon" in 1948, in a runoff race for the U.S. Senate, and it was meant ironically.

When the votes were counted on election day (Saturday, August 28, 1948), it seemed that Johnson had been narrowly defeated by one of the most popular governors in Texas history, Coke Stevenson. LBJ, no pushover, had served for 11 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and developed the reputation of being a "Texas wunderkind."[1] Nevertheless, the result looked bad for Johnson. Presidential historian Robert Dallek writes:

"According to the Texas Election Bureau, an unofficial election agency run by Texas newspapers, Stevenson led at midnight by 2,119 votes out of 939,468 counted. 'Well, it looks like we've lost,' Lady Bird told Dorothy Nichols on the phone."[2]

Or so it seemed. The votes kept coming in and the results went back and forth; victory was now declared for Stevenson, now for Johnson, now for Stevenson. After most of the tallies, the governor held a slight advantage. Then, six days after the election, a funny thing happened: 203 votes turned up in Box 13 from the pint-sized town of Alice, Texas. Even funnier: 202 of those votes were for Lyndon Johnson. The Stevenson campaign smelled a rat when it was discovered that the votes had been cast at the last minute and in alphabetical order. Charges of election fraud ensued, and the disputed contest went all the way to the Supreme Court, where Justice Hugo Black upheld Johnson's 11th-hour win. He was declared the winner by 87 votes.

It would take almost three decades for the truth to out. As Thomas Woods reports, in 1977 "the election judge in Alice admitted that he had helped rig the election."[3] "Landslide Lyndon" always found a way to win.


[1]Robert J. Dallek, "Lyndon B. Johnson," in The American Presidency, ed. Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 2004), p. 411.

[2]Robert Dallek, Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 327.

[3]Thomas E. Woods Jr., The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004), p. 216.