February 1, 2012

In Honor of Presidents’ Day

By Eloise Graham

With all of the hoopla of the caucus and the pundits telling me what I heard from the debates, I decided to do a little research on our past Presidents. After all, we do have a national holiday set aside to honor them this month. Here are some facts and trivia about those who presided over our country in its infancy.

Washington George: 1789 – 1797
Political Party – None (He opposed the idea of political parties.) He served two terms as our first President, during which he invented the Cabinet, his advisers, and tried to calm the bickering between the two new political parties, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. The man was infinitely greater than anything he did. He never became arrogant, and ambition and opportunity never tempted him from the narrow path of honor.

Adams, John: 1797-1801
Political Party – Federalist. He died July 4, 1826, at his Braintree home. This day was the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, for which Adams was largely responsible. By remarkable coincidence, Adams’s old friend and colleague, Thomas Jefferson, died on the same day. In 1797, the U.S. population was 4,900,000.

Jefferson Thomas: 1801- 1809
Political Party – Democratic-Republican. During his terms of presidency, Ohio became a state and the U.S. purchased the Louisiana Territory from France for $15,000,000. In a letter to his nephew Peter Carr, dated August 19, 1785, Jefferson stated: “He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions.”

Madison James: 1809 – 1817
Political Party – Democratic-Republican. After his election to the presidency, he presided over renewed prosperity for several years. After the failure of diplomatic protests and an embargo, he led the nation into the War of 1812. The war was in response to British encroachments on American honor and rights as well as to facilitate American settlement in the Midwest which was blocked by Indian allies of the British. The war was an administrative nightmare without a strong army or financial system, leading Madison afterwards to support a stronger national government and a strong military, as well as the national bank that he had long opposed

Monroe James: 1817 – 1825
Political Party – Democratic-Republican. During the War of 1812, he served both as Secretary of State and as Secretary of War, the only person ever to do this. In 1821, Monroe was the obvious choice for reelection and had no opponent. Therefore, there was no real campaign. This time was called the “Era of Good Feelings.” He received all electoral except for one which was cast by William Plumer for John Quincy Adams. As president, bought Florida from Spain and, in 1823, issued the Monroe Doctrine, which basically told European nations to leave Central and South America alone.

Adams, John Quincy: 1825 – 1829
Political Party – probably Democratic- Republican at time of Presidency. However, some historians claim he was a Federalist. In later years, he was a Whig. Adams was an accomplished statesman and is often considered by historians to be one of the best Secretary of States that America has ever had. The election of 1824 pitted Adams against Andrew Jackson. Adams lost the popular vote.

So the Election of 1824 became known as the “Corrupt Bargain.” The lack of an electoral majority resulted in the election being decided in the House. It is believed that a deal was made giving the office to Adams in exchange for Henry Clay becoming Secretary of State. Jackson won the popular vote, but lost because of this bargain. Two of the many quotes attributed to John Quincy Adams: “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” and “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”

Jackson, Andrew: 1829 – 1837
Political Party – Democratic-Republican which became the Democratic Party of today. The backlash from the election of 1824 catapulted Jackson to the presidency in 1828. As President he sought to act as the direct representative of the common man. Jackson did not agree with officeholders, who seemed to enjoy life tenure. He believed Government duties could be “so plain and simple” that offices should rotate among deserving applicants. As national politics polarized around Jackson and his opposition, two parties grew out of the old Republican Party–the Democratic Republicans, or Democrats, adhering to Jackson; and the National Republicans, or Whigs, opposing him.

In researching this, I found that corruption is not just something of the past 50 years. I also learned that our early leaders were full of conviction and a love of our country. I also found it interesting how the political parties have evolved. Jackson, a racist, slave-owner and murderer (he killed a man who made a disparaging remark about Mrs. Jackson), who proposed term limits on government offices, was a Democrat.

Have a great February. Read up on our Past Presidents and share your knowledge with you grandchildren or other youth! Presidents’ Day is February 20, 2012.

Information from Wikipedia, Apples4teachers.com, About.com, whitehouse.gov/about/presidents.

Eloise Graham can be reached at ellaweeze@yahoo.com