The Presidents Viewing Notes

The History Channel Presents The Presidents

The Presidents Viewing Notes

George Washington

  • title: Congress wondered what to call the president and chose to call him President of the United States or Mr. President instead of Your Majesty, Your Highness, and Your Excellency.
  • honor: It is hard to dig up dirt on Washington because he brought dignity, integrity, and honesty to the presidency.
  • image: He was very tall, standing 6' 3", was considered an action hero in the eighteenth century, was a great horseman who rode a white horse named Nelson, and was a great dancer.
  • first: He was first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen. He was the first president, first in designing, and first in gambling.
  • commander: Washington was accustomed to commanding, held frequent councils of war as a general, and was good judge of character, which helped him pick talented leaders.
  • cabinet: Washington created the first group of executive advisers.
  • Hamilton: He was appointed by Washington as the first Secretary of Treasury.
  • national bank: Hamilton built the framework for a national banking system. He created a federal line of credit by paying off the debt of all States.
  • Madison & Jefferson: Both men were Democratic-Republicans and disagreed with Hamilton over his belief in a loose interpretation of the Constitution. Hamilton supported assumption of the debt of all States, but Virginia had paid off most of its debt and therefore was offered the nation's capital as a compromise.
  • federal city: Washington chose the location called Foggy Bottom in land donated by Virginia. Washington D.C. became the official name of this city after the death of the first president, but he never served in the "City of Washington."
  • neutrality: Washington recommended that Americans stay out of the war between Britain and France.
  • Whiskey Rebellion: Pennsylvania farmers were up in arms about this excise tax in 1794. Washington said these taxes were legally passed in Philadelphia and raised an army of 12,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion.
  • terms: Washington's great achievement was stepping down from the presidency after two terms. (12:40 minutes)

John Adams

  • Federalist: Adams became the first president elected from this party and served from 1797 to 1801.
  • succession: This was the first presidential secession and it was a peaceful transfer of power.
  • administration: Adams had a poor management style, did not accept good counsel, and some said he was too monarchial or kingly.
  • executive: He was very opinionated and prone to fits of anger, which caused him problems as the chief executive.
  • XYZ Affair: France did not want Americans trading with the British. Three Frenchmen who met with an American delegation demanded a bribe. Hawks screamed for war against France because of the bribery scandal.
  • delegation: Adams sent two peace delegations to prevent war with France.
  • Alien and Sedition Acts: Adams decided to pass this act in 1798 that made it a crime to write against the president and other federal officers. His support of this act was very unpopular and led to his defeat.
  • Navy: Adams created this branch of the military to defend American shores and also created a new cabinet office led by the Secretary of the Navy.
  • defeat: Adams was very unhappy and felt disgraced upon losing to Jefferson. He left office in the night to avoid attending Jefferson's inauguration. (21 minutes)

Thomas Jefferson

  • Jefferson: He was a Democratic-Republican and served as president from 1801 to 1809.
  • Democratic-Republican: This was the first time in presidential politics of peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another.
  • inauguration: Jefferson was the first president inaugurated in the new capital of Washington D.C. He stated "We are all Federalists, we are all Republicans" to help unify America.
  • Monticello: This was the name of the house Jefferson designed and built on his Virginia plantation.
  • press: Jefferson understood the importance of the press in politics. James Calendar accused Jefferson of having an affair with Sally Hemmings (Jefferson's slave), but he ignored the scandal. Jefferson only spoke about things he wanted to speak about.
  • Louisiana Purchase: Jefferson did not think the Constitution allowed a president to purchase the Louisiana Territory for $15 million; he worked with the Senate to make the deal happen.
  • national bank: Jefferson did a political 180 by using this financial institution to purchase the Louisiana Territory. Federalists felt it was blatant hypocrisy for Jefferson to use the system of credit created by Hamilton.
  • executive: Although Jefferson wrote and spoke about small government, he did not always follow this philosophy while president.
  • Lewis and Clark Expedition: Jefferson asked Congress for money to pay for this secret mission, which some Federalists thought violated Constitution.
  • Embargo Act of 1807: Jefferson did not want to get involved with the war between France and England and ended trade with all foreign nations. This act was a political and economic failure. (30 minutes)

James Madison

  • Madison: He was a Democratic-Republican from Virginia who was elected as president for two terms. He was very qualified to become president and became known for hosting lavish parties at the President Mansion.
  • Dolley Madison: She was the wife of James Madison and acted as a great First Lady by helping brighten the presidential mansion and the drab sense of humor of her husband.
  • scholar: Madison always did his homework and was very studious throughout his entire life.
  • War of 1812: Madison was pushed into war because the British would not stop impressing American sailors.
  • impressment: The British began impressing American sailers prior to the War of 1812.
  • declaration of war: Madison asked Congress on June 18, 1812 for a declaration against the British. The War of 1812 began very badly and was often called "Mr. Madison's War." In 1814, New England threatened to secede from the United States because of the war.
  • navy: The American navy numbered about twenty and the British fleet had about one-thousand before the War of 1812.
  • Washington D.C.: The U.S. Capitol, President's Mansion, and other government buildings were mostly destroyed by British soldiers setting fire to the structures. Madison took command of a militia regiment and was the only sitting president to face enemy fire.
  • Treaty of Ghent: Monroe helped negotiate this treaty which ended the War of 1812 on December 24, 1814 in Ghent (modern day Belgium).
  • Battle of New Orleans: General Andrew Jackson helped America win a victory in this battle, making him a national war hero and future president. This battle was won after the Treaty of Ghent was signed.
  • Star-Spangled Banner: America's national anthem was written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812.
  • foreign policy: After the War of 1812, the United States was forced to become more involved in international affairs. (37 minutes)

James Monroe

  • Monroe: He was a Democratic-Republican from Virginia who was elected almost unanimously as president for two terms. People called him honest, had good character, and was trustworthy.
  • cabinet: Monroe was a hands off executive who hired great people and then delegated authority.
  • Missouri: Monroe said he would veto legislation that did not allow the self-determination of any state. When this territory asked Congress for statehood, it caused heated debate over expansion of slavery.
  • Missouri Compromise: This law allowed Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state, while Maine would enter as a free state in 1820. Prohibitions were placed on further expansion of slavery.
  • Monrovia: This capital of Liberia was named after President Monroe because he encouraged former slaves to return to Africa. This is the only foreign capital named after a U.S. president.
  • Florida: By 1818, Seminole Indian raids into white settlements within Georgia were common near the border of this Spanish territory. The Spanish ceded this territory to the United States in 1819 without a fight.
  • General Jackson: Monroe sent Jackson to the Florida border to stop the raids. Jackson went into Spanish Florida and hung British privateers, which outraged numerous government officials including John Calhoun. John Quincy Adams approved of Jackson's actions and Monroe did not take any action against him.
  • Monroe Doctrine: This document was written in 1823 by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and warned European nations to stay in their own hemispheres and not interfere in the Americas. (44 minutes)

John Quincy Adams

  • John Q. Adams: He was a Democratic-Republican that was called arrogant, self-righteous, and stubborn like his father John Adams. He was short and pudgy and liked to wear long trousers. He wrote the Monroe Doctrine prior to his presidency.
  • popular vote: This was a presidential election where the states began counting the popular and electoral vote. Prior to this election, a Secretary of State often had the best chance to become President of the United States.
  • Electoral College: Andrew Jackson won the popular vote, but did not get the majority of the electoral college votes. The election went to the House of Representatives where Henry Clay presided as the Speaker of the House.
  • canals: John Q. Adams wanted a lot of water routes built throughout the nation, but had a difficult achieving his goal because of politics.
  • westward expansion: John Q. Adams wanted Americans to explore the western territories, but the politics of his term made it difficult to accomplish things.
  • Henry Clay: He was probably rewarded with the position of Secretary of State because he urged congressmen to support John Q. Adams as the sixth president.
  • "Old Hickory:" This was Andrew Jackson's nickname given to him by his troops in 1812 because he was as "tough as hickory."
  • Andrew Jackson: He firmly believed John Quincy Adams had stolen the presidency from him.

Andrew Jackson

  • Jackson: He was accused of bigamy because his wife was still legally married. Most of the statements made by Adams against Jackson were true, but statements made by Jackson against Adams were mostly lies.
  • inauguration: Jackson's wife Rachel died after he was elected. John Quincy Adams didn't attend Jackson's inauguration.
  • Tennessee: Jackson was born in a log cabin and raised in this state.
  • cabinet: Jackson hired and fired a lot of his secretaries and never fully trusted his official group of advisers.
  • kitchen cabinet: This term refers to the unofficial or informal cabinet of advisers who Jackson trusted.
  • Indian Removal Act of 1830: This act forced five indian tribes east of the Mississippi to move westward lands that later became the state of Oklahoma. The Cherokee from Georgia took the federal government to court and won.
  • Marshall Court: Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Cherokee didn't have to move from their lands in Georgia. Jackson responded, "He made his ruling, now let him enforce it."
  • Trail of Tears: One out of every four indians died when they were forced to move from Georgia to land in Oklahoma.
  • nullification: Jackson refused to accept this concept where a state could nullify or abolish bad federal law. South Carolina believed the federal tariff.
  • John C. Calhoun: He was Jackson's vice president and political enemy because of his support for South Carolina and nullification. Calhoun held almost every political office except president and was a staunch supporter of state's rights and nullification. He was fearful of his life after Jackson threatened him.
  • South Carolina: Jackson threatened to hang
  • Democratic: Jackson was an early father of this party after he was elected president.
  • Second National Bank: Jackson helped close the bank over the course of his presidency.
  • Nicholas Biddle: He was the president of the Second Bank of the United States and Jackson waged war against him.
  • Henry Clay: He ran an unsuccessful presidential campaign against Jackson for president. He supported the national bank and became a political enemy of Jackson.
  • state banks: Jackson ordered his Secretary of Treasury to move money from the national bank to state banks without congressional approval. Congress censured him for this action.
  • Secretary of Treasuries: Jackson fired three secretaries because they refused to move money from the national bank to state banks.
  • bank closure: Jackson abolished the national bank charter and left the banking issue to Martin Van Buren.
  • debt: Jackson was the only president to eliminate the national debt. (27 minutes)

Martin Van Buren

  • Van Buren: People characterized him as an aristocrat because he appeared to love living the good life.
  • Democratic: Van Buren is one of the early fathers of the Democratic Party.
  • New York: Van Buren was born and died in this state. He also served for as short time as governor of this state.
  • cotton: The price of this crop collapsed in 1837 and caused economic ruin for some Americans.
  • Panic of 1837: Van Buren was the first president to face economic depression. This depression lasted for five years.
  • Panic of 1839: This depression was even worse than the one from 1837 and was mainly a depression because of cotton.
  • Texas: Van Buren thought annexing (adding Texas to the United States) this territory would cause further problems related to the expansion of slavery.
  • depression: The United States had economic problems during much of Van Buren's presidency, which led the Democratic Party to nominate another candidate.

William Henry Harrison

  • Whigs: Harrison was the first president elected from the Whig party. Whigs believed Harrison was a lot like Jackson because he was a general and this factor would help get him elected.
  • Bank of the United States: The Whigs and Harrison made the campaign promise that they would recharter the national bank.
  • economy: He won the presidency instead of Van Buren because of the poor financial situation within America.
  • medicine: Harrison was the only president to study medicine.
  • inauguration: Harrison spoke for two hours without a hat or coat during a snow storm and probably caught a cold.
  • death: Harrison caught a cold that turned into pneumonia and died 31 days after taking the presidential oath of office.
  • Tyler: He became president after the death of Harrison and chose to never appoint a vice president.

John Tyler

  • Virginia: Tyler was a former governor of this state and strongly supported Jeffersonian principles.
  • state's rights: Tyler believed States needed to check the power of the federal government.
  • Bank of the United States: Tyler was kicked out of the Whig Party because he vetoed rechartering this bank twice.
  • political: Tyler's career was finished because the Democratic Party did not trust him and the Whig Party wanted nothing to do with him.

James Polk

  • Polk: He wanted to follow in the footsteps of Jackson and finalize American borders.
  • Democrat: Polk was the third president to represent this party.
  • Jacksonian: Polk tried to follow in the footsteps of Jackson and was successful in carrying out these ideas during his presidency.
  • workaholic: Polk was one of the hardest working presidents. Gas lights were installed in the Executive Mansion to finish his work during the night hours.
  • Manifest Destiny: Polk was dedicated to this idea that America would expand from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.
  • California: One of Polk's campaign promises was to gain control of this territory and complete America's Manifest Destiny.
  • tariffs: Polk wanted to lower the tariffs and did achieve this campaign promise.
  • territory: Polk was a strong supporter of expanding American borders and firming up the border between Canada and America.
  • 49th Parallel: While Polk desired to have the border of Canada and America set at the 54th Parallel, Britain agreed to settle at the 49th.
  • Mexican War: This war took place between 1846 to 1848 and helped Polk achieve his campaign promise of acquiring California. Manifest Destiny was almost complete for Americans after this war ended.

Zachary Taylor

  • Taylor: Zachary Taylor was a Mexican War hero who helped win new territory for America. He was never registered to vote and didn't even cast a ballot for himself during his presidential election.
  • Whig: Taylor was the third elected president of the Whig Party.
  • North: Taylor appealed to northerners because of his success in winning the Mexican War.
  • South: Taylor appealed to southerners because he was from the state of Louisiana and was also a slaveholder.
  • "Rough and Ready:" This was a nickname given to Taylor because he dressed like a slob and was always ready to fight.
  • Compromise of 1850: The North and South were heavily divided over the issue of slavery. Congress tried repeatedly to balance the number of free or slave states in the Union.
  • secessionist: Taylor threatened to hang his son-in-law Jefferson Davis when he learned that States threatened to secede from the Union.
  • abolitionist: Abolitionism became the goal of numerous Americans because of the vileness of the institution of slavery.
  • cholera: This is a major infection that causes bad diarrhea in a human and can lead to immediate death due to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Some Americans once speculated that Taylor died of poisoning, but when tests were done on his body, he was found to have died of a strain of cholera.

Millard Fillmore

  • Fillmore: He was called an accidental president and served from 1850 to 1853. Fillmore did not meet Taylor until after the election.
  • Whig: Fillmore represented this party, but was not asked to represent the party after he finished Taylor's term.
  • geography: Fillmore was a northerner from New York and was chosen to balance the party ticket because Taylor was a southerner from Louisiana.
  • cabinet: Fillmore fired all of Taylor's cabinet because he did not like their advice.
  • Compromise of 1850: Fillmore signed this policy into law because he believed the Constitution allowed slavery. The Whig Party was very upset with Fillmore signing this law and did not nominate him for another presidential term.
  • cotton: This crop was very important to the economy of the South because it once made up 60% of American exports.
  • abolitionist: Fillmore believed that slavery was legal and protected by the Constitution. He angered abolitionists when he signed the Fugitive Slave Act into law.
  • slavery: Fillmore supported the Fugitive Slave Act, which caused a lot of outrage from abolitionists because it required runaway slaves to be brought back to their masters.
  • forgettable: Many people lampoon Fillmore because they feel he made bad decisions during his presidency.

Franklin Pierce

  • Pierce: He was a northern Democratic from New Hampshire with strong southern ties. People believed he would bring peace and balance to the Union. All three of his children died during their childhood. He was a social butterfly and considered very handsome.
  • election: Pierce was a popular candidate because he was not offensive to anyone and was easily elected.:
  • alcoholic: While Pierce was sober during his presidency, he was addicted to alcohol after leaving office.
  • children: All three of Pierce's children died during childhood. His last child died after a train collision.
  • Stephen Douglas: He was an Illinois senator who supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act
  • Kansas-Nebraska Act: This act would abolish the
  • Lawrence, Kansas:
  • Bleeding Kansas:
  • Illinois:
  • Abraham Lincoln:
  • Republican Party: Divisions over the issue of slavery led to divisions within the Whig Party and the formation of this new party in 1856.
  • Buchanan:
  • traiter:

James Buchanan

  • Stephen Douglass:
  • Kansas-Nebraska Act:
  • Lawrence, Kansas:
  • Bleeding Kansas:
  • Illinois:
  • Abraham Lincoln:
  • Republican Party:
  • Buchanan:
  • First Lady: Buchanan's niece,
  • pro-southern: When Buchanan supported a constitution favoring slavery in Kansas, many northerners felt he was pro-slavery and a traitor to the United States. Many people in Kansas didn't want slavery in the state and felt Buchanan was a traitor.

Abraham Lincoln

  • state's rights: Slavery was the defining issue in the historic Election of 1860.
  • November 6, 1860: Lincoln was elected president and it was only a matter of months before the South would .
  • anti-slavery:
  • South Carolina: This state seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860 because of the election of Within weeks six more states left the Union.
  • Confederate States: The seven states of South Carolina (December 20, 1860), Mississippi (January 9, 1861), Florida (January 10, 1861), Alabama (January 11, 1861), Georgia (January 19, 1861), Louisiana (January 26, 1861), and Texas (February 1, 1861) formed the Confederate States of America.
  • Jefferson Davis: He was chosen as the president of the Confederate States of America.
  • icon: Lincoln is seen as a marble figure or a martyr of the second American Revolution.
  • Union: Lincoln wanted to preserve the United States as it had existed prior to his election of 1860. His original presidential plans were changed because of the issue of secession.
  • Lincoln: He obsessed over issues and was sometimes forced into depression. He was nicknamed "Honest Abe" and " The Railsplitter" . He relied upon his wit and anecdotes instead of his looks
  • Great Emancipator: Lincoln desired to put a stop to further expansion of slavery, but did not begin his presidency as an emancipator of slaves.
  • Fort Sumter: Anderson warned President Lincoln that without a shipment of provisions he would have to surrender to the rebels. The fort was attacked by the Confederacy on April 12, 1861, starting the Civil War.
  • states: Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina joined the Confederacy after the Union fired upon Fort Sumter and President Lincoln called for more troops.
  • patriotism: A renewed interest in the American flag and citizenship occurred when southern states seceded from the United States.
  • commander in chief: Since Lincoln had no military experience, he checked out numerous books on military strategy from the Library of Congress. Within a year, he had good knowledge about military strategy and technology.
  • John C. Fremont: Lincoln removed Fremont as major general of Missouri because he refused to end an emancipation proclamation in the state.

Ulysses S. Grant

  • Ulysses S. Grant: He was once a star celebrity in the late 1860s. He was the most popular man in the North. He was hailed as the "Victor of Vicksburg," "Hero at Appomattox," and other titles from the Civil War. A lot of people supported him for the presidency.
  • voters: 700,000 or 12% of the total vote were blacks were all voted for Ulysses S. Grant.
  • administration: Grant appointed numerous friends and relatives to his administration and this caused a lot of corruption.
  • Campaign of 1868: "Let us have peace" was the simple and eloquent words that Grant used as his campaign slogan.
  • Ku Klux Klan: This was a terrorist organization often of the Democratic Party in the South. Grant tried to use anti-Klan laws to crush this organization.
  • terrorism: Grant tried to use anti-Klan laws, including the removal of habeas corpus to crush the KKK; he was partially successful in his endeavor. Grant sent federal troops to the South to halt the spread of the KKK. Grant's anti-terrorism efforts helped make 1872 one of the most peaceful years in the South since the Civil War began.
  • corruption: Grant is tarnished by a lot of scandal during his administration. Grant placed a lot of faith in his subordinates. Whiskey rings tainted his administration.
  • Panic of 1873: This was an economic depression in the North that plagued the end of Grant's presidency. An endless occupation of the South caused a lot of financial difficulties.
  • Indian Affairs: Grant hoped to pursue a peace policy with Native Americans, but this did not happen during his administration. George Armstrong Custer and his calvary were annihilated at Custer's Last Stand. Native Americans usually lost the battles during the Indian Wars. Conflict continued between settlers and Indians intensified during Grant's presidency.
  • legacy: Many Americans rank Grant's presidency poorly because of a lot of his failed policies and the corruption that plagued his administration.

Rutherford B. Hayes

  • Rutherford B. Hayes: He was a Governor of Ohio and was the perfect anti-Grant. He was obnoxious to no one. He was wounded
  • merit:
  • Campaign of 1876: This was a very bitter and hard fought election.
  • Election of 1876: Hayes lost the popular vote and told people he lost the election. But the electoral votes of three States were contested during this election and led Congress to form a special commission that voted 8 to 7 in favor of Hayes.
  • Samuel Tilden: He almost became the eighteenth president, but lost within the electoral college.
  • Compromise of 1877:
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