Former President George H. W. Bush was born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts.
Former President George H. W. Bush was born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts.
Celebrations of James Madison, who was born on March 16, 1751, fall to second tier, a paragraph if we’re lucky in your local newspaper’s “today in history” feature.
March 16 is not a holiday. It’s not even a Flag Flying Day (though, if you left your flag up for March 15th’s anniversary of Maine’s statehood . . . no one would notice).
Should we leave James Madison out of our celebrations of history with such vengeance?
Madison left a great legacy. The question is, how to honor it, and him?
As the ultimate Second Man — when he wasn’t the First Man — Madison’s role in history should not be downplayed, not forgotten.
March 16 is Madison’s birthday (“new style”).
What would be fitting ways to celebrate Madison’s life and accomplishments, on his birthday? Nothing done so far in the history of the Republic adequately honors this man and his accomplishments, nor begins to acknowledge the great debt every free person owes to his work.
Still, there are encouraging stirrings.
(Dolley Madison? There are two topics for other, lengthy discussions — one on their marriage, and how they worked together; one on Dolley, a power in her own right.)
Previously, at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:
Referring to progress in the U.S. after World War I, Coolidge said:
With peace has come prosperity. Burdens have been great, but the strength to bear them has been greater. The condition of those who toil is higher, better, more secure than in all the ages past. Out of the darkness of a great conflict has appeared the vision, nearer, clearer than ever before, of a life on earth less and less under the deadening restraint of force, more and more under the vitalizing influence of reason. Moral power has been triumphing over physical power. With peace has come prosperity. Burdens have been great, but the strength to bear them has been greater. The condition of those who toil is higher, better, more secure than in all the ages past. Out of the darkness of a great conflict has appeared the vision
of anearer, clearer than ever before, the[of] life on earth less and less under the deadening restraint of force, more and more under the vitalizing influence of reason. Moral power has been triumphing over physical power. Education will tend to bring reason and experience of the past into the solution of the problems of the future. We must look to service and not selfishness, for service is the foundation of progress. The greatest lesson that we have to learn is to seek ever the public welfare, to build up, to maintain our American heritage.
Candidate for vice president Calvin Coolidge, “America and the War,” 1920
Digging a little deeper, I discover that the first part of this quote also appeared in Coolidge’s Thanksgiving Proclamation on November 27, 1919, when he was Governor of Massachusetts. Knowing a good turn of words when he wrote it (I’m assuming he didn’t have ghost writers then), he used the same words in making phonograph recordings of speeches to be distributed in the election campaign of 1920, before radio was available to carry speeches to voters. I have made minor corrections in the transcript, from the earlier text and the audio delivery.
It’s Presidents’ Day on most calendars, though the official U.S. holiday is “Washington’s Birthday.”
You’re already flying your flag today, right? Let’s recapitulate from last year
Dr. Bumsted reminds us we need to emphasize that the federal holiday is Washington’s Birthday, not a day to honor presidents generically. See the explanation from the U.S. National Archives.
Presidents Day is February 16, 2015 — fly your U.S. flag today.
Oddly enough, some controversy arises from time to time over how to honor President Washington and President Lincoln, and other presidents. Sometimes the controversy simmers over how to honor great Americans — if Lincoln deserves a day, why not FDR? Why not Jefferson? — and sometimes the controversy covers more mundane ground — should the federal government give workers a day off? Should it be on a Monday or Friday to create a three-day weekend to boost tourism? About.com explains the history of the controversy:
Presidents’ Day is intended (for some) to honor all the American presidents, but most significantly George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. According to the Gregorian or “New Style” calendar that is most commonly used today, George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. But according to the Julian or “Old Style” calendar that was used in England until 1752, his birth date was February 11th. Back in the 1790s, Americans were split – some celebrated his birthday on February 11th and some on February 22nd.
When Abraham Lincoln became president and helped reshape our country, it was believed he, too, should have a special day of recognition. Tricky thing was that Lincoln’s birthday fell on February 12th. Prior to 1968, having two presidential birthdays so close together didn’t seem to bother anyone. February 22nd was observed as a federal public holiday to honor the birthday of George Washington and February 12th was observed as a public holiday to honor Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
In 1968, things changed when the 90th Congress was determined to create a uniform system of federal Monday holidays. They voted to shift three existing holidays (including Washington’s Birthday) to Mondays. The law took effect in 1971, and as a result, Washington’s Birthday holiday was changed to the third Monday in February. But not all Americans were happy with the new law. There was some concern that Washington’s identity would be lost since the third Monday in February would never fall on his actual birthday. There was also an attempt to rename the public holiday “Presidents’ Day”, but the idea didn’t go anywhere since some believed not all presidents deserved a special recognition. [Take THAT you Franklin Pierce and Millard Fillmore fans!]
Even though Congress had created a uniform federal holiday law, there was not a uniform holiday title agreement among the individual states. Some states, like California, Idaho, Tennessee and Texas chose not to retain the federal holiday title and renamed their state holiday “President’s Day.” From that point forward, the term “Presidents’ Day” became a marketing phenomenon, as advertisers sought to capitalize on the opportunity for three-day or week-long sales.
In 1999, bills were introduced in both the U.S. House (HR-1363) and Senate (S-978) to specify that the legal public holiday once referred to as Washington’s Birthday be “officially” called by that name once again. Both bills died in committees.
Today, President’s Day is well accepted and celebrated. Some communities still observe the original holidays of Washington and Lincoln, and many parks actually stage reenactments and pageants in their honor. The National Park Service also features a number of historic sites and memorials to honor the lives of these two presidents, as well as other important leaders.
Fly your flag, read some history, enjoy the day.
More, Resources, and Related Articles:
Yes, this is mostly an encore post. This event occurs every year.
Historian delivers annual address at Fillmore memorial
by MARY BEST
Frigid temperatures didn’t turn away a crowd at the 50th annual Millard Fillmore Commemoration Ceremony at Forest Lawn Cemetery on Jan. 7.
The program, presented by the University at Buffalo and co-hosted by Forest Lawn and the Buffalo Club, was celebrated on Fillmore’s 215th birthday. Robert Goller, Town of Aurora historian, gave the memorial address.
New York Air National Guard Col. Kevin Rogers began the ceremony by laying a wreath at Fillmore’s grave site from President Barack Obama, in keeping with tradition of past presidents. Deputy Mayor of the City of Buffalo Ellen Grant also presented a wreath, later adorned with pins from representatives of Fillmore’s legacy organizations.
Fillmore returned to Buffalo following his loss of the 1852 presidential election. He had a hand in establishing and ensuring the survival of many organizations including the Albright Knox Art Gallery, the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library System, the SPCA serving Erie County and the University at Buffalo.
Due to the subzero wind chill, Goller delivered the memorial address from the Margaret L. Wendt Archive and Resource Center after the wreath dedications.
Goller began his address describing Fillmore’s humble beginnings, including the rough journey Fillmore took from Central New York on foot to arrive to his family’s home in Aurora.
“It’s easy to forget that in Millard Fillmore’s day, there wasn’t even a railroad to take the future president halfway across New York State,” Goller said.
The Aurora Historical Society, which runs the Millard Fillmore National Historic Landmark Museum, is also raising funds to commemorate Fillmore’s legacy by commissioning a presidential site to include a statue and a recreation of Fillmore’s law office. Goller also noted Fillmore’s role presiding over the Senate as vice president during a turbulent time in history, which dealt with slavery and secession.
Fillmore’s greatest legacy, however, happened after his time at the White House was over, an often overlooked period of time, according to Goller.
“While Fillmore’s presidency was relatively short, he was probably one of the most effective at using the power of the post-presidency to lend support to important efforts,” Goller said. “The word retirement certainly didn’t describe Millard Fillmore after he left the White House, and we have a much better community today because of it.”
Goller ended by noting the revitalization of Buffalo, most notably the development at the waterfront. He credited Fillmore with igniting the fire when he showed the same passion in the Western New York Community more than a century ago.
“We must not forget that it’s the people, not necessarily the buildings that make the community thrive,” Goller said. “Today we honor one of those people who saw potential in our community and maybe do our best as stewards of our community to continue Millard Fillmore’s legacy of civic pride and community spirit.”
I wasn’t there; this is the press release:
107th Airlift Wing Honors Millard Fillmore During Annual Ceremony at Presidents Grave Wednesday, Jan. 7
BUFFALO, NY (01/07/2015)(readMedia)– New York Air National Guard Col. Kevin Rogers marked the 215th birthday of President Millard Fillmore by laying a wreath from President Barack Obama at the grave of the 13th President on Wednesday, Jan. 7.
The tribute from the 107th Airlift Wing Inspector General, was part of the 50th graveside ceremony marking Fillmore’s birth conducted at Forest Lawn Cemetery by the University of Buffalo.
Fillmore, who was president from 1850 to 1853, was one of the founders of the University of Buffalo. He was also the school’s first Chancellor and instrumental in founding Buffalo’s General Hospital and local libraries and museums.
The University of Buffalo has hosted a graveside ceremony for Fillmore for the past 50 years. The ceremony also encompasses another tradition: the presentation of wreaths form the current president at the gravesites of past presidents on their Birthday.
The 107th Airlift Wing, based at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, traditionally places a wreath on Fillmore’s Grave. The New York National Guard also places wreaths on the graves of President Martin Van Buren in Kinderhook and President Chester Arthur in Albany.
Fillmore was born in 1800 in Moravia New York. He was a lawyer and served in the New York State Assembly. He served in the United States Congress from 1833 to 1835 and again from 1837 to 1845.
Fillmore ran unsuccessfully for governor of New York in 1844 but was defeated. He ran successfully for the position of State Comptroller in 1847 and was the first person to serve in that office as the state’s financial watchdog.
In 1848 Fillmore was nominated to run as vice president with the popular General Zachery Taylor, a hero of the Mexican War. Taylor died suddenly and Fillmore became president. He approved the bills that put in place the Compromise of 1850 designed to allow Texas to enter the Union as a Slave State in exchange for California entering it as a Free State. The measure also banned the sale of slaves in the District of Columbia.
Fillmore, the last member of the Whig Party to serve as president, returned home to Buffalo after losing the election of 1852. During the Civil War Fillmore, a former Major in the New York Militia, commanded a Buffalo home guard regiment called the Union Corps. He died in 1874.
The New York Air National Guard’s 107th Airlift Wing shares Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station with the Air Force Reserve’s 914th Airlift Wing. The unit is currently in the process of transitioning to a mission flying remotely piloted MQ-9 aircraft after previously flying the C-130 transport aircraft and the KC-135 refueling plane.
Members of the 107th Airlift Wing also respond to New York state emergencies and were heavily involved in responding to the lake effect snowstorm which hit Erie County in November.
Why December 2?
(You couldn’t make this stuff up if you were Monty Python.)
Peruvian guano has become so desirable an article to the agricultural interest of the United States that it is the duty of the Government to employ all the means properly in its power for the purpose of causing that article to be imported into the country at a reasonable price. Nothing will be omitted on my part toward accomplishing this desirable end. I am persuaded that in removing any restraints on this traffic the Peruvian Government will promote its own best interests, while it will afford a proof of a friendly disposition toward this country, which will be duly appreciated.
Did any other U.S. President spend so much time thinking about guano? Did any president ever mention it in a State of the Union Address? The curious case of Millard Fillmore, Seer, just grows.
Guano, or bird poop (and its relative, bat poop), contains phosphorus, which is an essential element for life. Consequently, it turns out to be a key ingredient in effective agricultural fertilizers. In international competition for supremacy in farming and farm exports, guano became a key resource to fight over, in the 19th century.
It’s almost safe to say the fights were economic; but guano did play a key role in wars in South America (see Andrew Leonard’s article, noted below).
Fillmore figured out that the substance had great importance, coupled that with the rather esoteric knowledge that sea birds tended to deposit guano in great abundance on certain islands, often unoccupied, and ordered the U.S. Navy to claim islands found to contain guano deposits that were not claimed by other nations.
By the American Civil War, the importance of phosphorus to the production of gun powder became an issue for the armies of the North and South. Millard Fillmore had set the stage for the North to win an important advantage in gun powder production, just one of many that led to the defeat of the South.
It’s one more thing we should thank Millard Fillmore for doing. Our study of history should inform us that it is, indeed, important for politicians to understand the importance of guano.
Fillmore knew his guano.
Take a moment on December 2 to toast Millard Fillmore’s prescience, on Guano Day!