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August 2014




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Aug. 27th, 2014

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President Lyndon Johnson

On this date in 1908, Lyndon Baines Johnson was born in Johnson City, Texas. In 1960, he lost the Democratic Presidential nomination to John Kennedy, but then Kennedy chose Johnson as his running mate. They went on the win the election, and in November 1963, Kennedy was assassinated and Johnson, the 37th Vice President, became the 36th President. He won his own term in 1964, served four years, and died in January 1973. Johnson was Senate Majority Leader from 1955 until 1961, leaving the post to become Vice President (a move which he said was a big step down). As a member of the House of Representatives (he served in the House from 1937 to 1949), Johnson was one of several Congressmen to join the military after the outbreak of World War II. While in uniform, he served as a roving inspector for President Roosevelt, until Roosevelt recalled all serving Congressmen, telling them their services were more required in Washington than in the war.
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Vice President Charles G. Dawes

On this date in 1865, 30th Vice President Charles G. Dawes was born in Marietta, Ohio. Following Warren Harding's death in 1923, Vice President Calvin Coolidge became President. In the election of 1924, Coolidge won his own term, with Dawes as his Vice Presidential running mate. They retired in 1929, and Dawes died in 1951. Dawes was a banker, and Comptroller of the Currency from 1898 to 1901, but he left the Treasury Department to run for a Senate seat in 1902. He lost that election, and declared himself finished with politics. In 1921, he was appointed the first Director of the Bureau of the Budget. In 1923, as a member of the Allied Reparations Commission (following World War I), he helped design the Dawes Plan (a program to enable Germany to restore and stabilize its economy). The plan was later deemed unworkable, and replaced, but before then, Dawes shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925, the only Vice President to win one (and that, before he was Vice President).
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Vice President Hannibal Hamlin

On this date in 1809, 15th Vice President Hannibal Hamlin was born in Paris, Maine. A few months younger than Abraham Lincoln, he was Lincoln's running mate in 1860. Lincoln dropped him from the ticket in 1864 in favor of southern Democrat Andrew Johnson, who had stayed loyal to the Union. Hamlin died on July 4, 1891. Hamlin has the distinction of being the only President or Vice President to serve in the military during his term of office: for a few months in 1864, he enlisted in the Maine Coast Guard. He wasn't even an officer, just an enlisted man, a cook, and though he didn't see any action, he did serve.

Aug. 26th, 2014

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Cabinet: James Wilson

On this date in 1920, ten days after his 85th birthday, James Wilson died. Wilson was born in Scotland, and in 1897, President William McKinley appointed him the 4th Secretary of Agriculture. Following McKinley's assassination, Theodore Roosevelt kept him on in the post. After Roosevelt's term, William Howard Taft took office, and kept Wilson as SecAg. Taft and Secretary Wilson left office on March 4, 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson took office. James Wilson's sixteen years in his post make him the longest-serving Cabinet Secretary in US history.

Aug. 25th, 2014

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Supreme Court: Lewis F. Powell

On this date in 1998, Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr., died at the age of 90 years, 340 days. He had been a retired Supreme Court Associate Justice for 11 years, and is number eight on the list of longest-lived Justices. When Richard Nixon appointed him to the Court (he took his seat on January 7, 1972), he was the third oldest to be appointed to the Court.
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Presidential parents: George Washington

On this date in 1789, a few months after George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States, his mother, 81-year-old Mary Ball Washington, died.

Aug. 24th, 2014

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George Washington's Rules of Civility

Before he was President of the United States, before he was a military tactician leading his nation to independence, before he was a surveyor or an officer in the French and Indian War, George Washington was a school boy, just like millions of his fellows then and now. And as a school boy, one of his assigned tasks was hand copying a list of 110 "Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation." Based on a 16th-century set of precepts compiled for young gentlemen by Jesuit instructors, the Rules of Civility were one of the earliest and most powerful forces to shape America's first president.

Most of the Rules are concerned with details of etiquette, offering pointers on such issues as how to dress, walk, eat in public, and address one's superiors. But these maxims are much more than "mere" etiquette; they address moral issues, but indirectly. They seek to form the inner man (or boy) by shaping the outer.

Gray Rabbit Publications is proud to present a modern printing of the Rules. This volume, which Moncure D. Conway compiled a century and a half after Washington wrote them, are taken from his original papers. Conway's research resulted in a collection that includes not only 110 maxims, but their histories and origins as well. His detailed introduction also offers a view into how these Rules made their way into young Washington's life. He also explains the import of this volume, writing "I am no worshipper of Washington. But in the hand of that man of strong brain and powerful passions once lay the destiny of the New World, in a sense, human destiny. But for his possession of the humility and self-discipline underlying his Rules of Civility, the ambitious politicians of the United States might to-day be popularly held to a much lower standard."

More than a century ago, Conway also expressed the desire that "the time is not far distant when in every school right rules of civility will be taught as a main part of the curriculum." We can still hope.

For more information, see this page.

Aug. 23rd, 2014

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Cabinet: William Bradford

On this date in 1795, second Attorney General William Bradford died in office (he'd taken over in January 1794). Only 39 years 343 days old when he died, his is the second-shortest lifespan of any Cabinet Secretary.

In August 1791, while he was the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Bradford represented General William West in arguing the first case the Supreme Court heard, West v Barnes (the Court ruled for Barnes).

Aug. 22nd, 2014

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Presidential wedding anniversary: the Grants

On this date in 1848, Julia Boggs Dent married Ulysses Grant after a four-year engagement (during which time they'd seen each other only once; he was busy fighting the Mexican-American War). They were married on the same plantation where she had been born, though neither set of parents approved of the match (her parents didn't want her to marry a career Army officer, fearing for his future prospects; his were against marrying into a slave-holding family).

The Grants had four children in the next ten years, endured his unsuccessful attempts at earning a living in the private sector, survived another several years of war, and then moved into the White House in early 1869.

He died a scant eight years after retiring from the Presidency; she lived on until 1902. In his retirement, after much travel, he buckled down and wrote his memoirs, in the hopes they would provide sufficient income for his family (after the Presidency, Grant once again tried his hand in the private sector, and again wound up broke). Mark Twain gave Grant a generous advance for the book, and that money, combined with Julia's widow's pension, provided for her. After his death, she became the first First Lady to write her own memoirs, The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant (Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant), but she was unable to find a publisher for them. The book languished until Putnam took a chance and published it in 1975. Southern Illinois University Press republished the book in 1988.

Aug. 21st, 2014

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Cabinet/President Herbert Hoover

On this date in 1928, after winning the Republican nomination for President, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover resigned from the Cabinet. He had been the third to hold the post, from March 5, 1921, under Presidents Harding and Coolidge. Less than four months after his resignation, he was elected the 31st President. He is the eighth, and to date last, Cabinet Secretary to later become President. Six previous Presidents had been Secretary of State, and one Secretary of War.

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