Friday, August 28, 2009

BFFs: James and William, Etc

I'd like to give a shout-out to James Buchanan. Our 15th president, and often thought by historians to be one of the worst presidents we've ever had, he was also the only American president who was perpetually single. In fact, he had to enlist his niece to act as his First Lady (I had no idea that First Ladies were so integral to a presidency. Apparently someone has to entertain visiting dignitaries and do "advocacy work" that is important yet no one takes seriously. While Buchanan may not have been all that popular, his niece, Harriet, was-- the 19th century equivalent to Jackie Kennedy). I found this story about Buchanan's own BFF, related on Wikipedia, to be quite sweet:

For 15 years in Washington DC prior to his presidency, Buchanan lived with his close friend, Alabama Senator William Rufus King. King became Vice President under Franklin Pierce. He took ill and died shortly after Pierce's inauguration, and four years before Buchanan became President...Buchanan and King's nieces destroyed their uncles' correspondence, leaving some questions as to what relationship the two men had, but the length and intimacy of surviving letters illustrate "the affection of a special friendship" and Buchanan wrote of his "communion" with his housemate.

Even though such expressions of emotion were more common for male friends back then, it seems like even the press at that time wondered if they might have been gay. What the story of Buchanan makes me think of (in a personal, rather than political sense) is that yes, there are a lot of situations where it might be easier or preferable to have a partner or a spouse. But even in those instances, things can still be worked out if you're single. Your friends, family and associates can help you through-- even if they only nominate you for the presidency because you were out of the country when a polarizing conflict occurred. Oh well!

And, here's some more random fun with presidents. When I was in high school, I had, like most of you Americans, a boring US History class. Right above the blackboard (or was it a whiteboard?) were portraits of every US president at the time. I played a game with myself in which I tried to figure out what president was the most attractive. I remember choosing Franklin Pierce. I don't remember what he looked like, so I found a picture:

Also a pretty crappy president (our 14th), he was one of the few not old enough to be my grandfather. Historical accounts praise his "good looks", so maybe I can call them afterall. A notorious alcoholic, he reportedly stated that "There's nothing left to do but get drunk!" and died of cirrhosis. Fun dude. I find it interesting, looking back, how my choice was not influenced by "common opinions" of which president was most attractive, such as Bill Clinton or JFK (this was before Obama). No, I had to scrutinize every one and make my own choice, esoteric as it may be, to go with what little gut instinct I had in the matter.

(Thank you to Lia for answering my question: "Have we ever had a single president?")


heidi said...

This post made me wayyy too happy! <3 the history =)

Ily said...

Yay! It's a crime that high school history is so boring-- it covers some pretty fascinating stuff.

heidi said...

Indeed, high school history teachers seem to be coaches and think that history is dead - but it repeats itself in SO many ways. Cough, government stupidity, cough. Even in college it's the students who fail to soak up the instructor's enthusiasm... making the class still suck. Sigh.

Noskcaj Llahsram said...

I can't believe it took you guy 14 presidents to get a drunk, we had one out of the gate, Sir John A MacDonald, he was suck a drunk that on one legendary instance (and I say so be cause its too awesome to have actually happened)he was participating in a pre election debate, on a hot summer day, while hammered, got up for his rebuttal and said "This is wait I have to say about my honourable opponent's [plan, points? I don't remember, not important]" then proceeded to vomit on to the crowd, then turn and vomit on his opponent, then pass out. At least that's the story I was always told in school. And we still elected him! Also we've only had 22 Prime Ministers