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5 Interesting Facts About The U.S. Presidency

A few lesser known historical tidbits about the highest office in the land.

By Isa NanPublished 2 years ago 7 min read
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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Since 1789, 46 individuals have been able to lay claim to the title of President of the United States of America. A line of leaders that has remained unbroken for the past 233 years, we have seen our fair share of characters in office.

Throughout the years, there have been Presidents who were universally beloved or reviled, a few more polarizing individuals and even some that have disappeared into the annals of history and away from popular view.

In this list, we won’t take a look at any particular Presidents but rather a few lesser known (especially for those outside the States) historical facts about the role itself. Without further ado, here are 5 interesting facts about the Presidency of America.

#5. The Shortest Presidency in US History

William Henry Harrison’s 31 days in office was a result of the President giving an extremely long inaugural address in poor weather. He would catch pneumonia and die just a month into office. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Even those outside the US are aware of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (D-New York) unprecedented and irreplaceable four terms as President. Serving as America’s leader for over 12 years, his run in office is known both for its length and the eventful happenings which took place at the time.

What is lesser known however is the shortest tenured Presidency. Spending just 31 days in office, William Henry Harrison’s (W-Indiana) tenure as President remains to this day the shortest time a person has spent as President of the United States.

The reason for this short run mainly boils down to an unfortunate case of health problems and some admittedly poor judgment on the part of Harrison himself. After successfully claiming the Presidency, the incoming Commander-In-Chief gave his inauguration speech as was the norm of anyone who was recently elected to office.

However, two things had not been taken into consideration. Firstly, was the cold and rainy weather that plagued the crowd on inauguration day. Secondly, was the sheer length of Harrison’s speech. Recognized as the longest inaugural address in US history, Harrison delivered his entire 8445 word speech in the inhospitable weather without an umbrella, hat or coat to protect him.

The exceptionally chilly weather and remarkably long speech would soon prove to be a deadly combination for the new President. Harrison would fall sick a short time later but continued to work and take walks in the rain until his illness escalated into pneumonia. He would succumb to this disease having served an uneventful one month as leader.

#4. The Unelected Presidents

Known as an “Accidental President” Gerald Ford is the only person to have never been elected to either the Vice-Presidency or Presidency. Instead, he assumed both roles when the previous VP and President resigned. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Hailed as one of the world’s most democratic nations, America does have a reputation for being the land of the free. Among its many freedoms, America allows its people to choose their own leaders in free and fair elections. However, a number of Presidents have assumed office without being voted in at all.

In total, 10 out of America’s 46 Presidents ascended to the position without winning an election. In the vast majority of these cases, these men had been serving as Vice-President and were elevated to the Presidency upon either the death or resignation of their predecessors. The Vice-President is only indirectly elected by virtue of being the running mate of the actual candidate who is actually elected into office. Thus, they are not recognised as having been formally voted into the White House.

These Presidents are John Tyler (D-Virginia), Millard Fillmore (W-New York), Andrew Johnson (D-Tennessee), Chester A. Arthur (R-New York), Theodore Roosevelt (R-New York), Calvin Coolidge (R-Massachusetts), Harry S. Truman (D-Missouri), Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas), and Gerald R. Ford (R-Michigan.

It should be noted however that Roosevelt, Coolidge, and Truman won re-election to serve subsequent terms. Interestingly, Gerald Ford is the only president to have not been elected to either the Presidency or Vice-Presidency, having assumed both roles thanks to the resignations of Vice President Spiro Agnew (R-Maryland) and President Richard M. Nixon (R-California) respectively.

John Quincy Adams (R-Massachusetts), stands in a category of his own as being the only President to be elected by the House of Representatives. In the 1824 Presidential Election, no definitive winner could be decided and the Electoral College failed to reach a conclusive decision as to the results.

Thus, the winner was chosen from among the top three candidates of the Election by a vote in the House of Representatives. Eventually, the majority elected Adams and he ascended to the Presidency.

It should be noted that although these individuals were not directly voted into office, their appointments were made in line with the laws of the US. A Vice President can succeed a President who resigns or dies in office as per the Presidential Line of Succession. Also, John Quincy Adams’ appointment was in line with the 12th Amendment. Thus, these appointments were still made through lawful and democratic channels.

#3. The President Who Served Non-Consecutive Terms

Having lost an Election in 1889, Grover Cleveland re-took office in 1893, becoming the only person in history to become a two-time American President. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Although it is commonly believed that America has had 46 Presidents, the reality is that only 45 men have laid claim to the White House. The reason for this being that one of these men served two separate terms as President.

Grover Cleveland (D-New York) is known for being America’s only nonconsecutive two-term President, having served one term from 1885–1889 and his second term from 1893–1897. The fact that his terms were not served consecutively has earned him the title of America’s 22nd and 24th President.

Before America’s 22nd Amendment was enacted in 1947, there was no limit to how long an individual could serve as President. As long as they could win an election every four years, they could carry on for as long as they were able. A person who was previously voted out of office could also run again and reclaim the Presidency even if they had been defeated before. Grover Cleveland is the only President in history to have been able to mount a successful comeback to the White House.

Today, a person can only serve as President for a maximum of two terms spanning four years each. However, if they are removed from office or voted out during or at the end of their first term, they can still stand for election in order to serve a second non-consecutive term. Currently, this option is only available to two men; Jimmy Carter (D-Georgia) and Donald J. Trump Sr (R-Florida).

#2. Presidential Relatives

George H.W Bush and George W. Bush were the second of two father-son duos to become President. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Over the years, a number of former Presidents have been notably related to one another. Be it due to their esteemed political pedigrees or the individual strengths of two people who happened to be related, the American people have elected Presidents who were related to their predecessors on a number of occasions.

The first such instance of this was when John Quincy Adams took office in 1825. Adams, who was the sixth President, was the son of John Adams (F-Massachusetts), America’s second President. This made them the first of two father-son duos to ascend to the highest office in the land.

Over a century and a half later in 2000, George W. Bush (R-Texas) became the second son of a former President to take office himself. Serving as America’s 43rd President, Bush was the son of America’s 41st President, George H.W. Bush (R-Texas). Unlike the Adams’, the elder Bush remained alive throughout his son’s entire two terms in office.

Aside from fathers and sons, there has also been one grandfather and grandson to have served as President. America’s 23rd President Benjamin Harrison (R-Indiana) who served from 1889 to 1893, was the grandson of the country’s shortest reigning President, William Henry Harrison (W-Indiana) . Unlike his grandfather’s month-long reign, the younger Harrison managed one full term in office.

He is also known for being the only President to have defeated and been defeated by the same person. Having defeated Grover Cleveland (D-New York)in 1889, Harrison would later lose to Cleveland in 1893.

More distant Presidential relatives include James Madison (R-Virginia) and Zachary Taylor (W-Louisiana). America’s 4th and 12th US Presidents were second cousins as Madison’s paternal grandmother and Taylor’s paternal grandfather were siblings.

Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt also shared a unique relationship. Already fifth cousins who shared a common ancestor and family name, FDR would marry Theodore’s niece, Eleanor and bring the relationship between the two branches of their family closer still.

Interestingly, Andrew Johnson (D-Tennessee) and Lyndon B. Johnson(D-Texas) are the only two Presidents to not be related despite sharing a common last name. We have also seen relatives like siblings and spouses of former Presidents trying and failing to claim the White House for themselves. These people have included Robert Kennedy, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.

#1. Not All Presidents Were Democrats or Republicans

Although Republicans and Democrats have dominated American politics for close to two centuries, not every President came from these parties. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Throughout modern American history, two parties have long dominated the country’s political scene. These parties being the Democrats and Republicans. While there have been third parties like the Green Party and other smaller, independent political groups, they have failed to make as big a splash as the iconic red and blue parties.

Thus, it would be surprising to note that quite a number of Former Presidents did not belong to either the Democrats or Republicans. After all, the Democratic Party as we know it today was only founded in 1824 while the current Republican Party was founded in 1854. So, many of America’s earlier Presidents belonged to other, lesser known parties.

America’s first President George Washington is the only President to have taken office as an Independent with no particular political alignment. His successor John Adams is also the only member of the Federalist Party to become President. Following this, two more prominent parties began to take shape.

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and John Quincy Adams (America’s third to sixth Presidents) served consecutively under the Republican or Democratic-Republican Party. America’s seventh President, Andrew Jackson, became the country’s first Democratic President.

Before the Republican party came to form, the other big American political party were the Whigs. In total, there were four Whig Presidents. These were William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore. Following Fillmore’s tenure, American politics became primarily dominated by the Democrats and Republicans in a style similar to what we see today.

However, President Abraham Lincoln (R-Illinois) and Andrew Johnson (D-Tennessee) were elected on the National Union Party ticket in 1864. The National Union Party was a coalition of Republicans and pro-war Democrats formed to elect Lincoln during the Civil War.

This makes Johnson who succeeded Lincoln in 1865, the last President not to be elected as a Democrat or a Republican. Although Johnson considered himself a Democrat.

Historical
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About the Creator

Isa Nan

Written accounts of life, death and everything in between

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