Wednesday, October 31, 2007

October 31:

Presidential Ghost Stories

The following are questions and answers from a "Halloween quiz" on the White House web site. Who wouldn't like the idea of Calvin Coolidge flickering the lights at the Mayflower Hotel?

Legend has it that Abigail Adams is reported to be occasionally seen doing what in the East Room? Doing laundry.

Who is alleged to haunt the Library of Congress the most? A policeman.

At the United States Capitol, rumor has it that it is not a good idea to ask about this creature with glowing eyes that haunts the building: Demon Cat.

In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge did not have a chance to attend his own Inauguration at the famous Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. Some think every January 20 he returns and lets it be known by doing what? Flickering the lights and stopping an elevator.

In White House lore, an angry Dolley Madison appeared when First Lady Ellen Louise Wilson wanted to remove what? The Rose Garden.

President Lincoln's ghost was supposedly most active during which President's administration? Franklin Roosevelt.

Which President's spirit is said to have visited the Union Army's 20th Maine Regiment at Gettysburg to encourage them to head off a desperate Confederate assault? George Washington.

What house in Washington, D.C. is rumored to be the most haunted? The Octagon.

What else on the White House Grounds is also rumored to be haunted? The Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Which president is rumored to be heard laughing loudly in the Red Room, which at one point was his bed chambers? Andrew Jackson.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

October 30, 1735:

John Adams' Birthday

The First Vice President and the Second President of the United States, John Adams of Massachusetts, lived a long time -- 90 years, and it wasn't until the 21st century that two presidents, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, lived longer than Adams.

The 90 years of Adams' lifetime saw astonishing changes for North America, not the least of which was the transformation of 13 British colonies on the eastern seaboard -- one of which, Georgia, was only a few years older than Adams -- into a robust nation of 24 states with territory stretching off into the Rocky Mountains. Adams certainly did his part to bring about that transformation.

Writing in April 1776, Adams said: "If the colonies should assume governments separately, they should be left entirely to their own choice of the forms; and if a continental constitution should be formed, it should be a congress, containing a fair and adequate representation of the colonies, and its authority should sacredly be confined to these cases, namely, war, trade, disputes between colony and colony, the post office, and the unappropriated lands of the crown, as they used to be called.

"These colonies, under such forms of government, and in such a union, would be unconquerable by all the monarchies of Europe."

Monday, October 29, 2007

October 29, 1901:

Leon Czolgosz Dies

On September 6, 1901, anarchist Leon Frank Czolgosz (aged 28, pictured) shot President William McKinley twice in Buffalo, New York. Within a week, the president was dead. Within two months, Czolgosz was dead, convicted and sentenced to death in a swift trial. He died in the electric chair at the Auburn State Prison in Auburn, New York. As an execution device, the electric chair had been in use only about a decade at that time, with New York State pioneering it.

According to Buffalo History Works, "On October 29, 1901, Leon Czolgosz was led from his cell and slowly walked the twenty feet down the corridor to the door of the death room. He stumbled when his feet touched the stone pavement of the room and again when he got onto the platform that held the chair. It was there that he got the first look at the instrument that was about to take his life.

"The electric chair was a plain looking, but heavy piece of furniture. It was decorated with wide leather straps and heavy buckles. From the ceiling came a coil of wire no wider than a common pencil to which the electrode for the head-piece would attach. Electric lamps were along the wall behind the chair and about the ceiling. The chair was large enough to hold a man much heavier than Czolgosz, so a broad plank was placed on its edge across the seat and against the back of the chair, that there might not be any movement of the prisoner's body to break the circuit.

"As he was being strapped into the chair, Czolgosz blurted out, 'I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people! I did it for the help of the good people, the working men of all countries!' The guards quickly finished preparing him. Then they slowly stepped away from the platform, turned, and walked away.

"After what seemed like an eternity, the signal was given to throw the switch and send the current through his body. Czolgosz immediately gave a gurgled cry and his body lunged upward. He seemed to tremble with a slight rigidity as his body was converted into a piece of iron. As the 1,700 volts of raw energy exploded into his body, Czolgosz arched his body backwards and remained still. The current flowed for a full minute and was gradually backed down to 200 volts. After the electricity was turned off, some time passed without anyone saying a word. Then one of the prison officials said, 'Give him another poke.'

The current was turned on at 1,700 volts for another full minute without any reaction from Czolgosz's body. After this round was finished, the medical examiner went up to the lifeless body and pronounced Czolgosz dead."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

October 28, 1886:

Cleveland Dedicates the Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on this day in 1886, with President Cleveland formally accepting it from France. Fifty years later, on the same day, President Franklin Roosevelt re-dedicated the statue, and near 50 years after that (actually July 3, 1986), President Reagan spoke at the unveiling of the statue after its restoration.

According to the Park Service, "The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World was dedicated October 28, 1886. Count de Lesseps and Senator Evarts were among the speakers. Bartholdi, in the torch some 300 feet above, pulled the rope that removed the French tricolor from Liberty's face. Then, President Grover Cleveland accepted the statue on behalf of the United States. Especially impressive were these words of his: 'We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home; nor shall her chosen altar be neglected.' That night the torch held high in the hand of the statue was lighted."

October 27, 1858:

Theodore Roosevelt's Birthday

Today is the birthday of Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States. What more to say about TR? Perhaps something by the man himself, a former president offering commentary on the presidency.

Writing in the May 7, 1918, edition of the Kansas City Star, Roosevelt had an obvious jab for the wartime behavior of President Wilson in mind, but probably TR believed what he wrote, war or no war:

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."

Friday, October 26, 2007

October 26, 1874:

Abby Rockefeller's Birthday

Abby Rockefeller did numerous things with her own money and access to her husband's vast fortune -- such as being instrumental in the founding of the Museum of Modern Art in New York -- but she also was the mother of a vice president, though she never knew, dying decades before Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller held that office in the mid-1970s.

"On October 9, 1901, several hundred statesmen, bankers, and robber barons journeyed by yacht, chartered steamer, and private train to Warwick, Rhode Island, to attend the elaborately choreographed wedding of Abby Aldrich, the daughter of Senator Nelson W. Aldrich (1841-1915) to John D. Rockefeller Jr. ("Junior"; 1874-1960), son of the wealthiest man in the world," wrote Wendy Jeffers in the November 2004 issue of The Magazine Antiques. "Armed guards secured the perimeters of the 250-acre waterfront estate--President William McKinley had just been assassinated--and champagne flowed. Junior's mother, who disapproved of ostentatious displays of wealth, not to mention alcohol, declined to attend at the last minute, complaining of illness.

"Nelson Aldrich, although not as well known as John D. Rockefeller Sr. (1839-1937), was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. In a career that spanned three decades in the Senate (1881-1911), Aldrich helped to create an extensive system of tariffs that protected American industries from foreign competition, at the same time amassing a small fortune in sugar, rubber, banking, and public utility investments. As co-author of the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act of 1909, Aldrich removed restrictive import duties on fine art, which enabled friends, such as John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), to bring vast private art collections into the country: and ultimately this enriched or led to the establishment of a number of American museums.

"Abby Aldrich and John D. Rockefeller Jr. met in 1894 when he was an undergraduate at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Growing up at her father's side in Providence and Washington, D.C., Abby was a gracious hostess, comfortable in diverse social gatherings. Marrying into the Rockefeller family, however, must have been a formidable challenge. Leaving aside the obvious differences in wealth, her husband was a pragmatic and pious young man with a tendency to be withdrawn.

"She was compassionate and spontaneous--a handsome if not conventionally beautiful woman with hazel eyes and a distinctive aquiline nose. They had six children: Abby Aldrich ("Babs"; 1903-1976), John D. III (1906-1978), Nelson A. (1908-1979), Laurance Spelman (1910-2004), Winthrop (1912-1973), and David (1915-). Although Abby was a pioneering collector of American modern and folk art, her greatest cultural legacy was her role as a founder of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Her experiences as an intrepid collector combined with her close observation of the vast array of Rockefeller philanthropies were undoubtedly the foundation for this undertaking."

October 25, 1764:

The Marriage of John and Abigail Adams

Until 2001, only one woman had the distinction of being the wife of a president as well as the mother of one, and that was Abigail Adams, nee Smith. In the fall of 1764, before such an office as President of the United States was even imaginable, the 19-year-old Abigail married the 29-year-old John, an attorney. The ceremony took place at the Smith family home in Weymouth, Massachusetts, presided over by Rev. William Smith, a Congregationalist minister and the bride's father.

According to the Library of Congress' American Memory project, "Abigail Smith married a young lawyer by the name of John Adams on October 25, 1764. Their union launched a vital 54-year partnership taking the couple from colonial Boston through the politics of revolution, to Paris and London and the world of international diplomacy, and finally to Washington, D.C., where they became the first presidential couple to occupy the White House.

"A talented commentator and chronicler of events with a broad knowledge of history, Abigail Adams left an important account of many of the events of the nation's founding in her letters. She and her husband corresponded regularly; first when he attended the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia between 1774 and 1783, and again from 1789 to 1800, when she traveled between the family home in Quincy, Massachusetts, and Philadelphia, where John Adams was serving as the nation's first vice president before becoming its second president in 1797.

"After the presidential term, the Adamses retired to their family home where they spent the next 17 years. In 1825, John Quincy Adams, the couple's eldest son, moved into the White House, succeeding James Monroe to serve as the nation's sixth president."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

October 24, 1855:

James S. Sherman's Birthday

Yesterday's vice president, Adlai Stevenson, survived his term of office. Today's veep, James Schoolcraft "Sunny Jim" Sherman, was not so lucky. Born on October 24, 1855, he died on October 30, 1912, while 27th Vice President of the United States under William Howard Taft.

Sherman had been a successful New York businessman and Congressman. Mark O. Hatfield, with the Senate Historical Office, writing in Vice Presidents of the United States, 1789-1993 (1997), explains how Sherman got the vice presidential nod at the Republican National Convention in 1908: "Taft won the nomination and would have preferred a progressive running mate, someone of the stature of Indiana Senator Albert Beveridge or Iowa Senator Jonathan Dolliver. But House members, led by Speaker Cannon, pressed for the nomination of James Sherman. On the surface, it seemed as though Sherman won the nomination by default, after the more progressive possibilities withdrew their names from consideration. But years later, in his memoirs, Senator Chauncey Depew revealed a more Machiavellian version of what had happened. The New York delegation had lobbied hard to convince Taft's managers that New York would be a critical state in the election, and that a New Yorker would most strengthen the ticket headed by a 'westerner' like Taft of Ohio....

"House Democratic minority leader Champ Clark agreed that Sherman stood prominently in the House, but no more so than a half dozen other Republicans. In Clark's estimation, Sherman was 'an industrious, level-headed, capable member, and a capital presiding officer,' but in truth he received the nomination as a means of placating the GOP's conservative wing, which viewed Taft suspiciously as a progressive. 'The Stand-patters selected Sherman partly because he wanted it, partly because they could trust him, and partly because he was perhaps the most acceptable of all the Old Guard chieftains in the House to President Roosevelt,' Clark assessed. The vice-presidential nomination was clinched when Speaker Cannon stepped onto the platform, hiked up his sleeves, and offered an impassioned endorsement of Sherman. With the Old Guard's stamp of approval, 'the two wings flapped together.' "

Sherman already suffered from Bright's disease, a serious kidney ailment, by the time he became vice president, and in 1912 -- after being nominated by the party for another term with Taft -- it caught up with him. He died just before the election, and the Republican National Committee replaced him on the ticket with Columbia University president Nicholas Butler, but not until January 1913, and solely for the purpose of receiving the paltry eight electoral votes the Republicans got that year.

Hatfield continues: "James Schoolcraft Sherman quickly disappeared from public memory. He remained the least-remembered twentieth-century vice president until 1974, when he made an unexpected reappearance in E.L. Doctorow's best-selling novel Ragtime. At a climactic moment in the book, Sarah, a black domestic, tried to intercede on behalf of her husband, when Vice President Sherman attends a campaign rally in New Rochelle, New York:

'When the Vice-President's car, a Packard, rolled up to the curb and the man himself stepped out, a cheer went up. Sunny Jim Sherman was a New York State politician with many friends in Westchester. He was a round balding man and in such ill health that he would not survive the campaign. Sarah broke through the line and ran toward him calling, in her confusion, President! President! Her arm was extended and her black hand reached toward him. He shrank from the contact. Perhaps in the dark windy evening of impending storm it seemed to Sherman's guards that Sarah's black hand was a weapon. A militiaman stepped forward and, with the deadly officiousness of armed men who protect the famous, brought the butt of his Springfield against Sarah's chest as hard as he could. She fell. A Secret Service man jumped on top of her. The Vice-President disappeared into the hotel.'

"That scene, which led to Sarah's death in the novel, was entirely fictitious. Sherman simply served as the novelist's metaphor of an unhealthy and unresponsive political system. Although perhaps better than total obscurity, it was not the way "Sunny Jim" would have wanted to be remembered."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

October 23, 1835:

Adlai E. Stevenson's Birthday

Today is the birthday of Adlai Ewing Stevenson, 23rd Vice President of the United States, sometimes referred to as Adlai E. Stevenson I to distinguish him from Adlai E. Stevenson II, his grandson, who ran for president in 1952 and 1956 and lost; or Adlai E. Stevenson III, US Senator from Illinois during the 1970s, and whose later candidacy for governor of Illinois was torpedoed by followers of Lyndon LaRouche. (Adlai E. Stevenson IV and V have not, as yet, entered politics.)

The original Adlai E. Stevenson was a successful attorney and politician in Illinois, but unlike Lincoln and other Republicans, Stevenson was a lifelong a Democrat. During the first Cleveland administration, he served as an assistant postmaster general, knocking many thousands of Republicans off the payroll in favor of Democrats.

Party loyalty brought him the vice presidency during Cleveland's second administration, and almost the presidency itself, when the president underwent risky surgery to remove a tumor from his jaw on July 1, 1893, though Cleveland kept the treatment so secret that there's no indication that Stevenson knew.

The former vice president ran for the office again in 1900, on the ticket with William Jennings Bryan, but a Democratic loss was a forgone conclusion that year. Stevenson died in 1914.

October 22, 1962:

The Cuban Missile Crisis

On the evening of October 22, 1962, President Kennedy addressed the nation on television, revealing the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba, evidence for which the US government had known about for some weeks. The next week would prove nervous indeed.

"Good evening, my fellow citizens," Kennedy began. "This government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere...

"The size of this undertaking makes clear that it has been planned for some months. Yet, only last month, after I had made clear the distinction between any introduction of ground-to-ground missiles and the existence of defensive antiaircraft missiles, the Soviet government publicly stated on September 11 that, and I quote, 'the armaments and military equipment sent to Cuba are designed exclusively for defensive purposes,' that there is, and I quote the Soviet government, 'there is no need for the Soviet government to shift its weapons for a retaliatory blow to any other country, for instance Cuba,' and that, and I quote their government, 'the Soviet Union has so powerful rockets to carry these nuclear warheads that there is no need to search for sites for them beyond the boundaries of the Soviet Union.'

"That statement was false.

"Only last Thursday, as evidence of this rapid offensive buildup was already in my hand, Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko told me in my office that he was instructed to make it clear once again, as he said his government had already done, that Soviet assistance to Cuba, and I quote, 'pursued solely the purpose of contributing to the defense capabilities of Cuba,' that, and I quote him, 'training by Soviet specialists of Cuban nationals in handling defensive armaments was by no means offensive, and if it were otherwise,' Mr. Gromyko went on, 'the Soviet government would never become involved in rendering such assistance.'

"That statement also was false...

"The 1930s taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war. This nation is opposed to war. We are also true to our word. Our unswerving objective, therefore, must be to prevent the use of these missiles against this or any other country, and to secure their withdrawal or elimination from the Western Hemisphere....

"Acting, therefore, in the defense of our own security and of the entire Western Hemisphere, and under the authority entrusted to me by the Constitution as endorsed by the Resolution of the Congress, I have directed that the following initial steps be taken immediately:

"...To halt this offensive buildup a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba from whatever nation or port will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back. This quarantine will be extended, if needed, to other types of cargo and carriers. We are not at this time, however, denying the necessities of life as the Soviets attempted to do in their Berlin blockade of 1948...

"It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union..."

The entire speech is here, as a transcript, audio file and video clip.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

October 21, 1861:

Edward Baker Dies at Ball's Bluff

Edward Dickinson Baker was an Illinois lawyer, politician and friend of Abraham Lincoln. On the day he died, October 21, 1861, he was also a US Senator from Oregon, having moved west some years before. He was also leading Union soldiers in battle at Ball's Bluff, Virginia. In taking bullets for the Union cause that day (illustrated below), he became the only sitting Senator to die in action in the conflict.

"When Baker was defeated for the United States Senate in California he moved to Oregon, where he was at once elected to fill an unexpired term," notes San Francisco Geneaolgy's web site (Baker is buried in that city). "In route to Washington he stopped over in San Francisco and delivered a political speech on October 26, 1860. 'We are running a man now by the name of Lincoln,' he said. 'He is an honest, good, simple-minded, true man, who is a hero without knowing it. If he recommends a railroad -- and he will --he won't twaddle about it.'

This pleased the people of California, for the Western States at that time were becoming more and more eager to obtain an appropriation from Congress for the completion of the proposed Pacific Railroad, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast. It was on the occasion of this political speech that Baker won aloud and long applause when he uttered his oft-quoted words: 'Long years ago, I took my stand by Freedom, and where in youth my feet were planted, there my manhood and my age shall march.'

"The Civil War came on. Baker... raised a regiment in Illinois, and went again to the front. In his first fight, and Bull's Bluff, Virginia, October 21, 1861, he fell. In 1861 the transcontinental telegraph had just been completed, and the melancholy news of Baker's death in Virginia was sent by telegraph to San Francisco. The message was read by Junius Brutus Booth, from the stage of the American Theater, and was received by the audience with a demonstration of genuine grief.

"On a day of President Lincoln's inauguration in Washington, in the east portico of the unfinished Capitol, it was Colonel E. D. Baker, then Senator from Oregon, who introduced Lincoln to the audience. A warm friendship existed between President Lincoln and Colonel Baker, and President Lincoln's second son, born in 1846, was named Edward Baker Lincoln. "

Saturday, October 20, 2007

October 20, 1973:

The Saturday Night Massacre

On October 20, 1973 -- a Saturday -- there was turmoil in the executive branch of the federal government. The incident quickly became known as the Saturday Night Massacre, with President Nixon firing Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox (pictured), though it took him a while to find someone in the Justice Department who would carry out the order.

"In the most traumatic government upheaval of the Watergate crisis, President Nixon yesterday discharged Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and accepted the resignations of Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus," reported the Washington Post at the time.

"The President also abolished the office of the special prosecutor and turned over to the Justice Department the entire responsibility for further investigation and prosecution of suspects and defendants in Watergate and related cases.

"Shortly after the White House announcement, FBI agents sealed off the offices of Richardson and Ruckelshaus in the Justice Department and at Cox's headquarters in an office building on K Street NW.

"An FBI spokesman said the agents moved in 'at the request of the White House.'

"Agents told staff members in Cox's office they would be allowed to take out only personal papers. A Justice Department official said the FBI agents and building guards at Richardson's and Ruckelshaus' offices were there 'to be sure that nothing was taken out.'

"Richardson resigned when Mr. Nixon instructed him to fire Cox and Richardson refused. When the President then asked Ruckelshaus to dismiss Cox, he refused, White House spokesman Ronald L. Ziegler said, and he was fired. Ruckelshaus said he resigned.

"Finally, the President turned to Solicitor General Robert H. Bork, who by law becomes acting Attorney General when the Attorney General and deputy attorney general are absent, and he carried out the President's order to fire Cox."

This sudden move didn't do the Nixon presidency much good in the short or long run. As for Cox, he later became chairman of Common Cause, and died in 2004. President Ford named Richardson Secretary of Commerce in 1976, and thus he became the only person to hold four cabinet positions at one time or another -- HEW, Defense, Attorney General and Commerce. He died in 1999. Ruckelshaus, who is now 75, returned to his law practice, but was also interim administrator of the EPA under President Reagan for a short stint. Back in the early Nixon administration, he had been the first head of the EPA. Robert Bork may not have gotten a seat on the US Supreme Court, but he has become a
arguably a rarer honor, though not because of the Saturday Night Massacre. History will decide whether his eponym outlives this generation.

Friday, October 19, 2007

October 19, 1781

Washington Prevails at Yorktown

It turns out that the story of playing "The World Turned Upside Down" at Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown in October 1781 may not be true, strictly speaking, but it sure is a good story -- or at least a good detail to an already remarkable story.

The history page of the York County, Va., web site describes the surrender: "Realizing the situation was hopeless, Cornwallis sent forth a British drummer on October 17, followed by a British officer with a white flag and note indicating a request for a cease fire. A number of notes passed between Cornwallis and Washington that day as they set the framework for the surrender. The next day, October 18, four officers--one American, one French and two British--met at the Moore House, one mile outside Yorktown, to settle surrender terms.

"On October 19, in a spectacle incredible to all who witnessed it, most of Cornwallis' army marched out of Yorktown between two lines of allied soldiers-- Americans on one side and French on the other--that stretched for more than one mile. The British marched to a field where they laid down their arms, and returned to Yorktown. They did not know that on that very day, [Sir Henry] Clinton sailed for Yorktown from New York with 5,000 of troops.

"News of the British defeat at Yorktown spread quickly. Celebrations took place throughout the United States. London was shocked. The British prisoners were marched to prison camps in Winchester, Virginia and Frederick, Maryland. The American army returned to the Hudson River, while the French army remained in Yorktown and Williamsburg for the winter. Clinton and Cornwallis eventually returned to England where they engaged in a long and bitter public controversy over who was to blame for the British defeat at Yorktown.

"Though the British still had 26,000 troops in North America after Yorktown, their resolve to win the war was nothing like it had been before. The war had been lengthy and costly. Replacing Cornwallis' captured army was a questionable proposition, particularly because the British also were engaged in military struggles in India, Gibraltar, the West Indies and Ireland. Thus, the British Parliament in March 1782 passes a resolution saying the British should not continue the war against the United States. Later that year, commissioners of the United States and Great Britain signed provisional articles of peace. In September 1783, the final treaty was signed which ended the war and acknowledged American independence."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

October 18, 1982:

Bess Truman Dies

Elizabeth Virginia Wallace Truman, First Lady of the United States, lived to the age of 97, thus living longer than any first lady yet, or any president for that matter. Lady Bird Johnson, who died earlier this year, lived to be 94. Presidents Ford and Reagan lived to be 93. One vice president, however, John Nance Garner, lived a little longer than Bess: he died a little short of 99.

She was a distinct contrast as first lady from her predecessor, Eleanor Roosevelt. According to the White House biography of Bess Truman: "In the White House, its lack of privacy was distasteful to her. As her husband put it later, she was 'not especially interested' in the 'formalities and pomp or the artificiality which, as we had learned... inevitably surround the family of the President.' Though she conscientiously fulfilled the social obligations of her position, she did only what was necessary. While the mansion was rebuilt during the second term, the Trumans lived in Blair House and kept social life to a minimum.

"They returned to Independence in 1953. After her husband's death in 1972, Mrs. Truman continued to live in the family home. There she enjoyed visits from Margaret and her husband, Clifton Daniel, and their four sons. She died in 1982 and was buried beside her husband in the courtyard of the Harry S. Truman Library."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

October 17, 1978:

Citizenship Restored to Jefferson Davis

On this day in 1978, President Carter signed a joint resolution of Congress restoring U.S. citizenship to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America.

According to the United Daughters of the Confederacy: "Some 11 years after the war, a universal amnesty bill was pending in Congress. A Senator from Maine rose at the last minute to offer an amendment reading: '...with the exception of Jefferson Davis.' A storm of protest arose, but the amendment passed and Jefferson Davis alone remained a non-citizen.

"Many people urged Davis to apply for a pardon, so that the Mississippi legislature could elect him United States senator, but Davis would not apply, and he avoided politics. The Mississippi legislature, on March 10, 1884, in a joint meeting of both houses, honored Davis, who spoke to that body: 'It has been said that I should apply to the United States for a pardon, but repentance must precede the right of pardon, and I have not repented. Remembering, as I must, all which has been suffered, all which has been lost, disappointed hopes and crushed aspirations, yet I deliberately say, if I were to do it all over again, I would again do just as I did in 1861.'

" '...Our people have accepted the decree. It therefore behooves them to promote the general welfare of the Union, to show the world that hereafter, as heretofore, the patriotism of our people is not measured by lines of latitude and longitude, but is as broad as the obligations they have assumed and embraces the whole of our ocean-bound domain.' He always spoke of the fact that the United States was now one country and on the theme of reconciliation.

"In 1887, following a speech in Georgia, Davis became seriously ill. When he recovered, he considered his days of public speaking over. But a convention of young men was held in March of 1889 at Mississippi City, only six miles from Beauvoir, and a delegation asked him to address them. He began his remarks with:'Friends and fellow citizens,' but he stopped and said: 'Ah, pardon me, the laws of the United States no longer permit me to designate you as fellow citizens, but I am thankful that I may address you as friends. I feel no regret that I stand before you a man without a country, for my ambition lies buried in the grave of the Confederacy.'

"He continued with these memorable words for his young audience: 'The faces I see before me are those of young men; had I not known this I would not have appeared before you. Men in whose hands the destinies of our Southland lie, for love of her I break my silence, to speak to you a few words of respectful admonition. The past is dead; let it bury its dead, its hopes and aspirations. Before you lies the future - a future full of golden promise; a future expanding national glory, before which all the world shall stand amazed. Let me beseech you to lay aside all rancor, all bitter sectional feeling, and to take your places in the ranks of those who will bring about a consummation devoutly to be wished - a reunited country.' "

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

October 16, 1806:

William Pitt Fessenden's Birthday

Salmon P. Chase is remembered as the financial wizard who help the Union pay for its war against the Confederacy, but he wasn't Lincoln's only Secretary of the Treasury. Mainer William Fessenden, born this day in 1806, took over the job when Lincoln appointed Chase to be Chief Justice of the United States in 1864. Near the end of the war, Fessenden returned to the Senate, and in 1868 had a role in the acquittal of President Johnson -- he broke with the Republican Party, which he had helped organize, to do so.

According to the Lincoln Institute, Fessenden "... was chairman of Senate Finance Committee, which had responsibility for raising funds for the Civil War. He held that position before he succeeded Salmon Chase as Secretary of the Treasury on July 1,1864 and returned to it eight months later...

"Quick action was needed to replace Chase in July 1864 and Lincoln's first choice from Ohio wisely declined the nomination. Ohio Governor John Brough met with President Lincoln the night of the Chase resignation and was told by President Lincoln that 'this is the third time he has thrown this resignation at me, and I do not think I am called on to continue to beg him to take it back, especially when the country would not go to destruction in consequence.' Over the next two days, Brough met several times with President Lincoln and finally urged him to appoint Fessenden. 'He will not accept,' said the President, to which Brough responded: 'The public will compel him to.'

"Fessenden himself did seek to turn down the appointment but the President persuaded him to accept -- and had the Senate confirm him while Fessenden was still at the White House. Lincoln valued his prickly integrity and told Fessenden: 'Fessenden, the Lord has not deserted me thus far, and He is not going to now --you must accept!'

"Fessenden served until March 1865 when he returned to Senate (rather than allow outgoing Vice President Hannibal Hamlin to get the seat)... Upon his return to Congress, Fessenden became chairman of Joint Committee on Reconstruction. He was one of a handful of Republicans who voted against removal of President Andrew Johnson, thus earning him the enmity of Radical Republicans with whom he had once been identified."

October 15, 1872:

Edith Bolling Galt Wilson's Birthday

If ever there were a go-to First Lady, Edith Wilson was it. Yet Woodrow Wilson started his presidency in 1913 married to another woman, while Edith Galt was a wealthy widow in Washington, a stranger at the time. In August 1914, President Wilson's first wife, Ellen, died at age 54. Later, Edith and Woodrow became acquainted through mutual friends, and in December 1915, they married. Wilson became the second president to marry in office, after Grover Cleveland.

De facto president? makes a good case that she muscled Vice President Marshall out of a more important role while President Wilson was ill -- and was petty about it at times: "One of the most dramatic chapters in presidential history unfolded in 1919 when Wilson suffered a debilitating stroke. Edith Wilson decided to somehow continue the Administration by conducting a disinformation campaign, misleading Congress and the public into believing that the President was only suffering from temporary exhaustion which required extensive rest. She became the sole conduit between the President and his Cabinet, requiring that they send to her all pressing matters, memos, correspondence, questions and requests.

"After deciding that Wilson should not resign and that Vice President Thomas Marshall should not assume even temporary responsibility, she began what she termed her 'stewardship.' Most crucially, she decided what she felt was important enough to trouble her husband about as he lay disabled in his sickroom. The result was often a confused response for the Cabinet, accompanied by their original papers with often-indecipherable notes in Edith Wilson's handwriting, which she claimed were verbatim notes she took of the President's answer to their questions.

"When the Secretary of State Robert Lansing conducted a series of Cabinet meeting without the President, the first being in October 1919, Edith Wilson considered it an act of disloyalty and pushed for his replacement with the more acquiescent Bainbridge Colby. Wilson requested Lansing's resignation in February 1920...
"In September 1919, Edith Wilson refused to have the U.S. accept the credentials of British representative Edward Grey who had been sent by his government to aid in the push for ratification of Wilson's League of Nations unless Grey dismissed one of his aides who was known to have made demeaning jokes at her expense..."

Monday, October 15, 2007

October 15, 1874:

Dedication of Lincoln's Tomb

President Lincoln, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and three of their four children repose in the picturesque Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. Paid for by public donations, the tomb was dedicated this day in 1874.

"The Lincoln tomb was officially dedicated to the memory of Abraham Lincoln on October 15, 1874, nine years and six months to the day after his death, 28 years and 6 months to the day since he moved from New Salem to Springfield," wrote George L. Cashman in the August 1968 Central Illinois Genealogical Quarterly. "The dedication date was chosen by the National Lincoln Monument Association. Former Governor, and now United States Senator, Richard J. Oglesby, Chairman of the Association, officiated at the ceremony. The particular date was chosen as it would permit the Society of the Army of Tennessee, surviving veterans of the Civil War, in reunion in Springfield, to participate. The Tomb was now completed and would be opened to public visitation on October 29.

"Much difficulty was experienced by the Association in obtaining a person of prominence to assume the task of delivering the dedicatory address. General U.S. Grant, then President of the United States, was the first choice of the Association, but Grant declined the honor, feeling that he was incapable of doing justice to the memory of the illustrious dead. Grant did attend the dedication and did deliver a brief, but for him, a lengthy address. Among the several persons invited to be the orator of the day were former Civil War General, John A. Dix, former Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, and former Governor of Indiana, Oliver P. Morton. All declined, giving various reasons that they could not accept the honor. The Association met and passed a resolution naming Richard J. Oglesby to be the speaker, an invitation that he graciously accepted.

"The Association mailed a thousand invitations requesting attendance of as many men and women throughout the Union to attend as honored guests. On the morning of the dedication it was estimated that between 25 and 30 thousand witnessed the event. Public buildings, business houses and private homes were tastefully adorned with drapery, evergreens and flowers.

"The procession which would march to the Tomb formed on north Sixth Street at the State House. Governor John L. Beveridge was the Grand Marshall. With the procession formed, it moved out following much the same route taken by the funeral cortege on May 4, 1865.

"At the Tomb, former Governor of Illinois, John M. Palmer, acted as Master of Ceremonies. When called upon to deliver the dedicatory address, Senator Richard J. Oglesby delivered, in the forensic style of the day, an eulogy of nearly ten thousand words. When he completed his address, two Dominican nuns from Jacksonville unveiled the heroic statue of Abraham Lincoln at the front of the obelisk. Among the others who spoke briefly at the ceremony was General William T. Sherman of Civil War fame."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

October 14, 1890:

Dwight D. Eisenhower's Birthday

Though born in Dennison, Texas, the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe and the 34th President of the United States grew up in Abilene, Kansas. It turned out to be a good grounding for his illustrious career in the military, capped by a presidency of considerable achievement.

"The sons of David and Ida Eisenhower grew up with an impressive array of skills that included forecasting the weather, telling time from the position of the sun, catching flogs, curing warts, making apple cider, wrestling, and, whenever (albeit rarely) possible, avoiding both work and soap and water," wrote Carlo D'Este in Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life (2004). "Loose teeth were dealt with by pulling out the offending tooth either with their own fingers or by means of a string tied to a doorknob, and fillings were ingredients in pies, not teeth. What they lacked in material wealth they more than made up for in amusements and pranks. Edgar and Dwight were often the center of mischief, such as the occasions when they poured beer into a neighbor's hen to see its reactions or stripped someone's farm wagon and rebuilt it on the roof of their barn.

"Dwight Eisenhower grew up with an affinity for his hometown that he never lost. His two enduring childhood fantasies were being the engineer of a locomotive racing across the plains and arriving in Abilene with its bell clanging, or of being a fearless pitcher striking out the side with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to the cheers of a crowd of five hundred spectators. The Abilene he knew at the turn of the century bore scant resemblance to the onetime Wild West town. One of young Eisenhower's boyhood heroes was Marshal Tom Smith. Not only did in his youth did Eisenhower hear local tales of Smith's courage, but throughout his life he voraciously read stirring Western pulp novels..."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

October 13, 1792:

The White House Begins Construction

The cornerstone of the President's House -- known later the Executive Mansion and later still the White House -- was laid on October 13, 1792, on a site picked by President Washington and the architect of the new capital city, Charles L'Enfant. Irish-born architect James Hoban's design was selected, besting other submissions, including one by Thomas Jefferson.

Washington oversaw the construction, but never lived in the structure. John Adams was the first president to move in, at the end of 1800, though his stay was only until Jefferson became president in March 1801.

According to the White House web site: "...It survived a fire at the hands of the British in 1814 (during the War of 1812) and another fire in the West Wing in 1929, while Herbert Hoover was President. Throughout much of Harry S. Truman’s presidency, the interior of the house, with the exception of the third floor, was completely gutted and renovated while the Trumans lived at Blair House, right across Pennsylvania Avenue. Nonetheless, the exterior stone walls are those first put in place when the White House was constructed two centuries ago.

"... Thomas Jefferson held the first Inaugural open house in 1805. Many of those who attended the swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Capitol simply followed him home, where he greeted them in the Blue Room. President Jefferson also opened the house for public tours, and it has remained open, except during wartime, ever since. In addition, he welcomed visitors to annual receptions on New Year’s Day and on the Fourth of July. In 1829, a horde of 20,000 Inaugural callers forced President Andrew Jackson to flee to the safety of a hotel while, on the lawn, aides filled washtubs with orange juice and whiskey to lure the mob out of the mud-tracked White House.

"After Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, Inaugural crowds became far too large for the White House to accommodate them comfortably. However, not until Grover Cleveland’s first presidency did this unsafe practice change. He held a presidential review of the troops from a flag-draped grandstand built in front of the White House. This procession evolved into the official Inaugural parade we know today. Receptions on New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July continued to be held until the early 1930s..."

Friday, October 12, 2007

October 12, 2007:

Vice Presidents and the Nobel Prize

Al Gore is the second vice president -- among those who were never president as well -- to win the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1925, Charles Dawes, 30th Vice President of the United States (pictured left), won the prize.

According to the Nobel Foundation: "The League of Nations late in 1923 invited Dawes to chair a committee to deal with the question of German reparations. The 'Dawes Report,' submitted in April 1924, provided facts on Germany's budget and resources, outlined measures needed to stabilize the currency, and suggested a schedule of payments on a sliding scale. For his masterly handling of this crucial international problem, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; he donated the money to the endowment of the newly established Walter Hines Page School of International Relations at Johns Hopkins University."

Like Gore, Dawes shared the prize. The other winner that year was British statesman Sir Austen Chamberlain (half-brother of Neville, pictured right), famed for his role in negotiating the Locarno Pact, a series of agreements in 1925 to re-normalize relations between Germany and other European states, among other things.

"After meticulous preparation during the summer of 1925, representatives of seven powers - Great Britain, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Poland, and Czechoslovakia - met at Locarno in southern Switzerland on October 5, 1925," says the Nobel Foundation. "On Chamberlain's birthday, October 16, the foreign ministers initialed the documents known as the Locarno Agreements. Eight treaties or agreements in all, they included the Rhine Guarantee Pact (or Locarno Pact) with Germany, Belgium, France, Great Britain, and Italy as signatories; individual treaties of arbitration between Germany and former enemy nations; guarantee treaties involving France, Poland, and Czechoslovakia; and a collective note on the entry of Germany into the League of Nations."

In short, these two gentlemen greatly helped lay the foundation of a peace in Europe that would last... for a while. Of course, it's easy to say that in hindsight. In 1925, it must have seemed reasonable to honor them with the Peace Prize.

October 11, 1884:

Eleanor Roosevelt's Birthday

The "My Day" column by Mrs. Roosevelt, written less than two weeks after losing her husband:

WASHINGTON, APRIL 21, 1945 - There is always a certain emotional strain about the last time for anything. When you have lived twelve years in a house, even though you have always known that it belonged to the nation, you grow fond of the house itself, and fonder still of all the people connected with your life in that house.

Yesterday the President and Mrs. Truman and Miss Truman lunched here with us and, from then on, I began to do "last things." At four o'clock, I greeted the members of my press conference for the last time. I have always looked out at the Washington Monument from my bedroom window the last thing at night, and the little red light at the top of it has twinkled at me in friendly fashion. That simple shaft, so tall and straight, has often made me feel during this war that, if Washington could be steadfast through Valley Forge, we could be steadfast today in spite of anxiety and sorrow.

Now, I have spent my last night in the White House. I have had my last breakfast on the sun porch. And all today, I shall be saying good-bye to different people who have been loyal and kind and have given all that they could for the success of my husband's Administration or for the comfort and welfare of us all as a family. Yet I cannot feel that it is goodbye for, when you are fond of people, you are sure to meet again.

I wonder if others have been thinking, as I have, of the rather remarkable way in which our people and our government have passed through this major period of change. Ordinarily, when there is a change of administration, there is a period between election and inauguration during which the outgoing president and his family prepare for their departure, while the incoming President and his family prepare to assume their new responsibilities.

Never before has a sudden change of presidents come about during a war. Yet, from the time that Mr. Truman, followed closely by Secretary of State Stettinius, walked into my sitting room and I told them of my husband's death, everything has moved in orderly fashion. There was consternation and grief but, at the same time, courage and confidence in the ability of this country and its people to back new leaders and to carry through the objectives to which the people have pledged themselves.

That this attitude established itself so quickly is a tribute to President Truman, to the members of the Cabinet, and to the Congress. But above all, it is a tribute to the people as a whole and it reaffirms our confidence in the future.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

October 10, 1973:

Agnew Resigns

Spiro Agnew was not, in fact, the first vice president to resign from that office. John C. Calhoun, the Seventh Vice President of the United States, did so toward the end of his second term, after the election of 1832, when his successor -- Martin Van Buren -- had already been selected. Calhoun was one of the great statesmen of his day, and quit the vice presidency after the South Carolina legislature voted to send him to the US Senate. Calhoun, along with his colleagues Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, was one of the "Immortal Trio."

Agnew, by contrast, quit the vice presidency after pleading no contest to a tax evasion charge. It turned out he'd been taking bribes since the early days of his career in Maryland, and continued to do so after becoming vice president.

According to Eyewitness to History: "Lester Matz and John Childs started their Maryland construction company in 1956. Located in Baltimore County, the prospects for their business changed for the better in 1963 when Spiro Agnew took office as County Executive. After an initial meeting with Agnew and a close associate J. Walter Jones, Matz began making payments to Agnew in exchange for receiving county building contracts. The payments equaled 5% of the value of the contract and were always made in cash delivered in an envelope prior to receiving the contract. Matz and Childs contributed significantly to Agnew's 1966 gubernatorial campaign and were rewarded with a continuation of their arraignment with Governor Agnew. The relationship continued when Agnew became Vice President.

"Matz and Childs were targeted early on in the Justice Department investigation of Spiro Agnew. The following is excerpted from the Justice Department transcripts of interviews with Lester Matz. Matz describes receiving a phone call from Agnew's associate J. Walter Jones and subsequently delivering a payment to the Vice President in his office:

" 'Sometime in 1970, or early 1971, Matz received a telephone call from Jones who advised him that there was an upcoming federal job that the Vice-President would control. This job would generate something in the order of $100,000 in fees, and Jones advised Matz that a payment would be necessary. This job was the (blacked out) and Matz wanted it to go to (blacked out). The job was awarded to (blacked out). He then approached his partner in (blacked out) for the purpose of advising him that he (Matz) had committed them to make a 5% payment to Mr. Agnew, (blacked out) finally agreed to contribute $1,000.

'Matz arranged an appointment with Mr. Agnew and Jones in the Vice-President's office in Washington. He then arranged to meet with (blacked out) in Washington just before his appointment with the Vice-President. Matz met with (blacked out) across the street from the EOB (Executive Office Building) and there received from (blacked out) $1,000 in cash. Matz added $1,500 in cash and placed the entire sum in an envelope which he took with him to his meeting with Jones and the Vice-President. (blacked out) has been interviewed and confirms Matz's recollection of these events. We have the check by which he generated the $1,000...' "

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

October 9, 1888:

The Washington Monument Opens to the Public

Those who are distressed about the length of time it's taking to build something at the site of the World Trade Center in New York might take some comfort in the history of monumental structures in this country, which has generally been one of delay. For example, the first model of the Statue of Liberty was completed by Bartholdi as early as 1870 for a statue due by 1876, in time for the US Centennial; it was completed only in 1886.

The Washington Monument in Washington DC had an even longer gestation. According to the National Park Service, "... its construction took place in two major phases, 1848-56, and 1876-84--the Civil War and a lack of funds causing the intermittent hiatus. Plans for a national monument began as early as 1783 when Major Pierre Charles L'Enfant proposed to Congress that an equestrian statue of George Washington be erected. Although the Monument was authorized by Congress, no action was taken by the time Washington died in 1799.

"His death rekindled public aspiration for an appropriate memorial to him, and John Marshall proposed that a special sepulcher be erected for the General within the Capitol itself. Lack of funds postponed construction, but Marshall persevered, and in 1833 he and James Madison formed the Washington National Monument Society. By 1836 the Society advertised for competitive architectural designs. The winning architect was Robert Mills, whose design called for a neoclassical plan which provided for a nearly-flat-topped obelisk surrounded by a circular colonnade on which would stand a statue of Washington in a chariot. Inside the colonnade statues of 30 prominent Revolutionary War heroes would be displayed.

"In an elaborate Fourth of July ceremony in 1848, the cornerstone was laid. Lack of funds and the illegal election which placed the Washington Monument Society in the hands of the Know-Nothings, a political party, caused delays. After the Know Nothings returned all records to the original society in 1858, the Civil War interrupted construction. When Lt. Col. Thomas L. Casey, Mills' successor, resumed the project in 1876, he redesigned the monument to resemble an unadorned Egyptian obelisk with a pointed pyramidion. The original design was greatly altered, producing an unembellished obelisk. The Corps of Engineers of the War Department was placed in charge of the final construction, and the monument was dedicated on February 21, 1885, and opened to the public on October 9, 1888."

Interestingly, there are other Washington monuments -- the first of which was in rural Maryland, completed in 1827 and rebuilt a few times since then. See the Maryland DNR for more information on that monument.

Monday, October 08, 2007

October 8, 1944:

Wendell Willkie Dies

Dark-horse Republican presidential nominee Wendell Willkie, who died at age 52 of heart disease on this day in 1944, did not nurse any resentment to the man who had defeated him, Franklin Roosevelt. According to Willkie's great-nephew Timothy D. Walker, writing on his web site about him: "Willkie's lasting service to the nation, however, came after his defeat, and after America's entry into World War II. Almost immediately after the election, Willkie made it clear to Roosevelt that he would support the administration's war efforts... [presumably he means war preparedness efforts at that time.]

"In August 1942, FDR asked Willkie to make an airplane flight around the world as his special envoy to show the world that although America was engaged in a vigorous political debate at home, she was united in her desire to combat fascism throughout the world. What better way to do so, Willkie and FDR reasoned, than to have the President's political opponent make a goodwill tour of America's allies. Willkie's 50-day trip included stops at battle zones in Africa, the Soviet Union and China, which he reported on in a radio speech to the nation soon after he returned and in a best-selling book, One World, published in 1943. This highly influential book made a convincing plea for post-war international cooperation and solidified Willkie's role as a major force in American politics.

"Willkie also devoted much of his energy during this period promoting civil rights and civil liberties. A consistent theme of One World and Willkie's later writings was the idea that America wouldn't be able to oppose colonialism in the post-war period until she first ended her own colonial attitudes toward her racial minorities... And in late 1942, Willkie went before the Supreme Court to defended a member of the Communist Party in a landmark case regarding civil liberties (Schneiderman v. United States). Willkie won the case, but lost much political support for having defended a communist. In this regard, Willkie said: 'Those who rejoice in denying justice to one they hate, pave the way to a denial of justice for someone they love.'

"Wendell L. Willkie died... just a year and a half after the publication of One World and shortly after a failed attempt to capture the 1944 GOP presidential nomination. A thought Willkie expressed in a letter to a friend shortly before he died captures much of what the man stood for. Willkie wrote, 'If I could write my own epitaph and if I had to choose between saying, "Here lies an unimportant President," or "Here lies one who contributed to saving freedom at a moment of great peril," I would prefer the latter.' "

Sunday, October 07, 2007

October 7, 1888:

Henry Wallace's Birthday

Iowa farm boy, newspaperman, agriculturalist, secretary of commerce and agriculture, and 1948 Progressive Party presidential candidate Henry Agard Wallace, who along the way was 33rd Vice President of the United States, was born this day in 1888. He died in 1965.

He made enemies among the upper reaches of the Democratic Party, and alienated President Roosevelt as well, so he lost his slot on the ticket in 1944 -- a shift that led to Harry Truman's accession to the White House instead. The Progressive Party was formed to run Wallace in the 1948 election. Wallace and his running mate Sen. Glen Taylor of Idaho polled about 1.15 million votes, only slightly fewer than Dixiecrats Strom Thurmond and Fielding Wright, but because of the structure of the electoral college, the Progressives got no electoral votes, while the Dixiecrats got 39.

His most famous speech, which he expanded into a book, came in 1942 when, as vice president, he spoke to the Free World Association in New York. "Some have spoken of the 'American Century,'" Wallace said. "I say that the century on which we are entering — the century which will come out of this war — can be and must be the century of the common man. Perhaps it will be America's opportunity to suggest that Freedoms and duties by which the common man must live. Everywhere the common man must learn to build his own industries with his own hands is a practical fashion.

"Everywhere the common man must learn to increase his productivity so that he and his children can eventually pay to the world community all that they have received. No nation will have the God-given right to exploit other nations. Older nations will have the privilege to help younger nations get started on the path to industrialization, but there must be neither military nor economic imperialism. The methods of the nineteenth century will not work in the people's century which is now about to begin. India, China, and Latin America have a tremendous stake in the people's century. As their masses learn to read and write, and as they become productive mechanics, their standard of living will double and treble. Modern science, when devoted whole-heartedly to the general welfare, has in it potentialities of which we do not yet dream.

"... Cartels in the peace to come must be subjected to international control for the common man, as well as being under adequate control by the respective home governments. In this way, we can prevent the Germans from again building a war machine while we sleep. With international monopoly pools under control, it will be possible for inventions to serve all the people instead of only a few.

"Yes, and when the time of peace comes, the citizen will again have a duty, the supreme duty of sacrificing the lesser interest for the greater interest of the general welfare. Those who write the peace must think of the whole world. There can be no privileged peoples. We ourselves in the United States are no more a master race than the Nazis. And we can not perpetuate economic warfare without planting the seeds of military warfare. We must use our power at the peace table to build an economic peace that is just, charitable and enduring."

Saturday, October 06, 2007

October 6, 1976:

Ford Misspeaks

In the second presidential debate of the 1976 election, held 31 years ago today, President Gerald Ford made a gaffe that hasn't yet been forgotten. In a discussion of US-Soviet relations, New York Times associate editor Max Frankel asked the president whether the Russians had gotten the better deal with the signing of the Helsinki Accords the previous year, which essentially confirmed the boundaries of Eastern Europe that had been drawn by Stalin a generation earlier.

MR. FRANKEL: Mr. President, I'd like to explore a little more deeply our relationship with the Russians. They used to brag back in Khrushchev's day that because of their greater patience and because of our greed for - for business deals that they would sooner or later get the better of us... We've virtually signed, in Helsinki, an agreement that the Russians have dominance in Eastern Europe... Is that what you call a two-way street of traffic in Europe?

MR. FORD: I believe that we have negotiated with the Soviet Union since I've been president from a position of strength. And let me cite several examples.... If we turn to Helsinki - I'm glad you raised it, Mr. Frankel. In the case of Helsinki, 35 nations signed an agreement, including the secretary of state for the Vatican - I can't under any circumstances believe that His Holiness the Pope would agree by signing that agreement that the 35 nations have turned over to the Warsaw Pact nations the domination of Eastern Europe. It just isn't true. And if Mr. Carter alleges that His Holiness by signing that has done it, he is totally inaccurate. Now, what has been accomplished by the Helsinki agreement? Number one, we have an agreement where they notify us and we notify them of any military maneuvers that are to be be undertaken. They have done it. In both cases where they've done so, there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration.

MR. FRANKEL: I'm sorry, I - could I just follow - did I understand you to say, sir, that the Russians are not using Eastern Europe as their own sphere of influence in occupying most of the countries there and making sure with their troops that it's a Communist zone, whereas on our side of the line the Italians and the French are still flirting with the possibility of Communism?

MR. FORD: I don't believe, Mr. Frankel, that the Yugoslavians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don't believe that the Romanians consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. I don't believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union. Each of those countries is independent, autonomous: it has its own territorial integrity and the United States does not concede that those countries are under the domination of the Soviet Union. As a matter of fact, I visited Poland, Yugoslavia and Romania to make certain that the people of those countries understood that the president of the United States and the people of the United States are dedicated to their independence, their autonomy and their freedom.

With his response to the follow-up question, Ford ignored the maxim about what to do when you're in a hole -- namely, quit digging any deeper. Years later, when there really was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe -- no Soviets at all, for that matter -- Ford told Jim Lehrer of PBS that "there's no question I did not adequately explain what I was thinking. I felt very strongly, and I, of course, do so today, that regardless of the number of Soviet armored divisions in Poland, the Russians would never dominate the Polish spirit. That's what I should have said. I simply left out the fact that at that time in 1976, the Russians had about 10 to 15 divisions in Poland. Well, of course the presence of those divisions indicates a domination physically of the Poles, but despite that military occupation of Poland by the Soviets, it never in any way ever destroyed the strong, nationalistic spirit of the Polish people... I get a little satisfaction that maybe I was right in 1976."