Forgotten Presidents

Proudly recognizing a few of our nation’s lesser known leaders

John Tyler - the 10th US President

John Tyler

Born: March 29, 1790
Died: January 18, 1862
In Office: April 4, 1841 - March 4, 1845
Affiliation: Whig
Forgotten Fact: The first President to succeed to the office following the death of a predecessor (William Henry Harrison)

Born in Virginia in 1790, he was raised believing that the Constitution must be strictly construed. He never wavered from this conviction. He attended the College of William and Mary and studied law.

Dubbed “His Accidency” by his detractors, John Tyler was the first Vice President to be elevated to the office of President by the death of his predecessor.

In 1842 Tyler did sign a tariff bill protecting northern manufacturers. The Webster-Ashburton treaty ended a Canadian boundary dispute; in 1845 Texas was annexed.

The administration of this states'-righter strengthened the Presidency. But it also increased sectional cleavage that led toward civil war. By the end of his term, Tyler had replaced the original Whig Cabinet with southern conservatives. In 1844 Calhoun became Secretary of State. Later these men returned to the Democratic Party, committed to the preservation of states' rights, planter interests, and the institution of slavery. Whigs became more representative of northern business and farming interests.

When the first southern states seceded in 1861, Tyler led a compromise movement; failing, he worked to create the Southern Confederacy. He died in 1862, a member of the Confederate House of Representatives.

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Franklin Pierce - the 14th US President

Franklin Pierce

Born: November 23, 1804
Died: October 8, 1869
In Office: March 4, 1853 - March 4, 1857
Affiliation: Democrat
Forgotten Fact: The only President from New Hampshire

Franklin Pierce became President at a time of apparent tranquility. The United States, by virtue of the Compromise of 1850, seemed to have weathered its sectional storm. By pursuing the recommendations of southern advisers, Pierce - a New Englander - hoped to prevent still another outbreak of that storm. But his policies, far from preserving calm, hastened the disruption of the Union.

In his Inaugural he proclaimed an era of peace and prosperity at home, and vigor in relations with other nations. The United States might have to acquire additional possessions for the sake of its own security, he pointed out, and would not be deterred by any timid forebodings of evil.

Pierce had only to make gestures toward expansion to excite the wrath of Northerners, who accused him of acting as a cat's paw of Southerners eager to extend slavery into other areas. Therefore he aroused apprehension when he pressured Great Britain to relinquish its special interests along part of the Central American coast, and even more when he tried to persuade Spain to sell Cuba.

By the end of his administration, the Democrats refused to renominate him, turning to the less controversial Buchanan. Pierce returned to New Hampshire, leaving his successor to face the rising fury of the sectional whirlwind. He died in 1869.

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James Buchanan - the 15th US President

James Buchanan

Born: April 23, 1791
Died: June 1, 1868
In Office: March 4, 1857 - March 4, 1861
Affiliation: Democrat
Forgotten Fact: The only US President who never married

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.

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.

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.

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Benjamin Harrison - the 23rd US President

Benjamin Harrison

Born: August 20, 1833
Died: March 13, 1901
In Office: March 4, 1889 - March 4, 1893
Affiliation: Republican
Forgotten Fact: Only President to be preceded and succeeded by the same man (Grover Cleveland)

Born in 1833 on a farm by the Ohio River below Cincinnati, Harrison attended Miami University in Ohio and read law in Cincinnati. He moved to Indianapolis, where he practiced law and campaigned for the Republican Party. He married Caroline Lavinia Scott in 1853. After the Civil War - he was Colonel of the 70th Volunteer Infantry - Harrison became a pillar of Indianapolis, enhancing his reputation as a brilliant lawyer.

Nominated for President on the eighth ballot at the 1888 Republican Convention, Benjamin Harrison conducted one of the first “front-porch” campaigns, delivering short speeches to delegations that visited him in Indianapolis. As he was only 5 feet, 6 inches tall, Democrats called him “Little Ben” Republicans replied that he was big enough to wear the hat of his grandfather, William Henry Harrison (our nation's 9th President).

Long before the end of the Harrison Administration, the Treasury surplus had evaporated, and prosperity seemed about to disappear as well. Congressional elections in 1890 went stingingly against the Republicans, and party leaders decided to abandon President Harrison although he had cooperated with Congress on party legislation. Nevertheless, his party renominated him in 1892, but he was defeated by Cleveland- the same man he defeated 4 years earlier.

After he left office, Harrison returned to Indianapolis, and married the widowed Mrs. Mary Dimmick in 1896. A dignified elder statesman, he died in 1901.

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Warren Harding - the 29th US President

Warren G. Harding

Born: November 2, 1865
Died: August 2, 1923
In Office: March 4, 1921 - August 2, 1923
Affiliation: Republican
Forgotten Fact: First newspaper publisher to be elected President

Harding, born near Marion, Ohio, in 1865, became the publisher of a newspaper. He married a divorcee, Mrs. Florence Kling De Wolfe. He was a trustee of the Trinity Baptist Church, a director of almost every important business, and a leader in fraternal organizations and charitable enterprises.

Harding's undeviating Republicanism and vibrant speaking voice, plus his willingness to let the machine bosses set policies, led him far in Ohio politics. He served in the state Senate and as Lieutenant Governor, and unsuccessfully ran for Governor. He delivered the nominating address for President Taft at the 1912 Republican Convention. In 1914 he was elected to the Senate, which he found “a very pleasant place.”

A group of Senators, taking control of the 1920 Republican Convention when the principal candidates deadlocked, turned to Harding. He won the Presidential election by an unprecedented landslide of 60 percent of the popular vote.

He did not live to find out how the public would react to the scandals of his administration. In August of 1923, he died in San Francisco of a heart attack.

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