Thursday, September 4, 2014

US Presidents (And a Couple of Quizzes)


My Fascination with US Presidents

When my brother and I, were younger, we were both fascinated by the Presidents. We can credit our mother with much of the obsession -- she bought us president coloring books, biographies of the presidents, and, when her aunt handed down a few plastic president statues for us to play with, Mom went out and bought us the entire set. One of our favorite books growing up was "Facts About the Presidents". It listed each President with facts and figures -- family members, dates of birth, death, marriage, presidency, etc. It listed information about their Vice Presidents, their elections (popular and electoral votes), and even little tidbits. By the time we were in 2nd or 3rd grade, both of us knew the presidents in order, could tell you which president went with which number (for example, if someone said "18" we'd say "Grant" or if someone said "33" we'd say "Truman"). I can still do this (though anything over 36 or 37 I have to count up from before I can answer for sure). In any case, I have written a number of lenses about specific presidents or about the presidents as a group and I thought I'd put them all together in one place, so people can find them on President's Day or any other time of the year (like before a history test????)

Presidential Trivia Quiz:

  1. What President, one of the last signers of the Declaration of Independance, uttered the last words, "Thomas Jefferson still survives!" not knowing Jefferson had died earlier that day (July 4, 1826)?
  2. What President, the only other President to die on July 4th, died 5 years later, July 4, 1831?
  3. What President didn't know his "father" was really his step-father, until he was 17 and met his father, Leslie Lynch King?
  4. Which President wrote the Monroe Doctrine (while serving as Monroe's Secretary of State)?
  5. What President's daughter, Sara, was Jefferson Davis's first wife?
  6. Most people know that James Buchanan was the only bachelor president, but he wasn't the only bachelor elected president. Who was the other?
  7. What President married the niece of another president?
  8. What President was 2nd cousins to James Madison?
  9. Who was the first Rhodes Scholar elected president?
  10. Richard Milhous Nixon was the second Quaker president. Who was the first?

"Presidents" on Jeopardy!

When I watch the TV Quiz show Jeopardy! (which I do religiously -- friends know not to call me during Jeopardy!) I am always excited when a Presidents category comes up. I also like First Ladies and Vice Presidents (I usually run the categories unless they have too much about recent presidents, vice presidents and/or first ladies) -- I was always fascinated with First Ladies and Vice Presidents too. I hope you enjoy my lenses about the Presidents.
I wrote about my own experiences as a contestant on "Jeopardy!":

I Lost on Jeopardy 1
I Lost on Jeopardy 2
I Lost on Jeopardy 3
I Lost on Jeopardy 4
I Lost on Jeopardy 5
I Lost on Jeopardy 6

Presidential Trivia Quiz Answers:

  1. John Adams
  2. James Monroe
  3. Gerald Ford
  4. John Quincy Adams
  5. Zachary Taylor
  6. (Stephen) Grover Cleveland
  7. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  8. Zachary Taylor
  9. William ("Bill") Jefferson Clinton
  10. Herbert Clark Hoover

Presidential "Number" Quiz

Probably because of my obsessions with both Presidents (and Presidential trivia) and Math, I've also been somewhat obsessed with knowing each President's "number" (as in George Washington was the 1st President, John F Kennedy was the 35th President). Keeping in mind that I am keeping with convention (George Washington 1, and counting Cleveland in two spots), can you match the number to the President?

  1. 16
  2. 22 
  3. 32 
  4. 39
  5. 19
  6. 28
  7. 25

Presidential Number Quiz Answers:

  1. Abraham Lincoln
  2. (Stephen) Grover Cleveland
  3. John Quincy Adams
  4. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  5. James ("Jimmy") Earl Carter
  6. James Madison
  7. Martin Van Buren
  8. Rutherford Birchard Hayes
  9. (Thomas) Woodrow Wilson
  10. William McKinley

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Richard III: Hero or Villain?


Society of the White Boar  

Richard III (the real one, not to be confused with the Shakespeare villain) was a much maligned king of England who reigned form 1483 - 1485, when he was deposed by Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond (future king Henry VII) at the Battle of Bosworth.

 A number of years ago I belonged to the "Richard III Society" (the reason and stopped was the cost, which is also the reason I don't rejoin). The logo of the Ricardian (the newsletter of the group) was a white boar (symbol of Richard III) with a ribbon reading "Loyaulte me lie" (Latin for "Loyalty Binds Me" and Richard III's motto).

 (If you don't know the story of Richard III, you may want to read King Richard III - The Carpark King. It tells the story pretty well, though it leaves out a few points.

Richard III: Maligned King

Don't Believe Everything You Read in History Books

I am a huge supporter of Richard III, a bearer of the white boar and a white rose Yorkist. I got started many years ago (35, possibly 40) by reading Josephine Tey's "The Daughter of Time" -- my Mom had read it and said thought my brother and I (both teens at the time and both very interested in History) would enjoy it (and we did!). I had a theory about Richard, who was fiercely loyal to both his brother, Edward IV, and Edward's sons, Edward (eventually Edward V) and Richard. In those days, the Tower of London was a royal residence (not the prison it became later) and therefore, it would be strange for Richard to house his nephews there.

In any case, I believe that Richard of Gloucester, fourth (and then only surviving) son of Richard, Duke of York, truly believed that his brother Edward had been previously betrothed and that his sons were, therefore, ineligible to be king (to my mind, based on what I know about him, this is the only thing that makes sense). I further believe that Richard knew that there were Lancastrian (or pseudo-Lancastrian) claimants to the throne amassing armies and waiting to pounce, so he hid the boys, knowing that if he defeated all the claimants, he could call the boys back to court but if he were killed (he was a bit fatalistic about this, particularly after his wife and son died) they would be safe (I believe he hid them in the north, where he was particularly popular).

 After I formulated this theory, I saw in article in the Ricardian that Hans Holbein, court artist to Henry VIII (son of Henry of Richmond and Elizabeth of York -- sister to the nephews) put a rebus hint into one of his paintings that Richard Duke of York (Edward V's younger brother) was still alive and lived in Henry VIII's court (and even outlived his nephew, Henry VIII). I thought this would tend to support my theory.

Additional Point

To those people who think Richard killed his nephews, Richard had nothing to gain by killing them, but Henry did (though I doubt he did either -- I think, had he (or Richard) killed the nephews, Henry would have paraded their bodies around to show that Richard was indeed a monster who had killed his nephews). Henry certainly had more to gain by their deaths -- it would have solidified his claim to the throne, whereas Richard didn't need his claim solidified.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Presidential Tidbits

Presidential Tidbits


When I was growing up, my brother and I got hooked on the presidents and trivia about them. We played with presidents' statues, colored in presidential coloring books, read presidential biographies and other books. We got to know the presidents very well, picked our favorites and least favorite. We got to be experts on presidential trivia.

So I thought I'd share some of the more interesting stories with you. I did try to choose items that most people don't know about. I hope you enjoy these "tidbits".

Trivia Tidbits on the Presidents

Every president is also a person. And each of the people who has held the office of president has an interesting story to tell.

Since I can't tell you everything there is to know about every president, I decided that, for President's Day July 4th and every day of the year I would give a list of the presidents and a tidbit or two about each.

Presidential Tidbits

  • 1
    George Washington did not take a salary as a general in the Revolutionary War. He "only" charged for his expenses. His "expenses", however, were, shall we say, expensive. (The expenses turned out to be far greater than a salary would have been.) So when he became president and tried to "cut the same deal", congress voted it down and insisted he take a salary. I was considered the government's first austerity plan. See more about George Washington and See my choices for top 10 presidents in this blog

  • 2
    John Adams was a prodigious letter writer. When he was away on governmental work or diplomatic missions he would write often to his wife, Abigail, and his son John Quincy, often writing several letters per day. Abigail, who Adams described as my dearest friend wrote to him too, as did John Quincy. See more about John Adams and my choices for top 10 presidents in this blog

  • 3
    Thomas Jefferson's reputation for being kind to his slaves may be exaggerated. When he died, most of his slaves were sold off to pay off his debt. The exceptions were Sally Hemmings and her children. Sally was Martha Jefferson's half-sister (by Martha's father and his slave Betty Hemmings) and widower Jefferson had a long-term relationship with her (it was accepted in the South in those days for slave owners to have relationships with their slaves). See my choices for top 10 presidents in this blog

  • 4
    James Madison who grew up in Virginia, spent his college years in New Jersey at Princeton University. When he died, he was the last signer of the Constitution to pass away. He was 2nd cousins with Zachary Taylor (their shared great-grandfather's name was James Taylor).

  • 5
    James Monroe was Jefferson's minister to France when the Louisiana Purchase and negotiated the Louisiana Purchase for the US. He also was president during the "era of good feeling" and was the only president to get all but one electoral vote in the election (the one elector voted for John Quincy Adams because he wanted Washington to remain the only president elected by a unanimous vote of the electors).

  • 6
    John Quincy Adams was James Monroe's Secretary of State and, as such, he was the Author of the Monroe Doctrine. JQA also defended the Amistad slaves and went back to congress after his presidential term, fighting against slavery until his death. See more about John Quincy Adams my choices for top 10 presidents in this blog
  • 7
    Andrew Jackson was almost the first presidential victim of an assassin. The would-be assassin, Richard Lawrence, had two pistols, expertly primed and in excellent condition, fired at the president from point blank range with each pistol. Both guns misfired and Jackson was unscathed. See my choices for bottom 10 presidents in this blog

  • 8
    Martin Van Buren was the last vice-president to be elected president as a sitting VP until George Bush Sr. He was Andrew Jackson's chosen successor but was defeated for reelection by "Tippecanoe and Tyler too".

  • 9
    William Henry Harrison was the only president who had a grandson who later became president. Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd president. He also had the shortest presidential "reign" -- 1 month from his long, winter, inaugural speech he died of pneumonia.

  • 10
    John Tyler was the most "fatherly" of presidents. Tyler had 15 children (though there was no time when all 15 were alive) with two wives: Letitia and Julia. Tyler's second wife, Julia, was thirty years younger than he, the biggest age gap between a president and his wife. Julia almost called off the wedding after the accidental death of her father, but decided that Tyler filled the void in her life that her father's death created.

  • 11
    James Knox Polk was the only Speaker of the House to become president. He was also the first Dark Horse President. He had one term, pretty much fulfilled all his campaign promises, didn't run for reelection, went home and, promptly died before his 54th birthday. (Whether or not you agree with his policies of "Manifest Destiny" with a touch of racism, you have to agree that he was one of the most hard-working presidents.) See my choices for top 10 presidents in this blog

  • 12
    Zachary Taylor never voted in a presidential election until he was on the ballot. The former General (Hero of the Battle of Buena Vista in the Mexican War), who was the second president to die in office, was father-in-law to a gentleman named Jefferson Davis (until Sarah Taylor passed away, leaving the future Confederate President a temporary widower). See my choices for bottom 10 presidents in this blog

  • 13
    Millard Fillmore, after his short presidency (finishing off Taylor's term), was nominated for president by theNational Union Party also known as the Know-Nothing Party.

  • 14
    Franklin Pierce and his wife, Jane, had three sons. By the time he was elected president, two had died. The third and youngest, Benjy, came with them to Washington, DC but never made it there. The train they were on riding down to Washington from New Hampshire derailed. Benjamin Pierce was the only casualty, and died in front of his parents horrified eyes. See my choices for bottom 10 presidents in this blog

  • 15
    James Buchanan was a bachelor. He also had a very unusual vision problem -- he had one eye nearsighted and one eye farsighted. The President was too vain to wear glasses, so often he would cock his head to see better. Most people didn't know about this and thought Mr. Buchanan was an elitist. See my choices for bottom 10 presidents in this blog

  • 16
    Abraham Lincoln was a pretty good country lawyer. He used to do a lot of work for the railroad. When he would go to court representing the railroad, he came in a suit, looking very business like, and won a lot of landmark cases for the railroads.

    One time, though, Honest Abe sent the railroad his bill and they balked. They thought his fee was unreasonable and refused to pay. So the future president took the railroad to court. But this time, he wore "country" clothes and talked like a hometown country lawyer. The jury identified with him as the "everyman" being taken advantage of by the big mean corporation and found for him. The railroad wasn't bitter, though. They paid Lincoln his fee and even hired him again after that. See my choices for top 10 presidents in this blog

  • 17
    Andrew Johnson was rewarded for his loyalty to the Union (he was from Tennessee, a Confederate state) with the Vice Presidential nomination for Lincoln's second run for the White House. When Lincoln was assassinated, Johnson became president.

    Johnson angered the radical Republicans by being lenient on the South. They impeached him, but Johnson was acquitted by one vote. By the time he left office, tempers had died down and people realized that the impeachment had been politically motivated. Johnson then returned to the Senate, where he was cheered. Johnson shook hands with all, even the people who had tried to remove him from the presidency, and all was forgiven and forgotten.

  • 18
    Ulysses Simpson Grant (whose name at birth was Hiram Ulysses Grant) was a man who loved his family and had a hard time when he was away from them. When his work took him to places other than home, he missed his wife and children so much that he drank.

    The best tribute to his family, though, was his desire to help them before he died. So he dictated his memoirs to Mark Twain while he was dying from throat cancer. The book helped to support his family after he died. See my choices for bottom 10 presidents in this blog

  • 19
    Rutherford Birchard Hayes's wife wouldn't serve alcoholic beverages in the White House, so she earned the nickname "Lemonade Lucy". When Hayes died, his last words were, "I know I am going where Lucy is."

  • 20
    James Abram Garfield was the first president whose mother outlived him. This, of course, probably had something to do with his getting shot and subsequently dying at a very early age.

    In actuality, he could have lived longer had the doctors not been so intent on removing the bullet from gunman Charles Guiteau. Garfield's body had formed a cyst around the bullet, protecting him. But the doctors' instruments hadn't been sterilized and the poking and probing for the bullet they never found led to septicemia which is what ultimately killed the president.

  • 21
    Chester Alan Arthur of New York became president when Garfield died a few months after being shot by a disgruntled office seeker. Arthur revamped the civil service system, taking the appointments away from the president and awarding positions based on merit.

  • 22
    Grover Cleveland (whose dropped his real first name, Stephen) was the second bachelor elected president. He married his ward, Frances Folsom, daughter of his late law partner, while in office. When they left the White House after losing to Benjamin Harrison, Frank Folsom Cleveland told the staff they'd be back in 4 years. They were.

  • 23
    Benjamin Harrison was widowed while in office. He later married his late wife's niece (who had moved into the White House to live with them). His children were not so pleased that he married their first cousin.

  • 24
    Grover Cleveland was the only man to serve two non-consecutive terms as president. He also was the first president to have a cancer operation while in office (he had his jaw replaced with a vulcanized rubber jaw).

  • 25
    William McKinley had a lucky carnation. One day, he was at the Buffalo exposition, shaking hands, when he gave his lucky carnation to a young girl. Within hours, he lay dead, shot by assassin Leon Czolgosz.

  • 26
    Theodore Roosevelt's brother Eliot died before his daughter got married. So Uncle Theo (he hated being called Teddy) dutifully gave away the bride when his niece Eleanor married his 7th cousin Franklin. See my choices for top 10 presidents in this blog

  • 27
    William Howard Taft was never as happy as president as he was later in life as Chief Justice of the United States. Taft was also the heaviest president (usually over 300 pounds) and one of two presidents buried in Arlington National Cemetery (John F. Kennedy was the second).

  • 28
    Woodrow Wilson (who dropped the name Thomas, his given first name) was president when the US got involved in World War I. After the war, Wilson tried to get the US to join the League of Nations. His whistle stop tour trying to get public opinion on his side may have led to his stroke. His first wife, Ellen, died while he was president and he married widow Edith Bolling Galt, a descendant of Pocahontas (See more about Edith Wilson and her famous ancestor
  • 29
    Warren Harding, for better or worse, there's not a lot to say about Harding. He was not a good president, not a good husband, but a good friend to people who took advantage (leading to the Teapot Dome Scandal). See my choices for bottom 10 presidents in this blog

  • 30
    Calvin Coolidge (He dropped his first name John), The White House became a menagerie while the Coolidges were in residence. The Presidential Mansion became home, along with Coolidge, his wife Grace (a teacher of the deaf) and their two sons, to six dogs, two cats and a raccoon named Rebecca. See my choices for bottom 10 presidents in this blog

  • 31
    Herbert Clark Hoover started his career as an Engineer. He and his wife were in China during the Boxer Rebellion and Lou Henry Hoover (his wife) helped with a lot of the relief efforts. But the Hoovers were, despite being Quakers, the first presidential couple married by a Catholic Priest. See my choices for bottom 10 presidents in this blog

  • 32
    Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the only president whose wife didn't have to change her name. Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (she dropped the Anna and used the Eleanor) was the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt's brother Elliot. She and Franklin were distant cousins. See my choices for top 10 presidents in this blog

  • 33
    Harry S Truman -- There seems to be a lot of discussion about Truman's middle name. In actuality, his middle name was S -- therefore, there should be no period. His parents had two people they wanted to name him for, both with names starting with an "S". Because they couldn't decide which name to choose, so they went with the "S".

    In later years, in deference to everyone else, Truman often did put in the period.
    See my choices for top 10 presidents in this blog

  • 34
    Dwight David Eisenhower's grandson married the daughter of his vice president (who was later a president himself), Richard Milhous Nixon. David Eisenhower married Julie Nixon while Nixon was president. See my choices for top 10 presidents in this blog

  • 35
    John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the first president to be a veteran of the Navy.
    Kennedy was the only president who had his brother as an Attorney General. Robert Kennedy, who might have been the first brother of a president to be president but for an assassin's bullet, was also AG under Johnson and was also a senator from NY State.

  • 36
    Lyndon Baines Johnson married Claudia Alta Taylor (whose nickname from childhood was Lady Bird). They had two daughters -- Lynda Bird and Lucy Baines, so that all of them had the initials "LBJ". See my choices for top 10 presidents in this blog

  • 37
    Richard Milhous Nixon was recruited right out of Whittier College to run against a seemingly unbeatable Democratic candidate for the House. By using innuendo and calling his opponent a communist, Nixon won the election.

  • 38
    Gerald Rudolph Ford was born to Leslie Lynch King and Dorothy Ayer Gardner. He was named after his father. When he was less than 2, his parents divorced and his mother married Gerald Rudolf Ford. The baby was renamed after his stepfather and never knew the senior Ford wasn't his father.

    When he was 17, Mr. King approached him and told him that he was Gerald's father. Ford didn't believe him and asked his mother. It was only then that he found out the truth about his birth and his parentage.

  • 39
    James Earl Carter was the first president born in a hospital and the first president who was a graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis. See my choices for bottom 10 presidents in this blog

  • 40
    Ronald Wilson Reagan's favorite snack was jelly beans. His favorite flavor was licorice, according to his presidential library.
    Web link to this information.

  • 41
    George Herbert Walker Bush was the first president to have two middle names.

    Before Grant, only three presidents had middle names, John Quincy Adams, William Henry Harrison and James Knox Polk. Since Grant, only three haven't had middle names -- Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt (Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge all dropped their first names -- Stephen, Thomas and John respectively -- and went by their middle names)

  • 42
    William Jefferson Clinton was the first Rhodes Scholar to be president. He was also the second president impeached.

  • 43
    George Walker Bush was the second "son of a president" to become president. He was the first father or son president to win two terms.

We Survived these 10 Presidents, Amazingly Enough!

Thanks to the Checks and Balances of the US Government, We Can Even Manage Through Bad Presidents


Top (or Bottom) Ten Lists are by necessity very subjective. This one is no exception. But as a longtime presidential trivia buff, I feel qualified to judge the presidents on their contributions to society and the world.

Presidents: The Bad and the Ugly????

I'm a presidential trivia buff. So, one year, with President's Day coming up, I decided to put together my list of my (bottom) ten least favorite presidents.

Bottom Ten Presidents

Since my criteria for who are the ten worst presidents in totally subjective and might not have anything to do with what happened during the specific president's tenure as president, I have listed them in chronological order (according to "what number president" each was) -- I also have listed why I consider each one as part of this list:
  • Andrew Jackson:

    I put Jackson on this list mostly because of what he did to John Quincy Adams during his presidency (see my list of Top Ten Presidents and more about The Adamses here on this blog) and because he was crazy enough to fight duels. Jackson saw himself as a president of the people, but the only people he was president of was ruffians.
  • Zachary Taylor:

    A nice man, but not cut out to be president. Zachary Taylor was a General and had never voted in a presidential election until he ran for president. After about a year as president, he died, possibly from food poisoning. The most interesting thing I can say about him is that his daughter Sara's widower was Jefferson Davis, future president of the Confederate States of America.
  • Franklin Pierce:

    A very intelligent man who was a bust as president. A northerner with southern leanings in the years leading up to the Civil War, his presidency was hampered by family problems -- his youngest (and only surviving son) Benjy was the only casualty (his parents saw him die) in a train derailment on their way to Washington, DC, to take the reigns of government. An able statesman, but this family tragedy just "did him in" president-wise.
  • James Buchanan:

    Another Northerner with southern sympathies, also a tragic figure (he never married -- in his 20s, his fiancee died under mysterious circumstances -- at her sister's home -- possible suicide??? -- after they had a fight).
  • Ulysses Simpson Grant:

    A good family man and a good general, he hit his peak during the Civil War as the General that Lee surrendered to. But he just wasn't cut out to be president. He knew two songs -- one was Yankee Doodle and one wasn't.
    A family man who missed his family when they weren't with him, and though he wasn't a very good president (his presidential was marred by scandal, though he wasn't involved in the wrongdoing) he showed his greatest courage by dictating his memoirs to Mark Twain while dying of throat cancer (so he wouldn't leave the family he loved penniless).
  • Warren Gamaliel Harding:

    A newspaper man from Marion, Ohio, he was far too conservative for his times and far too unintelligent to make an effective president. He trusted his friends too much and died before the s*** hit the fan (the Teapot Dome Scandal). Some think his wife poisoned him (because of his numerous affairs or, possibly, to save him the embarrassment of the scandal).
  • Calvin Coolidge:

    Austere Yankee from Vermont, a good balance for the garrulous Harding, Coolidge became president when Harding died. Though he was more intelligent and more serious, he didn't do much to prevent the Great Depression.

    Also had his presidency marred by personal tragedy (his son Calvin Jr. died from blood poisoning caused by infection of a blister he got by playing tennis with his brother on the White House lawn).
  • Herbert Hoover:

    An engineer, his first job out of Stanford (and after his marriage to Lou Henry) was in China. The Hoovers were in China during the Boxer Rebellion and helped coordinate relief efforts. Hoover was a millionaire before he entered politics (he was Harding's Secretary of Commerce). Lived long enough (he died at the age of 90) to outlive his reputation as the man who caused the Great Depression (he didn't really cause it but he did nothing to prevent it).
  • Dwight David Eisenhower:

    Another general who wasn't cut out to be president. Allowed Joseph McCarthy and the House Unamerican Activities Committee to run rampant. The only good thing he did was an accident -- he appointed Earl Warren Chief Justice of the US. Lucky for us, because Warren was one of the best Chief Justices who ever served.
  • James Earl ("Jimmy") Carter:

    What can you say about a man who "lusted in his heart", was attacked by a "killer rabbit" while rowing and allowed the hostages to be held by Iran's new revolutionary Islamist government. He set the stage for the crisis we are now experiencing. His recent book is a collection of lies, but he doesn't let the truth stand in the way of his ego.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

John Adams and John Quincy Adams: The "Peter Principle" in Action

The Father and Son Presidents


Before the Bushes came along, this was the only father and son president pair.

John Adams

John and Abigail -- over 50 years of partnership


John Adams was the 1st Vice President of the US and the 2nd President. If you only looked at his record in these two jobs, you might think he was not a very extraordinary man, especially if you compare his presidency to that of his predecessor (George Washington) and his successor (Thomas Jefferson).

But his presidency was his final public service in a long history of service.

An early member of the Massachusetts colonial government, John Adams was part of the Massachusetts delegation to the Continental Congress in 1774 and 1776, where he signed the Declaration of Independence. Though the play and movie "1776" Hollywooded it up a bit, it is a fun way to see the story of the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams was a scrupulously honest man. He was faithful to friends and relatives, and especially faithful to his wife, Abigail. Because of John's diplomatic work around the world and his governmental work in Philadelphia (the Continental Congress, for example), John and Abigail were apart for much of the time. In the days before e-mail and telephones, they wrote letters to each other, sometimes 3 or 4 a day.

John Adams became Vice President when George Washington was inaugurated President in 1789. They served two terms (1789 - 1797). Washington refused a third term and Adams was elected President.

Toward the end of John Adams' one term as President, the Presidential mansion in Washington was completed. The Building, which became the home of the US Presidents and their families and later became known as The White House, became home to the Adamses. So John Adams and his family became the first presidential family to live in the building.

After losing the election to Thomas Jefferson, an old friend and political rival (Adams and Jefferson served together on the declaration committee of the Continental Congress but Adams was a Federalist and Jefferson was a Democrat-Republican -- Adams believed in a strong central government and Jefferson was a supporter of states rights), Adams returned to his farm on Massachusetts. There, he lived until after his 90th birthday. He died on July 4, 1826, the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson had died that morning, but Adams never knew. His last words were "Thomas Jefferson still survives" meaning that there was still someone living who understood what the founding fathers had intended*. He was buried beside Abigail, who had died almost 8 years earlier in October 1818.

*Naturally, since I wasn't there and couldn't ask him, this is my interpretation of what he said, based on what I know about John Adams

John Quincy Adams

Amistad, the Monroe Doctine and the House of Representatives

John Quincy Adams tried hard to be like his father. In many ways he was and in many other ways he surpassed his father.

John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams was also a very honorable man. But he enjoyed skinny dipping in the Potomac River. One day, a female reporter, Ann Royall, who had tried to get an interview with President Adams and failed, heard about his morning "dips" into the Potomac. So she went to his favorite spot and waited for the President to strip down and get into the water. She then sneaked out from behind the bushes and sat on his clothes. She was very patient waiting for the President to return.

When JQA turned toward the shore, he saw her sitting there. Being a Gentleman, he wouldn't come out of the water as long as she was sitting there. So she finally got the interview she wanted (while the President was shivering in the water!)


As Secretary of State under President James Monroe (JQA's predecessor), John Quincy Adams was author of one of the strongest statements made by the US government to that point -- the Monroe Doctrine -- which stated basically that European powers should leave the Americas alone. Though it's called the Monroe Doctrine, it was John Quincy Adams who authored it.


After his term as president, JQA did not leave government service -- he became a representative from Massachusetts. He was the only ex-president to serve in the House of Representatives.

As a representative, "Old Man Eloquent", as JQA was nicknamed, became a staunch advocate of the anti-slavery cause.

This lead to one of his most famous cases. JQA argued before the Supreme Court for the cause of the Amistad. The ship Amistad had illegally (it was at that point against international law to kidnap anyone to sell into slavery) kidnapped Africans, men, women and children, to sell into slavery. The kidnapped people overpowered their captors and took control of the ship, wanting to return to Africa, but they didn't know the way and were led astray by their captors.

Despite the political climate at the time (pre-Civil War) JQA won the case and the Amistad Blacks were given the choice of staying in the US as free people or of returning to Africa. 35 of them were returned to Africa.


A few months short of his 81st birthday, JQA was preparing to address the House of Representatives (in which he was still serving) when he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. He died a few days later with his family by his side. His last words were reported to be "This is the last of Earth. I am content."

John Quincy Adams spent most of his life in public service. His first appointment to the foreign service was when he was 14 and, as I mentioned before, he pretty much worked until he died, about 66 years later.

JQA's grandson, Henry Adams, wrote a book called The Education of Henry Adams. In it, he tells a story about his grandfather.

When Henry was 7, he wanted to play hooky from school one day. JQA offered to walk him to school. Henry didn't want his grandfather to walk him, because he didn't want to go to school that day, but he couldn't get out of it. He figured, though, that he was a young boy and his grandfather was old. It would be easy, he thought, to break away from his grandfather and sneak off. But JQA held his young grandson's hand all the way to school. He didn't let go until he had deposited young Henry in his seat at school.

See my list of the top ten presidents in this blog (including both Adamses)

Adamses and Jews

While Henry Adams, John Quincy Adams's grandson, was a rabid anti-Semite, both John and John Quincy Adams expressed admiration and support for Jews.

John Adams said, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson (who wasn't a big friend of Jews),"I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize man than any other nation." He also said (in a letter to Mordecai Manuel Noah, "Farther I could find it in my heart to wish that you had been at the head of a hundred thousand Israelites . . . & marching with them into Judea & making a conquest of that country & restoring your nation to the dominion of it. For I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation."

John Quincy Adams, also in a letter to Mordecai Manuel Noah, said, "[I believe in the] rebuilding of Judea as an independent nation."

(Quotes of Presidents about Jews and Israel)

Top Ten Best Presidents

David Letterman has his top 10s, I have mine....


Top Ten Lists are by necessity very subjective. This one is no exception. But as a longtime presidential trivia buff, I feel qualified to judge the presidents on their contributions to society and the world.

Why I Wrote This

I'm a presidential trivia buff. My brother and I used to play with Presidents' statues, color in Presidents' coloring books, read Presidents' books. In our pre-teens, we could rattle off the Presidents of the US in order and knew which ones were related (for the record, the Johnsons were not related but James Madison and Zachary Taylor were second cousins). We knew who died in office and who was assassinated. We could tell you the names of all the Presidential wives. And, at one point, we could name all their Vice Presidents.

So, when the most recent presidential election came up, I decided to put together my list of my top ten favorite presidents.

Top Ten Presidents

Since my criteria for who are the ten best presidents is totally subjective and might not have anything to do with what happened during the specific president's tenure as president, I have listed them in chronological order (according to "what number president" each was) -- I also have listed why I consider each one as part of this list:
  • George Washington:

    I hate to be cliche (and I probably will be with others on this list), but Washington set the tone for what a president is and would be. Because he was also part of the congress that created the constitution (though Madison was called The Father of the Constitution), Washington was the first president under the Constitution and he was the president who set the precedents that led to the best government in the world (in my humble opinion)
  • John Adams:

    I have John Adams on this list mostly for what he did before he was president. As a person, he makes my list for many reasons -- for his contribution to the Continental Congress, for his diplomatic service, for his relationship with his wife, Abigail, who was an early feminist, for his prodigious letter writing to Abigail and their son John Quincy, for his intelligence, hutzpa, support of Jews and women, for playing second fiddle to Washington and, oftentimes, to Jefferson, for his eloquent writing, for his general honesty and integrity. Though his presidency was largely a disaster (the Alien and Sedition Acts being the lowest point), he was the first president to live in Washington, DC, in the Executive Mansion (which we know as the White House).
  • Thomas Jefferson:

    While I'm not fond of Jefferson as a person (his opinion of Jews and women being mostly negative, his ownership of slaves, though not unusual in his time, in the scheme of things isn't what one would like to see in a leader, his aristocratic opinions, etc.), I feel the need to put him on this list simply for acquiring the Louisiana Territory and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Ironically, this served to weaken his own (and the South's) State's Rights position by strengthening the Federal Government.
  • John Quincy Adams:

    Again, as with his father, I would put "Quincy" on the list mostly for what he did before (and, in Quincy's case, after) he was president. While his presidency was mostly lackluster (thanks to crazy man and future president Andrew Jackson's use of congress to sandbag anything Adams tried to do legislatively), his life before and after was anything but. To just list a few of his accomplishments:

    • a European diplomatic career in his youth
    • Harvard education and also a prodigious letter writer
    • Monroe's Secretary of State (it was in this capacity that JQA wrote what is now known as the Monroe Doctrine, one of the strongest foreign policy statements in the history of the US)
    • Return to the House of Representatives post- presidency
    • He defended the blacks of the Amistad who mutinied against their captors
    • He was an ardent abolitionist and argued for the freeing of all slaves years before the Civil War

    JQA really earned the nickname Old Man Eloquent.
  • James Knox Polk:

    Polk was one of the hardest working presidents. He was the only president who had been Speaker of the Houseand he was the first Dark Horse president. His campaign slogan was 54-40 or Fight! (which was the latitude measurement of the border the US wanted with Canada) -- Polk negotiated and bloodlessly (at the 49th parallel) resolved this issue and also added California (and, just before he was inaugurated, Texas) to the Union. (black spot on his presidency was the Mexican War, a somewhat imperialistic war)

    Overworked, but successful in his endeavors, Polk left office after an eventful single term as president, returned home and died a few months later before his 54th birthday. Of all the presidents who survived the presidency, he lived the shortest after retiring. And, except for Kennedy and Garfield, both of whom were assassinated, he died the youngest of any president.
  • Abraham Lincoln:

    Again, a cliche part of the list, though probably not for the reason most people think. Yes, he was instrumental in"freeing the slaves", but his real courage was facing the crisis and succeeding in preserving the Union. The genius of the Emancipation Proclamation, which, at the time, did not free a single slave, was in keeping the border states in the Union and gaining the support of the free black community. While I also admire him for what he did de facto for civil rights (and human rights), the preservation of the Union and victory in the Civil War were his crowning achievements.
  • Theodore Roosevelt:

    Theodore was a sickly child who worked very hard to build himself up physically. By the time he became president, he had recreated himself as a robust, healthy man with boundless energy. He pretty much did the same thing for this country. TR was the youngest man ever to be president (he succeeded to the presidency on the assassination death of William McKinley). TR had already experienced death in a personal way -- in 1884, when TR was only 25, his mother (who hadn't hit her 50th birthday) and his wife (who was only 22 at the time) both died on the same day. But he always became stronger through adversity. He was a progressive in his policies. And, for his work in negotiating the treaty in the Russo-Japanese war, he was the first president to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Franklin Roosevelt:

    Most people know about FDR's work during WWII, but I put him on my list mostly for his forward thinking work in getting the US out of the Great Depression. Many of his assistance programs are still in effect in the US and his foresight has helped many people out of poverty.
  • Harry S Truman:

    Thrust into the job of president with the sudden death of Franklin Roosevelt, Truman rose to the occasion. He negotiated the end of WWII in Europe and later made the hard decision (which shortened the war in the Pacific and saved countless lives on both sides) to send the Enola Gay to drop the Atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima (after warning the government to evacuate the city, a warning the Japanese government ignored), then sending Bock's Car to drop another bomb on Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered soon after.
    Truman was also one of the first world leaders to recognize the nascent State of Israel.
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson:

    Though most people blame Johnson for the escalation of US involvement in the war in Vietnam, Johnson's experience and forcefulness gave him the ability to push through legislation in the area of Civil Rights. He also added to FDR's Depression-ending programs, giving Americans better retirements and more opportunities to get themselves out of poverty.