Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
Posts tagged "History"
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Why do presidents swear on the Bible?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:


However, the quick answer, which is not nearly as interesting as the question is this: We don’t know.

It’s largely due to tradition. George Washington placed his hand on the Bible while taking the oath of office and most of his successors followed suit. As President, Washington’s major contribution was setting precedent after precedent, which helped shape the Presidency into the position that it became. Some of those precedents were common sense; some of them were necessary for a brand-new federal government of a brand-new country; but some of them were choices that George Washington made because he had his own personal style of governing and a strict set of beliefs when it came to honor and respect. John Adams was famously trying to figure out which grandiose title was most deserved and fit best with the man, the position, and the times, but it was Washington who shut down the discussion and said that he’d be referred to as “Mr. President” and nothing more, and that’s how that tradition was born.

After two terms as President, Washington could have continued in office until the day that he died, but he recognized the importance of civilian leadership in a democratic republic returning to civilian life and went home to Mount Vernon after two four-year terms as President. That began another tradition — the two-term tradition that was rarely challenged by Washington’s successors. Ulysses S. Grant sought renomination for a third term as President, but the strength of Washington’s two-term tradition made it difficult for Grant’s candidacy to gain any traction. It wasn’t until 1940 when someone — Franklin D. Roosevelt — did break the two-term tradition, but the country was working its way out of the Great Depression and American involvement in World War II was on the horizon, so voters stuck with FDR and elected him to an unprecedented third term (and then a fourth in 1940). But Washington’s two-term tradition was so highly-regarded that FDR’s decision to run for a third (and the fourth) was controversial and became a campaign issue; Roosevelt even received flak from his fellow Democrats. Two years after FDR died (in office early in his fourth term), Congress passed the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, making Washington’s two-term tradition into law, and it was ratified in 1951.

With the Presidential oath of office, there are few definite requirements, and a bunch of long-standing traditions that, again, mainly started with George Washington, like the placing of the hand on the Bible. Nothing requires Presidents to swear their oath on the Bible. John Quincy Adams didn’t swear the oath on the Bible at all. In fact, JQA took his oath in a way that I think is much more powerful than using a Bible — he placed his hand on a book of U.S. laws to represent his promise to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.” After President McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt didn’t use a Bible or any other prop when being sworn in. In Dallas, on Air Force One, there was no Bible, so stewards found a Catholic missal belonging to the slain President Kennedy, and that’s how he 36th President was sworn in.

But the Bible isn’t a requirement for the swearing-in ceremony. Swearing the oath isn’t a requirement, either. Presidents can say, “I do solemnly swear” or “I do solemnly affirm”. Only one President has given affirmed the oath rather than swearing it — Franklin Pierce in 1853, for religious reasons. When Bibles are used, the Presidents usually choose which Bible they want to use and whether or not the Bible is open or closed while taking the oath. Many Presidents choose to open the Bible and rest their hand on a specific scriptural passage, although no two Presidents have used the same passage when taking the oath. Several Presidents have used two Bibles — for example, in 1989, George H.W. Bush took the oath of office with an open Bush family Bible resting on top of George Washington’s Masonic Bible, which had been opened to a random passage. Bush 41’s inauguration was the 200th anniversary of Washington’s first inauguration in 1789, and he also had his Bible (the same one Bush used in 1989) opened to a random passage. Bush 41’s son, George W. Bush, used the Bush family Bible at both of his inaugurations (closed in 2001 and open in 2005). Incidentally, George W. Bush wanted to use the Masonic Bible belonging to George Washington at his first inauguration, just as his father had in 1989, but although it had been brought to Washington, D.C. from its home in New York City (and heavily guarded), poor weather at the 2001 Inauguration resulted in the first George W.’s Bible steering clear of the elements. The Library of Congress maintains a list of the specific Bibles used (if known) at each Presidential Inauguration, as well as the scriptural passages that the Presidents placed their hand upon when taking the oath of office.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Do you think President Nixon really meant it when he said that he would have gone for a rap career if they were around in the 30s? Do you think he would have been any good?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Most of my readers will probably look at this question and think that it is one of those silly questions or messages where someone asks or says something odd or outrageous just to see how I might respond. It’s funny to imagine Richard Milhous Nixon simply having rap music explained to him.

But, in reality, Nixon actually did mention the possibility of him becoming a rapper if rap had been popular when he was young. At Nixon’s Presidential Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California, visitors used to be able to tour the exhibits while listening to the 37th President of the United States guide you via an audio recording (I’m not sure if you can still take the tour guided by Nixon’s voice; when I visited Yorba Linda in 2004, I just did a self-guided tour). The small house that Nixon was born in stands on the grounds of Nixon’s Library, and visitors listening to the audiotape while making their way through the house had their attention directed to several musical instruments that belonged to the Nixon family. When the former President referenced the instruments (on the audiotape) and mentioned his lifelong love for music, Nixon added, "I have often though that if there had been a good rap group around in those days, I might have chosen a career in music instead of politics."

Was he serious? No, of course not. Nixon did have an appreciation for music, and was confident enough in his abilities as a pianist that he played in public from time-to-time. But Nixon was also notoriously awkward and uncoordinated; he usually needed help to open bottles of any type and was so inept when it came to technology that it really is entirely possible that the infamous 18½-minute gap on the Watergate tapes was the result of Nixon clumsily erasing and/or taping over part of the recording.

One of the most crucial building blocks that make up the foundation of a good rapper is rhythm. Not only was Richard Nixon completely absent of rhythm but his lack of coordination actually made anyone around him seem awkward and out of place. Oddly enough, the rest of Nixon’s story resembled that of many contemporary rappers — as a young man, he faced quite a bit of adversity, growing up in an impoverished family on the West Coast (WESTSIDE!) and losing two brothers at a young age. He also had a way with words that very well could have translated into success for rap music in a different time period. While attending high school, Nixon represented the West Coast on the national level in debate/oratory contest. Later, he became the captain of the debating team at Whittier College and coaches marveled at his unique ability to successfully take on any viewpoint on any of the subjects up for debate.

It’s certainly a funny and outlandish image to picture Richard Nixon as a rapper. It’s even funnier to try to figure out who Tricky Dick’s favorite rapper would have been (I’m going to guess Mystikal just because it’s the strangest combination I immediately thought of). But, unfortunately, he wasn’t serious about wanting to be a rapper. And while his verbal skills and talent as an orator could have made him a dangerous freestyler and potential success in rap battles, the complete absence of rhythm would have been a lethal handicap to his reputation as an MC.

(Just out of curiosity, though, what would the best rap name for Richard Nixon be? Just his old-fashioned “Tricky Dick” moniker? “DJ Watergate”? “Presidential MC?” “DJ POTUS?” Since Nixon tried so hard during his lifetime to get his initials over like TR, FDR, JFK, and LBJ, how about “MC RN”?)

Asker Anonymous Asks:
If a Vice President takes over for a period of time from the President, and the President resumes his job but later resigns from office, does the time previously served count for the new President's service? If that makes any sense.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I understand what you’re saying. This is another one of those instances — as is the case with most questions about Presidential succession or the 25th Amendment — where there are no precedents to follow and a lot of confusion, and where that confusion will remain until something happens that actually puts the 25th Amendment into effect and tests the process.

To refresh everyone’s memories, a President can permanently relinquish his office by resigning, which leads to the Vice President (or the person next in the line of succession) becoming the new President. If that happens, the VP-turned-President can be elected to two full terms as President in his own right unless the VP completes more than two years of the unfinished term of the President he succeeded. In that case, the VP is only allowed to be elected to one term in his own right. As an example: when LBJ assumed the Presidency upon the death of John F. Kennedy, JFK had less than two years left in his term. So, LBJ was able to run again in 1964 (and won), and would have been allowed to run for another term in 1968 if he had chosen to. After that, he would have been term-limited and unable to seek the Presidency again in 1972. On the other hand, when Gerald Ford succeeded Richard Nixon in 1974 following Nixon’s assassination, Ford completed more than two years of Nixon’s term. Ford was unsuccessful in trying to win a term of his own in 1976, but if he had won the ‘76 election, he would have been term-limited from seeking another term as President in 1980.

But a President could also temporarily the powers of the Presidency if he or she were incapacitated or unable to discharge their duties, and then reclaim their duties when they are ready. This has happened a couple of times when recent Presidents have undergone medical treatment which required anesthesia. When that happens, the President invokes the 25th Amendment, and the Vice President becomes “Acting President” until the President feels clear enough to reclaim the full duties of the Presidency once again.

Now, this is where the questions start popping up. When a President resigns and a Vice President permanently assumes the powers, duties, and trappings of the Presidency (as in the aforementioned cases of LBJ and Gerald Ford), the VP becomes President of the United States in full. However, when a President invokes the 25th Amendment and temporarily transfers power to the Vice President, the VP does not become “President of the United States”. Instead, the VP becomes “Acting President”, and remains “Acting President” until the President reclaims the position, resigns, or is removed from office.

Since this Constitutional curiosity has never been put to the test, we don’t know for sure what the answer to your question is. But my interpretation is that the time that a VP served as “Acting President” in an instance where the 25th Amendment was invoked would not count towards term limits if that VP eventually became the President in his own right. Plus, the invocation of the 25th Amendment in order to temporarily relieve an incapacitated President of his duties is not meant to be a long-term solution. The 25th Amendment also has a mechanism for removing a seriously incapacitated President who has little change of regaining the ability to discharge his duty. If things got that serious, a temporary fix would be bypassed in favor of removing the incapacitated President and handing power to the next in the line of succession. At that point, the clock would begin ticking to determine whether the successor would be limited to being elected to one or two terms as President on their own, but that’s a different discussion.

The strangest (and most confusing) thing about the differences between someone who assumes the Presidency permanently and someone who temporarily becomes “Acting President” is that there isn’t any difference in actual power. The difference is in the title, but — whether temporary or permanent — they exercise all of the powers of the Presidency.

Do books matter? Do they change minds — or do we just read into them whatever we want to know? We live in the most literate age in human history, yet many people today find few things less useful than books, and no books as useless as those of the philosophers. Many scholars today take for granted that philosophy is a technical discipline concerned with questions that can make sense only to a cadre of professionals trained to a perfection of irrelevance. The wider public, meanwhile, tends to think of philosophy as a place to stash all the questions that well up wherever our knowledge runs completely dry: the meaning of life, why there is something rather than nothing, the existence of the supernatural, and all that. Of the many attributes that seem to mark America’s Founders as residents of a foreign time and place, probably none is more astonishing today than their unapologetic confidence in the power of books — and in particular the books of the philosophers.
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Who was the last president to have ever personally met a slave or freed slave?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I have no idea. That’s a pretty difficult question to answer; in fact, it is likely impossible to accurately answer. After all, it’s entirely possible that there were people born into slavery in the United States prior to the ratification of the 13th Amendment or the emancipation of all slaves who might have lived very long lives and not died until the 1950s or 1960s. The last surviving Civil War veteran whose story could be legitimately confirmed lived until 1956, so it’s likely that the last surviving former slave lived past that date since people were still being born into slavery during the Civil War (1861-1865).

Unfortunately, because of the lack of proper record-keeping, it is difficult to confirm who the last surviving American born into slavery or last living American who had been kept as a slave truly was. It’s also nearly impossible to know which President was the last person to meet a former slave, especially since such a meeting could have happened earlier in a President’s life or career, when there were more former slaves still alive.

There is also the question of slaves from other countries who might have met the President of the United States in one form of another. Ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt met with King Ibn Saud aboard the USS Quincy in the Suez Canal as FDR was returning home from the Yalta Conference, American Presidents and the Kings of Saudi Arabia have had many meetings and visited each other’s countries. However, it wasn’t until 1962 that Saudi Arabia officially abolished slavery in the Saudi Kingdom. In 1957, King Saud traveled to the United States on an official visit and brought with him a massive royal entourage, and many of the Saudi King’s courtiers and servants had traditionally been slaves — even up to that point of time. It’s possible that slaves attended to King Saud during that trip, and it’s also a possibility that some of the King’s slaves briefly met or came into contact with President Eisenhower. Most likely, there would not have been much of an opportunity for that to occur during such a visit, but we just don’t know the answer about the last American slave — or the last slave of any kind — to meet with the President.

Slavery still exists, in many different forms, throughout the world. The United Nations and partner organizations estimate that there are over 30 million people in some form of slavery or involuntary servitude today, in 2014. With as many people as Presidents meet or briefly come in contact with, it’s entirely possible that even recent Presidents have met with slaves or former slaves. Slavery is a continuing crisis, so Presidents didn’t get to cross that issue off of their list with the end of the Civil War, the ratification of the 13th Amendment, or the abolition of slavery as most people have traditionally seemed to recognize it within the borders of our country. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Just finished reading All the Presidents Men. Yeah it's pretty boring to me, not enough sexy political intrigue, what did you think of it?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

All the President’s Men (BOOK | KINDLE) didn’t have enough political intrigue for you?! It’s literally a book entirely focused on political intrigue and featuring groundbreaking investigative reporting by two relatively young and low-level journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post. I mean, the main subject of the book is the biggest and most serious political scandal in American history, an attempt at covering up the scandal (making things even worse), and eventually led to the first and only resignation of the President of the United States.

I’m not really sure what could possibly be added to that in order to make it “sexier” or increase the level of political intrigue. Strippers and Godzilla? Did we need a drunken, obscenely nude Richard Nixon lighting a bonfire on the South Lawn of the White House and then tossing the Watergate tapes into the flames from the Truman Balcony while he fired round-after-round into the air from a shotgun and screamed, “I WON 49 STATES IN 1972! IF YOU WANT ME OUT OF OFFICE, YOU BEST BRING SOME FIREPOWER, PACK A LUNCH, AND KISS YOUR MAMA GOOD-BYE!”

All the President’s Men (BOOK | KINDLE) is one of the most interesting, influential, and important books ever written about a President, the Presidency, or American politics in general. And Woodward and Bernstein followed it up with The Final Days (BOOK | KINDLE), which I’ve always found to be even more fascinating than All the President’s Men.

Maybe those two books didn’t feature the political intrigue that you are used to, but you might be watching too many dramatic political thrillers on television. All the President’s Men and The Final Days recount things that actually happened in real-life. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
a few days ago you posted some new books that you got sent to you his week. is that what you read this week too? i just like knowing what other people are reading!
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I wish that those were all of the books that I read this week, but I didn’t even come close to getting that much done!

These are the books that I read this week:

Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders by Denise A. Spellberg [Vintage Paperback, 2014] (BOOK | KINDLE)
Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies by Alastair Bonnett [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014] (BOOK | KINDLE)
The Rush: America’s Fevered Quest For Fortune, 1848-1853 by Edward Dolnick [Little, Brown, 2014] (BOOK | KINDLE)
Fear and Loathing in La Liga: Barcelona, Real Madrid, and the World’s Greatest Sports Rivalry by Sid Lowe [Nation Books Paperback, 2014] (BOOK | KINDLE)
America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East by Hugh Wilford [Basic Books, 2013] (BOOK | KINDLE)
The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents by Ronald Kessler [Crown Forum, 2014] (BOOK | KINDLE)
Unreasonable Men: Theodore Roosevelt and the Republican Rebels Who Created Progressive Politics by Michael Wolraich [Palgrave Macmillan, 2014] (BOOK | KINDLE)

•And I’m currently in the middle of reading His Humble Servant: Sister M. Pascalina Lehnert’s Memoirs of Her Years of Service to Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII by Sister M. Pascalina Lehnert [St. Augustine’s Press, 2014]

(By the way, Unreasonable Men is an especially interesting book that I really enjoyed. I breezed through the book because of the formatting and the great stories. I learned a hell of a lot from Unreasonable Men, so definitely check it out, particularly if you are a fan of Theodore Roosevelt or the Progressive era.)
One thing that might help win this war is to get someone to shoot [Admiral Ernest] King.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, writing in his private diary about his frustrations with U.S. Navy Admiral Ernest King during World War II
Few people, with the possible exception of his wife, will ever tell a President that he is a fool.
Gerald Ford, A Time To Heal

On August 27, 1858, Daniel Marshall brought his young son, Tommy, into Freeport, Illinois, near the Wisconsin border, where nearly 15,000 people had gathered in a downtown square for the second of seven debates between Senator Stephen A. Douglas and his Republican challenger Abraham Lincoln.  Marshall was a solid Democrat who had moved his family to Illinois from Indiana a year earlier and supported the incumbent Senator Douglas.

In Freeport, under the debating rules set by the candidates, Lincoln spoke first for 60 minutes, Douglas spoke next for 90 minutes, and Lincoln finished with a 30-minute-long rebuttal.  The population of Freeport tripled on the day of the debate and the proceedings took place in unseasonably cool, cloudy weather for late-August.

As Lincoln and Douglas engaged in perhaps the most newsworthy debate of their historic series, 4-year-old Tommy Marshall found himself the best seat in the house.  While Lincoln spoke, Tommy sat in the lap of Stephen A. Douglas.  When Senator Douglas responded, Tommy sat in the lap of Abraham Lincoln.

Decades later, after little Tommy Marshall had grown into Thomas Riley Marshall and became Vice President of the United States under Woodrow Wilson, sitting in the laps of history at the second Lincoln/Douglas debate remained one of his fondest memories.

38th Vice President of the United States (1913-1921)

Full Name: Thomas Riley Marshall
Born: March 14, 1854, North Manchester, Wabash County, Indiana
Religion: Presbyterian
College: Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana
Career Before the Vice Presidency: Lawyer, Columbia City, Indiana (1875-1909); Unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Prosecuting Attorney of Whitley County, Indiana (1880); 27th Governor of Indiana (January 11, 1909-January 13, 1913)
Political Party as Vice President: Democratic
State Represented as Vice President: Indiana
Term as Vice President: March 4, 1913-March 4, 1921
Length of Vice Presidency: 8 years, 0 days
Age at Inauguration: 58 years, 355 days
Served: President Wilson (1st term and 2nd term)/32nd Administration (1913-1917) and 33rd Administration (1917-1921)/63rd Congress (1913-1915), 64th Congress (1915-1917), 65th Congress (1917-1919), and 66th Congress (1919-1921)
Post-Vice Presidential Career: Lawyer, Indianapolis, Indiana (1921-1925); Author (1921-1925); Appointed by President Harding to serve as a member of the Lincoln Memorial Commission (1921), Appointed by President Harding to serve as a member of the Federal Coal Commission (1922-1923)
Died: June 1, 1925, Washington, D.C.
Age at Death: 71 years, 79 days
Cause of Death: Heart attack
Buried: Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, Indiana

Random Facts About Vice President Marshall:
•On August 27, 1858, 4-year-old Thomas Riley Marshall accompanied his father, Daniel, to Freeport, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas were engaging in the second of seven debates which would go down in history as the epic “Lincoln-Douglas Debates”. Little “Tommy” was too young to understand what was going on, but he had the best seat in the house. When Lincoln spoke, Tommy Marshall sat on the lap of Senator Douglas. When Douglas spoke, Marshall sat on the lap of Abraham Lincoln.
•While Marshall attended college, he wrote an article for the school newspaper about a visiting female speaker who gave a lecture on campus at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. The woman felt Marshall had crossed the line and sued the future Vice President for libel in 1872. Each side lawyered up with notable legal representation. The plaintiff hired Lew Wallace, who was a Union General during the Civil War, later became Governor of the New Mexico Territory, and is best-known today as the author of Ben-Hur. Marshall found himself a lawyer in Indianapolis that was also a former Union General during the Civil War and who would later surpass even Wallace’s political accomplishments. Marshall’s lawyer was able to make it clear to the plaintiff that Marshall’s comments might have been in poor taste, but they were likely true, and the case was dropped. Marshall’s attorney was future President Benjamin Harrison.
•After beginning his own law career, Marshall fell in love with a young woman named Kate Hooper, but she died shortly after they were engaged to be married. Marshall was devastated by her death and began drinking heavily. Alcoholism took a toll on Marshall’s health, career, and reputation until he finally married Lois Kimsey in 1895. Lois helped Marshall quit drinking, which gave him the focus to begin his political career. He didn’t win his first political election until he was 54 years old.

•In 1909, Marshall — as Governor of Indiana — installed the final brick to complete the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of the Indianapolis 500.
•Marshall was not Woodrow Wilson’s first choice as his Vice President in 1912. In fact, Marshall wasn’t Wilson’s choice as a running mate at all. Wilson had wanted the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Oscar Underwood of Alabama, to join him on the ticket, but Underwood declined the offer. The delegates of the Democratic National Convention decided upon Marshall, and Wilson was not pleased with the choice. He thought Marshall was a “small-calibre man”.
•Despite his original doubts, Wilson stuck with Marshall in 1916 when many of the President’s closest aides suggested dumping the VP in favor of another running mate. With their victory that year, Marshall became the first Vice President since John C. Calhoun in 1828 to be re-elected to another term.
•Thomas Riley Marshall is largely remembered because of his many humorous quotes poking fun at the insignificance of the Vice Presidency. When he was nominated as VP, Marshall pointed out that it made sense since he was a native of Indiana, “the mother of Vice Presidents, the home of more second-class men than any other state.” A favorite Marshall story was one about a man who had two sons: “One went away to sea…the other was elected Vice President…he never heard from either one afterward.”
•Other popular Marshall quotes:
-"I don’t want to work [after retiring], but I wouldn’t mind being Vice President again."
-"If you look on me as a wild animal, be kind enough to throw peanuts at me." (To a group touring the Capitol)
-"What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar."
•Despite Marshall’s humor and frivolity, there was a serious Constitutional crisis near the end of Woodrow Wilson’s Presidency. Wilson suffered a massive stroke in 1919 that virtually incapacitated him and kept him from fully discharging the duties of his office. For the last 18 months of of Wilson’s Presidency, Wilson’s wife and a handful of close aides carefully managed the Administration, keeping the truth about Wilson’s health hidden. Today, a President in Wilson’s condition would almost certainly need to hand the office over to the officer next in the line of succession, either temporarily or permanently. But the 25th Amendment did not exist during Wilson’s time, and a group of Wilson confidants conspired to keep the truth from the rest of Wilson’s Administration, including Vice President Marshall. Marshall didn’t push to find out the extent of Wilson’s illness; if he had, Wilson likely would have been forced to resign and Marshall would have become President. Most of the people close to President Wilson believed it would be disastrous to pass the reigns of government on to Vice President Marshall. But considering the track record of the Wilson Administration at the end of his Presidency, many historians believe that “President Marshall” could have helped get the Treaty of Versailles ratified and shepherd the United States into joining the League of Nations.

Hey, have you read Nixon's memoirs? If so, what do you think? Also, what are some other good presidential memoirs?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Yes, I’ve read RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (BOOK | KINDLE), and it is an important book in my library. It’s obviously written from a Nixonian point-of-view, so it is quite defensive at times, and it is meant to help shape Nixon’s legacy. However, all Presidential memoirs feature that aspect of self-interest, so it is to be expected. To me, what is most interesting about Nixon’s Memoirs is the fact that Nixon is one of the better writers when it comes to Presidents. Nixon wrote many books and several of them were quite good, including his Memoirs. I’m especially fascinated by Nixon’s opinions about other leaders — U.S. leaders and world leaders that Nixon interacted with during his time in the House, Senate, as Vice President, and then President. In fact, Nixon actually wrote an entire book (separate from his Memoirs) called Leaders (BOOK | KINDLE), focusing on some of the major figures that he dealt with during his career, and which I would also recommend. But, his autobiography, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (BOOK | KINDLE) is definitely a must-read.

As for others, not all Presidents wrote memoirs or autobiographies, and not all of those who did ended up being good. In my opinion, here are the very best autobiographies or memoirs written by Presidents besides Nixon’s Memoirs:

The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant by Ulysses S. Grant (BOOK | KINDLE) — The very best book ever written by a President, in my opinion. Grant rushed to finish this book as he was dying, and ended up writing a masterpiece. Unfortunately, Grant basically ended the story with the end of the Civil War, so he didn’t write about his own eight years as President.
My Lifeby Bill Clinton (BOOK | KINDLE) — One of the better Presidential autobiographies that cover a President’s entire life and career.
Decision Pointsby George W. Bush (BOOK | KINDLE) — An interesting book because it isn’t a traditional autobiography, nor is it a complete memoir of George W. Bush’s Administration. Instead, Bush writes about some of the most important decisions he felt were made during his time in the White House and what led him to the decisions he made. 
Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritanceby Barack Obama (BOOK | KINDLE) — Another unique, non-traditional memoir written by a President, but what sets this book apart is that Obama wrote it long before he sought the Presidency. In fact, it was was published in 1995, before he had been elected to any political office. For that reason, this book is far more candid and honest than most other books written by Presidents (or people who would someday become President).

Those are the best. There are other autobiographies or memoirs written by Presidents, but I wouldn’t recommend them because they are either sleep-inducing (Mr. Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion by James Buchanan) or polished and ghost-written to death (LBJ’s The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency, 1963-1969).

[Vice President Wilson claims] Grant is now more unpopular than Andrew Johnson was in his darkest days; that Grant’s appointments [have] been getting worse and worse; that he is still struggling for a third term; in short, that he is the millstone around the neck of our party that would sink it out of sight.

Congressman James Garfield (R-OH), on the declining popularity of President Ulysses S. Grant, a fellow Republican and Ohio native, during the latter half of Grant’s second term in the White House, according to information Grant’s Vice President Henry Wilson shared with Garfield in January 1875.

While President Grant remained personally honest, scandals and corruption had tainted his Administration due to the Civil War hero’s poor judgment when it came to his political appointments. As the upcoming 1876 Presidential election approached it appeared as if Grant would break with tradition and seek an unprecedented third term in the White House. Vice President Wilson was one of the members of Grant’s party interested in succeeding him, but Wilson died in office in November 1875.

Eventually, Grant stepped aside and Ohio Governor Rutherford B. Hayes won the Republican nominee for President in 1876. A controversial and bitterly-disputed election between Hayes and Democrat nominee Samuel J. Tilden was only decided by a 15-person Electoral Commission which awarded the Presidency to Hayes on a straight party-line vote (8 Republicans to 7 Democrats) just two days before Inauguration Day 1877. Garfield was one of the eight Republican members of the Electoral Commission.

In 1880, President Hayes delivered on an early pledge to only serve one term in the White House and the Republican National Convention kicked off in Chicago with General Grant the favorite for the nomination as he sought a third term in office. Garfield attended the convention as the leader of the delegation supporting the candidacy of Treasury Secretary John Sherman, a longtime Ohio Senator and the younger brother of Grant’s Civil War colleague and friend, General William Tecumseh Sherman. The convention soon became deadlocked as supporters of Grant and James G. Blaine unsuccessfully attempted to break through the logjam from ballot-to-ballot. Although Garfield had not intended to seek the nomination for himself, his name began to pop up as balloting continued but didn’t gain a foothold until nearly three dozen ballots had taken place.

Garfield continued to insist that he was not a candidate and remained loyal to Sherman’s efforts, but the convention’s 34th ballot witnessed movement in Garfield’s favor as delegates began to see the dark horse as an acceptable compromise candidate who might be able to bring the paralyzed convention to a conclusion. On the 36th ballot, James G. Blaine’s supporters, eager to stymie Grant’s hopes, threw their support behind Garfield, making him the unexpected Presidential nominee in the longest GOP convention up to that point in history. Garfield would go on to be elected President in November 1880, was inaugurated on March 4, 1881, was shot by Charles Guiteau on July 2, 1881, and lingered for weeks before finally dying on September 19, 1881, at the age of 49 and just 199 days into his Presidency.