When in doubt Whig it out: 7 of America’s most forgotten presidents

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Though students taking AP U.S. History will likely forget all the presidents in the next few weeks, the legacy of even the most obscure presidents must never be forgotten. Unfortunately, history has not looked kindly on some of our country’s leaders, and many are merely an emboldened term in the history textbook. Despite this, it is important that all Americans know the wide variety of men who have held the highest office in the land, regardless of name recognition.
John Tyler (10th: 1841-1845) – Vice president from March 1841 to April 1841 under President William Henry Harrison, Tyler became the first person to assume the office of the presidency after his boss died of pneumonia due to not wearing a coat while giving the longest inauguration in American history. He quickly became known as “His Accidency” because no one truly wanted to serve. The second member of the Whig Party to serve as president, Tyler abandoned his party’s philosophy and became a member of the Confederate House of Representatives following his exit from office in 1845. Tyler played a crucial role in the annexation of Texas. “I think John Tyler gets a bad rap,” senior Sophie Lin said. “He wasn’t all that bad.”
Zachary Taylor (12th: 1849-1850) – The first person with no prior political experience to become president, Taylor was a Whig who became known thanks to his military leadership in the Battle of Palo Alto and the Battle of Monterrey during the annexation of Texas. Taylor urged for statehood for New Mexico and California, but died of a stomach-related illness in 1850, before having the chance to accomplish most of his policy goals.
Millard Fillmore (13th: 1850-1853) – The final president of the Whig Party, Fillmore was Taylor’s vice president from 1849-1850, becoming president after his death. Although he was an anti-slavery president, Fillmore opposed abolitionist requests to stop slavery from spreading to the new territories. He became known for foreign policy, supporting trade with the Japanese and criticizing French control of Hawaii. His legacy was tarnished after losing on an anti-Catholic ticket in 1856. He also bears a startling resemblance to Alec Baldwin.
Chester A. Arthur (21st: 1881-1885) – After the assassination of President James A. Garfield in 1881, Arthur primarily oversaw the implementation of civil service reform, vastly changing the bureaucracy’s ability to function, and dealt with a federal budget surplus as well. Aside from that, Arthur did little to make a significant policy impact.
Benjamin Harrison (23rd: 1889-1893) – The grandson of the ninth president, Harrison made economic reform in the progressive era a major priority. Harrison signed into law the Sherman Antitrust Act, preventing monopolies in the private sector. He also saw the McKinley Tariff take effect and advocated for better voting rights enforcement for African Americans.
Calvin Coolidge (30th: 1923-1929) – Coolidge was responsible for ensuring that faith was restored in the White House after the embarrassing tenure of his predecessor, Warren G. Harding. His laissez-faire policies are to this day hailed by conservatives, and he left office one of the most popular presidents of the 20th century, due to the prosperity of the 1920s.
Gerald Ford (38th: 1974-1977) – Like Calvin Coolidge, Ford was forced to restore faith in the presidency after the shameful events of the Watergate scandal. He is mainly known for his pardon of President Richard Nixon in 1974 and for being forced to deal with the stagflation of the mid-1970s. He presided over the American bicentennial in 1976, but lost to Jimmy Carter in the election of that year in the closest election.

 

Matthew Klein

Features Editor