THERE ARE A LOT OF CONTENDERS BUT THE "WINNER" IS:
James Buchanan was at Wheatland, his Lancaster, Pa., estate, when he was notified he’d been elected president in 1856.
It’s a gorgeous home, with one very special amenity, which Wheatland’s director, Patrick Clarke,
is proud to point out: an outhouse for five.
You might call that structure a symbol for his presidency.
He served in both houses of the Pennsylvania State Legislature, served in both houses of the U.S. Congress;
he was ambassador to Russia, ambassador to Great Britain, he was also Secretary of State.
Only two days after his inauguration, the Supreme Court handed down the infamous Dred Scott decision, allowing that escaped slaves be forcibly returned to their owners.
Buchanan backed this decision. Slavery would be the country’s -- and his -- undoing.
He feared that if you handled the issue of slavery too robustly, that it would create what he believed would be the end of the union, secession.
And that’s exactly what happened.
After Lincoln’s election but before his inauguration, seven states seceded while a politically-paralyzed Buchanan presided.
THE MOST CORRUPT PRESIDENT EVER IS HARDER TO DECIDE
The gold standard of presidential corruption, RICHARD NIXON
is the only POTUS in history to have to resign as he was FACING CERTAIN IMPEACHMENT after the Watergate fiasco.
WARREN G. HARDING
Harding is a close second runner up:
Harding served only two years before his death in 1923,
but his administration was consumed by both personal and political scandal.
Harding was a notorious philanderer,
and in the waning days of his time in the senate,
he was blackmailed by a former mistress who threatened to expose their affair
if Harding didn't vote against war with Germany.
Harding's cabinet had the dubious distinction of being the first to have a member convicted of a crime,
after Secretary of the Interior Albert Fell was sent to prison
as part of the Teapot Dome scandal, in which Fell accepted bribes
to lease the Navy's oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming, to private companies.
The Teapot Dome scandal also claimed Harding's secretary of the Navy.
Harding's attorney general resigned in 1924 over a bootlegging kickback scheme.
Two other Harding department heads were convicted of bribery and fraud:
Charles Forbes, for massively defrauding the government while building VA hospitals,
and Office of Alien Property head Thomas Miller, for illegally selling German patents seized after World War I.
But Harding did love his dog, Laddie Boy.
ULYSSES S. GRANT
Grant himself was known for his honesty, but his administration was likely the most corrupt in the 19th century.
A near-ceaseless flow of money from speculation and western expansion
led to an epidemic of corruption, and Grant responded by stubbornly protecting those accused of graft.
A massive conspiracy to pilfer tax revenue from whiskey sales, called the Whiskey Ring,
snared more than 100 federal, state, and local officials.
The secretaries of the Navy, of war and of the treasury all faced allegations of bribery and taking kickbacks.
The Salary Grab Act was passed by Congress at the end of Grant's first term
to enact gigantic retroactive pay raises for itself and to increase the salary of the president.
Grant's administration was gutted by the Credit Mobilier scandal,
in which a construction company massively overcharged the Union Pacific Railroad.
The company pulled off the scam thanks to millions in bribes paid to
the vice president, the secretary of the treasury, four senators, and the speaker of the House.
At Andrew Jackson's funeral,
his pet parrot had to be removed from the church because it wouldn't stop swearing.
Another symbol for the presidency of a man.
Jackson started the inherently corrupt "spoils system,"
under which government officials were hired based on what they'd done for the incoming administration rather than on merit,
dominated politics in the 19th century.
The result was a cavalcade of theft and corruption in distant offices and military posts,
including $1.2 million embezzled from the New York City Customs House, the most lucrative point of entry in the U.S.
It took decades to dismantle the spoils system that started under Jackson —
and it can be argued that it's never gone away completely.
Andrew Jackson was a wealthy slave owner and infamous Indian killer,
gaining the nickname ‘Sharp Knife’ from the Cherokee.
In his brutal military campaigns against Indians,
Andrew Jackson recommended that troops systematically kill Indian women and children after massacres in order to complete the extermination.
The Creeks lost 23 million acres of land in southern Georgia and central Alabama, paving the way for cotton plantation slavery.
Is it any wonder I made Jackson one of the villains in Victor Standish's TIME-TRAVELING adventure, THE RIVAL?
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