Properly, one thinks, the next President of the United States should be a physician or a clergyman. He should be an Adventist or a Mennonite. He should hail from Florida or Wyoming. He should be unmarried and a performer upon the pipe organ.
Indeed, it might be insisted that the next President of the United States should be of Scandinavian ancestry; so many have been Scotch and Irish. Fairness would seem to demand something of the sort. We are, after all, a representative nation, and few enough of us have been represented—in our reflected personalities—in the White House at Washington.
It is as a dilettante of history that one approaches the subject—an innocent bystander in the field of politics—a spectator on the sidelines of life. Yet the vision of the dilettante, like that of the mystic, may go deeper than the clairvoyance of the commentator who is more nearly touched by the recurrent phenomenon of election. To the dilettante who idles in statistics, history is less a muster of battles and treaties and reforms, than it is an engaging chronicle of paradox and coincidence, of accident and error, and of similar beguiling memoranda.
One hesitates to assert that there has been favoritism shown; yet the fact is there have been no less than twenty Presidents who were lawyers when they were called to office, as against the merest scattering of teachers, tailors, farmers, cowboys and mining engineers. Did you know that Fillmore and Johnson were once tailors of a sort? It is a circumstance less advertised than Washington’s surveying. Many, to be sure, were soldiers in their day, but only two of them had been professionals. Buchanan, one is informed, was the only bachelor, for, while Cleveland was unmarried at the time of his election, Buchanan remained a bachelor to the end. This makes a profession of Buchanan’s bachelorhood—but the point is, there has never been a cobbler, never a sailer, never an architect, an auctioneer or an actor.
It is the same with reference to origins, both immediate and remote. Eight of the Presidents were by birth Virginians, and seven were Ohioans. New York and northern Carolina have three apiece, and Massachusetts and Vermont have two. But Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, Kentucky, Iowa and New Jersey only a single ewe lamb of a President, and the remainder of the States are simply nowhere at all. It must be admitted, however, that Jackson did his best for southern Carolina; he claimed the State as his birthplace nd it required documentary evidence to prove him mistaken.
Ancestrally, one notes that seven of the Presidents derived from English stock, and six were Scotch and Irish. Van Buren and Colonel Roosevelt were Dutch. One—Jefferson—is asserted to have been Welsh. Hoover, according to latest information, is of Swiss descent. Surely there is room here for a Norwegian or a Dane? Say from Oregon or Maine?
It was Jefferson and Tyler, by the way, who played the violin.
Then there is the case of names: The Jameses predominate with five, and near at hand are the Johns and Williams—tied at three a piece. The Andrews number two. The rest are singles. There has been no President of the United States named Sylvester! No President names Anatole! No Robert, even for that matter, and no Charles.
Three Presidents have come to us from Harvard and three from William and Mary. Princeton has given two. Tale and a dozen others, one apiece. The majority lies elsewhere—nine of the Presidents of the United States have not been college graduated at all.
Finally. There is the day called Friday. It has been a curious factor in presidential chronicle. On Friday Washington was born, and after him, on other and later Fridays, Monroe and Pierce and Hayes. On Friday the second Adams, Pierce, Garfield and Harding were inaugurated. On Friday, Tyler, Polk and Pierce died; note the effect of Friday upon Pierce. On Friday Lincoln was assassinated.
It should be revealed, too, that John Adams and Jefferson died on the same day, a few minutes apart, and that the day was July 4, 1836. Monroe died on the fourth of July 1831. To complete the record of Independence Day, it may be set down that Coolidge was born on July 4, the year being 1872. The sixth President, as is well known, was the son of the second, and the twenty-third President was the grandson of the ninth. John Quincy Adams was a Representative and Andrew Johnson a Senator in Congress after the expiration of their presidential terms, and both dies while holding office. Their cases might furnish a cynical text for a talk upon the dangers of anti-climax.
from San Francisco Examiner, 30 November 1931