Sunday 6 July 2014


As United States celebrated her Independence Anniversary, we take a look at those Presidents that were considered not really successful during their tenures as U.S Presidents.

On the plus side, his policies were progressive by modern standards, especially regarding race relations and women's suffrage, and he did set up the Bureau of the Budget for the national budget.

On the other hand, he filled every office he could, including ones with a great deal of influence, with his longtime friends and allies. Corruption was commonplace and even routine. Harry Daugherty, his Attorney General, was tried twice and acquitted twice for corruption, with hung juries.

Charles R. Forbes used the Bureau of Veteran Affairs as his personal money machine, which resulted in very poor treatment of WWI veterans under Harding.

Lesser offices experienced widespread bribery and embezzlement, including among Prohibition officers, encouraging rather than stopping organized crime's control over the liquor trade.

Accounts vary of many aspects of his life, because his very protective wife destroyed nearly all of his personal and official papers after his death, but many experts believe he also had multiple extramarital affairs, compounding his administrative lapses with personal ones.
As if this wasn't enough (and more scandals, including Teapot Dome, came to light later), he died after only two years in office.

Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the U.S., is widely regarded as one of the nation's worst presidents, dividing rather than uniting people as the nation hurtled toward the Civil War conflict over slavery and states' rights to have it.

 By opening Kansas and Nebraska as territories with the right to decide whether they wanted slavery, he created a battleground where the north and south fought a proxy battle for the future of the midwest. At least 50 people died in "Bleeding Kansas" before the horrific casualties of the Civil War made it all a distant memory.

His personal life, while free of scandal, was beset by tragedy, as he lost all three children at young ages, including one in a terrible train accident to which he was a witness.

Though a Northerner, his Southern sympathies made him especially unable to deal with the growing split in philosophies leading up to the Civil War.
Though a Northerner, his Southern sympathies made him especially unable to deal with the growing split in philosophies leading up to the Civil War.

Upon leaving office, he said "All that's left is to drink & die," which he did, and died of cirrhosis of the liver.

Explore the learn board attached to this learning titled Franklin Pierce: Nice Guy, Terrible President to continue your education on the 14th President.

James Buchanan followed Franklin Pierce on the eve of the Civil War, and was just as ineffective. Even though he believed that secession was illegal, he did not believe that it was legal to go to war to prevent it, and so in essence was unable to prevent secession.

During his tenure, the Dred Scott Decision was announced, making any law prohibiting slavery in the territories illegal.
The battle over Kansas (whether it should be a free or slave state) and the Democratic party continued under him, as Southern pro-slavery Democrats vied for influence with Northern ones.

His time also saw the first world financial crisis, the Panic of 1857. He firmly believed the government's only role was to prevent similar occurrences, not to do anything about the current one ("reform, not relief").

Finally, the end of his presidency saw the actual secession of the South, and the beginning of the Civil War. Having escalated the situation at Fort Sumter by sending relief, he then alienated the North by not retaliating for the Confederate attack, and gladly handed Lincoln the keys to the White House.

Andrew Johnson was never elected President; he entered office on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Regarded as self-important and abrasive by many, the many political battles he faced were made no easier by his personality.

It is no small matter that Andrew Johnson was the first president to be impeached, but his crime in this case was removing somebody from government office without permission of Congress, due to the Tenure of Office Act (which was only in effect for about two decades total). He had battled the Republican-controlled Senate many, many times by this point, so his impeachment was as much an outgrowth of that as it was the result of "high crimes."

Johnson's focus on Reconstruction left him inattentive or reliant on the status quo in most other matters. In many ways, his efforts also undermined Reconstruction (including the black right to vote). The Civil War and subsequent Reconstruction were a task ill-suited to those who had just fought it, but they were the only ones available.

While he did admit California to the Union and was himself anti-slavery, he was against Lincoln's policies, against laws that regulated slavery in the states and was willing to sign the Fugitive Slave Act into law, which required the return of fugitive slaves in the North to their owners in the South, if found. I am not sure how those acts correspond to still being against the legalized owning of other people.
These acts were part of the "Compromise of 1850" that eventually led to the complete breakdown of the Whig party; Fillmore, who only became president on Zachary Taylor's early death, was also the last Whig to be elected to that (or, I believe, any other) office.

Another ill-fated Whig President (the only four Whig Presidents either died in office or were Whig Vice Presidents taking their place), William Henry Harrison makes the list of the worst because he accomplished so little: he died his 30th day in office, of pneumonia. 

Some people feel it is unfair to count him on the list of the worst, and for that reason many people ranking presidents will not bother to rank him. If we are ranking based on moving the country in a positive direction, though, he did not do that. No justices were appointed, no states admitted, no laws passed. That year saw three presidents -- Van Buren before him, and Tyler after him. His death (since he was the first president to die in office) made the nation settle what should happen in cases like these.

He was also the first sitting president to be photographed; while earlier presidents were photographed, they were photographed AFTER him, while no longer in office.

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