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Know Your Presidents! 11 and 18

It's that time again! You've had some five days to digest four more presidential numbers, 9, 22, 24, and 33. That's on top of numbers 1, 2, 3, 12, and 14 and 16, 31, and 35. Put another way, that's:

1. George Washington
2. John Adams
3. Thomas Jefferson
9. William Henry Harrison
12. Zachary Taylor
14. Franklin Pierce
16. Abraham Lincoln
22. Grover Cleveland
24. Grover Cleveland
31. Herbert Hoover
33. Harry Truman
35. John F. Kennedy

Right. I know that if you're reading this in RSS it won't work, but for those of you who are at the site, if you select the line the presidential answer will be revealed to you. Try it. If you know all of those you're ready to add numbers 11 and 18:

11. James K. Polk: There are twelve egg yolks in a dozen, right? But if you replace one yolk with a POLK there are only ELEVEN. (Corny? Stupid? Sure.)

18. Ulysses S. Grant: The U.S. GRANTS citizens the right to vote at the age of EIGHTEEN.

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Did you know that They Might Be Giants wrote a song about James K. Polk?

In 1844, the Democrats were split
The three nominees for the presidential candidate
Were Martin Van Buren, a former president and an abolitionist
James Buchanan, a moderate
Louis Cass, a general and expansionist
From Nashville came a dark horse riding up
He was James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

Austere, severe, he held few people dear
His oratory filled his foes with fear
The factions soon agreed
He's just the man we need
To bring about victory
Fulfill our manifest destiny
And annex the land the Mexicans command
And when the votes were cast the winner was
Mister James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

In four short years he met his every goal
He seized the whole southwest from Mexico
Made sure the tarriffs fell
And made the English sell the Oregon territory
He built an independent treasury
Having done all this he sought no second term
But precious few have mourned the passing of
Mister James K. Polk, our eleventh president
Young Hickory, Napoleon of the Stump

You can download it from iTunes.


Wow. That's impressive. I guess *you* won't be forgetting that Polk was number 11!


Garrison Keillor recently wrote that George W. Bush was in competition with Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan and Warren G. Harding for All-Time Worst President. I'm aware that Harding's administration was wracked by scandal, but I know almost nothing about Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. Keillor must really dislike them to compare them to President Bush.


James Buchanan was president before Lincoln. He did nothing to prevent the Civil War from starting and may have even approved of succession. Buchanan personally lobbied the Supreme Court to approve what became the Dred Scott decision. He pushed Kansas to join the Union as a slave state, infuriating Northerners. He then spent the government into deficit leading to the Republicans gaining control of the House in the second half of his term. From that point on, Buchanan failed to get a single important bill passed. When Southern states started leaving the Union, he did nothing to prevent it. His inaction led to every major fort (other than Fort Sumter) falling to the South and 25% of all Federal troops captured.

Pierce's list of bad decisions is extensive. Pierce's presidency probably caused the Civil War and the hundreds of thousands of deaths associated with it. First he tossed aside the Missouri Compromise. Next, he approved the Kansas-Nebraska Act which led to a low level civil war in Kansas between pro and anti-slavery factions. And to top it off he approved the Ostend Manifesto which called for the taking over of Cuba as a pro-slave territory. Pierce did his best to extend slavery in the US which led directly to the creation of the Republican Party to end slavery.

George W. is an amateur compared to Pierce and Buchanan. The Civil War led to almost 1,000,000 casualties (3% of the US population). Bush has a long way to go to kill that many Americans.

Misc: Pierce was an alcoholic and died of cirrhosis of the liver. He once ran over an old woman while driving his carriage drunk. So he is our first president with a DUI.

Buchanan was the only US president never to be married. He was engaged but his fiancee broke off their engagement and then committed suicide. He may been gay as he was often referred to as being a homosexual during his life (Andrew Jackson called him "Miss Nancy", a derogatory term for a homosexual). He lived with a Senator from Alabama (William Rufus King) and they shared the same bed for 16 years. King died before Buchanan became president.


Really interesting historical background, Tom! I think, though, that the sharing of a bed with another of the same sex was very common in those days. I've heard Lincoln did the same. While Buchanan may have been homosexual I don't think the quaint sleeping arrangements are enough to make the case. (And you didn't try to make the case - I realize that.) Very, very interesting details. Thanks!


It is interesting to watch old Laurel and Hardy movies. They too regularly slept in the same bed, and we noticed in one movie, if I remember correctly, that they slept in the same bed even when there were two to be had.

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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Reading Herodotus: A Guided Tour through the Wild Boars, Dancing Suitors, and Crazy Tyrants of The History. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

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