Has any US President served in a government position with a foreign nation before or after their presidency?

Has any US President served in a government position with a foreign nation before or after their presidency?


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Has a person elected to the US Presidency ever held a government position in a nation besides the United States?

I think any government-related role would be an interesting answer. I think the focus here is the role acts as a representative of the country, or to officially influence sovereign matters.

I do not think the role must have been voted by the people of that nation.


The most obvious examples would be three members of the Founding Fathers who served in roles for the British government.

  • George Washington served as both a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses which dealt directly with the royal appointed Governor of Virginia, and as a member of the British army.

  • John Adams was briefly a member of the Massachusetts assembly after the Boston Massacre.

  • Thomas Jefferson was briefly a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses.

After Washington, and Jefferson, it appears only two men who would become president served in any sort of meaningful capacity for a "foreign" government.

  • William Taft served another nation as the Governor-General of the Philippines, although he did so at the behest of the United States since it was a US colony at the time. For example, he negotiated on the behalf of the Philippines with the Roman Catholic Church over the purchase of Philippine lands.

  • Herbert Hoover was in charge of a large relief effort, the Commission for Relief in Belgium, during WWI that was international in nature. Technically, the commission was not a part of a government, but it did negotiate with foreign governments, and conduct diplomacy with the warring powers. After WWI he was in charge of the Supreme Economic Council which was run by the five victorious great powers from WWI.


President John Tyler served for the Confederacy after being president. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Tyler). The 14th amendment specifically prohibits former Confederates from serving certain offices (Specifically:

(Section 3) prohibits the election or appointment to any federal or state office of any person who had held any of certain offices and then engaged in insurrection, rebellion or treason. However, a two-thirds vote by each House of the Congress can override this limitation. ) (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution)


Eisenhower perhaps qualifies, who was Military Governor of the U.S. Occupation Zone in Germany from the end of WW2 up to November 1945. He was responsible for the Joint Chiefs of Staff's directive 1067, the blueprint for rebuilding Germany after the war. He was responsible for distribution of food, medicine, dealing with the concentration camps and providing civil order/justice.


The 9 Men who Became President Without Being Elected

Ever since the office of the President of the United States of America was established in the year 1789, it has been the dream of politicians of all party affiliations to hold the office. To date, 44 men have realized the dream. From George Washington to Donald Trump, a wide range of men, with varying outlooks and abilities, have served as President, each shaping the nation&rsquos history &ndash for better or for worse &ndash in their own, unique way.

But not all of these 44 men (and yes, they have all been men) got to the top after standing for election as President. A select group got the top job by default. Circumstances beyond their control presented them with the opportunity to step up from Vice President to President. Some seized the opportunity with relish. Others were perhaps less reluctant to become the most powerful man in the country. And, while some made the most of their time in office, others left behind less notable legacies.

So here we have the nine men who assumed the office of President without having first been elected to the post:

Gerald Ford held the two highest offices without being elected to either. Wikimedia Commons.


The 7 Biggest Liars in Presidential History

America is built on the myth of honesty. “I cannot tell a lie,” George Washington supposedly said, when called out about who chopped down the family cherry tree. Abraham Lincoln, arguably our greatest president, was nicknamed Honest Abe. Of course, myths are built on half-truths, white lies and downright fabrications. So it is with the American presidency. Presidents lie, even our most admired ones. Some of them were really good at it, like Franklin Roosevelt. Others, like shifty-eyed Richard Nixon, were just pathological.

The truth is, while we Americans profess to want honest leaders, what we really want are effective leaders, and sometimes lies are necessary evils if we want to get something accomplished. Machiavelli famously laid that argument out in The Prince:

“Everyone admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep his word, and to behave with integrity rather than cunning. Nevertheless our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have considered keeping their word of little account, and have known how to beguile men’s minds by shrewdness and cunning. In the end these princes have overcome those who have relied on keeping their word.”

When we got a president who promised never to lie to us, as Jimmy Carter did in 1976, many thought he was not particularly effective and voters tossed him out on his ear in 1980, for a master Machiavellian prince named Ronald Reagan. Republicans pounced on President Obama when, pushing the Affordable Healthcare Act, he promised Americans that if we wanted to keep our current health insurance, we could. That turned out to be not completely true, and surely Obama knew it even as the words were coming out of his lips. Still, for President Obama, the end—a broader, fairer healthcare system—justified the means. His signature accomplishment in office, Obamacare, might not have passed had he been totally forthright.

Still, as a liar, Obama is a real lightweight. Here are the seven greatest presidential liars in American history.

1. Lyndon B. Johnson

Until the Bush/Cheney presidency came along, the war in U.S. history that could truly be labeled a debacle was Vietnam. At its height, 500,000 soldiers fought, and almost 60,000 soldiers died in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Most of those deaths can be attributed to the lies of Lyndon Johnson (with some able dishonest assistance from Richard Nixon).

In August 1964, in Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin, two U.S. ships were reported attacked. Johnson went on the air that night and spoke to the American people about the “unprovoked” attack and the bombing response he ordered in retaliation against the North. In all, he ordered 64 sorties, bombing a coal mine, an oil depot, and much of North Vietnam’s navy.

Congress, following LBJ’s lead, passed a resolution, now known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, authorizing, “the president, as commander-in-chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the US and to prevent further aggression.” That resolution transferred the power of war from the Congress to the president, and has been used many times by subsequent presidents to wage war without explicit congressional permission. From that incident arose the quagmire that was the Vietnam War. And it was all based on a lie.

The truth was that the Johnson administration had already drawn up plans for putting military pressure on North Vietnam, a communist government which the U.S. was convinced was the first domino in the fall of Asia to Soviet and Chinese domination. There was no unprovoked attack. The U.S. had been spying on North Vietnam, coordinating South Vietnamese attacks on the North. The North attacks on U.S. ships were fabricated. Johnson himself admitted in 1965, “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.”

Meanwhile, 1964 was an election year, and President Johnson’s opponent, Barry Goldwater, was painting LBJ as weak on defense. His forceful response to the Tonkin “attacks” protected him from Goldwater’s charges, and ironically, he was able to portray himself as the peace candidate and Goldwater as an extremist who would get the U.S. into war.

2. James K. Polk

If pressed, few Americans today would be able to tell you much about James Polk, the 11 th president of the United States. That’s a shame, because without Polk, Los Angeles today might well be part of Mexico, along with the rest of California and much of the Southwest United States.

Polk ascended to the presidency at a time of Manifest Destiny, the widespread belief that America was graced by God to expand and cover the entire continent of North America. A mere day before Polk took office, the U.S. admitted Texas to the union, an act that enraged Mexico, which had designs on reacquiring the territory it lost when Texas won its independence. In the diplomatic back-and-forth that followed, Mexico claimed that the Nueces River was the southern boundary of the new state, while the U.S. claimed it was the Rio Grande.

In the meantime, Polk had his eye on other Mexican territories, California and New Mexico. Polk tried to buy the land from Mexico, sending an envoy, John Slidell, with an offer of $30 million to hand over the territory, along with accepting the Rio Grande as the Texas border. Unsurprisingly, Mexico not only rejected the offer, but refused even to see Slidell. Polk responded by sending troops into Texas to cross the Nueces and guard the Rio Grande.

The response from Mexico was swift. Indeed, as Polk hoped, they fired upon the troops they considered had invaded Mexican territory. After all, the border was still in dispute. Sixteen soldiers were killed or wounded. Polk responded by going to Congress and declaring Mexico had, "invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow-citizens on our own soil." Thus, the Mexican-American War started on a lie. As Polk knew, Mexico was no match for the Americans, and California and the Southwest were U.S. territories within two years.

3. Ronald Reagan

The lies modern-day Republicans tell about Ronald Reagan are legion. To today’s GOP, Reagan was beloved and his presidency resided over a “shining city on a hill," as his campaign commercials portrayed America. The truth was more shaded, to say the least. Welfare cuts pushed half a million people, mostly children, into poverty tax cuts helped the rich but not the rest of us and unemployment during his first term hit a post-war high. Terrorists killed 220 marines in Beirut on Reagan’s watch, which Reagan responded to, not with resolve, but by cutting and running. Despite claims to the contrary, JFK, Eisenhower and even LBJ were more popular overall than Reagan (although his ratings at the very end of his second term were higher).

Reagan’s administration was filled with little lies, claims about trees being major air polluters and apartheid-era South Africa eliminating segregation. Never mind the larger distractions, like the eight senior members of his administration who were indicted. But his biggest lie came to be known as the Iran-Contra affair. Reagan came to office in 1980 in large part due to the failure of the Carter administration to successfully free hostages in Iran who had been held for over a year. The hostages were finally released the day of Reagan’s inauguration—thanks to Carter’s persistent diplomacy.

In 1985, during Reagan’s second term, Iran, which had taken additional hostages in the intervening years, offered to free the hostages in exchange for missiles. A plan was hatched in which Israel would ship missiles to Iran, the U.S. would resupply Israel with the missiles, and the U.S. would receive the cash that had been paid for the missiles. That cash would then go to Nicaragua, to fund the contras, the rebels Reagan portrayed as, "the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers," who were fighting to take down the elected Sandinista government.

When details of the exchange leaked in 1986, Reagan was forced to explain why America was selling missiles to a sworn enemy, while intervening in Nicaragua, which Congress had forbade. Reagan’s response was to deny that arms had been traded for hostages. "We did not, I repeat, did not trade weapons or anything else [to Iran] for hostages, nor will we." A few months later he admitted, "A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and evidence tell me it is not." A disingenuous way of saying, “I lied.”

4. John F. Kennedy

Many look back on the short-lived administration of John F. Kennedy and see a Camelot that never was. We will never know what JFK might have accomplished (or in the case of Vietnam, might have avoided), but the record he left is a very mixed bag. We think of his strength and resolve during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when he stared down the Soviet Union and Khruschev blinked. But earlier in his term, the Bay of Pigs fiasco almost ended his presidency before it had much begun.

Early in 1961, when rumblings of a possible invasion of Castro’s Cuba leaked out, Kennedy stated, "I have previously stated, and I repeat now, that the United States plans no military intervention in Cuba." Just months later, Cuban nationals, backed by the CIA, invaded Cuba. The operation was a disaster. Castro and his soldiers were waiting for them and the rebels were easily dispatched. The Bay of Pigs served only to strengthen Castro, weaken Kennedy and embolden the Soviets to build bases in Cuba, leading to the Missile Crisis a year later.

5. Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln lived in a time when black people were widely considered to be inferior to whites. In order to get elected and effect change, he said many things that, in retrospect, he did not believe. "Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican administration would, directly or indirectly, interfere with their slaves, or with them, about their slaves? If they do, I wish to assure you, as once a friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears."

He even expressly denied the equality of black people: “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races—that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

And yet he also said, "I believe the declaration that 'all men are created equal' is the great fundamental principle upon which our free institutions rest that negro slavery is violative of that principle.”

As Machiavelli would certainly agree, sometimes lies are necessary to achieve a greater good.

6. Franklin D. Roosevelt

In 1940, Franklin Roosevelt was battling for an unprecedented third term as president. Running against Republican Wendell Wilkie, and understanding the prevailing desire throughout the country to avoid getting embroiled in the wars in Europe and Asia, FDR ran as a peace candidate. "I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars," he told voters in Boston. "I am fighting to keep our people out of foreign wars. And I will keep on fighting," he told voters in Brooklyn. "Your president says this country is not going to war," he assured voters in Buffalo.

His words made for good campaign policy, but the reality was that Roosevelt was lying. Even as he made his assurances, he knew his actions in office would inevitably lead to war against the Nazis and the Imperial Army of Japan. While professing peace, he was secretly meeting with Winston Churchill to plot ways to provide Great Britain with badly needed arms. Once he was re-elected, the Lend-Lease Act was passed in 1941, providing Britain with ships, violating American neutrality. Naval patrols were providing Britain with intelligence on German submarines, and ships were ordered to shoot at German subs upon sight. The Nazis could not fail to see these acts as provocative.

Meanwhile, in Asia, referring to pressure on him to stop providing oil to Japan, FDR explained, "It was very essential, from our own selfish point of view of defense, to prevent a war from starting in the South Pacific. So our foreign policy was trying to stop a war from breaking out down there. Now, if we cut the oil off, they [the Japanese] probably would have gone down to the Netherlands East Indies a year ago, and we would have had war." And yet in 1941, he did just that, freezing Japanese assets and probably provoking Japan into hitting Pearl Harbor.

As with Lincoln, Roosevelt recognized the necessity and inevitability of war, as well as the need to lie in order to achieve what he perceived to be the greater good, the defeat of worldwide fascism. The former congresswoman Clare Booth Luce put it succinctly: “Franklin Roosevelt repeatedly deceived the American people during the period before Pearl Harbor . He was like the physician who must tell the patient lies for the patient's own good . The country was overwhelmingly noninterventionist to the very day of Pearl Harbor, and an overt attempt to lead the people into war would have resulted in certain failure and an almost certain ousting of Roosevelt in 1940, with a complete defeat of his ultimate aims.”

7. Richard Nixon

  1. Alger Hiss.
  2. Checkers the dog.
  3. “You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”
  4. Secret plan to end the Vietnam war.
  5. Cambodia.
  6. Salvador Allende.
  7. Watergate.
  8. “I am not a crook.”
  9. “I have never been a quitter.”

Lying Runners-Up

Dwight D. Eisenhower: Ike denied that U2 spy planes were flying over the Soviet Union.

The truth: U2 planes were spying on the Soviet Union. One was shot down, provoking an international incident.

Bill Clinton: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

The truth: “I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. I misled people, including even my wife.”

William McKinley: McKinley assured Congress that Spain blew up the U.S.S. Maine in Cuba, prompting the Spanish-American War.

The truth: An investigation in 1976 pointed toward a fire on the ship that blew up the Maine’s ammunition stock as the probable cause of the explosion.

George H.W. Bush: “Read my lips. No new taxes.”

George W. Bush: “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”

The truth: Merriam-Webster: “Quagmire: a situation that is hard to deal with or get out of: a situation that is full of problems.”


John Adams

John Adams was schooled at Harvard and was a lawyer. John Adams is responsible for urging the United States to take a lead in the development of the arts and sciences through the establishment of a national university, the financing of scientific expeditions, and the erection of an observatory. His critics declared such measures transcended constitutional limitations.[a] John Adams is another man that never hid his Christian faith. He was actually the first President, in a letter to his wife, to ask a blessing on the White House – not only for himself, but for all who followed him as well, here is what he wrote:

“Before I end my letter, I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof.”

To support the claim that our nation was founded on Christian principles, read what he wrote here:

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”[4]


Who Receives Secret Service Protection? (with pictures)

The original intent of the US Secret Service had little to do with protection. At first, the agency’s sole intent was to investigate and prevent counterfeiting of US dollars. In 1901, however, President William McKinley was assassinated, and one result of this was assigning Secret Service agents to protect the life and well-being of the subsequent presidents. Since then, protection has been extended to other government officials, some well-known politicians and visiting dignitaries, and former presidents and their families, at least for some period of time.

There are a few people who always receive protection, including the current US president, vice president, and sometimes other high-ranking officials who might succeed the president. For instance, the speaker of the house might, under some circumstances, be entitled to Secret Service protection, especially if a situation arose where the vice president or president were in danger. Wives of the president and vice president, and their children under age 16, are entitled to protection too.

At one time, former presidents received Secret Service protection for life. This changed in 1996, and now former presidents and first ladies are only entitled to this protection for ten years after their service to the country. The protection can continue, however, especially if ordered by the current president. Essentially, the president has the authority to extend protection to anyone or to any event, such as a meeting of high-ranking officials, that might carry potential danger. Also, presidents in office may extend it to all of their children, not just those under the age of 16.

Vice presidents typically do not have Secret Service protection after their term of service is up, unless some threat or danger exists. If the vice president runs for the office of president, however, he or she — and all other major candidates in the primary and general presidential election — are likely to receive protection. Just how soon this is provided may be based in part on the profile of the candidate and any possible early threats, which are not that uncommon, to a candidate’s life.

Another way in which the Secret Service functions is to protect foreign heads of state or visiting dignitaries with high profiles. Visits may be arranged contingent on guarantees of protection, though heads of state may also bring their own version of the Secret Service with them. When a number of foreign dignitaries meet with the president, additional Secret Service agents are usually employed to create the safest environment possible for all concerned.

Some people are allowed to refuse protection if they do not desire it. Though President Clinton has lifetime protection, and is the last president to receive it, unless laws change, he could refuse the services of Secret Service members. Generally, a president or vice president in office cannot refuse protection because of the high security nature of these positions.

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent InfoBloom contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent InfoBloom contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.


Is Donald Trump Only US President To Hire Family Members To Administration? A Look At White House Nepotism

White House senior advisor Jared Kushner (top left) and his wife Ivanka Trump (top center) look on as U.S. President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania Trump participate in a wreath-laying at the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, May 23, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

President Donald Trump has come under fire for a number of reasons, one of which is nepotism. Since assuming office Jan. 20, Trump hired his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka Trump as his senior advisers, which led to widesperad criticism.

Following Kushner’s appointment however, the Justice Department said the move did not violate anti-nepotism laws as the president had “an unusual degree of freedom” in “choosing his personal staff” and that he was not getting paid.

The nepotism law was passed in 1967 and stated that "no public official from the president down to a low-level manager at a federal agency may hire or promote a relative." However, there is an exception, which said any employee breaching the law was "not entitled to pay" by the government. Because of this exception, Ivanka could work in her father’s administration without getting paid.

Furthermore, Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Jr. do not work at the White House. However, speculation says they are using their father’s office to boost their business. But, amid all the criticism against Trump, it is only reasonable to ask if he is the only president in the U.S. who was accused of nepotism.

Trump’s predecessors such as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also faced criticism for favoring their family members for their respective administrations. Clinton’s move to assign his wife Hillary Clinton with healthcare reform received disapproval from many. Critics also argued George H. W. Bush’s presidency proved beneficial for his son, George W. Bush, when he entered the presidential race.

According to the National Constitution Center, the recent presidents were not the only ones to have been accused of nepotism. In 1797, President John Adams appointed his son, John Quincy Adams, as the U.S. minister to Prussia. Apart from that, the president’s son-in-law William Stephens Smith was nominated for multiple government positions, despite being involved in land speculation schemes.

The most famous example of a commander-in-chief hiring a family member was of President John F. Kennedy, who nominated his brother Robert Kennedy as attorney general in 1961. At the time, the nomination became controversial and critics argued he was not qualified for the post as he lacked legal experience.

Kennedy appeared to make fun of Robert’s hiring by saying he nominated him “to give him a little experience before he goes out to practice law,” according to the Huffington Post. The report also noted that Kennedy himself was apprehensive about taking in Robert, but went ahead with his decision because of the insistence from his father Joseph P. Kennedy. Nation Magazine reportedly called the nomination “the greatest example of nepotism this land has ever seen.”

Other former presidents hiring family members to the White House during their administration include James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler and James Buchanan, according to National Constitution Center. Zachary Taylor, the 12th president of the country, took in his brother and son-in-law as unofficial presidential advisers. The 18th President Ulysses S. Grant hired direct relatives on the government payroll or at the White House.


George H. W. Bush (1981–1989)

Like Mondale, Bush was an influential presidential advisor and troubleshooter, particularly on foreign policy and national security. The former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and liaison to China led an important mission for Ronald Reagan even before the November 1980 elections. During the summer campaign, Reagan dispatched Bush to Beijing to perform damage control after the presidential candidate proposed restoring U.S. relations with Taiwan. He returned to China in 1982 and 1985 to soothe similar tensions. During his two terms, Bush took more than forty foreign trips.

Moreover, like Mondale, Bush was granted regular access to the Oval Office, including to Reagan’s daily intelligence briefings. He preferred to counsel the president in private, and often used his weekly lunch with him to dispense foreign policy advice. Bush “often” was “the decisive influence on Reagan,” said National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane.

Unlike his predecessor, Bush took on some regular interagency roles, chairing a national security crisis-management committee as well as task forces on counternarcotics and counterterrorism. Reagan’s selection of Bush to lead the crisis group nearly prompted the resignation of Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who felt the role infringed on his jurisdiction.


James Buchanan

James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States (1857-1861), served immediately prior to the American Civil War. He remains the only President to be elected from Pennsylvania and to remain a lifelong bachelor.

Tall, stately, stiffly formal in the high stock he wore around his jowls, James Buchanan was the only President who never married.

Presiding over a rapidly dividing Nation, Buchanan grasped inadequately the political realities of the time. Relying on constitutional doctrines to close the widening rift over slavery, he failed to understand that the North would not accept constitutional arguments which favored the South. Nor could he realize how sectionalism had realigned political parties: the Democrats split the Whigs were destroyed, giving rise to the Republicans.

Born into a well-to-do Pennsylvania family in 1791, Buchanan, a graduate of Dickinson College, was gifted as a debater and learned in the law.

He was elected five times to the House of Representatives then, after an interlude as Minister to Russia, served for a decade in the Senate. He became Polk’s Secretary of State and Pierce’s Minister to Great Britain. Service abroad helped to bring him the Democratic nomination in 1856 because it had exempted him from involvement in bitter domestic controversies.

As President-elect, Buchanan thought the crisis would disappear if he maintained a sectional balance in his appointments and could persuade the people to accept constitutional law as the Supreme Court interpreted it. The Court was considering the legality of restricting slavery in the territories, and two justices hinted to Buchanan what the decision would be.

Thus, in his Inaugural the President referred to the territorial question as “happily, a matter of but little practical importance” since the Supreme Court was about to settle it “speedily and finally.”

Two days later Chief Justice Roger B. Taney delivered the Dred Scott decision, asserting that Congress had no constitutional power to deprive persons of their property rights in slaves in the territories. Southerners were delighted, but the decision created a furor in the North.

Buchanan decided to end the troubles in Kansas by urging the admission of the territory as a slave state. Although he directed his Presidential authority to this goal, he further angered the Republicans and alienated members of his own party. Kansas remained a territory.

When Republicans won a plurality in the House in 1858, every significant bill they passed fell before southern votes in the Senate or a Presidential veto. The Federal Government reached a stalemate.

Sectional strife rose to such a pitch in 1860 that the Democratic Party split into northern and southern wings, each nominating its own candidate for the Presidency. Consequently, when the Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln, it was a foregone conclusion that he would be elected even though his name appeared on no southern ballot. Rather than accept a Republican administration, the southern “fire-eaters” advocated secession.

President Buchanan, dismayed and hesitant, denied the legal right of states to secede but held that the Federal Government legally could not prevent them. He hoped for compromise, but secessionist leaders did not want compromise.

Then Buchanan took a more militant tack. As several Cabinet members resigned, he appointed northerners, and sent the Star of the West to carry reinforcements to Fort Sumter. On January 9, 1861, the vessel was far away.

Buchanan reverted to a policy of inactivity that continued until he left office. In March 1861 he retired to his Pennsylvania home Wheatland–where he died seven years later–leaving his successor to resolve the frightful issue facing the Nation.

The Presidential biographies on WhiteHouse.gov are from “The Presidents of the United States of America,” by Frank Freidel and Hugh Sidey. Copyright 2006 by the White House Historical Association.

Learn more about James Buchanan’s niece who served as First Lady, Harriet Lane.


3 Herbert Hoover

Here&rsquos a fun fact: There&rsquos a German word named after Herbert Hoover&mdashHoover-Speisung, literally meaning &ldquoHoover Feedings.&rdquo Long story short, Hoover was instrumental in ensuring that a generation of German children did not experience years of malnutrition. That&rsquos the kind of thing that gets you a word.

Hoover wasn&rsquot the best president, given that whole Great Depression thing, but he was possibly America&rsquos best post-president. He largely stayed out of politics during the Roosevelt years but came back in a big way once FDR had died. First, he went to Germany, where he noticed that everyone there was starving to death. He began a program to send tons of American food to Germany to feed the children. All in all, 3.5 million children were fed by Hoover-Speisung, and Hoover quite possibly became the first former president whose fan base consisted of German schoolchildren.

Once Germany had ceased starving, Hoover moved on to a much more difficult task than ensuring food supply to a bombed-out wasteland&mdashreforming the federal government. Under both Truman and Eisenhower, Hoover headed commissions that were intended to improve government administration and generally make everything more efficient. He did his job ridiculously well, and over 70 percent of his suggestions were eventually carried out. Hoover also found the time to write 16 books, including several best sellers, because why not?

By the time he died, Hoover had managed to become highly respected throughout the United States, which isn&rsquot bad for a man whose main accomplishment as president was the Great Depression.


The Election of 1892: Harrison vs. Cleveland

Grover Cleveland, circa 1892 | Library of Congress

According to historian Heather Cox Richardson, the Republicans moved aggressively after the election to ensure their hold on power. They had, after all, controlled the White House for decades. So, how to avoid another showing by a Democrat like Cleveland?

Add new states! That was the plan—add six new states, creating a Republican firewall. In 1889, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington joined the Union. In 1890, Idaho and Wyoming were established.

Republican operatives were sure this plan would work. But, as is wont in American politics, it backfired. In the 1890 midterm elections, the Democrats took the House of Representatives by a margin of 2:1. They swept to power bolstered by a bad economy and by the American West.

With the election of 1892 looming, Republicans threw their weight behind Harrison. But they weren’t happy with him. He could be cold and standoffish and refused to listen to advice. It’s possible that Harrison only ran for a second term out of spite—at the party convention, many Republicans tried to get James G. Blaine on the ticket instead of Harrison. Blaine refused.

After a quiet campaign, Cleveland swept to victory. For the first time since the Civil War, the Democrats won the presidency, the Senate, and the House.

We recently wrote about painful presidential transitions, and the Benjamin Harrison to Grover Cleveland transition deserves a place on that list. According to Richardson, it was the among the worst.

After his loss, Harrison threw up his hands. In Republican controlled newspapers, the embittered party told voters that Democrats didn’t know how to run the country—so everyone should take their money out of the stock market.

And thus began the Panic of 1893. Those who saw it coming begged Washington for help. But Harrison’s administration wouldn’t lift a finger. According to Harrison’s Treasury Secretary, they were only responsible for the economy until Cleveland’s inauguration.

In fact, the economy collapsed 10 days before Cleveland entered office. Cleveland was left to manage an economic crisis—which may have led him to regret returning to the presidency in the first place. According to the Miller Center, Cleveland left office a bitter man. When he died in 1908, his last words were “I have tried so hard to do right.”

What will happen in 2024? We don’t know—but it’s definitely too early for speculation. Or is it…?